The United States Of Hardcore
A couple of months back, many of you read (and argued over…and argued over…) our United States of Metal map, which crowned the best heavy metal band from every U.S. state. Now, our U.S. Director Ethan Fixell has upped the ante, with a hardcore sequel.
So, here it is: our definitive, objective, indisputable list of the single best hardcore band from every U.S. state. (And don’t forget to check out our Spotify playlist – featuring tracks from every band! — at the bottom of the page.)
Here we go:
Alabama: Dismal Dream
Though a fairly new band (seemingly from the ashes of the short lived Suffer Life), Dismal Dream’s 6-song EP from 2016 is enough to clinch them the win. Admittedly, there aren’t a ton of great hardcore bands to have come from Alabama, but Dismal Dream deserves the honor with their super-tight playing and aggressive crossover sound.
Required Listening: 7th Realm (2016)
Not to be outdone by Alabama, Alaska is home to the fewest hardcore bands of any U.S. state. Thankfully, we have Facehugger. The band’s glorious mess of an album, Alaska Sucks, features obvious flubs, a noticeably out-of-tune bass guitar on songs like Gay with Jesus, and beyond ridiculous lyrics (as found in Careless Butthole Whisper: “I thought it was love when we touched / Yeah, who could blame us? / But it felt like love when she was / licking my anus”).
Required Listening: Alaska Sucks (2016)
Arizona: Jody Foster’s Army (JFA)
Formed in 1981 and still kickin’ today, JFA were one of the world’s first skate punk bands. Their 1981 EP, Blatant Localism, infused atonal vocals, fast, aggressive guitar riffs, and skate themes (“Surf punks, we’re not / Skateboard, we do!”) that would inspire ‘80s SoCal skate culture, even though the band hailed from Phoenix, Arizona. That their first show was opening for Black Flag is symbolic in more ways than one.
Required Listening: Blatant Localism (1981)
Had Econochrist not moved from Little Rock to Oakland so early in their career (only to become such an integral part of the Bay Area punk scene), they’d have this state on lock. Instead, I have to give it to young bucks Inrage, whose 2014 and 2016 EPs are two of beatdown hardcore’s most underrated releases. It’s unclear whether the band is still together (their Facebook page hasn’t been updated in close to a year and a half), but thankfully we’ll always have these two recorded gems.
Required Listening: Struggle (2016)
California: Black Flag
Anyone who disagrees with me on this one can meet me in the parking lot.
Required Listening: Damaged (1981)
Black Flag playing Rise Above and American Waste in 1983
Colorado: Line Brawl
This Denver-based hardcore band shot out of a cannon with their 2015 EP, Pack Mentality, and followed it up with the more refined – but just as forceful – 2017 EP, Worse Off. With fast, angry tracks that clock in at under 30 seconds, the band has secured spots opening for bands like Every Time I Die, Stray From the Path, and Anti-Flag. Keep your eye on these guys: they’re the real deal.
Required Listening: Worse Off (2017)
Connecticut: Youth of Today
Hatebreed may have achieved international fame for its unique brand of metallic hardcore – but Youth of Today is what made it possible for such a Connecticut-based band to do so. YoT helped establish “Youth Crew” culture (further infusing optimism and moralism into a straight edge scene), with members going on to form or join countless other crucial hardcore acts including Gorilla Biscuits, Judge, Shelter, CIV, and even Glassjaw.
Required Listening: We’re Not In This Alone (1988)
Delaware: Year of the Knife
These straight edge lads (and lady) from Newark, Delaware, bring the hard mosh, indeed. With punishing breakdowns, guttural vocals, and a dirty metalcore tone ala Code Orange, this band has proven itself over the course of two short EPs released in the last two years. Surprisingly, each album sounds nothing like the other, with 2018’s rawer Ultimate Disease displaying far more hardcore leanings than its more metallic predecessor, Overgrowth.
