Best Chicago Hardcore Records According to Jordan Moten of Kharma

Posted: by The Editor

Photo by Jessica Perez

Kharma, to me, is emblematic of Chicago’s heavier side of hardcore. When I talked to vocalist Jordan Moten, he told a story of getting into the genre through Terror around Keepers of The Faith. Maybe if he had gone to a different show, he would have kept writing deathcore, even if he had not given me the band’s name. It is a story that you will have relayed a lot if you read enough interviews with hardcore kids. I imagine many other mid-20s hardcore enjoyers came into hardcore from a similar vantage point. From that introduction, Moten dove a bit deeper. A few years later, Kharma would form as a project that would reflect his interests, as he says he is the primary songwriter.

The biggest separation of Kharma from anyone else who is the same age is the specificity. Chicago has built its own cannon of heavy hardcore that is pretty solidified in 2024. In the present day, Chicago has a lot of love for the heavier flair of hardcore. Many of the shows in 2024, whether Bulldoze playing Subterranean or Big Boy playing Beat Kitchen, bear this out. The Killer is a constant reference point, with Anchit Chhabra of many bands shouting them out on a recent episode of Hardlore. I even saw Haywire cover “Welcome To Chicago a few months ago. Kharma, too, is carrying the banner for Chicago hardcore, whether it is a quick lyrical aside or touring and moving beyond the insular community. I was curious about Jordan’s favorite Chicago hardcore records, so I talked to him last week about it. Some are obvious picks that should be included; others are sentimental. Maybe you’ll be able to hear some of these bands pour through on Kharma’s new record, A World Of Our Own, which you can hear on April 12th. 

Harms Way-Isolation

As I’m getting into hardcore, I hear there’s a band from Chicago that dropped this shit. The shows are crazy. Being young, I didn’t get to see Harm’s Way until two years after Isolation dropped. That was a really formative album for me. During that time, they were the Chicago band getting attention nationally. It’s heavy as hell. Everyone knows “Scrambled.” It’s an iconic song at this point. It is one of the records that stuck out to me early on getting into hardcore.

The Killer-Better Judged By Twelve Than Carried By Six

I think it’s inevitable if you’re coming into Chicago hardcore to find out about The Killer. I think the first time I heard The Killer was when Harm’s Way covered “Pills” or “Welcome To Chicago,” and I saw a video of it. I was like, “Oh shit, what is this? They’re from Chicago?” Luke sang with Harm’s Way, too, I think. I dove deep into The Killer and looked up them on Facebook at the time. There was a show at Knights of Columbus that I didn’t get to go to because I was super young. I didn’t have a car, and no one would drive me. The Killer, Weekend Nachos, Twitching Tongues, and Angel Du$t played. That was one of the last times they played before they stopped playing shows, and that would have been the last chance to see them. I never saw them until they came back. I feel like it’s the blueprint for Chicago hardcore. It’s interesting musically. It’s not your standard hardcore. It’s weird in a good way. The first line on the first track of our last EP directly references The Killer. I say, “Judged by twelve or carried by six, the only choice offered; figure out where you fit.” There’s a song on the LP where I reference The Killer, too.

Weekend Nachos-Worthless

Worthless was the Weekend Nachos album that stuck with me the most. Nacho’s style isn’t my preferred style of hardcore. The faster, power-violence stuff isn’t really my thing, but something about seeing them live is undeniable. They have insane energy; their vocalist is an insane frontman. The connection with Harm’s Way was important. Those were the two bands from around here that are really doing it at the time. Since I was so young when I was introduced to Worthless, it really has a place for me.

Bitter Thoughts-The Collection

I stay out in Bolingbrook. There was a show in 2014 or 2015 that was literally a five-minute walk from my house that Bitter Thoughts played. I was immediately hooked. It’s just straight-up hardcore, breakdown-ish influence. It’s hard to describe. What I put on the list isn’t a record. It’s just a compilation of all their songs. They’ve never done a full record. I love those songs. I don’t know if it is just a time and place thing. They’re all still around. Anchit is in every band. It might be a time and place thing, but I love those songs. A lot of people say I sound like Tyler (singer of Bitter Thoughts). That’s the only sound I can make. It’s just a coincidence that we both sound similar and are from the same scene.

Harms Way-Posthuman

I think Rust and this record are when Harms Way leveled up production and everything. They always had weird electronic stuff in the background and fully went in and said fuck it, we’re going to do what we want. I love that. I think we played a show with Harms Way close to when this came out. We played with them in Southern Illinois in the middle of nowhere. They sounded insane. I had obviously seen them a lot. But that was the best they ever sounded. They really did reinvigorate themselves with this record.

Hugo Reyes | @hvreyes5

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