Thursday, 18 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 7): Protess "Positiveness" Ep, 2001

Ace epic cover

Once again, this is a record that keeps slipping through the cracks and yet one that I never intended to neglect. Although I can never quite remember how it sounds like, I know full well who I got it from. It was during an online record sale organized by Profane Existence about ten years ago. Money was needed to cover some debts (I think) and parts of record collections had to be sold away to that effect. I was an active member of the message board at the time so got the full list early and managed to grab a copy of Legion of Parasites' Lp, The Prison of Life. Needless to say that I was ecstatic to finally get hold of such a classic and although I realize that to still boast about it to this day is a tad embarrassing, I can't really help it. Yes indeed, the deal was pretty good. In the list there were a couple of records from bands I had never heard of but looked interesting judging from the short descriptions that accompanied them. So, upon reflection, I wisely added two Ep's to my shopping list, one being Jesusexercise's fantastic Ep, while the other was Positiveness by Protess, which was said to be a female-fronted anarcho hardcore band from Japan (or something along these lines). 

Protess formed in 1998 in Sapporo, hometown of Slang, a major player in the Japanese hardcore game (u feel me?) and as a matter of fact they may still be playing, as I have seen live videos from 2015 so it is possible. If it seems to have been singer Yumi's first band (correct me if I'm wrong), the other members were already playing in bands when Protess started. Guitar player Koyuru was in the furious Japanese grinding hardcore band Knuckle Head, along with bass player Takeharu and drummer Taketora who were also playing in Barricade, who were more of a distorted noizy hardcore unit. I am clueless about the actual origin of the name but I came up with three theories:

1. During a drunken band meeting in a bar, after much deliberation, everyone agreed on Protest and went on to celebrate the newly born band. However, a glass was spilled on the sheet of paper where the name had been written down. The next day, no one could actually remember which name they had settled for but fortunately the sheet was found. However the last letter of Protest was blurred and unreadable and the "t" became an "s", hence Protess instead of Protest.

2. The band had a very good friend called Tess and was originally conceived as a pro-Tess act.

3. It was a spelling nod toward the classic female-fronted Japanese punk band Gomess.

Anyway, I suppose Protess are best remembered nowadays for their 2008 split Ep with melodic punk band Signal Lost from Austin that was released on Prank Records, but even that would actually be a rather optimistic assumption (I mean, who still listens to records from the late 00's?). The band's first demo, recorded in 1998, was a raw but meaningful endeavour which set the tone for what was to come in terms of inspiration and songwriting for Protess. Although there was certainly a traditional Japcore vibe on the demo - especially in the faster bits and in the typical backing chorus - Protess did not aim primarily for that sound and were more progressive and versatile, "modern"-sounding if you wish, trying to blend different beats and genres in order to create a passionate whole. Of course, many bands were trying the same thing worldwide and you could argue that this artistic drive and desire to innovate was very much contextualised and even characteristic of the late 90's and early 00's. The 1999 split Ep with Noise Pollution on MCR showed the band in a much tighter mode with a very clean production that highlighted the band's emotional aspect (arguably a bit too much) but it was Positiveness, thanks to a potent and crunchy sound production from one Koji who had already recorded materials from Crude and Mustang, from that really summarized what Protess were all about.

I cannot claim to be a massive fan of the type of hardcore sound Protess were going for in 2001, however the song on the first side of the Ep, "心に花を", is undeniably a hit. It manages to be heavy, epic and triumphant in a Japanese hardcore way, diverse but coherent without ever losing the listener in spite of its length (almost 6 minutes) and above all intense and passionate. The song is mostly a dark, mid-paced number that reminds me of Scatha, Debris and Unhinged, with punishing and heavy tribal beats (the drumming is fantastic all around), but there's also an actual melodic emocore moment toward the end that gives Anomie a run for their money as well as a genuine and epic burning spirit abrasive moment. The vocalist Yumi sounds very ardent, both indignant and hopeful, and the fact that the words are in Japanese confers even more intensity to the prosody and therefore the song. On the whole, "心に花を" works very well and never sounds disparate, on the contrary, its circular structure of echoes maintains its narrative quality, which is something you always need to have if you are going for epic moody hardcore. The second song is not bad by any means and sounds quite similar to the first one, but it just is not as inspired and catchy to ears and it didn't grab my attention.

