Step 2 Rhythm-March 2024

Posted: by The Editor

Balmora/Since My Beloved-Six Pacts Etched in Blood

 Balmora and Ephyra have been important in shaping this newer metalcore wave over the past couple of years. Their EP from last year was one of my favorites of last year. They have become a hardcore fest staple. Sam of Triple B on Hardlore noted that Balmora had become a unity band, reaching out to those who may not have positive feelings about early Avenged Sevenfold, Prayer for Cleansing, or Undying. The Balmora side of the Since My Beloved split solidifies them as one of the most important bands in hardcore. It is partially a message to others: this is the benchmark for making revivalist metalcore. The Balmora of it all may leave some forgetting about Since My Beloved. It is partially the reality of any split. But Since My Beloved’s place on the split does feel important, especially with an announcement that they are breaking up.  They are one of a few bands that could compete with Balmora. Since My Beloved has a mosh literacy that can sometimes be lost. Each riff or breakdown feels well-considered. It was partially proven when I saw live footage of them covering “From Here On” at Equinox Fest last year. It was a winking nod that only a handful in the crowd would go crazy over.

Deal With God-The Bitter Die Hard

I am not the target audience for Deal With God. Maybe it’s living in a city that loves its heavy hardcore, but I can be extremely picky about it. The Bitter Die Hard is truly for the moshers, full of heavy ass-beater parts meant to inspire a violent reaction. Someone on the app Krate said as a compliment to the band that their friend got their jaw cracked while Deal With God played. I still find plenty to appreciate about Deal With God from the comfort of my apartment while listening to it. It’s got that “dark hardcore” vibe that makes me think of later Integrity (Seasons of the Age of Days) that people have mistakenly stated as jocking Division of Mind. The songs also feel like songs packed with memorable parts. And probably most importantly, the songs are short, which I think can sometimes get lost. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to some cult classic heavy hardcore record full of four-minute songs that should have been much leaner.

Destiny-To See Another Day…

On the first listen, Destiny was too close to so much stuff that I already liked. The description by From Within Records compares To See Another Day… to bands like Outspoken and Turning Point. I am a sucker for that take on ’90s hardcore. Emo was one of my first loves, and those bands aren’t too far from much of the music of my youth. But there is that phenomenon where a band almost feels like it’s pandering to an extent without trying. What else should I think when the one feature on an EP is from Magnitude? Something did click for me when I revisited the EP several weeks later with a new perspective. The intro track is relatively compelling, with some clean vocals. By the end of “Recover,” I had found myself won over. It would be easy to give Destiny a backhanded compliment of “They’re not reinventing the wheel,” but I’ll avoid that framing. It is obvious they have a love for emotional, heart-on-your-sleeve ’90s hardcore, and the EP is a reflection of that.

Domain-Life’s Cold Grasp

It can be really hard to capture metallic hardcore on record. I think Life’s Cold Grasp gets pretty close to approximating what it feels like to see Domain. It is metallic hardcore that genuinely feels angry and not in a posturing way that feels like people throwing on a costume. Watching the singer mosh firsthand in Chicago last year was my first experience seeing the band. It wasn’t the best experience. But there is something that pulls at me when on record. It draws from a lot of stuff I love (Indecision, Kickback) in a way that is reverential but never for the sake of recreation. It is a difficult task but one that is asked of anyone making mosh music. I can’t imagine a bunch of blank faces live when the first breakdown of “Chaos Reigns.”

Gouge Away-Deep Sage

I did find myself a little skeptical of Gouge Away’s new record. Burnt Sugar was one of my favorite records of 2018. It was the first music review I ever wrote. It was a time in my life I still feel about fondly. My excitement for the band’s return had waned with some of the new singles and seeing them in Philly last year. I was unsure which way they would lean on the next one. Lately, I have found myself getting less out of whatever you want to call “hardcore adjacent/alt/whatever.” It is just a big bag of stuff that could appeal to someone who doesn’t live and breathe the genre to the extent I do.

Some of my concerns feel silly now, especially with some distance and time with Deep Sage. There is exploration without abandonment of hardcore, which is something that can be lost. There is still some of that core requisite aggression on the opening track and others that follow. Other writers have astutely made a comparison to Fugazi, which does track. There are many others that I could point out. But to me, Deep Sage is what I think of when I say the words post-hardcore. It is still tethered to that genre in a way that feels true. There aren’t some halfhearted choruses interpolated throughout like you see in metalcore. The changes are slight and not as drastic, and I like that.

If It Rains-Demo

Though I do not listen to as much melodic hardcore as I did when I was younger, it is still a style I hold close to me. It is why I found the demo from If It Rains so charming. The people writing the music have reverence for melodic hardcore, naming themselves after a Killing The Dream song. The lyrics still have the required emotional tenor because, without that sweat equity of sincerity, you are missing the point. But what helps the demo is that there is still relatively heavy mosh in there, interspersing a two-step and a relatively heavy breakdown. It makes sure that there won’t be a bunch of confused stares during the entirety of the set and pushes back against the audible groan whenever someone online excitedly says, “Melodic hardcore is back.”


