Releases of the Year: 2019

1. To Whatever Fateful End - Magnitude
Triple B Records

Magnitude are one of those bands that sound like they have been around forever, even if they’re considered part of the new era of hardcore. To Whatever Fateful End encapsulates so many main tenets of a great hardcore record: fast and loud music that makes you want to move, played with precision, and a message with a meaning that is spoken with passion. The lyrics they write about veganism, straight edge, and the general need for humanity to improve come off with an authenticity you can’t fake. Bands with this kind of 90’s-00’s posi hardcore feel are hard to come by, but it’s even harder to find a band that does it believably. Lyrical content aside, there’s only one way to say it - Magnitude has the goddamn riffs. Almost every song on this record has a recognizable guitar part repeated throughout, with each song having its own unique qualities, while still remaining cohesive to the record. The emotive, reverb-heavy strums of instrumental interlude, “Resurgence,” into the  crushing riffs of “Plea” is one of the most well-thought out parts on many hardcore records I’ve heard this year, let alone this album. If those kinds of tracks aren’t your speed, songs toward the beginning of the record, like straight-edge anthems “Defy” or “Opposition” will for sure get you with their quick tempos and impossibly tight drum patterns. Speaking of those drums - combined with the guitars, this is a band you can really, really tell knows how to play their instruments. Not a note is off, and not a single part is written without a reason for being there, while managing to never come off as too “perfect” or manufactured. Magnitude shows their full range with both fast and slow tracks, ending on the solemn, static-heavy piano outro, “Lament” … which invites you to start the record over again, and again, and again.

My favorite tracks are Plea, Vital Emergence, Defy, and Opposition.

2. Broken in Refraction - Sanction
Pure Noise Records

I find it hard to describe Sanction after guitarist Mike Marino did it so perfectly in an interview with Exclaim! earlier this year - in regards to being asked to pin down their genre, Marino says:  “It's so funny to be a talking point in that conversation. I love the question, but we just don't fucking care. It doesn't matter. If someone wants to call us deathcore, that's fine. We have those elements. If you want to call us a hardcore or metalcore band, sure. … We write what we like.” With listening to this band, there’s certainly a feeling of “this is not a straight-up hardcore band I’m listening to,” and that’s perfectly fine. The stalled, open note riffs played throughout several breakdowns, the panic chords, the pinch harmonics… It’s all certainly very nostalgic of the deathcore and metalcore backgrounds many of us come from, but the difference is that Sanction is absolutely doing it better than any other bands that may throw their attempt in the ring. Their punishingly heavy metallic hardcore riffs, ominous, perfectly-placed sound bytes, the desperate, choppy drum patterns, and lyrics that range from describing the end of the world to being stuck in a coma all add up to a general feeling of doom and chaos that is unmistakably well-done. This is a fantastic record, whether you’re a hardcore fan who dabbles in metalcore from time to time, or just trying to get your deathcore-loving cousin to come out to a show. The versatility shows from 0:01 of intro track, “The Final Fraction,” all the way to the final sounds of “Creation…”

My favorite tracks are Conscious in a Coma, Cordia, Answers From a Syringe, and Paralysis.

3. Ultimate Aggression - Year of the Knife
Pure Noise Records

This almost feels like a cheat to add since the majority of the songs were first released on the band’s 2018 EP, First State Aggression, but they’re just that good. Each track from the EP was re-recorded to be released on Pure Noise Records as this album. However, the combination of adding them to this project and naming it Ultimate Aggression really encapsulates what this record is - the ultimate version of Year of the Knife’s long-building sound: hard-hitting drums and double-bass fills, booming, full-toned guitars, and vocalist Tyler Mullen’s signature throaty, aggressive vocal style. The band writes about topics that hit close to home for themselves and their listeners - police violence, the evils of drug use, and more. These messages hit even harder with the catchy, memorable metal-influenced riffs they give each track. My personal favorite song of theirs, “J.R.M.,” has a familiar-sounding, especially metal-reminiscent riff that opens the song and is repeated throughout, building the hype up to the song’s rage-filled bridge - “How much does it take before I have to snap?/I want to watch them bleed to death” - which carries into one of my favorite two-step parts of all time. The track is closed out with a vicious vocal feature from Mullen’s brother, Brett Mullen, formerly of Agitator. Another favorite, “Evil,” features a riff in the middle with a similar vibe. This is one of those records where I don’t have a lot of specific comments because what makes it good is so straight-forward. It’s straight-up metallic hardcore, with riffs and messages that stand the test of time.

My favorite tracks are Blue Lies, J.R.M, and Evil.

