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. 


Monday, 13 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 6): Mindsuck / Unarmed split Ep, 1996

Next saturday, Reality Crisis are playing the 1in12 Club with Doom, Sedition and Anti-System. This is normally the kind of memorable gig I would be the first in line to go to but fate (also called "employment") decided otherwise and instead of having a great time in Bradford, I will be selling bloody kiddies' books all day, basically trading a beloved form of aural racket for a much less enjoyable - albeit about as noisy - one. Believe me, the level of chaos produced by children playing with sound books (the one with the farm animals is particularly frightening) can put to shame most punk bands. If you listen carefully, I am sure you can hear my heart bleeding from where you are... But anyway, despite my bitter disappointment, I have been thinking about Reality Crisis lately, a band that, for some unfathomable reason, I had never really bothered digging into. So the time to correct this mistake could not be more right (and more hurtful) and today's chapter of my 90's split records series is going to deal with a rather little-known pre-Reality Crisis band: Mindsuck. 

To tell you the truth, the internet is not exactly ripe with details about Mindsuck and although I had already picked this record for Kids of the 90's, I was not entirely sure that the band was actually connected to Reality Crisis. Fortunately for me, I could ask some reputable punk nerds about it (it was not that difficult, Japanese punk music being of course a traditional field for dedicated geeks, so much so that I often wondered if you actually had to be classically trained in Japanese punk-rock in order to reach proper punk nerd status) and they kindly confirmed that, indeed, MS shared three members with RC: Daisuke on vocals, Shintaro on the bass and Eishiro on the drums (though he was not part of the very first RC lineup, he was in charge of the mighty D on the Deformed Society Ep, the split with Avskum and the first album from 2003). So I humbly thank Luc, Zach, Tom and Takeshi for their help. 

MD were from Nagoya but the date of formation is unclear (I'd say 1995 but I could be wrong). There is no practical information about the band itself on the insert, apart from a thank list that is still useful if you are into guessing games. This split Ep with Unarmed was released in October, 1996, on MCR Company, so it is relatively safe to assume that the five MS songs were recorded earlier that year. The band had already appeared on an MCR production though, on the Natural Crust & Punk Force compilation Ep, which they shared with Order and the Nausea-loving Mental Disease, released in February, 1996 (I sadly do not own the record so I am unable to tell you much about it other than it has a pretty funny cover). MS were also included on the Punk and Destroy vol. 4 VHS and you can actually watch their intense performance on youtube if you're so inclined (and why wouldn't you be?). These festivals, organized by members of CFDL and SDS, took place in the early/mid 90's at a Nagoya venue called Huck Finn and the volume 4 also included Abraham Cross, Iconoclast, CFDL and Defiance which is a star lineup if you ask me. Since the venue, the promoters and Punk & Destroy itself are all listed in the thank list, it is safe to assume that MS played the festival before the release of the split Ep (in '95 or '96 I suppose, I could not find the date). I know, I know, I am being picky but I like to know these things. 

The band did leave a rather clear message as to where they stood in terms of influence and intent with a highly referential slogan right in the middle of the insert: "Rags noise crust". Now, as I mentioned in the Japanese Crust vs the World series, the "rags" analogy was started by the mighty Acid and perpetuated by Gloom (and others). So the fact that MS referred to the ragscore tradition while slightly altering it lexically (from "Speed noise core rags" to "rags noise crust") gives you a significant idea about their artistic stance and also places them purposely in the historical narrative of Japanese crust. But let me rephrase that: noisy crust with gruff vocals. Quite typical of this brand of Japanese cavemen crust pioneered by Macrofarge with a huge early Doom influence (the importance of the band in Japanese crust music and aesthetics cannot be overstated) in the riffs, beats and especially in the vocals which sound impressively like Jon Doom's (the work on the flow, the accentuation and the tone is amazing). Abraham Cross, in terms of intent, are definitely another major point of reference, although MS were not quite as powerful and thunderous and Sore Throatish and sounded more minimalistic and stripped down. The songs on the Ep also significantly have two layers of guitar, one that is Doom/Discard inclined while the other sounds completely distorted and overblown. This crust-marries-noisepunk technique was also used by Gloom and I would argue that MS certainly looked in that direction when they were thinking about their sound texture, especially with the presence of a very upfront crunchy bass sound that leads the charge.

The early period of RC is really not unlike MS as the three songs from Chaos of destruction 3xLp compilation show (they are even rawer actually) and the permeating, almost cosmogonic in a structural sense, Doom influence was still to be felt heavily on Deformed Society and the Let's dance to the mass of sound '99 tape. 

I think I've seen this picture before...

If this first side of oblivious cavemen ragscrust did not scare you away, let's get to the other one with a band from Sweden, Unarmed (not to be confused with Tokyo's Unarm), that were about as subtle and neanderthalian as their Japanese partners. If there was little intel about Mindsuck, Unarmed appear to be even less documented. In fact, apart from their city of origins (Färjestaden, a small city on an island at the South West of the country), I could not find anything. But after repeated listens, I could not shake the feeling that I had heard these vocals in another band. I know that most people find 90's crust, and especially its cavemen persona, to be generic and that gruff bearlike growls sound like just any other gruff bearlike growls. But people are wrong (oh yes, they are) as there is a fine art to crust vocalization, and even the smallest variations can turn your perfectly unintelligible orthodox crust warcry into a magical moment or, on the contrary, make them fall completely flat and tedious. It is a tough game. 

