This edition of 'In Defense of the Genre' looks at the type of dark, heavy, melodic hardcore defined in the 2000s by bands like American Nightmare, Modern Life Is War, and The Hope Conspiracy, which once again is having a comeback. Five newer recommended songs are included below the list.

Melodic hardcore is not an easy thing to define. It was pioneered in the early '80s by the Descendents, who were making what now scans as proto-pop punk, but it also describes later '80s bands like Dag Nasty, who took influence from what the Descendents were doing but came out with something closer to what would become known as emocore. In the '90s, it described bands as disparate as NOFX, Lifetime, and AFI. In the 2000s, melodic hardcore experienced mainstream success thanks to bands like Rise Against and Strike Anywhere who veered towards punk and pop punk, but it was also used to describe bands like Modern Life Is War, American Nightmare, and The Hope Conspiracy, bands who were heavier and darker, but still too tuneful and emotional to qualify as beatdown hardcore or metalcore. The lines between all the hardcore-adjacent music happening during the 2000s were blurry, but since we're over a decade removed from that era, I've been looking back at the various trends through a series of subgenre-specific lists, and here's a list of 20 essential albums from the 2000s that helped shape that darker, heavier version of melodic hardcore.

You'd often find this style of hardcore on Bridge 9, Equal Vision, the now-defunct Rivalry Records, and Converge frontman J. Bannon's Deathwish Inc label, and many of them also used J. Bannon's artwork on their album covers and/or recorded with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. (Run For Cover started out signing this kind of stuff too, and they do again.) The chameleonic Converge are ultimately more of a metalcore band, but it makes sense that many of these bands were in Converge's orbit; they shared a dark, metallic, forward-thinking approach with Converge, but brought things back to the cathartic simplicity of early '80s hardcore. The history of everything from the Descendents to Dag Nasty to Lifetime is in these bands' DNAs, but they created a distinctly 21st century version of melodic hardcore, and it's one that continues to be explored today, with bands like One Step Closer, Time and Pressure, and Ghost Fame carrying the torch.

As with all of these subgenre lists, there may be some discrepancy as to what does and doesn't count as melodic hardcore, and surely some classics are missing, but I aimed to put together a comprehensive snapshot of the era that hopefully leads to a few new discoveries for some and a trip down memory lane for others. Read on for the list, unranked, in chronological order.

Also, we've got vinyl from some of these bands available in our store.

American Nightmare

American Nightmare - We're Down Til We're Underground (2003)

By the turn of the millennium, you had some bands trying to bring hardcore back to the sound of its '80s origins, and others pushing it in so many different directions that you couldn't really call it "hardcore" anymore. American Nightmare kind of existed right in the middle. They embraced the dark, metallic tone and goth-inspired lyricism that had been entering the punk vocabulary, but they did so in a way that honored the short, fast, and loud template that the original hardcore bands had designed. The result was something too innovative to be called a revival, and too rooted in tradition to be accused of abandoning hardcore completely. It was a new version of hardcore that a new generation of kids could call their own. Their 2001 debut album Background Music set the tone for this new sound, but their second and final pre-reunion album We're Down Til We're Underground (released when they were briefly called Give Up The Ghost due to legal issues surrounding the name "American Nightmare") perfected it. The album is dark, heavy, and whiplash-inducing like its predecessor, but it also has a warm, welcoming feeling with crisper production and a more melodic approach to the genre. Even the album artwork suggests this is an album that rejects hardcore's macho posturing. American Nightmare broke up after this album (vocalist Wes Eisold turned his attention towards his other band Some Girls, before forming the goth band Cold Cave in 2007), and they didn't return with new music for 15 years, but the impact of We're Down Til We're Underground kept growing over time. When bands like Touche Amore helped bring a new wave of hardcore outside of the genre's usual niche circles, it was obvious that American Nightmare were a core influence.


