Thursday, 18 January 2018

California Screamin' (part 1): Trial "S/t" Ep, 1983

Fuck me, it is 2018 already and, after dealing with the traditional bad news and exchanging the usual phony wishes that the new year invariably brings, it is high time I get to work again with a brand new series about a genre that is particularly dear to my soft heart: peacepunk. 

My faithful readers know full well that I have already raved about peacepunk bands or about their legatees on several occasions in the past (The Iconoclast, Another Destructive System, Glycine Max or Diatribe have already been invited on Terminal Sound Nuisance among others) but I have never done an actual series on the subject. To be honest, the enterprise is tricky for several reasons. First, 80's bands associated to peacepunk are not very well documented, if at all in some cases, so that writing about them proves difficult and potentially foolhardy. Second, the very concept of "peacepunk" can seem problematic in itself and must be imperatively read and understood in the specific context of its birth, namely California and its different punk creative centers. As I touched upon in the post about Iconoclast, to be a "peacepunk" band or to identify as one was apparently a matter of some importance or even a bone of contention in the 80's. This probably had a lot to do with the nature of the Californian punk scenes that had so many punk tribes, and sometimes antagonistic ones too, that you could basically choose your own punk subscene inside the larger punk scene. It could also be argued that the highly political nature of peacepunk bands, their vocal dedication to serious causes and their overt pacifism was not to everyone's taste and that tribal rivalries must have occurred (maybe not unlike the tensions that emerged in the UK with the rise of anarchopunk), hence the "peacepunk question" sounding somewhat crucial. 

Why peacepunk thrived so proliferously in the Bay Area and Southern California is open to argument and discussion and I am certainly not familiar enough with the broader Californian punk scenes to be able to emit a definitive judgement. Undeniably, peacepunk bands were deeply influenced by Crass and the anarchopunk politics (feminism, animal rights, militant pacifism and so on) and aesthetics (bloody doves everywhere mate) and by Discharge's radical and raw antiwar stance to an extent that had few - if any - equivalents in the world. Perhaps the liberal political tradition of San Francisco (the parallels with the politics of the hippie movement are relevant) was a key factor and, as Stuart from Shit-Fi suggested in his review of Diatribe, perhaps the social conditions in SoCal experienced by young punks made the anger of Discharge and the serious stance of Crass relevant. Or perhaps, they just all wanted to wear black clothes and charged hair and that peacepunk was basically the only available punk option back then. For the sake of defining (and we just love our definitions steady, don't we?) let's assume in the context of this series that peacepunk was a successful and inspiring adaptation (in other terms, not a copy but an actualisation) of British anarchopunk in Californian contexts. 

The first part of California Screamin' (yes I know it is  the name of a roller coaster but it actually changed its name to Incredicoaster - sigh - on January, 8th, so basically I am now legally entitled to use the name, right?) will focus on a first generation peacepunk band from San Francisco, Trial - no, not the 90's SxE band, where do you think you are? SF Trial formed in 1982, when the band members were still spotty teenagers, and split up in 1987 (I think?), releasing this self-titled Ep in 1983 and the Moments of Collapse Lp in 1986 in the meantime. Interestingly, the brother of Trial's singer John, was Matt, the bass player from Crucifix, and their sister was Sarah, Atrocity's singer (family dinners at the Borruso's must have been so fun). In actual facts, there were more connections between Crucifix and Trial: Chris, the original drummer of the former played on the latter's album; guitar player Jake recorded the Trial Ep; Freak Records (run by Crucifix if I understand well) released the aforementioned Ep as well as Crucifix' Nineteen Eighty-Four Ep; and of course the bands often played together. On the broader scale, Crucifix were completely instrumental in the making of the peacepunk scene and their overarching influence (on a musical, visual or lyrical level) cannot be overestimated. They played a major role in the development of the scene and certainly inspired the early generation of peacepunk bands like Treason, Against, A State of Mind or Peace Love Happiness (yes, it is a real band) to get involved.

There was no common point between Trial and Crucifix musically however. Where Crucifix were blending US hardcore energy with Discharge relentlessness, Trial were a moodier bunch that does not fail to remind one of vintage British anarchopunk bands of the same time. Beside John on vocals, the band was made up of Desmond on the bass (he actually also contributed to an early version of Faith No More, as did Jake Crucifix), Rip on the guitar (he also played in A State of Mind) and Jason on the drums. If there were any justice in this world, this Ep would be considered an absolute classic of US anarchopunk and one of peacepunk's most memorable moments of brilliance and I would be invited to do conferences all over the world (I am pretty cheap too, just an alright couch and a bag of crisps). There were not that many mid-paced, dark anarcho acts in the States in the 80's, or rather, not many that would fit today's definition of a "mid-paced, dark anarcho band", and seeing that there are a lot of current US bands purportedly playing "dark anarchopostpunk", one would have thought that a band like Trial would have benefited retroactively from this resurgence. But no. What a strange world...  

Musically, we are deep in the moodiness that characterized the most somber shores of the UK anarchopunk territories and I am strongly reminded of bands like Reality Control, Blood Robots or Alternative, with a distinctly darker tone reminiscent of Rudi Peni, The Mob or Part 1. Not exactly joyful, I'll give you that, but extremely catchy. The mid-paced "Inborn system" has a morose and melancholy tuneful tone - almost macabre yet danceable - that works very well and may also point in the deathrock direction (which would make sense for a Californian band), "From the sky..." is faster with the typical anarcho tribal beat and sounds like the perfect cross between Omega Tribe and Vex (but with an American accent), and finally "Is this to be?" (Discharge reference?) is a slow, haunting number with surf-like guitar and a demented atmosphere that would fit nicely on a 13th Chime record. The bass lines are melodic, driving and aptly somber, the guitar is scratchy and dark as expected, the drumming is solid and tasteful and the vocals are neither quite sung nor quite spoken, conferring the song a spontaneous feel of brooding despair and righteous teenage outrage, aka on the proverbial punk edge. This is a brilliant Ep and a rare occurrence of an 80's American band going for the typical UK sound of The Mob, Zounds and all (The Apostates also come to mind but they were a later band). Pretty unique if you ask me.  