Required Listening: Overgrowth (2016)
When tracing the roots of Florida metalcore, all roads lead back to Culture. Bands like Poison the Well and Shai Hulud (both responsible for two of our 21 Best U.S. Metalcore Albums of All-Time) were born from the ashes of the band, which would influence the scene tremendously in just six short years. Unlike the bands it spawned, however, Culture retained much more hardcore influence, with just slight metal leanings, as evident on their sole LP, 1995’s classic Born of You.
Required Listening: Born of You (1995)
Yes, Neon Christ is perhaps the most influential hardcore bands to come from Atlanta, Georgia. The band did, after all, help invent the chaotic genre of powerviolence, and serve as a first band for William DuVall of Alice in Chains fame. But the best hardcore band from the city and state is Foundation, the recently dissolved (2016) straight-edge quintet influenced by bands like Buried Alive, Chokehold, and Indecision. These guys were angry, heavy, and angry.
Required Listening: Turncoat EP (2015)
Year Of The Knife at Chain Reaction Fest, March 2018
Hawaii: Die Slow
The front cover of Die Slow’s This Isn’t Paradise, This is Hell, includes a URL to the band’s Myspace page – which might tell you a bit about the era in which they thrived. Though the band played its last show in 2012, their (since remastered) sole album from 2008 provides the rest of us mainlanders with a taste of what this awesome band – influenced by the likes of Warzone, Cro-Mags, and Bane — was like before they decided to embark on a permanent vacation.
Required Listening: This Isn’t Paradise, This Is Hell (2008)
Idaho: Septic Death
Septic Death sounds a lot like a garbage truck backing into a dozen trash cans, recorded, looped, and sped up at 3X playback. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, you will hate Septic Death; if it does, then meet your new favorite band. The Boise thrashcore (i.e. sped-up hardcore, though less erratic than powerviolence) outfit led by Brian “Pushead” Schroeder only played a handful of shows in its five years of existence, but inspired cornerstone bands such as Infest, Rorschach, and Integrity for years to come.
Required Listening: Need So Much Attention (1984)
Illinois: Charles Bronson
Speaking of bands influenced by Septic Death, DeKalb crew Charles Bronson took Septic Death’s chaotic noise and cranked it up to 11. The powerviolence band’s lyrics were laced with inside jokes (see: “Phil Anselmo’s Pain Burns In The Heart Of My Little Brother”), and mockeries of the scene (“You act like you’re all so fucking perfect. / I hate the way you dance”). Over the course of three short years, the prolific band produced half a dozen 7” releases and a brilliant swan song full length studio album.
Required Listening: Youth Attack! (1997)
Indiana: Zero Boys
Quite possibly the most important hardcore band to come out of the Midwest, Indianapolis’ Zero Boys went above and beyond mere angst and speed to inject the genre with thoughtful, politically charged lyrics, sophisticated songwriting, and skillful playing. Though underappreciated upon its release (the Midwest was a tough place for hardcore in the early ‘80s), the bright yellow cover of the band’s debut album is now as iconic as the music it stood for.
Required Listening: Vicious Circle (1982)
Iowa: Modern Life Is War
Shortly after the turn of the millennium, Modern Life Is War helped usher in a new era of hardcore that melded emo-tinged musical passages with the old-school ferocity of relentless, screamed vocals. With a sound less chaotic than screamo and heavier than post-hardcore, the band kicked off a wave of similarly leaning Deathwish-signed bands such as Touché Amoré, Loma Prieta, and Birds in Row – all of which prioritized beauty and melody in a way that traditional hardcore hadn’t before.
Required Listening: Witness (2005)
Modern Life Is War - live at Posi Fest 03, Wilkes Barre, PA
Like Sean Ingram of Kansas City metalcore pioneers, Coalesce (sadly, disqualified from the win here for leaning too heavily on metal), Spine’s Antonio Marquez is known for vocals in a deeper grindcore-like register, giving the band a more sinister sound. In anticipation of their upcoming 2018 EP, Faith, Spine have already leaked “Warm Now Cold,” an awesome track as uncompromisingly fast, loud, and heavy as anything they’ve ever released.