4. A War Outside and Within - Rain of Salvation

Rain of Salvation are a band that I’ve really enjoyed watching the growth of throughout this year. As I explained in the interview I did with vocalist James Austin and guitarist TJ Rotolico last month, a lot of demos come out every year, but not all of them sound like this one. Each track on A War Outside and Within is well-thought out, catchy, and exciting to listen to. Rotolico described their influences as ranging from Foundation, Buried Alive, Indecision, Turmoil, Kickback, and All Out War. Austin expanded on this by explaining that he tries to take a storyteller’s approach with writing, where the writer, has character to what they’re doing - something that makes them distinct from all others.” Over anything, however, when speaking with them, a point that came through very strong was their passion for straight edge and straight edge hardcore. All of these concepts combine beautifully in this 5-song EP. The 90’s influences come through strong - in a world that’s been lacking heavy edge bands, this band is moshy, fast, straight-to-the-jugular metallic straight edge hardcore, and Austin’s lyrics about straight edge are some of the best that I’ve heard in a long time. Rather than going the “I’m straight edge, fuck you,” route that many bands take (which has its merits), the lyrics sound more influenced by the “on the frontlines, fighting against society” vibe of many Foundation tracks, while never coming off pretentious or pushy. This especially shows in the final track, “Call to Arms,” which features Year of the Knife’s Tyler Mullen - “I will stand against the grain/March with my sword/And as I cast my final stone, I die knowing it’s my own.” If you’re going to LDB Fest in February, you’d be a fool not to come early on Friday and see this band. Rain of Salvation is undoubtedly one of the best new bands to come out of 2019.

My  favorite tracks are First Stone and Turn Traitor.

5. When Fear Turns to Confidence - Inclination
Pure Noise Records

If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, there’s not a chance you haven’t heard of Inclination by now. A supergroup that was described by many as "[insert member here's] new band" has rightfully become top-tier metallic straight edge hardcore that has become an instant classic. Adding to the legacy left by their first EP, the band dropped this one earlier this year. The 5-song attack perfectly encapsulates almost every reason there is to claim - feelings of rage, empowerment, and a desire for society (and oneself) to be better. Each song stands on its own, with not a single one blending into the other. The intro of the title track, “When Fear Turns to Confidence,” is the kind that hardcore has been sorely lacking - an almost theatrical, tension-building intro that goes from slow, reverb-heavy arpeggios into something heavier. While the entire project is very cohesive, each song has a little something different about it that makes it memorable. “Into the Shadows,” which features several tempo-switches and a slower version of the intro riff, blends together to become one of the more unique hardcore tracks I’ve heard this year. The outro track, “Inclination,” in which Short shouts, “A drug free proclamation/My straight edge inclination,” is one of the finest pileup-inspiring calls I’ve heard in quite some time. Overall, Inclination has found success with both those who claim the X and those who don’t - I pin this on my opinion that they’re one of the more approachable, non-pretentious edge bands, but it could also just be their talent crossing those borders for them. The band knows exactly where to place splintering riffs, emotionally intense spoken word bits blended with vocalist Tyler Short’s signature angry vocals, drums that are always being hit hard enough (thanks, Bryan Prosser), and all other elements, in order to create songs that are exciting and rage-inducing the entire way through. These songs make me feel very proud to be straight edge, very rage-filled, and very feral. 10’s across the board.

My favorite tracks are Into the Shadows, Vagrant, and Uninhibited.

6. Blueprint For Self Destruction - Hands of God
Flatspot Records

You know how, sometimes, a band from completely outside your scene drops an EP, and all of a sudden it’s all anyone you know is talking about? That’s what happened with Hands of God, and once I got hip to it….. I immediately understood. Their intro is one of my favorite non-hardcore intros, setting a menacing tone for the rest of the EP. Once it starts, however, it’s a pulverizing ride from start to finish. Jeffrey Wang’s vocals are unique in that you can tell they’re not just stylized for the music - they’re full of unbridled, genuine anger. This pairs perfectly with the metallic hardcore assault behind it. Hands of God show their West Coast roots with crushing hardcore laced riffs that take influence from thrash/black metal, echoing back to bands like Merauder who blended genres in a similar way. They share a guitarist with fellow Southern California band, Vamachara, and if you’re into them, I would bet you’d like this too. These aggressive sounds are exactly what the lyrics need to back their meaning. “245A” and “Ethnic Decay” emphasize the ever-growing issue of racism in America, with the former opening with a particularly disgusting post-war interview with a U.S. Marine, letting off an onslaught of racial slurs towards the Vietnamese, following with, “We were Americans, we were the civilized people. … We didn’t give a shit about those people.” With the track, Wang answers back, “Treat me like a savage/And I'll become the animal you want me to be.” This EP is perfect listening for when you’ve got a bone to pick with the world, be it for discrimination, greed, society, or whatever else, without judgment.

