22 crucial Canadian hardcore bands from the '00s

by Mark Teo

October 22, 2013






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In the early and mid-aughts, the punk world was a very different place. On one end of the spectrum, ex-hardcore kids were discovering thrift shops, acoustic guitars, and emo—before it was a pejorative term. On another, white-belted spazzcore fiends were squawking their way! To! Revolution! Hardcore, meanwhile, was rebounding from the ‘90s, a decade where the genre was defined by loose-fitting JNCOs and tight-fitting morals. (Shout out to the militant vegan edgemen of Syracuse.)

It was in a strange spot: American Nightmare and Panic were evolving the genre into poetic, perhaps over-sensitive environs; Mental and Righteous Jams were taking classic NYHC influences and turning them goofy; Champion and Carry On were developing amazingcore by adding octave chords to youth crew; everything was illustrated by Mike Bukowski; and edges were being broken left, right, and centre, with edgebreakers all lovingly shamed on How’s Your Edge.

Still, we loved the music of that era—and here’s a selection of Canadian coremen that would’ve been the talk of the Mullet board.


A Death For Every Sin / Final Word

In the early aughts, there were few Canadian bands as hard as Montreal’s A Death For Every Sin. Their only album, the Alveran-released In a Time When Hope is Lost, cemented ADFES as Canada’s answer to Slugfest or Buried Alive—that is to say, they were metalcore minus the solos. Drummer Ben Dussault would eventually join Throwdown; guitarist Fred Tremblay would join Drug Test; and ADFES would eventually become obsessed with camo, Nike Dunks, and crewnecks, rebranding themselves as the tough-as-nails Final Word, whose influence over Montreal hardcore still reigns supreme.

[CORRECTION: We initially listed that Fred Tremblay played in Guns Up! He actually played in Drug Test.]


No Warning

If you ask me, No Warning’s Ill Blood is the best Canadian hardcore record ever released. And it is truly a masterpiece: Released by Boston hardcore heavyweight Bridge 9, it felt like it could’ve sat beside any 1980s NYHC great. Add in contributions by Madball guitarist Matt Henderson and Floorpunch’s Mark Porter—whose singular contribution, yelling “BUST!” on “Short Fuse,” remains the album’s defining moment—and there’s no disputing it: Ill Blood is perfect. So perfect, in fact, that the band signed onto Linkin Park’s vanity imprint after Ill Blood, released the Sum 41-influenced Suffer Survive, and toured with Snoop Dogg. (Although many NW diehards hate this era, Suffer Survive was undeniably hard.) Singer Ben Cook now plays in Fucked Up, Yacht Club, and runs Bad Actors, and guitarist Jordan Posner continues the coreman dream while playing in Terror. NW has promised a new 7-inch soon on Cook’s label—we can’t wait.


Miles Between Us

Back when Canadian hardcore was saturated with moshy chongo fare and technical metal, Ottawa’s Miles Between Us were the antidote. Clean-cut and brimming with octave chords and sing-alongs, these guys were the closest thing Canada had to a Mullet-approved gang—they sounded more Merrimack Valley than Ottawa Valley. There is only one word to describe their pitch-perfect youth crew, their only LP, When It Counts, and their wardrobe: Crucial. (We weren’t kidding about the wardrobe part. Their Facebook status often calls to the band’s sense of style: “LaForge’s sleeveless Wide Awake shirt & farmer’s tan.”) This is hardcore you win your football fantasy pool with. Singer Matt Laforge now plays in Ancient Heads who, predictably, are also crucial as fuck, as are Adam “Solly” Solomonian’s new project, NEEDLES // PINS.



Haymaker, in three words: Hateful. Nihlistic. Godless. (See: “God Can Go Fuck Hymnself.”) This Hamilton, ON act had the reputation of being one of the most violent hardcore bands around, and it ain’t hard to see why—they were pure, stripped-down depravity. The only time I saw them, the show happened in a literally indestructible concrete box—hardly anything you’d call a venue. Good thing, too—the set ended up being a flurry of torn-up couches, indoor fireworks, and (maybe used) condoms in the pit. It was the best.


