Releases of the Year: 2022


1. SOS - SZA

Top Dawg Entertainment

In 2017, SZA released her debut record, Ctrl - and it became a modern classic for many, myself included. I’ve always referred to the voice SZA takes on via this record as that of an all-knowing big sister, Seemingly effortlessly, Ctrl makes sense of themes of insecurity, sexuality, and the act of knowing and listening to oneself. Five years later, we meet back here to talk SOS. If Ctrl was a big-sister talk, SOS sees SZA go into detail on the ups and downs of experiencing the situations that taught those lessons -  an extension that fills in all those missing “I’ll tell you when you’re older” details. 

The reality of life is that a lot of things aren’t always as straightforward as we want them to be - feelings, relationships, and everything else in between. On this album, SZA encapsulates exactly that. On certain tracks, she’s an unstoppable force that will stop at nothing to get what she deserves, with or without a man by her side - and, on others, she’s battling with yearning, regret, and conflicting feelings for people she shouldn’t be feeling anything for anymore. It’s this vulnerability and realism that gives SZA her spark - the idea that, regardless of her success, beauty, persona, and whatever else, she’s still struggling through bullshit with undeserving friends and lovers - just like you, the listener. On SOS, SZA uses her vulnerability as a superpower, touching places so deeply personal that it’s hard to believe someone else could “get it,” much less put it into words.

Musically, this record sees SZA stick to her alternative R&B/neo-soul roots, with more of  hip hop influence coming through on a handful of tracks - this includes songs like “Low,” “Smoking On My Ex Pack,” “Conceited,” and more. This doesn’t include “F2F,” which calls back to the largely-lost genre of 2000’s pop-rockstars, as well as other guitar-driven songs like “Special” and “Nobody Gets Me.” Her openness to experiment with different types of music lends itself well to the themes of each song - the instrumentation feels custom-fit to her words, no matter what influence she’s tapping into. Well-placed features from a highly varied pool of artists - Phoebe Bridgers, Don Toliver, Travis Scott, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard - serve to add the perfect finishing touches to each of their respective tracks.

As a die-hard fan, I had high expectations for this record. And, admittedly, the 23-song tracklisting was intimidating at first - I would never complain about getting this much new music from SZA, but it definitely takes a few listens to fully take everything in. However, after having this record in-hand for a few months (and seeing her on the SOS tour this past month!) … I can safely say SZA did it again and made another masterpiece.

My favorite tracks are Kill Bill, Seek & Destroy, Low, Love Language, Blind, Snooze, Ghost in the Machine (ft. Phoebe Bridgers), and Conceited. (Leave me alone, man, it’s 23 songs.)

2. No Good At Goodbyes - Gridiron

Triple B Records

In late 2020, Gridiron dropped their first demo, Loyalty At All Costs. It may have started out as a project to alleviate quarantine boredom, but after a few days… It was all I was hearing about on every social media platform. Fast forward to now, and Gridiron is one of the fastest-rising bands in hardcore today. Beatdown is coming back in a big way, and this record is definitely a prime example. It’s not always easy to pull off the “rapcore” thing, but the band does it with ease. Vocalist Matt Karll infuses his lifelong love of rap and hip-hop with his love of hardcore to create a band that’s equal parts bars and mosh parts. Aside from that - instrumentally, every member of this band is insanely skilled. Will (ex-Detain, current Never Ending Game) and Xavier (ex-Vicious Embrace, current Simulakra) are a lethal riff duo that work together insanely to create absolutely insane intros, breakdowns, and mosh parts that give each song a personality of its own. With this unmatched energy and technical skill, every single time I saw this band in 2022 was an absolute blast. 

Don’t write this off as simple “tough guy hardcore” (or whatever bullshit you guys have been making fun of this week while pretending to like hardcore music) - Gridiron is miles ahead of half the bands that have tried to do this style, and their rise is showing no signs of stopping. All-in-all, this record is an instant classic for me, and the best hardcore record of the year. 

My favorite tracks are Helta Skelta (ft. Brody King), 25-8, Triple Threat, Battle Hardened, and Faceless Enemy (Remix).

3. Fool 2 Tha Game - Volcano


With three things in mind - the way this album cover looks, the fact that two members of the band also play in Sanguisugabogg, and the fact that there’s a “2” in the title - I immediately knew what I was in for, and I was excited. If these things led you to hope for some insanely heavy, good ol’-fashioned low-IQ hardcore, you’re in the right spot. Volcano combine influences of hardcore, slam, and death metal into this 5-song EP that, in my opinion, is perfect from start-to-finish. Naturally, you can expect riffs, a dodgeball snare, and lyrics about fucking up your enemies. Every single song is memorable, and that intro makes me feel like I could fight god. I wish I had more to say, but I will leave you with this - this is the best EP of the year, and it’s not even close. I will do whatever it takes to see this band live in 2023. Thank you.

My favorite track are INTRO and ADDICTED TO MISERY.