My favorite tracks are No Mercy, Sacrifice, and 245A.

7. Section 219 - Purgatory
Unbeaten Records

After many lineup switches, Purgatory has finally found a group of folks that are, to put it simply, really fucking good at playing the brand of angry, raw metallic hardcore that they’re known for. Some of these member changes include Brian Pilla (No Victory/Another One Dead), who could write some of the best riffs in the Midwest with his eyes closed, and Collin St. Mary (Another One Dead, etc.), who is easily one of the best drummers in the area. To sum it up, Purgatory serves as an all-star cast of some of the most committed musicians the Midwest has to offer. Earlier this year, following the release of their 2018 full length, Cold Side of Reality, Purgatory released this 3-song EP. Named for the area code of their homeland, Northwest Indiana, this is a 9-and-a-half-minute long look into the drug and crime-ridden Midwest areas that surround them. In their press release, the band describes the EP as such: “We're still just writing about our realities we see and hear and sometimes go through or deal with. Pulling people back down into the dark side of hardcore, where life isn't shiny, full of copy cat gimmick HC bands. Just a big middle finger to the way a lot of shit is now.” This EP does a perfect job of describing the darker realities that many still face, rather than coming off as tough talk with no actual experience behind it. Beginning with the self-titled intro track, the band sets a scene with a spoken intro as friends describe their struggles with depression, drugs, and crime - backed by Pilla strums solemnly into one of the most crushing, slow-building intros the band has ever written, which the EP is named for. From there, the two tracks that follow keep up a similar vibe. Overall, if you’ve heard Purgatory, you know what kind of sound they’re about - this EP is just a testament that they’re going to continue getting better and better at it.

My favorite track is Thorn of Life.

8. Over It - Summer Walker
LoveRenaissance/Interscope Records

Every day I ask the spirits above to send me just a crumb of new SZA material. Unfortunately, it seems like 2019 still isn’t the year for that, but Spirit gave me the next best thing: the Patron Saint of Bitches With Social Anxiety and Mixed Emotions About Men… Summer Walker. This record follows Summer’s 2018 debut mixtape, Last Day of Summer, which contained her first massive hit - “Girls Need Love” - as well as the remix with Drake. This really put Summer on the map, as one of the few songs that the radio couldn’t get enough of, while still remaining a song that I wanted to listen to every time I heard it come on. Summer shoots straight for the throat with her honest lyrics about sex, love, feelings of self-worth, and more. The upbeat-yet-chill self-titled intro track, “Over It,” ushers us into the album with a question, “Am I really that much to handle?” This sets the tone for Summer’s entire debut record as she struggles between wanting love and wanting absolutely nothing to do with men (a mood). Songs like “Body,” “Tonight”, “Like It (ft. 6LACK),” and others follow the R&B blueprint of a slowed-down beat that Summer croons over emotionally,  while other tracks follow their own rules. One of my favorites, “Drunk Dialing...LODT” comes off as two separate songs, on two separate sides of the coin - Summer considering drunk dialing knowing it isn’t worth it, and then… Making the call anyway, justifying herself with “And I just can't quite understand it/But love makes sense of you.” The record is also star-studded with fantastic features, including my hands-down favorite track, “Come Thru,” which features Usher over his own beat, from the ‘97 track, “You Make Me Wanna…” The two singers reinvent the classic with a similar message, but a fresh new take. “Fun Girl” stands out as a classic Summer Walker build for a song - a simple, guitar-and-vocals-only track about being a “fun girl,” or, in her words, an independent woman who makes her own money. I could write something about every single song, but I think one of the star tracks has to be “I’ll Kill You,” an honest, emotive track that opens with “If them bitches round you/Better be blood/If it ain’t me or your mama, shouldn’t be showing you no love.” Summer didn’t come alone, however. For a song being described as “beautifully toxic” online, who better to add than Jhene Aiko? Both ladies lend their beautiful, smooth voices as they speak on sticking by their love for worse or for better, serenading the listener with I been waiting so long for a love like this.” Summer has released a beautifully comprehensive debut record with the range, talent, and her unmistakably relatable lyrics that hit on pain and desires you didn’t know you had.

My favorite tracks are Drunk Dialing...LODT, Come Thru (ft. Usher), I’ll Kill You (ft. Jhene Aiko), and Girls Need Love (ft. Drake).

