Kia ora, comrades. Welcome to In Crust We Trust‘s end-of-year 2020 soirée. As usual, I’ve gone overboard. But if you’re a longtime reader of ICWT, you’ll know I have a complicated relationship with the idea of restraint, and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m wholly addicted to deafening music, and I’m guessing you are too, so I suggest we gorge ourselves on some of 2020’s nastiest noise and celebrate surviving the past 12 horrific months.
Below you’ll find my favorite full-length releases from 2020, and as an extra special bonus treat, you’re also getting a separate end-of-year edition dedicated to ear-splitting EPs and reissues. Feel free to let me know your favorite punk, hardcore, or metalpunk releases from 2020. I’m definitely not any kind of all-knowing scenester, and I’m guaranteed to have overlooked a few killer releases this year.
A lot of writers choose to summarize the year in the introduction to their annual end-of-year lists. But I’m not going to wade too deep into the existential challenges this year has brought to bear. From the current pandemic that’s wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods to the political and conspiratorial insanity exacerbating social schisms, life has often felt fraught and fragile in 2020. The tragic death of much-loved Power Trip frontman Riley Gale hit hard this year, as did the loss of six-string ‘Atomic Punk’ Eddie Van Halen. And let’s not forget COVID-19 killed all the sweat-soaked shows, which are the lifeblood of underground music for most fans around the globe. Venues and bars have also struggled to survive, and many bands and labels have found themselves in perilous positions too.
It’s been a bleak year, for sure. But it hasn’t all been bad news. In 2020, unflinching activism has highlighted crucial injustices that have been downplayed or dismissed by those in power for far too long. Some of the best releases ICWT covered this year featured fierce reporting from those battle lines. Although, it has to be said, some musicians talked of feeling overwhelmed by 2020’s roll call of catastrophes and many spoke of feeling torn between optimism and nihilism. I’m sure you can relate.
There’s no getting around the fact that 2020 further heightened tense divisions within niche scenes like punk and metal. However, quarrels aside, all punk and metal fans share a common understanding that the music we love is optimized to exorcise our anxieties. The music featuring here is definitely a beacon to hang onto while the world burns. And everyone reading this end-of-year article instinctively knows that – no matter how hateful or hostile the music below sounds – it’s also purpose-built to bolster our resolve as the darkness closes in.
Sure, punk and metal have a few ugly issues to contend with. But look at how fans and bands rallied to support their own and other communities this year. Every single thing we did to help each other in 2020 exemplifies the camaraderie that underground music fosters.
And speaking of underground music. COVID-19 clearly impacted on release and recording schedules in 2020, but I didn’t have any issue finding plenty of interesting music to talk about. It was easy enough compiling a healthy-sized end-of-year list. But, as usual, it was painful having to cut great releases so the end result wasn’t too overwhelming. I did cheat this year by including a few ‘honorable mentions,’ which is really just code for: don’t skip on these. They’re all worthy end-of-year contenders too!
Generally, I don’t rank my end-of-year punk rock lists because (a) punk’s not a competition, and (b) ranking anything is subjective nonsense, right? Still, I love a good list, and I decided to rank my favorites this year because I’m not arguing the music below is ‘the best’ of anything. I’m merely underscoring – as enthusiastically as I can – which releases were my favorites in 2020.
Most of ICWT’s end-of-year coverage skews towards the blood-vessel-bursting end of the music spectrum, which is another reason you don’t see me claiming to have conjured an all-encompassing list of ‘the best’ punk albums of 2020. My list is just a slither of the punk rock pie, and it favors horrible noise over melodic releases. You’ll find a few catchy and quirky recordings below. But if you’re hungry for chirpy or breezy punk, you best look elsewhere.
I spent many years writing features, reviews, and similar columns to ICWT before I started scribbling this beast. I wanted ICWT to be snappy, punchy, and relatively upbeat. But I feel like I’ve painted myself into a corner writing relentlessly positive reviews. I don’t genuinely think overlooking issues is healthy for any music scene, so I’m going to pump the brakes on that approach in 2021. I also realize that while familiar genre descriptors definitely help to point folks in the right direction, I frequently feel like I’m just shuffling the same well-worn phrases around the page. I still love writing about great music, but to be honest I’m frustrated with my writing. So next year, I’m looking to be more critical and creative.