As mentioned above, a band such as Unhinged (who are cruelly underrated if you ask me) must have been a major influence, especially with the female vocals and the emotional but heavy and angry music, and I can definitely picture a Protess recording for Nabate. Beside them, I suppose the tentacular destructive power of His Hero Is Gone must have played a role in influencing the band as well as UK tribal hardcore bands like Scatha and Sedition (the visuals of the Ep certainly point in that direction), maybe some Antisect and Anti-System and obviously other progressive emotional hardcore bands that were contemporaries but that I know nothing about (but then, I decline omniscience). I don't really listen to that type of music anymore but I really enjoyed playing Positiveness. Of course, it is quite dated and the last decade was overrun with hardcore bands who wanted to be heavy, epic and melodic (cough neocrust cough), but Protess sound and look first and foremost as a genuine punk band who played hardcore with passion and in the end that's exactly what you need to have for an Ep to be solid. This one was released on Sprout Records, a label run by Tsuyoshi (who went to be sing in the MG15 fanboy band Desperdicio) that also released materials from Sacrifice and Youth Strike Chord. I just love the manga-like drawing of the band on the cover (I am a sucker for those) but haven't been able to find other pieces from the artist, so if you are aware of some, please let me know. 

Incidentally, the copy of the Ep contained two photographs from Protess playing live somewhere in 1999. I have no idea who took them but they are pretty cool so here they are.

There's even a bloody sticker!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 6): Positive Negative "Throughout the holocaust" Ep, 1999

Few countries can pride themselves on having an 80's punk scene as classic as Finland's. Vintage Finnish hardcore (I have bumped into the phrase "finncore" or "finn-core" on a couple of occasions but it sounds too cheesy, even for me) is the stuff of legend. That a dedicated bunch of Japanese punks have been trying very hard to reproduce that sound - as well as learn some basic skills in Suomi and wear the Bristolian headlace kinda gracefully - is no coincidence and proves that this brand of hardcore is not only a genuine style but also a tasteful one. I mean, you wouldn't see that with French punk, although now that French oi music has become fashionable I wouldn't be that surprised to hear about a Tokyo-based Komintern Sect cover band. What a world we live in. 

Although these days, we are quick in calling "classic" any short-lived band that vaguely recorded a demo in 1983, there is no denying that Finland produced its fair share of absolute classic bands. Back when I decided to educate myself about the world of hardcore, I used to make list of bands that, apparently, judging from what older and wiser punks said in fanzines, were "classic hardcore". Internet and downloading - without even mentioning streaming obviously - were still very much out of the picture at that time so, on a small budget, I had to target the good stuff and started to make lists of crucial foreign hardcore bands organized by country. I came up with a short list of Finnish punk bands that, if I understood well, I just needed to know if I did not want to be a poser, and since I was really worried that I might be called one at the time (yes, I know it sounds incredible in this age of social media but posing and wearing patches of bands you don't actually know was once frowned upon) I promptly bought some records. Of course, I could only find what was available (and affordable) at the time and I suppose I should have asked some old-timers to compile a mixtape for me instead, but that is how you learn. I remember ordering the Brazilian cd reissue of Rattus' Finnish Hardcore originally on BCT tape (not the greatest Rattus release to be honest and the whole thing's actually hard to digest as a first encounter with the band) and Terveet Kädet's Deep Wound cd (not a good one and it kept me away from TK for years) which I was not really happy with. However, I was lucky enough to find cheap vinyl copies of the amazing - bootleg - compilation Killed by Finnish Hardcore (the ideal comprehensive introduction to the genre) and two Höhnie Records reissues of classic Finnish hardcore, Riistetyt's As a Prisoner of State Lp and Kaaos' Totaalinen Kaaos Lp (basically the 1982 recordings of the band). The latter two completely won me over and the internet age even further consecrated the cult status that we collectively awarded these Tampere bands and the typical Tampere sound. I don't think I have ever met someone who dislikes early Kaaos. It is this kind of consensual band that is unanimously loved and really, I don't see how anyone could resist the insane teenage energy and snotty aggression that permeate their early works. Why am I talking about all this? Well, Positive Negative had two original members of Kaaos in its ranks.

I have absolutely no recollection of buying or being given the Ep so I am going to skip this part. If you lent me this record years ago and never gave it back, please leave a message. This is the only Positive Negative record in my collection and I am not really familiar with the rest of their discography. I don't think the band existed for that long but they sure were very active during their short run with four PN records being released between 1997 and 1999 (one of them was a split with Detestation). The members already had juicy resumes and the lineup was closely tied with the Kaaos story with Nappi on the bass (original Kaaos bass player who also played in Riistetyt in the 80's and Absurd Attitude and Ensam among other bands) and Jakke (original Kaaos singer) on the vocals, both of whom sadly passed away 2011 and 2007 respectively. On the drums you could find the first Janne who was also behind the kit in 00's-era Kaaos and Ensam, on the guitars you had another Janne (from Olotila and Diaspora) and Vege (from 00's-era Riistetyt and Vapaus) and on second vocals was Purtsi, who also sang in Absurd Attitude and Pause as well as playing the bass in 00's Kaaos. Some would call the 90's Tampere scene as a close-knit hardcore family, others would just say incestuous, I would just say that it is typical of the way punk scenes have always been working and it is always fun to make connections that you had never thought of before.