And then, in a moment of epiphanic fulgurance, it struck me: 3 Way Cum. Unarmed's singer had exactly the same voice as 3 Way Cum's - the one with the low voice - on their last Ep The Last Cumshot, which is incidentally one of the best Swedish crust records ever (and I stand strongly by that statement, first because it is the truth and second because I have already raved about this very record on the blog). I checked the names of the bands' participants and indeed, Joppe sang in both and EA also played the bass in 3WC (the two of them were in the last lineup of the band, before they split up in 1997). It is plausible that Joppe and EA were already playing in Unarmed before they were asked to join 3WC since the four songs included on this split Ep were recorded in February, 1996, but since EA played both the drums and the guitar on this particular recording, Unarmed may have only been some kind of studio project initially. 

Listening conjointly to Unarmed and late 3 Way Cum makes a lot of sense as it helps one understand where the massive crust influence on The Last Cumshot came from. Unarmed were actually even crustier and more primitive. If there were strong Swedish hardcore influences in late 3WC, Unarmed's sound was more basic and direct, almost atavistically cavecrust with some of the gruffest vocals - without ever sounding like the source is constipated or just cheesily trying too hard - I have ever heard. Absolutely brutal. The first three songs are quite generic for the genre (and I am saying lovingly) with a heavy guitar sound unleashing slightly metallic riffs, a punishing dischargy beat, the expectedly groovy Swedish songwriting flair and a raw production, somewhere between early Sauna, Warcollapse and early Sarcasm. But the real gem here is the last song, "As mankind dies", a slow-paced apocalyptic number with a dark guitar tune which perfectly fits the scorching vocals and I wished they had written more songs like this one.

Unarmed recorded four songs - with different members on the bass and guitars - for a second split Ep released the next year, in 1997, this time with Czech/Polish cavemen crust warriors How Long?, on Insane Society Records. Unsurprisingly, these new tracks were very much in the same spirit, though lacking a little in the crunch power department because of a rather thin raw sound (but perhaps that was the idea). 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 5): Money Drug / Wind of Pain "Stanowczo Dość! / Untitled" split Ep, 1995

How should crust really sound? And I mean this literally. What type of sound should a lover of crust be entitled to expect? Of course, you could just deflect the question and argue that everything is subjective, a matter of personal tastes and of how they have been moulded and forged in a specific context informed by time, place and identity. But then, you could pretty much say the exact same statement about anything, with variations in the amount of pseudo academic veneer you want to embellish your dazzling intellect with. 

I remember having a conversation with a younger punk who was - allegedly - heavily into crust music a few years ago and since it has become a rare occurrence where I live, let's say I was rather pleased. The fellow was telling me that he loved Disrupt but could only listen to Unrest and the split with Sauna because the rest was too poorly played and recorded for him. Similarly, he only was into the Axegrinder album but could never listen to Grind the Enemy in its entirety because of the same issue. I tried to argue with him that, given the context of production of both bands, it was logical and unavoidable that their early works sounded a bit rough, that it was part of the deal and that you should be expecting and embracing it. But he would not budge, maintaining that the massively produced sound of acts like Wolfbrigade or Hellshock was what he was looking for in crust, it was his personal expectation and even if it meant discarding context, it was a valid one. Clearly, our points of reference differed but it still made me think about the concept of expectation when applied to crust music (oddly, a subject matter rarely touched upon by current philosophers). When "neocrust" was all the rage in the mid-00's, a mate of mine jokingly came up with the term "crust de salon" (which you could translate roughly as "lounge crust") in order to differentiate it from the more old-school form of savage crust which he called "crust des bois" ("crust from the woods" basically, though the term could now mistakingly be applied to so-called "blackened crust" so I feel the phrase "cavemen crust" is more relevant and, well, funnier). It sounds a bit silly now but it was certainly a useful tool to talk about crust music. And it did not only have to do with sound production either. After all, Massgrave always have a good sound but are inherently cavemen crust while you can very well have a lounge crust band with a cheap trebly production (out of decency I shan't give any names here). 

But anyway, and to get back on tracks, when I am in the mood for 90's crust or when I am doing researches about it, I have specific expectations. It does not mean I am going to dismiss a crust band who tried something different (like Counterblast or Contropotere) and there were bands that certainly surpassed my expectations (like Hiatus or Warcollapse). But I have a certain fondness for the typical crust bands and records and how, from a broader perspective, they reflect upon this crust wave globally. Typical is - ironically - pretty fucking great. But again, your expectations might be different from mine. The Money Drug/Wind of Pain split Ep is a typical 90's crust record, in the noblest sense of the term. Be warned that we are deep into cavemen crust punk territory but then, this is exactly what you should be expecting.       

Money Drug were from Gdańsk, Northern Poland and were active in the mid-90's (between 1995 and 1997 I suppose). As I mentioned in the post about Homomilitia, Poland was ripe with ace crust and anarcho bands at that time and the level of quality and inspiration that they achieved was genuinely impressive. Was MD one of the best of them? Well, actually, solely judging from the four songs on this Ep anyway, they were not. It does not mean I do not enjoy them (because I really do), however, from my own retrospective point of view, that of an outsider, I feel the main interest in the band's legacy is how deliciously typical of eurocrust they sounded like. I suppose the very name of the band almost gives the game away, "Money drug" being the title of a Doom song (you could almost make a compilation with bands named after Doom songs nowadays), although I guess they could have more relevantly gone for an Extreme Noise Terror one since MD fall in the grand category of "dual vocal savage cavemen crust" (and yes I have got a copyright on this so don't you dare nick it).

