Sunday, 22 November 2020

Wesh to Sweden, the Formative Years (part 3): Krigshot "Örebro-Mangel" cd, 2002

Particularly rainy days are often thought to symbolise the perfect backdrop for musing and reflection, as if the weather somehow allowed for such existential meditative moments, potentially pregnant with self-revelation, epiphanies and, of course, a melancholy sense of vacuity and helplessness, one that might threaten to devour our vulnerable resolve and lead us down the cruel path of shoegaze. Who knows how many of our comrades in hardcore punk were brutally taken away by shoegaze on rainy days, never to return, betraying the scene, their friends and their own promises of staying true to the roots... Perhaps straight-edge were visionaries after all? On such umbrella-loving days, I personally like to ponder over punk albums that deeply affected me in my teenage years and my early 20's, an intense time as much ruled by juvenile idealism and unlimited passion as it is by insecurity, narrow-mindedness and naiveness. Among the records I used to love unreservedly at the time, there are those that I no longer can seriously listen to - either because they are objectively not that good or because they are too anchored in a strictly defined era that is no longer to my liking (yes, I am looking at you neocrust) - and those that still have a similar effect although my context and experience have changed. It is a strange feeling, a sentiment that can as easily be applied to novels or movies and I think it operates on several levels. 

First, when playing again and enjoying a record you used to adore, you also tend to appreciate and rely on the memories of adoration and enjoyment, without which you would not engage in the record in the same fashion, so that it is difficult to be objective (do you love the record or do you love the memory of love?). This nostalgic element can get entangled with the second level, that is based on your acquired, and always evolving, knowledge of the particular field and aesthetics adopted by the record. Your punk culture has vastly improved during the past twenty years (or, at least, it should have), not just in the quantity of bands you happen to be familiar with but also in terms of the creative processes inherent in hardcore punk music, in how trends and waves come and go, how intertextuality and referentiality work in punk, how the context define and illuminate the text, how the medium influences how we listen to and engage with punk music and what bands we chose to listen to and so on. With real knowledge of punk, some did argue, comes the end of the age of innocence and the metaphorical loss of paradise: the inimitable excitement that your excited and uneducated teenage self felt upon discovering on a very primal basis a solid punk record. It is an experience that one cannot replicate indefinitely as it can only last for a couple of years, as long as the magics still work, and d-beat (or whatever punk subgenres) still sounds fresh, new and personal. With the realization that most bands sound the same on purpose, the feeling of novelty, spontaneity and enthusiasm can wear down and an awareness of the aesthetics, context and creative processes at stake can cast a revived light on your subgenre punk record, one that is not incompatible with the primitive enjoyment of its crushing power, but rather, illuminates and completes it. That way I can still unashamedly listen to The Casualties' For the Punx and like it on a nostalgic teenage level and on a fancy pseudo-intellectual as well ("Did you catch the Skeptix reference on "Drunk on the streets"?"). It's a win-win. 


All this to say that Krigshot's Örebro-Mangel massively kicked my arse when I first played the cd in 2003 and that it still does today, in so brutal a fashion in fact that it almost feels tricky to take a step back and look at this hardcore tornado with the materialist eye of reason. Like for my Prank Records order, I had picked some records from Sound Pollution because, judging from the website, the label had an international focus and it was well distributed, therefore, easy for a promising youth like meself to find. Also, the short descriptions accompanying the label's releases all sounded like honest promises of intense sessions of hardcore trash bollocking and I just felt I was ready for it. I mean, I had been to many grindcore gigs in Paris before and, although I mostly spent the gig getting pissed outside and chatting about Conflict, I still thought that I had what it took to genuinely enjoy a full album of Hellnation and I was wrong of course. I remember the description indicated that the Örebro-based Krigshot had members playing in grindcore bands but sounded like a more intense version of Mob 47, which I loved. Since I first heard them on the radio thanks to the great work of the show ça Rend Sourd (see the first part for that), I must confess that I had become a little bit obsessed with them and, although a mate of mine had burnt a cd full of random Mob 47 songs, I was frustratingly looking for anything from the band (I was eventually able to find some bootleg tapes, unaware that a full discography, Ultimate Attack, would be released the year after...) so, I thought, a band that sounded like Mob 47 was probably the best I could muster at that moment. Despite my conceited confidence, I was, clearly, unprepared for the awe that Krigshot induced in me. Örebro-Mangel fucking smokes.


If Avskum's In the Spirit of Mass Destruction was fairly reasonable and easy-listening for a käng work, one that, because of its rocking vibe and catchy vocals, could be enjoyed by moderate metalheads and even played successfully as background music at a punk party, Krigshot's Örebro-Mangel is a very different and much wilder animal although both albums have similar running times. Who said that scandicore was uniform? I remember having to sit down at the end of the first song "Örebro-mangel", an insanely fast and pummeling hardcore trash number of 44 seconds, a little shocked at the level of intensity and not quite sure whether it was a brilliant idea or a terrible mess. I must say I have never played Krigshot that often compared to Skitsystem or Warcollapse for instance because Krigshot's music usually sounded like it was just too much. Too fast, too loud, too intense and after 10 minutes, a little dizzying, not unlike being smacked in the face again and again and wondering why you still enjoyed it. This style of fast and direct Swedish hardcore is often called mangel by the temple guards of punk and Stuart Schrader - formerly behind Game of the Arseholes - defined the mangel subgenre as a cross between the speed of U$ hardcore and the Discharge aggression, the substantive itself coming from the Swedish language for washing clothes with a laundry roller and the noise it makes. Mangel usually works best on the Ep format for the obvious reason that eight minutes of that relentless a bollocking is more than enough and that, as the latest scientific studies have shown, a normal human being can only take so much radically overblown Mob 47 worship in a day before fainting from exhaustion (the studies also showed that longtime Swedish hardcore fans have developed an additional membrane in the ears so as to be able to withstand without limitation of time, yet another convincing example of the theory of evolution). As a result a full album of 24 songs of uncompromisingly fast and orthodox mangel hardcore can be seen as a tricky endeavour. Indeed, to keep a punk listener engaged for 28 minutes with a Swedish hardcore record made up of one minute long songs is a challenge in itself as you have to keep the intensity level high and the songwriting sufficiently catchy. 


To be fair, Krigshot do have a couple of slightly longer and slower numbers on Örebro-Mangel to allow the listener - not to mention the album itself - to catch its breath. A wise and welcome choice. But otherwise, be prepared for an all-out hardcore attack with a very aggressive and loud guitar sound and vocals sounding meaner and throatier than on their previous 1999 Lp, Maktmissbrukare. This aforementioned album used the same songwriting template of mid-80's Stockholm hardcore but had a rawer sound and more distinctly 80's-styled vocals, so that it resembled a 90's tribute to Mob 47 and Crudity whereas Örebro-Mangel sounds more like a more modern extreme take on the genre thanks to its production. As you probably know, Krigshot - originally the name of a Mob 47 song - was a side project of Mieszko and Anders from Nasum, on vocals and drums respectively, while Jallo (from No Security, Totalitär or Meanwhile among many others) was in charge of the Åke-styled riffing and the bass on this recording. If Mob 47 were undoubtedly an influence on the 90's Swedish d-wave, there were not many bands who openly aimed at sounding "just like" them and Krigshot can be relevantly said to be to Mob 47 what Meanwhile were to Discharge. Know what I mean?