4. World Full Of... - Life’s Question

Triple B Records

Since their start in 2015, Life's Question have been evolving at a rapid rate. While their core NYHC inspirations are still kept in mind, this record is probably their most ambitious yet. World Full Of… sees Life’s Question lean into their melodic side. As usual, Josh Haynes’ distinctive vocal style and emotive lyrics communicate a message, ranging from themes of love, loss, and beyond. On top of that… Life’s Question has always been a band for the riff lovers, but they truly outdid themselves on this one. The band further experiments by adding in some absolutely insane guitar parts throughout the album. Ridge Rhine is one of my favorite current guitarists in hardcore, and this record definitely lets us see him flex on every song, including the 6-minute, fully-instrumental title track. This band is one of the few that are able to capture the energy of a live performance onto recording - World Full Of… is a fully immersive experience that tests the band’s limits & cements them as one of the most unique, talented acts in hardcore today.


My favorite tracks are Mellow My Mind, For You, Broke, Playin’ Hell Tryin’ to Get to Heaven, and Another Casket Kissed.

5. Grim Wisdom - Age of Apocalypse

Closed Casket Activities

If there’s one thing I know, it’s this - the Hudson Valley loves their metallic influences. Being home to bands like All Out War, Mindforce, End of One, and more, it’s no secret that the hardcore scene takes heavy inspiration from various metal subgenres. Age of Apocalypse is one of the best modern examples of this fact. This record, released in early 2022, is one of the only recent hardcore releases I would ever unironically describe as “epic.” Through countless anthemic hooks, layered over explosive, crashing riffs, Grim Wisdom earns the title. Vocalist Dylan Kaplowitz’s powerful vocal style echoes back to their NYHC predecessors, Life of Agony, creating melody in a way that ties the two musical worlds the band belongs to perfectly. Still, the addition of all the thrashy, metallic inspiration the band utilizes is experimental enough to bring in heavy music listeners who aren’t super familiar with hardcore, while also remaining true to the genre. (Which I’m happy about, because it’d be a crime to save some of these mosh parts for the “no karate in the pit” crowd.)

All in all, this band is trying a lot of new things, creating a sound that’s uniquely theirs, while still honoring their roots - and that’s something hardcore could always use more of.

My favorite tracks are Valley of the Mystic, The Patriot, Fury, and Begging the Reaper.

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

The Haze Begins... - Payasa

Best track: “Blue Skies” & “The Haunting of Birch Street”

Trials of Life - Fools Game

Best tracks: “Not Like Me,” “Alone” & “Trials of Life”

The Chicago Sector - Sector

Best tracks: “The Chicago Sector” (obviously), “Writing On the Wall” & “Dying Memories”

A Call Beyond - Moment of Truth

Best tracks: “A Call Beyond,” “Twisting Their Forms” & “Ascension”

Valley Metal - Last Man Out/Life Cut Short

Best tracks: “Last Mistake” & “Last Breath”

And Still... - Envision

Best tracks: “Beyond” & “Born Again”

Summer Offensive - Contention

Best tracks: “Revenge Directive” & “Antithesis”

Demo 2022 - Anklebiter

Best tracks: “Red Tones” & “Talk About Me”

Split - Set Straight/Broken Vow

Best tracks: “Postulant” & “Dying Sun”

Demonstration - Side Eye

Best track: “Chaos of Time” ft. BG Risk

Gimmick Dreams - Pain Clinic

Best tracks: “Scars” and “Pain Clinic”

Demo 2022 - Dayz Lost

Best tracks: “Life of Sin” & “What’s Mine”

Sacred Heart/Advent - Envision

Best track: “Sacred Heart” 

2-Song Promo - Dayz Lost

Best track: “Another Night”

Born Into War - Law of Power

Best tracks: “$80 Devil” & “Family Curse”

Nothing Left to Give - Subversion

Best tracks: “Poison Veins” & “Solace”

Doubtless - Almighty Watching

Best tracks: “One Thousand Steps” & “Burden of Self”

Call It Off - Koyo

Best track: “Straight North"

The Infection Spreads - Simulakra

Best tracks: “Terror Tactics,” “Fading Away,” “Fury,” “Mankind is a Disease” & “Follow the Flies”

Crash - Charli XCX

Best tracks: “Constant Repeat,” “Good Ones,” “Lightning,” “Yuck” & “Used to Know Me”

Self-Titled - No Pressure

Best tracks: “Lock It Up,” “Both Sides,” “One Way Trip,” “Sour” & “Save Your Spot”

A Feeling In Your Heart… - Illusion of Choice

Best tracks: “Hall of Mirrors,” “Circling the Drain” and “The Same”

Bridges Burned - Killing Me

Best tracks: “Deceivers,” “Parting Ways” & “Can You Hear Me”

Demo - Sanctify

Best tracks: “Iniquity” and “In the Eyes of the Lord”

New Jeans - NewJeans

Best tracks: “Hype Boy” and “Cookie”

2022 Promotional Tape - Sunami

Best tracks: “Fake Blood” and “Six”