Throughout the Holocaust is a wonderful record and I don't understand why I haven't played more often. If you expect vintage Tampere hardcore revival, you will be disappointed, since the global trend crowning the minutious reconstructions of golden era hardcore music (and costuming, some people like to dress up as knights during the weekend, others choose 80's Finnish punks) only really started ten years after. PN definitely sounds like a 90's band in the best way possible. Of course, there is a solid mid-80's Finnish hardcore influence as PN could be defined - broadly - as a Scandi-thrash punk band. The aggressive thrashing hardcore riffs are there, the beats are fast and punishing and the presence of two guitars adds thickness to the sound. The dual trade-off vocals definitely point in the anarcho-crust tradition that was prominent in Europe however and, notwithstanding the fact I am an absolute sucker for this kind of vocalisation, it gives the songs a mean yet welcome crusty edge (I am reminded of Counterblast and Policebastard in the vocals' tones and structures). The Ep has a genuine narrative quality as all the songs either blend into each other or are connected with samples or quotes. In fact, the opening of side B is the same as the ending of side A, so you can see that PN were trying to tell a complete story and saw Throughout the Holocaust as a whole and not just a bunch of songs, something that the absence of song titles confirms. I am not saying that it is perfectly executed but it makes the EP more interesting and it allowed the band to include gloomy and melodic mid-paced moments with anarcho-tinged spoken parts that fit well into the work's structure as a whole. You could say that it is a well-balanced 90's blend of crusty anarcho-thrash bands like Disaffect or Homomilitia, of aggressive Finnish hardcore, with a dash of Brazilian crossover and some Bad Influence's anarcho weirdness. It certainly bears similarities with Kaaos' excellent 2001 record, Ismit and Riistetyt's best 00's materials and although it would be far-fetched to claim that PN was transitional in that respect, it is not completely absurd either. Lyrically, the band was in the anarcho tradition with antiwar and antiracist words and a foldout poster with a slogan that made me giggle: "The system is like a fart; you can not see it but it stinks". What's not to like about a crusty anarcho-thrash punk band that still adds a fart-related joke on a poster?     

Throughout the Holocaust was released on Fight Records, which will not surprise anyone, in 1999, like PN's second and third record, and it certainly holds up with the best releases of this quality Tampere hardcore label and since no one seems to really give a damn about this kind of sound, you should be able to blag a copy for cheap.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 5): Red Flag 77 / PMT "Demolition Derby" split Ep, 1995

Before I start the new episode of my foolish series about personal memory lapses as they pertain to my record collection (potentially awkward stuff), I would like you to relax and close your eyes and follow my voice (I am aware you do not know my voice just imagine how it sounds like and if nothing comes, let's just say I sound like a wrestling announcer). Don't be so tense and try to release these flows of bad energies, these bad vibes, the ones that prevent you from liking top bands like Blyth Power and The Astronauts, you know what I mean. Now try to empty your mind and go back to the origins of the Self, of Meaning, of Life itself. Travel deep inside your roughed up psyche and unravel what you find at its core. That's right, it is a massive safety pin and it symbolizes bloody  old-school punk-rock, the class of 1977, the one that started all this nonsense. 

Since I am prone to panic attacks whenever I am being told to relax and especially when I hear the combination of the words "yoga" and "meditation", I am grateful I didn't have to reach into my inner self to see the '77 light and just had to browse through my Ep's. I am not the biggest fan of 70's punk music and while I do enjoy some of it, I tend to prefer the second wave, the one that was influenced by the original wave, basically punk-rock influenced by punk-rock. Of course, the huge success and popularity of bands like The Clash, the Pistols, The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers or X-Ray Spex implies that they have had, to this day, a lasting effect on punk music and aesthetics. In fact, '77 punk has become a punk subgenre throughout the years, a bit like UK82 but with a bigger claim to being "the original punk sound" (some people do treasure that notion to an unhealthy extent). If anything, this constant process of turning a specific, contextualized sound into an actual genre, this cementing "genre-ification", shows that we - us punks - have a very limited understanding of the diachroneity and fluidity of music. We love categories. On the other hand, it has also spawned a lot of discrete punk subgenres which, in spite of their inherent systematization and an archipelago structure, account for the diversity of punk music. And besides, I love the botanical approach that emerges from this somewhat unified fragmentation and I guess there would be no Terminal Sound Nuisance if it were not for it.