Of course, it was recorded by Mieszko at Soundlab Studios, a man who certainly contributed to make Swedish hardcore heavier than ever through his production works with bands like Skitsystem, Acursed, Avskum or Wolfpack and who tragically died in the 2004 tsunami. Örebro-Mangel is an intense, pounding, really fast and brutal hardcore work that is not for the faint-hearted and one that casual hardcore amateurs won't probably play every mornings. However once it kicks in, it sounds like an unstoppable beast going straight for the throat and it is basically impossible not to enjoy those fast, dynamic riffs and the really fucking fast energetic drumming that make you feel like a teenager again. Did I mention the album ends with a Riistetyt cover? Just icing on the mangel cake. As for the lyrics, they are all short, sharp and angry protest songs in Swedish with short explanations in English. One of them, about the song "Denna jävla teknik", rings a nostalgic bell "The song is about the new technique and it's consequences where the punks have 50gb of mp3's in their computer, but not a single classic 7'' in their possession". "The punks" no longer even bother having mp3's, they just stream. So 2001.

Mangel up your life

 *about the title of the series "Wesh to Sweden": "wesh" is a slang word commonly used in France by the urban youth. It is derived from the Arabic language and can mean a variety of things like "hello", "what's up", "how are you?", "what!", "fuck" and the list goes on and on. Sorry if the meaning gets a bit lost in translation.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Wesh to Sweden, the Formative Years (part 2): Avskum "In the Spirit of Mass Destruction" cd, 2000

Sweden is bloody everywhere. 

Even the most superficial glance at the hardcore production of the last three decades is enough to realize how important and influential traditional Swedish hardcore has been for the punk scene worldwide. In fact, a mere five minute walk into the luxuriant yet slightly frightening sonic jungle that bandcamp has turned into today would allow the casual listener to find dozen of bands of the scandicore (or käng or whatever terminology turns you on) variety or, at least, proudly claiming to belong to that well-presented group with educated hashtags. This is not a particularly original realization and you could argue that I am just stating the obvious here, but just take a moment to think about the large and evergrowing number of Swedish-flavoured bands all over the world since the 90's. While the impressive quantity and quality of Swedish hardcore bands in the 80's pretty much ensured that there would always be solid representatives of the branch in Sweden, it still did not necessarily entail its spread into every corner of the punk world. After all, Italy had tons of brilliant bands too but, in comparison, there aren't that many bands outside of Italy that are openly influenced by the vintage sound of Wretched, Indigesti or Impact and try to replicate it, whereas I presume that even my granny could name ten mediocre copies of Anti-Cimex in a heartbeat. 


I am not qualified enough to assess the Swedish hardcore influence worldwide in the 80's (but I would love to read articles about this), although it is well-established fact that Doom just wanted to be Discard when they first started and that the UK hardcore wave was well into the sound of their Nordic cousins. I am sure there were many individuals outside of Scandinavia dreaming about Crude SS and Mob 47 but it did not translate into a mimicking frenzy at the time outside of the country. I would venture that the generalization of the classic käng sound started in the 90's and its development can be seen in the same light as its contemporary neighbours': the d-beat and crust waves. Of course, in that decade, things were probably not as compartmentalized, narrow and clear-cut as they are now and the frontiers between the three genres were fluid and they often intersected and fed each other. After all, all three were, to varying extents, the children of Discharge, part of the same family and fearless agents of the Discharge legacy. By the time I caught that train around 2003, the spirit of the 90's wave was still fresh and strong and I remember having long, tumultuous arguments with like-minded friends about the similarities and differences between crustcore, d-beat and scandicore. It never quite ended in a punch-up but I remember a particular heated conversations about the possible classification of State of Fear, a band we held in very high esteem at the time. Good times indeed. 


I remember exactly why I picked Avskum's In the Spirit of Mass Destruction. I had never heard of the band but the description proclaimed that it was a classic 80's band that had reformed but sounded "better than ever, paying tribute to their hardcore roots while still offering something fresh for the new generations". Those were not the exact words but we all know the drill. Since I was still very gullible and rather insecure about the level of my knowledge in hardcore punk - and thus about my hardcore credibility, a thing that appeared to critically matter judging from some lyrics - the prospect of getting to know a "classic Swedish band from the 80's" was exciting indeed and I recall, in a sensible move, adding another reformed classic, Totalitär's Ni Måste Bort, from the same record label, Prank Records, to the order so that, to this day, I tend to unconsciously associate both bands because I first heard them at the same time. Of course, looking at the number of Totalitär-ian bands today, it is safe to say that Totalitär have become a much more popular and influential band than Avskum, but it is a rather recent phenomena and I don't remember it being quite the case in the 00's although I could be wrong. Such considerations were of course foreign to me in 2003 and I played the cd's to death. My initial fear that they might sound like cheesy new wave or terrible crossover (like, I imagined, many reformed bands did and let's face it I wasn't that far off the mark) was rapidly dissipated. Avskum quite literally fucking rocked. 


The official party line of the punk elite is that, however good Avskum's later material might be, their 1984 Ep, Crucified by the System, remains their genuine moment of hardcore glory. And it is quite right. As temptingly easy and intellectually lazy it is to consider any old 80's recordings as a classic moment, therefore untouchable and irremediably superior to anything that might come next, Crucified by the System is undeniably a work of genius, although probably an unintentional one (the best, ain't they?). According to The Encyclopedia of Swedish Punk, after the release of Avskum's first demo a local reporter "thought that they wanted to be a garage band, but it was still like cavemen. In other words, they hadn't even reached the level of a garage band. This was meant as a bad review but nothing could explain their music better!". And how true is that! I guess the raw hardcore punk sound of early Avskum combined with the very gruff vocal style of singer Gunnar make the cavemen comparison understandable. However, in addition to all the typical käng characteristics and savage aggression a nerdy punk is rightly entitled to expect from a Swedish hardcore Ep released in 1984, Avskum were more tuneful than most. Just listen to the opening riff of "Glöm ardrig Hiroshima" and to how melancholy, dark and just beautiful it sounds like. And of course, in another context, those vocals could be the work of a wounded caveman, however it is a caveman trying to sing - for real - because he is desperate and in pain, like a morose, glum Anti-Cimex or something. To me, "Glöm ardrig Hiroshima" is - like Rappresaglia's "Attack", Anti-Cimex's "Warmachine" or RIP's "Policia no" - one of those perfect hardcore songs that are even improved by their flaws and age very well. 


But I am not here to delve into Avskum's early career, a part of their existence I was not familiar with by the time I played In the Spirit of Mass Destruction for the first time and therefore did not influence my first impression of the band by offering me a point of comparison. This album was recorded in late 1999 and it was the band's third since they reformed in 1994, after 1998's Crime & Punishment cd on Distortion Records (obviously) and From Vision to Nightmare Ep on Retard Records. Avskum's reformation took place at the height of the 90's d-beat and scandicore wave and I presume seeing so many Swedish bands playing the very hardcore style you took part in creating ten years before prompted former members to resurrect Avskum. The new Avskum did not sound like the old one though. Vocalist Gunnar and drummer Pyri were still there but the original guitarist Nezze, who was not part of the new d-beat odyssey, was replaced by the original bass player Håkan and second guitar player Henke while Jorgen took on the bass duties. Gone was the brooding and furious raw 80's käng sound to make room for a far more rocking approach. I remember In the Spirit of Mass Destruction being described (possibly by Prank Records themselves) as a Swedish blend of Discharge and Motörhead and, while I revered the former, I did not enjoy the latter - and still don't to be honest. Mentions of "d-beat'n'roll" or "motörcrust" have always triggered a strong sense of suspicion and wariness (if not plain insult) in me and my gut instinct often told me to get the fuck out of here before it was too late and I had to endure terrible Lemmy's impersonations, double pedal drumming and heavy metal guitar solos. However I can see why a Motörhead comparison would be relevant in Avskum's case as they have that deep rocking feel and that overdrive power in the guitars and Gunnar successfully attempts at singing on classic d-beat hardcore punk, not unlike a motörheadish Disarm if you know what I mean. It is not exactly melodic but the tunes are definitely hummable, catchy and quite distinctive. This vocal style might not be everybody's cup of tea - it won't do if you are looking for the shouted kind - but I think it works perfectly here, somewhere between a more rocking Jawbreaker-era Jonsson and Meanwhile's Jocke, Gunnar's rough-hewn voice sounds powerful, angry and infectious.  


