Impact Mixtape | “American Hardcore: Fury in the 21st Century” by Nick Sanchez


“Turnstile” by Nathan Congleton is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Nick Sanchez, Host of Thee Hourz O' Power

The term “hardcore music” is painfully difficult to define. It doesn’t necessarily define a sound, but it kind of does. It also doesn’t necessarily mean punk, but it kind of does. It used to be easy to qualify. Hardcore punk bands in the 1980s all had a similar sound; it was essentially its own genre — punk music that was played faster and meaner. As time went on, bands started calling themselves hardcore but began taking influences from other corners of extreme music.

Once the mid ‘90s hit, it was over for “hardcore punk” as a term to describe music sonically. Bands still carried the attitude of punk — by the people, for the people — but hardcore bands ceased to only sound like punk music. Groups like Madball still had echoes of classic punk in their sound, but their contemporaries, like Merauder and Disembodied, were developing darker and heavier music. As time went on, these changes built upon each other to form what is known today as simply “hardcore.” Today’s hardcore scene is a wild collision of styles, some appearing like carbon copies of each other while others are wholly unique. 

This playlist — meant to be listened to in order — is designed to give you a crash course in contemporary American hardcore music, briefly tracing its origins in early hardcore punk in the ‘80s and its evolution to something darker and meaner in the ‘90s. The primary focus of this playlist is on the 2010s-2020s and the incomprehensible yet beautiful mess of sounds and influences that make up the current scene. 

Hardcore today is both indefinable and totally singular. There is joy, sadness and anger in this music. There is also love, beauty and hate. Hardcore has so much to offer if you drop all barriers and open yourself up to it. It can also severely reject you if you come in with rigid expectations. Whether or not you like it is up to you, not the music.

Hardcore is for anybody, but it’s not for everybody.