21 Ear-Wrecking Hardcore Punk EPs You May Have Missed in 2021
Lasso, Unsanitary Napkin, Reaksi, Mangual, and more under-the-radar finds.
It’s been a long time since I wrote one of these list posts that everyone on the Internet loves besides cats and memes, and today’s list is about the punkest of all music formats—the extended plays, including seven-inch vinyls, cassette tapes, demos, and even one-sided LPs that still count as EPs.
Before we start, I should point out that the list below leans towards the rawer, angrier, and noisier end of the spectrum. There are some bands with a sense of catchiness or post-punk delicacy within their music, but to a great degree we’re talking about an assortment of rabble-rousing noise across the fast hardcore, d-beat, crust, powerviolence and chaotic punk tags. No pop-punk, no emo, no straight up metal, and no overproduced hardcore shite.
Keep in mind this article isn’t about ‘the best’ hardcore punk EPs of 2021. If I were to write such a thing, I would include a lot of records already reviewed on this site throughout the year. The list below features either records that were slated for review but weren’t because I haven’t had the time to, or were just too short in length to write a proper one.
Now enjoy the noise!
1 Lasso – S/T EP
Formed in the beginning of 2020 in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil just before the pandemic struck, Lasso play an intense form of hardcore punk with fantastic songwriting that just floored me upon first listen.
The EP consists of eight short, high octane bangers with dark, melodic guitar leads looming gloriously over fast-paced beats. It’s a masterful cacophony of churning riffs soaked in death rock sensibility. The long awaited vinyl version of this record was finally released by Sorry State Records and I hope these dark and uplifting tunes reach more people around the world.
2 Kohti Tuhoa – Väkivaltaa EP
Kohti Tuhoa drew a lot of well-deserved praise for their audacious 2019 LP, Ihmisen Kasvot, and last year’s awe-inspiring Elä Totuudesta EP. On their brand new EP, however, the Helsinki four piece continue to push the envelope even further by experimenting with more diverse sounds and inspirations.
In contrast to their previous works,Väkivaltaa (Violence) abandons some, though not all, of the noise-drenched and chaotic pogo-punk elements in favour of a colder approach with hints to bands like Killing Joke and Amebix. Kohti’s singer, Helena, is still on top of the game with impassioned vocals complementing the fast and raging hardcore beats. As the name suggests, Väkivaltaa is before anything else a fast and violent affair stomping a fine line between the raw aggression of the early ’80s Finnish & UK82 hardcore tropes and a somewhat gloomier sound. In conclusion, these Finnish punks are once again reinventing their sound and the excellent label La Vida Es Un Mus is here to deliver one of the best punk EPs of the year.
3 High Cost – What’s Living Worth? EP
What’s Living Worth? by New York’s High Cost was probably the first new record I heard in the beginning of the year. The six tracks on this EP were just everything you’d expect from a fast and aggressive hardcore band.
To put it simply, High Cost make a kind of music that doesn’t spend any time fucking around, but just explode in your ears with a high velocity hardcore with hints to untamed powerviolence. Probably thanks to the fact that they are a US band, it didn’t take so long for the record to receive a vinyl treatment. The new expanded LP version was released with an alternative cover by Bitter Melody Records in April, featuring the six original songs from the EP, plus two brand new tracks from the same session and a cover of the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary.”
4 Unsanitary Napkin – TERF War EP
Aotearoa’s finest anarcha-feminist punk band Unsanitary Napkin are back with two absolutely ferocious tracks from their upcoming album, All Billionaires Are Bastards. As you can guess from the title, this short EP is an uncompromising political statement in solidarity with trans and gender-nonconforming people, including indigenous gender-diverse takatāpui whānau.
Both songs “TERF War” and “Speak Up For Women, You Don’t Speak For Me” are a vitriolic call to arms against transphobia and transmisogyny of TERFs and SWERFs. According to the band, all proceeds from the release will be donated to Gender Minorities Aotearoa, a nationwide transgender organisation in New Zealand, run by and for transgender people. If you’re into bands like G.L.O.S.S. or the HIRS, you’ll absolutely love this!
5 Reaksi – Esok Hari Kepunyaan Kita EP
Esok Hari Kepunyaan Kita is the debut seven-inch by Melbourne, Australia-based Reaksi, and it is as full of political anger and rage as anything I’d expect to come from members of Pisschrïst, Krömosom, Enzyme, and Intrusion.
This new supergroup of sorts is actually made up of three immigrant punks from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, and their Asian Punk identity is at the forefront of their creative output. Despite the long history of band members playing in d-beat raw punk bands, the five tracks on Esok Hari Kepunyaan Kita (Tomorrow Belongs To Us) take a different direction with nodes to the UK82 sound of bands like The Partisans, Blitz, Violators and the likes. The lyrics are all sung in bahasa Melayu and deal with political issues in Southeast Asia, like standing up for immigrant rights and supporting Myanmar’s people uprising against the military coup. It’s raw, anthemic, and pissed off punk at its finest. Up the Asian punx!