In the Spirit of Mass Destruction cannot really be described as a spectacular album. It is quite linear, homogeneous and not meant to crush you into the ground. But once you let yourself get into its rocking käng vibe, it is a very pleasant work and the more Discharge-inspired song like "Rebel vibe" and the brilliant mid-paced "The bomb is our future" work best for me. This album is not unlike, metaphorically speaking, "dad d-beat" in the sense that it is not drenched in distortion or insanely fast, cleanly produced and not harsh-sounding, aggressive but not furious, with a distinct sense of tune and clear singalongs, a very pure d-beat pace and a heavy rock influence that makes it the ideal soundtrack to drive long distance, scrap the kitchen clean or have a couple of pints at the pub with your mates to. A particular sort of Swedish d-beat in itself. The production, courtesy of Mieszko of Soundlab Studio (if you are into Swedish punk and do not own a Mieszko-produced record, you are clearly a poser), is crispy and guitar-driven with very upfront vocals, it is clean but not so clean as to lose the hardcore edge. This is probably the best work of Avskum after they reformed - but then I never really got into 2003's Punkista that sounded too polished and heterogeneous - and since it does not really sound like their 80's outputs, it feels a bit pointless to compare them. The dark and direct political lyrics are pretty sweet with a lot of class war-oriented rants against the system that puts us on our knees. I really enjoyed the classic line "Hitler is in the limo again". The cover is a bit of a mystery however and does not really reflect what the music is about although the drawing technique is not in question. A bunch of skeletal punks bathing in biohazardous waters coming out of giant sewer pipes with burning buildings in the background suggest bandana-wearing second-rate US-styled crossover rather than rocking Swedish hardcore for middle-aged crusties in need of a solid and tasteful mix of Meanwhile, 90's Cimex and Motörhead. 

 In the Spirit of Käng Destruction

 *about the title of the series "Wesh to Sweden": "wesh" is a slang word commonly used in France by the urban youth. It is derived from the Arabic language and can mean a variety of things like "hello", "what's up", "how are you?", "what!", "fuck" and the list goes on and on. Sorry if the meaning gets a bit lost in translation.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Wesh to Sweden, the Formative Years (part 1): Skitsystem "Allt e skit" compilation cd, 2002

I would love to tell you grand stories about the tormented but powerful relationship I have slowly built with Swedish punk music throughout the years, potent tales that would inspire or empower you to be all you can be. Some proper moving shit with misunderstandings, breakups, reconciliations and Anti-Cimex covers. I would love to tell you that the first Swedish punk band I came across was Mob 47 or Wolfpack or another such respectable hardcore band that an older friend would have taped for me because that was how knowledge circulated and passion was shared in those pre-internet days. Of course, it did not happen like that and reality, once you remove the gratifying coat of storytelling, is often not so inspiring after all and probably not worthy of a smarmy self-help book complete with ugly mugs and weird dentitions on the cover. The first punk band from Sweden I heard about was Millencolin through Punk O Rama Vol. 2, a cd I got in late 1996 at a local supermarket for 29 French francs (yes, a supermarket, though it has to be said that they used to have decent rock sections in those days). I was 13 and had absolutely no idea that punk-rock was an international movement. In my tiny teenage mind, there used to be punk bands in England before but not anymore as they all died out like dinosaurs but because of drugs and all contemporary punk bands were from California and lived in "the Epitaph house" or in the vicinity and if there were any foreign bands (meaning not from North America) they basically only wanted to be American though they perhaps did not realize it yet. I was not the brightest kid in the neighbourhood as you can see, although I suppose such delusions also say a lot about the marketing powers and tactics and the worldview they generated in the 90's. 


So yeah, Punk O Rama. Of course all the bands were American apart from Millencolin who were from Sweden. Sweden... The only things I associated with the country until then were Abba (no thanks) and Henrik Larsson (yes please) and I remember being completely baffled by the inclusion of a Swedish band on the cd. I mean, Sweden? Come on! How utterly preposterous! What was next? Bloody Finland? It was all very exotic but, from my 13 year old wisdom, I somehow convinced my incredulous and ignorant self that, surely, Millencolin were a romantic exception. It is almost endearing to be that wrong I suppose. In the following years, I quickly discovered that not only were there more than a handful of Swedish melodic punk bands but that Swedes were also very present in all the other realms of punk music. By my 16th birthday I was heavily into wearing oversized bondage trousers, purple combat boots, disgraceful homemade patches and being chased down by bigger kids who, for some unfathomable reason, did not understand how magnificent the Casualties were. By then, Swedish "streetpunk" bands like Voice of a Generation, Bombshell Rocks or Guttersnipe were favourites of mine, however I was still blissfully if tragically unaware of Swedish hardcore. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I knew of Swedish bands playing US-styled hardcore but had no idea that the country had developed its own style of hardcore or that there were other styles of hardcore punk outside of the hegemonic tough guy American one for that matter (still a very common and unfortunate misconception to this day). The truth about scandicore hit me hard but progressively during the year 2002 through a local radio show broadcast on Radio Libertaire called "ça rend sourd" - meaning "it makes one deaf" in French - run by older knowledgeable punks with a strong liking for international hardcore, grindcore, crust and extreme punk music in general. To be honest, although I religiously listened to the show on every other sunday nights and did enjoy it, a lot of the bands they played were completely lost on me because my ear was still very much uneducated and unskilled to this type of music. Their scholarly references to Italian hardcore, Spanish raw punk or German powerviolence sounded deliciously cryptic and coded and it completely opened my eyes to the stylistic and geographical diversity of hardcore punk and to the importance of context and intent. And hearing Mob 47, Diskonto or Moderat Likvidation on the radio gave me a massive kick up the arse. 


How to cast suspicion on your own release...


The early 00's were an intense period of discovery, revelation and musical epiphany for me, one that I remember vividly and with nostalgia as everything sounded subjectively new and fresh at the time. In a very short time I became aware of the wide world of DIY hardcore punk and the numerous subgenres that composed it and, from this day on, trying to understand the making and the reproduction of hardcore subgenres in their context and native habitat has become my lifework, a bit like Dian Fossey but with Discharge fanatics instead of gorillas and without a biopic yet (but that goes with being murdered I presume so I keep the faith). My evergrowing love for crust punk made a frontal reunion with Swedish hardcore, one of the genre's inspirations, both unavoidable and highly fruitful. The series Wesh to Sweden* will be a presentation of seven records of Swedish hardcore - be it of the käng, mangel or d-beat variety, with the crust cursor more or less pronounced - that I deeply engaged and connected with during those formative years of intense discovery (2003 and 2004). The selection might look a little random, subjective and illogical as it is based on the purchases I made at the time on distros in order to explore and accumulate enough knowledge and as a result it was linked with the availability of records at that particular time and in that particular place and with my personal whims. 