Cobra Noir

Dark, brooding, and possessing riffs for days, Cobra Noir was a band that emerged from Quebec’s darkened hardcore underground. (Few remember it now, but Cancer Bats and Cursed also plied their trade in Montreal, too.) Their lasting monument was Abode of the Dead, a mid-tempo affair that tied together Modern Life is War’s bleakness, Tragedy’s sweeping melodicism, and Pantera / Down-worshipping riffery into a greasy mix that wouldn’t feel out of place in Louisville, KY.



Sadly, Compromise are remembered largely for a fatal van crash—which happened on tour with 7 Angels 7 Plauges—that claimed the life of two members. Rather than dwell on that tragedy, however, we’ll just remember them for their unique take on melodic hardcore—which could favourably be compared to early Shai Hulud, minus the guitar theatrics. Singer Jesse Zaraska would later join Misery Signals.


Mi Amore

Like Cobra Noir, Mi Amore were a Quebec hardcore act who focused on the darker corners of the genre—their Last.fm page, for example, lists them as “death ‘n’ roll.” It wasn’t a terrible description—their riff-driven approach allowed them to fit onto metal and post-metal bills, while their gruff mid-tempo songs also won fans among the No Idea crowd. Crawlin Kingsnake and The Lamb, both released on Cyclop Media, remain their legacy, but I’ll always remember them for starting a brawl with Underoath, then outspoken Christians, in Montreal.



Chris Colohan has had an undeniable impact on Southern Ontario and Quebec’s hardcore scene, playing in The Swarm, Left For Dead, and countless others. But as good as The Swarm’s Parasitic Skies was, his legacy was truly cemented with Cursed, whose sprawling One is, along with Ill Blood, one of Canada’s finest hardcore efforts. Impossibly sludgy and needlessly heavy, it also had one of the gnarliest intros ever: Atop a clip describing a bloody warzone and a minimal riff, Colohan screams his head off like Dwid in “Vocal Test.” Unstoppable shit for dudes who exclusively wear black.


Day Of Mourning

Brutal and metallic, Toronto’s Day Of Mourning were the heavyweights of Ontario hardcore before No Warning took over. Displaying an evident love for Cleveland’s murky hardcore scene—see: bands like Integrity and Ringworm—Day of Mourning played a brand of tough, street-smart hardcore. Guitarist Dom Romeo has since reached the loftiest heights, eventually forming Baltimore hardcore mainstays like Pulling Teeth and Slumlords; gardening-glove toting singer Fudd eventually went onto form A Taste For Blood, a band whose thugged-out approach drew comparisons to Death Threat and Sworn Enemy. We’re hoping that Romeo’s label, A389, will reissue some DOM classics.


Go It Alone

Forget the fact that they were Canadian. Go It Alone, in their heyday, were one of the best amazingcore bands on the planet. Put simply, their brand of melodic hardcore was simply flawless: Every harmonic, every octave chord and every pick scrape was manicured, and each of their songs had pile-up inducing gang vocals. (As in: “I’m so… fucking… Sorry!!!!!!”) Indeed, they were just as good as Another Breath, Killing the Dream, or Comeback Kid, and their iconic tees—which spoofed the B.C. Lions logo—deserve a place in the hardcore merch hall of fame. How’s Your Edge, are you listening?


The Kill Decibel

All we have to say is: http://www.thekilldecibel.com/board


In Stride

AUX contributor Josiah Hughes once lived in In Stride’s hardcore party house, and even played in an original incarnation of the band. (His notoriously ageist bent evidently impacted In Stride, who’d go on to write a song called “Geriatric Jerk.”) The biggest thing to note about In Stride: They didn’t sound like a West Coast hardcore band, instead drawing influences from the hard-hitting youth crew of New England—think Floorpunch, Ten Yard Fight, and In My Eyes. Were they not from B.C., we’d expect these dudes to roll up to Posi Numbers in vintage Adidas track jackets and camo shorts, prefacing their breakdowns with “Hawwwdkaw pwwwide!”


Our War

There’s countless of NYHC comparables for Hamilton’s Our War, who put out the excellently titled If You’re Not Now… You’re Dead on Deranged Records. And their weightlifting behemoth of a frontman, Steve Wiltsey, was nothing short of terrifying—I’ve witnessed him stagedive before, and I feared for my life. (Never, ever make fun of his high-pitched vocals.) Wiltsey also was the mind behind Town Of Hardcore, an internationally beloved hardcore fanzine. Listen to the incredible clip of “50 Years,” above, to see what Our War were all about. Spoiler alert: It’s the edge.


