Kia ora, comrades. Welcome to part two of In Crust We Trust‘s end-of-year soirée, which features my favorite EPs and reissues from 2020. I won’t repeat the lengthy introduction I wrote for the first part of ICWT’s end-of-year coverage. Mainly because I’m not that cruel. Except to say, yes, I’ve gone overboard again, and no, I won’t be apologizing for that. It’s been a horrific year for most folks, and I’m all for celebrating surviving 2020 by overindulging in a feast of ear-shattering noise. If you’re interested in checking out my favorite LPs from the past 12 months, see part one of this two-part fiesta.
As usual, I had to cut a few worthy contenders from the final list below before things got too out of hand. Plus, there are a couple of EPs and reissues I was hoping to include but didn’t get to hear in full this year. Not every subterranean release I want to cover is uploaded or streaming online, and I live at the ass-end of the world, where it’s not always easy to acquire every release I want to talk about. That problem only intensified this year due to COVID-19 disrupting international shipping for months on end. Although, obviously, that’s a minor quibble compared to the actual hell COVID-19 has unleashed on many people’s lives and livelihoods.
I should point out that the list below tilts towards the rawer, heavier, and noisier end of the punk rock spectrum. I’m not averse to sweet-sounding punk or metal, but ICWT generally favors amp-melting releases over more melodically-minded ones. Keep that in mind, because the list below isn’t a list of ‘the best’ punk albums of 2020. It’s an entirely (and unapologetically) biased catalog featuring some of my favorite slices of the punk rock pie. There are some catchy releases below. But in the main, you can expect an assortment of listener-unfriendly noise.
FYI: Feel free to point out any releases you think I should have included in the comments below! I’m definitely old, and decidedly unhip, and I’m guaranteed to have overlooked some great punk, hardcore, or metalpunk releases this year.
I’m guessing, like yours truly, that you’ve had a challenging (read: fucking atrocious) year. I don’t know about you, but I owe a huge debt of thanks to all the DIY bands and labels who’ve helped to elevate my mood and bolster my resolve during some extremely troubled times. Thanks also to Last Rites for continuing to tolerate the presence of an over-the-hill, tofu-munching, sniveling pinko crybaby like me. And cheers to all the bloggers, YouTubers, distros, labels, and the Sorry State Records and D-beat Beater newsletters for turning me onto so much great music this year.
Of course, a heartfelt thanks also goes out to everyone who paid a visit to ICWT in 2020. I’m fully aware there are far more plugged-in and popular writers than me out there, so it means a lot that you’ve taken the time to drop by and consider my obscure opinions too.
Okay, that’s more than enough introductory waffle. It’s time to dig into some of 2020’s nastiest noise. Have a great festive season, my friends. Stay safe. Be well. I’ll see you soon.
Initially, the second part of this end-of-year feature was only going to highlight EPs. But I decided to squeeze in a few extra blurbs because I heard some first-class reissues over the past 12 months. I’m aware that I tend towards (((overkill))) at this time of year, so in the interest of not keeping you any longer than necessary, I’m going power through the reissues below. Please don’t mistake my brevity as a reflection of their quality, though. Trust me; the following reissues are all well worth your time.
Crow – Last Chaos
GISM – Detestation
Grave New World – Last Sanctuary
Nightmare – Give Notice of Nightmare…
Human Gas – Super Violence Hardcore
F.U.P – Noise and Chaos
This year, half-a-dozen reissues underscored (a) why the early years of Japanese hardcore have been so influential on punk and metal around the world, and (b) why diehard fans from all corners of the globe covet Japanese punk. In terms of influence (as well as insane prices paid for original copies), Crow’s 1987 debut, Last Chaos, and GISM’s 1983 LP, Detestation, are right up there, in both senses. Prank Records’ 2020 reissue of Last Chaos sold out in the blink of an eye, while Relapse Records’ reissue of Detestation snarled up the label’s website as scores of frenzied punters endeavored to secure copies. Last Chaos and Detestation are sacred texts in the Japanese punk canon, but Nightmare’s all-guns-blazing 1990 LP, Give Notice of Nightmare… (reissued in 2020 via La Familia Releases and Farewell Records), has also proven to be highly influential in the metallic hardcore realm.
