The Top 10 Most Underrated European Hardcore Releases

Dennis Lyxzen of Refused leaping into the air onstage
Refused (Image credit: Getty)

Even though the US invented it and the UK adopted it, Europe is the place where the hardcore scene is truly thriving. Which, when you think of it, is fairly odd, as most people with only a passing interest in the genre would immediately point across to our transatlantic cousins if asked to name one hardcore band. But Europe has given us so many great records that it’s almost impossible to reduce them down to 10… Although, we have done that.

10) Man The Machetes – Idiokrati

In the wake of Kvelertak’s success it’s time for people to stop associating Norway purely with black metal. There has been a fertile hardcore scene there for many years now, and if you are looking for a starting point then Idiokrati is an impressive one. Taking the same ramshackle riffing and unrestrained, screeched vocals that made their Owl-head wearing countrymen so exciting, but adding big New York-style beatdowns to the mix instead of frosty black metal, Man The Machetes should have had a similar level of success.

9) Dawncore – Entertainment For The Rest

The only shout for a Hungarian entry on this list, Dawncore made enough of a splash at the turn of the millennium for Darkest Hour to invite them to produce a spilt EP together. That Dawncore come out of it sounding way more extreme should give you an indicator of what’s on offer on Entertainment For The Rest. Mixing Coalesce’s ultra-heavy grinding with the bass thud and bounce of classic Madball and the love of squealing noise that has served The Dillinger Escape Plan so well, this is a long-lost stormer.

8) Raised Fist – From The North

You can’t fuck with the Swedish punk pedigree. Per person they’ve got a pretty strong claim to be the most prolific country on Earth when it comes to producing killer bands, and for nearly two decades Raised Fist have kept the tradition of their countrymen alive with a series of albums melding classic hardcore punk rock and an almost hip-hop-style swagger (opening track Flow is aptly named). While Refused took most of the headlines with their comeback in 2015, Raised Fist were releasing the finest album to come from Sweden that year… yet they were ignored by almost everyone. Which is rubbish.

7) Arkangel – Dead Man Walking

As we touched on in previous lists (specifically with Darkest Hour and xCanaanx), metalcore wasn’t always bland, corporate cookie cutter music. And if you really need any more proof of that then stick on the thrashing maelstrom that is Dead Man Walking from Belgian pioneers Arkangel. In true Reign In Blood style only the opening track, From Heaven We Fall, and the neck-snapping Day Of The Apocalypse make it past the three-minute mark, and all 10 tracks combined are done in less than half an hour. It’s so unrelentingly metallic that today it is closer in kin to a band like Lamb Of God than what passes for punk in 2016. But the spirit of hardcore is all over this record.

6) Kafka – Truths

Inspired by the musically progressive and politically minded blueprint laid down by Snapcase, Italian five-piece Kafka were one of their country’s stand-out heavy bands in the late ’90s and into the new millennium. Truths is only 17 minutes long, but it manages to do more in just over a quarter of an hour than many hardcore band muster in a career. The bass-driven, rhythmic shifts that Respect Yourself rides along on are irresistible, veering from stop-stand riffing to full-paced punk in the blink of an eye. And in just 86 seconds, La Verita will leave you in a dizzy heap on the floor. Breathless, blistering stuff.

5) Rise And Fall – Our Circle Is Vicious

Hardcore is a big deal in Belgium, although it’s often bog standard metallic hardcore, not usually the kind of unevolved punk’n’roll that spews from the speakers when you listen to Our Circle Is Vicious by Rise And Fall. They’d been making waves in the crust world for a few years, but getting Converge guitarist and super producer Kurt Ballou to man the desk on their 2004 album Into Oblivion, and then again here four here four years later, turned them into a heavier, tighter, more crushing machine than they already were. If in doubt just listen to the 71-second opener Soul Slayer. It never lets up from that moment.

4) Breach – Venom

Sweden’s Burning Heart Records was the label that capitalised on their country’s proficiency in the late ’90s, releasing albums from Millencolin, Refused, Raised Fist, 59 Times The Pain, The Hives and Bombshell Rocks. But they never released an album that seethes with as much anger as Breach’s second full-length. Melding punk rock and metal – in the vein of ’90s New York underground heroes such as Unsane or Prong, with more expansive flourishes – a good few years before the post-rock boom that saw Cult Of Luna and Neurosis become cult heroes, Venom is a scary album. Even today.

3) Waterdown – Never Kill The Boy On The First Date

The list of bands Germany has given the metal world is extensive. The list of punk bands? Not so much. One that did slip through the net was Waterdown. Their debut album, the wonderfully titled Never Kill The Boy On The First Date, should have been massive. It melded throat-shredding screams, beatdown mosh ready guitars, emo-tinged post-hardcore melody and some truly Teutonic leads. When an album can have both the pummelling Impress Me and the sugary sweet Sometimes and nail both styles, it’s a winner. Shame not enough people cottoned on.

2) Refused – Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent

I’m sure you have heard/own/worship Refused’s 1997 masterpiece The Shape Of Punk To Come. An album that is as good as any record made by anyone, anywhere, ever. It’s so good that it means its predecessor is often overlooked. Which is a crying shame, as STFTFOD is a brilliant hardcore punk album. Not as groundbreaking (what is?), but from the moment the industrial grind and chant of Rather Be Dead leads into that marching drum tattoo it’s obvious that Refused would stand out from the pack. And while no one could have predicted just how great the margin they improved would be, songs like Coup D’etat and the minute-long It’s Not Okay… (To Pretend Everything Is Okay) are certainly a step above what 99 per cent of other punk bands could achieve.

1) Mínus – Jesus Christ Bobby

Icelandic quartet Mínus first came to the UK supporting sludgy British metallers Charger while promoting this album. By the end of the tour the headliners were becoming frustrated at having to follow Mínus’s mind-blowing performances and savage wall of noise. Listening to Jesus Christ Bobby today, 16 years after its release, is still a traumatic experience. Only Converge’s masterpiece Jane Doe can be compared to the sheer aural terrorism of Frat Rock or Modern Haircut in hardcore. They sound like a malfunctioning robot screaming over a pure, white-hot, angular musical canvas. But Mínus are no one-trick pony; the beautiful, catchy yet threatening Pulse could pass for Nine Inch Nails at Reznor’s self-loathing best. Jesus Christ Bobby is so much more than just another hardcore album. They followed it up by putting on leather trousers, making a rock’n’roll record called Hallador Laxness and supporting Metallica. Great as that was, they never captured this level of brilliance again.

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Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.