9.  One By One - Hangman
Flatspot Records

While a ton of new bands come out every year, Hangman was one of those newer acts that I saw a lot of promise in when I first heard their second EP, Hangman II, in 2016. Thankfully, they’ve not only stuck through, but made something great for themselves.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them a handful of times (including on their native Long Island), and the feeling a Hangman show creates is something completely their own. Taking influences and similarities from bands like Madball, Outburst, and others, this is straightforward hardcore in its purest form. Fast, loud, combative, and punky with its own groove, while coming from a place of talking about shit that needs to be talked about. Vocalist Dan Mulligan’s distinctive fiery vocal style carries the passion and animosity behind his words. Certifying that old-school stamp of approval is a guest feature from Death Threat’s Aaron Butkus on the title track, asserting, “I’m the one who will testify/Hardcore is a way of life/It’s really not for everyone/Weed out the weak, one by one.” This lyric establishes the hardcore ethos that Hangman is molded by, made by the real, not the trend-hoppers.  For those who question who’s going to carry the torch after the 2018 loss of LIHC giants Backtrack - with bands like Hangman, I think everyone is going to be just fine.

My favorite tracks are One Mistake, One By One, and Heat.

10. Looking Through the Shades - Glitterer
Anti- Records

This record screams “summer drive” to me. Released in mid-July, this is Ned Russin’s first full-length work since Title Fight released Hyperview. Through every genre change with the band, Ned’s unique vocal style has stayed consistent. It is a hard-to-replicate tone that is raw and easy to sing (or yell) along with, evoking strong emotion, even when he taps into the more deadpan side of his vocal range. There is both contrast and common ground between older project and Glitterer’s debut LP, but don’t go into this expecting Title Fight 2.0 - Ned has gone in a new direction. Looking Through the Shades takes the synthy sounds of Glitterer’s earlier work and meshes them together with heavy 90’s pop rock influences. None of these tracks would be out of place on your favorite alternative radio station or, say, in the background of a party from an early 00’s teen romantic comedy. Despite these classic sounds, the album is far from “radio rock,” including aspects of dream pop, new wave, and other things that make this release unique. Glitterer also features some interesting production choices - Arthur Rizk, a primarily metal and hardcore-based producer (King Nine, Power Trip), and indie mastermind (Sandy) Alex G. This contrast summarizes most of Ned’s work perfectly - hardcore influences (particularly vocally) that can go beyond a multitude of genres. One of my favorite aspects of this record is the vignette-style that the tracks follow. The longest songs on Looking Through the Shades are still only a little over 2 minutes, all telling their own short story. As a whole, this is a quicker listen with a lot of diversity and variety. The shorter songs, as well as the multiple sounds and moods, make this a really easy record to get into for folks from various musical backgrounds. 

My favorite tracks are Anxious Eyes, 1001, Two, and Put Ourselves Away.

11. Demo - Soul Provider

This demo came for everyone’s lists right in the final weeks of the year, but believe me when I say it’s more than worth the recognition. Soul Provider is a new band from Long Island, featuring members of several awesome bands in the area - Hangman, Rain of Salvation, and Typecaste, to name a few. This is what happens some of the most talented people from all the bands in your area decide to create something together. From the first gunshot-pop of the snare in the intro, I was hooked. Soul Provider is a band that wears its NYHC influences on its sleeve - Madball, Crown of Thornz, and the like - creating something entirely different from most of the hardcore released in 2019. There’s no mixing of genres -  just solid, groove-driven hardcore. Creative guitar work that moves through open, ringing strums, chugs that are impossible not to nod your head to, and even a part I will only describe as “fuck yeah, we’re putting guitar solos in hardcore songs again” (in the title track) - makes this demo particularly distinctive and memorable. Vocalist Harold Griffin provides the perfect fury-filled vocal work that a project this aggressive needs, along with matter-of-fact, real-life lyrics about things worth being this angry about. Samples that fit the project perfectly give this a perfect get-off-your-ass-stop-crying-and-change-the-world vibe that’s few and far between in newer bands. If you listen to just one band you’ve never heard of on this list, Soul Provider is a fantastic choice.

My favorite tracks are Soul Provider (that fucking riff) and Carte Blanche (that other fucking riff).

12. Self-Titled - Adrenaline
Flatspot Records

In an era where a lot of hardcore bands can blend together into similar sounds, Adrenaline has chosen to do their own thing. If I had to pin it down, I feel that this could appeal to those who were into early Turnstile (which makes sense with the band’s Baltimore roots), when the band still took a lot more inspiration from good ol’ punk-influenced hardcore. Samples from The Sonics’ “Psycho” and 1986 movie Blue Velvet help shape the old school vibe even further. The band’s press release specifically nailed down the band’s influences as ranging from Crown of Thornz, Vision of Disorder, and other classic 90’s bands. On the topic of the band’s lyrics, Compton said, “I touch on the battle that is understanding who you are throughout the many changes and evolution of our lives. Through the love and hate that inevitably will make you end up wishing things could be different at times while still trying to find peace in it all.” This is perfectly said. Compton writes in simple terms that, combined with his more spoken/shouted vocal style, make the messages come off honest and clear. Still, point blank - Adrenaline is a fun-ass band. This EP is 6 groovy, angry, genuine songs that make you want to dance, yell, and let go, even if you’re yelling along and admitting, “It’s not okay, I’m not okay.” Make sure to give this EP a listen, especially if you’re looking to change up your hardcore playlist a bit.