The aesthetics of the record itself are ripe with peacepunk symbols and slogans, so much so that you could pretty much play a Crass-themed bingo (the band came up with the awesome logo depicting a peace symbol turned into a ticking clock). From the dove on the cover (for some shite reason, the former owner scribbled something next to it...) to the adamant anti-military booklet provided with the Ep, the poignant pacifist imagery, the gruesome war pictures, the countless slogans on the whole foldout cover, the long poem of self-liberation... "I question, thereby I avoid their grasp. I seek freedom, thereby I escape the ignorance which I am told is reality." There is a lot to read on this one and there are tiny details you will probably not catch the first time around. While some of it is naive and idealistic, I do appreciate the honesty, the sincerity and the vulnerability permeating it all and how the visual aspect of the record and the political content it conveys are as important and relevant as the music (this notion of "music as artistic militancy" was central to peacepunk). Apparently, Trial's live performances were enhanced with visual components such as banners, slideshows, film loops and so forth which gave a dark apocalyptic atmosphere to the experience (and probably distracted the audience from the musical fuck-ups too).    

Following this Ep, Trial released the Moments of Collapse Lp in 1986 with Carolyn (formerly in Treason, A State of Mind and Sleeping Dogs) on the guitar, an excellent and inventive postpunk/goth album full of introspective politics and dark tunes that is worth your while. Certainly different from the Ep but definitely a solid record.

So... Who's up for a Trial discography? There must be some demo recordings somewhere, right?  

Friday, 29 December 2017

A Crustmas Carol: a Retrospective Look at 90's Cavecrust Fury

Christmas. That time of year when you have to pretend that you are quite delighted to spend too much money, eat too much for no other reason than tradition and inevitably listen to your stepmother's nonsensical, but drunkenly loud, ramblings about the state of the world. What a shitshow. 

Ideally, this compilation should have been ready last week but its making was a time-consuming process I misjudged and, as usual, I wanted to make things properly. (Un)fortunately, there will probably be another Christmas season next year so it can still be of great use then. A Crustmas Carol (I know, the title is hilarious) is basically a collection of tastefully refined cavemen crust music released in the 90's (between 1991 and 2000, arguably the apex of this now derelict genre), with 64 bands and 64 songs in 90 minutes from all over the punk world. If you're like me and socially sanctioned festivities make you crave raw but super angry, pummeling crust music with hyperbolic gruff vocals then this is totally adequate and possibly the best present you're gonna get this year. Even if you're not so inclined, playing this comp on Christmas Eve will guarantee that you are never going to be invited again. You just cannot lose. 

Of course, the selection is not meant to be exhaustive but I tried to pick songs that reflected the essence of 90's fast crust in terms of textures, vibes and intents (there is no metallic crust bands on this one, it shall be for another time). Sound quality varies but I did my best to equalize everything and make the songs flow smoothly with one another. Most of them have been ripped from my record collection although I have to admit that I do not own every single crust tapes ever released so I had to use mp3's at times (the horror!). 

As usual, there is a download link at the bottom but, since we are growing lazier by the minute, I also magnanimously uploaded the thing onto youtube so that you only have to push a button to listen to it. 

This will outcrust the fuck out of you.    

01. Hiatus "Wars for murderers" from the Blind Justice for All / From the Outside Looking in split Ep with Embittered, 1992 (Belgium)

02. Deformed Conscience "Deep ecology" from their self-titled Ep, 1992 (U$A)

03. Warcry "Nazi punk fuck off" from the Keep Drinking Attitude demo tape, 1993 (Japan)

04. Embittered "In case of opposition" from the Blind Justice for All / From the Outside Looking in split Ep with Hiatus, 1992 (England)

05. Enough! "Alarm" from the Darkside tape, 1996 (Poland)

06. Global Holocaust "Média déformation" from the Split session '97 split cd with Obnoxious Race, 1997 (Canada)

07. Uncurbed "Mercenaries of war" from the A Nightmare in Daylight Lp, 1995 (Sweden)

08. Simbiose "Um lugar no céu" from the self-titled Ep, 1995 (Portugal)

09. Battle of Disarm "Human disaster" from the Join No Army Police And Politician / 反戦-反動物実験 split Lp with Brainstorm, 1993 (Japan)