But anyway, I don't listen to many original '77 punk bands (although it is always fun to play some classics once in a while and Ulster bands are ace) and even less to the '77-styled bands that came after. With some meaningful exceptions of course, otherwise I wouldn't be sweating like a pig in front of a computer screen. I fucking love Red Flag 77. There I said it. I am still not sure how I could forget that I owned this split Ep but I think I got this one in Osaka last year during a record shopping frenzy when I blitzed a 300 yen record box. There were many casualties and it may have been one of them. Although I don't really know what records I have from them, RF77 hold a special place in my heart. Their gig in 2001 in a Parisian squat was not only insanely good but also one of my first "real" punk gigs (before that it was pretty just terrible ska-punk gigs in my sleepy suburbia) with proper punks with studs, spiky hair and shit. I was 17 and they played an absolute blinder with a cracking cover of "What's my name?". They were energetic and their brand of snotty old-school punk-rock with singalong tunes really spoke to me then and I am relieved to say upon listening to them again today, it still speaks to me now.

RF77 formed in 1990 in Ipswich, hometown of Extreme Noise Terror who were still going strong at the time. Although RF77 didn't sound in the least like crust punk or hardcore punk (on that level they were certainly oddities in the UK punk soundscape of the time), they still had Pete from ENT as a guitarist during their early years and two members of Screaming Holocaust, Malcum on the drums and Les - briefly - on the bass. Another great example of punk's porosity and incestuousness I guess. The band did their first gig - under a different name that was quite terrible - with Chaos UK, ENT and Filthkick and got to release a couple of cover songs for the 1991 Punk's not Dread compilation Lp (the punker than punk fellow on the famous cover being actually RD77's singer Rikki!). After that, they recorded a demo tape and then, in 1995, thanks to a stable lineup (something that the band never really enjoyed until then), the two songs appearing on their side of Demolition Derby, "The Martians" and "Nervous system". These numbers are perfect examples of what old-school punk-rock should sound like. They have the obnoxious snottiness, the catchy chorus, the direct energy, simple and clear guitar riffs. Of course, they are not reinventing the wheel but given the templates of the style, I cannot think of another 90's band doing it better. The genre can be pretty tricky to play and I have seen many bands trying far too hard to recreate the '77 vibe and ending up sounding (and looking...) corny and a little pathetic. RF77 have this spontaneity for them, and even though it is easy to hear that they are going for the sound of the UK Subs, Menace, The Clash or SLF, the tunes sound fresh and the band authentic. Old-school punk-rock for the punks. I can't help but hearing a Toy Dolls influence on the chorus of "The Martians" and the simple but wicked guitar lead on "Nervous system" turns a rather typical punk-rock song into a genuine hit. And of course, Rikki has got just the right voice for the style, rough but with some melodies.

I strongly recommend their first album A Short Cut to a Better World that was released in 1998 (with a vinyl version only in 2000 for some reason). As I said, it is not easy to play that overdone style well, especially on a whole album and on this one RF77 basically gave a lesson on how to make it sound both classic and fresh, snotty and catchy. A genuine 90's punk-rock classic. At a time when many bands are happy to release albums with only 8 songs, RF77 delivered 19 songs at the time and believe me when I say that, despite the relative length for a punk Lp, it never bores. I have to admit that I haven't really kept up with what the band did afterwards but I'm sure it's still quality.

On the other side of the split Ep are the mighty PMT, initials that did not stand for Pre Menstrual Tension but for Pissed Mouthy Trollops, a name that adequately summed up what the band was all about. PMT formed in Norwich in 1992 and they were and always have been despite numerous epic lineup changes an all-girl punk band. This was not so common in the UK punk scene in the 90's and although the 80's anarchopunk wave saw many girls playing in punk bands like Androids of MU, Hagar the Womb, Lost Cherrees and Rubella Ballet to name some of the most remarkable, the same could not be said a decade later. Of course, the riot grrrl movement was contemporary with PMT but it was essentially a North American phenomenon - though it spread afterwards - and its artier aspects, without mentioning its sonic proximity to the exploding US grunge rock scene, do not really fit with Norwich's female punk gang. According to the chapter devoted to the band Armed in Anger, PMT's career was an eventful, epic, drunken one with some stories that would be worthy of inclusion in a telenovela and while the band did tackle the issue of sexism in the scene (among other serious subjects), it was also very much about fun and fury (I mean, they had a song entitled "Cider slags"). The early lineup of the band recorded the Pretty Mental demo tape in 1992 and Tunes from the Womb in 1993 before Jenny P and Ella (on the sax and drums respectively) left to form another all-female garage punk band Compact Pussycat (they were replaced by Jenny D and Elaine). PMT finally released a third tape in 1994, In Tomato Sauce, before recording the two songs that would end up on the split with RF77 in 1995.