Although now - sadly - an almost extinct genre, savage dual vocal crustcore was a bit of an olympic punk discipline. Almost every country had its own representative of the style, as if having one was in the official punk ckecklist. As I mentioned, MD were not the most gifted Polish crust band but they were the ones that absolutely fitted the dual vocal crust template the most. Early ENT and Disrupt obviously come to mind (they covered both at gigs), but I am also thinking about Embittered and Amen (especially for the sloppy over-the-top gruff vibe), Subcaos, Namland, Under-Threat and Excrement of War (which they incidentally also covered). If you are into this typical 90's crust sound (and why shouldn't you, it always goes down a storm at wedding parties), these four songs recorded in March, 1995, will put a wide smile on your face. The recording is raw and the playing is sometimes all over the place but that is exactly why I like it. The songs are energetic, fast and angry, with riffs respectfully borrowed from ENT and even an attempt at a Cimex solo (I think!). The real hit on MD's side is "Stanowczo Dość!" (meaning "Enough is enough") with its cracking overcrust mid-paced break in the middle of the song. That's exactly how it is done. I often find myself lamenting the disappearance of this once glorious genre (usually when I have had one too many at the pub, it does not always end with me standing up on the counter to encourage people to play cavemen crust but it did happen a couple of times) and listening to MD further reinforces this feeling of deep loss. The lyrics are of a political nature with songs against nationalism, police brutality and bad punx.

From what I can gather, the band was really active in the scene locally and all the members also played, albeit on different instruments, in Stench of Death, a much more crossover metal-punk affair (there is actually a split live tape from '97 between Money Drug and Stench of Death). Never too busy, some members of MD/SOD also teamed up with people from the criminally underrated metallic crust band Enough! (also from Gdańsk) to create one of the best old-school crust bands ever, Filth of Mankind, who also preserved the great tradition of naming your band after another band's song in the process.

On the other side of the split are Wind of Pain, a band from Helsinki who also took another band's song as its name (in this case Bastard) and therefore earned its place on this record. I am what you could call pretty big on WOP. I cannot recall exactly when I first heard them but the name was already familiar when I eventually did by ordering the Mutilate Mankind cd, a record I still regularly play. WOP belongs to that category of great 90's bands with a rather decent discography and a respectable lifespan (they played from 1993 to 2000) that unfairly sank into obscurity. And inexplicably too, since their crushing and accurate late Anti-Cimex worship on their Warpain Explotion tape should have ensured them some kind of cult status. Oh well, the ways of punk-rock are sometimes impenetrable.

WOP's members were certainly busy bees. Bassist Lalli also played in Força Macabra and Uutuus, while guitarist Samppa - who did VMKT in 1990 with Lalli - played in Rytmihäiriö with drummer Otto who also played in Força Macabra with Lalli and, as for singer Edu, he sang for Amen as well. Easy-peasy, right? But anyway, as I mentioned, the band's early stages could be described as a most tasteful and crunchy take on the post '86 Cimex sound, especially in the songs' beefiness, aggression and the intonations of the vocal work. Warpain Explotion (yes, with a "t") would deserve its own write-up so I will stop here but it is definitely a top-shelf recording (or recordings to be precise, since it was done during two different sessions, in '93 and '94) if you are crazy about Anti-Cimex (and how could you not be?). In March '95, WOP went back in the studio and recorded six songs, three of which landed on a split Ep with Kaaos-lovers Sian Iho and three on this split with Money Drug. The band kept that metallic Cimexish hardcore basis but expanded their musical additions with some No Security/Totalitär riffing, an early Swedish crust vibe not unlike Warcollapse or Uncurbed and some mid-90's Doom/Hiatus gruff power. WOP were particularly good at blending savagely crustified Swedish hardcore with crunchy, groovy but raw metallic parts (the song "Blindfold" is a prime example of this specific skill). Another superpower they had consisted in writing gruff and rocking Dischargy mid-paced anthem in the vein of "The more I see" like "Reality" on the present record. They always just worked. The production on the split Ep is pretty raw but everything is rather well balanced and you can feel the aggression and the intensity of the songs perfectly. The desperate-sounding vocals confer a darkly threatening vibe and are certainly a very strong point.

In 1996, WOP underwent some lineup changes with new members on the bass and guitar which coincided with a significant shift not only in terms of songwriting but also of sound textures. The State of Brutality and Wealthrevel Ep's were much tighter, more metallic affairs with a darker sound that emphasized the band's new ideas. While still building on the same Swedish influences, the metal injection gave the band more focus (despite a rather flat production sometimes) and room for musicianship, perhaps not unlike Wolfpack or Driller Killer, although you could also argue that they lost the raw hardcore power of their early recordings in the process (I am still personally undecided as I like both periods but for different reasons). WOP's last record was the 1999 Worldmachine Lp which is my least favourite work from them (but then, too much death-metal riffing incorporated to a hardcore punk basis always loses me).       