10. Sauna "Love" from the Ei Leiki tape, 1991 (Sweden)

11. Blood Sucking Freaks "Alone in the aftermath" from the self-titled Ep, 1997 (England)

12. Accion Mutante "Fear" from the Fear Ep, 1995 (Germany)

13. Lies & Distrust "Dnesni scena" from the split Ep with Exekuce, 1998 (Czech Republic)

14. Warcollapse "Bloodtrade" from the Wandering in Darkness Ep, 1996 (Suède)

15. Mindsuck "Choice" from the self-titled split Ep with Unarmed, 1996 (Japan)

16. Under Threat "Bringing disgrace on humanity" from the split Ep with IAF, 1994 (Brazil)

17. Krvavi Mandat "Glupi fašista" from the self-titled tape, 1999 (Croatia)

18. Inhumanidad "Seguridad" from the Del Hombre y para el Hombre Factor #1 tape, 1999 (Mexico)

19. Masskontroll "An exercise in pointlessness" from the Carrion demo tape, 1994 (U$A)

20. Rotten Sound "With a sledgehammer to a head" from the Sick Bastard Ep, 1995 (Finland)

21. Disconcert "Your achievement" from the self-titled demo tape, 1999 (?) (Greece)

22. Blowhard "Motives" from the Harsh Ep, 1995 (Canada)

23. Doom "Reality" from the Greatest Invention demo, 1992 (England)

24. How Long? "Wojna (War)" from the self-titled tape, 1997 (Czech Republic/Poland)

25. Drunkard "Disarm the skies" from the Why, Why, Why? split cd with Manifest and Recalcitrate, 2000 (Australia)

26. Slaganfall "I'm the boozer, you're the loser" from the split 10'' with Scumbrigade, 1998 (Sweden)

27. Enola Gay "Yuppies death" from the Exempted Authority / Nihilism... split Lp, 1995 (France)

28. Destroy! "Yuppies beware" from the split Ep with Disrupt, 1991 (U$A)

29. Infekcja "Apolitycznosc" from the self-titled Ep, 1997 (Poland)

30. 3-Way Cum "Just another creep" from the The Last Cumshot? Ep, 1997 (Sweden)

31. Krush "Me and Mrs Jones" from the Murder Rhythms 2xEp, 1998 (Netherlands)

32. Proyecto Terror "Machicidio" from the Hagamos del Punk una Amenaza / Estado de Bienestar split Ep with Denak, 1996 (Spain)

33. Condemned "Depends on bloody human" from the Final Noise Attack compilation Ep, 1994 (Japan)

34. Hiastus "Your future" from the split Ep with Totuus, 1996 (Finland)

35. Namland "Dog will hunt" from the The Shame Ep, 1992 (U$A)

36. Acoustic Grinder "Stop the Flemish bloc" from the If you feel right you have to do it: Suicide / Greatest Shits split Ep with Turmoil, 1994 (Belgium)

37. Scum of Society "Questa e' la guerra" from the Violenza Legale Ep, 1996 (Italy)

38. Dischord "Fucking starvation" from the Uma Guerra entre Classes pela Paz entre os Povos split Lp with No Prejudice, 1998 (Brazil)

39. Disagree "Refuse to obey" from the Evolution or Regre$$ion / The End of Supremacy split Ep with Ungovern-Mental, 1996 (Canada)

40. Discordia "Ineleccion" from the Deteriorarse cd, 1998 (Mexico)

41. Toxic Bonkers "Goodness destroyed" from the If the Dead Could Talk cd, 1997 (Poland)

42. Unarmed "Massdeath" from the split Ep with Mindsuck, 1996 (Sweden)

43. Abraham Cross "Bad circulate" from the Meaningful Consolidation compilation 2xEp, 1994 (Japan)

44. Subcaos "Mete o lixo no lixo" from the split cd with Genital Deformities, 1994 (Portugal)

45. Disrupt "Lack of intelligence" from the This is the Cost of a Fur Coat!!! / Free split Ep with Resist, 1992 (U$A)

46. Amen "Leave me alone" from the Don't Imitate Show Your Hate Ep, 1993 (Finland)

47. Human Error "Fucked up school system" from the Another Bloody Intervention / Kill that Nazi Bastard split Lp with System Shit, 1999 (Hungary)

48. Intoxicate "Joza kraster" from the split tape with Radikalna Promjena, 2000 (Croatia)

49. MVD "Boiling with rage" from the split Ep with Pink Flamingos, 1994 (Germany)

50. Holocrust "The battle continues" from the Chaos of Destruction 2 compilation 2xLp, 2000 (Sweden)

51. Money Drug "Stanowczo Dość!" from the split Ep with Wind of Pain, 1995 (Poland)

52. Amnesty "Horrendous hypocrisy" from the self-titled Ep, 1997 (U$A)

53. Sarcasm "Ray the butcher" from the The Lowest Form of Wit Ep, 1992 (England)

54. Skitsystem "Slaves to misery" from the split Ep with Wolfpack, 1998 (Sweden)

55. Disbeer "Filthy and evil" from the Beerdrinkers & Hellraisers cd, 1998 (France)

56. Visions of War "Fucking choice" from the split Ep with Okotta, 2000 (Belgium)

57. System Shit "Pressure" from the Another Bloody Intervention / Kill that Nazi Bastard split Lp with Human Error, 1999 (Canada)

58. S.m.c. "Crkva" from the Hopeful about the Future split tape with Desinence Mortification, 1997 (Croatia)

59. Silna Wola "Potrojna konsumpcja w krajach rozwinietych" from the Chaos 10'', 1996 (Poland)

60. Society Gang Rape "Misär" from the No Fate cd, 1997 (Sweden)

61. Primitiv Bunko "Heavy bétail" from the Nový Světový Řád Stop Udělej To Sám / A La Plage Avec Le Conteur split Ep with Zygomatik Zone, 2000 (France)

62. Disabuse "Break down the walls" from the self-titled cd, 1994 (U$A/England)

63. Truth of Arize "Controlled freedom" from the No Hesitation to Resist compilation 10'', 1998 (Japan)

64. Χαοτικό Τέλος "Trampcore" from the Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια Lp, 1993 (Greece)

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 10): Okotta / Visions of War "恐った / Untitled" split Ep 2000

