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Since I saw my first show (Earth Crisis and Misfits in ‘99), my taste has morphed and matured, but here are 15 albums that I’ve either listened to the most, or that really stood out to me.

Disclaimer: this is not a list of the most influential HC albums ever, or a list of bands that deserve the most credit. I’m assuming you already know your roots. This is a list of albums that I think are amazing, so have a listen and enjoy.

Strongarm – The Advent of a Miracle (1997)

So complex, so emotional, and just on a whole other level. This album came out way before its time. It’s too bad Strongarm disbanded shortly after this record, because it is some of the finest music ever made. The resemblance to Shai Hulud is due to the fact that they shared a drummer, Steve Kleisath, and apparently all used to write music together in their hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida. For fans of Shai Hulud, It Prevails, Misery Signals.

Best track: “Council of Perfection”

One King Down – Bloodlust Revenge (1997)

I’d really say the number two spot is a tie between this album and their full-length, God Loves, Man Kills (1998). The reason Bloodlust gets a slight edge for me is that this is the album that really got me into the genre. I already liked a few songs that my brother used to play around the house, as well as a Strife record I had, but this one drove me headfirst into a lover of hardcore music at age 12. Such a classic. Albany hardcore at its finest (props to Troycore too).

Best track: “More Hate than Fear”

Strife – Through This Defiance (1999)

This is a compilation of demo, live, and unreleased tracks from LA’s finest. It was the first hardcore record I ever picked up, and the one that sparked an initial interest in the genre. The intro part of the track “All from the Past” is the definition of the sound of hardcore for me, and the drummer fucking kills it. They broke edge before they released 2001’s Angermeans, which was far from their best work. I saw them on that tour in Jacksonville with Evergreen Terrace (who’s first two records are also classics), and Poison the Well. Hardly anyone watched Strife. I guess that’s what happens when you preach straight edge throughout all your albums and then randomly break edge and continue to write music under the same name.

Best tracks: “All From the Past” and “Will to Die”

Earth Crisis – Gomorrah’s Season Ends (1996)

Syracuse, NY gave us the original breakdown band. The song “Firestorm” from their EP under the same name was the inspiration for about a million other songs, whether the writers of those songs know it or not. Gomorrah’s Season Ends is about equal their first full-length, Destroy the Machines. The recording quality is way better though, and it sounds a bit more mature. It’s just a kick-ass record with some really heavy, creative riffs. There are two kind of slower tracks that drag a bit, but the rest hit so fucking hard.

Best track: “Broken Foundation”

Shai Hulud – Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion (1997)

What a passionate, beautiful hardcore record. The emotion in Chad Gilbert’s voice against the melodic, almost eerie guitars forces you to develop a connection with this album. But it takes several listens to set in due to its complexity and unique style. Steve Kleisath, the drummer for Strongarm, provides perfectly-crafted yet moshy beats that tie the record up sweetly. An all-time must-have classic for 90s hardcore.

Best track: “Solely Concentrating on the Negative Aspects of Life”

Poison the Well – The Opposite of December (1999)

Say what you will about where this band headed after releasing this revolutionary album, but the amazing recording quality and distinct sound of the instruments make this album so jammable. They took the ‘hardcore with singing’ style to new heights and spawned hundreds of rip off bands with this. I had friends that weren’t even into hardcore that loved this cd.

Best track: “Nerdy”

Throwdown – Beyond Repair (1999)

Another CD that spawned a massive wave of imitators, and for good reason. This one is probably the greatest of the 2000s-era ‘mosh’ albums that came out one after another, though it was actually released in ‘99. It’s filled with built-up breakdowns and fight-dance anthems. In my opinion, Throwdown really fell off after their third full-length, Haymaker, but this first full-length was so fucking sick. Orange county, CA.

Best track: “Don’t Lose Sight” or “No one”

Have Heart – Songs to Scream at the Sun (2008)

This record revolutionized modern hardcore, straight up. I know Modern Life is War sort of pioneered the heartfelt post-hardcore subgenre, but Have Heart refined it to a tee with this breathtaking masterpiece. Once this album clicked, I played it out so hard. It definitely takes a few listens to take in the depth of what HH created here, but once it sets in, man does it set in deep.
(You might have already heard Defeater, who are also from Boston. They kind of picked up where HH left off. They’re probably my favorite band that is still together right now. Check out their album Lost Ground.)

Best track: “Bostons”

With Honor – Heart Means Everything (2004)

What a heartfelt album full of anthem after anthem. With Honor’s selt-titled EP is actually my favorite release of theirs, but the self-titled is so short, and this includes a track from it, as well as some equally amazing sing alongs to thrust your finger into the air to. CTHC.

Best track: “Rethink, Return”

Champion – Promises Kept (2004)

Champion’s only full-length is equally as good as the material on their EPs. The thing that sets this one apart though is the incredible hardcore anthem “Promises Kept.” Aside from probably Bane’s “Can We Start Again,” Promises Kept has what might be the greatest hardcore sing along ever. Quintessential hardcore. This along with the aforementioned Strife track are what I consider the two purest examples of hardcore music (Madball’s “Pride” comes to mind too but like I said, these are just my favorites).

Best track: “Promises Kept”

Skycamefalling – 10.21 (2000)

From Long Island, this band has such a unique take on hardcore. The way they arrange songs is like that of a rock band, but they are still heavy, and the singer screams so fucking hard. Their self-titled EP is incredible as well, but it’s only two tracks.

Best track: “Laura Palmer” or “The Truth Machine”

xDisciplex – No Blood, No Altar Now (1999)

Erie, PA, super duper fucking heavy and moshy with sick vocals and crushing breakdowns. I really love this album. I don’t know how many would agree with me putting it this high up, but just listen to it. It’s absolutely vicious. I guarantee you’ll like it if you like heavy hardcore.

Best track: “So Send I You”

Hatebreed – Satisfaction is the Death of Desire (1997)

The tough guy breakdown band that spawned hundreds of rip offs, Hatebreed was the biggest band in hardcore for a long time. They don’t really play hardcore per se anymore, but they used to play every song they’d ever written at their shows in the early 2000’s, which was a cool thing to please the crowd that no other band did. Under the Knife is just as good.
(For fans of this album, check out A Death for Every Sin – In a Time When Hope is Lost – 2002.)

Best track: “Last Breath”

Vision of Disorder – self-titled (1996)

Classic 90s. This one was pretty influential for me in my transitioning from Korn and Pantera to discovering real hardcore days. They mix in a bit of the alternative heavy rock style that was popular in the mainstream at the time with hardcore in a cool way, but it’s raw as hell throughout.

Best track: “Zone Zero”

Turmoil – The Process of… (1999)

Another 90s legend. It’s metallic, it’s creative, it’s heavy as hell. You can hear some Earth Crisis influence for sure. They have really catchy riffs that get stuck deep in your head for days at a time.

Best track: “Killing Today for a Better Tomorrow”