The Money Drug/Wind of Pain split Ep was released on Gdańsk-based Scream Records and it has the vintage look of a genuine DIY punk record from the 90's with the traditional foldout cover and cut'n'paste aesthetics. If one day some random stranger asks you about eurocrust typicality in the 90's (let's just assume it can occur) and he just happens to have a very bad breath, then this record might very well save you from a tedious conversation. Lovingly typical.    

I must admit that "Drunk punk uncle productions" is pretty hilarious. Good one.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 4): Crocodileskink / No Security split Ep, 1995

This Ep almost made it to last year's Japanese Crust vs The World series. After days of intense meditation, self-doubt and olympic chain-smoking, I finally decided to consult the family astrologist, who assured me that, should I decide to leave this record out this time, the future shall grace me with another opportunity to rave about Crocodileskink and No Security. I went home with a lighter heart and wallet and wisely chose to wait. Until now.

In the grand History of punk names, Crocodileskink will certainly be remembered as a rather perplexing one. Before I did some research about this Ep (as you know, knowledge is never innate but a lifelong process, never trust those that are too imperious and peremptory about punk as arrogance often goes hand in hand with ignorance), I did not have a clue about the meaning behind the moniker, which is not to say that it is completely clear now to be honest. At some point, I had even thought that the word "skink" could be a blend between "skin" and "punk" (I blame this poor theory on my oi musical upbringing and mediocre knowledge in biology) and that, therefore, "crocodile skink" might imply some sort of half-punk, half-skinhead crocodilian, which is a pretty fucking terrifying concept. But in fact, a skink is some kind of lizard with short or absent limbs that likes burrowing in sandy ground. So basically, a crocodile skink would be a crocodile with the aforementioned attributes of a skink (judging from the youtube tutorials, they are apparently a real thing). I suppose it is better than my previous theory but it still is highly confusing. Could it figuratively suggest powerlessness and helplessness since a croc without limbs would have a pretty hard time hunting and moving without looking absolutely ridiculous? Are we all crocodile skinks, unable to live and merely surviving because we have been socially deprived of our limbs/capacities? Or was someone in Crocodileskink studying and breeding weird reptiles when the band was active? I guess we will never know. 

But anyway, Crocodileskink were a Tokyo band active from 1990 to 1997 who were part of the 90's Japanese crust wave. Twenty years after they stopped playing, their legacy is quite hard to establish since they are rarely discussed or even mentioned, contrary to a lot of their local contemporaries with whom they shared records like Battle of Disarm, Abraham Cross or even Collapse Society (but I suspect this has something to do with their name since sporting a Crocodileskink shirt and still look serious is a challenge that only elite-level punks can really accept). Arguably, the band is best remembered for the work of its bass player Shige who ran Asia Records and later on Tribal War Asia and released some brilliant records throughout the years. 

CS did not start as a crust band though. As their earlier recordings, the '91 War Compilation recording session and their self-titled Ep from 1992, showed, they originally were in full on Japanese hardcore mode. If the band always kept elements from the national brand of hard-hitting hardcore (there is a triumphant, relentless vibe in the songwriting), they still moved steadily in a crustier direction. The three CS songs included on the smashing Animal Rights Tape released on DIY Records in 1993 (with an impressive lineup that also had Dropdead, Disclose and Hakuchi among others) showed a strong distorted Swedish hardcore vibe with a heavy caveman crust sound and some Japanese hardcore techniques thrown in for good measures, like Shitlickers making out with Doom and Crow at the same party. And I suppose that's exactly why CS work so well for me. I am appreciative of Japanese hardcore but I cannot be said to be a massive fan of the genre (yes, you may scoff, sneer and shout abuse) so that I like it to be smoothly blended with Doom-type Scandicrust for me to properly relate to it. 

The next CS vinyl contribution was on the rather glorious Tokyo Crusties compilation Ep with two songs (though I am pretty sure they were part of a longer session) that reinforced the band's position at the crossroad between England, Sweden and Japan. The band's subsequent work, the split Ep with No Security on DIY Records, can be seen as their most remarkable as far as the aforementioned punk cocktail is concerned. Taking the groovy, gruff sound and vocal style of early Doom, Hiatus or indeed the mighty Macrofage (if anything, CS were probably a Macrofarge-type band) and energizing it with over the top Japanese hardcore arrangements (like Bastard and the likes) and ripping Scandicore, the band found a very convincing compromise that could appeal to everyone (in a manner of speaking, my dad does remain utterly unmoved to this day). The recording is pretty raw but I do feel it makes the songs sound closer to mid-90's crust, which is a prerequisite for the genre and this series. 

Following this Ep, CS appeared on a split Ep with Força Macabra in 1997 with a more Swedish feel (very Crude SSey) that would be further dvelopped on Kawakami's titanic Chaos of Destruction 3xLp compilation to which the band contributed three absolutely crushing songs. CS' final appearance (their cd discography notwithstanding) would be on Tribal War Asia's Crust Night 2001 with two covers, one of them being a No Security song, which makes for a pretty amazing transition, I think we can all agree on that.