Could there be a better choice than a Visions of War record to close the Kids of the 90's series with splendour? I think not. I am pretty sure everyone reading this will already be familiar with the mighty VOW. They have been going through thick and thin for twenty years, have toured extensively and released records at a steady pace, so unless you have been hiding under a crust-proof rock for years, you must have heard about them (which is not synonymous with actually hearing them, I'll give you that). Although it is true that the majority of their materials was released from the early 00's on, I personally see VOW as a quintessentially 90's band and not just because of the age of the participants. They stand for a specific genre - in terms of vibe and sound but also of casually genuine DIY attitude - let's call it eurocrust for the sake of clarity, that reached its peak during the mid-90's and almost completely vanished during the last decade (there have been a couple of sporadic instances to be sure but while everyone's talking about a so-called 90's revival, I am still not seeing much of a difference in my punk niche). But, not unlike bands such as Hellkrusher or Extinction of Mankind, they are still standing, undisturbed and unperturbed by the endless flow of newish punk trends and if that's not true dedication and crust heroism (albeit a quixotic one perhaps), then I don't know what is and I should probably open an organic, gluten-free, gender-neutral, streetfood stand selling kale cupcakes and lattes instead of raving like a cyber lunatic.

You can notice that the release date of this split Ep is actually 2000 (hence not the 90's, thanks for pointing it out Captain Obvious) but since the VOW songs were recorded in December, 1998, and mixed in January, 1999 (and since this blog is a domain I rule with an iron fist), I decided to select it as a logical conclusion. Let's start with Okotta, on side A. I must admit that I wasn't really familiar with this lot and therefore had to ask some knowledgable old-timer (merci Lolo!) for details about them. They were a short-lived band from the Antwerp area in Belgium, active in the late 90's (they had split up when the Ep came out). Okotta was made up of Tim and Kurt who had previously played together in Noise Reduction (who did a split Ep with Disaster-fanatics Deadlock from Japan), in Karma and in Orchestrange. Tim was also running Filth-Ear Distributions, a noisy label responsible for some solid records from the likes of Active Minds, Social Chaos and even Jobbykrust (the first Filth-Ear release in fact). With such a pedigree, I guess you can already imagine what Okotta may sound like, right? Noisy hardcore indeed.

The six songs on Okotta's side are raw and to the point, gruff and angry bursts of fast hardcore thrash with hoarse vocals and tightness as an option. If a bunch of grizzly bears tried to cover Hellnation, they would come close to this. There is an undeniable sense of fury and urgency conveyed by the rough sound of the recording and I would venture that the simplicity of the songwriting is also intentional and is meant to reinforce that vibe. But simple is difficult and although I think the songs work as part of the split Ep, I am not sure I could go through a full album. The lyrics are pretty dark, direct and aggressive which of course works well with the genre. There is no recording date but I suppose the songs were done in 1999. Another Okotta release does exist as Filth-Ear put out a cdr album entitled 恐った, same as their side of the Ep, in 1999 (apparently it means something like "I was scared" but I am pretty clueless when it comes to Japanese). 

On side B are the always valiant VOW, also from Hellgium, with their second vinyl appearance. The first one was on the Ups The Record compilation Ep from 1998 (which also included Sin Dios, PCP, Boycot, Dekadent, Shears and Point of Few) but the least you could say about VOW's contribution is that it was a bit of a miss since the song "D-Cay" was at the wrong speed and sounded much slower than it was supposed to (I also love the 90's for stories like these). This track was actually part of the band's first demo, recorded in April, 1998 (VOW formed during the autumn of '96), an ultimate collection of eight songs epitomizing rough and ready dual-vocals cavemen crust that makes Accion Mutante and Warcollapse sound almost soft in comparison. The three songs included on this split Ep were taken from the second demo recorded in January, '99 (the full demo can be found on the cd version of the split with Mass Genocide Process from Czech).

Because the 2002 split Lp with Olho De Gato was released on Maloka Records, it was very easy to find copies of it in Paris in the early 00's and a mate of mine taped the Lp for me at a time when I was slowly but surely getting heavily into crust. But in these days of intense crust exploration, I suppose it kinda got lost in the midst of so many other bands, so I did not pay that much attention to it at first (though I did mentally classify VOW in the ENT/Disrupt drawer). Then in early 2004, at an afterparty in Leeds, someone (I cannot remember who exactly but I do recall that, among the guests, he was reputed to play only "super gruff crust and grind" which, reflecting on it now, I am not sure was exactly a compliment) played VOW's side and, amidst the cider fumes, I was struck by how bloody great it sounded. Fast-forward to spring and to the 2004 K-Town festival, back when it was still an anarcho/crust event relatively hipster-free, where some good mates of mine went (I could not for some stupid reason I forgot) and saw VOW play. According to several trustworthy reports (with the usual hyperbolic storytelling of course), the band pretty much outcrusted everyone on stage: they were savagely intense and the equivalent of time-traveling to see ENT in 1988. At that time, to be convicted of outcrusting at K-Town was not something many could claim to have achieved so I was, once again, really quite impressed and thus the aforementioned record (which I had bought in the meantime) got played even more often at home. 

These are all silly stories of course, but, being sentimental, I suppose the band means a lot to me. VOW is a bit like that old friend you can always rely on. Sure some years were better than others in your relationship, but he's one of the proverbial boys. I am not sure whether or not the band still played the songs from this second demo when they hit the K-Town stage, but it can still give you a significant idea about where the allegation of outcrusting comes from. 

Prior to VOW, vocalist Stiv (who is gossiped to have started as the "high-pitched" screamer in the band) had been singing in Insane Youth, a crusty and noisy hardcore punk band who did a split Ep with Boycot, second vocalist Steffen was part of Deconsume and guitar-hero Stef played in Corpus Christi, a Mob-47-meets-Zyklome-A-at-a-crust-conference kind of band who did a split Ep with Força Macabra, and in the late Insane Youth Lineup. As for the very original moniker, the rumour has it that it was the result of a dare with the guys from Hellkrusher who challenged Stef to form a crust band with a clichéd Discharge-inspired name. I doubt anyone involved expected said band to last twenty years but here it is. 