With Honor

With Honor - Heart Means Everything (2004)

A lot of the early/mid 2000s melodic hardcore bands went under-appreciated in their time, and Connecticut's With Honor were no exception. Originally released on Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta's Stillborn Records in 2004, the band's debut LP did leave an immediate impact within the hardcore scene, but its reach is wider than ever today. The band recently signed to punk/hardcore powerhouse Pure Noise Records, who gave the album a long-awaited reissue (remixed and remastered by Converge's Kurt Ballou, who recorded the original LP), and before they were postponed, their upcoming reunion shows were being opened by one of today's most prominent melodic hardcore torch carriers, One Step Closer (replacement openers for the shows which are now in May are TBD). It's easy to see the through line between those two bands, and listening back to Heart Means Everything today, it doesn't sound like it's aged one bit. The album wisely eschewed the now-outdated stereotypes of popular 2000s hardcore, but its bright melodic guitars made it more tuneful than the depths of the hardcore underground. Contrasting the melodic guitars were Todd Mackey's vocals, which were always screamed -- never sung -- but done so with the kind of big-hearted emotion that was in touch with the emo-friendly side of hardcore. With Honor knew how to convey sheer aggression and still tug at the heartstrings.


Love Is Red

Love Is Red - The Hardest Fight (2004)

Another band making a big comeback (who were also on Stillborn in 2004) is Nashville's Love Is Red, who recently broke a 17-year-silence with the genuinely great new EP Darkness Is Waiting. It's the followup to their 2004 sophomore album The Hardest Fight, an underrated classic of 2000s melodic hardcore. A contemporary Punknews review said it contained "the best parts of Good Riddance, Reach The Sky, Bane, Cave In, Stretch Arm Strong, H2O, CIV and Sick Of it All," and a long, disparate list of bands like that suggests that the reviewer knew they were hearing something new and exciting but couldn't quite put their finger on it at the time. It makes sense; at the time, Love Is Red were one of just a few bands defining this new style of hardcore, and it would take a few years before it'd be recognized as a distinct subgenre. Once it was, it became clear that Love Is Red were pioneers -- metallic but not metalcore, catchy but not pop punk, innovative but not post-hardcore, co-creators of something that was still taking shape at the time.



Taken - Between Two Unseens (2004)

Before bassist Nick Beard co-founded Circa Survive, he was playing in the band Taken, who Touche Amore frontman Jeremy Bolm once called "the first band I heard to blend melody with blast beats." That concept might not seem crazy now, but there weren't a lot of bands doing that kind of thing in 2004, when Taken released their essential EP Between Two Unseens, their final release until their 2018 reunion EP With Regard To. The EP's influence on bands like Touche Amore is easy to hear; the instrumentation is heavy but gorgeous, taking notes from post-rock, post-hardcore, metalcore, and more, and pairing it with Ray Harkins' scream, which is equal parts throat-shredding and heart-wrenching. There's almost a prog element to the layers of lead guitar, but Taken bottle up all their sprawling ambition into the concise context of hardcore. Taken could've been a blip, but fortunately their influence lived on through some of the next generation's most prominent hardcore bands, and now they can be recognized for what they always were: a band truly ahead of their time.

'Between Two Unseens' is tracks 1-5 on this compilation:


Comeback Kid

Comeback Kid - Wake The Dead (2005)

As bands like American Nightmare, The Hope Conspiracy, and Modern Life Is War were shaping melodic hardcore in the States, Winnipeg's Comeback Kid were doing the same in Canada. They came out swinging with their 2003 debut LP Turn It Around, but they really tightened up their sound for their 2005 sophomore album 2005's Wake the Dead, their first for Victory Records and first produced by Descendents/Black Flag drummer Bill Stevenson. It also ended up being their last with original vocalist Scott Wade. With the extra push from Victory, the title track ended up being kind of popular at the time -- more popular than most of these bands were -- but this album had a lot more to it than just its one big single. It's a concise LP that packs 11 songs into less than 26 minutes, and it never lets up on the intensity once. It's dark but catchy, Scott harnesses a perfect mix of aggression and emotion in his pained shouts, and Bill Stevenson's production still sounds crisp over 15 years later. Comeback Kid are lifers who are still doing great stuff today, but Wake The Dead defined an era. It was at the forefront of the burgeoning early/mid 2000s wave of melodic hardcore, and its success has only seemed more deserving over time.