Before reading Armed with Anger I don't think I had heard of PMT before. I knew their brilliant cover of Crass, "Heart-throb of the mortuary", not an easy one to pull out, that appeared on Ruptured Ambitions' You've Heard it all Before compilation Lp, but I didn't bother checking out the band (and I never noticed their records on distro tables). So seeing that there was a whole section about them in the book was a bit of a surprise and I did get to discover a new band. I have to confess that I was also slightly upset that I did not know them before but the pleasure of the discovery exceeded the injured ego, albeit barely. Not unlike RF77, PMT had a raw old-school vibe to them although I would argue that they sounded closer to the second wave than the first one (in spite of their professed love the Subs and SLF) and even the saxophone, which would normally instantly bring to mind X-Ray Spex strongly reminded me of French anarchopunk bands like Psycho Squat or Kochise who also loved sax, a somewhat problematic instrument that I can find interesting in some punk bands but that I am usually prone to discard like all other wind instruments (since it is not too distracting in PMT's music and that I like the band, they get a free pass). Musically I suppose you could describe PMT as a punk as fuck, pissed, mouthy cross between The Expelled, Dan, Suicidal Supermarket Trolleys and the aforementioned Psycho Squat. The faster UK82 song "Ex punk" is the definite winner here with its catchy chorus and pogo-inducing beat and flow. It would not have been out of place in a Riot City sampler. "Anti fash" is a more of a mid-paced number with more prominent sax parts and unfortunately quite a lot of skips (it is a second-hand copy after all). If they were around today - and Instagram-compatible - I am sure they could be rather popular since this kind of 1-2-1-2 raw punk-rock is fairly popular. They went on to record a full Ep, Hazard!, in 1999 with a different lineup (bass player Clara left for Hackney and played in Zero Tolerance) that is better produced and more solid (although I have my own reservations about covering "I will survive") and will probably end up on Terminal Sound Nuisance one day as I certainly did not forget owning that geezer. PMT apparently reformed a few years ago since discogs lists a split with The Destructors from 2012.

Demolition Derby was released in 1995 on Weird Records, a label that was really active in the 90's and early 00's and was responsible for putting out records from the Varukers, Road Rage, Kismet HC and the superb Dogshit Sandwich (oh yes).

Now spike yer hair and polish your studs, it's time to dust off your Clash and Spex records, punk!

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 4): Discontrol / Demisor "Neanderthal Crust - the Primitive Way / End the Conception" split Ep, 1999

That is another one I completely forgot about although seeing it again, lost in the Dis section, instantly brought a childish smile to my face.

I was aware I had one or two Demisor records so was not too surprised with their presence on one side of the split Ep, but I have to say I didn't really remember how they sounded like here. When I looked at the Discontrol side, on the other hand, the name itself did not really ring any bell (they could just as well have been called Hellcontrol, Diswarning or any other clumsy assemblages of teenage Discharge worship), but accurate memories of their sound quickly came back to my rusting brain, thanks to the rather glorious title they picked for their side, Neanderthal Crust - the Primitive Way, one that I remember finding particularly enjoyable and humorous and still actually do. 

Crust is often said to be a pretty grim and dark punk subgenre, and for good reasons, since, after all, most of the songs deal with war, decay, the end of the world and a large array of gruesome injustices and depressing facts of life, so that, although you can always find numbers about obnoxious boozing and teh subsequent partying, even they will often be seen as palliative or self-destructive ("Relief" being the prime example). But still, the fun-loving element in crust cannot be denied and I think Discontrol are genuinely funny. Of course, if you are not into crust or d-beat to begin with, you will think that they suck on many levels and that there is nothing even remotely amusing to their music and their philosophy. Humour is highly cultural and relies on a web of collective references. Getting the proper cultural references involved will make a joke funny, or at least intelligible, while not getting the references means that one is not even aware that the joke refers to a particular cultural datum and, therefore, not only does the joke inevitably fall flat but it becomes deprived of its joke status by the non-initiated. Nothing is funny out of context. It's like trying to laugh with Thisclose when you have never heard Discharge. It just cannot work.

