Top 7 Straight Edge Records of 2021
Keeping the tradition alive, our international buddies share their favorite straight edge hardcore records of the past year.
End of the year lists are awesome because they allow you to reflect upon what you really enjoyed throughout the year and what actually made an impact on you.
Lately, good and dedicated straight edge bands are not exactly scarce, but oftentimes they just get lost in the constant vortex of new hardcore releases. Not to mention the general attitude of nostalgia towards old and reunited bands, which is pushing newer and upcoming bands a bit to the side.
To compile this list we reached out to our straight edge buddies from all around the world. Let’s see what they have enjoyed in 2021.
7 xCauterizex – Blessed Flame EP
xCauterizex are one of my favorite vegan straight edge bands out there right now, and Blessed Flame is eight minutes of pure radical, political poetry that comes in the shape of massive riffs and brutal vocal delivery in two bone-crushing, unapologetic vegan edge metalcore tracks and an interlude which recites Jewish partisan fighter and poet Hannah Senesh’s poem, Blessed is the Match.
A near-perfect—and much needed—mixture of vegan straight edge hardcore and radical politics. Combined with their track “Eternal Resistance” which was featured in the Edge Day special volume of DIY Conspiracy compilation tape series, this EP makes me eager to see what the band will come up with in the future. Definitely don’t sleep on them!
“Between them and the nightmare they wish to see / Is everyone that yearns to be free / Of a world that wants us all to be / In prison, dead, or a commodity”
6 Bengala – Demo
Bengala feature veterans of the Colombian straight edge hardcore scene, most notably Bogotá’s finest Raw Brigade.
The eight short tracks on this 2021 demo deliver a swath of fast, stomping and politically charged hardcore with a hefty nod towards No Tolerance, The Rival Mob, and Brotherhood. The last song is a cover of the influential ‘80s Spanish punk band Último Gobierno. What more can I say? These guys know their roots and are happy to pay them a tribute in their own way. There have been plenty of absolutely incredible albums released in 2021, but sometimes you just can’t beat the raw aggro and urgency packed into a short sxe hardcore demo tape like this.
5 xRISALEx – As The Foundations Burn
. . .
“Let our hearts beat the same!”
When I think of straight edge hardcore I don’t always think of bands from the States. xRisalex come from Turkey and deserve all the attention they could get. They deliver everything I’m asking for from a straight edge band in 2021—crushing riffs and lyrics that make you think about the problems of the world. Vegan straight edge is politics and it shows well here. Look out for their 12″ that should be available any day now.
Can’t wait to see them live sooner rather than later.
4 Contention – Laying Waste To The Kingdom of Oblivion
This album really stood out to me this year for a couple of reasons—the punishing wall of sound, filled with rage and carrying throughout each of the five songs, as well as the lyrics which I find completely relatable. I get a sense of frustration with society and disappointment in humanity as a big theme here and Contention have articulated it well. I would love to see them play these songs live but doubt they’ll ever make it as far as down here in Aotearoa.
I’m excited to see what they come up with next. Straight edge, holy war!
—Edwin (ig: @straightedgeinterviews)
3 Headcount – Imprint
Two things I admire in a band is when someone other than the guitar player or singer writes the music and when you can see that band’s songwriting progress and grow. Both seem to be a challenge, particularly in hardcore. Headcount’s primary songwriter is their drummer, Matt, who is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, responsible for many excellent bands from the area. Since their inception in 2019, the band have released a demo, a promo, and have appeared on a few comps. In 2021, they released Imprint, a six-song 12” EP on Safe Inside Records.
What I liked about this release right away, is that it felt different than anything they’ve released before. On their demo, they upheld the youth crew sound that I normally gravitate towards, but not hearing that right away on this record challenged me as a listener and made me respect the successful attempt they made to build on top of that and to move into a different space. While still paying homage to traditional hardcore bands of the early-mid ’00s like The First Step and Keep It Clear, as they have in their previous music, I heard some more modern elements of bands like DARE with the groove-heavy first track, “Stolen Time”. In addition to this was the incorporation of more complex rhythmic accents between the drums and strings. This can be heard throughout the release, but particularly stands out on the third track, “New Paths”, which is very drum-led. This band has already hit the road to support this release, having traveled up and down California, and my hope is that they will reach other regions in the future!
2 One Step Closer – This Place You Know
I fell in love with One Step Closer after seeing them live in Berlin two years ago, on their tour with Turnstile, Gag, and Glitterer. I used to listen to their first EP a lot but with that show, they hit another level for me.
This Place You Know was undoubtedly one of my favorite—and most anticipated—hardcore records of 2021 could make my top 5 or even top 3 easily. I don’t know if it can fall under the straight edge label, even though as far as I know all of the OSC members abstain from consuming drugs or alcohol, and maybe the ‘straight edge hardcore’ term does not do justice to the record at all since it’s an amazing ‘just hardcore’ record.
This Place You Know, following up a six-song EP and a demo features ten songs of heavy, melodic, emotional, late ‘90s / early ‘00s hardcore. If you are into bands like Turning Point or Undertow and you secretly worship The Cure, you’ll definitely dig those youngsters from Wilkes–Barre, Pennsylvania. Are One Step Closer the new Have Heart?! Only time will tell.
—Apostolis Mokas (Soulcraft Fanzine)
1 DARE – Against All Odds
DARE’s new LP Against All Odds is everything I wanted and more.
Let me give you a little personal history lesson: I claimed edge at a DARE show. When I was 16, I saw them open for Knocked Loose and the Acacia Strain and it changed my life. I had been sober my whole life but seeing them talk about straight edge just felt like finding the missing puzzle piece.
Three years later, suffice it to say, my expectations for this LP were high. I love this record because it feels like the band I knew and loved grew up. They keep the same fast, punk energy as their early material but the songs are longer. They have choruses and song structures now. “Violation of Trust” is the best song the band has ever put out. “Different Method” is the perfect straight edge pride song and every call out for “the OC” and for the straight edge kids really makes me feel at home for this record. The band still rocks live and the new songs went off when I saw them a few months ago.
—Evan Stein (Voice of Strength Fanzine)
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DIY Conspiracy’s special Edge Day compilation was sold out on tape but you can now stream it on Bandcamp. The original zine that came out in addition to the tape is also available in pdf format as part of the digital download.