No Security is actually one of the first 80's Swedish hardcore bands I really got into, along with Mob 47, Anti-Cimex and Avskum. The reason was actually pretty simple as I just bought a NS tape at an emo gig (please, don't ask) about 15 years ago (I bought Stockholm Hardcore 1983-1986 and a tape with Mob 47 and Asocial demos on that gig so you could say that it was a great night despite the music...), namely When the Gist is Sucked from the Fruit of Welfare, basically a bootleg tape version of the Lost and Found cd discography (but I did not know that at the time). I was aware that the band had shared a split Lp with Doom but what really prompted me to pick the tape was the fact that "No security" was the name of a Chaos UK song, so I figured that the band logically had to sound a bit like Doom and Chaos UK. That's deductive reasoning for ya. Funnily enough, if NS were named after a Chaos UK song, Masskontroll were named after a NS song. And, wait for it, wait for it, Winds of Genocide are named after a Masskontroll song. This kind of referential lexical chains always amuse me, although I honestly doubt this one will go further unless a band chooses phrases like "In the darkness of eternal nuclear winter" or "The howling wolves of armageddon" as a name. But what do I know? After all, it is only 2017 and who knows what kids will be into in 2037? 

NS formed in late 1985 in Eskilstuna (halfway between Örebro and Stockholm according to the map) but I am unclear as to the time of death. Their latest recording dates back from May, 1993 but they may have been active afterwards. I cannot claim to be a well of knowledge in terms of 80's Swedish punk (though I am able to hold a decent conversation about it) so chronological categorizations are a bit tricky and potentially irrelevant, but there you go, a life without making wild guesses about punk-rock just doesn't seem worth living. I guess you could view NS as being a second-generation Swedish hardcore band, along with bands like Totalitär, Raped Teenagers, Rövsvett or Svart Snö, basically acts that were active and recorded during the second part of the decade. I suppose NS are still very much revered among the proper Scandicore nerds (no need to raise your hand, we know who you are), but contrary to Totalitär, who have significantly become synonymous with what Swedish hardcore should sound like (I have always seen Anti-Cimex as being in a league of their own so let's dismiss them for the sake of argument here), they do not seem to be as sought after or discussed. Yet, from the perspective of quality and consistency, I would argue that NS epitomize Swedish hardcore just as meaningfully as Totalitär. Energy, speed, pummeling beats rooted in Discharge's realms of influence, fantastically catchy riffs, fast aggressive vocals with a very specific flow, raw but powerful sound... all these genre-defining elements were condensed in NS' music. Perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that I definitely overplayed my tape and have unconsciously expected every self-proclaimed käng band to sound like them, but you cannot take away the fact that songs like "Hycklarfolket" (with its Disarm-like tuneful chorus), "Liberta" or "Jag bara frågar" (a crash course in threatening hardcore vocals) are absolute scorchers. 

I am not going to delve too much into the band's discography and try to focus on the period at stake. The three songs from the split Ep with Crocodileskink were actually recorded in December, 1990, as part of a longer recording session that had seven songs in total (according to my tape anyway). And that's where it gets a little confusing, because even though this split Ep saw the light of day in 1995, these three songs already appeared on the 1993 cd version of When the Gist... I cannot be sure but I do sense some of the proverbial Lost and Found dodginess in all of this, especially since the band states in the foldout that "these tracks can also be found on a full length album later" (which would never happen, sadly). But let's get back to the actual songs on the Ep that were recorded just six months after the brilliant split Lp with Valvontakommissio (possibly my favourite NS record). They are perhaps a little more guitar-oriented and rawer but every bit as furious and raging. The vocals sound so hoarse, pissed and threatening. The riff in "Politikernas misstag" is exactly what I want from the genre and why I love it and the rockier vibe of "Kollaps" is a prime example of how to infuse heavy rock elements into your hardcore (I am very picky about this particular aspect). And man, these vocals... It's like the singer is actually grabbing you by the collar (or the bandana for that matter), so close that you can see (and feel) the droplets of spit flying from his mouth... Genuinely crucial hardcore here. 

It would be long and probably too tedious a read to list the activities of the members outside NS but drummer Jallo has played throughout the years, in one spot or another, in some of the most influential Swedish hardcore bands like Totalitär, Meanwhile, Disfear or Krigshot (without mentioning his label Finn Records). And it would be difficult not to mention that the singer Harri went on to play the guitar in Kent, a band that - apparently - is considered as "the most popular rock/pop group within Sweden and throughout Scandinavia." Well, I certainly did not see that one coming! 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 3): Disclose / Homomilitia "Attack the enemy / Milczenie = Śmierć" split Ep 1995

This split was a pretty obvious choice if you keep in mind what the overarching trope of this series is all about. You could always argue that the record was neither Disclose nor Homomilitia's best mid-90's offering and fair enough, it may not. However, in terms of historiographical relevance and from a diachronic standpoint, it seemed impossible not to tackle a Disclose record and a dual male/female vocal eurocrust band. Perhaps the combination of both bands and what it entails contextually matters more than the actual songs in this case, which is not to discard the text at the sole benefit of context, of course, since both must be read in the light of one another. 

But enough academic chit-chat and let's start with Disclose then. I already wrote extensively about Kawakami's art and vision in The Chronicles of Dis last year, although the record in question corresponded to another creative era for the band (namely their 00's "Disbones" period). The songs included on today's record are a different animal and anyone telling you that Disclose were always a one-trick pony are either intellectually deaf or actually looking for a fight (the way you chose to respond to such provocations is completely up to you). 