And the three songs on this particular Filth-Ear split Ep I hear you ask? Well, they are top-shelf pummeling gruff crust with dual vocals and a crunchy, powerful and heavy raw sound, up there with the finest of the 90's. Vintage Hiatus, Amen, Warcollapse, Amnesty, MVD, all the best come to mind and the VOW side can be seen as a "90's crust for dummies" guideline, or, perhaps more accurately, as the perfect eurocrust synthesis of the decade. Absolutely ace stuff done with taste and knowhow. In 2000, Lolo from Primitiv Bunko and Arnaud from Detritus joined the band and contributed to the making of the furious split Lp with Olho de Gato. More records followed but that's a story for another time. 

Get some fucking 90's crust in your life, yeah?            

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 9): No Prejudice / Dischord "Uma Guerra Entre Classes Pela Paz Entre Os Povos" split Lp, 1998

Believe or not, I always have to prepare mentally and physically before the start of the actual listening process when I work on a series for Terminal Sound Nuisance. Sometimes, I feel like an astronaut getting ready for his future journey into space, only I do not need as much cool technology and my journey is much less boring (I never got why people would even want to spend time in space, it looks like a snoozefest up there) although probably not as telegenic. As I prepped for Kids of the 90's, I realized that you could actually recognize and identify a lot of 90's punk records just by the looks of them. Of course, it is perfectly sensible if you take into consideration the evolution of trends and the aesthetic commonalities linked with a contextualized timeframe. But what I mean does not only have to do with covers, fonts or themes, but also with means of production. Technological advances certainly led to better, cleaner-looking productions in the following decades (even when some tried to look "vintage" and "authentic") but what really struck me is how amateurish, simple and even cheap a lot of 90's DIY punk records looked and felt. A mere sheet of paper printed on both sides and folded correctly was often good enough for the cover of an Ep. It was not all like that as you also had records with massive booklets with amazing drawings and lovely posters and everything, but for labels and bands with limited finances and logistics, you had to make do with what you had at your disposal in terms of material means. That's passion and dedication. This, in turn, resulted in a record that accurately reflected its conception and fabrication, as if the way it had been made and the efforts it took to do it were as visible and tangible as the object itself. Or maybe I have just had too much coffee this morning. Who knows. 

This 1998 split Lp reeks of this proper DIY spirit from the 90's, both in form and content. Despite its rather unsophisticated look, you can tell - even before actually listening to it - that much passion and a strong faith in the core values of punk-rock were involved in its making. If you have some kind of hippie gift and can feel vibrations, energies and whatnot, just place your hands above the cover, close your eyes, concentrate and you'll get my point. No Prejudice and Dischord were two Brazilian bands, from São Roque, in the state of São Paulo. Now, if you claim to be into punk and hardcore, sport the whole studded uniform and yet are unaware of the significance of São Paulo punk-rock, not only on a national level, and not even just on a continental one, but in the history of punk-rock as a whole, then do yourself a favour, get off instagram for a second and research some SP hardcore right now. If you can't be arsed, please leave your membership card on my desk before the end of the week. 

I cannot claim to be an expert in Brazilian punk, that would be far-fetched, but an incredible amount of bands, past and present, points to the direction of São Paulo, a monstrous industrial city that birthed Brazilian hardcore which I mean here as a genuine genre. No Prejudice and Dischord were not from SP itself, but from a nearby town, so I suspect they played in the big city quite often and the São Roque punk scene must have developed thanks to the impulse it provided. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there were hundreds of active punk bands (of all kinds) in the SP area during the 90's and to this day the punk dynamics inherent to the city are quite overwhelming. But let's get to the record, shall we? In fact, a mate of mine recommended this Lp to me arguing that it was "absolutely glorious and sloppy grindcore and crust recorded in a cave" so I obviously took the bait.

On the first side are No Prejudice. They were active during the late 90's and, all things considered, I think this first recording of theirs - from April, 1998 - rates as one of the sloppiest crust/grind records from the 90's that I own, which is no mean feat. In fact, I am not even sure the lads tuned up together or that they even cared to. It is all over the place, messy and sometimes you can tell that they play the wrong chords, if not the wrong songs, and I can imagine them looking at each other in bewilderment during a session that they must have rushed through for financial reasons. As for the production, the guitar is trebly and buried, the vocals and drums are too loud but the level of the bass is alright I guess. If you are wondering what NP sound like, just imagine an energetic and inept blend of vintage Rot, Agathocles and the great Discarga Violenta with over-the-top undecipherable vocals. And it is amazing! I bloody love it. Of course, I would not advise to play it to someone who is getting into punk or even into grindcore since the 19 songs are rough as a badger's arse and quite obnoxiously so. But NP is exactly my kind of primitive grindcore, very punky and hasty, with ridiculous dual vocals and a sense of urgency that is very similar to traditional Brazilian, Italian or Finnish hardcore. I realize that bands like NP will probably appeal to the punk, rather than the metal, side of the grindcore crowd and there were quite a lot of raw and primal grind bands like them in the 90's. Urgency and impact are two words that characterize well Brazilian hardcore so it should come as no surprise that there are still bands like this today in São Paulo (alright, maybe not as overtly messy but still). This is chaotically glorious and when I need to play some genuinely raw and disorderly fast punk music, I'd rather play NP than most of the current pseudo "raw punk" bands. It is to be noted that playing NP's side can also allow you to kick someone out of your flat without actually having to ask. Works all the time.