Human Gas, F.U.P., and Grave New World are more obscure than the bands above, but their 2020 reissues also featured A+ sound pollution. New York label Bitter Lake Recordings released Grave New World’s The Last Sanctuary LP and F.U.P.’s Noise and Chaos compilation. The Last Sanctuary is a veritable (and well-deserved) cult classic that’s long been sought after for the mind-frying crust therein, while Noise and Chaos collected 16 violent-sounding tracks from F.U.P.’s short but scorching run. You can compare Human Gas’ manic MO to legends like Gai or Confuse and their Super Violence Hardcore 1984–89 compilation (out via the always bustling Italian label F.O.A.D. Records) collects all of Human Gas’ raging studio songs as well as some unhinged live recordings too.
Deviated Instinct – Nailed
Doom – Pretentious Arseholes 7″ Collection
Ultra Violent – Crime… For… Revenge
Saw Throat – Inde$troy
Four UK punk reissues caught my ear in 2020. Deviated Instinct reissued their 1990 EP Nailed to celebrate its 30th anniversary, thereby unleashing another onslaught of powerhouse crust/metal. Sonarize Records and Agipunk co-released the Pretentious Arseholes 7″ boxset from crust stalwarts Doom, which featured five classic EPs and a Flexi of Doom’s 1992 demo, The Greatest Invention. UK82 rockers Ultra Violent’s sole release, Crime… For… Revenge, was reissued by Static Shock Records in 2020, and the 7″ (originally released on Riot City Records in 1983) is an absolute belter that tramples all over plenty of so-called classics from back in the day. Saw Throat (aka Sore Throat)’s third album, 1989’s Inde$troy, was reissued in 2020. The DLP’s much heavier mix highlighted Saw Throat’s decision to add more avant-garde and sinister-sounding elements into their world-eating metalpunk.
Various – Estamos en la Sima
Colombian hardcore compilation Estamos en la Sima was also reissued by busy label F.O.A.D. in 2020. (The label being home to plenty of other great reissues this year, like Messiah Death’s Invocated Unholy Tracks and Gess’ Suffer Damage, which are still on my wishlist). Estamos en la Sima features seven piercing-sounding bands who recorded their contributions in the basement of Ex-Tenebrarum member Alejandro Restrepo’s house in Medellin in 1989. Everything here is genuinely nerve-shredding in its no-fi rawness and gut-driven anger. Utterly uncompromising noise from the South American underground.
Bombanfall – Åsiktsfrihet
There’s always plenty of Scandinavian punk re-presses floating around. But the 2020 reissue of Bombanfall’s sole release, 1987’s Åsiktsfrihet, is a much rarer treat. Fans duly gobbled up the 7″ in record time when Swedish champs D-Takt & Råpunk Records reissued Åsiktsfrihet early in the year. Super-bleak and über-crusty, Åsiktsfrihet‘s d-beaten tracks are also gravelly as hell. Bombanfall might not be as well known as Totalitär, Anti Cimex, or Mob 47, but the grim rawness of Bombanfall’s murk-ridden masterpiece still clearly echoes in the darkest depths of Scandi hardcore and beyond.
United Mutation – Dark Self Image
One of my favorite reissues from 2020 is Dark Self Image, from DC outsider punks United Mutation. The band formed in 1980 and drew as much inspiration from lysergic rockers like Hawkwind as they did any punk peers. United Mutation’s Dark Self Image compilation features 26 breakneck tracks that sound downright amazing for their age and lean hard on a mind-wrenching mix of hurtling hardcore and hard-edged psych-punk. Another long lost punk classic reissued by Radio Raheem Records featuring top-notch packaging and a hefty booklet stacked with killer graphics.