One of the first Swedish hardcore cd's that I bought and that really won me over was Allt e skit from the mighty Skitsystem, from Gothenburg. I ordered the cd (because it was cheaper to ship than vinyl and my budget was limited) while I was living in Manchester as part of the student exchange program Erasmus, in late 2003. I had made friends in my hall of residence with a lad who was really into hardcore and metal and he often recommended bands to me. I remember him giving me local distro list that was updated every trimester and mostly carried extreme metal music and grindcore but also had some heavy hardcore and crust. In the list were Skitsystem's Allt e skit and Wolfpack's Allday Hell which he said were both amazing bands and compulsory listenings. Trusting in his better judgement, I sent a letter to the address indicated on the list with a £20 bill and a week later I was able to play Skitsystem and Wolfpack in my rather bleak and very small room (I had had the brilliant idea to bring a cd player along), in awe at the brutality of the music. Out of the two, Skitsystem prevailed in my opinion, probably because they sounded crustier and that was what I was after at the time and for this reason I played Allt e skit to death and can pretty much sing along in mock Swedish to all the songs (human waaaaaaste). I suppose that, in retrospect, Skitsystem is an obvious band to love, a genuine classic of what we mean by Swedish crust. What particularly impressed me at the time was that they sounded very heavy, menacing and aggressive and yet, at the same time, very simple and direct. The music had the desperate power of a charging rhino with a grudge but also felt quite accessible in its composition. Little did I know that Skitsystem was a band conceived by hardcore-loving metalheads as a tribute to that brand of heavy Discharge-inspired hardcore, namely käng, that had become so popular in the 90's in Scandinavia and whose best instances could be found in the releases of Distortion Records. To me, though the recordings were a bit old, it was an active band destroying everything in its bloody path.


Contrary to a lot of their peers of the time, Skitsystem had those heavy and dark down-tuned textures and a raw and heavy production closely associated with old-school Swedish death metal, which made sense since the original lineup was made up of members of At the Gates and Sarcasm, so that one gets the impression that, while it does fit with the crusty Swedish hardcore tradition, it nevertheless sounds like it is played by rabid death metal cavemen (I say this now but, truth be told, when I first played Allt e skit I had never even heard of Entombed and death metal was about as foreign to me as space rock). In spite of the intentional brutality of the sound and the punishingly simple riffing, you can tell that the boys had fun writing those early Skitsystem songs and many chorus are wonderfully anthemic ("Human waste", "Allt e skit" or the smashing Asocial cover "Revolt" specially come to mind and I challenge you not to sing along). To be fair, I had not played the cd for a while and had forgotten how fast, intense, energetic, mean and just unstoppable it sounded like. Genuinely headbanging stuff. I recall being blown away by the extremity of the vocals, how angry, direct and hoarse they sounded like, how the singers sounded like they were on the brink of rupturing their vocal cords just for the sake of expressing their blackest hatred of the shit system and outrage at the world's injustices and that just really spoke to me and still does. In retrospect, the sheer pummeling power and forwardness of the music, the dark down-tuned metal sound, combined with the extreme vocals of the two singers (who perfectly work together) and a d-beat drumming of mammoth proportions make Skitsystem a definitive highlight of the 90's Swedish wave and a fascinating instance of hardcore punk infused with death metal in terms of textures and sound instead of structures and composition like a fight to the death between Disfear, Extreme Noise Terror and Unleashed. It comes as no surprise that, to this day, Skitsystem is still a major reference for any band keen on taking the scandicrust path. 



Although it would not be far-fetched to call Skitsystem a crustcore band, it is not completely true either, not in the same sense as Warcollapse, the other great Swedish crust band of the 90's. While WC were much closer to the eurocrust sound of Doom and Hiatus, Skitsystem's roots were strictly located in the classic Swedish hardcore and metal sound which resulted in them creating a hybrid that was distinctly Swedish and could appeal to both punks and metalheads looking for fast, direct, heavy and extreme apocalyptic music. The ultimate compromise of studs and long hair. Allt e skit included the first three records of the band: the Profithysteri Ep from 1995, the Ondskans Ansikte 10'' fril 1996 and the split Ep with Wolfpack from 1997, all originally released on Distortion Records. This was Skitsystem at the height of their primitive power and while their following records still packed a heavy enough punch, they were also a little too polished for my liking and missed that early Nordic cavemen savagery replaced with a more controlled metallic fury. The version of Allt e skit I own was released on Barbarian Records, an American label that was more on the death-metal side of thing apparently, and there are a number of spelling mistakes in the names of the songs that I actually chose to leave as they were so that you get the most authentic experience possible (that's immersion for ya). Another odd thing about the reissue is that you can hear vinyl crackles at the beginning and end of the songs so I guess the fellow behind the label did not use the studio tapes for the reissue but the actual vinyl records from his collection. Added to the statement at the bottom of the backcover stating that "This is not a bootleg. Full royalties paid on this release to band in cash and copies" and to the absence of the label's contact or even logo, I always had the dubious feeling that, despite the warning, it was indeed a bootleg cd. And did bands really get royalties in cash when playing crust music? Now, that was a work option I could heartfully consider. Barbarian Records even reissued the reissue in 2004 with a new cover parodying the typical "singles collection" of 80's UK punk with a mohawked lion wearing a studded leather jacket at the center! That really cracked me up and it shows that for all the dark heavy music, we all enjoy a bloody larf at times. 


For opening my mind to the wonderful world of Swedish crust on a cold Manchester night, I would like to address my most sincere gratitude to Skitsystem. Allt e skit!                     


Allt e skit indeed  


*about the title of the series "Wesh to Sweden": "wesh" is a slang word commonly used in France by the urban youth. It is derived from the Arabic language and can mean a variety of things like "hello", "what's up", "how are you?", "what!", "fuck" and the list goes on and on. Sorry if the meaning gets a bit lost in translation.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Echoes of Crust: an Anthology of UK Crust 1985-1995

Alright then, let's get back to it and by "it", I mean "crust" of course. 

If you must know the truth, I spent the last month in a secret crust monastery which accounts for my temporary absence from this respectable - without mentioning influential - blog. Not unlike in Karate Kid, but with high-brow punk shirts and tragically more pronounced receding hairlines, I needed guidance about the next step that had to be taken in my quest for the meaning of life, and by "life" I mean "crust", again. In the temple of crust, discipline is strict. Drinking water is banned and has been replaced with cider and anyone caught showering is severely punished, while the hideous sin of listening to neocrust systematically results in public flogging and lifelong excommunication from the Crust Society (you don't want to know what happens if you're caught enjoying shoegaze). During the retreat, one is expected to listen exclusively to old-school crust music - be it of the stenchcore or cavemen variety - and it is required that you pray for long hours each day in the traditional crust position of meditation: barely sitting on a filthy floor with your back against a wall while holding on to a half-empty bottle of special brew and muttering the lyrics of "Relief" or "Drink and be merry" ("Stormcrow" or "Grind the enemy" are also perfectly acceptable alternatives). Only then may the Revelation occur and only the chosen few are able to attain real illumination before prematurely dying of cirrhosis. I came home exhausted but enlightened, with a halo of flies around my head determined to zealously spread the Word of Crust and to convert as many doubters as possible through impeccably curated compilations of UK crust music. 
The elaboration of those UK crust compilations was the logical step after our intense coaching session in mastering the proper crust lifestyle, Ten Steps to Make your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (by the way, I hope you have all become decent soap-dodging noize freaks). The idea behind their making is to offer a fairly comprehensive view of a specific time and place in order to establish and define some descriptive criteria and approach this punk subgenre that has come to be known as "crust" from a contextualised, diachronic perspective that both stresses significant stylistic similarities and reflects a common vibe and tension while also illustrating a diversity in paces, textures and intents that you will not fail to notice. A walk in the fucking park. The selecting process was not an easy one. Actually, the last version of the compilations (several failed attempts preceded, I'm sorry to say) has been ready for two weeks now but I wanted to make sure that, not only did they sound powerful and balanced, but also that they told the right story, that, through my narrative choices, you could get a relevant idea of what crust really is and what it expresses, what cultural moment it embodies, namely the collision of anarchopunk, hardcore and extreme metal in the British soundscape of the mid-80's. The task was extremely fun but also somewhat ambitious and you would be surprised to know how hard I thought about the inclusion or exclusion of some of the bands (Bolt Thrower to give you an example).
In the end, you get two compilations of 95 minutes each, thus roughly respecting the classic mixtape format, with 58 bands in total (including bands from the Republic of Ireland) and 62 songs, spanning a decade, from 1985 to 1995. Working with both 80's and 90's bands made sense for several reasons. First, it illustrates how the genre survived and evolved after all the founders called it a day, how the new generation of bands considered and reworked the original crust sound. Second, too often we tend to erect a wall between the 80's and the 90's, retroactively glorifying the former and discarding the latter, as if there were major epistemological differences in the making of punk after 1989, and I believe the transition between the late 80's and the early 90's was very fluid, the major change being the rise of the cd format at the expense of vinyl in the music industry. 