Browse the selection of Comeback Kid vinyl in our store.


Suicide File

The Suicide File - Some Mistakes You Never Stop Paying For (2005)

A lot of these bands sounded sinister and dead-serious, but The Suicide File brought a sense of rock n' roll swagger to their melodic hardcore that sounded downright fun. Lyrically, their songs followed suit. The Suicide File always kind of sounded like the party at the end of the world; you're dancing, you're drinking, but there's an underlying sense of dread and the feeling that this is all about to end. They only put out one proper full-length during their brief run as a band (2003's Twilight), but at this point, their definitive release is 2005's Some Mistakes You Never Stop Paying For, which compiled songs from their two EPs, demo, and splits with The Hope Conspiracy and R'N'R. Home to such signature songs as "Fuck Fox News," "2003," "I Like The Nightlife Baby," and "Ashcroft," the comp stays true to hardcore's time-tested, short-fast-and-loud formula, but in a way that felt entirely new in the early 2000s. The Suicide File knew how to write songs that honored tradition but looked to the future, and over 15 years later, they still sound fresh.


Paint It Black

Paint It Black - Paradise (2005)

Dan Yemin helped define the more pop punk-friendly version of melodic hardcore in the '90s and early 2000s as the guitarist of Lifetime and Kid Dynamite, but when he formed Paint It Black and assumed the role of lead vocalist, he began going in the darker, heavier direction of the bands on this list. Unlike Yemin's previous two bands, Paint It Black are still writing music, and as great as their newer stuff is, their 2005 sophomore album Paradise will always remain a high point. It borrowed from '80s hardcore and rivaled some of the best bands of that era, with a sound that was ferocious and timeless and entirely Paint It Black's own. The songs on Paradise are political, as many George W. Bush era punk songs were, but open-ended enough that their messages still apply today, and will (sadly) still apply in another 15 years from now too. It's 14 songs in 21 minutes of pure, unbridled aggression, and it's got just the right amount of tunefulness to rope in more than just devoted hardcore kids.


Modern Life Is War

Modern Life Is War - Witness (2005)

There are a lot of great ways to open a hardcore record, and "SO WHAT THE FUUUUUUUCK/ARE YOU GOING TO DO, KID?" is way up there. It kicked open the doors to Modern Life Is War's masterful sophomore LP Witness, and the record only gets better from there. With its longer, slower, more atmospheric approach to hardcore, the album proved to be ahead of its time, setting the tone for so much of the new wave of post-hardcore that took shape in the 2010s. Matching the innovative instrumentation was vocalist Jeffrey Eaton's expressive delivery, which was fiercely screamed and full of an array of raw emotions -- not just anger. The big highlights are that aforementioned opening track "The Outsiders (AKA Hell Is for Heroes Part I)" and the anthemic two-minute ripper "D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S," but it's the deeper cuts where MLIW hone the expansive, genre-defying sound that makes this album such a timeless classic.


Go It Alone

Go It Alone - The Only Blood Between Us (2005)

Like a lot of bands on this list, Vancouver's Go It Alone always sounded like they were caught in a tug of war between hardcore's past and its future, between pop and aggression. And that refusal to cater to any one niche is what made them such an exciting band. It's often a harsh, whiplash-inducing album, but songs like "A Constant Refrain," "Water Finds Its Own Level," "Nightwatch" and "Inheritance" are as bright and catchy as some of the era's pop punk bands (though still within the context of screamy hardcore). It's full of nods to '80s/'90s hardcore clichés, but Go It Alone repurposed those familiar thrills in a way that was defiantly innovative. If the album doesn't sound groundbreaking today, it's only because so many bands latched onto this style after Go It Alone called it quits.


