The following article was published in the Ukrainian music journal Neformat in March 2019 by Dmitro Akimov. Several veterans of the scene took part in creating the list. The original piece was slightly edited for easier reading. Below the article you’ll find some links to media coverage and solidarity projects regarding the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. STOP THE WAR!
If we talk about the roots of Ukrainian hardcore, then its origins should be traced back the early 2000s, when local bands began recreating the typical hardcore punk sound. Various bands started to appear in different parts of the country, but the most active were those from the capital Kyiv and the south part of Ukraine—Odessa and Crimea. Kyiv and Odessa remain the centre of hardcore music in the country and the majority of bands come from there.
Hard times for the hardcore scene started in the second half of the ’00s, with cancelled events and the constant threat of gigs being targeted by neo-Nazis it kept the hardcore scene small. Toward the end of the first decade, the situation became much easier; the concerts became more open to the public, the community began to expand, but it did not manage to be without issues even in the early ‘10s. In some cities, unpleasant incidents happened, and in Lviv they experienced the worst, in 2012 a situation with neo-Nazis resulted in musicians and the crowd fighting off the attackers with glass bottles, knives and gas cylinders.
As time goes on, generations change, many have already left the scene, while many new bands are just coming and gradually emerging in different parts of the country. For example: Suffer in Zhytomyr, Tank-2000 and Пьяная Шваль (Drunk Trash) in the capital, or Wheelz of Steel in Zakarpattia.
In the meantime, let’s talk about the top ten most iconic bands for Ukraine during the existence of the hardcore scene.
Whilst not an active band anymore, the project was created around 2010 in Odessa, a city in the south of the country, rich in hardcore collectives. In the same year, the first EP In Search of Soul was released, their sound was distinguished by the evil and metal sound of their music. Their next record was released in 2011 (EP 2011) and five years later, Leviathan recorded their last EP 2016, which consisted of only two tracks. In the same year, Leviathan played their last gig at the local Cobra Fest. Members of Leviathan went on to form other bands such as The Night, Rising and Flame.
Reminded are a hardcore band from Kyiv formed around 2014 and may be well considered one of the Ukraine’s hardcore scene flagships. Live and energetic performances are supported by several strong releases: they have several EPs and a split with Crude Buster (2016). They are very close friends with Bluesbreaker often performing and touring together, and are both part of the 044HC crew. (ed. – also check the band Kentawr, who toured Europe with Reminded in 2019)
A relatively old and short-lived (2007-2009), but at the same time a very significant vegan straight edge band. They formed in the south of the country with musicians from Odessa and Crimea. They play European-style metalcore in the ’00s fashion, think of bands like Maroon, Cast From Eden and Undying. It was not only the material that was highly appreciated, both in Ukraine and in the CIS, but also by the ethics that the band members adhere to. Everyone in the band is vegan, opposed to the alcohol industry and for equality among all species on Earth. Their lyrics and ideas inspired many local kids to think about important topics. After the band split up, members of xDeclarationx went on to Leviathan, Transilvanian and Reptiloids.
Formed in 2009 by members of Humble Opinion, Undercurrents and Riot on the Radio. In the same year, they released their first demo, and Self-titled EP in 2010. Woundead play music in the spirit of Cro-Mags and received the status of a cult group in our scene. Several times they played at big festivals in Russia, like This is Moscow Fest or Raketa in St. Petersburg. At the moment (2019), the band is more or less inactive, but they might take part in some shows from time to time, still attracting a huge crowd. Members of Woundead also play in Bluesbreaker, Maloi, Wolverine Blues, and Battle Ax Culture.
One of the most successful Ukrainian bands, bringing the grunge sound to the scene, but at the same time continuing to enjoy incredible popularity within the hardcore crowd. Bluesbreaker’s live shows are a must see for anyone coming to the capital with an interest in hardcore music and hard music in general. Concerts are actively played in their native Kyiv and they periodically go on tour. In their discography, they have four EPs with the latest release Palais Ideal (2018) clearly displaying the current sound of the band. (Ed. – read our exclusive interview with Bluesbreaker here)
Aspire can be safely considered the pioneers of the New York Hardcore sound in the post-Soviet space. The first S/T EP released in 2009 was very widely distributed around the community and made them an extremely popular group. Later, the band made some changes in the composition and recording of the full-length album Нити (Threads), which was released in 2014. Over the years of activity, they have performed a lot, including large tours in Russia. Their significance is shown by their performance at Mayak Fest when the hall was at capacity, which is more than 300 people!
7 Keep on Fighting
This vegan old school hardcore band from Sevastopol did not last too long: fully assembled in 2006, the guys began to actively develop the local scene (at the time of their foundation, Keep on Fighting was the only hardcore band in the city), they recorded a ten-song demo Promo CD but due to problems inside the band, they split in 2008. Over the years of activity, they managed to go on a mini-tour around Ukraine, with the hardcore band Spunky Yank from Artyomovsk (now Bakhmut), where they played with bands like Humble Opinion, Bread’n’Battery, Swallow! Swallow! Splinter and others.