Some choices were delightfully comfortable and picking songs from the undisputed classics of the genre felt strangely rewarding. On Echoes of Crust you will of course enjoy a display of the official canons of UK apocalyptic metallic crust in all their glorious power (Deviated Instinct, Hellbastard, Axegrinder and the likes) that have built the genre on the sound of the two founding fathers, Antisect and Amebix (however, I chose to leave out the Bristol style of noize, though bands like Chaos UK and Disorder certainly played an important role in the rise of crust). The school of cavemen impersonation of raw and furious hardcore punk is also well represented through Doom, Extreme Noise Terror and their enthusiastic followers. You will also find bands that do not really fall under the crust umbrella on this exploratory celebration of crust music such as fast political hardcore acts like Generic or Electro Hippies, metal-punk crossover ones like Sacrilege and Concrete Sox or obscure grindcore units like Grunge or Drudge, all of them delivering songs that nonetheless exemplify that crunchy heavy crust vibe that I am always looking for, hence their inclusion of these compilations. Some would even probably argue that the metallic industrial sound of Sonic Violence or the groovy straight-edge hardcore take of Ironside have no place in the selection, which I can understand, but even unintentional, a crusty vibe does permeate some of their works and, at the end of the day, it also provides some interesting variety to the mix. 
The sound quality varies a lot as there are rough live or sloppy rehearsal recordings as well as rather clear near professional production and although I have done my best to equalise and even up the levels (without mentioning that many rips come from my own collection), it was near impossible an endeavour at times even for a computer genius like me. Some songs are actually hard to listen to, but it would feel incomplete to have a crust compilation without a proper sonic challenge (I'm thinking really hard about Violent Phobia and the enigmatic Angry Worta Melonz here), right? I tried as much as possible to select songs or versions of songs that were not too obvious in order to keep things interesting and, perhaps, even surprising.

Massive thanks go to all the bands for writing such great (and, well, even objectively not so great) music. Crust music has always been a massive part of my life and hopefully, through these humble compilations, I managed to convey a real sense of crustness and meaningfully tell the story of the genre. As for you dear listeners, I hope you enjoy this journey into the first ten years of the genre, inside the cradle of crust.  

Volume one: 
01. Intro: Antisect "Instrumental" from Live at Planet X, Liverpool, March, 27th, 1987 (London)
02. Prophecy of Doom "Insanity reigns supreme" from The Peel Sessions 12'' Ep, 1990 (Tewkesbury)
03. Bio-Hazard "Society's rejects" from A Nightmare on Albion Street compilation Lp, 1992 (Bradford?)
04. Rest In Pain "How the mighty have fallen" from A Vile Peace compilation Lp, 1987 (Bath)
05. Coitus "Silo 5" from Failure to Communicate unreleased album, 1994 (London)
06. Pro Patria Mori "The question (chains of guilt)" from Where Shadows Lie... demo tape, 1986 (Wokingham)
07. Embittered "Infected" from And you Ask Why? When you've only Got Yourself to Blame tape, 1991 (Middlesbrough)
08. Aural Corpse "Cong" from S/t split Lp with Mortal Terror, 1990 (Middlesbrough)
09. Hellbastard "Death camp #1" from Hate Militia demo tape, 1987 (Newcastle)
10. Depth Charge "Sirens" from Just for a Doss demo tape, 1988 (Birmingham)
11. Generic "The death of an era" from The Spark Inside Ep, 1987 (Newcastle)
12. Sore Throat "Something that never was" from Never Mind the Napalm Here's Sore Throat Lp, 1989 (Huddersfield)
13. Mortal Terror "Release / Horrible death" from S/t split Lp with Generic, 1988 (Newcastle)
14. Napalm Death "The traitor" from Live at the Mermaid, Birmingham, January, 1st, 1986 (Birmingham)
15. Black Winter "Winter armaggedon" from Live at Queen's Head, ?, July, 25th, 1987 (Doncaster)
16. Interlude: Axegrinder "Armistice" from Grind the Enemy demo tape, 1987 (London)
17. Debauchery "Ice of another" from The Ice Lp, 1988 (Newcastle)
18. Deviated Instinct "Scarecrow" from Hiatus (The Peaceville Sampler) compilation Lp, 1989 (Norwich)
19. Warfear "Dig your own grave" from Wild & Crazy Noise Merchants... compilation 2xLp, 1990 (Bradford)
20. Raw Noise "Communication breakdown" from Making a Killing split Lp with Chaos UK, 1992 (Ipswich)
21. Sarcasm "Suppression" from Your Funeral My Party Ep, 1991 (Leicester)
22. Electro Hippies "Acid rain" from The Only Good Punk... Lp, 1988 (Wigan)
23. Doom "Same mind" from The Greatest Invention cd, 1993 (Birmingham)
24. Sonic Violence "Crystalization of despair" from Jagd Lp, 1990 (Southend)
25. Filthkick "Mind games" from Peel Sessions, July, 8th, 1990 (Birmingham)
26. Extinction of Mankind "Confusion" from A Scream from the Silence Volume 2, compilation Lp, 1993 (Manchester)
27. Drudge "Sacrilege" from Suppose it was you / Drudge split Lp with Agathocles, 1990 (Wolverhampton)
28. Gutrot "Hypocrites archieve nothing" from Filthy Muck 10'', 2008/1987? (London)
29. Violent Phobia "Animal abuse", from No Excuse demo tape, early 90's? (Cork)
30. Bolt Thrower "Concession of pain" from Concession of Pain demo tape, 1987 (Coventry)
31. Antisect "New dark ages" from Leeds 2.4.86 Lp, 2010/1986 (London)

Volume two:

01. Intro: Amebix "The moor" from Live at the Station, 1985 (Bristol)
02. Policebastard "Traumatized" from S/t split cd with Defiance, 1995 (Birmingham)
03. Atavistic "Maelstrom" from A Vile Peace compilation Lp, 1987 (Whitstable)
04. Saw Throat "Inde$troy part 4" from Inde$troy Lp, 1989 (Huddersfield)
05. Blood Sucking Freaks "Raining napalm" from Those Left Behind tape, 1994 (Bradford)
06. Life Cycle "Indifference" from Myth & Ritual Ep, 1988 (Neath, Wales)
07. Domination Factor "Judge not the cover" from Dominated Till Death tape, 1987 (Tewkesbury)
08. Corpus Vile "Waste of life" from I'm Glad I'm not in Danzig & I Bloody Mean that tape, 1991 (Bristol)
09. Anemia "Axe the tax" from Live at the Tyneside Irish Center, August, 14th, 1991 (Newcastle)
10. Extreme Noise Terror "Deceived" from Are you that Desperate? Ep, 1991 (Ipswich)
11. Kulturo "Unknown" from Live at Planet X, Liverpool, April, 13th, 1991 (London)
12. Oi Polloi "Resist the atomic menace" from Outrage Ep, 1988 (Edinburgh)
13. Genital Deformities "Crouterposs / Dark sky" from Shag Nasty Oi! Lp, 1989 (Birmingham)
14. Ironside "Suffocation" from Endless Struggle compilation 2xLp, 1995 (Bradford)
15. Screaming Holocaust "Fanta babies" from Cancer Up Your Bum Ep, 1990 (Ipswich)
16. Interlude: Deviated Instinct "Possession (intro)" from Terminal Filth Stenchcore tape, 1987 (Norwich)
17. Rhetoric "To no one in particular" from Consolidation compilation Ep, 1987 (Norwich)
18. Senile Decay "Isolated (in your private cell)" from S/t split Ep with Canol Caled, 1989 (Gateshead)
19. Killer Crust "Random intimidation, anywhere" from S/t split Ep with Undersiege, 1989 (Dublin)
20. Angry Worta Melonz "Third world" from Rehearsal tape, April, 5th, 1986 (Norwich???)
21. Sludgelord "Rillington sunrise" from Unreleased recordings, September, 1989 (Huddersfield)
22. Axegrinder "Lifechain" from Hiatus (the Peaceville Sampler) compilation Lp, 1989 (London)
23. Hellkrusher "Dark side" from Wasteland Lp, 1990 (Newcastle)
24. Dread Messiah "Mind insurrection" from Mind Insurrection Ep, 1994 (London)
25. Acrasy "Pain" from Deviated Instinct's Re-Opening Old Wounds cd, 1993/1990? (Birmingham)
26. Sacrilege "Stark reality" from Demo 2, February, 1985 (Birmingham)
27. Excrement of War "The ultimate end" from S/t demo tape, 1992? (Birmingham)
28. Grunge "Lemmings" from Gore Maggots tape, 1989 (Aberdeen)
29. Concrete Sox "Speak Japanese or die" from Crust and Anguished Life compilation cd, 1993 (Nottingham)
30. Mortified "Dreary" from Drivel (the Grungalogic Beer Theory) tape, 1991 (Honiton)
31. Amebix "Chain reaction" from The Power Remains Lp, 1993/1987 (Bristol) 

Monday, 7 September 2020

Ten Steps to Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 10): Deviated Instinct "Re-Opening Old Wounds" Lp, 1993

This is the last part of Terminal Sound Nuisance's UK crust series and I suppose it will be a very suitable final chapter since the mere uttering of Deviated Instinct irrevocably makes life (and I mean any form of life) much crustier. It is just a scientific fact, trust me on this one. Although the two recordings included on Re-Opening Old Wounds are anterior to the other segments making up this sharp, urban and edgy guide to the appropriate modern crust lifestyle, I decided to tackle this Lp last since it is the only retrospective compilation of the series. I had this idea that listening to the genre's originators Deviated Instinct in the last position could cast a meaningful light on the barrage of crust music you have been served so far, as if it could somehow be used as an ontological tool to isolate and extract the very essence of crust, the mythical source of energy that, according to barely legible fanzine scripture from the mid-80's, could confer to any average punk incredible moshing powers as well as complete mastery of the arcane arts of crust pants making. Myth or reality? Does crust really have an essence? Is it a common sonic and structural template shared by the bands or more of a tension and a vibe allowing for some gruff creative width, a way of playing and writing? Or is it just an unhealthy obsession with crudely approximative patches, filthy haircuts and sleeveless jackets, like mummy used to scold?

Of course, I have already written about DI on several occasions (in case you have not noticed, the quest for crust is one of Grail-like proportions on this blog). They have become a fairly well-documented band during the past decade, with a crucial cd reissue of their Peaceville recordings in 2006 and a delicious chapter in 2009's Trapped in a Scene, which, combined with the renewed interest prompted by the band's top notch reformation, might make a thorough archeologist survey of their early days a little redundant in 2020. This was not always the case however and when my obsession for crust kicked in in the early 00's, little information was available about DI. The band was seldom referred to and yet, when they were, they were always presented as "crust legends", which was confusing for two main reasons: first, I did not understand how a "legend" could not have some sort of discography available for young punks with a thirst for knowledge like myself and, second, I had no idea that crust had its own lore and legends and it instantly conveyed an aura of epic mystery to the genre while reinforcing its legitimacy in the process. The chase was on indeed.

Like many of my generation, the original metallic crust wave of the mid/late 80's seriously got my attention upon the release of Hellshock's Only the Dead Know the End of the War in 2003, a work described as "PDX stenchcore" (the nod was lost on me at first) and often compared to British bands like Sacrilege, Hellbastard, Bolt Thrower or indeed Deviated Instinct, bands I had never heard of. In retrospect, I realise that such parallels, without looking at their accuracy, were mostly drawn in order to create an old-school crust halo around Hellshock and locate their style into that early Peaceville tradition, renamed "stenchcore" for the additional winking tribute. I was already heavily getting into UK crust when this album came out and was desperately searching for all the founding bands of the genre - bands that sadly no one seemed to really know or even care about at all in my hometown - so that the release of the Hellshock album felt like a sign of the punk gods notifying me that, if the way of crust can be a long and arduous, my devotion to the black(ish) arts shall be rewarded. Whereas I easily obtained the first two Bolt Thrower albums on cd, managed to order Hellbastard's In Grind We Crust cd from Acid Stings and somehow managed to procure an homemade tape copy of Sacrilege's Behind the Realms of Madness (courtesy of Catchphraze Records), recordings that proved to be life-changing kicks up the arse, DI's music however tragically remained out of reach. This minor existential setback did not keep me from getting a magnificent vintage DI patch (the splendid visual with the indigenous face and the gun from the Hiatus compilation Lp if you must know) from an old punk who used to distribute Squat or Rot and Tribal War records in Paris and still had a stash of crust patches made in NY in the early 90's that were particularly unfashionable ten years later. It was the first and only time I ever wore a patch from a band I had actually never heard, a shameful, despicable act usually associated with the lowest cast of the punk scene, the incurable inveterate posers, and I am well aware that such a confession might threaten my established reputation but I had to come clean.

Eventually, after months of begging pathetically, a friend of mine with a computer and a good internet connection downloaded Rock'n'Roll Conformity and Guttural Breath and burnt them on a cd. Almost 18 months after reading about DI in the Hellshock review, I finally got to listen to them. Had I been born 15 years after, I would just have had to type "Deviated Instinct" in the youtube search bar and the quest would have ended in a couple of seconds. Still, it would have been a shame to miss on the frustration, the anticipation and the seemingly endless wait that the quest for DI implied, a band that I loved and revered before even knowing and whose music I had to create and play in my head from the few pieces of intel I had in my possession. In the end, when I finally played the cd, it sounded strangely familiar. Perhaps as much as in their music itself, you could argue that DI's legacy lies in their aesthetics. The striking artworks of the band's records (drawn by guitar hero Mid) have informed the visual identity of crust for years and, to this day, they remain the ultimate visual self-representation and reference point of the crust aesthetics. It is of course no coincidence that iconic bands of the 00's metal crust revival like Hellshock, Nuclear Death Terror or Stormcrow had record covers expertly drawn by Mid in the purest late 80's style (on demand, I suppose), so that the referentiality to the genre's foundations is as much about the dirty vibe, tones and the songwriting than it is about the visuals and the organic apocalyptic visions from the most talented originator of the crust aesthetics. Undeniably the appeal of DI (and of other classic crust bands) was both sonic and visual and I would venture that the stenchcore revivalists perfectly understood the necessity to combine both referential dimensions in order to identify totally with the first wave (an ontological creative move that was born with the 90's d-beat wave). Another crucial, if more prosaic, part of the DI testament has to do about their personal look and how they epitomised the crust punk fashion. To this very day, their cider-fueled, soap-dodging, thrash-loving Mad Max rejects impersonations remain potent emblems of the prelapsarian Eden of the crust punk lifestyle and, not unlike the nirvana of stenchcore, I like to think the pursuit of this noble goal is what really matters.