This Is Hell

This Is Hell - Sundowning (2006)

This Is Hell were born out of the thriving Long Island hardcore scene that birthed poppy melodic hardcore bands like Silent Majority and The Movielife, but This Is Hell channelled something much darker and heavier. Vocalist Travis Reilly (brother of Movielife guitarist Brandon Reilly) previously fronted the short-lived hardcore band Scraps and Heart Attacks (which counted future I Am The Avalanche bassist Kellen Robson as a member); bassist Jeff Tiu, guitarist Joe Osolin, and drummer Dan Bourke all previously did time in the hardcore-meets-pop-punk band The Backup Plan; and guitarist Rick Jimenez previously drummed in The Backup Plan's tourmates and splitmates Subterfuge. On their 2005 self-titled EP and 2006 debut LP Sundowning, Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo provided guest vocals. With a lineup of musicians who had all cut their teeth in the LIHC scene for years, it was no surprise that they already sounded like a seasoned band on their first full-length, and Sundowning still sounds vital today. It's immaculately produced, in a way where the subtle guitar melodies shine and the rhythm section hits like a bag of bricks, and Travis' scream is clear and tuneful, even at its most throat-shredding. On Sundowning, he had an introspective, melodramatic, poetic style that recalled the neighboring emo bands of the era, but he sounded so furious that you'd never tag this band with the E-word.


Sinking Ships

Sinking Ships - Disconnecting (2006)

Sinking Ships came from the Northwest hardcore scene, but they were clearly looking outside of their local region. Their dynamic, emotive sound seemed to take notes from Modern Life Is War, and they became part of a new generation of bands signing to legendary NYHC label Revelation Records in the mid 2000s (alongside the Kid Dynamite-esque Shook Ones, whose Scott Freeman sings a guest verse on Disconnecting's "The Next Time I Go"). Disconnecting was their first and only full-length, following their demo and Meridian EP, and it's a shame they burnt out so quickly, as this album showed off a ton of promise. It's got some tried-and-true, straight-up hardcore (like the rippin' album opener "Give Up"), but Sinking Ships were at their best when they branched out from that, like with the blissful guitar melodies of "Ghost Story," the slowed-down post-hardcore of "Shadows," the brooding mid-section of "Comfort," and the soaring, atmospheric closer "Wait." Lyrically, vocalist Danny Hesketh got personal and introspective, making for songs that carried more emotional weight than stereotypical finger-pointing hardcore. You can really hear how an album like Disconnecting helped set the stage for the emotional hardcore that crossed over in the early 2010s, and one wonders how far Sinking Ships might've gone if they stuck around for that.


Hope Conspiracy

The Hope Conspiracy - Death Knows Your Name (2006)

This list really could have began with The Hope Conspiracy, as their 2000 debut album Cold Blue helped set the tone for so much music on this list, but their 2006 swan song Death Knows Your Name was their finest hour. Like Modern Life Is War did on Witness, Death Knows Your Name found The Hope Conspiracy experimenting with slower tempos, atmosphere, and expansive arrangements, and Hope Con arguably took it even further. It's clear right off the bat -- album opener "They Know Not" is some of the most sprawling melodic hardcore you could hear in the 2000s, and even as Hope Con pushed the boundaries of the genre, it still felt like hardcore. The album has big, clear, spacious production from Converge's Kurt Ballou, who had been working with Hope Con since day one but who had never made them sound this grand before. Kevin Baker's scream could still cut through steel wool, but it's padded by an instrumental backdrop that owes more to towering post-metal than to classic hardcore. It's a mammoth of an album, and the world is still catching up to it (thanks in part to its recent deluxe, remastered reissue).



