Five Hard-Hitting Post-Hardcore Releases From 2020 That You May Have Missed

Post-hardcore is a broad concept. The style deconstructs hardcore traditions while retaining some original features of hardcore music, like in-your-face ferocity and consistently churning energy. Below, you’ll find groups who perform with that in-your-face intensity, who deliver math rock-adjacent protest anthems, who sound classically abrasive, and more. This article features Compa, Glass Noose, Horse Torso, Other Half, and Pulses.

Compa – Compa

The Brooklyn-based hardcore punk group Compa deliver a musical avalanche of cathartic rage and an adrenaline-soaked embrace of a liberating path forward on their new self-titled EP.

The band’s performances are ferocious. Opening track “En El Desierto” features some breakdown-style riffing amidst the electric punk vitriol, while follow-up track “Infestado” leans into the in-your-face leaps of heavy punk riffing. Meanwhile, “Brown” — which closes with the inescapably powerful refrain, “We learn to hate white supremacy” — centers on simmering, bassline-grounded tension that feels like a soundtrack for a pot boiling over. By the end of the EP, on “Antes que yo,” Compa have spiked their music’s energy to the point that blast beats pepper the track.

There’s a certain instability running through so much of the music, even as the heaviness never abates. The music sounds like it’s sonically captured much of the tension that the band deal with in their lyrics; on Bandcamp, the group explains that their music is “Informed by the perspectives of being working class, queer, a woman of color, and the children of undocumented immigrants.” While consistently heavy, the instrumentation wavers with emotionally grounded unease, and the energy that keeps the intricate mix propelled forward feels invigoratingly fiery, like a leap towards everyday liberation that’s been denied for too long. The directness of the music — which feels like it’s got enough twists and turns for a release several times its length! — feels like it’s freeing.

Glass Noose – The Banality of Menu

Glass Noose captures churning emotional tension on their new EP, The Banality of Menu, which lands powerfully and features sprawling, emotionally earnest math rock and flourishes including splashes of heavy riffing and agile leans into invigorating rhythms.

Listening feels a bit like rushing into a storm cloud of emotional unease with a relentless internal drive to chart some kind of safe passageway through the storm — and, amidst the cloudiness, there happens to be a restaurant, for some reason. (The titles for all three tracks feature food-related imagery.) On a sonic level, the rhythms across The Banality of Menu feel heavy yet wistful, like math rock-leaning versions of classic punk rock protest songs. Tristan Zemtseff, who handles all of the instrumentation on this EP, sings about social issues in the lyrics. On “Onion Wine,” for instance, Zemtseff says: “What could justify a knee to the neck? What could justify tear gas at a protest? We see the same story again and again. But you say it’s all right?”

The melodies always feel strong, and that strength establishes the EP’s invigoratingly relentless drive forward. That track “Onion Wine,” which closes the release, spotlights this power front-and-center — the song’s close, for instance, features a staggeringly heavy blast of riffing, and during earlier chorus segments, heavy breakdowns emerge alongside the otherwise wistful rhythms. Contemplative riffing takes the spotlight elsewhere, but thanks to the lurches of tension, the riffs don’t feel self-contemplative as much as they’re a bright spotlight on pockets of alienation that the power-hungry fiends who Zemtseff calls out might want observers to miss.

Horse Torso – Mikropianist

The NYC-based group Horse Torso mash up math rock and free jazz with a driving post-hardcore sense of melody on their excitingly wild new album, Mikropianist.

The opening track, “I Was Murdered,” poignantly establishes the album’s tone via splashes of off-kilter riffing intermingling with erratic drum rhythms. On the follow-up track, “This Guy…This is Not My Kind of Guy,” the group gets into territory that’s a bit more jazzy. The sweltering, lumbering bassline occupies a prominent position in the song, and the guitar riffing and drum rhythms skip along with free-flowing freedom. On the next track, the band’s dynamic swings get more unsettled and ominous, and the unpredictable volley of sound feels something like a soundtrack for sneaking through a trash-strewn city alley late at night. A similarly uneasy vibe reappears on “The Hate Paradox,” which features steadily intensifying, plucked melodies amidst a vibrant volley of sound.