My favorite tracks are Pressures of… and Masked Out.

13.  Hereafter - Vamachara
Closed Casket Activities

I am always more-than-hyped to hear new material from Vamachara. The California band has completely established their own brand of dark, shattering metallic hardcore that stands out from others in the genre, making this perfect as an October 1st release. The group has cited influences like Arkangel, Disembodied, and other metalcore household names, but I would argue that they’ve evolved past that a bit. There is a definite metal-influenced vibe, along the lines of bands like All Out War, to their unique sound. Diverging from their confidently antagonistic sound is the lyrical content of Hereafter. The band told Kerrang upon release, ‘Deliverance’… deals with depressive episodes of a couple of our members, but each song is definitely more personal than any of our previous releases. For Hereafter, we tried a few new things to make sure every song was straight to the point and as raw as possible.” This emotional intensity is accomplished via vocalist Alex Sawyer’s rough delivery of Vamachara’s intensely personal lyrics, as well as the addition of guitarist Davey’s higher vocals to certain tracks, namely on the “I won’t see heaven when I die” line on “Deliverance” that heads straight into an absolutely crushing breakdown. Speaking of which - there’s no shortage of those throughout this EP, which calls back to those metalcore influences. Giving the listener a chance to recover from the rest of the EP, however, is the beautifully sullen “Void,” setting the emotional tone for the EP, a delay-heavy, slow-building interlude. All in all, the band stays true to their usual sound while adding a few newer tweaks that keep things interesting.

My favorite tracks are Deliverance, V.O.L. and Anticipated Demise.

14.  Vitality - Draw the Line
Street Fight Records

As someone who listens to a ridiculous amount of music, I tend to stumble across releases that may have stayed under the radar in my area. Somehow, this was one of them - and I’m here to tell the Midwesterners that Midwesterners reading this that they need to get off their asses and check out Draw the Line ASAP. This 6-song EP is a crushing ode to classic New York beatdown, borrowing reinspired sounds from bands like Everybody Gets Hurt and Bulldoze. For fans of: music that sounds like a fistfight and play-the-riff-but-slower parts that’ll turn even the most civilized audience member into a knuckle-dragging caveman. Underscoring the heavy metallic sounds of this record are their well-placed samples, with source material from an old-timey 60’s Dateline episode about the band’s native Long Island, a 50’s informational short film about war, and Goodfellas (real Italian shit). Aside from the genre labels, this is the kind of hardcore better left without heavy analyzation or attempts to explain - it’s far better listened to.

My favorite tracks are Illusion of Change, Come and Go, and Left to Ashes.

15.  Dreams About… - Rule Them All
Flatspot Records

If you asked me to show someone who’s never heard hardcore before what it sounds like, a band like Rule Them All would be a fitting start. While echoing back to the sounds of older, punky D.C. hardcore, as well as the bands from their native Long Island, Rule Them All manage to take these sounds and turn them into something modern, fresh, and entirely their own. Their sound fights against sometimes-limiting genre labels, while still maintaining a familiar, nostalgic feel. Vocalist Jon Gusman’s vocals are something truly unique to the current crop of hardcore bands. There is a powerful, raw, almost spoken quality to them, interlaced with sung vocals that fit well into each song’s hook, such as on the title track. This makes the messages of the lyrics easy to receive, while also turning some of them into even more motivating calls-to-action, such as the “What’s stopping you? What’s your excuse?” intro to the third track, “Look Inward.” Musically, the drums set a driving foundation, accompanied by tight basslines, played with intention, while giving the right amount of space to the guitars. Each song has its own melody, different from the last, which can take them from decisive, chug-heavy punk riffs into ringing and soaring along with Gusman’s authentic, emotionally-intense cries. Perhaps one of the biggest breaths of fresh air that Rule Them All has to provide is their lyrical content. If Gusman’s honest vocals didn’t clue you in, the words he speaks definitely represent that there is a message to be taken from each track. Song topics range from catastrophizing in bad situations (“Dreams About…”), personal responsibility in negative situations (“Look Inward”), criticizing the dishonest and lamenting on the loneliness of authenticity (“The Alienation”), and more. The final song, while 4 minutes long, concisely wraps up Dreams About… in a close that feels like it takes parts of every previous song to close out the EP perfectly. Overall, this is a really promising, well-constructed release that goes against the norm of what’s popular to remind listeners that the classic ethics and sounds of hardcore still remain.

My favorite tracks are Dreams About… and Look Inward.

