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Top 5 Hardcore Releases of the First Half of 2020

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Written by: Jennifer Moglia

With August now in full swing and the craziness that has been 2020 finally being just over halfway done, fans of all genres of music are starting to think about their “best-of” lists for the end of the year. While there’s about four months to perfect those year-end lists, here at Legends of Tomorrow we decided to take a look at some releases from the first half of 2020 in a few different areas of music, the first being hardcore and hardcore-adjacent. 

There have been a ton of great projects put out since January, from long-time staples in the genre to smaller up-and-coming bands. Because so many amazing hardcore releases have been put out in 2020, this list wasn’t exactly easy to make, but the artists that are highlighted here truly deserve the recognition. 

5: “Lavender” - Initiate

Released: February 4th, 2020

Favorite Track: “Myopia”

How to Support: Vinyl and shirts available on Triple B Records 

The cover art for this EP is what drew me to it initially, but the music is what kept me coming back to it. Vocalist Crystal Pak is an absolute powerhouse, with a voice that makes listeners want to pay attention to what she has to say. From the swinging riffs of the title track, “Lavender”, to the calm, instrumental “Beverly”, this Southern California hardcore band has shown that they have the range to become a heavy-hitter in the genre for years to come. 

4: “California Cursed” - DRAIN

Released: April 10th, 2020

Favorite Track: “Sick One”

How to Support: Shirts, hats, and vinyl available on Bandcamp and All in Merch 

DRAIN is a band I discovered while self-isolating this spring, and I’m so glad that I did. Their chaotic, completely immersive sound on this record draws listeners in immediately, taking you to the California-based band’s home state with sounds of waves and plummeting underwater, paired with fast-paced riffs and hard-hitting vocals from Sam Ciaramitaro. While lead single “Sick One” is my favorite track on this record, the follow-up, “Hyper Vigilance” featuring Taylor Young of Nails and Disgrace, is another highlight. No matter how proudly I rep the east coast and our scene, I’ll always have a soft spot for west coast hardcore, especially if this list is any indicator. 

3: “Promo 2020” - One Step Closer

Released: February 21st, 2020

Favorite Track: “Broken (Turning Point)”

How to Support: Limited music and merch available on Triple B Records and Dark Medicine 

After seeing Triple B’s Wilkes-Barre straight-edge band One Step Closer live for the first time in their hometown back in December, I was hooked. 2019’s “From Me To You” blew me away the first time I sat down and listened to it, so when I heard that they were putting out a promo just before going on tour with Anxious, Heart Attack Man, and Knuckle Puck this winter, I was beyond excited. Even though it’s only two songs, this project was more of what this band is great at. Their memorable lyrics and classic melodic hardcore sound make them easy to fall in love with, and Promo 2020 just reinforced that for me. 

2: “Painting Words Into Lines” - Koyo

Released: March 14th, 2020

Favorite Track: “Heaven so Heavy”

How to Support: Shirts available on The Coming Strife Records 

Members of some of the most intriguing hardcore bands right now (SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Rain of Salvation, Typecaste, Adrenaline, and Hangman) make up Koyo, a Long Island hardcore band paying tribute to the area’s acclaimed emo scene (there’s even an alternate cover for this project inspired by Taking Back Sunday). Being from Long Island, I gave this a listen as soon as it came out, and it hasn’t left my rotation since. It’s evident how personal this music is to the band, with vivid lyrics about real experiences. Koyo is one of the bands I was supposed to see before just about every show for the foreseeable future was canceled, so I’m hoping they’re one of the first bands I get to see when gigs make their way back; I just know this record is going to hit differently live. 

1: “Underneath” - Code Orange

Released: March 13th, 2020

Favorite Tracks: “Sulfur Surrounding”, “The Easy Way”

How to Support: Shirts, shorts, candles, masks, and just about everything you can imagine available on their merch store or Roadrunner 

Although they’ve been around for over ten years now, “Underneath” was my first time listening to Pittsburgh-based hardcore band Code Orange. I was introduced to them when they recorded WWE Superstar Bray Wyatt’s theme music (strange way to get into a band, I know), and discovered videos of them performing live at WWE events with probably my favorite hardcore band of all-time, Incendiary. This album came out on my last day of classes before schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I listened to it during the last period of the day, so I’ll always have that odd memory associated with this record now. Regardless, “Underneath” is an absolute beast of an album, more of an experience than anything else. The eerie “glitch” sound effects and growling vocals great an apocalyptic feel, painting a picture of a world perfect for a horror movie. Reba Meyers’ vocals never fail to impress, and I’ve come to learn that producer Will Yip can essentially do no wrong when it comes to alternative records. If you haven’t already, please give this album a shot; it’ll take you on a rollercoaster for the full 47 minutes. 

Honorable Mentions: “Ronin” by Rotting Out, “Between Your and You’re (Demo)” by Bent Blue, “27 Miles Underwater” by Higher Power, “Swingin Swords, Choppin Lords” by Mindforce, and “Three Knee Deep” by Three Knee Deep.

Does your list match up with ours? What are your favorite hardcore or hardcore-adjacent releases from the first half of 2020? Let us know by tweeting us @lgndsoftmrw!


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