Kidnapped does satiate the need I have each year for power violence. It has all the familiar tropes, packing in 15 songs in 22 minutes. There are the blistering fast sections separated by a breakdown here and there. I can see Disgust possibly getting the DAZE hardcore kid into other non-heavy hardcore stuff because it still has some breakdowns occasionally, like on “Heavy Dogs.” It creates some semblance of dynamics that, at least for me, is necessary. I think of PV in the same way I think about D-beat. If it is just pummeling speed for an entire record, eventually, it washes over me into one amorphous drone that becomes tedious. Kidnapped mostly avoids those pitfalls for me and made a pretty memorable PV record for me, a person who doesn’t normally seek out that style of hardcore.


There is very little information on Terminator. I went in blind after seeing someone share the demo on Instagram. My immediate reaction was that it reminded me of No Warning. The songs mostly sit in a mid-tempo, New York hardcore-inspired space. It is markedly different from the heavy hardcore that dominates the hardcore festival circuit. It is a style that is not over-saturated yet, as we are far enough away from the era of the 2010s where everyone was jocking No Warning and Terror. The description of Rebirth Records partially confirms my suspicion, pointing out Think I Care as a way to entice people to listen. Maybe I will get tired of people doing Think I Care worship in a few years, but for now, I am having a good time with it.

The Ox-Demo 2024

Within seconds of listening to the demo from The Ox, I immediately clocked the vocals as Seb Paba of Regulate. His delivery and charisma towers over everything else. It made it hard for me to listen to the demo with fresh ears. I thought it was serviceable hardcore. When I was scrolling through Krate and other social media apps, people made some connections to early Lockin Out’ like Righteous Jams and Wrong Side. I partially couldn’t hear it on the first listen. Seb’s vocals tower over everything, and it becomes harder to pay attention. The Ox may be a little too close, as all early Lockin Out’ was approximating late ’80s New York hardcore. After revisiting the demo, calling it serviceable may be too harsh. It is solid to pretty good, and as others would say, “you’re moshing.”

Xcelerate-All I See Is Hate

I had seen Xcelrate play an FYA preshow earlier this year, and they stood out, playing somewhat Boston-indebted hardcore a la Boston Strangler and Rival Mob alongside heavier bands that night (Three Knee Deep, Suburban Scum). The singer of Xcelerate did look like the kind of guy who would be beating ass during any of the other bands, though, which made for an interesting visual. I left feeling somewhat curious as to what the band would do next. When I heard the title track for All I See Is Hate, I was pretty hooked. The songwriting chops were strong enough, with the hook sticking to me. I must have listened to that song at least twenty times in one week. The rest of the EP doesn’t quite reach the heights of the title track, which is a tough ask. But it mostly accomplishes what I want out of fast hardcore. There are some fun singalongs, skanks, and half-time stuff, and probably most importantly, it has its personality that I would be excited to see now that I know some of the band’s lyrics.

What Counts-Hoosier Style

Doing youth crew well is a skill that can be taken for granted. Its uber-positivity can be read as cloying and too saccharine for some and has partially been an impediment to admitting I love youth crew. What Counts dives fully into the sincerity without ever becoming too sickly. From what I have seen on Twitter, vocalist Chance Allen seems to sincerely adhere to some of the values inherent in youth crew by preaching unity. He is one of several people in Indiana waving the flag for youth crew and Lockin’ Out revivalism as of late. I was on the fence about the demo and felt like I was missing out. How could I not like something that most likely took its name from the Have Heart EP? I don’t know if the songwriting is better on Hoosier Style or if the Floorpunch cover won me over, but I am fully on board with whatever What Counts does next. 

Old Music Corner

Confront-Our Fight

Add Confront to another soldier lost on the YouTube hardcore frontlines. I never thought it would come to streaming. I am glad it is. I know that there is a barrier to 80s hardcore for some. Having conversations with people even five years younger than me about even something as essential as the Negative Approach seven-inch makes me feel old. When I went to LDB a few weeks ago, almost no one clapped when Pat Flynn made a mention of SSD. Maybe it isn’t a given that someone would listen to something like Congront or even entry-level 80s hardcore. It is a much different reality than even those ten years older than me. When talking to people for an oral history on a Chicago hardcore fest in the 2000s, there was at least some semblance of connection to the genre’s beginnings. Some were there in the late 80s, and something like Minor Threat was only twenty or so years old.

Confront is farther down the line for 80s hardcore enthusiasts. It wasn’t one I was necessarily pointed towards when I was younger. When I did listen, I was struck by how exceptionally modern it was. To my ears, it feels like the natural extension of first-wave Boston hardcore (Negative FX, SSD, DYS) ratcheting up a straight edge to yet another extreme. It is fast hardcore, which is actually “hard,” if you know what I mean. You can still hear the roots of Confront in plenty of other stuff now. In an interview in the zine Core of Reality, members of Grand Scheme mention Confront as inspiration. But even without newer bands constantly referencing Confront, I still find it vital.  

Hugo Reyes | @hvreyes5

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