10 Best Hardcore Punk Albums


Black and white image of the hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys.

Dead Kennedys have one of the best hardcore albums of all time, as named by Audio Ink Radio – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo via Reybee, Inc and Manifesto Records

Here are the 10 best hardcore punk albums of all time, as named by Audio Ink Radio

Hardcore punk is a special genre, one that’s filled with faster, more aggressive music than is found in traditional punk rock. There are differing opinions about how and when the hardcore movement started. But, in general, hardcore got its footing in the late-1970s and early-1980s. The hard, relentless musical sounds of hardcore are still relevant today. So, what are the 10 best hardcore punk albums of all time?

Hardcore punk began in San Francisco and Southern California, but a healthy early scene also spawned out of what was happening musically in Washington D.C. and New York with punk rock and early proto-punk. The ethics of hardcore punk is similar to that of punk, in general, in that it rallies against commercialism and superficial success. The genre also unapologetically confronts political and social topics.

In respect to the art of hardcore punk, here are the 10 best hardcore punk albums of all time. It’s not a list for the faint or weary. Get ready to rock in a really heavy way.

10. Husker Du, “Zen Arcade”

Not all hardcore punk came from the coasts. Minneapolis’ Husker Du served up a massive dose of hardcore from the Midwest, and they could definitely hang with the coast kids. On their third studio album, 1984’s “Zen Arcade,” the band really got in-depth, releasing a double album that sounds cohesive and purposeful. Highlights include the psychedelic “Hare Krsna” and melody-fueled “Pink Turns To Blue.”

9. 10 Minute Warning, “Survival of the Fittest”

Who says grunge and hardcore punk can’t get along? Seattle, Washinton’s 10 Minute Warning proved that the two could come together and create something special. The Fartz members Paul Solger and Duff McKagan (yes, of Guns N’ Roses) formed the band in 1982, a few years after the hardcore movement started growing. Their 1983 debut EP, “Survival of the Fittest,” is a raging mix of punk and grunge. It’s sound is a bit slower and darker than many hardcore punk acts, making it stand out. 10 Minute Warning were short-lived, but they left a mark.

8. Minutemen, “Double Nickels on the Dime”

Minutemen were idols in the punk and underground music scene. The band formed in San Pedro, California, in 1980, and released four albums and eight EPs before guitarist and singer D. Boon’s tragic death in a vehicle crash in 1985. “Double Nickels on the Dime” is a highlight of their discography, offering a whopping 45 songs of hardcore with dashes of jazz and twang.

7. Dead Kennedys, “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables”

San Francisco’s Dead Kennedys were an important part of the hardcore punk movement. The band had a knack for putting out politically-charged music that still sounded fun, wild and wacky. Nowhere is their charm and talent more apparent than on their full-length debut, 1980’s “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.” This, in a way, is a silly record but still has that hardcore bite and edge.

6. Discharge, “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing”

Let’s not leave England off this list. Discharge got together in England in 1977. Over the years, they helped shaped the heavy music genres, in general, as their music dipped into hardcore punk, extreme metal, glam and more. Their 1982 debut, “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing,” by far is their purest hardcore release.

5. Minor Threat, “Minor Threat”

Washington, D.C.’s “Minor Threat” made major waves with their 1981 self-titled debut EP. The set features blasting rhythms and piercing screams, so, of course, it’s perfect for the genre. “Minor Threat” is also the blueprint of what would eventually blossom from the hardcore punk movement. It’s a rousing, at times violent, release that certainly goes up against authority.

4. NOFX, “Punk in Drublic”

Many of the albums on this list are debuts, but not this NOFX pick. “Punk in Drublic” marked the classic punk band’s fifth studio album. It arrived in 1994 and was well worth the wait. Here, NOFX served up their celebrated hard, hook-fueled brand of hardcore, showing that hardcore was not going out of style. The album’s title refers to “Drunk in Public.” How funny is that?

3. Germs, “(GI)”

Some might raise an eyebrow at Germs’ “(GI)” being so high on this list. but, it’s one of the older records on this tally and one of the first hardcore punk albums to be released. Germs were in the thick of the punk rock movement in Los Angeles in the 1970s. They branched out from the traditional punk sound, however, with themes aimed at nihilism of the punk scene and a total abandon for what was acceptable at the time. Sadly, Germs vocalist Darby Crash passed away at the young age of 22 of a drug overdose. His one album with the Germs, “(GI),” was extremely influential to the hardcore movement.

2. Black Flag, “Damaged”

Black Flag, hands down, is one of the most influential punk bands of all time. The Los Angeles band formed early in the movement, and when they released 1981’s “Damaged,” they already had a solid underground following. But, things really accelerated for Black Flag when they added the now-legendary Henry Rollins to the fold with this record. He was only 20 years old at the time, but what he brought to “Damaged” was a maturity and charisma that was unmatched. “Damaged” is simply a hardcore masterpiece.

1. Bad Brains, “Bad Brains”

It wasn’t easy to pick a No. 1 record on this list of the best hardcore punk albums of all time. But, Bad Brains’ 1982 self-titled release takes it. The Washington, D.C. band were obviously inspired by their pollical surroundings, as this record brims with cutting political and social themes. Bringing together players with a history in jazz, fusion and reggae also makes for a fascinating musical makeup on this release. “Bad Brains” is a heavy, hard, punishing 16-set collection that’s a must-listen in hardcore punk 101.

Find Audio Ink Radio’s list of the greatest punk albums, outside of hardcore punk, here.

Have a comment or suggestion for a feature? Contact Audio Ink Radio’s head writer and editor at anne@audioinkradio.com.

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Alternative, Features, Music, Rock