For all the stylistic sloppiness, NP were a very serious band and, although I am not sure the singers actually utter the words, the lyrics are political, short, honestly angry bursts against patriotism, police repression and scene elitism, and really that's exactly what I want from my grindcore. Following this split Lp, 1999 was a busy year for the band since NP appeared on a compilation Ep with three other fast Brazilian bands (Septicemia, Provocazione and Contraste Bizarro) and shared a split tape with Parental Advisory and an Ep with the mighty Rot on Absurd Records (the label of Rot's singer Marcelo).        

On the other side of the split are a band I am more familiar with, Dischord. If you expect any similarity with Dischord Records then be prepared to be sorely disappointed because the Brazilian Dischord were one of the few national bands standing for a punk genre crucial to the 90's: crust. I have no reasonable explanations for this surprising discrepancy, especially when one considers the vitality of the Brazilian punk scene and how attracted to fast aggressive music it has always been. So why so few crust bands? There were loads of noisy grindcore, fast thrash ones or metal-punk bands but very few all-out crust ones, no real Hiatus-y bands (let's just use them as a crust measuring stick for the sake of argument) and if Extreme Noise Terror and Disrupt can be said to have had a noticeable influence on 90's Brazilian hardcore, it was only to the extent that the borrowed elements fitted the grindcore caveat. Very good bands like Abuso Sonoro, Execradores or Amor, Protesto y Odio did have some crust-infused moments, but the only bands I can think of that went for gruff crust savagery were early Under Threat (that I have already raved about here) and Dischord. 

Dischord were a rather prolific São Roque band active between 1996 and 2002. Their first offerings were the rather rough '96 split tape with Rotten Sound (back when they were great) and '97 4-way split tape with Agathocles, Grossmember from Poland and the oddly-named Orchestral Pit's Cannibals from Russia on the quaint Oral Diarrhoea Records. Their side of the split Lp with NP was recorded during two sessions, one in April and the other in October of 1998, which accounts for some songs sounding crunchier and more powerful. Dischord played typically fast, pummeling dual vocal 90's cavemen crust (though Marcelo did all the "singing" parts on this recording) reminiscent of Hiatus, Disrupt and Amen. The production is raw but fits the genre perfectly, conferring the instruments a spontaneous, organic tone that I crave. For all I know, the band could have been working on the clock because there is a definite feel of urgency in the songs, in a "race against time" kind of way that reminds me of Namland at times. I like how aggressively upfront the vocals sound, a common trait in Brazilian hardcore, and how simple yet effective the songwriting is. The song "Dead nature" uses some spoken words done over the cavemen crust savagery and is a lovely nod toward Doom's "Means to an end". This is classic hyperbolic 90's crust done with a lot of heart and conviction.

The lyrics are in English on this record but Dischord mostly sang in Portuguese on their subsequent productions. If the genre they embraced can be thought to be raw and schematic (something I have no qualms about), the band certainly had a lot to say and were more political than most. The foldout includes a text from them which explains how their lyrics connect with each other and tackle subjects that are linked with one another shaping a global resistance to oppression. "Uma Guerra Entre Classes Pela Paz Entre Os Povos". Revolutionary crustcore for ya.

Following the Lp, Dischord relevantly did a split Ep with Under Threat and a split Lp with fellow gruff crusties Lies & Distrust from Czech in 1999. I suppose they made some meaningful contacts there because they went to record a full Ep, Fuck Copyrights, in 2000 for Insane Society Records and a split Ep with Čad in 2002.

This punk as fuck split Lp was released on Shit Records (you cannot make that up), which was Dischord's guitar player's label.

Weird choice for the labels... The pressing plant's? 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 8): Slaganfall / Scumbrigade "S/t" split 10'', 1998

If you were to list every Swedish hardcore punk bands active in the 90's, you would need a bloody long time. I am pretty sure that I could watch the director's cuts of the three episodes of The Lord the Rings, take a nap and call my gran, and you would still be working on it. Back when Terminal Sound Nuisance still had some subservient, toilful staff (the bastards all quit to pursue a career in "instagramming", whatever that means), I would ask one of these ungrateful subordinates to prepare an exhaustive memo while I focus on the actual thinking and writing. But these are hard times we live in and I sadly had to turn the blog into a one-man operation and sell the TSN ivory tower, the historical birthplace of this once flourishing business, in order to move into a much less respectable part of town... Oh dear, oh dear.  

But let's not wallow in melancholy. Today's record is an all-Swedish affair from 1998 with two bands I have a soft spot for, although they did not exactly change the world of punk (but then, few actually did). I wonder if there are still people playing this record almost twenty years after its release as I very rarely see Scumbrigade and especially Slaganfall being mentioned. When I did my selection for Kids of the 90's, this 10'' (a rather unusual format for a split record) was one of the first I picked, spontaneously, inexorably and rather pompously. Not because it is a classic record (it ain't) but because it illustrates what used to be a very common musical practice from the 90's to - roughly - the mid 00's: the application of dual male/female vocals to crusty hardcore/anarchopunk. I have already touched upon the subject when writing about Homomilitia and we have seen on numerous occasions that dual vocals (of whatever gender) was a common trait in 90's political punk music. However, the occurrence of having two bands from the same country both relying on the classic male/female vocal attack on the same record is rather rare, so this split appeared like an ideal choice for me to celebrate a custom that, if it has not vanished completely, has become scarce. 

Let's start with Slaganfall (they are actually the side A, although there was a misprint on the layout, another classic DIY punk tradition when it comes to split records). Sadly, I know very little about this band and could not find much on da internet. The record tells me that they were from Norsborg (a Stockholm suburb apparently) and that they were around between 1994 and 1997 but that's pretty much it. Slaganfall may have belonged to this category of bands that were important, active and relevant locally but did not really bother with recording or touring, which - judging from their six songs included on the 10'' - is a bit of a shame. This is, to my knowledge, the sole recording from the band, taken in 1997, and I haven't been able to determine if the members had played in other bands before or if they did after. So if you do know, my dear reader, please enlighten me.