Hailing from Simferopol and founded at the end of 2009, Memorials quickly gained popularity and became revered throughout the country. They were a band that was loved by everyone: crowds would sing every word when they played their biggest tunes. Their performances at the Mayak Fest were the greatest ones, where the entire hall sang along with Zhenya Svishchev, not only during the gig but also when they left the stage. Separately, it is worth highlighting their participation in the 2013 winter BTSFF—an incredibly vivid and emotional show.
During their existence, they have released several records, including the full-length album Кулуар (Couloir) in 2013, which was released on both CD and vinyl. Their most recent material is the short EP Мы (We) in 2015, which was recorded after the participants had moved to different cities. And later the project was permanently put on hold.
Another band from Odessa with a cult status within the Ukrainian hardcore scene. Featuring members of Bread’n’Battery, Reason Thousand, Clearsight, and a sound that reminds you of Youth of Today, Judge, Mouthpiece, Turning Point, Battery. Along with Aspire, they are considered among the most important Ukrainian straight edge bands. Always stood out bright live performances and words between songs.
10 The Symbioz
Veterans of the Uzhgorod hardcore who have been playing for 15 years and are now actively preparing to record new material. They played in many cities of the country and released two full-length albums Твій світ (Your World) in 2005 and Невтішні картини сьогодення (Sad Pictures of Today) in 2011, along with Шлях поневірянь (Path of Poverty) EP in 2012 and several splits (with Birth of Ignorance, Avrora6542, Корча). They always stood out due to their hard sounding and gloomy social lyrics. They are an important band as they are one of the only few active projects in Western Ukraine.
These bands also deserve attention:
- Homesick—Odessa, hardcore punk band formed in 2011, who brought punk rock back into hardcore. They have a great discography and deservedly received people’s love.
- Humble Opinion—a modern melodic hardcore band from Kyiv that existed between 2006 and 2010. They only have one demo, and the members subsequently played in various iconic hardcore bands of Kyiv.
- Sike—Kyiv, straight edge hardcore punk with members of Clearsight, Bluesbreaker, Woundead. They have two demos and one 7″ record, and have played a large number of shows in Ukraine and abroad. They officially broke up since 2016.
- Strike Each Other—Ternopil / Kyiv beatdown hardcore with a 10 year history. The band is well known among the beatdown crowd outside of Ukraine.
- Set Adrift—Odessa, ’90s style straight edge hardcore, one of the most iconic bands in Ukraine that has continued the hardcore tradition through the ’00s. They have a lot of releases under their belt and made an official video for the song “Hourglass”. They released Blame EP in 2018.
- Time of Defeats—Kyiv ’90s hardcore/metalcore, one of the few bands in the local scene who played metalcore with a reference point to the classics of the ’90s and the ’00s. They have several demos and two full-length albums. They broke up in 2017.
- Kingpin—hardcore band from Odessa in the veins of NYHC’s Leeway. The band has a fairly large discography. Members of Kingpin organized the Mayak and Cobra festivals. Some members also play in The Night.
- Rude Riot—Kyiv, Oi! / streetpunk, one of the few domestic streetpunk bands at the moment of writing. They have two full-length albums, the second one has a very noticeable hardcore spirit in its sound.
- Clearsight—youth crew hardcore with members from Kyiv and Odessa. They have three releases and don’t play live shows very often, but when they do, they have some of the best shows amongst all Ukrainian bands.
- Doktor Bormental—Kharkiv hardcore punk active between 2004 and 2007. In 2006, they went on tour with the Шоу Трумена (The Truman Show) from Zhytomyr, and their songs appeared in a few splits after 2010—Заводь (Backwater), Колесо Дхарми (Dharma’s Wheel), and Victims of Terror. Their full discography is available on their bandcamp page.
- Zrada—Kharkiv hardcore punk led by Sukhar, the original singer of Doktor Bormental. Great live shows and several European tours under their belt.
- Remorse—Chernigov hardcore who are probably the oldest and most original hardcore band in Ukraine. Remorse began to play more than 15 years ago, mixing hardcore, stoner, free jazz and a bunch of other styles. They have five full-length albums. Unfortunately, due to their unusual sound they did not receive the attention they deserved.
- Dan Stark—Chernigov & Lviv hardcore / thrashcore. They have various influences, the most prominent being thrashcore. They play songs about the everyday tragedies of people.
The author is thankful to Venia Tolstopyatko, Pasha Vorona, and Andrei Dron.
Get Informed & Find Solidarity Projects:
- Operation Solidarity (Horizontal Volunteer Organization)
- Humanitarian Aid for Refugees of Ukraine (by Hardcore Help Foundation)
- Autonomy News (Anarchist Coverage)
- CrimethInc. (Anarchist Coverage)
- Bellingcat (Investigative Journalism)
- The Kiyv Independent (Mainstream News Coverage)
- The Resistance Committee (Telegram)
- Antifa UA (Telegram)
- ABC-Dresden Solidarity for Ukraine
- Ukraine Crisis Appeal (The Red Cross)
- United Help Ukraine (NGO)