TOP 25 EAR-WRECKING EPS 2020
25. Bombardement – 2020 EP
Bombardement’s 2020 EP is a revved-up riot from its very first seconds to its last. The French band swapped out vocalists for their latest release, but Bombardement essentially followed the same fleet-footed musical path as did on their 2019 vinyl debut. Wall-shaking d-beat powers tracks like “Blood. Cash. Self-Destruction.” and the 2020 EP‘s fieriest number, “My own Satan,” while every song dangles a big fat hook or three. Best of all, Bombardement sound like they’re having a blast while unleashing catchy riffs and rocketing solos that hit like a runaway truck. High-speed, high-energy, and high-spirited punk – exactly what all we need right now! (Destructure Records, Kick Rock, Symphony Of Destruction)
24. Okus – Disincorporate
Irish crusties Okus’ 2020 EP, Disincorporate, serves as a taster for their next full-length – and all signs point to it being an absolute skull-crusher. Disincorporate‘s heavyweight and heavyset tracks reek of definitive crossover crust, with barrelling drums, bass, and battle-ready riffs prowling and growling on gloom-drenched tracks. Okus’ music is as unrelenting as it is unforgiving, and while the band’s sound is often nihilistic, Disincorporate will still stoke your revolutionary fire. Combat-strength crust that’s perfect for today’s brawling battlelines. (Self-released)
23. The Passing – S/T
The Passing’s top-notch 2019 demo was awash in squalls of lo-fi noise. Production-wise, the Los Angeles band’s self-titled 2020 EP is a brawnier beast. But beefing up their sound hasn’t dulled The Passing’s visceral edge. Unvarnished primitivism and hostility still wrestle and roil on songs that evoke hard-hitting bands like Wolfbrigade or Skitsystem. The Passing dig into the neverending array of issues plaguing modernity, and while the band’s sound features a lot more metallic muscle this time around, they still focus on mixing piss-and-vinegar hardcore with paint-stripping d-beat. (Caligari Records)
22. Humant Blod – Flykten Från Verkligheten
Humant Blod features members from powerhouse groups like Totalitär, Dissekerad, Extended Hell, and Subversive Rite, and expectations for the band’s debut EP were SKY HIGH, to say the least. The good news is, Flykten Från Verkligheten exceeded those expectations with its blistering Swedish-style hardcore aflame with feedback and operating at a full-tilt pace throughout. If you’re searching for a release that’ll tear a rent in reality – or something that’ll liquefy your vital organs – then look no further, my friend. The uncompromising nature of the music here is to be applauded, and Flykten Från Verkligheten has all the makings of an instant classic. An essential purchase for any stout-hearted devotee of red-raw hardcore. (Desolate Records)
21. Violent Christians – No Speed No Punk
Violent Christians – New Blood for a Dead City
New York label Roachleg Records are responsible for bringing Texas band Violent Christians to the masses, releasing both the band’s No Speed No Punk demo and New Blood for a Dead City 7″ this year. Both releases feature stripped-down and gut-driven hardcore that could’ve easily been recorded back in the day. (In fact, if groups like Void, Negative Approach, Jerry’s Kids, or Poison Idea are your jam, you should grab Violent Christians’ releases quicker than you can say hallelujah!) There are a few melodic handholds to steady yourself on here, but in the main, Violent Christians dial up the pressure on both of their releases with their cranium-cracking riffs, drums, and roaring vocals driven hard by in-your-face aggression. (RoachLeg Records)
20. Regimen de Terror – Inherente del Poder
Bombardment – The Sound of War
Some folks are always on the hunt for the next new thing, which is fine, by the way, but I don’t see a problem in sitting back and celebrating the classics. Bombardment and Régimen de Terror take that artistic route, with both bands’ 2020 EPs unashamedly honoring the rowdiest years of Stoke-on-Trent troopers Discharge.
In Bombardment’s case, they tip their hat to Discharge’s heavier Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing era. The band’s five-track The Sound of War EP features an apt array of artillery-strength d-beat and high-explosive raw punk, which is bolstered by the healthy reserves of the hardcore ammunition stacked in Bombardment’s armory.
Régimen de Terror also deliver blunt and barbaric d-beat broadsides, although their Discharge worship focuses on the band’s Fight Back, Decontrol, and Realities of War EPs. Régimen de Terror’s bare-boned tracks rain down like mortar barrages, but, crucially, they retain all the whiplashing rawness of Discharge’s early years. Tune in for a double dose of decimating d-beat fit for diehards and novices alike.(La Vida Es Un Mus, Blown Out Media)
19. Hellish View – Holy Horrors
Minneapolis band Hellish View have never been shy in admitting their undying devotion to Japanese legends Disclose. Holy Horrors is the final recording from Hellish View’s original line-up and the EP sticks to the band’s ‘Kawakami forever’ template, unleashing waves of ultra-distorted d-beat and incendiary raw punk. Holy Horrors is crude and chaotic, but also brilliant in its unhinged savagery. All of Hellish View’s previous releases have been caustic enough to strip the skin from your bones, and while Holy Horrors continues in the same corrosive vein, the EP also ups the heaviness quota into the ‘disbones’ zone. Bleeding-raw in tooth and claw, and with guttural noise aplenty, Holy Horrors is a filthy gem. (Disarmy Records)
