5 Newer Hardcore Punk Records from Bulgaria to Check Out
2022 releases from No Half Measures, Rugged, Pustota, Facepalm Death, and Bitov Terror.
While the hardcore punk scenes worldwide are getting back to business as usual with touring, gigging and bigger festivals resuming, the smaller scenes are thriving on communal spirit and putting in real hard work to make things happen.
In Bulgaria, Last Hope are still the most renowned household hardcore name, with the band just returning from a European tour with Spirit World and NYHC legends Agnostic Front. Expectations’ fourth album Heartless, Shallow and Cruel was released in the Summer and stands out on a league of its own as one of the best Bulgarian releases in a long time. Varna hardcore legends Outrage are not only still going strong since the mid ‘90s but are doubling down on their raw aggression and blackened crust influences with the release of their latest Product EP. Grindcore squad Razgruha celebrated 10 years since forming the band with a ferocious split with their Greek comrades Vile Species. Two-piece doom punx Feedbacker are also going well and have a huge influence on cultivating a vibrant DIY scene in the country.
Venues in Sofia such as Fabrika Avtonomia and Grindhouse are thriving, hosting regular shows from various booking collectives. Zines have also made a comeback during the pandemic with the release of issues by Svetlo Budeshte and Kontra Kultura. Labels like Kontingent from Sofia and countryside-based Ugly & Proud Records and Pumpkin Records are also putting out great releases and their distro tables are always full of great stuff for the local crowd.
In this article however, we’ll give the spotlight to five of the most recent releases that we think our readers need to know about.
1 No Half Measures – Friends With The Enemy
Young band No Half Measures brings forth the recordings of their nine metallic hardcore tracks on their debut Friends With The Enemy that make the local kids go wild with spinkicks and ninja moves at their shows. No Half Measures feature members of the now defunct beatdown band Cold Hate, and listening to their music it’s evident that this heavy and sometimes controversial style is still running through their veins, although their tracks are taking on various metal and hardcore influences. It’ll be dishonest to pigeonhole them as your run-of-the-mill moshing hardcore band, especially given the uncompromising message for a progressive scene, animal rights and not giving an inch to our enemies expressed in their lyrics.
2 Rugged – Godless Days EP
Sofia’s Rugged also got the whole metallic hardcore thing down, bringing forth the darkest elements of the ’90s metallic hardcore and death metal with feverish excitement. Following on the heels of their 2021 debut, Rugged’s latest Godless Days EP doubles down on the rough and nihilistic sound with influences ranging from the Belgium’s H8000 scene to the likes of Kickback, Martyr AD, and Integrity. Martin’s vocals pack a ton of punch and the guest appearances of Georgi (Expectations) and Ivan (Redound) on two of the songs makes this EP a tasty treat to devour with your daily dose of hatred to the world. With this kind of evil and demolishing metalcore currently in vogue in Europe, I could only see Rugged doing more great things in the future.
3 Пустота – S/T
Пустота (Pustota), which translates to English as vast emptiness, are probably the only active “real screamo” band in the country. Formed during the pandemic, they have assembled an array of sonic contortions to create a desperate sense of urgency and sadness in their music. Though starting with a half a minute lead coming straight out of the Orchid playbook, the record is a varied and versatile piece, which doesn’t strictly stay in the typical lane for the genre. Throughout its many emotional ebbs and flows, the album stands out with its heavily reverb laden blackened screams and tremolo-picked guitar melodies that seem to echo throughout the whole mix. Even though not particularly technical and innovative in its more soaring post-rock moments, the album is crafted with an unbridled passion and plenty of room to grow in its vortex of raw emotions and bleakness. Describing all the changes that each track goes through is not my goal in this short blurb about Пустота, and part of the joy of listening to the album is discovering them for yourself. I would also give additional praise to the band for singing in Bulgarian, keeping the tradition of most European screamo to pour their emotions in their native language.
4 Facepalm Death – S/T EP
Formed during the pandemic by hardcore and death metal lifers previously in bands like Staro Zlo, JFT and Warscum, Facepalm Death are one of the most interesting bands to come out of the Bulgarian underground in a while. Their debut EP was released in a short run of vinyl, tapes and available on most digital platforms since May 2022 and the band is currently writing new songs that are promising to be as brutal as they can get. Facepalm Death play their own brand of take-no-prisoners grindcore with a psychedelic/stoner rock twist, delivered with an outstanding precision and focus by the solid rhythm section departament. Vocalist Slaveyko is an oddball oftentimes singing with his back to the crowd and while the lyrics, both in English and Bulgarian, are nowhere near touching on straightforward political subjects, they represent a dark and inward-looking poetry about the self and personal struggles that almost anyone feeling the immense weight of the world can easily resonate with.
5 Bitov Terror – Disobedient
Unlike all other aforementioned bands formed during the pandemic, Bitov Terror (Битов терор) are real veterans of the Bulgarian punk scene. The word “scene”, however, actually doesn’t really apply to them as they’ve always been more interested in politics first while the music comes of a more secondary significance. That’s probably the main reason why their debut album Disobedient (Непокорни) came out just now despite the band playing most of these songs for years. The album features ten hard-hitting streetpunk songs that combine the rough and anthemic nature of Oi! music with some more melodic punk-rock influences thrown into the mix. Starting off with the title track and lead single “Непокорни” (Disobedient), for which they made a great DIY video, the album continues with nine more tracks spreading the message of anarchist, anticapitalist and antifascist organizing. The most interesting song should be the seventh, “Пари и власт” (Money and greed), which is based on a poem by a Bulgarian anarchist Krastyo Hadjiivanov, who was killed by the authorities in 1952. The last song, “Контра Култура” (Kontra Kultura, or Counterculture in English) is Bitov Terror’s own rendition of the famous “Bro Hymn” with lyrics in Bulgarian. It was written in a moment of loss for a close friend of the band who killed himself a few years ago, but it also celebrates all the friendships and camaraderie made along the years. Kontra Kultura is also the name of a zine and a crew/organization that started around the band and their politics. They might not be reinventing the wheel musically but this is some of the realest, antiauthoritarian punk to come out of a place where counterculture and dissent have been suppressed by every political regime for centuries.
Watch the video for the title track below.