Many (but certainly not all) of the blurbs in this end-of-year 2020 double feature are reworked versions of reviews I’ve previously published. I’m writing this – as well as three other EOY articles (I know, why the fuck do I do this to myself?) – while moving into a new rental and battling a few health concerns. I don’t have the time to write umpteen brand new think-pieces. But every word remains as sincere and as trustworthy as when I first wrote it.
A hearty hug goes out to my benevolent overlords at Last Rites for allowing me to continue to sully this site’s reputation. And thanks to anyone who shared or mentioned ICWT over the past year. Cheers to Sorry State Records, D-beat Beater, Negative Insight, Terminal Sound Nuisance, Maximum Rocknroll, and all the blogs, YouTube channels, distros, and labels who turned me on to so much great music in 2020.
Of course, without you, there’s little point in writing any of this. So thanks to everyone who’s paid a visit to ICWT this year. I’m incredibly grateful we get to celebrate some of the rowdiest punk, hardcore, and metalpunk releases from the past 12 months together.
All right, it’s time to raise a toast to some of 2020’s most nightmarish noise.
Have a great festive season. Stay safe. Be well. I’ll see you soon.
HONORABLE MENTIONS 2020
Misantropic – Catharsis
Misantropic’s long-awaited Catharsis LP is stacked with enough creative firepower to sink a battleship. The album blends a host of noisy ingredients, including crust, neo-crust, d-beat, death metal, thrash metal, and thickset metallic hardcore. Admittedly, that’s a lot of different elements at play, but they all seamlessly coalesce on Catharsis‘ breakneck tracks, which feature massive riffs, screeching solos, and blasting bass galore. Add in singer Gerda’s impassioned vocals, and Catharsis has all the makings of a contemporary crust classic. (Scream Records, Insane Society Records, Halvfabrikat Records)
Loud Night – Mindnumbing Pleasure
Loud Night’s Mindnumbing Pleasure LP sold out in a split-second flat, and if Inepsy-style mêlées are your thing, you’re going to love Mindnumbing Pleasure‘s brawling tracks. Loud Night wrap punk’s ferocity around metal’s virtuosity, with the band’s intoxicating songs featuring giant hooks that dig in deep and drag you along for the ride. Expect maximum Motörcharged mayhem, Venom’s vicious bite, high-octane harmonies aplenty, and shred-heavy Japanese hardcore. Rabid metalpunk – par excellence. (Vinyl Conflict)
Clock of Time – Persistent Planet
Berlin band Clock of Time recorded their Persistent Planet LP a mere eight months after they formed. You might expect a few signs of nervousness or a couple of glaring missteps, but Clock of Time features experienced musicians from groups like Diat, Vexx, and Useless Eaters, and Pestilent Planet is, in fact, staggeringly good. The creative and emotional depth here is astonishing. Post-punk and deathrock intermix, recalling the heights of gloomy 80s dramatics, and Clock of Time’s urgent songs feature a sublime fusion of ice-cold tension and warmer melodic release. Phenomenal, all round. (Static Shock Records)
Terminal Nation – Holocene Extinction
Terminal Nation could just as easily feature on a metal end-of-year list as a punk or a hardcore one. The band’s mammoth-sounding Holocene Extinction LP speaks to a world in peril, and Terminal Nation’s fearsome mix of metallic hardcore, death metal, and powerviolence is crushingly heavy in both sonic and psychological terms. Bonus points to Terminal Nation for staying true to the course (and the cause) in Arkansas, where you can imagine the progressively-minded messages on Holocene Extinction aren’t always welcomed.