Ruiner - Prepare to Be Let Down (2007)

"I gave up on metaphors and acts of sarcastic wit" is the first line that Rob Sullivan shouts on Baltimore band Ruiner's Bridge Nine-released debut LP, and it kind of sums up the whole album. Rob took the introspective style of bands like Sinking Ships and made it even more soul-bearing. "Maybe if I said something a bit more meaningless/Than possibly I could make my father proud of the things I’ve done," he yells on the next song. You can hear how this led directly to bands like Touche Amore and Defeater, who sort of picked up right where this album left off and ran with it. With Rob's words center stage, the rest of the band played the perfect supporting roles, providing a thick, dark backdrop that was all mood, no frills. It's what hardcore was all about since day one, but you'd never have mistaken Ruiner for an '80s or '90s band. Even today, this album sounds refreshingly modern.


The Carrier

The Carrier - One Year Later (2007)

Boston band The Carrier's lyrics weren't quite as tell-all as Ruiner, but both bands were responsible for helping usher in a new wave of hardcore that was vulnerable, not angry. Like Ruiner, The Carrier's debut LP One Year Later sounded very modern (with crystal-clear production from Jay Maas - more on him soon), though they had more complex instrumentals that echoed bands like The Hope Conspiracy and Taken. As Anthony Traniello screamed his head off, the band's two guitarists crafted interweaving melodies that would stand tall on their own, even without a vocalist. The album initially came out on the small Rock Vegas Records, but it eventually caught the attention of hometown powerhouse Deathwish Inc., who put out the band's next two releases and re-released this one, and later called them "one of Boston's most interesting hardcore bands of their day." It's not hard to see why someone would say that; rarely is hardcore this heavy, beautiful, desperate, and inventive all at once.


Killing The Dream

Killing The Dream - Fractures (2008)

Converge took Killing The Dream under their wing early on, with Kurt Ballou producing their 2005 debut LP In Place Apart and J. Bannon releasing it on his Deathwish label and designing the artwork. Bannon retained his role for the remainder of KTD's career, but for their 2008 sophomore album Fractures, Jawbox frontman J. Robbins took over on production. Robbins' style isn't as crisp as Kurt Ballou's, but branching out from the Kurt Ballou sound ultimately helped set KTD apart from their peers. Fractures sounds rawer than its predecessor, but the music is far more ambitious. Fractures followed it in the footsteps of albums like Witness and Death Knows Your Name but pushed it even further, embracing atypical, ever-changing song structures with all kinds of unexpected twists and turns without ever sacrificing their pure hardcore fury. KTD would push the envelope even further with their 2010 swan song Lucky Me, the most experimental and melodic LP they ever released, leaving Fractures to occupy an appealing middle ground between their other two records. More innovative than their debut and more aggressive than their finale, Fractures hits a sweet spot that never gets old.



Verse - Aggression (2008)

Following two albums for Rivalry Records, Providence's Verse signed to Bridge 9, who were at their peak in the late 2000s, and their Bridge 9 debut Aggression quickly became one of the key albums of B9's heyday. The album pushed the boundaries of hardcore without straying too far from its roots, and the musical progression unfolded in a linear fashion as the album went on. It starts out in (relatively) straightforward territory for late 2000s hardcore, but things get shaken up about halfway through with the three-song "Story Of A Free Man" suite, a story that's broken up into three "chatpers" and feels more like something a prog band would do than a hardcore band. After that, the album's final three songs find Verse experimenting with slower paces and more intricate instrumentation, wrapping the album up on its most ambitious note. Quinn Murphy's raw, affectional shout made Verse sound more like the heart-on-sleeve, emo-adjacent hardcore bands than the overly macho ones, but they directed their passion towards the political rather than the personal. The album took aim at injustices that still plague America today, and it did so in a way that came from the heart, not from generic sloganeering. That's why these songs still hit so hard today.


