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Jesse Leach's ultimate hardcore (and metal, and trip-hop) playlist

(Image credit: Justin Borucki)

“Minor Threat were the first band that made me want to pick up a microphone. Hearing the smashing bottles at the start of Bottled Violence, then having the bass line hit along with those crunchy guitars… it’s like getting punched in the face. As a 14-year-old kid it was one of the coolest things I’d heard in my life – my only frame of reference at the time had been Metallica and this was just intense. I’m pushing 42 and it’s still my favourite kind of music… I’m a lifer and this is a lifestyle, not just music. 

If you were to ask me to tell somebody what punk is without them having a clue, I’d point to GBH’s Generals as it’s absolutely classic. The attitude, his voice, the guitars… it all comes together perfectly. They were the first punk band I ever heard and they still kick ass today.

Rorschach were ahead of everybody in the 90s. Nobody yet was mixing hardcore and metal, but they were doing it very artistically and abstractly, with their guitars taking on this almost discordant, jazzy vibe. It was chaos, the vocals just screaming in your face. The lyrics were actually very poetic – the opening line to Mandible is ‘Asphalt headrush/let’s take a turn for the worst’ and I remember poring over the lyrics sheet over and over before I’d even played the record. They eventually went on to form a band called Deadguy, followed by Kiss It Goodbye. I saw them in Boston in ’96 or ’97, and they were the first band that made me uncomfortable. The bass player and drummer were losing their minds; the guitar player kept screaming and spitting at the wall, while the vocalist Tim Singer just stood totally still, staring daggers at the audience. At the time I was in this band called Corrin – a devilcore band – and had been touring since I was like 15, but this was the most intimidating thing I’d seen! I lived at shows back then, going to three or four a week – it was my religion. 

I know every word to every Operation Ivy song – they were my high school singalong band. Friends and I would smoke weed and drive down to the beach, and Operation Ivy would always be blasting. They’ve stood the test of time and songs like Unity have inspired more than one Killswitch Engage song; I love the idea of heavy and aggressive music being about unity and respect, these things that a lot of people don’t associate with that music. I love that ska and punk mix – skunk music – Inner Terrestrials are this English squatter punk group and the lyrics have this great anarchist mentality of ‘food not bombs’. I love they brought in ska to mix things up rather than just being a standard crust punk band, bringing in some fun while making sure the message and lyrics stay intact.

A friend of mine played Massive Attack to me and I was stunned, I brought my first drum machine the next day. I’d been supposed to pay my car insurance and decided not to so I could get it! I mean, the tones on Black Milk; everything is in its right place, but there’s also this darkness that makes it like creepy hip hop. I listen to it when I’m relaxing at home. 

If I’ve got Amon Amarth on, it’s in my backyard with a fire blazing and a beer in hand, shortly before my shirt comes off and I start chopping wood. It makes me feel my Viking roots! There’s a tonne of Scandinavian and Viking-type bands I listen to now because of them. The sheer heaviness makes it feel like I should be on horseback listening to their records.

Slaughter Of The Soul is one of the most important metal albums of all time. I remember listening to it with Killswitch and just being like, ‘Now what?’ because nobody can ever be as good as that! At The Gates blew everyone out the water. The harmonies and melodies in the guitars are what turned on Adam [Dutkiewicz] and Joel [Stroetzel]; they were a massive influence on Killswitch’s guitar playing. The vocals were a big change too – the only bands doing vocals like that at the time were Carcass and Death, with everyone else doing deep growls. 

When I first checked HO99O9 out I didn’t get it. A friend told me I needed to see what they do live; he sent me a link and it gave me chills. They mix genres that don’t usually fit – trap and grime with hardcore punk. My jaw dropped to the floor and I got it – they’re dudes from the ghetto that grew up on hip hop and hardcore punk and mixed the two, and now I think they’re one of the most exciting bands out there.” 

The Latest Killswitch album, Atonement, is out now via Music For Nations