While there are still 30 days to go before the new year, we feel it’s time to start counting our blessings. The most compelling heavy albums released this year include many with vastly different sounds, but most of them dealing in one way or another, with the current moment of global anxiety. Today, we’re not exactly looking back at some of the notable hardcore bands and releases of 2021, but bringing you some of the most striking offerings that will help yo to beat the pandemic dread, hand-picked by our guests from Sofia, Bulgaria self proclaimed “mentalcore” / hardcore band RUGGED. Check it out after the scroll and our special feature on the band below.
RUGGED came to fruition in early 2019, when Martin (vocals), Georgi (guitar), Rado (drums), Alex (bass), and Teddy (guitar) decided to move on from their previous activities in their local hardcore scene. All members of the band had been very active in their local scene for many years, but due to many reasons most of them hadn’t managed to form a band.
“Me and Georgi had been in talks to start our own project for a while, and decided it’s high time to do it around March 2019.” – comments Martin.
“Georgi had played the guitar for many years, while I had some limited experience with doing vocals, however it was really exciting for me to write my own lyrics and put them out there. That’s when Rado joined up on the drums – he also had some time behind the kit, in a local band called King of Sorrow. The last piece of the puzzle was found in Teddy, who has another band going called Rejuvenation and slotted in perfectly on the bass.”
There’s a lot of different individual influences at play on RUGGED‘s debut EP “Driven by Instinct”.
“Theres a lot of shared musical influences which we all grew up with.” – says Martin. “I’d say we try to strike a balance between some creativity and straight up mosh inducing aggression (on which I insist haha ). Most of all what we share is a love for the hardcore scene and the independent thought and way of life which it has ingrained in us.”
Asked about their current line-up and plans for 2022, Martin revealed some minor changes to their line-up: “Currently our Teddy is studying abroad and instead of departing from the band we’ve decided that he’ll be playing second guitar when he’s back home. Our longtime friend Sasho has joined the band as his replacement on bass – he started playing the instrument recently but he’s a fast learner and a great addition to our gang.”
As for their local hardcore scene in Sofia and Bulgaria in general, he continues: “The Balkan peninsula in general has a relatively small, but die hard and vibrant scene, with lots of good bands in other countries as well, but for now I’ll focus on our part.”
“Since the beginning of the 90s hardcore has found its way into the Bulgarian underground, particularly in Varna with bands like Outrage and Indignity, and in Sofia with Face Up, Vendetta and Last Hope. Since then the flame has been steadily burning with acts like Redound and Expectations, who have put their names on the map with their twist on the hardcore formula. Some other bands to check out from the local scene are noise rock powerhouses Feedbacker, grind poets Razgruha, sludge psychos Bruja, another hardcore act – No Half Measures and on the screamo side of things – Pustota.”
“Below you can check some of the active hardcore bands that we currently listen to the most and some of the albums that were an influence to us when starting Rugged. Those are by no definition full lists, and also there’s no particular order to the choices we’ve made” – concludes Martin.
Martin’s picks – Bands:
Never Ending Game
Coming from Detroit, no holds barred hardcore executed perfectly.
Laid 2 Rest
CTHC beatdown kings, can’t go wrong with the mosh madness.
A powerhouse hailing from California, an intense package all around.
Another California band coming from LA. Their blend of faster old school sound and breakdowns is amazing.
Based in London, they bring the city’s distinct style and top notch delivery.
Martin’s picks – Albums:
Hatebreed – Satisfaction is the death of desire.
This album is a moment stamped in time for me, even though I discovered it a long time after its release. Hatebreed was the band that was my introduction to hardcore, and their early work is engraved in my mind.
100 Demons – In the eyes of the lord
A metalcore classic for me, another album that has shaped my view of what a hardcore/metal hybrid should be.
Knuckledust – Unbreakable
A true hardcore institution, all their efforts are phenomenal for me.
Enemy Mind – Self titled
I’m really into the heavier beatdown niche of hardcore, would go as far as saying its my favourite, and Enemy Mind is absolutely the real deal when it comes to that.
NJ Bloodline – Be afraid
RIP Wreak! An amazing and diverse band, this EP really showed me among many other things that lyrical prowess can enhance any extreme music experience.
Georgi’s picks – Bands:
Scotland’s finest. Great HC through and through with 90s era Metalheadz flavor.
Another Scottish band that shares members with Despize. Cut-throat melodic metalcore/metallic hardcore.
And another UK band from the same gang. Kickback-inspired metallic hardcore – god tier music, great lyrics and awesome samples.
Division of Mind
Hailing from Boston. Cold metallic hardcore band with a unique dark aesthetic.
Year of the Knife
No need for introductions. XXX 4life.
Georgi’s picks – Albums:
Arkangel – Prayers Upon Deaf Ears
Everybody knows this one. Our initial vision for the band was to craft a style that has a distinct European flavor and this one will always be an inspiration in terms of aesthetic, especially the whole apocalyptic vibe that our music is going for.
Kickback – No Surrender
Paris Negative Hardcore. The music was made by some questionable people but the same goes for this one – absolute European classic. Lots of bands take inspiration from these guys and with good reason.
Disembodied – Heretic
Balls to the wall heavy metallic hardcore with borderline nu metal guitar tone. Hands down my favorite hardcore/metalcore band from the 90s. Great lyrics and overall vision.
Martyr AD – On Earth as it is in Hell
Swedish-style melodeath with crushing breakdowns. Will forever be an inspiration on the way I approach songwriting.
Harms Way – Blinded
Not much to say about this one. Another band that we took inspiration from when we initially started. Colossal sound, no-nonsense lyrics and perfect use of samples. The whole Godflesh doesn’t hurt at all either.
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