6 Hyökkäys – Antigobierno EP
Hyökkäys translates as “to attack” from Finnish, and a relentless old school hardcore punk attack is exactly what these Basque punx do!
This seven-inch record was released in March 2021 by Discos Enfermos and contains eleven tracks of pure chaos, distortion, and torn vocal chords. If you’re still not convinced where their influences come from, they’ll make sure to remind you with two killer covers of ’80s Finland’s legends Kaaos and Catalonia’s most prominent hardcore band HHH. This explosive mixture pretty much sums up their sound. It’s raw, primitive, and full of radical noise for radical punx. Always against the government!
7 Zero Again – Revert To Nothing EP
Formed during the pandemic, Zero Again came back with a second seven-inch pretty much in the same vein to their 2020 Out of the Crooked Timbers of Humanity debut EP.
Featuring the living legend of British punk and finest underground music journalist Ian Glasper on bass, Zero Again are the perfect response for punks who enjoy dark melodic leads and filthy bass lines treading the line between horror imagery and uncompromising leftist politics. Die-hard Rudimentary Peni fans will immediately recognize where their name comes from. This is seriously some of the best old school British punk around these days.
8 Mangual – S/T EP
Colombia has been on the radar pretty much all the time since the beginning of the huge and violent protest movement against increased taxes, corruption, and health care reform proposed by the current government. There’s been a several benefit hardcore punk compilations in solidarity with those affected by police violence and state repression in the South American country, and I’m pretty sure you’re already familiar with great bands like Muro, Systema or Alambrada.
Enter Mangual. Totally intense old school powerviolence is happening on this short record. The font, of course, is reminiscent of our beloved Infest and there are no surprises here. Mangual possess some great skills to serenade you with a barrage of play-fast-or-die radness, unless they switch gears and get into some sludgy breakdowns. The lyrics are all in Spanish, and, no surprise here, have a lot of political clout, dealing with the realities in the country. Straight-forward, no-frills political hardcore from South America!
9 Bleachdrinker – Icon EP
Another raging powerviolence record, this time coming from up north in Sweden.
Bleachdrinker are a new band from Stockholm, whose Icon EP was released earlier this summer and contains no less than eight face ripping tracks that remind me of xBrainiax, No Comply, Final Draft, etc. It’s ultra-fast, mega-pissed, and straight up fire without the shit production quality the genre often comes with!
10 Brainpan / xSAVAGEx – Split EP
The East and West coasts collide for eight pulverizing powerviolence tracks by two of the contemporary US bands keeping the scene alive and kicking.
Washington DC’s Brainpan grind their way through the stereo with a ferocious guitar tone, chunky hardcore breakdowns and gruffer-than-gruff vocals. Their punishing sound reminds me of NAILS stripped down to their most basic powerviolence elements. On the flipside we have Seattle’s xSAVAGEx with four tracks channeling the classic sound of Capitalist Casualties, Crossed Out and No Comment. Great record overall. Artwork by Japanese legend Sugi.
11 Nervegas – S/T EP
Another great Sugi artwork, this time commissioned for a band called Nervegas from Denmark.
These K-Town bastards mix traditional d-beat raw punk, harsh Scandinavian crust, and blistering Japanese ‘Burning Spirits’ hardcore for maximum sonic destruction. If you are frequenting this website in search of a raw, heavy, and brutal hardcore punk, you’re in the right place here. Five songs that don’t let up. As Swedish d-beat mangelers Sum 41 used to say: All killer, no filler!
12 Violent Spirit – Fire EP
Formed in 2016 in a small town about 120 kilometers northeast from Helsinki, Violent Spirit have never been shy in admitting their absolute devotion to the Japanese ‘Burning Spirits’ school of hardcore. Five years after their inception, Violent Spirit return with Fire EP.
In these five songs they stick to their tried and true ‘Burning Spirits’ template, unleashing torrents of driving hardcore riffs, galloping raw punk beats and captivating Paintbox-inspired guitar hooks. Crude Japanese-style vocals, heavy metal leads, acoustic guitars and even pianos may seem a little bit all over the place for a European band, but the whole record is actually just brilliant. The seven inch was sold out in just five days after being released and the blurb by a music genius like Jonah Falco on Violent Spirit’s Bandcamp page should give you an idea about how good this band really is.
13 YAKUZA 極道 – Demo 2021
Holy smokes! Are these guys Japanese? Hell no, they are Greek malakas.
Five tracks of Japanese-inspired raw noise, Swedish kängpunk song structures, and pissed off vocals spitting out angry verses in the mother tongue of Aristotle. Absolutely killer release shaking things up with the sound of wailing emergency sirens and finishing off with a Discharge cover. Released on tape by Extreme Earslaughter Records in December 2021 and sold out in the blink of an eye.
14 Nisemono 偽者 – Demo
New York City’s newcomers Nisemono 偽者 also get their beast from the Far East.