Kawakami playing to an audience made up of bewildered plaid shirts

The three tracks that make the Attack the enemy side of the split belong to the so-called Swedish era of Disclose that culminated in the release of the Great Swedish Feast 10'' in 1995 (a tribute to Swedish hardcore). Interestingly, Attack the enemy was recorded during the same session, at Grave New Studio (you just can't make that up) in March '95, as the aforementioned love letter to Scandinavia, the split with Cluster Bomb Unit, the compilation tracks that appeared on Damn the control and Kamikaze attacked America and the B-side of the Visions of war Ep, with chef d'orchestre and Discharge mythologist Kawakami on the guitar, Fukugama on the bass and Iro beating the D. I strongly recommend listening to the 19 songs of this recording session in a row (the first cd of the Raw brutal assault Vol.2 comes pretty handy for that) since not only will it give you a meaningful sense of what Disclose were up to at this moment in time, but it will also offer you an idea of what they were trying to achieve and illustrate how rather similar songs can be played differently - through sound setting, guitar textures, actual technique and whatever Kawakami had in his bag of Dis-tricks - in order to create a different vibe. It also raises the question of song selection. Disclose were a prolific bunch with a lot of planned appearances on vinyl and even though I am not enough of a Disclose buff to be familiar with their selection process, I sense that they certainly gave it some thoughts, as can be noticed on Attack the enemy.

The first song, "Pollution of development", is actually quite unusual for Disclose. It is a two and a half minute long song which was a bit of an oddity for the band whose songs - their longer mid-paced dischargy number notwithstanding - very seldom reached the two minute mark. In fact, even the riffs themselves sound a little at odds with what they did then. They are... rockier. I think the truth could be unveiled in the crunchy break that happens about halfway through the song and is quite reminiscent of later Anti-Cimex. Since Kawakami knew exactly what he was doing, there is a high chance that this particular number was actually an "avalanche of distorted noise" take on the late Cimex sound which would account for its rocky vibe and length. Does it work? Well, not completely but it is subjective. I don't think that this brand of heavy and rocking Swedish hardcore can really benefit from the distortion treatment which works far better for short, sharp bursts of Discharge-informed hardcore. The two other songs, "Report of a gun" and "Attack the enemy", are one minute long each and are more typical mid-90's Disclose scorchers, early-Discharge-Discard-and-Shitlickers-crashes-into-a-wall-of-noise kinda sound. Aggressive riffs that fit perfectly together, brilliantly educated vocal flow, the whole thing is repetitive but never dull, on the contrary it is always very intense and the repetitiveness acts like a metaphor for the never-ending death march of our war-plagued world, like a key to comprehend the essence of the genre. And although it sounds simple, it is not. Simple is always more difficult (I'm feeling pretty fucking profound today). Is this for everyone? Of course not. I remember a story that a close friend told me years ago. She was a big Disclose fan and had bought Raw brutal assaul Vol.2. One day she played it to a mate of hers who wasn't into punk but could still listen to some without cringing. She played him the full double-cd and the poor lad actually felt highly uncomfortable and almost physically sick. The sheer intensity, the deafening sound and the cryptic repetitiveness did not make sense to him and he just could not take it. Such is the power of the Dis.

On the other side of the split are Homomilitia. Now, I know - or rather, I think I know - that a lot of people are familiar with them, but I am also aware that this perception could be a generational thing. Do the younger generations (outside of Poland where they are quite renowned and have a - well-deserved - cult status) still listen to Homomilitia? Or do they even still listen to 90's eurocrust? Are all my readers going grey? Or have you already? Am I flogging a dead record? 

And... yes you guessed it, the time has come for cheesy reminiscing!!! Yay! I originally bought this split Ep for the Homomilitia side, although I am aware that most would buy it for Disclose's nowadays (the same thing could be said about pretty much all their splits). I do not remember who first told me about HM but I do remember buying their wonderful Twoje Ciało Twój Wybór 1996 Lp from a Polish distro at a squat gig around Paris in the spring of 2003. I had never listened to them but I knew, for some reason, that they were great and a bit of a "90's crust classic", which the distro guy confirmed before adding that I really should get it while I could since it was his last copy, which gullible and enthusiastic me obviously did. I was not very familiar with Polish punk at the time, apart from a couple of usual suspects like Dezerter or TZN Xenna and anarcho bands like Włochaty (whom I had sloppily interviewed the year before when they played in Paris), but HM were the first Polish band I really and completely got into, both on musical and political grounds, and they are the original reason why I am such a sucker for 90's Polish crust almost 15 years later.

Poland was certainly a stronghold for eurocrust in the 90's and they had tons of angry, intense bands all sharing that particular way of writing songs and riffs that had no real equivalent anywhere else, maybe unique in the same way Greek crust was if you like. To drown you with a list of names would be utterly pointless and uninteresting but carefully listening to Sanctus Iuda, Hostility or Silna Wola would definitely give you a sense of what I mean. But let's get back to HM, shall we? The band formed in the early 90's (1991 apparently) in Lodz (that's pretty much right in the centre of the country if you're wondering) but it is unclear when they actually stopped playing since there is a live recording from 2000 floating around on youtube. The early period of the band can be glimpsed at on the Niszcz Rasizm Ale Najpierw W Swojej Głowie tape that Malarie released in 1995 and where you can find four studio tracks recorded in 1992 (not 100% sure about the exact date but it is definitely not far off). You can also check videos of their early '91 live performances if you need an illustration of the sheer intensity the band conveyed. 