Required Listening: Subhuman (2012)
Kentucky: Knocked Loose
Props go out to Endpoint, the politically charged outfit that took the Louisville scene by storm in the early ‘90s. But the Kentucky crown goes to Knocked Loose, which, in a mere five years, has established itself not only as the state’s best beatdown band, but one of the best in the entire world. The community seems to agree, as the band has already supported headliners such as Every Time I Die, Comeback Kid, and Terror on tour.
Required Listening: Laugh Tracks (2016)
Louisiana: Shell Shock
Formed in 1979, Shell Shock were arguably New Orleans’ first hardcore band. And though their output was strong and their dedication impressive for the genre, they are perhaps best known for the work that two members achieved after the band broke up: guitarist Kirk Windstein and drummer Jimmy Bower would eventually go on to form legendary NOLA crossover / sludge outfits, Crowbar and Down.
Required Listening: Whites of Their Eyes (1986)
Maine: Cruel Hand
Initially formed as a side project for members of Outbreak, Portland’s Cruel Hand came together in 2006, and immediately began ripping hardcore a new one. But the band really made a splash with their sophomore effort, 2008’s Prying Eyes, a take-no-prisoners LP that often gets the band compared to Toronto’s No Warning. Though their music has become increasingly melodic (complete with catchy, sung choruses on recent releases), the band is still just as dedicated as ever to tasty riffs and heavy breakdowns.
Required Listening: Prying Eyes (2008)
If 2018 has anyone to thank for giving hardcore a heart and soul, it’d be Baltimore’s Turnstile. With its blend of Snapcase-style vocals, East Coast groove, and brilliant production from industry Golden Boy Will Yip, the band’s sophomore release, Time & Space, deftly blends angst with joy. It’s no wonder the album, upon release, promptly set the entire rock music industry on fire. With mesmerizing live shows and music videos, the band seems committed to delivering a complete experience for fans – and we can’t wait to see what they do next.
Required Listening: Time & Space (2018)
Turnstile - Real Thing
To choose one hardcore band from Massachusetts is a nearly impossible task. From early adopters like Slapshot and Jerry’s Kids, to mid-‘90s bands like Blood for Blood and Bane, up to early ‘00s groups like The Hope Conspiracy and American Nightmare, Boston has always been one of the most important hardcore hubs in the U.S. But I give the win to SS Decontrol (later SSD), who – along with DYS and Negative FX in the “Boston Crew” – defined New England straight-edge, and thrust it upon the rest of the world.
Required Listening: Get It Away EP (1983)
Michigan: Negative Approach
First came The Stooges; then came Negative Approach. The latter were far less known to the mainstream than their Michigan forefathers, but arguably made just as much of an impact on the punk rock scene with their savage, uncompromising sound. The band made an initial splash with their debut self-titled 7”, and further solidified their status as hardcore idols with Tied Down (1983), their sole full-length album.
Required Listening: Negative Approach EP (1982)
Minnesota: Hüsker Dü
Hüsker Dü is hardcore for classic rock lovers. Before they dove headfirst into alt-rock with radio-friendly singles like Makes No Sense At All, the band was an abrasive hardcore outfit with little accessibility. Purists would argue that they struck their best balance of melody and angst with their sophomore effort, Zen Arcade - while punkers with a soft spot for sweet classic rock hooks tend to side with their third album, New Day Rising. I happen to think it’s all good.
Required Listening: Zen Arcade (1984)
Mississippi: The Grumpies
By most standards, The Grumpies – with their catchy melodies and sweet, chipmunk-like co-ed vocals — could simply be categorized as “punk rock.” But their explosive, sloppy performances on their self-titled 7” and sole LP – both seemingly taped to cassette by a ‘90s boombox, played back, and then recorded again by a Fisher price toy – are so abrasive that they must qualify as hardcore. Legend has it that bassist Amy (no last name given) had only learned to play bass six months before joining the band. Wouldn’t shock me.