It would be hyperbolic to claim that SA broke new grounds but what they did, they did very well and - more importantly in the frame of this series - in accordance with the aesthetics of their time. Although the dual male/female vocals is a practice that can be traced back to the golden era of British anarchopunk (Crass, DIRT, Chumba, Civilised Society? and so on), I would argue that Nausea was the real game-changer in terms of vocal tones and how they applied to dark, heavy, crusty hardcore. However, the actual structure of the vocal arrangement in practically every 90's crusty/anarcho bands with male/female vocals (namely the trade-off style), directly derived from the Extreme Noise Terror school (who had themselves borrowed it from early Antisect) more than Nausea's. All this to say that SA were completely in that alley, trade-off male/female vocals applied to fast and crusty hardcore punk. You can hear that they knew and loved their Swedish hardcore as the riffs clearly point in that direction but I would venture that they were probably more into Homomilitia, Excrement of War, Society Gang Rape and Jobbykrust (especially in Anna's voice) in terms of inspiration, intention and direction. The music is heavy, has thickness, without being too clean, and sounds really powerful with a crunchy metallic texture that goes well with the very punky vibe of the songwriting. Simple but effective, heavy and dynamic, angry and honest crusty anarchopunk with a 90's scandicore vibe and lyrics about male violence, feminism, class hatred and booze. Nothing earth-shattering for the genre but very few bands did it as potently. "I am the boozer, you're nothing - a loser."

On the other side are Scumbrigade, a band that was significantly more famous than Slaganfall and definitely more prolific. They even toured the States in 2000 and if that does not symbolize accomplishment, I don't what does. SC were a Stockholm-based band active in the late 90's/early 00's and this split 10'' was actually their first release with six songs recorded in October, 1997. I distinctly remember ordering the tape discography in 2003 (along with tapes from Amen, Battle of Disarm and A//Political) from some distro solely because I loved the name "Scumbrigade" and I could not imagine a bad band with a cool name like this (needless to say this way of reasoning led me to some bitter disappointments in the years that were to come). And I was not wrong, SB were really enjoyable and matched my expectations at the time: fast as fuck dual vocal crusty hardcore with political lyrics. The undeniable plus was that they sounded kinda frantic and even sloppy at times which made them accessible and even more lovable to me.

I suppose SB are mostly remembered (if they are at all, I haven't done any survey) as this really fast crusty thrashcore band bordering on powerviolence and their early steps into the big wide world were already taking that direction, though the road was paved with shaky and decidedly crusty rocks. Although not deprived of elements typical of the 90's brand of fast hardcore (the characteristic breaks, the guitar riffs, the overall song conception...), the present songs have a crusty vibe reminiscent of the fastest specimens of the genre like Embittered, Excrement of War, State of Fear or Amen, and the aggressive, relentless dual vocal attack further reinforces that impression. Fast hardcore recipe with crust ingredients? Works for me. The harshness of Tekla's voice - which reminds me of Mags from EOW or Agnes from Homomilitia - certainly gives the songs a raspy angry edge and a feel of urgency that is hard to top which balance well with Love's breathless hardcore shouts. The structure of the songs follows the traditional pattern of "all-out fast thrash followed by groovy hardcore breaks you can dance to" and I suppose SB was this kind of bands that, musically, could be pleasing to hardcore and crusty crowds alike (assuming such distinctions were relevant at all then and there, context is everything). The production here is a bit rough which gives SB's side a raw hardcore feel that can be thought to fit well with their very fast, manic approach (but one cannot help but notice the discrepancy with SA's sound). Aesthetically and lyrically, SB were rooted in the radical politics of 90's anarchopunk with songs about compulsory heterosexuality, antifascism, the alienating nature of beauty canons or squatting as a means to resist capitalistic notions of ownership. 

SB went on to release more furious materials, with split Ep's with Ens and Tolshock and a full Lp, Negative Hardcore Destructive Youth, in 2000. Following the demise of the band, singer Love formed Skitkids, bass player Peter played in Sista Civilisationens Död, Audionom and - later on - in Skitkids and Herätys, while guitarist Jocke (who was also a part of Yuppiecrusher and Diaspora when he was in Scumbrigade) did some time with Life's a Riot! and War of Words. 

This split 10'' was released on Död & Uppsvälld Productions, a label run by members of SB that also put out materials from Muckspreader and Totalitär.        


Monday, 20 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 7): Proyecto Terror / Denak "Hagamos del punk una amenaza / Estado de bienestar" split Ep, 1996

Grindcore. Without a shadow of a doubt the punk subgenre my neighbours like the least (judging from their hopeless moaning whenever I play some at home). And fair enough, after all it did take me a few years to get into it and even so I have always very picky about my grindcore. Ironically enough, a lot of the earliest punk gigs I went to were of the grindcore variety and I learnt about the very existence of the genre on the spot. Needless to say that 17 year old me was completely unprepared to be exposed to cavemen growls and blasting hardcore. At that time I was much more interested in spiky punk-rock and I just did not understand the connection between the two although I was told that grindcore was also "punk-rock", a statement that deeply confused me at the time. But the thing was that, if you were a Paris punk kid between 1999 and 2002, you would obviously go to the Squat du 13, a brilliant venue with brilliant people that hosted an insane amount of punk gigs of all kinds, but especially grindcore bands. In fact, you could argue that this squat was perhaps the best grindcore place at that time, anywhere. 