Phantom Hymn – The Future as Nightmare
Phantom Hymn is a solo project from Ian Makau, who also plays in heavy-hitters like Dödläge, Frecuencia de Muerte, and the almighty Genogeist. Phantom Hymn’s The Future as Nightmare full-length blends sledgehammering crust with bitter hardcore, and there’s plenty of black metal boiling in the album’s Stygian depths too. An ominous aura shrouds all and, much like with Makau’s other bands, all the rampaging noise on The Future as Nightmare evokes savage scenes of societal collapse. FYI: make sure to check out Phantom Hymn’s similarly caustic 2020 EP, Catatonic Bliss. (Self-released)
Kobra – Confusione
Italian punks Kobra combine angry and agitated anarcho-punk with blown-out hardcore – and the band occasionally dip their toe into more avant-garde territory too. Kobra’s outstanding Confusione LP features ten hyperactive tracks where saxophone squalls add weirdness and wonder to a number of the songs within. Rough as sandpaper and raw as a broken heart, Kobra sound frantic and trapped in a dark and disconcerting state throughout. DO NOT HESITATE to check out Confusione if wild anarcho-punk or early Italian hardcore are firm favorites. (Iron Lung Records)
TOP 25 EAR-WRECKERS 2020
25. Declaration – What Is the Reason for Tomorrow?
Singaporean four-piece Declaration look to the past for inspiration – specifically, Discharge’s roughest/rowdiest years. Declaration’s What Is the Reason for Tomorrow? album was smashed out in a single day in April 2020, but the always riotous release sounds like it could have easily been recorded in some rundown industrial estate studio back in 1982. Harsh barks, distorted guitars, and a crashing rhythm section means unadulterated dis-beat sits front and center on Declaration’s high-speed blasts of ferocious noise. Bare-boned hardcore that exemplifies d-beat’s greatest strengths. (Full Force Hardcore Destruction)
24. Carroña – Lucha Necia
Melbourne punks Carroña explore systemic injustices and personal struggles as they expound on migrant life in modern-day Australia. The band’s self-styled “Immigrant Caos Punk” mixes crust-caked d-beat with lo-fi hardcore, and the inherent rawness of Carroña’s Lucha Necia full-length is downright nerve-shredding at times. You don’t need to speak Spanish to decipher Carroña’s message either, because their songs emit a powerfully evocative sense of rage and frustration. Outstanding punk rock records wrap hard truths around more challenging music, and Lucha Necia defines that fact. (Self-released)
23. Warwound – WWIII
WWIII is both the final and the heaviest entry in UK punks Warwound’s discography. Not many bands polish off their career on such a hard-hitting note, and it’s impressive just how fired-up and pissed-off Warwound sound on WWIII. All-guns-blazing crossover punk and violent metallic hardcore tussle it out within, and there’s plenty of old-school d-beat and crust to enjoy too. Warwound’s full-strength tracks are chock-a-block with whirlwind noise and energy. You couldn’t ask for a better (or more decimating) closing number. (Vile Records, Sanctus Propaganda)
22. Straw Man Army – Age of Axile
Sorry State Record’s regular newsletter turned me onto a lot of fascinating music this year, including Straw Man Army’s genre-trampling Age of Axile LP. Straw Man Army features members of the similarly anarchic NYC hardcore band Kaleidoscope, and much like Kaleidoscope’s releases, Age of Axile defies easy categorization. It’s a punk LP, for sure, but it’s also wildly inventive and draws influences from well beyond punk’s borders. Strange rhythms and unorthodox melodies combine on unpredictable tracks, and there’s a strong undercurrent of tension here, between the dark and the light, adding significant depth to Straw Man Army’s songs. (D4MT Labs Inc Neurosonic Research)
21. Exploatör – Avgrundens Brant
Parasit – Samhällets Paria
I know it looks like I’m cheating sitting Exploatör and Parasit side-by-side on this cacophonous countdown, but hear me out. Both Swedish bands feature veteran punks with plenty of maelstrom-making experience under their belts, and Exploatör’s Avgrundens Brant and Parasit’s Samhällets Paria LPs were both released by Phobia Records in 2020. Exploatör and Parasit also dish out similarly gravel-gargling d-beat and crust, and both Avgrundens Brant and Samhällets Paria are overflowing with time-honored and brass-knuckled hardcore delivered at a fittingly demolishing pace. Tune in for guttural riffs, growls, and thundering drums, straight from the halls of Valhalla. (Phobia Records, ByeBye Productions)