16. Good At Falling - The Japanese House
Dirty Hit Records

Unfortunately, I found this record with a couple months to spare in the year - but I’ll definitely be making up for lost time with the endless plays I expect to last me into 2020. The Japanese House, also known as Amber Bain, has a unique sound that is equal parts noise project, chill-beats-to-study-to, and dream pop. It’s unlike anything I heard all year. In the past, some folks thought it was a side project belonging to The 1975’s Matt Healy, which is probably the closest comparison I can come up with - understandable, since a member of the band was on the production crew for this record! The more synth-heavy tracks give off 80’s pop vibes, with Bain’s dreamy voice often reminiscent of a more raw Imogen Heap. (“Marika is Sleeping,” among others) This is one of those records that sets a mood, painting a picture with approachable lyrics that drip with descriptive imagery, as well as intricately-layered sounds from different sources that paint a setting clearly in the listener’s mind. In an interview with Atwood Magazine, Bain revealed the title came from an unlikely source - an indie game, called Thomas is Alone.  “… it’s really hard to explain, but it’s basically about this square having this existential crisis. There’s a narrator throughout and at some point he says ‘Thomas was extremely good at falling”’ and I think that’s [a] really cool, powerful phrase. It kind of encapsulates everything I talk about on the record in a way, falling can mean so many things. Like falling flat on your face, literally (laughs), or falling in and out of love in relationships. Just fucking up. To be good at that, I guess it’s to be good at dealing with that, because it’s an inevitable thing that happens in life. You’re going to fall at some point.” This sets the tone perfectly - Bain’s  lyrics range from the topics of loss, heartbreak, love, and self-reflection, set to sounds that make the listener feel those things right alongside her. There is a song for almost every emotion on this record, even the ones you thought were alone in. This is, again, a record better listened to than read about.

My favorite tracks are Maybe You’re the Reason, We Talk All the Time, Follow My Girl and Lilo.

17.  Self-Titled - 40portraits

While I’ve admittedly been out of the loop on most things you’d drop on SoundCloud, this definitely crept up on me as one of my favorite listens of the year. 40portraits is a side project of Long Island metalcore quintet Sanction guitarist, Mike Marino (self-identified here as saint iris), as well as their drummer Dillon Perino (going by glass.tears). Rounding out the group are Long Boston metalcore act Measured in Gray’s Thomas Steinberg (lovecrimes) and Joe Sheahan (sølace), both of which make music separately as well. This 14-minute, 4-song EP is simultaneously a smooth listen with simple lyrics that I found no problem hitting “repeat” on,  while also being full of feeling. That’s the beauty of this EP - no frills, just straight-to-the-point music and lyrics. Each member has a unique voice, with two on the lower register and two usually handling the higher end, all meshing together nicely. Additionally, in place of  the usual fully-synthesized beats, hi-hats accompany the melancholy sounds of an acoustic guitar. All of this comes together into a project that borrows just as much from indie and emo as it does trap and hip hop. Similar to many projects from people with others to focus on, this comes off as music the group members wanted to make and enjoyed making, while still maintaining a connection between tracks. I really enjoyed this and am excited to see what new material they’ll come up with next, whether it be something similar, or completely different. 

My favorite tracks are Floral Arrangement and Leave Her to Heaven.

18.  The Silent Spring - Measured in Gray

While unexpected, this was definitely one of my favorite releases this year as a whole. Everyone talks about how “trendy” metalcore is lately, but that trendiness comes from the fact that, besides a few bands, it tends to sound the same way - Disembodied worship with no differentiating flair. Measured in Gray, however, went out on a limb with this EP - while there’s definitely some clear aspects from that subtype, they suggest at least a little influence from nostalgic 00’s-10’s bands as well. When asked, guitarists Atilla Gulnar and Jake Rubin told Resonating that they claim influence from bands that include The Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, Every Time I Die, Eighteen Visions, Coalesce (their namesake), and Cave In. A stand-out quality of this EP that showed those 00’s influences is the combination of Anthony Santos’s low-pitched, coarse vocals, which combine in the final track, “Leafreplica,” with an emotively sung clean vocal (provided by Rubin) over slowed-down, softer guitars. Heavy music with clean vocals is few and far between as of late, but it really adds something to the track that fits well - I’m definitely not against hearing more. Besides those slower moments, which blend perfectly, this EP is a journey of tempo changes, from fast and loud, breakdown-heavy segments, with just the right amount of slowed-down parts to allow you to catch your breath. My only disappointment is that I wish I had more to listen to.

(if you’re native to Long Island, check out their first show at Shakers Pub on 2/2 or we’re not friends anymore)

My favorite track is Leafreplica.