Have Heart

Have Heart - Songs to Scream at the Sun (2008)

Another band that defined the classic late 2000s Bridge 9 era was New Bedford, MA's Have Heart, and their second and final album Songs to Scream at the Sun (which featured Verse's Quinn Murphy on guest vocals) was their finest and most unique hour. The Kurt Ballou-produced LP came near the end of a seven-year run that began in 2002, and most who heard it at the time agreed: as good as the band's prior releases had been, Songs to Scream at the Sun pushed Have Heart's music further than it'd ever gone before, into territory that was no longer indebted to the band's influences. In just 21 minutes, the album goes through more twists and turns than albums two or three times its length, never settling into anything you could ever call predictable. Matching the musical ambition, Pat Flynn's lyrics are downright poetic. He works in references to e e cummings, Sylvia Plath, and Maya Angelou, and it could come off pretentious if his own words weren't so literary. It was immediately clear at the time that Have Heart had broken new ground within hardcore, but their impact didn't fully reveal itself until the band reunited in 2019. They drew thousands to their outdoor home state reunion show, putting on perhaps the single largest show that a band from the modern hardcore underground had ever put on. The reunion was short-lived, and these days Pat Flynn is once again enjoying success as the singer of Fiddlehead, who are one of many other bands he's been in, but who have kind of emerged as the Fugazi to Have Heart's Minor Threat. That comparison would seem like hyperbole if it weren't for Songs to Scream at the Sun, one of the most monumental and enduring hardcore records of the 21st century.

Have Heart (and Fiddlehead) vinyl available in our store.



Defeater - Travels (2008)

Defeater eventually became part of the new wave of post-hardcore that achieved crossover success in the 2010s, but at first, they ran in the same circles as many of the bands on this list. Their guitarist was Jay Maas, who produced The Carrier's One Year Later and Verse's Aggression (Jay parted ways with Defeater in 2015), and their 2008 debut LP Travels quickly earned Defeater a spot in the upper echelon of melodic hardcore. Verse's Quinn Murphy guested on it, and the Topshelf Records-released album quickly caught the attention of Bridge 9, who signed them, re-released the LP in 2009, and put out the band's next two records. (They're currently on Epitaph.) I recently argued that Defeater really left their mark on hardcore with their 2011 sophomore LP Empty Days & Sleepless Nights, but it was already clear from Travels that Defeater were a force to be reckoned with. They were frequently compared to Modern Life Is War at the time, which was to be expected but not totally fair. They were doing their own thing, and that thing included a career-long conceptual storyline that gives Coheed & Cambria a run for their money. Travels is not just a concept album about a struggling, post-World War II family, it's the first part in a series of concept albums that kept the story going as Defeater's career progressed. It was clear from the start that Defeater's ambitions went far beyond the realm of traditional hardcore, not just with their storytelling but also with longer, slower songs, one of which crossed the six-minute mark. Still, this dark, heavy, melodic album was still firmly planted within hardcore, and it's full of concise rippers that took what bands like Ruiner and The Carrier were doing and made it their own. If the album gets overlooked now, it's only because Defeater themselves have surpassed it on multiple occasions, but Travels remains a remarkable debut.


Touche Amore

Touche Amore - …To the Beat of a Dead Horse (2009)

Like Defeater, Touche Amore would go on to become leaders of the new wave of post-hardcore in the 2010s, but they also got their start in the 2000s, and this album marks the turning point between those two eras. In a real passing-of-the-torch moment, Modern Life Is War's Jeff Eaton guests on the album, as does Thursday's Geoff Rickly, and those two guests should give you an idea of the multi-faceted sound Touche Amore were beginning to create. Were they melodic hardcore? Post-hardcore? Screamo? Emo? It was never totally easy to say, which is why …To the Beat of a Dead Horse fits in with the 2000s melodic hardcore scene but also defies it. Even on this humble debut, you could tell that Jeremy Bolm was about to become one of the most iconic hardcore vocalists of his generation. From day one, he had a style that was simultaneously throat-shredding and clear-as-day, and every syllable he screamed left an impact. Open-hearted bands like Ruiner helped pave the way, but Touche Amore took that approach and ran with it. The rhythm section whips, the guitars are heavy and bright all at once, and Jeremy's delivery had the power to inspire an entire generation of heavy music fans. Touche Amore would get tighter, cleaner, and way better after Dead Horse (and they jumped from 6131 to Deathwish to Epitaph, worked with some of the best producers in heavy music, and collaborated with the likes of Julien Baker and Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull), but this debut remains a crucial part of their story, and of hardcore history in general. At this point, they're an institution who can't be tied to any specific subgenre (they're not unlike Converge in that sense), but they've never lost touch with the melodic hardcore that shaped them at the start. (Jeremy stays even closer to his hardcore roots with his other band Hesitation Wounds, which also includes members of Trap Them and The Hope Conspiracy.)