18. Final Slum War – Agora Fudeu!!!
Blockade – 5 Track EP
Speaking of abrasive noise, I’m sitting Final Slum War and Blockade side-by-side right here because both make ‘music’ that feels like you’re drowning in a vat of boiling acid. Final Slum War’s Agora Fudeu!!! EP holds fast to their ‘d-beat noize attack’ style, sounding like it was recorded on a busted tape deck, in a tin shed, in the middle of a fucking hailstorm. Of course, Final Slum War’s piercing dissonance is a marked positive in the raw punk game, and Blockade also specialize in head-splitting lo-fi happenings. Blockade’s 5 Track EP is as raw as pissing razor blades – and about as comforting as having an infected tooth extracted with a jackhammer. Expect a maelstrom mix of bleeding-raw crust, d-beat, and hemorrhaging noise from both bands. (Burning Anger, Rawmantic Disasters, Televised Suicide Records)
17. Huraña – Brujas, Cholas e Inventadas
If you feel like punk rock isn’t really testing your boundaries anymore, welcome to Huraña’s Brujas, Cholas e Inventadas EP. The Chiapas, Mexico band’s 7″ debut is released by always interesting label Iron Lung Records, and Huraña fit right in with many of the other mind-bending bands on Iron Lung’s roster. Brujas, Cholas e Inventadas is undoubtedly set to challenge all of your senses with its (((maximum-delay))) vocals and (((maximum-reverb))) instrumentation, but therein lies its scrappy inventiveness. A rough point of reference is a “moodier Dead Kennedys without all the silliness,” but that only encompasses one dimension of Huraña’s off-kilter sound. You’ll also hear post-punk, goth-punk, and aberrant hardcore. All of which coil around each other in a resounding cavern of curious noise. (Iron Lung Records)
16. Instinct? – Pray to Death
Hallucination – S/T
Music that’s as eye-watering as a prolapse + songs that’ll scorch your cerebrum = a great raw punk release. Of course, corrosive intensity and primitive physicality help too. Sometimes, you get the added bonus of tracks that feel like a sledgehammer slamming into your psyche. And if you add up all of the above and set it alight in a dumpster, that’s precisely the kind of brutal experience that Philadelphia ne’er-do-wells Instinct? and Hallucination provide.
Instinct?’s Pray to Death EP throttles chaotic crust with crude hardcore, and the decimating d-beat and virulent noise within makes for an ideal soundtrack to the end of the fucking world. Hallucination recently got picked up by well-respected Oakland label Sentient Ruin Laboratories, who’ll be reissuing the band’s 5-song self-titled cassette reasonably soon, with updated artwork. Hallucination also deliver unyielding hardcore that’s heavy on the rawness without sacrificing an ounce of its heavy-duty toughness. A duo of mind-destructing delights awaits, my friends. (Self-released)
15.5. Public Acid – Condemnation
Stop the presses: I had to choose a fairly arbitrary date to cease listing to new releases and get this end-of-year list done and dusted. But then perennial favorites Beach Impediment Records dropped a couple of new EPs, including Public Acid’s Condemnation 7″, so here I am bending my own rules to wedge that red-hot rocker in right here. Honestly, Condemnation would probably be sitting higher on this list if I’d had more time to spin the thing. But, as it stands, Public Acid have delivered another set of exhilarating tracks that shove the urgency of punk down the throat of vortex-like hardcore. Expect gruesome-sounding tracks that are the perfect soundtrack for tearing down barricades and hurling Molotov cocktails on a riotous Saturday night. (Beach Impediment Records)
15. Rubble – Parts Per Million
Portland punks Rubble’s second EP, Parts Per Million, is the band’s third release for reliably kick-ass label Distort Reality. Rubble’s mix of melodic anarcho-punk and scrappy UK82 influences means, in one sense, that the band look to the past for inspiration. That said, Parts Per Million‘s tracks also feel extremely present and urgent, musically, and Rubble are right up-to-date and on-point, lyrically. You can enjoy Parts Per Million‘s propulsive songs for the pure anthemic pleasures they provide. But like all of Rubble’s releases, Parts Per Million has a deeper level you can sink into as the band’s restless tracks fly by. (Distort Reality)
14. Battlefields – 4-Track Demo
