3 min read

The Best Hardcore Song Of All Time: A Listen Up, Nerds Series

The Best Hardcore Song Of All Time: A Listen Up, Nerds Series

Listen up, nerds, I’ve got a question for you: What’s the best hardcore song of all time? I’m sure you have an answer in your head but maybe not. Maybe you wonder, like I do, if your choice is wrong. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of hardcore songs released every year that could be better than the song you think is the best. Would you ever find it? Could you? Could I? Well, that’s what I’m going to attempt. In this series, I am going to find the best hardcore song of all time. 

My plan is to go year by year, picking the best of the best, and figuring out which song is the best hardcore song. I’ll pick a few tracks from each year and break them down, trying to rank them and find the best song from each year before putting each year against each other. Why? Why not?

What makes a hardcore song great? 

There’s not a grading criteria for art, but I’ll need to set some boundaries here to figure out what makes a hardcore song good. Punk isn’t a hard genre to make, which is part of its beauty. Low barriers to entry encourage outsiders and make genres more accessible. Drawing a pretty picture or rapping a couple of bars for a school project is fun. That’s what hooks you. Hardcore music isn’t about having fun but hardcore *is* fun. Live music and community experiences are a good time and that’s what keeps concertgoers coming back, but the sense of danger and raw emotion in hardcore make it a little more thrilling. It’s less controlled than punk, it’s more acceptable to lose yourself in the music. It's invigorating.

Hardcore is different from punk in that a great punk song can be about anything. A great punk song can be about killing cops or about getting lost in a supermarket. A great hardcore song has a more narrow spectrum of subjects. A great hardcore song must have some opposition, there is struggle. It’s about conflict. Great punk rock songs are filled with hope that one day, we may find victory over oppressors. Great hardcore songs are about trench warfare and the realities of battle. There are great hardcore songs about partying and pizza and needing to clean your room, but they’re immediate calls to action. Hardcore can be urgent if not myopic, while punk is romantic.

Ideally, a great hardcore song should have a great riff. Some riffs are immediately iconic. Some become icons over years and years, but riffs stick in the brain and become the point of reference for a song more than actual song names. The caveat I’ll make here is that as this series goes from older to newer hardcore music, the legend isn’t anywhere near as long. In the case of a song like “Firestorm,” by Earth Crisis, it’s been around for 30 years. It doesn’t make this music bad, but a newer band is ice skating uphill. It’s not futile but it’s hard as hell.

Finally, the best hardcore song cannot be a song that no one knows. This is a fact. As much as I’d love to dig up a song from 1994 that has the best riff of all time and was released on a local label with a run of 150, it just can’t be the best song. Hardcore is a scene and a genre, but it’s also a community and at the very least, something that brings everyone together matters more than something no one knows. Is the most popular hardcore song of all time the best hardcore song? Maybe! I doubt it, though. I guess we’ll find out together.

This series starts next week with the first hardcore song ever. Tell your straight edge barber about it. Thanks for listening up, nerds.