20. Moribund Scum – ...Only Death
The latest album from bulldozing German crew Moribund Scum, ...Only Death, wraps grimy death metal around even filthier crust. All the resulting stench-ridden sound pollution is aptly crude and coarse and as putrid as a corpse left rotting in a ditch. Sewage-streaked songs combine brute-force riffs with pick-slides and nerve-tweaking solos, as gruff vocals bark out politically charged lyrics. Harsh, hoarse, and always thrashin’, ...Only Death is Moribund Scum’s most vital work yet. Perfect for fans of early Bolt Thrower, Deviated Instinct, Instinct of Survival, etc. (Repulsive Medias, Deviance, Eskaramuza Distri, Angry Voice, Up The Punx, Missing The Point, Svoboda Records, Fallen Crow Records, Bomb-All Records)
19. Cadenaxo – Lenguas Podridas
Cadenaxo hail from Tenochtitlan, Mexico, and the group’s infectious Lenguas Podridas LP is a rip-roaring free-for-all of lean and mean hardcore. If you enjoy the energy and aggression of Impalers or Vaaska, you’re going to dig Cadenaxo’s turbocharged tone and temper. Lenguas Podridas foregrounds big riffs with bigger hooks as blazing d-beat and raw hardcore fight it out in the gutter. Lenguas Podridas‘ short, sharp, and anthemic tracks will have you leaping about your lounge room in record time. Tune in for zero-bullshit, shout-along hardcore that goes straight for the jugular. (11 PM Records)
18. Oily Boys – Cro Memory Grin
The long-awaited full-length from Australian punks Oily Boys, Cro Memory Grin, features full-throttle and frequently eccentric songs. There’s plenty of boisterous riffs and teeth-smashing attitude right here. But even better is when Oily Boys set to giving your lizard brain a workout, diving into noise rock or harsh psychedelic punk, and throwing in all sorts of hard-edged anarchic noise. Maximum live-wire intensity abounds as the band’s offbeat-yet-always-sizzling hardcore fries your fucking neurons. Utterly demented tunes for that lunatic lurking inside us all. (Cool Death Records, Static Shock Records)
17. Scheme – S/T
Canadian d-beat band Scheme features members from filth-dealers like Napalm Raid and Mass Grave, and the band’s self-titled debut is a spine-snapping triumph. Scheme’s stripped-down tracks are constructed from brain-bending kängpunk, which is slathered in noxious-sounding crust, and then everything is battered about by mangel-driven madness. Authenticity is the key right here. No posing. No play-acting. No posturing. Just relentlessly hammering raw punk for when you’re aching for some of the most violent noise around. (Slow Death Records)
16. Collapsed – S/T
Nightmare Fuel – A Vaccination for the Social Plague
Here’s two storming releases replete with concussive crust that nods to bygone days while opening its arms to Armageddon. Collapsed’s self-titled debut is an absolute monster, with fetid death metal slamming into anvil-heavy crustcore throughout. Apocalyptic prophets Nightmare Fuel also paint grim scenes on A Vaccination for the Social Plague, blending raw death metal with even more rancid stenchcore. Both bands’ releases are equally belligerent. Both feature impressively heavy production values. And both releases feature trampling tracks that’d make Stormcrow or Sanctum damn proud. (Self-released)
15. Permission – Organised People Suffer
Permission’s Organised People Suffer reaffirms the UK band’s well-earned reputation for delivering unconventional but always on-point hardcore. Permission’s idiosyncratic tracks see serrated riffs and assaultive percussion assailed by volatile twists and turns. (Think Die Kreuzen covering Negative Approach, while peaking on an extremely bad batch of acid.) Insanity boils. Intensity roils. And Permission’s chaotic songs shudder and judder throughout. Organised People Suffer is as unique as it is psychotic – and as manic as it is wholly imaginative. (La Vida Es Un Mus)
14. Coriky – S/T
I’m a sucker for a definitive Dischord Records release, and Coriky’s self-titled debut has all the makings of just that. I guess that isn’t too surprising, given the band features Fugazi vocalist/guitarist Ian MacKaye and bassist Joe Lally, along with MacKaye’s partner and The Evens bandmate vocalist/drummer Amy Farina. Coriky’s jazz-like agility sees them winding catchy hardcore around shorter bursts of dissonance, with the band’s spiky songs displaying a musical and lyrical richness that’ll be familiar to fans of MacKaye, Lally, and Farina’s previous work. Coriky certainly aren’t Fugazi 2.0. But if you love Fugazi’s more reflective tracks, you’ll likely love Coriky too. (Dischord Records)