I read somewhere on the interwebs that some punter felt Pittsburgh band Battlefields’ 4-Track Demo was just “too much.” But I’d argue the complete opposite, bruv. I say, pour it on, fellas. Total audio warfare demands total commitment to the cause. Battlefields’ demo features mega-distorted hardcore, which sounds as heavy as the grinding of tectonic plates, and features zero melodies and less-than-zero accommodations for anyone’s comfort. Rapid-firing riffs explode in all directions, while cutthroat vocals and pounding percussion detonate in mind-warping eruptions. Word is, a few members from Blood Pressure feature in Battlefields’ ranks, which makes sense given the relentless nature of the music here. Best of all, Battlefields’ demo sounds huge: mammoth-sized, wholesale destruction, perfect for the end of days. (Self-released)
13. SIAL – Tari Pemusnah Kuasa
Tari Pemusnah Kuasa is the third warp-speed release from Singaporean four-piece Sial, and it’s overflowing with blown-out and rabble-rousing hardcore. You don’t need to speak Malay to appreciate the fervor of Sial’s communiqués either. The band’s d-beat, noisecore, and sizzling anarcho-punk will simply pick you up and drag you along for the ride. Sial’s fuzzed-out tracks and sharp melodic hooks have an often off-beat flavor, and the band have found the perfect creative recipe to fuel their passionate activism and raging music. Tari Pemusnah Kuasa is breathtaking. (La Vida Es Un Mus)
12. Kohti Tuhoa – Elä Totuudesta
Finnish hardcore band Kohti Tuhoa’s Elä Totuudesta EP follows hot on the heels of their widely-applauded 2019 LP, Ihmisen Kasvot. Much like that release, Elä Totuudesta features rock-solid songwriting that blends blasting d-beat with classic Suomi punk. Elä Totuudesta also sees Kohti Tuhoa heading off-piste, utilizing unhinged elements from the worlds of alternative and experimental rock. Kohti Tuhoa’s vocalist, Helena, is on furious form throughout, and the band’s hook-heavy hardcore is as restless and as ingenious as ever. Elä Totuudesta underscores, once again, why Kohti Tuhoa are one of the most thrilling bands around. (La Vida Es Un Mus)
11. Irreal – S/T
Irreal’s Fi del Mon MLP featured on plenty of end-of-year lists in 2019, and it’s a safe bet the Barcelona band’s 2020 EP will be doing much the same this year. Influenced by groups like Mellakka, Discharge, and the “troglodyte end of NYHC,” Irreal’s latest batch of short/sharp shockwave tracks are breathless in their intensity. Teeth-grinding bass and larynx-destroying vocals rub shoulders with brute-force catchy riffs and razor-storm drumming. A lot of bands think mosh is a dirty word, but not Irreal. The band’s intuitive ferocity is focused on getting asses off seats and into the pit. You can expect plenty of grunt, plenty of face-melting feedback, and plenty of blazing punk to light up these dark times.
10. Disable – ...Slamming in the Depths of Hell
Atlanta, Georgia outfit Disable have been dishing out road-rash raw punk and d-beat for years. The round-up of usual suspects inform Disable’s sound – see Discharge, Disclose, Broken Bones, etc. – and Disable’s thermonuclear 2020 release, ...Slamming in the Depths of Hell, is noisy as a bag of hammers, and nasty as a well-used torture rack. All the belligerent and coarse-grained punk here guarantees ear-candy for fans of super-distorted d-beat. Disable weld their sawtoothed riffage to howling sheets of noise, and it’s often barreling bass that hammers their message home. Tight af, and featuring killer vocals, ...Slamming in the Depths of Hell‘s contagious tracks are sure to hit the sweet spot for raw punk maniacs. (Brain Slash Records, Audacious Madness)
9. Skitklass – 世界の平等さようなら (Sekaino Byoudou Sayonara)
Everything Tokyo band Skitklass releases sounds as urgent as an ambulance whizzing by at top speed. The band’s livewire EP, 世界の平等さようなら (Sekaino Byoudou Sayonara), rips through the realms of arcing noise, taking in electrifying råpunk and d-beat along the way. Like many groups on this list, Skitklass draw a lot of inspiration from Scandinavia’s wildest punk bands. The difference here is that Skitklass’ music is far more skittery and scratchy than heavily muscled, and that unique spin that Skitklass put on their influences means they stand out as a notable albeit quarrelsome-sounding band. If you think d-beat sounds a little tired nowadays, Skitklass’ off-kilter deviations are an excellent reminder that punk’s tropes can always be twisted into interesting new forms. (Distort Reality)
• Sorry, amigos, 世界の平等さようなら (Sekaino Byoudou Sayonara) isn’t streaming anywhere online.