That they started so early in the decade definitely puts HM in a precursory position in the grand narrative of European crust. The comparison game might not be that relevant in this case but the metallic crust sound of Nausea would be an influence to my ears (the early song certainly "Nic wiecej do powiedzenia" attests to that) especially in terms of aggression, metal drive and vocal template, and I am also hearing a lot of early Hiatus crushing crusty power as well (they were quite possibly the most influential eurocrust band anyway). I find touches of the Californian crust vibe at times (Apocalypse, Glycine Max and the likes) but, given the time frame, it must have been a case of contextualized, commonly shared influences. Finally, for the thrashiness, the wild, groovy fury of bands like Sedition or Pink Turds in Space (Agnes' raspy vocals are not so different at times) are also brought to mind. I suppose that, to some extent, in order to grasp the importance of Homomilitia, you could very well draw a parallel between them and Disaffect. They started out the same year and, although there were significant differences between both bands (HM were more metal-tinged), they both pioneered the now classic sound of blistering, heavy and crusty anarchopunk with aggressive and distinctive male/female vocals. Don't get me wrong though, there is undeniably a vintage Polish hardcore vein running through the band's work as well (they covered the mighty Moskwa in their early days and there are hints of bands like Rejestracja or The Corpse) but the very specific local and global context of the band's creation, the moment in punk history, definitely shaped what they would become and made them one of the major architects of eurocrust and 90's anarchopunk. 

The first vinyl output of the band was a split Ep with your favourite Brazilian hardcore nerds from Finland, Força Macabra, with two songs recorded in December '93, although the Ep was released in 1995. At that time, the band still had more of a caveman crust crunch to their songs but I suppose it took a lineup change for HM to become what they would be remembered for (in terms of recordings at least, though I personally love everything they've done) when two members from Toxic Bonkers joined the band on drums and bass. The band became tighter and more focused. In March '95 they recorded three songs that would appear on this split with Disclose (the songs from the album were also recorded on that same day), one original number, the crushing "Milczenie = Śmierć" (meaning "Silence = Death") with that hard-hitting aggressive metallic punk sound and amazing trade off vocal style the band mastered so well and two covers, a gloriously snotty and pummeling cover of The Partisans, "Police story" (a cover song that, interestingly, Sedition also recorded for their split Ep with Disaffect) and a noisecore take on Post-Regiment's "Ostatni raz" which shows that you always need a sense of humour and some perspective about things, and what better way to do it than the sorethroatian one?

Following the split with Disclose, released on the ever reliable Gdansk-based Scream Records (it was the label's fourth vinyl), the album eventually came out in 1996 on NNNW and it would sadly be HM's last release as the band apparently had lineup issues and could no longer commit. An unreleased session containing an Lp worth of songs also exists, which sees HM in an even heavier, gloomier mode, but I haven't been able to find recording details about it. On it, Agnes' vocal style sounds much closer to the one she used for her following band, the crucially underrated Lost (a band that wrote one of the best crust albums of the 00's), so I am - wildly - guessing it was recorded in the very early noughties (2004 pops up on da internet but I'm not really buying it) however do correct me if I am wrong.  

Is Disclose teaming up with Homomilitia the epitome of what the 90's DIY punk passion and dedication were all about? Yes, pretty much indeed.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 2): Deformed Conscience / Scourge split Ep, 1993

There were tons of bands in the 90's. In fact, just a quick search on the internet would be enough to give a vertiginous glimpse into the insane amount of punk bands that were active during that decade and I cannot help but remember this ace sample that both Subcaos and Destroy! used as an introduction to one of their mid-90's songs, "Sugadores" and "Anthem" respectively (granted, this one is more a burst of noise than what most people would consider "a proper song" but there you go, punx did challenge the ontological status of the music piece after all), in which a girl epically claims: "I think that punk-rock now is stronger than it ever was". I suppose you could argue endlessly over the relevance of such a statement and the definition of "strong" but still, I feel it does ring true to some extent. Of course, there are probably more bands today worldwide, but the main difference does not lie so much in sheer numbers but in the awareness of the actual existence of the bands. In 2017, all bands (this is rhetorical, there are of course exceptions) have a physical, local presence as well as a global, digital one. Even bands that are very local can potentially be heard by someone at the other end of the globe, which is both sensational and a little overwhelming at times. But twenty years ago (or even ten, really), a lot of bands were intrinsically local and unless you got their demo or saw them live in their area or if they happened to tour or if you had a mate who knew them, you would probably never hear them. 

I know it must all sound pretty obvious, and it is, but whenever I come across a great 90's "local band" that has flown under my anarcho detector, I reflect upon the role and the significance of punk bands in their scenes and how they and our own perceptions of them evolve through time, conjointly with broader cultural changes triggered by technology. Did you know that there were two bands called Scourge in the U$ of A active at the same time? I did not, until I scouted the internet for details about the Scourge included on today's record (and to be honest, I did not find many...). Then I realized, completely by chance, that there was another Scourge, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, that had a demo from 1993 and played amazing anarchopunk with male/female vocals, somewhere between Antischism and what Flat Earth Records put out at the time. How many more ace bands are there from that period that I have never heard, and maybe even never will? Exactly, bloody loads of 'em. And that's a very exciting thought for me.