13. Rash – Hivemind
Rash’s full-length debut, Hivemind, is a consummate example of tough-as-steel hardcore. Of course, there were plenty of other examples of just that in 2020, but what nudges Rash into the lead is the bludgeoning noise rock and other raucous experimentations embedded in the band’s high-velocity tracks. Hivemind is plenty punishing and pulverizing, and if you’re hungry for gut-punching hardcore, your appetite will be sated. But there’s another layer to Hivemind, and unexpected swerves ensure the album never becomes predictable or comfortable. A-grade unruliness meets unorthodox disruptiveness. (Convulse Records)
12. Lái 来 – Pontianak
Melbourne band Lái 来 explore religion, gender issues, feminism, and LGBTQIA+ rights at home and in SouthEast Asia. The band’s Pontianak LP injects fierce opinions into aptly ferocious tracks as Swedish-inspired d-beat and raw hardcore are locked in battle throughout. Lái 来 make clear that the personal is always political, and Pontianak is duly stacked with shredding tracks that tear into oppression and prejudice. With lyrics sung in Bahasa Indonesian and English, Lái 来 eclipse any potential language barriers by radiating intense amounts of passion and outrage. Pontianak is pitch-perfect for these troubled times, and it’s fucking flawless to boot. (Ruin Nation, D-Takt & Råpunk).
11. Absurd SS – S/T
Absurd SS features musicians from groups like Giftgasattack, Warvictims, Final Slum War, Nocturnal Scum, Earth Crust Displacement, and more. The band take a staunchly anti-war, anti-fascist, and anti-capitalist approach, attacking manifold injustices while unpacking the grim realities of conflict and modern life on their self-titled debut. Heavily influenced by the rawest veins of Japanese and Swedish hardcore, Absurd SS’ ultra-brutal crasher crust is filthier than an Obscene Extreme Fest port-a-potty. Absurd SS’ “Dis-Noize Apocalypse” also drifts into mind-scrambling grindcore territory on occasion, meaning the band’s debut LP is the perfect cross-genre extreme punk companion. Gruesome-sounding punk for when only the most hideous noise will suffice. (Rawmantic Disasters, Burning Anger)
10. Genöme – Young, Beautiful & Free
Young, Beautiful & Free – the sophomore LP from Malmö punks Genöme – is even heavier and burlier than the band’s fierce debut. Ripping metalpunk leads the charge, with vocalist Aanna’s powerful voice punching through walls of blown-out crasher crust. It’s clear that Genöme’s songwriting has developed, but they retain the necessary rawness of their anger and the coarseness of their sound. If you’re seeking lawless crust to liberate your mind and body, Young, Beautiful & Free‘s off-the-chain tracks will have you kicking in doors and dancing in the streets, and maybe even throwing a can of soup or two. (Not Enough Records, Phobia Records, Ryvvolte Records, Up The Punx)
9. Mutant Strain – S/T
Mutant Strain’s recent self-titled LP perfectly captures their red-hot vitality. The North Carolina band recorded all the catchy songs on their vinyl debut live, in exhilarating batches, recording as if playing a sweaty live set with zero drink breaks allowed. Unsurprisingly, Mutant Strain’s LP features plenty of punch, with all the explosive instrumentation and passionate vocals charging the atmosphere with electrifying energy. Mutant Strain’s high-voltage rock ‘n’ roll is delivered at hardcore’s pace, and all the wild riffin’ and swingin’ hooks demand repeated listens. Quadruple bonus points for killer packaging and artwork that tips its hat to Crass-like happenings. (Sorry State Records)
8. Disease – Death Is Inevitable
Tortür – Never Ending Grief
Macedonian trio Disease and Los Angles three-piece Tortür have a lot of noisy things in common. Both bands released albums in 2020 that worshipped at the altar of Disclose, and both of the bands’ releases featured music that’s a full-bore bombarding assault on the senses. Both bands also mixed scorching instrumentation with system-smashing determination, and the ear-piercing rawness of Disease and Tortür confirms they both love noise-not-music in equal measure.