I am not completely sure of the story of this split Ep and how it landed in my collection. I have a mate who often gives me obscure and improbably rough and mean crusty grindcore records he has spare copies of (you know, that kind of friend) so that I often end up with bands I know little about. The records are usually from the late 90's and early 00's, the bands have terrible names and the covers are atrociously pixelated because at that time, and for a good few years, people apparently thought that pixels did not really matter or that no one would notice or pay attention or that even the most primitive digital imaging would age better than old-fashioned drawings or cut'n'paste. Of course, history proved that it was a very wrong and flawed way of thinking (like skacore for example), but I personally think that such overpixelated covers are unintentionally funny and almost touching (and from an archeologist perspective it makes the dating of a punk artifact easier to gauge). The Discontrol/Demisor split Ep is such a late 90's record: it looks ugly but sounds lovable. Let's start with my favourite and smile-inducing side: Discontrol from Sweden.

Pixels? What pixels?

Discontrol is the humourous band of the record. Now, trying to be funny with punk can be a very tricky endeavour, arguably now more than ever. I generally do not like "joke bands" and never got bands like that use intentionally crude, offensive humour just for the sake of "pissing people off". I suppose it is fine if you're 16 and it is your first band but quickly becomes embarrassing when you're a balding wanker in your forties. From my perspective punk and a sense of humour can match when it is done out of passion, a snotty sense of irony and as a tribute and I feel Discontrol do it well. Of course, your tummy will not be aching with laughter but if it does not get a few giggle from you then you are possibly on the wrong blog.

The band could have been nominated in the "Most Unoriginal Dis Moniker of the Year" category with a name such as Discontrol but then it was the 90's after all (there were dozens of Disbands in Sweden) and I suppose that it fits them well in the end. They were from Ockelbo, a small town north of Uppsala, and unsurprisingly played unabashed raw, fast and loud Swedish mangel that nods heavily towards the local greats from the 80's. The band was active between 1994 and 1999, a time when D-beat and dischargey hardcore was very strong and prevailed in Scandinavia, and this split was their only vinyl appearance as well as their last recording. A Discontrol tape entitled 1998-1995 and released on ALP Tapes (a small tape label responsible for the great Attack! scandicore mixtapes and a Mob 47 tribute) tells clever me that they also had some practice or demo recordings hanging about). There are not many pieces of information floating around about the band but apparently the drummer went on to play in Usurpress and Panikattack. But let's talk about the music. Discontrol were - very - heavily into Shitlickers. Not only did they cover "Leader of the fucking arseholes" on the split but they also did their best to mimic the Shitlickers' nihilistic, and aggressive lyrics, a drive which led to such amazing poetic creations as "Weak escape" ("Sick off shit so you fuck off / What a weak escape") and "Fucking arse" ("Your state of mind is fucked / Arsehole fucking arse"). As I said earlier, if you don't know Shitlickers, you will find the lyrics and the music silly and exaggeratedly negative, if not cryptically dumb. If you do, I guess you will get it and enjoy the playfulness.

Twenty years after this recording, there are far more bands doing the Shitlickers worship than there used to be. The internet made turned the band into a punk reference while I think it is safe to say they were mostly an obscure classic for hardcore diehards before. When a current band goes for that sound, it will usually rely on pedals, effects and as much pose as possible in order to re-create. Discontrol's music however was simple, direct, mean, tuneless, raw, deprived of any sonic sophistication (or originality), and somehow managed to capture the threatening simplicity and basic, vile, relentless aggression of the Shitlickers sound. I'm not saying the textures are exactly the same but the vibe is here, the simple but mean scando riffs are played like there's no tomorrow and you can tell that it was recorded fast and loud. The vocals are particularly hoarse and gruff and utterly deserve the "Neanderthal crust" tag that aptly conjures up images of primitive, rough, heavy hardcore played by soap-dodging punks, nightmarish visions that should be enough to send hardcore posers home. In spite of the title, there is technically not much crust in Discontrol - though I can imagine them loving the impact of Doom and finding Sore Throat structurally inspirational - as they were into the dirtiest and most direct form of aggressive Swedish hardcore like the aforementioned Shitlickers, Crudity, Svart Parad, Bombanfall or Anti-Bofors. 6 songs in 5 minutes. This is the most primitive, barest hardcore punk music you'll be hearing this month, I can tell you that.

On the other side are Demisor, a rather cult grindcore band from Singapore that has been going since 1987 and is still very much active to this day. I cannot pretend to be an expert in grindcore and I am not that familiar with Demisor. Fortunately, they don't fall in the modern technical grind category (a subgenre that always blasts me to sleep) or the metal grind one (who needs lengthy grindcore numbers???) and, in fact, they sound delightfully crusty on this record. The tempos are diverse and even if the songs mostly revolve around the time-approved and honourable "blast beats followed by a fast pummeling d-beat" binary structure, there are some crunchy mid-paced moments and even one gloomy melodic intro to show you that Demisor are not into monotonous grindcore. One things that works particularly well here is the polyphonic element. There is of course a prevailing growling voice but it is adequately balanced with screaming vocals and even some shouted female ones on "End the conception". The production is pretty raw but then overproduced grinding punk is not something I usually look forward to and the whole sounds very energetic and angry. I would describe the songs as lying somewhere between Disrupt and Unholy Grave which is an excellent thing. Quality crusty grindcore for sure.