19. Sole Impulse - Vatican
1126 Records

I’m not even gonna front… This is the kind of music that would for sure be my MySpace profile song, but it’s good shit. Like if Claire from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen tried to Gourmet Make your favorite metalcore band from high school. It’s familiar, with added class and flair. Alright, back to serious-review-mode - this is a very well-constructed record. The best descriptor I can think of: metalcore made by hardcore lovers. The band dips between choppy riffs and chaotic drum patterns into slowed down, reverb-heavy parts, with vocalist Jonathan Whittle’s voice dynamically going everywhere from throaty growls, into low-toned spoken word, and even…. A pretty nu-metal inspired rapping part (on “Cyanide Divinity”). Speaking of which, the nu-metal influences here are strong, particularly in the addition of electronic sounds, as well as amount of rhythm changes in each song combined with the drum styles, which give off a bit of a Deftones vibe. Overall, however, this is a new take on a type of music you probably already know pretty well, bridging the gap between two genres that can sometimes be at odds.

My favorite tracks are Sole Impulse, Thirty-One Staples, Cyanide Divinity, and Xero Line Crisis.

20. Anger Management - Rico Nasty
Atlantic Records

“Aren’t you tired of the same old thing?” a computerized voice questions, starting off the beginning of this mixtape with a little foreshadowing. Since the beginning of her career, Rico has put on for “weird” girls, particularly in rap and hip hop. Despite this alternative image, she’s made it onto world tours, massive fests, and even earned a spot on the 2019 XXL Freshmen list, alongside other creative female rap giants Megan Thee Stallion and Tierra Whack. Despite that, I didn’t hear nearly enough about this mixtape this year. Released in April, this was exactly what I needed at the time - 8 songs that range from feeling like a punch in the face (“Cold”) to a “you’re gonna be alright” hug (“Again”). Rico maintains her “sugar trap” sound with beats that range from the more “normal” to what sounds like bass-boosted video game soundtracks. Anger Management puts a woman’s right to anger on full display, with no words left out. Rico Nasty’s signature raspy yell guides us through boasting about her wealth and flexing on the opposition, while slowing down as she laments on fake friends and her self-made success. Her interlude, “Nasty World,”  splits the project into two recognizable parts - angrier tracks towards the first half, with more mellow tracks at the end. The most chill track, “Again,” is placed at the end, which closes with a calming sample, “If there’s anything you should need, just let me know.” That perfectly summarizes the vibe of Anger Management.

My favorite tracks are Cold, Hatin’, and Again.

21. Vegan Dominance - Glass Killing Floor

This was a far-too-underappreciated release this year. For fans of: Bryan Prosser in a ski mask on vocals, calling people bloodmouths. Jokes aside, this is a band that is doing the 90’s metalcore thing really well. Thrashy, crashing cymbals and sharp, biting riffs, vocally switching between from-the-pits-of-hell growls to piercing shrieks. As an added bonus to wrap up the 90’s worship - the closing track is a cover of “Written in Black” by the legendary Arkangel. In addition to the music, while there’s plenty of hardcore bands that mention their politics, as is the nature of the genre - straight edge, current events, and what have you - there is a severe lack of new militant vegan bands. “Tear out your tongue/To never taste divinity again/The gates have closed/Your veins have opened/Eden runs with the blood of you,” the band asserts in “Blood of Eden.” This EP is a punch to the face for those who see veganism as a trend or social choice. That being said, even if you aren’t vegan, this is just really, really good metalcore, made by some of my favorite musicians making that kind of music at the moment. Give it a listen.

My favorite tracks are You Are the Enemy and Blood of Eden.

22. Fever - Megan Thee Stallion
300 Entertainment

If you have any kind of social media, one phrase has been unavoidable - “hot girl summer.” What does that mean? According to its creator, “It’s just basically about women — and men — just being unapologetically them, just having a good-ass time, hyping up your friends, doing you, not giving a damn about what nobody got to say about it.” This phrase comes from Head Hot Girl herself, Megan Thee Stallion. In a matter of a few months, Meg went from a female rapper with a singular badass mixtape (Tina Snow) that was on a few playlists, to suddenly being on everyone’s radar after entering the radio airwaves and releasing the video for one of the tape’s singles, “Big Ole Freak.” “Fever” comes straight for the jugular straight from the jump, with Megan giving us mere seconds to settle in before going straight in with the vicious intro track, “Realer.” As a rapper, of course, words are the most important part of her music, but Meg’s lyrical approach goes outside the norm of the current crop of female rappers. While she still brags on her money and beauty (well-deserved), Megan manages to work in several tongue-in-cheek references that’ll have you go from thinking of rolling up on an enemy to being caught off guard “what the fuck??” laugh. An example of this is the line “I’ll knock the shit out that bitch like an enema” in “Realer.” Don’t forget that this is serious, though - my personal favorite track on the record, “W.A.B,” is another straight-for-the-jugular diss that lets you know what Meg’s really about. Following is the drastically different “Best You Ever Had,” a slowed-down love song with a catchy hook. Seconds after talking about wanting to beat someone’s ass, however, Megan will be straight-up talking about sex just as vulgar as today’s popular male rappers do. “Sex Talk,” the first single off the tape, is an example of one of her signature overtly-sexual tracks, which she writes with no apology or holding herself back. Meg’s honest lyrical style echoes back to her influences, including Southern rap legends Three 6 Mafia and Pimp C, as well as other female rappers like Lil Kim and La Chat. Like Meg herself says - “I'm a real rap bitch, this ain't no pop shit.” This is 14 catchy tracks of pure honesty, shit talking, and sex appeal, fit for playing on the way to anything from a fight or a turn-up.