Disease’s Death Is Inevitable LP drowns witheringly corrosive d-beat in waves of screaming distortion – with the band delivering songs at a perfect nose-bleeding pitch. Tortür’s Never Ending Grief LP also mixes throat-slit yowls with speaker-wrecking primitivism, and all the chainsawing music therein is about as obnoxious as obnoxious gets. Devotees of barbwire-wrapped punk will likely lap up all the migraine-inducing råpunk, d-beat, and crust here. No question, Disease and Tortür’s manifestations of audio warfare are both ear-fucking treats.(Rawmantic Disasters, Blown Out Media, Ryvvolte Records, Burning Anger)
7. Lebenden Toten – Synaptic Noise Dissociation
It doesn’t get much better than renowned Portland noise-merchants Lebenden Toten when it comes to delivering wholly disorienting punk rock. The prolific band’s über-harsh sound features face-melting levels of dissonance, static, and feedback-drenched noise – and plenty of delirious weirdness too. Lebenden Toten’s 2020 live LP, Synaptic Noise Dissociation, is a breathtaking cacophony and another bracing reminder of how the band tap into pure unhinged chaos and yet remain tight as a gnat’s ass. Synaptic Noise Dissociation offers 13 skin-stripping tracks filled with brainpan-boiling punk, battery-acid-strength riffs, and music that’s utterly beautiful in its raw ugliness. 100% I.N.T.E.N.S.E. 100% I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. (Iron Lung Records)
6. Destruct – Echoes of Life
Destruct’s first two demos were jaw-breaking victories, and their 2020 full-length, Echoes of Life, is a goddamn knockout too. Destruct prowl like a hulking/rabid beast, slamming Japanese raw punk influences into Discharge’s bruising momentum. Blasting bass and bloodthirsty vocals tear through walls of heavily muscled punk, and if eviscerating hardcore is your kink, you’re going to soil your knickers right here. Destruct ramp up the intensity throughout Echoes of Life, growing ever more ruthless and relentless. Even better, Echoes of Life finds the perfect balance between sounding utterly massive and remaining blisteringly raw throughout. Staggering. Obliterating. Bulldozing noise for the ages. (Grave Mistake Records)
5. Geld – Beyond the Floor
Generally, I’m relatively zen about being an enthusiastic hack rather than a gifted writer. But I’m definitely aware of my shortcomings at this time of the year. Trying to illustrate how impressive many of my favorite 2020 releases are is a tough call for the articulately challenged (i.e., me), and that’s doubly true when it comes to Geld’s breathtaking Beyond the Floor LP. Paranoiac, pyrotechnic, and hallucinogenic all work as descriptors for Geld’s off-the-chain musicality (which the Melbourne band combine with brain-frying creativity on Beyond the Floor). Geld deliver wilder and weirder tracks than ever on the LP, and while Beyond the Floor often explores the hinterlands of psychedelic punk, it remains plugged into the heart of blistering hardcore. Throat-ripping d-beat locks horns with schizophrenic punk throughout, and the result is a genre-trampling triumph. (Static Shock Records, Iron Lung Records)
4. Muro – Pacificar
Muro/Orden Mundial – Sonido de la Negación
There’s no point separating Colombian punks Muro’s latest full-length, Pacificar (which, FYI, feels like another instant classic) from their Sonido de la Negación split with Spanish punks Orden Mundial. Both releases underscore Muro’s ability to sculpt songs that are cleverly composed yet still sound incredibly visceral and primitive. Much of Pacificar is as frenzied as a shark attack, and the LP palpably evokes the inequalities and injustices of inner-city Colombian life. Muro’s hard-as-nails Sonido de la Negación split with Orden Mundial was released in the memory of Orden Mundial’s bassist Martí. Recorded during a bitter Berlin winter, Sonido de la Negación is, unsurprisingly, still a scorching release. Muro and Orden Mundial hammer sharp hooks into incendiary hardcore, with each band matching the other’s passion and aggression every step of the way.(Adult Crash, Beach Impediment Records, La Vida Es Un Mus)