Glue the grind

This split Ep was released on the short-lived Swedish label Ubble-Gubble and, in true DIY fashion, there was an unfortunate mishap as the covers were glued together so that you couldn't see what was on the inside. Well, shit happens and if anything I suppose it further adds to the charm of this humble record of genuinely raw hardcore punk music.

The official apology

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 3): Blind Obedience "Submit to the yoke" Ep, 1998

This is a band I consistently keep forgetting about. Whenever I browse through my Ep's and see the record, I remember I already forgot about it in the past. I don't remember the actual band and music, not at all, I remember that it is not the first time I haven't remembered them. How odd, right? Even more so since, when I do play it, I realize it is a good record, unfairly unremembered, and I grumble self-righteously about the intrinsic injustice of the situation. And then I promptly forgot again. I often pride myself to have a pretty sharp memory of bands and records - as opposed to birthdays for instance - but Blind Obedience always escapes me. Go figure. So today's post will be a bit like a memorandum.

And it will probably a pretty short one since I do not know much about BO. I think I got the Ep in the early 2010's on ebay (yes you may sneer) for very cheap along with a couple of other obscure crust Ep's that nobody seemed even remotely interested in (I think Blowhard was in the lot as well). I suppose it was a distro getting rid of innocent 90's crust records which, of course, I just had to save from their impending doom, aka the dreaded 1$ bin where punk records go to die with as much dignity as they can muster. Going out of fashion is heart-breaking, really. But anyway, I had never heard of BO before and I cannot say they have become a hot topic of conversation since. What I can tell you is that they were from the quiet town of Vetlanda (that's halfway between Malmö and Stockholm according to google map) and that Submit to the Yoke, released in 1998 apparently, was their only vinyl appearance. From what I can gather, BO was formed by some ex-members of two other short-lived bands, Lopun Alku (like the Bastards' song) and Brusjävlers, that I have never listened to although they did a split tape together in 1996. The Ep was released on Hepatit D (D for Dis?), a label that was run by a member of Greenscab (assuming it rings a bell for you) and another bloke in the mid/late 90's. Hepatit D put out a couple of sweet records in its short run, notably a DS-13 split Ep, an Antabus Ep and of course the Puke 2xEp reissue. 

Despite this shortage of information, let me tell you that BO were absolutely furious. The cover is somewhat misleading actually. It looks a lot like someone decided to copy the Extinction of Mankind and Amebix fonts and frames and chose to exaggerate their slimy, hairy, ominous aspects but did not know where to stop so that it quickly escalated into a messy outcome. I mean, you have to focus to decipher some of the words, which is never a good thing in my book (though I do find unreadable band logos to be hilarious). It's like someone put the EOM logo in the fridge, forgot about it for two weeks and now it's gotten all mouldy and a bit ridiculous and unintentionally parodic. Unless it was the band's purpose to comment upon the irrelevant redundancy of crust aesthetics by emphasizing its most clichéd traits? Who knows? Regardless, such a cover indicates to the listener that it is a slab of old-school metal crust when it is really not (should it have been? You tell me. I was slightly disappointed upon the first listen).

BO were much faster and meaner, almost harsh at times. Of course, early Disrupt, Disfear, 3-Way Cum and State of Fear come to mind, especially when the band goes the pummeling dischargy beat and the typically groovy and catchy scando riffing, but on the whole the pace is faster and more akin to super fast and hard-hitting hardcore even grindcore bands like Filthy Christians. The excellent first song with its dirgeful introduction and the way it bursts into hardcore inferno reminds me of G-Anx and given the overall frantic pace, I suppose they were a major influence. I also cannot help hearing a black metal vibe, for the extremity and venomousness of the vocals, the sort of blast beats you find in metal and the moments when dark, almost demonic, epic riffs take over. Don't get me wrong, it is still very much in the gruff Swedish crustcore camp in terms of songwriting but there are songs when you distinctly a black metal touch and the cold and thin production probably enhances the feel (maybe not unlike Summon the Crows if you know what I mean). My favourite songs, "Bitter pills", "Blind obedience" and "Submit to the yoke" are pretty much all out cavemen crust anthems though. The lyrics are pretty direct, angry and political and "War is horrendous pt 100" questions the legitimacy of using the trope of war as merely another theme to sing about when actual fightings are so far away they are almost unreal (and I dig the Sore Throat reference obviously).