As for me, even if I did go to the gigs, I did not always actually watch them. In fact, I would often hang out in the yard drinking beers with my punker-than-punk mates, all wishing there was at least one streetpunk band on the bill in lieu of all these bizarrely-named "hardcore-grind-crust-whatever" bands like Cripple Bastards, From Ashes Rise or Denak indeed. We were young fools and I try not to think about all the great bands that were playing a few meters away from us and that I could have seen if I had made the effort to open my mind instead of being a juvenile wanker with a crush on mediocre oi-punk. Oh well, you grow and you learn. 

I realize we haven't been to Spain very often on Terminal Sound Nuisance and the reason is pretty plain. I certainly enjoy some Spanish bands but I suppose I am just not well versed enough to be able to write relevantly about it. But then, there is Proyecto Terror and I absolutely love this band as they sound exactly (and I mean EXACTLY) how I want my grinding crust to sound: simple, raw, direct, aggressive, obnoxious and punky. No technical bollocks, no cheesy metal moments, no constipated grunts and no falsely provocative "fun" lyrics about penises and excrements. 

PT were from Zaragoza and they were active between 1992 and 1997 which locates them at the historical heart of the eurocrust wave. Apparently, the band originally started as a side-project that was formed because Psychotic Noise were playing in Zaragoza and some kind of grindy, noisy band was needed to support them and the boys seized the opportunity (the first bass player Kike and singer Avellano were already in Bastardos del Metal together at that time). Now, that's what I called a proper DIY spirit. I am not sure which of the split with Denak or the one with Violent Headache was released first (the former was recorded in April, 1996 but I have no date for the latter) but both saw the light of day during the same year, in 1996. PT did not have a demo from what I can gather although there is a pretty rough cavemen grindcore rehearsal recording from 1993 included on their Shitcography cd with deliciously gruff covers of Doom, Disrupt, Extreme Noise Terror and Napalm Death (just in case you still hadn't figured out how this band with "Terror" in their name sounded like). 

The six PT songs on this self-released split were actually part of a longer recording session (eight more songs from the session can be found on the aforementioned cd) and are my favourite from them. I suppose you could claim that PT was pretty much the crustiest band in Spain in the mid-90's, although they definitely had a strong grindcore edge too (possibly because there were quite a few excellent grind acts at that time over there). Blend the early days of Disrupt and ENT, without forgetting to add a spoonful of Extreme Noise Error for some crusty sloppiness, and then soak it in a raw grindcore marinade made out of early Napalm Death, Rot, Agathocles, Violent Headache and Terrorizer. The music is highly dynamic, fast, aggressive with two growling singers who sound so over-the-top (and enjoying it) that it is just perfect. The "production" is as it should be for the eurocrust genre, crunchy, raw and energy-oriented. 

The split with the mighty Violent Headache on Mala Raza also comes recommended (with both bands covering each other) but I prefer the thick sound of the collaboration with Denak. PT's lyrics were of a political nature ("Machicidio" is about sexism, "USA" about imperialism) but they also had a tongue-in-cheek side with pisstakes about Kurt Cobain and punk fashions. Sounds good to me. Following the split of the band, and among other things, Avellano kept singing in the thoroughly enjoyable Mobcharge, Konguito played in Fuerza Para Vivir, Kike in KBKS,  Dani in Criatura and Raul in Manolo Kabezabolo y Los ke se Van del Bolo (quite an albatross of a name).  

On the other side are Denak, a grindcore band from Madrid that is actually well-respected in "da scene". Denak is a perfect example of a top band I could have seen in 2001 (when they played with Cripple Bastards at the Squat du 13 in Paris) but probably did not because I was busy boozing before the venue, probably discussing the merits of Oxymoron's first album... I have no precise recollection of most of the gigs I went to at that time (unless there was actually a band I wanted to see, which also happened fortunately) but I do remember distinctly a slightly older, and thus infinitely wiser, punk - who happened to be a grindcore convert - telling me that Denak were, to him, currently, the best grind band in the world. That was quite a statement and although I still did not bother checking them out before a long time, credulous me remembered his words, so much so that, to this day, Denak will always be a band that holds an aura of awe for me. 

I am not a Denak (or grindcore) expert but I understand the members were heavily involved in the DIY punk scene and its grindcore subdivision in the 90's. Iñaki and Gerardo also ran Upground records, a grind label that put out materials from Rot, Cripple Bastards as well as a tape compilation in 1995 entitled Reality Shows that included Violent Headache, Carcass Grinder, Patareni and... Proyecto Terror. Denak formed in 1994 but the split with PT corresponded, I think, to their first proper recording session from May, 1996 (their songs on the split with the delicately-named Excreted Alive were from the same session) although they appeared on compilations in 1995 so I guess there must have been some kind of demos or rehearsal recordings prior to '96 too. But this is early Denak we're dealing with here. 

If Proyecto Terror epitomized what I mean with grinding crust, Denak exemplified crusty grindcore (you may scoff all you like, there is a distinction, in my head at least, it is a matter of intentionality, shape and balance). The five Denak songs on the split are beefy, heavy, raw and, most of all, very punky. The songwriting is direct and clearly old-school oriented, which is fairly logical considering the timeframe. This is my type of grindcore: primitive, effective and groovy. They also rely on dual vocal orthodoxy but with tones and flows that are different to PT's and meaningfully illustrate the stylistic divergence between crust and grind. I am reminded of Terrorizer, Rot, Disassociate, Agathocles, Warsore and Violent Headache and that is no bad thing. Grindcore glory in all its tasteful simplicity. Denak were a pretty serious band as well with lyrics about the daily grind, alienation and keeping it angry.