My favorite tracks are Realer, Cash Shit (ft. DaBaby), Simon Says (ft. Juicy J), and W.A.B.

Other albums, EPs, demos, and singles (no order)

Lover - Taylor Swift

Best track: “Cruel Summer” and “Lover”
From Me to You - One Step Closer

Best track: “From Me to You”
Misery Never Forgets - Wristmeetrazor

Best track: “XOXO (Love Letter From A Loaded Gun)”
thank u, next - Ariana Grande

Best track: “nasa,” “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” and “bad idea”
Shea Butter Baby - Ari Lennox

Best track: “BMO,” “Up Late” and “New Apartment”
The Grand Descent - Fuming Mouth

Best track: “Fatalism” and “Visions of Purgatory”
Surface Noise - Judiciary

Best track: “Temple” and“War (Time is Nigh)”
Commitment - Point of Contact

Best track: “Rise”
Self-Titled - Division of Mind

Best track: “E X I T”
Norman Fucking Rockwell - Lana Del Rey

Best tracks: “Norman fucking Rockwell,”  “Fuck it I love you” and “Love song”
Demonstration - Sunami

Best tracks: “Contempt of Cop”
Blue Rain - 40portraits

Demonstration - S3C2O1

Best track: “Sector”
North East Hardcore Pride - Out For Justice

Best track: “Brotherhood/Loyalty”
Demo - Simulakra

Best track: “No Way Out”

Lapsed Requiems - Cast in Blood/Foreign Hands

(two singles)
Tales From the Fevered Subconscious - Simulakra

Best track: “Cancerous Breed”
Get My Mind Right - Fiddlehead

(two singles)
Hot Girl Summer - Megan Thee Stallion ft. Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign

2019 - Lucy Dacus

Best track: “Fool’s Gold”
Hot Pink - Doja Cat

Best track: “Cyber Sex” and “Juicy” (not the fucking Tyga version)
Devoured Humanity - Mourned

(two singles)
One Way Out - Shackled

Best track: “Our Stance”
Summer Blues - Low End

Best track: “Spineless”
North East Lockdown Split - Payback/Out For Justice

(two singles)
NWI Brotherhood - No Victory/Purgatory

(two singles/two covers)
Take Your Shot, Funboy - Wristmeetrazor

Devil & My Friends - Permanent Damage

Best track: “Hard 2 Swallow”
Delco is in Lockdown - Payback

Best track: “Loyal”
Demo - Hell of Self

Best track: “Only Hell”
The Clenched Fist of Human Greed b​/​w Promised Land - The Fight

(two singles)
2019 Promo - Hands of God

(two singles)
What It’s All About - Out For Justice

Best track: “Here Comes the Pain”

Immunity - Clairo

Best track: “Bags,” “North” and “Softly”
Smile! Aren’t You Happy? - Absence of Mine

Best track: “Eyez of Blue”
Just Another Day - Never Ending Game

Best track: “Evil Minds”
9 Reasons Not to Live - Buried Dreams

Best track: “Do Not Resuscitate”
Invoking Chaos - Invoke/MH Chaos

Best track: “Serpent’s Tongue” and “Herbicide”
A Tale of Sudden Love and Unforgettable Heartbreak - Life’s Question

Best track: “You Told Me That You Love Me (But You Told A Lie)”

I’d like to give a shoutout to Brewpoint Coffee in Elmhurst, Illinois for every iced vanilla oat milk latte that got me through my most productive year doing this blog thus far.

Additionally, I’d like to thank all the artists and brands that have worked with me this year. Thank you to Sanction (Lumpy), LDB Fest (Ryan), Mindfield (Trevor), All Out War (Mike Score), Facewreck (AJ), Candy Corpse (Madi), and Rain of Salvation (James and TJ).

I’m massively grateful that I got to work with so many insanely talented, kind people in 2019. I hope next year brings even more collaborative efforts.


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