3. 偏執症者 (Paranoid) – Out Raising Hell
Swedish berserkers 偏執症者 (Paranoid) released a surprise new album in 2020. Fittingly, for these ominous times, Out Raising Hell was an apocalyptic riot, through and through. The album was conceived during some very dark times, with the band even considering ending their career, but Out Raising Hell shows no signs of fatigue or of Paranoid feeling weighed down by the world. If anything, Out Raising Hell sounds angrier and fiercer than ever, with Paranoid tearing through gut-driven tracks stacked with råpunk, d-beat, Japanese noisecore, and, of course, raw black metal. Out Raising Hell is a certified off-the-leash ripper, with its feral-sounding songs spiked with an abundance of venomous hooks. (D-Takt & Råpunk Records, Konton Crasher)
2. Subdued – Over the Hills and Far Away
As Maximum Rocknroll rightly pointed out in their review of Subdued’s Over the Hills and Far Away, “The hype is completely justified on this one.” Subdued’s atmospheric balladry exudes an 80s-like authenticity as bone-chilling crust, hardcore, and anarcho and peace-punk coil around each other on Over the Hills and Far Away‘s grim-toned tracks. The album is unquestionably Subdued’s most polished work to date, but, crucially, it retains the coarse anger and evocative anguish of the band’s earlier releases. Over the Hills and Far Away evokes windswept moors, crumbling cities, and lost souls trying to piece together shattered dreams. Subdued’s bleak yet cathartic music offers a sublime mix of seething volatility and poetic yearning, which are both tightly bound in dark gothic tension. (Roachleg Records, La Vida Es Un Mus)
1. LIFE – Ossification of Coral
Essentially, I marked Ossification of Coral down as my album of the year as soon as it was announced. I know that suggests I maintain zero critical distance when it comes to the Tokyo crusties, and that’s entirely accurate, my friend. Luckily, LIFE don’t make it very difficult to justify my bias. The band have released some outstanding music over the past 28 years, including a couple of phenomenal full-lengths in The World Lies Across Them and Violence, Peace and Peace Research. LIFE are true inspirations, holding fast to their beliefs, and unlike a lot of other punk bands who’ve let their convictions slide over the years, LIFE still practice what they preach.
LIFE have made significant sacrifices while always delivering uncompromising music, and Ossification of Coral is wholly uncompromising too. Press play, and you’re greeted by a torrent of reverb-drenched, politically-charged punk. LIFE’s anti-war message is readily apparent, but as Ossification of Coral‘s title suggests, so are strong environmental concerns. The LP also sounds HUGE – certainly, the biggest and baddest LIFE have ever sounded – with blown-out raw punk and withering levels of distortion mixing with crasher crust and unhinged snarls.
Every song on Ossification of Coral features scything riffs, pounding drums, and enough cacophonous, bass-heavy noise to grind you into the earth. Crucially, LIFE also make room for a little diversity, dropping in Burning Spirits-worthy solos, catchy albeit crushing melodies, and a smattering of hard-nosed Scandinavian noisecore. Everything you want from LIFE is here: raw passion, rawer anger, and a guitar tone that’ll strip the enamel off your teeth. Ossification of Coral is stacked to the gunnels with consummate crust, proving, yet again, that LIFE are the very definition of lifers. (Desolate Records, Acclaim Collective, Not Enough Records, Distro Rakkos, Punk Bastard Records)