But enough meditative bollocks already and let's get to this split then that saw Connecticut-based Deformed Conscience teaming up with Scourge. As I briefly discussed in the post about Crust and anguished life, Deformed Conscience is the perfect example of a band that most people kinda know but is not really listened to any longer. I first heard DC when I got my grubby punk hands on their split Lp with Excrement of War, however I had read about them quite often in the early 00's. I distinctly remember mentions of other crust bands (like React or State of Fear) featuring "ex-Deformed Conscience members" which indicated that, not only were the band an early instance of US crust, but also a respected, influential, act. And Marald drew covers for them so they had to be good, I thought. 

Years later, now that I have been graced with crust superpowers, I see DC as being part of the Big Three D's of Fast 90's US Crust (I copyrighted the phrase so don't bother nicking it, yeah?), along with Disrupt and Destroy!. DC never became as good as Disrupt (but then, who really did?) or as versatile as Destroy! but regardless, I would argue that their sound also helped shape what US crustcore would grow up to be throughout the 90's. And besides, their moniker has always reminded me of Deviated Instinct's which cannot be a bad thing, right? 

As far as I can guess, they must have formed sometime in 1990 and recorded two demos in 1991, a self-titled one and No excuse for suffering, that set the stage for their blend of Scandinavian crusty hardcore and fast and raspy US hardcore. I suppose you could describe DC's take as being rooted in Scandicore riffing and pummeling beats (No Security or Disrupt come to mind) but with a more extreme hardcore songwriting that certainly coincided with the rise of powerviolence at the time (bands like Dropdead or Demise are not far off at times). Basically, the harsh vocalic tone and (even more so) flow would not be out of place in a more strictly US hardcore setting and some beat structures are here to remind you that the year is 1993. Their first eponymous Ep (though some call it Indian givers after the name of the first song for some reason) was a deliciously crusty and raw hardcore record with punk-as-fuck artwork, aggressive dual vocals (a shame they didn't use them on the subsequent split) and enough cohesive variety in the songs to keep it from falling into genericity (early Doom meets Dropdead and Embittered or something?). Some sloppy bits here and there, but they are what made early 90's crust so enjoyable in my book, on this great unpretentious Ep released on Swiss label Off The Disk (which also put out materials from Infest, Fear of God or Disrupt if you know what I mean).

The additional sleeve...

The year after, DC came back with a better, heavier bass-driven sound on this split Ep. Although I personally miss the dual vocal attack, this effort is more powerful indeed. The song "How free am I?" starts off with a punchy mid-paced moment with dark riffing before exploding into typical crustcore crunch. All in all reminiscent of Hiatus which is always a good thing. The second one, "End the pain", opens with a slow and groovy metallic part (somewhere between Siege and Deviated Instinct) before getting to Scando fury with the delightful addition of an anarcho spoken part from the singer which makes this song some kind of 90's crust bingo. The last one is short, more aggressive and faster than the rest and more akin to the Dropdead school of thought. Following this, DC would release three more records, the Constant strife Ep in 1993, a split Ep with 3-Way Cum the next year  and the aforementioned split Lp with the might EOW (which took three years to be - very poorly - released though...).

The lyrics on the split deal with the oppressive nature of American democracy, the desperation of drug abuse and animal cruelty. And I just love the cover art on DC's side with its vintage late 80's underground metal-punk vibe. This is how it is done. After the demise of the band, drummer Pete went on to hit things with Dissension, React and Hail of Rage, while guitar hero John sang and played the bass for State of Fear, before switching back to the ole "guitar and voice" for Calloused.

I wish I had a lot to say about Scourge but unfortunately I do not. This split was their sole vinyl contribution and the internet is remarkably quiet when it comes to them (it could be a curse put on bands called Scourge since very little information is available about their Albuquerque homonym either). There were actually three versions of this split Ep. The one I own was released on Spoon Fed Records with cover art and lyrics for each band. But there is a second version of it, released on the same label, with a different foldout cover (that was still included in my version of the record for some reason...) but no information or anything about DC and with different artwork and a lot more more details about Scourge. Finally, there is a third, pre-release version of the split, released on Fetus Records, a Phoenix label who did not seem too happy about Scourge... A bit of an odd one. But anyway, judging from the inlay included in the second version, Scourge were a four-piece from Arizona and... that's about all I know. Well, not completely, since the singer and artist of the band, Mike, would play the bass later on in a hugely influential Oakland band, and arguably one of the very best crust acts of the decade, namely Skaven. The connection between the two bands is fairly obvious if you only care to actually look at the Scourge's art drawn by Mike, who also did a lot of artwork for Skaven (and let's face it, he is a very talented geezer with a distinct, disturbed artistic vibe). I had that OMG moment when lazily manipulating the record, looking for clues, until I thought "this is funny, it reminds me a lot of some Skaven drawings" and then "wait a second, it has to be the same bloke who did them" and finally "what a fool I have been all this time..." which is turning into a bit of a mantra for me lately.

Anyway, Scourge played a very different kind of punk-rock though, slightly dissonant, freakish hardcore with great snotty vocals and a hypnotic vibe. Like Resist and Econochrist on mushrooms or something? Not necessarily a genre I am that familiar with but it works perfectly on that split. The art is amazing (there is another piece by someone named Gross that also looks fantastic) and I really enjoy the aggressively anti-religious diatribes that make up the words of the two songs "Moral prison" and "One fine sunday with Jesus" (especially this last one actually). If anyone has more intel about Scourge, please share.