This D.C. Hardcore Compilation Could Be The New ‘Flex Your Head’

By Sean Gray

"The Red Line Comp," released in April, is a document of D.C.'s renewed hardcore scene.
"The Red Line Comp," released in April, is a document of D.C.'s renewed hardcore scene.

When I was 17, I bought the legendary Dischord compilation Flex Your Head. Being obsessed with D.C. hardcore in my late teens, I studied that record, not only because it was a document of what was happening in the scene’s 1980s heyday, but also because I thought it represented what could happen at any moment in D.C. if the right bands and community aligned again.

More than three decades after Flex Your Head came out, it finally feels that another moment is taking shape, thanks in part to a new D.C. hardcore compendium called The Red Line Comp.

dc-hardcore-comp2Featuring 12 of the best and most interesting NWODCHC (New Wave Of D.C. Hardcore) bands active right now, the right time for a project like The Red Line Comp feels like it’s been bubbling up for the last 12 to 18 months. While annual D.C. hardcore festival Damaged City has helped put the spotlight on what is going on in D.C.’s contemporary hardcore scene, it’s the bands’ recordings that have made the biggest impact outside of D.C., with excellent releases from Protester, Public Suicide and Red Death, among others.

D.C. hardcore musician Ace Mendoza, who plays in a number of the bands featured on the release (Red Death, Stand Off, Jåvla, Pure Disgust) assembled The Red Line Comp. He says the collection’s timing was just a matter of circumstance. 

“Last year was mainly a demo year for a lot of these bands, so this year marks the beginning of the NWODCHC’s record debuts,” Mendoza writes via email. “Nine of the bands on the comp are putting out either a 7-inch or an LP, meaning a lot of [them] are also either starting extensive tours or playing out more in general.”

With bands like Red Death releasing a record on hardcore label Grave Mistake — which also released an LP from D.C. hardcore band Coke Bust in 2013 — and Pure Disgust putting out a 7-inch with Brooklyn’s Katorga Works, the comp feels not only vital today, but also potentially important years from now as a document of the scene, much like Flex Your Head.

Listening to The Red Line Comp, it isn’t hard to hear how diverse each band is: There’s the relatively straightforward hardcore of Public Suicide, the hard oi! of The Defense, the death metal sludge of Genocide Pact. What makes this recording sound essential is how high-impact each band is. You get the sense that all of them wanted to make a statement, and did.

But Mendoza didn’t necessarily aspire to put out a nouveau Flex Your Head. When asked what compilations influenced The Red Line Comp, Mendoza mentions two now-legendary New York hardcore compilations from 1989: Where The Wild Things Are and The New Breed, only citing Flex Your Head in passing. But with each track, The Red Line Comp writes a new chapter in D.C. hardcore history — a much-needed update to a story that many know by heart.