Self-Titled - Hold My Own

Best tracks: “Holdin My Own” & “Nothin’ Left”

Weapon X Demo - XweaponX

Best tracks: “Weapon X Intro” & “People Like You”

Constructing a War Against You - Field of Flames

Best tracks: “Besiege,” “State of Regression,” & “Blanket”

World of Bayway - Bayway

Best tracks: “Bayway,” “State of Mind,” & “What Goes Around”

(genuinely impossible choice)

Hymns For the Hopeless - Take It to Heart

Best tracks: “As Flowers Wilt” & “Suicide Pact”

Self-Titled  - Statement of Pride

Best tracks: “Once Again,” “Never Sway” and “Cataract”

Ditto - NewJeans


Disenlightenment - Mourning

Best tracks: “Disenlightenment,” “Cancer Incarnate” & “Grievance Ascends”

Deliberate Revolver - Excide

Best tracks: “The Portrait, Now Perceived,” “Marion” & “Perdition Now”

We’re Not Here to be Loved - Fleshwater

Best tracks: “The Razor’s Apple,” “Linda Claire,” “Kiss the Ladder” & “Enjoy”

Hard Core From Fort Worth Texas - Ozone

Best tracks: “Give It a Rest,” “I’ll Be Fine,” & “Can’t Take This Away”

One Scene Unity: A Hardcore Compilation, Vol. 3 - Various Artists

Best tracks: “Dark Dance” by Nothin’ But Enemies, “Playin’ For Keeps” by Gridiron, “Step in Line” by Killing Me,  “Me and the Boys” by C4, “The True Believer” by Broken Vow, & “Chasm” by Contention

New Lords - Mindforce

Best tracks: “New Lords” & “Words Fail” 

Self-Titled - Dose

Best tracks: “Turn Your Love Around,” “Born to Bruise,” & “Enough”

Unaltered Perspective - Inclination

Best tracks: “Epidemic,” “Bystander,” “A Decision” & “Commitment to Self”

Self-Titled - Regulate

Best track: “The Crime,” “You & I,” “New York Hates You” & “C.O.P”

Mani/Pedi - Baby Tate

Best track: “Sl*t Him Out Again” ft. Kali, “Mani,” “Pedi” & “4Lifers”

We Not Humping (Remix) - Monaleo ft. Flo Milli


Take Me Home - Pinkpantheress

Best tracks: all of them!!!

Primitive Reality - Downfall

Best tracks: “Scorn” ft. David Blom, “Let Me Die,” & “Behind the Curtain”

Spear of the Revenant - Temple Guard

Best tracks: “Disciples of Vengeance,” “Sermon For Retribution” & “A Halo Above Horns”

Demo 2022 - Nothin’ But Enemies

Best track: “Dog Collar”

S/T - XGatekeeperX

Best track: “Nothing New”

Little Green House - Anxious

Best tracks: “Your One Way Street,” “In April,” “Growing Up Song,” “Wayne,” & “You When You’re Gone”

(another impossible choice!!)

Midnights - Taylor Swift

Best tracks: “Lavender Haze,” “Maroon,” “Anti-Hero,” “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” “Karma,” & “Mastermind”

Return to Ash - Urn

Best tracks: “Return to Ash” & “Altar”

Maniac - Fugitive

Best tracks: “The Javelin” & “Neutralized”

Promo 2022 - Serration/A Mourning Star

(two singles)

Demo ‘22 - Twist of Cain

Best tracks: “Zero Hour” & “Identity of None”

2022 Promo - Domain

Best track: “Divine Intervention”

Unpleasant Living - End It

Best track: “New Wage Slavery,” “21” & “Hatekeeper”

We’ll Never Have Sex - Leith Ross


Primitive Desires - Jivebomb

Best tracks: “86,” “Primitive Desires” & “Illusion of Choice”

The Search - Prevention

Best tracks: “The Search” & “Change”

A couple months late - but it's here. This article was about half-done by its due date, and I was going to scrap it - then I remembered this is my blog, and I made that due date! I can still post it if I want to!

I really enjoy writing AOTY lists, because it’s such an awesome time capsule to go back to later on. Music underscores almost every memory I have, and after years in a row of putting one out, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t release a list for 2022. 

As usual, I’d like to thank everyone I interviewed in 2022 - Terry from Age of Apocalypse, Ben from Armor For Sleep, Hunter from Downfall, Gage and Tyler from Excide, Tyler from Foreign Hands, Michael from Instill, Joe Hardcore, Connor from Mourning, Emilio and JJ from Reality Check, Dom from Simulakra, Peter from Spy, Gerry from Stand Still, Ben and Hal from World I Hate, and Dan from Worn.

Last but not least, I made myself proud and did one thing this year that I’ve always wanted to do, before I knew what hardcore even was - I started booking shows. I’ll keep it short since I’ve thanked everyone on every social media platform I have multiple times now… But thank you endlessly for all the bands who took a chance on me as a new promoter this year. I can’t wait to see what awesome shit we’ll put together in 2023.

Till next time (next January, hopefully) …


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