Touche Amore vinyl available in our store.



Blacklisted - No One Deserves to Be Here More Than Me (2009)

Philly's Blacklisted had been making generation-defining hardcore since forming in 2003, but as they went on, it seemed like they were taking note of all the progression happening within hardcore around them, and they kept pushing the envelope with each release. By the time they put out their masterful, genre-defying third album No One Deserves to Be Here More Than Me, they sounded like they'd harnessed American Nightmare's intensity, The Hope Conspiracy's experimentation, and The Suicide File's swagger, and they spit it back out in a way that sounded like no other band. The adventurous album brought in horns, strings, and acoustic songs, often reaching far outside of the realm of "melodic hardcore" but still keeping one foot firmly rooted within the genre. The album risked alienating Blacklisted hardcore fanbase and it also risked being too aggressive for fans of indie rock bands like Built To Spill, who some of those acoustic songs kinda sounded like. But for those who yearn for music that exists at unexpected crossroads, No One is an absolute gem. As I write this, Turnstile are experiencing a lot of success for an album that expertly defies hardcore without abandoning it, and if you like that album but haven't heard this one, that's worth changing.

Pick up 'No One Deserves...' and other Blacklisted records in our store.


Nostalgia is fun, but melodic hardcore is also having a real moment right now. Here are five great newer songs we recommend if you like this kind of stuf...

One Step Closer - "Pringle Street"

Because both bands hail from Wilkes-Barre and share a sense of small town dread, One Step Closer frequently get compared to Title Fight (who make a different kind of melodic hardcore), and those comparisons are warranted, but these Run For Cover signees have way more in common with the type of melodic hardcore represented on this list. Ryan Savitski's voice is full of passion and grit, the songs really stick with you, and OSC make this genre feel new again. Having released one of our favorite albums of 2021 in any genre, they're one of the best bands doing it right now, period.

Mil-Spec - "When The Fever Broke..."

Mil-Spec's members have been in the hardcore scene for a bit, but this band is still new, and their 2020 debut LP World House (Lockin' Out Records) was one of the year's best punk albums. They take influence from Turning Point and the Revolution Summer bands, but they shape those influences into something that would've fit right in with the 2000s melodic hardcore scene and still sounds fresh today.

Time and Pressure - "Theseus"

Time and Pressure vocalist Drew Maxey has called Ruiner his favorite band, and I think fans of that band will definitely want to hear Time and Pressure's new Safe Inside Records-released LP Halfway Down. Drew is a master at blending the personal and the political, and Time and Pressure's songs hit with the same melodic force as the best bands on this list.

No Longer At Ease - "One and the Same"

North Carolina's No Longer At Ease admittedly pull from Have Heart and Verse, and their recently released self-titled debut EP does their heroes justice. It's purposeful, tuneful, and it rips.

Ghost Fame - "Scenes From A Marriage"

Lowell, Massachusetts band Ghost Fame's upcoming EP Nobody Wants To Be Here, Nobody Wants To Leave was recorded by the aforementioned Jay Maas (along with MouthBreather's Nick Cates), and it's very much cut from the same cloth as Jay's former band Defeater, and they namedrop Have Heart and Verse as influences too. Lead single "Scenes From A Marriage" (which features Great American Ghost's Ethan Harrison) sounds like the best 2007 melodic hardcore song you've never heard, and it's urgent and inspired in 2022 too.


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Pick up vinyl from some of the bands in this post here.

Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.

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