8. Tower 7 – Entrance to a Living Organism
Kaleidoscope – Decolonization
New York label D4MT Labs Inc dropped three rip-roaring releases in 2020. Straw Man Army’s Age of Exile LP sits high on the list of my favorite full-length releases, which you can find in part one of this two-part end-of-year shindig. And D4MT also unleashed a couple of thrilling EPs in Kaleidoscope’s Decolonization 7″ and Tower 7’s Entrance to a Living Organism demo.
Decolonization is Kaleidoscope’s follow-up to their *staggeringly* good After the Future LP. The New York band’s unorthodox hardcore ignores the rulebook and genre borders, and Decolonization sees skewed punk, post-punk, and anarcho-punk lunging and lurching with visceral abandon. As always, Kaleidoscope’s deviant digressions sizzle with hardcore’s savagery.
Tower 7’s Entrance to a Living Organism demo combines sludgy crust and swampy hardcore in a vintage-sounding stew of cantankerous musicality. Tower 7 aren’t afraid to step off the gas and let things seethe and simmer with their dense tracks and red-raw instrumentation ratcheting up the tension (and a sense of mortal dread) before bursting into filth-caked ecstasy. Muck, murk, and murderous metalpunk abounds. (D4MT Labs Inc Neurosonic Research)
7. Scarecrow – Revenge
Scarecrow struck the bullseye, straight out of the box. The first press of the North Carolina band’s Revenge 7″ sold out in record time, which isn’t too surprising given the quality and intensity of all the primitive “mängel up your ass” happenings right here. There’s no need to pad things out or over-analyze the music right here. The truth is, if you dig Totalitär, Avskum, and kin, you’re going to love Scarecrow too. Revenge absolutely rips, and the EP is stacked to the gunnels with Scandi-like ferocity throughout. There’s no pausing for breaths or gathering your thoughts here. Expect a non-stop barrage of all-killer hardcore that’s punishing as hell and hits like a missile. So. Fucking. Good. (D-Takt & Råpunk Records, Bunker Punks Discs & Tapes)
6. Last Agony – S/T
Last Agony features members from Canadian raw punk crew Absolut and Toronto crusties IDNS, and it’s fair to say that creative cohort gives rise to some high expectations. Thankfully, Last Agony’s self-titled 2020 EP does not disappoint. All the crashing crust and d-beat arrive with maximum impact, and Last Agony’s tracks deliver a truckload of off-the-scale brutality. Wall-of-noise guitars and thundering drums tussle with gravel-gargling howls, and Last Agony’s vinyl debut unquestionably features the heaviest and evilest music anyone from Absolut or IDNS have ever produced. Fans of the weightiest and grimmest work of Sanctum, Stormcrow, and Hellshock will get a lot out of Last Agony’s sinister shenanigans. (Phobia Records)
5. Fragment – Serial Mass Destruction
Fragment’s 2017 12″, In the Dust, is a stone-cold raw punk classic; at least, it is in my book. The Canadian band’s similarly uncompromising 2020 EP, Serial Mass Destruction, features a cyclonic mix of feedbacking crasher crust and d-beat that borders on an overwhelming avalanche of ear-piercing noise at times. Echoing vocals and bulldozing guitars are assailed by lava-hot distortion, with Serial Mass Destruction‘s mind-buckling paroxysms (aka songs) boiling over with nightmarish chaos. Serial Mass Destruction is a hideous noise-fest that’s pitch-perfect for gauging exactly where your tolerance for genuinely abrasive and deafening punk lies. Beautiful ugliness, all round. (Sewercide Records)
4. Löckheed – Conflict Delirium
Affect – Fucked Reality
Löckheed / Affect – Split 7″