Made up of DIY punk scene veterans from noisemongers like L.O.T.I.O.N., Dollhouse, and Warthog, the six full-bore assaults on this Toxic State Records-released demo are a ferocious exhibition of the raw power, speed and blistering aggression that Nisemono 偽者 will quickly be praised for. The bedrock of the band’s pummeling sound lies in the ripping Japanese hardcore blended with that thin modern distorted style. Think of Bastard-inspired riffs galore but rather than hyper blown out noise or crust, they go for a more ripping hardcore approach making this all the more interesting. Just brilliant stuff.
15 Victim of Fire – Disharmonist EP
The latest material by Colorado’s Victim of Fire was released on a beautiful lathe cut single-sided 12″ LP earlier this year. This new EP features only a single ten minute song written during the first weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Taking nods to the sound of bands like Remains of the Day, Disharmonist is an epic d-beat-driven poem tackling the suffocating realities of anti-Black racism in the United States today. The lyrics were written the week following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and as you listen to the track, you can feel the dense tension in every note of their delivery. All cops are tools of the ruling class. Every politician is a liar.
16 Farmaco – Descolonizar EP
Buenos Aires, Argentina’s four piece Farmaco crashed into the scene with a great demo in the beginning of 2020 which caught the attention of the DIY punk community worldwide.
The band unashamedly worships Japanese legends like LSD, Death Side, Gudon, and Human Gas, while at the same time crafting their own South American sound with urgent political lyrics in Spanish. Farmaco’s sophomore Descolonizar EP dropped in the Spring 2021 through Discos Enfermos (Spain) on seven-inch and Educación Cínica (Argentina) on tape, only to prove that the band’s just getting better and better at honing their sound. The EP has been getting a ton of love at DIY Conspiracy ever since.
17 DMT – .D.M.T EP
Maine is a predominantly rural state in the northeastern United States. Not only is this where the king of horror Stephen King’s novels take place in, but also a home of wrecking punk bands like DMT.
Six tracks of blistering-dentist drill guitar wail over fuzzed-out bass and smashing d-beats. Screams from the unholiest pits muster from the singer’s bowels. Nothing but distorted to all hell, scratchy, heavy psychedelic-punk-noise. The tape release consists of a double A-side, so you can easily flip and repeat all over again.
18 Taqbir – Victory Belongs To Those Who Fight For A Right Cause EP
La Vida Es Un Mus has been releasing some of the absolute best punk records for a long time, and they deserve even more recognition for their efforts in putting out bands from far-away and ‘exotic’ places most casual punk listeners will otherwise barely know.
Taqbir play relentless, fast-paced hardcore punk with sharp and extremely critical lyrics in Darija (Morrocan Arabic), pointing out the religious hypocrisy, oppression and patriarchal culture they grew up in Morocco. In brief, Victory Belongs To Those Who Fight For A Right Cause consists of four raging tracks of North African origin that the whole underground world should be aware of. More experienced reviewers compare their sound to Spanish legends Destino Final and Taqbir’s vocals to Chitose of Japanese band The Comes.
19 Merked – S/T EP
Merked will stab you in the gut with seventeen tracks of pummelling powerviolence and then twist the knife for good measure.
Tight, heavy, slow parts, and disgruntled growls are followed by brutal, fast, and relentless blast beats, violent screams and a heap of sound clips to make sure you’re in the right place. Songs 12 to 14 deal with hardcore dancing with lyrics such as: “Hardcore dancing looks like a fucking seizure,” “Crowd killing is for dweebs,” and “Two-step yourself off a fucking cliff. I wanna see you mosh and circle pit. All ‘go’ NO ‘bro.’” Proper powerviolence from this Oakland trio.
20 Leaking Head – Demo 2021
This EP consists of six tracks of sick-ass brutal thrash punk from Rochester, New York with a 100% flying fingers attitude.
In their tunes one can hear plenty of influences from Bad Posture to Negative Approach, Code 13, The Pist and a host of others, all blended in their self-proclaimed rot-core style. Just blast after blast of thrashing, rocking, and incredibly pissed off punk music.
21 Endless Bore / Numbskull – Split CS
This is a split cassette tape by two Australian bands who like to play fast.
Blazing out of Melbourne, Endless Bore pounce forth with extremely pissed off powerviolence with burly hardcore breakdowns. Four tracks of harsh vocals backed by brutal music. Their style isn’t cutting edge or anything really new, but they just have a really powerful and intense feel to their songs. I already had the chance to listen to Endless Bore’s upcoming January 2022 EP in advance, and it’s totally up my alley.
Sydney’s Numbskull shake things up quickly with eight blazing fast tracks clocking in four minutes in total. It’s straight-forward, rapid-fire powerviolence in the veins of Charles Bronson, Hellnation, and Swallowing Shit with a touch of melody making their songs catchy as hell. To quote Numbskull: “Mozart and Beethoven can suck a wet fart. This is hardcore punk, not the fine arts.” I’m totally in love with this fastcore crew.
Featured image collage by @violence.paranoia