Required Listening: Who Ate Stinky? (1998)
Missouri: Free At Last
As much as I’d love to give Missouri’s crown to Kansas City pioneers Coalesce, their metal influences are too great to keep them in the hardcore race. Fortunately, we have Free At Last. The Springfield-based group – active for four short years before disbanding in November, 2017 – were little known outside of their home state, but made a big impact on the local scene, with a sound that evoked late ‘80s and early ‘90s East Coast hardcore bands like Turning Point, Gorilla Biscuits, and Beyond.
Required Listening: Embrace You (2016)
Husker Du playing I Apologize at Love Hall, 1985
Montana: Deranged Diction
Deranged Diction not only has the honor of being the first hardcore band from Montana – it’s also the first band of Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament. (Additionally, guitarist Bruce Fairweather went on to play in Seattle grunge staples Green River and Mother Love Bone.) Their first and only album, 1983’s No Art, No Cowboys, No Rules, is a politically charged reaction to the Reagan era, equal parts influenced by Ament’s love of angry Boston hardcore, and founding vocalist Tom Kipp’s adoration of the noisy, chaotic, California band, Flipper.
Required Listening: No Art, No Cowboys, No Rules (1983)
Nebraska: Bent Life
Nebraska’s finest hardcore band once described themselves as “Loud. Aggressive. Precise.” And that’s pretty accurate. The band hails from Lincoln, Nebraska, where – again, according to the band – “there is absolutely no hardcore scene.” It’s remarkable that such a powerful, tight sound could come from a scene so desolate – though, perhaps it helps that Bent Life’s sole LP, 2016’s Never Asked For Heaven, was produced by Terror drummer Nick Jett.
Required Listening: Self-Titled (2012)
Nevada: 7 Seconds
(Very) recently defunct 7 Seconds may have been far less aggressive than some of the other bands on this list – but they were just as confrontational. Founded in 1980, and influenced by west coast punk rock like that of The Dils (whose EP, 198 Seconds of The Dils, may have incidentally played a role in inspiring the band’s name), 7 Seconds were one of the first bands to refer to themselves as “hardcore.” And despite veering into pop punk, alternative, or even proto-emo over the years, they have lasted as one of the most important American hardcore bands of all-time.
Required Listening: Old School (1991)
New Hampshire: Backstabbers Incorporated
Yes, GG Allin was born in Lancaster, New Hampshire – but he was a) not a band, and b) associated solely with the New York City scene. Meanwhile, for two decades, Backstabbers Inc. have crushed it as a hardcore band that incorporates elements of grindcore, crossover thrash, post-hardcore, and death metal in their music. Anchored by guitarists / vocalists Brian and Matt Serven, the band have before been involuntarily tied to the straightedge scene due to the Servens’ sobriety and veganism – but it’s best to judge these Portsmouth, New Hampshire thrashers solely by their music.
Required Listening: Kamikaze Missions (2004)
New Jersey: Misfits
Forget hardcore for a second: American music wouldn’t be the same without the Misfits. In fact, their contributions to hardcore have often been overshadowed by both their foundation of the horror punk genre, and providing a launchpad for founding lead vocalist Glenn Danzig to launch a solo career as a chart-topping heavy metal crooner. But their hardcore roots are especially apparent on their first two full-length albums: hardcore purists tend to favor Earth A.D./ Wolfs Blood (1983), but their debut, Walk Among Us (1982), is a superior record.
Required Listening: Walk Among Us (1982)
Bent Life live in Seattle, 2016
New Mexico: Logical Nonsense
Extreme Noise Terror and early Napalm Death made their imprint on Santa Fe’s Logical Nonsense. The band became heavier and more metallic with each release since 1989, but their hardcore / powerviolence core has never faded. Nor has the political charge of the band’s lyrics, which often touched upon themes such as racism, social decay, and corruption. The band haven’t released any new music since 1997, but have reformed for reunion shows every few years since, as recently as 2009.