How can I have three releases vying for the fourth spot on this list? Well, here’s the deal. Californian band Löckheed’s Conflict Delirium EP is stacked with berserker-strength d-beat and kängpunk, while Swedish duo Affect’s top-notch Fucked Reality EP is also a blown-out kängpunk free-for-all. Both bands’ sanity-smashing songs are filled with the kind of unapologetically stubborn shitnoise you have to scrape off the rim, and Löckheed and Affect’s obnoxious aesthetics feel purpose-built for this hope-mangling epoch. It’s no surprise to find that Löckheed and Affect’s recent 7″ split is also a meeting of very twisted minds. Torrents of distortion lash grotesque riffs and throat-wrecking yowls, and all the whirlwind madness within is as raw as a festering gut wound. Ugly tunes for even uglier times. Perfect for that sicko lurking inside us all. (Blown Out Media, Phobia Records, Self-released)
3. Rolex – S/T
Californian band Rolex’s self-titled EP combines West Coast hardcore’s rough ‘n’ tough line of attack with the off-center stratagems of groups like Die Kreuzen, Wipers, or, most obviously, The Minutemen. The ten tracks here were all previously released on five cassingles, but Rolex re-recorded the lot for their debut 7″ release. Rolex can clearly write ferocious and electrifying songs, but what seals the deal on their EP is how they weave intoxicating outsider influences into their music, finding a perfect balance between antagonistic and artful-sounding songwriting. Idiosyncratic rhythmic pivots seamlessly fuse with foot-to-the-floor hardcore. Flawless, really. I can’t wait to hear what’s next! (11 PM Records)
2. After – Life Repeats
Depending on where you look, After’s 2020 EP is either a self-titled release or it goes by the name of Life Repeats, which we’ll stick with here. The New York “tactical krust guerillas” feature members from bands like Headsplitters and battering hardcore heroes Extended Hell. Tonally, After sound heavier than the aforementioned, and Life Repeats‘ five tracks are all jaw-breaking workouts comprised of powerfully built and furiously paced d-beat and crustcore. Pummeling is the keyword here, and there’s a swathe of raw metallic hardcore influences at play from the UK to Scandinavia and Japan, and then back to the scummiest corners of Nuke York City. Life Repeats‘ armor-plated tracks feature plenty of piledriving punch, with After’s take-no-prisoners approach tearing through the barbwire and charging forth across shell-pocked cityscapes reduced to rack and ruin. That’s a hard ‘fuck yeah,’ brothers and sisters – crushing heaviness transformed into cathartic rapture. (Desolate Records)
1. Rigorous Institution – Survival / Despotism
Portland, Oregon’s Rigorous Institution sound like veritable warriors of the wastelands. The band’s third 7″, Survival / Despotism, only features two tracks, but it’s topping my list of 2020’s most uproarious EPs because the stench-ridden pandemonium within is, well, *phenomenal*. Survival / Despotism follows a similar artistic path to Rigorous Institution’s previous EPs, Penitent and The Coming of the Terror, which also feature A-grade apocalyptic noise that’s bone-chilling and always rotten to the core. Much like Philadelphia crew Alement, Rigorous Institution just nail it when it comes to conjuring raw metallic punk that oozes intimidating menace.
Survival / Despotism reeks of the bleakest 80s aesthetics, with the 7″ highlighting humanity’s failings as it calls to mind Axegrinder and Amebix’s grimmest cacophonies. The dark magick of early Killing Joke also boils in Survival / Despotism‘s depths. But the real genius here lies in Rigorous Institution adding the perfect measure of brain-frying synth and eccentric anarcho-punk into a roaring storm of heavily atmospheric crust. Survival / Despotism features everything I love about worm-eaten subterranean punk – see croaking vocals, rough-as-guts riffs, and walloping bass and percussion all wrapped up in a forbidding ambiance. Best of all, Survival / Despotism is as twisted as it is hostile, with Rigorous Institution’s negative noise painting a vivid picture of a world engulfed in flames. No question, Survival / Despotism is a tour de force of mind-shattering punk. (Roachleg Records)