Horse Torso sound totally zany — and simultaneously quite remarkably accessible. The riff ideas that are scattered across Mikropianist feel poignant, as if the band have tied their off-the-wall song constructions to sincere and striking emotional states.

Listening through the album feels like grappling with a dreamscape, or the real world version of it in the form of trains of thought that might tilt off the tracks. Unpredictable song titles help with establishing this mood, since there are no lyrics on the record, but the music leads the way all on its own. Mikropianist sounds like an emotionally resonant confrontation with mental chaos, and it’s invigorating to dive in as freely as Horse Torso have done on their new record. Listening to the album feels like taking a train ride through a town where reality looks like it’s melting while a math rock and jazz band play in the background.


Other Half – Big Twenty

The U.K. post-hardcore group Other Half delivers a rocking good time on their debut LP, Big Twenty. They perform heavy jams full of swaggering guitar riffs, gut-rattling basslines, cacophonous drum rhythms, and enough feedback to make the whole piece feel like a musical tidal wave.

From the very first song, it’s clear that Other Half have got plenty of heaviness and ample groove in their palette, and they intermingle these elements to leave quite an imprint. Big Twenty feels rather invigorating to dive into — there’s an invitingly familiar emotional and sonic grime that the band members have captured on tape, but it’s not only wallowing in mid-20s malaise. The album is a rush and a dance through the mess, as if there’s a huge storm dumping buckets of water at a time but, for some reason, you’re out dancing on the street corner anyway — and the whole experience feels soulfully cathartic.

Atop the foundation of their abrasive post-hardcore — in a classic-feeling, rather heavy sense of the style — Other Half have got some rich sonic flourishes. “Sameness Without End,” for instance, concludes with lengthy basslines that feel simmeringly intense yet strangely danceable. Although the band performs with a rather consistent sonic palette, they’ve got plenty of dynamics that give their heaving chaos a strangely humanized face. “Slow Cinema,” which clocks in at less than two minutes, launches off into a galloping pace, and the track that immediately follows, “Trance State,” runs on (comparatively) more laid back basslines and drum rhythms that feel a bit like a drunken stagger. “Tiny Head,” which comes later, packs a similar stagger, while other moments — like the track “Big Wheel” — move from one side to the other.

Pulses – Speak It Into Existence

Speak It Into Existence — the latest album from the Virginia post-hardcore group Pulses — comes across as simultaneously invigoratingly fun to listen to and full of moments to stop and smell the metaphorical roses and find a new dose of emotional self-clarity in the process. That duality is an impressive feat for any band.

The sheer variety of sonic textures that the band pack into a single song feels totally remarkable — and they’ve got a dozen of ’em on their new record. “Louisiana Purchase,” for instance, opens with a barrage of some heavy riffs, moves into a swancore-style segment of rapid-fire vocals, kicks off a jazzy breakdown section, and then rolls into another round of heavy riffs for the conclusion — and, just before the end, those riffs fall away and leave a totally danceable electronica rhythm. There’s a refrain towards the end of the song that seems to sum up the vibe quite memorably well — “From the club to the moshpit, y’all know that we got this.” Listening to the song, the only viable conclusion is: yes, the band has totally got this.

“Exist Warp Speed” features some more hip-hop-oriented vocals alongside heavy flashes of guitar riffing that somehow feel like the perfect accompaniment. Pulses have turned “ordinary” electric guitar rhythms inside out and reformed them into a glistering portrait of lurching upbeat energy, like their album captures the sound of a total determination to have a good time during the meteor showers of life. Pulses tie their superbly glistering sonic variety together with smooth cohesion; the leaps of energy and simmering self-contemplation that run through the album tie the piece together, and somehow, they’ve finely tuned the zany arrangements to make total sense, on an overall vibe level. Listening feels a bit like stumbling into some unfamiliar natural environment that’s vibrantly teeming with life.