Re-Opening Old Wounds was released in 1993 on Desperate Attempt Records, a label based in Louisville responsible for some wicked records during its eight-year existence by the likes of Apocalypse, Chaos UK, Hiatus or Disrupt. I remember reading that Old Wounds was very much an initiative from DI's singer Leggo, as he had already worked with the label for the release of Filthkick's Hand Crushed Heart Ep in 1991, which presumably accounted for the inclusion of two uncredited Acrasy songs (a superb metal crust band Leggo sang for in 1990 while living in Brum) on the cd version and, unfortunately, without the involvement of Mid, for a rather ugly cover that did not include any original artwork or represent what the band was about at the time of the recordings (in fact, I would argue that the absence of any piece of Mid's art makes makes Old Wounds a record containing DI songs but not a proper DI record if you know what I mean). However, this Lp is still the only way to listen to the songs off the Terminal Filth Stenchcore demo (minus "Distance", which was recorded before anyway, and the joke song "Clean core killer"), originally recorded on October, 21st, 1986. It was the band's second demo and the first one to really showcase the filthy metallic influences that were massively creeping in the UK punk scene and that DI would be known for. I first came across Terminal Filth Stenchcore through a cdr I ordered from Nations on Fire sometime in the mid 00's and it was, as they say, love at first riff. In Trapped in a Scene, Mid expressed disbelief at the popularity the demo still enjoyed and at the undisputed cult status the new generations religiously conferred to it. To some extent, I understand his amazement. Indeed, if you play Terminal Filth Stenchcore to someone used to the clean productions and expert musicianships so common in extreme metal and hardcore nowadays (or even crust really), he or she will express shock and a very different kind of disbelief at the punk as fuck sloppiness, amateurishness and uncontrolled snotty aggression of the recording. This is filthy metallic PUNK. I would hypothesise that a fondness for the fastest and most intense anarcho bands of the early 80's is required to really get the demo, bands like Antisect, Legion of Parasites, Exit-Stance, but also Chaos UK or Disorder, but with the addition of a nasty thrash metal edge played with a youthful punk energy. I can listen to those songs every day and never get tired of them (I tell this from experience). Even though the production is super raw, the songs retain the catchiness of snotty punk and are all memorable thanks to, in spite of obvious technical limits, a rather ambitious variety of song structures, proper buildups, a sense of narration, two different vocal tones that perfectly complement one another and manage to sound pissed, savage and unpredictable. There are too many highlights for me to list but the melancholy anarcho introduction to "Birthright to subservience", the inclusion of actual religious chant in the primitive tribal crust "Possession prayer", the epic progression of the anthemic "Warmachine" or the crunchy moshing groove of "Cancer spreading" easily come to mind. The perfect colliding ground of filthy anarchopunk and cavemen metal.

The remaining four songs on Old Wounds were recorded on July, 15th, 1987, as part of the so-called Return of Frost third demo (it was never actually entitled that way though), a recording that had seven songs, all of which ended up on compilations. I suppose the whole recording could not fit on the Lp because of the running time but we do have the classic "Stormcrow" from the Consolidation split Ep with fellow Norwich bands Revulsion and Rhetoric, "Return of frost" from the 1984 The Third compilation 2xLp, "Master of all" from the Attack is Now Suicide compilation Lp and "Mechanical extinction" from the Airstrip One compilation Lp (missing are an early, and possibly superior, version of "Rock'n'roll conformity" and "House of cards"). By that time, the band had been joined by Snappa and Sean (on the bass and the drums respectively) and had improved musically. DI enjoyed a thicker, crunchier production this time with an energetic roundness and an organic vibe fitting the songs perfectly. The sense of narration was still present in the songwriting ("Stormcrow", for instance, is a two-minute masterclass in genuinely epic crust) and the structures reflected an intent to create songs that, of course, delivered the filthy crusty metallic punk goods, but also told proper stories and strove to capture the listener's attention through catchy hooks, be it a guitar lead, a spoken word moment, a change of riff or a gruff cavemen chorus. DI's music was still crustier than your favourite festival socks but below the growls, the thrashing riffs and the hardcore aggression, there was always this drive to write good punk songs that you can actually remember and shout along to. By 1987, DI had notably incorporated a fast hardcore thrash influence (furious Italian hardcore immediately comes to mind) to their rocking and raw Antisect-meets-Frost-and-Venom-at-a-punk-piss-up formula. Mid's guitar has a heavy, warm, dirty, organic tone that I am massive sucker for and instinctively associate with the crust sound (especially the bends'), while Leggo sounds like an entranced and vengeful rabid fox looking for a brawl. These four songs are absolute scorchers, defining, genre-making moments in the crust mythology, exemplifying how one can successfully blend rocking metal and fast hardcore without sounding like a jersey-wearing, constipated New Yorker.

Re-Opening Old Wounds, in spite of the excellence of the canonical source material, still feels like a missed opportunity. There is no insert and therefore no lyrics, which is a shame given the clever nature of DI's lyrical content and use of dark and tortured metaphors, and obviously no trace of the original visuals. Just imagine a reissue with a booklet including the visuals from Terminal Filth Stenchcore and from all the compilations that hosted tracks from the 1987 recording session. There was a plan for Agipunk to reissue properly Terminal Filth Stenchcore on vinyl (like they did for Hellbastard's Ripper Crust) but I suppose it fell through. Not many demo recordings can claim to have birthed an actual subgenre and, although the relevance of the term "stenchcore" can be discussed and although bands conceptualising and identifying with the genre only really crystallised in the 00's, there are still today bands claiming to play stenchcore, bands that have developed specific sonic templates that are part of the crust punk world but whose take on crust is more referential, making stenchcore a real subgenre in an analytical context. In spite of their status as "forefathers of crust", DI's actual music was, for a long time, a diffuse influence on subsequent crust bands (perhaps because of the different phases in the band's history, reflecting diverse shades of crust, making them harder to mimic), while their aesthetic stance (the stunning dark visuals and the crust fashion show) and creative posture (filthy punk loves filthy metal) were undeniably more substantial. However recent bands like Cancer Spreading, Zygome, Instinct of Survival, Scene Death Terror or Asocial Terror Fabrication started to openly referred to DI through covers, respectful nods or loving plagiarisms, which I must say is very pleasing to the ear. And did I mention that DI are, by far, the best reformed crust band?

This will make life crustier indeed.


Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Ten Steps to Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 9): Extinction of Mankind / Warcollapse "Extinction of Mankind / Massgenocide" split Ep, 1994

As time passes and as the global ecological apocalypse looms ever closer, it seems that, not unlike most of the world's wild species, the average lifespan of punk bands has also grown shorter. According to the last estimate of the World Health Organization, a punk band formed in 2020 is now expected to live a total of 800 days, whereas a band playing a similar style in 1992 could live at least 2000 days. Of course, some factors external to the punk scene like global living conditions, economic hardships, dictatorial regimes or postpunk's growing instagrammability have to be taken into consideration when one tries to analyse the transience of modern hardcore bands. Still, the fact remains that many bands split up after just two years of existence (often involving one 20 minute long album, one Ep, one European tour and about ten different shirt designs), before members disperse in order to start new band with a slightly different approach, thus launching a new punk life cycle. The intrinsic shortness of hardcore punk bands' lives is a subject that has been on my mind for a while now and, in spite of my infinite wisdom and invaluable experience, I don't have much to offer to enlighten this process other than the global acceleration and increase of our consumption of cultural goods and the decrease of our attention span, both as audience and musicians. If internet has affected the way we listen and relate to music, it must have changed how we write and play music and form bands. In any case, it is always heart-warming to see bands formed in the early 90's that are still active, still hold the same values and still deliver the same sonic assault, thus showing that crust music can be a potent - without mentioning largely organic - preservative indeed.                 