Required Listening: Deadtime (1993)
New York: Agnostic Front
Without old school New York City hardcore band Agnostic Front, there would be no Gorilla Biscuits; no crossover thrash like Cro-mags; no second wave of NYHC bands like CIV and Madball. Agnostic’s 1984 debut, Victim in Pain, set the stage for an entire scene centered around legendary club CBGB, speeding up what Black Flag and Minor Threat had set in motion. While members have come and go, vocalist Roger Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma have been the unwavering staples of the group, still raising the AF flag high and proud today.
Required Listening: Victim In Pain (1984)
North Carolina: Catharsis
Catharsis were always a hardcore band – but one never satisfied with resting on the laurels of the genre. The band famously challenged their fans with each release, introducing elements of death metal, crust punk, and post rock from their first full-length album until their break-up in 2002. But no musical risk they took was greater than the inclusion of a reggae-infused track on their final LP, Passion. “The way you carry forward a tradition is by challenging it,” explained founding vocalist / guitarist Brian Dingledine in a 2013 interview with Indy Week. “It dies unless you challenge it at every link in the chain.”
Required Listening: Passion (1999)
North Dakota: Swing Low
To be quite honest, I don’t know much about this band other than that: a) They’re from Fargo, North Dakota; b) They kick ass. Catch these dudes this month (May, 2018) when they head out from South Dakota to Missouri with War Prayer.
Required Listening: Learned Ignorance (2016)
Initially formed in 1988 as a spiritual and philosophical outlet for vocalist Dwid Hellion, Integrity would go on to become one of the most influential bands in hard rock history by blending hardcore punk with heavy metal, inspiring the metalcore genre. According to Howard Jones - former Killswitch Engage (and current Light the Torch) frontman - Integrity’s debut, Those Who Fear Tomorrow, would become “the blueprint for heavy underground music,” paving the way for countless bands through the years — from Hatebreed to Code Orange. The band released a new album for Relapse Records as recently as 2017, but Hellion has remained the sole consistent member throughout the band’s thirty year history.
Required Listening: Those Who Fear Tomorrow (1991)
Integrity playing Micha in 1992
When forming in 1979, None of The Above (N.O.T.A.) was the hardest thing to have ever come out of Oklahoma. Raw and agro as all get-out, the band were the very definition of no-bullshit, straight-ahead, politically-charged, late ‘80s hardcore punk. While their 1984 EP, Moscow, is a fan favorite, the band really cranked up the noise (and speed) on their self-titled 1985 LP, a true midwestern hardcore masterpiece. N.O.T.A. disbanded in 1987, reformed in 1993 to release the highly underrated Give ‘Em Enough Dope, and broke up for good in the year 2000.
Required Listening: N.O.T.A. (1985)
Oregon: Poison Idea
Portland, Oregon’s Poison Idea are the hardcore band’s hardcore band. While not mentioned nearly as often as they should be, artists as varied as the Circle Jerks to the Melvins have paid deep homage to the band at one time or another. Pantera famously covered the band’s The Badge, for the soundtrack to The Crow; Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham modeled his vocal style on Poison Idea’s Jerry A. Following in the extremist punk ethic of The Germs, the band were uncompromising on stage, often cited as one of the most terrifying live acts of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Poison Idea were one of the first hardcore bands to inspire artists across multiple genre lines.
Required Listening: Feel The Darkness (1990)
Pennsylvania: Paint It Black
Paint It Black are a Philadelphia hardcore supergroup of sorts, featuring former members of Kid Dynamite, Lifetime, The Hope Conspiracy, and The Loved Ones. Their sound is an amalgamation of their alma maters, too – which simply amounts to a rapid-fire, take-no-prisoners sound that hearkens back to old-school East Coast hardcore days. PIB’s last release was the 2013 EP, Invisible – but there don’t seem to be any plans for a new album.