Risky Business

We’ve listed Risky Biz as a band we want to reunite—because damn, do we ever miss them. This Halifax outfit hearkens back to a special era in hardcore where Lockin’ Out records reigned supreme, and in reaction to the constipation-faced toughguy hardcore of the early ‘00s, they played a brand of loose, sometimes hilarious, dancefloor-ready hardcore. They were the perfect antidote to a scene that took—and still takes—itself a tad too seriously.


Figure Four

Before Comeback Kid, vocalist Andrew Neufeld sung for Winnipeg’s Figure Four, who, along with names like Zao and Stretch Armstrong, were considered one of the world’s premier Christian hardcore groups. Like ADFES, Figure Four took liberal cues from bands like Satisfaction-era Hatebreed and Scott Vogel’s Buried Alive. Yet while plenty of hardcore bands toyed with Biblical vocabulary (Day of Mourning were particularly guilty of this, with track titles like “Eroding Edict”), Figure Four put their money where their mouth was: They used Biblical vocabulary not only in song, but in their pre-set prayer circles. Then, Neufeld would mule-kick people in the pit so hard, they’d be peeing blood.


The Hold

I have this theory: Those involved with hardcore often go to onto produce great art, even once they’ve left the scene. Case in point: Halifax’s The Hold. I’ve seen them a handful of times, but don’t remember much about them—according to the Hardcore Times, they drew inspiration from “Black Flag, Poison Idea, and Minor Threat.” (Like every hardcore band ever.) But of note, K.C. Spidle became a pillar of Halifax’s music scene, whether he’s playing in his bizarre folk project, Husbandandknife, or helming one of the country’s best music labels in Divorce Records.



Whenever we poll AUX readers about which bands they miss the most, one name keeps on popping up: Montreal’s Inepsy. For good reason. The band amassed an international fanbase, and, over the course of three LPs, narrowed in on a sound that was both niche and universal: They combined blazing rock ‘n’ roll riffage with d-beat, then slathered it all Motorhead-styled scuzz. Gross.


Reserve 34

Thanks to Reserve 34’s speedy, melodic take on modern hardcore, amazingcore gripped the West Coast for a large part of the ‘00s. And R34 became one of the best “ex-members of” bands in recent memory: They would eventually go onto play in Go It Alone and Carry On (!!!). Blue Monday and Go It Alone would even cover Reserve 34 songs on a split 7-inch—proof that their mega-positive, Kid Dynamite-inspired sing-alongs lived on far after the band’s demise.


Act Fast

Pissed-off, abrasive, and antisocial, Act Fast could have been Calgary’s answer to Outbreak. Admittedly, I don’t know much about this band beyond their three Myspace songs (they come as a recommend from aforementioned AUX writer, and Cowtown resident, Josiah Hughes), but their members have gone onto other Calgary favourites, such as the greasy melodic hardcore of Sabertooth and the alt-country of No River.



Dark, intense, and undeniably influenced by crust, Ire’s chaotic take on hardcore fit better in the late ‘90s that it would have in the ‘00s. We’ve found few traces of this Quebec City band online aside from this uber-intense EP, but their influence can be heard in current-day bands like The Cold North.


The Black Hand

Evil, metallic, and politically charged, the short-lived Black Hand were also involved in plenty of other Quebecois favourites—Born Dead Icon, Ire, and Cobra Noir, for example. The Black Hand were more dexterous than those bands—their hard-hitting gallops would surely pique the ears of His Hero Is Gone fans, while the bleak melodies would surely attract Isis fanboys. The Pulling Your Strings EP, above, is a fine example of their work.



I can’t say it with any certainty, but Halifax’s Envision might be one of Canada’s longest-standing straight edge hardcore bands. (And yes, they are still active.) It’s hard to call them anything but straight-ahead ‘core—listen to Changing Times, and it’s brimming full of wonderful positive lyrics, stick-in-your-head sing-alongs, and bouncing basslines. They’d fit right in on the classic Revelation Records roster—and that’s a compliment of the highest order.

Tags: Music, Lists, News, A Death For Every Sin, Ancient Heads, Cobra Noir, Compromise, Day Of Mourning, In Stride






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