Label: Bridge9 Records
Prepare to be Let Down? Hardly. The debut album from American hardcore band Ruiner might have had a self-effacing title, but far from letting the listener down, this is one of the most urgent, emotionally devastating, and ultimately excellent records you could possibly listen to. Moving with a desperate pace, self-destructive urges, and sense of nihilism, this is the soundtrack to an emotional breakdown; uncomfortable, bleak, but oh-so cathartic. Bridge9 have a stupidly strong discography, but Prepare to be Let Down is one of the best things the label have ever released.
Label: Deathwish Inc
The final album from Punch was the band’s best, and a highlight for modern powerviolence / fastcore. They Don’t Have to Believe is a short (less than twenty minutes!) blast of righteous feminist rage, that circumvents many of the conventions of powerviolence by actually having intelligent, mature lyrics, as well as songs that are actual songs rather than 5 second blasts (aside from, erm, the 5 second long title track). It’s an album that has lost none of its power since release, and that the band is no more is a real shame – though at least they went on to form other great bands.
That Level Plane Records is no more is nothing short of a tragedy. Between 1997 and 2009, the label released some of the best underground punk, hardcore, screamo, metal, and everything in-between. Originally set up simply so Greg Drudy had an address to put on the back of the first Saetia 7″, the impact and influence the label would go on to have upon the underground scene was huge. Some of these records have been re-issued by other labels – with special praise being given to The Archivist label for getting so many on Bandcamp – but some might require searching on Discogs or eBay.
As such, limiting this list down to only five releases has been rather painful. There’s so many I wanted to include – so many records of superb quality, so many that meant so much to me, and still do – but there’s a reason this series is called Five of the Best, not Twenty of the Best. So, here we go. Feel free to tell me what I missed or what your favourite records from this excellent label are. Enjoy!
Label: COF Records
It’s a real shame that Exhaustion went no further than releasing a single demo. Said demo was a short blast of blackened hardcore fury, moving with relentless fury and viciousness. A relatively brief affair – over and done within 12 minutes – it still contained more than enough power and quality to show that the band were capable of much bigger things over an extended period. Alas, it seems that is not to be, as the band have seemingly not so much split up, but drifted away.
Label: Bridge9 Records
The self-titled album from War on Women was one of the best punk/hardcore albums of the best… well, in a really fucking long time. Funny and furious in equal measure, its contained feminist anthems of protest and self-empowerment. New album Capture the Flag had a lot to live up to, and more than delivered. As stated in my review at PureGrainAudio, the album is tighter, stronger, more focused – all the things you’d hope for from a follow-up. It is also a modern classic, and one of the most inspiring albums since… well, since the last War on Women album.
Label: Relapse Records
One of the greats of metal-infused hardcore (or, if you prefer, old-school metalcore), Ringworm don’t have a bad album in their discography, but Snake Church is the one I find myself listening to most. The 2016 album is a straight-forward, half-hour session of pissed-off riffs that bridge the divide between Slayer and hardcore; furious solos; and aggressive vocals that demonstrate why Human Furnance’s stage name is very apt. Songs race by in a blur, and before you know it the album is over – a real rush of adrenaline and righteous rage.