Required Listening: Paradise (2005)
Rhode Island: Verse
Like their contemporaries Modern Life Is War, Verse sit squarely between melodic hardcore and emocore, with their 2008 album, Aggression, finding the best balance of heavy, abrasive riffs and emotive harmonic progressions to date. The band took a hiatus shortly after the album was released, only to break up permanently in 2013 – but fortunately, members of the band (along with former of Defeater) went on to form Death of a Nation, which released a new EP this past March.
Required Listening: Aggression (2008)
South Carolina: Guyana Punch Line
Whether they can be sonically categorized as screamo, powerviolence, or just plain ol’ hardcore, Guyana Punch Line aimed to spread the ideals of a philosophy christened by vocalist Chris Bickel as “Smashism.” Apparently even Bickel had difficulty defining said philosophy, which seems to boil down to a chaotic form of anarchism that posits “in order to create, one must first destroy.” The resulting music was fast and violent, and from ’98 – ’03, GPL performed live shows that are exhausting just to watch. But the band also weren’t without a sense of humor, as evidenced by their seven-second masterpiece, “Old Guy in The Pit.”
Required Listening: Maximum Smashism (1999)
Poison idea playing Marked For Life in 1983
South Dakota: Souls
South Dakota isn’t exactly known for its punk rock scene, but Souls have released a new piece of music every year for the past four – each stronger and more intense than the last. Fans of Trap Them, Full of Hell, or even Pig Destroyer will find something to like about ‘em. In true hardcore fashion, however, their last tour with Barbarian, which wrapped this past April, left the band “a few thousand dollars in the red,” forcing them to leave their van behind. Check out their tunes – and if you feel so inclined as to help the band out, pick up some merch at their online store.
Required Listening: Forever In Bloom (2017)
Tennessee: His Hero Is Gone
In four short years, His Hero Is Gone produced three fantastic full lengths, three EPs, and a split with Union of Uranus. The late ‘90s crust punk band from Memphis is instantly recognizable by their heavily distorted guitar tone, and erratic – but masterful – use of dynamics. The band would become highly influential, setting the stage for screamo / post-hardcore bands like City of Caterpillar, or metalcore bands such as Converge. Notably, three quarters of the band went on to form Tragedy (last based in Portland, Oregon), which arguably rose to even greater fame than HHIG.
Required Listening: Monuments To Thieves (1997)
Yes, MDC (Millions of Dead Cops, if you’re nasty) spent the majority of its career in San Francisco (and remaining founding members have since moved to Portland, Oregon). But from 1979 to 1982, the band spent their formative (and most important) years in Austin, Texas, where they pioneered a scene with the help of fellow bands like The Dicks and Big Boys. And it was in Texas that the band recorded their classic, self-titled debut: an angry, politically charged recording clocking in at just over 20 minutes. To this day, it is often cited as one of Kurt Cobain’s top 50 favorite albums of all-time.
Required Listening: Millions Of Dead Cops (1982)
A vegan, straight-edge hardcore band from the tiny - but angry - punk epicenter of Salt Lake City, Utah, Clear were known for violent shows in a violent scene. (Hey, cram enough Mormons into one town, and someone is bound to rebel.) The band paid homage to metal-influenced artists like Earth Crisis and Hatebreed while maintaining a uniquely hardcore sound. Sadly, the band is perhaps best known for guitarist Mick Morris (a.k.a. MickDeth), who – after playing in Eighteen Visions for seven years – died in his sleep from a pre-existing heart condition at the age of 35.