Today, Terminal Sound Nuisance will be hosting two familiar ugly faces, gathered on the same split record, an Ep released in 1994: Manchester's Extinction of Mankind and Sweden's Warcollapse, the latter being the only non-British band of this crust lifestyle series. The inclusion of this split Ep made sense on several levels. First, it is a way to connect the past - in this case the early 90's, a crucial time in crust development - to the present, since both bands are still playing in 2020 and although WC have not been anywhere near as active and prolific as EOM in the past decade, the latest Desert of Ash 12'' was released in 2019 and is worthy of your attention. Second, in the timeframe that interests us, from the late 80's to the early 90's, the split Ep format grew to become a proper DIY punk staple. The format was emblematic of the period itself as it symbolised the idea of cooperation and was also a lesser financial risk with the involvement of two bands. Just consider the number of split Ep's released in the 90's and 00's that unquestionably belong in the upper level of the crust punk canon and it is utterly clear that, not only did the Ten Steps series dearly needed such a format as a matter of diachronic relevance, but that you should also have a list of your ten favourite crust split Ep's ready in case you are being challenged to a crust joust by your arch nemesis one day (lets get real, it's bound to happen). And finally, you did not get much crustier than EOM and WC in 1993 when they recorded their respective side of the split. 

I have already written about EOM's Scars of Mankind Ep (here) and WC's Crap, Scrap and Unforgivable Slaughter Ep (here), so that I do not really need to tell you about their origins again and the fascinating stories about how and when I got to know them probably don't deserve another round. I often feel as if I am droning on about the same old bands and sanity, or something approaching, dictates that I should avoid literally repeating myself too often. The day I accidentally review a record I forgot I already dealt with will be the last day of the blog and the first of a gofundme page for my retirement party (possibly a massive Discharge karaoke night). But we're not quite there yet and we have a lovely split Ep to rave about so let's get to it. There are several connections between EOM and WC, the split Ep being only the most obvious, and many parallels can be drawn between both bands. As punk bands do, they toured together in Sweden in late 1994 (Counterblast were also invited) and in central Europe again in September, 1995, but far more strikingly, both bands each recorded a tribute Ep to UK punk bands - Ale to England and the aforementioned Crap, Scrap and Unforgivable Slaughter - that included the exact same three bands (Antisect, Discharge and Amebix). If the similar choice of classic bands undeniably reflected major influences, there remains an impression of crust bromance that I find particularly endearing and relatable since, as any faithful believer of crust knows, Antisect, Discharge and Amebix is the official trinity of our cult. The Extinction of Mankind / Massgenocide split Ep was the first proper record for both bands (although EOM had one song off their Without Remorse demo on Loony Tunes' compilation Lp A Scream From the Silence Volume 2) and it proves to be an apt representation of the bands' rawer past selves. 

Recorded in October, 1993, in Middlesborough, the EOM side is made up of three songs, admittedly thinly produced and rather direct in their approach, that nevertheless pack up a right punch. Although beers and fags have affected Ste's voice during his almost three decades behind the mike in EOM, you can still instantly recognise his vocal style and unmistakable flow, tone and intonations, shouted with a lot of power but never yelled or growled, and always very much understandable (if you are fluent in the language spoken "Up North"). You can hear that the band was still young and not totally comfortable and had not really found its own beat yet. The sonic ingredients that defined the early years of EOM are already present however and the Antisect influence is prevalent indeed as the band tries to offer a blend of In Darkness There is no Choice's relentless power and Out From the Void's rocking darkness, an ambitious initiative that EOM probably did not have the ability to realise at that point in time but that Scars of Mankind remarkably did eventually. There are also elements of Anti-System and Icons of Filth in those early EOM tracks, especially on the faster "Overruled" or on the groovy mid-paced moment of "Extinction of mankind", while "Suffer in silence", arguably the best song, reminds me of a cross between early Axegrinder and Hellkrusher. Lyrically, we are on standard grounds with "Overruled" (about systemic control) and "Extinction of mankind" (about humankind's fair treatment of nature, of course) while "Suffer in silence" is a visceral number about domestic violence. Although EOM would significantly improve throughout the 90's, the key elements and the referential nods, that they would build on, polish and grow to be famous for, already informed their early sound. One may also note that they were one of the few 90's UK bands to worship so openly at the altar of Antisect and Amebix and pay such a powerful tribute to the mid/late 80's both in terms of songwriting and visuals (the artworks have always been brilliantly macabre and the band's logo is the equivalent of a Crust 101 art class), and on that level it is relevant to see EOM as an attempt to continue and preserve the whole Antisect approach to punk and a love declaration to the crust greats. In the end, a rather romantic endeavour.   

There are two songs on WC's side, "Massgenocide" and "Scorned by bombfighters", recorded in February, 1993. These two tracks were part of a larger session as two other songs were also recorded on that occasion, "Misery and despair" (which would end up on Tribal War's compilation War Compilation) and "Warcollapse" (included, along with "Misery and despair", on Distortion Records' Distortion to Hell classic compilation of Swedish crusty hardcore). I think it was the first session under the WC name but the band's website infers that a demo entitled Misery and Despair was recorded when they were still grinding under the Earcollapse moniker (a cracking name indeed). Being a massive WC fan myself, I cannot recommend the band's early era enough as it gloriously epitomised the 90's cavemen crust sound, albeit with a distinct Swedish hardcore vibe, and for all their rawness, the early Ep's did not fail to deliver and let it be clear that the Crust as Fuck Existence minialbum from 1995 is a masterpiece of mid-paced metallic old-school crust. The two WC songs on the split are typical of what would become the band's style. The heavy, slow, stripped-down dark crust number, "Massgenocide", points to Doom's slower moments, Döm Dar or even Saw Throat with super gruff and hostile vocals and such slow-paced epic metal-crust numbers would become a WC trademark. The other song, "Scorned by bombfighters", sees WC unleash a fast and pummeling scandicrust tornado upon the listener, somewhere between Doom, early Sauna, Anti-Cimex and Bombanfall, with the deceptively soft introduction cleverly linking it to the previous number and a spoken words moment nodding to anarcho hardcore punk. A clearly fantastic debut from the masters of Swedish crustcore and a fascinating instance of how influences circulate inside the punk scene with a Swedish band influenced by Birmingham's Doom, who were themselves inspired by Discard and 80's käng, who could not have existed without Discharge's fury. Not that many Swedish bands displayed a strong crust vibe in the 90's - be it of the stenchcore or of the cavecore variety - and many (and there were tons of bands) aimed for a harder version of the Swedish hardcore classics. WC, on the other hand, offered a punishingly convincing cocktail of old-school UK crust and vintage scandicore, and their sound, to me, defines what the term "Swedish crust" really entails.   

Both EOM and WC would go on to become genuine references in the world of crust throughout the 90's and 00's. In spite of important lineup changes (the departure of Mass and the arrival of Scoot on the guitar must have been a massive sonic shift), EOM have progressively become that rather unique and distinctive UK crust band with a sound that is both identifiably linked to the old-school crust wave and yet totally their own and there is something that I find inherently respectable, if not heroic and quixotic, in keeping a band alive throughout all these years, especially when they play such an underground peculiar genre as crust punk, surviving all the shallow trends and the endless punk drama in the process. As for WC just play Desert of Ash if you need to be persuaded that they are still up for it and may the crusties of the world hold hands and pray together that it signifies the rebirth of the mighty WC. 

Released on the Swedish label ElderBerry Records (responsible for records by the likes of G-Anx, Tolshock or 3-Way Cum), this is retrospectively a classic split Ep in the sense that, to some extent, it prefigures the greater things that are to come for both bands, although taken on its own as a rather typical early/mid 90's record, it would be far-fetched to call it a crust masterpiece but reasonable to describe it as a solid and promising raw crust work. It is therefore in the light of future events and of the bands' parallel progression that the EOM/WC split Ep makes the most sense.

To be enjoyed with some ale.