Welcome to the 2nd annual of my favorite lps of the year. 2009 was an interesting year for hardcore, especially here in Nebraska. Throughout the hardcore scene in general I've noticed that a lot of heavy, NYHC influenced bands continued to pop up throughout the year, as well as more grind/PV styled groups. Here locally, 2009 is a pivotal year where a lot of the local hardcore broke up early in the year to create new bands with different styles. Here at the Crucial Changes HQ, I have continued my efforts to follow and support underground hardcore as closely as possible, and even do some traveling to see some shows. Throughout the year, I have accumulated quite a few pieces of vinyl and tapes... some good, some bad, some interesting, some disappointing. There are more hardcore bands out there than ever, and sometimes it's hard to keep track of all of them. I hope that with these reviews I can show what I felt was the high bar for 2009 releases. As stated from last years reviews, Crucial Changes will not pick or pan any release that gets enough press and attention on it's own. I instead like to focus on underground acts that I feel are good bands, and would be worth checking out for yourself. Click the band and album title link to buy. Here is my list of my favorite lps of '09 (in no particular order), enjoy!
Cult Ritual - s/t lp
These guys made the list last year with their 7"s, and they continued to impress with this nasty lp released on Youth Attack Records. '08 was a "break out" year for Cult Ritual, and they seemed to continue to get more and more popular in the underground scene throughout the early part of 2009. Shortly after the limited pressing of the Holidays 7"s, Cult Ritual would release their first (and last) lp just before going on tour back on May. For the self titled lp, Cult Ritual took all the noisy elements from the previous 7"s and multiplied them tenfold. Plenty of nihilistic lyrics over fast hardcore throughout with twangy mid-paced rhythms plus awesome, over the top guitar distortion and noise during the breaks. The side 2 song Cancer Money of this lp reminds me of the famous side 2 on Black Flag's My War, bringing the music down to a slow burn for over 12 minutes, leaving you exhausted. This rules. Chances are you have heard of this band already and have this album. If you don't, buy this release. You can also download all the other Cult Ritual records and demos from their blog: http://cultmaternal.blogspot.com I was also lucky enough to catch these dudes before they broke up on tour in Minneapolis back in May. Good stuff.
Government Warning - Paranoid Mess
Government Warning from Richmond Virginia, have been one of the best hardcore bands going for the last 5 years and they are showing no signs of slowing down with their lp titled Paranoid Mess. Government Warning play true to the early 80's style of USHC plus some early LA punk influenced riffs mixed in but they can play it faster and tighter than anyone else. Often credited as sounding like a mix of Adolescents with the F.U.'s, Government Warning blast through 13(!) fast paced hardcore tracks never stopping to come up for air. The drumming on this album is exceptional, and it takes the band to a level above others playing this style. I wish the vocals were higher in the mix, but other than that, this is an awesome lp. Government Warning also released a good 7" at the same time as Paranoid Mess, titled Executed that is also worth picking up. Recommended 80's hardcore for the purist fan.
Wasted Time - Futility
There must be something in the water that creates awesome hardcore bands in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country. This could very well be my favorite hardcore release of the year. After releasing two exceptional 7"s in the last few years, Richmond, VA's Wasted Time do not fall victim to the "1st lp slump". Futility in fact shows Wasted Time doing just the opposite showing the band at it's best to date. 10 tracks total in just over 17 minutes, Wasted Time waste no time in getting things rolling on this lp. Wasted Time pretty much keep it at one speed: fast, with only a couple of songs being mid-paced and moshy. What I really love is the harsh vocal delivery that fits perfectly for this style of hardcore. This is hardcore at it's most no frills: fast, pissed, and hard hitting, just the way I like it. Buy this record now. Yo dudes, play middle USA!
Social Circkle - City Shock
No Way Records continues it's consistency of good 80's styled hardcore with the debut lp of Boston punk/hardcore band Social Circkle titled City Shock. Continuing from the exceptional I've Got Afflictions 7" from last year, Social Circkle keep up the speed and seem to be getting even faster yet. Everything that has become part of the Social Circkle sound is still present: the jangly guitars, the semi-snotty punk vocal delivery, and '77 rock/pop elements. Awesome lyrics, awesome production, and a fun listen. These guys seem to really be doing their own thing, and it sounds really cool. Recommended.
Salvation - Of Unforgiving Wind
If you are bummed out about Cult Ritual breaking up, meet your new favorite band. Salvation seem to have come out of nowhere and released one hell of a brutal hardcore lp. Salvation hail from somewhere in Pennsylvania, and play a raw, fast and harsh brand of hardcore but separate themselves from the pack with throat shredding vocals. The production is pretty raw on this slab, but it compliments the vibe of the vocals as well as the stark lyrical content. This lp also comes with a really well put together lyric booklet with original artwork. Awesome! These guys also have an older 7" Smoke and Mirrors that is also worth seeking out. It seems hardcore bands released on Youth Attack sells out in a matter of a few days, so getting this lp might be harder to find if at all at the moment. Pick this record up if you can find it.
Hatred Surge - Deconstruct
I don't listen to much grind or PV these days, but when I do Hatred Surge's 2009 effort pretty much does the trick for me. This is grind in the early 90's tradition: super fast and brutal with a cleaner death metal production. After a steady stream of steady releases, Hatred Surge finally release an lp of their own. Hatred Surge keep it interesting with 16 tracks total mixing it up instead up just straight up blast. I'm hearing lots of elements of Swedish hardcore and death metal thrown into the mix, and I've always been into the male/female vocal trade offs. This is probably the most interesting grind/pv album I've heard since Discordance Axis' last album from back in 2000 (no shit). If you like brutal music played the way it should be, buy this now.
Human Mess - Follow You Home
Human Mess features members of Loser Life, but these guys have a more true-to-the-80's hardcore style that some say is similar to early Poison Idea and Germs. This album sounds like it came straight from 1982 with it's speedy rhythms and straight forward chord riffs. The vocals seem to have some distortion added to them that give a more modern urgency in tone. My favorite track is actually the slowest (Can't Escape) out of the 12 tracks total. The songs are short with some only being 30 seconds long, so this slab goes by really quick. Recommended for your parents and the die-hard early 80's hardcore fan.
Martyrdod - Sekt
Damn! Martyrdod really came strong with yet another amazing lp to add to their already great discography. Martyrdod hail from Sweden and put an awesome twist on the Swedish hardcore genre by continuing to explore and mix black and death metal elements. This is a dense sounding record with a super powerful production and down tuned guitars with most of the songs nearly coming to the point of a washout of distortion. There are plenty of killer, haunting melodies in the noisy undercurrent, especially on the title track on the lp that adds to the atmosphere of the songs. These guys are doing something different in the genre and it sounds fresh and unique. The low vocal screams and native Swedish lyrics really add the dark tone of the overall sound. Recommended for hardcore and metal fans alike.