Required Listening: Deeper Than Blood (1999)
The hippie-dippie state that gave us Phish and Ben & Jerry’s also gave us Drowningman: one of hardcore’s most underappreciated bands. Though named after a U2 song, the band sounded like anything but Bono & Co., with a technical brand of metal-tinged hardcore that blended erratic rhythmic changes with emotionally charged melodic hooks. Bypassing the nearly non-existent Burlington hardcore scene, the band made a name for itself in Boston, playing with bands like Converge, Cave In, and Piebald, and frequently touring with The Dillinger Escape Plan.
Required Listening: Rock And Roll Killing Machine (2001)
His Hero Is Gone live in Ohio, 1997
Though perhaps best known as “that band Dave Grohl was in before Nirvana,” Scream deserve a place in the Hardcore Hall of Fame on their own merits. Formed in 1981, the band hit the scene hard with a pure DC hardcore sound (assisted by production from Minor Threat’s Ian McKaye) on their classic 1983 debut album, Still Screaming (also Dischord Records’ first LP release). Their follow-up would introduce a more melodic rock sound that would continue to evolve for years, eventually setting the stage for 1988’s No More Censorship (a.k.a. The Dave Grohl album) and the grunge movement to come.
Required Listening: Still Screaming (1983)
Washington: The Accüsed
The Accüsed are famous for their terrifying cartoon mascot, Martha Splatterhead, best known for coming back from the dead to murder rapists and child molesters. Though her name is invoked as the title of the band’s first EP, Martha made her debut as an illustrated character on the band’s second release and first LP, The Return of Martha Splatterhead – arguably the first ever mosh record. The self-proclaimed “splattercore” band would infuse elements of thrash metal and thrashcore, with lyrics revolving around themes such as death, sex, or death and sex.
Required Listening: The Return Of…Martha Splatterhead (1986)
West Virginia: Th’Inbred
Th’Inbred sounds like you’d imagine. The Morgantown, WV, band was as raw, filthy, and outrageous as their moniker implies (incidentally, a name suggested by lead singer Bob Cotter’s roommate for a hardcore band that featured banjo). The band never incorporated any banjo — but dozens of influences – from rock, to post-punk, to classical, to march songs – made their way onto The’Inbred’s albums, supposedly prompting Jello Biafra to refer to them as “Bach meets Black Flag.”
Required Listening: Legacy of Fertility (2009)
Wisconsin: Die Kreuzen
Go ahead: try to pronounce that name. (It’s “Dee-Kroytzen” – which is broken German for “the crosses.”) But don’t be fooled by the European façade – Die Kreuzen formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1981. With raspy, screaching vocals, a rhythm section on speed, and bizarre guitar riffs that defied traditional punk rock, the band truly sounded like nothing before them. Like their contemporaries Hüsker Dü, they veered further off of the hardcore path with the release of each album throughout the ‘80s, from post-hardcore to alternative rock – but their later work makes for an interesting listen, too.
Required Listening: Die Kreuzen (1984)
It’s hard out there for a Wyoming hardcore band — and it’s even harder to find one in the first place. Our pick for Wyoming is arguably a bit crusty and metallic for this list… but hardcore purists are a rarity (or a myth?) in America’s least populated state, and stoic. (sic) was too good of a band to ignore. Sadly, the band announced an indefinite hiatus this past January, but their filthy, chaotic sound lives on in recordings.
Required Listening: Fall Below (2016)
Minor Threat play Betray live at Rollerworks 1983
Washington DC: Minor Threat
Look, I know it’s not technically a U.S. state – but I’d be insane not to include Washington D.C., the country’s east coast headquarters for hardcore. And while there are dozens of amazing bands worthy of mention from the District of Columbia, none did more for the genre* than Minor Threat (*with all due respect to Bad Brains, who come in a very close second). For one thing, the band’s song, Straight Edge, became the very blueprint for the movement of the same name; for another, the band’s label – founded by Minor Threat members Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson – became (along with SST on the west coast) the most important east coast hardcore label of all time. There simply is no greater hardcore band.
Required Listening: Self-Titled (1981)
Agree with Ethan’s picks? Think he’s a total idiot? Let him know: @EthanFixell