Submit to the Yoke is a lovely fast crust ripper and I am curious about what the members did after Blind Obedience. Surely, they must have done other bands, right? Please enlighten me.

That's just too much.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 2): Another Oppressive System / Human Waste split Ep, 2004

I have absolutely no recollection of getting this split Ep. None. I know for sure that I did not buy it at the time it came out so, I suppose, I must have found it for cheap on a distro table recently and, out of nostalgia and perhaps inebriation, decided to bring it home. And then, of course, the next morning, I completely forgot about my grand gesture and life went on. So I was pleasantly surprised to see it when I took a peak in the boxes of records during the move. 

Paradoxically, although I didn't even recall owning the thing, I know this particular record very well as we would play it very often at a mate's place when it came out in early 2004. Since he had bought it and since I used to spend a lot of time at his place, there was no need for me to buy it as well (that seemed reasonable as we all had little money for records at that time and a very limited access to the internet, so to share listening experiences was the sensible thing to do and we could always justify it with some kind of anarcho-collectivist theory). I would just bring some records along with me and we, with some other friends, would spend the afternoon listening to crust music and talk about our future band, discussing such crucially important matters as "should we include blast beats?", "are From Ashes Rise too melodic to be claimed as an actual influence?" or "do we all agree that there will be no soloing?". We were very serious and excited about it all and not jaded like everyone is or pretends to be these days. 

But anyway, in the early 00's, Profane Existence was an important political and artistic compass for me, and I was always on the lookout for new records and new issues of the magazine. It was at about that time that the magazine changed drastically, it got thicker and more professional-looking, with a glossy cover and a compilation cd included in it. I remember it got a lot of criticism because it was obviously more expensive (and there was, horror, a barcode!) and, to be fair, I do think the content was not as political and radical as it used to be, but then PE was also a collective and I suppose the magazine reflected the stances, ambitions and prospects of the people active at that time in it and well, people and contexts do move and change too and maybe the scene itself was not as political as it used to be. I didn't dislike the new version and enjoyed reading it enough although I did find it a little too polished (I much prefer the chaotic cut'n'paste look for punk zines) but then it was meant to be better distributed, more accessible and a proper magazine about DIY political punk, a rather ambitious goal that it sadly failed to achieve. Maybe it just didn't survive the new selfie punk generation and its expectations? Maybe it was already dated and not "edgy" enough? Maybe reading a punk magazine requires more efforts and support than playing a youtube video or liking a post (and the end of MRR as a printed medium may be seen in this light as well, though I have to say was never really an MRR reader)? Was it a generational change? Is it a global epistemological change due to the absolute prevalence of social media even when it pertains to underground and supposedly subversive punk music? I remember that only 10 years ago, questions and criticisms were still being raised about the need to use sites like myspace for punk bands and there were attempts to create autonomous alternatives to corporate social media platforms (and to be fair, there still are some). Now, you would just be shouting in the wind if you formulated similar reserves and over the past few years youtube, facebook or bandcamp have become taken for granted. We (I) just got lazy and complacent. But I should cut the whining and get to the actual crust.

As I said, in the early 00's, we paid a lot of attention to Profane Existence. I was looking closely at labels like Hardcore Holocaust, Crust War, Stonehenge Records, Putrid Filth Conspiracy or Plague Bearer (I had been appointed the official nerd in my group of friends so it was my duty to watch these things closely), but it was really PE that made the link between good music and anarcho politics for us (the ace-looking dove logo almost felt like a tribal sign). None of us had heard of either Another Oppressive System nor Human Waste before though but the Ep certainly looked very crusty (it has to be said that crust covers were very formulaic then) and the limited access to punk music made a lot of bands sound a lot more exciting and better than they actually were. So let's take another good listen to this split Ep.

First, I must admit that, if the moniker "Another Oppressive System" was almost certainly a loving reference to the great old OC peacepunk band "Another Destructive System", innocent me was completely unaware of it at the time and thought that AOS was a brilliantly original name for a band. They were from Connecticut and were active between 2000 and 2005, releasing two split Ep's, with World on Welfare and the great 3-Way Cum, and one full Ep before this one. Some members of AOS also played in crust acts like Dissystema and Diallo, who then morphed into The Total End (in 2004 I think), and I guess such names inevitably carry a whiff of nostalgia for some of us. Connecticut is renowned for having produced a number of hard-hitting savage crust bands throughout the years like Deformed Conscience, Dissension, React and State of Fear, the latter being definitely the most direct influence on AOS. They played heavy, fast, furious and political US-styled cavemen crustcore with three (yes, three!) vocalists in the great tradition of Disrupt and State of Fear. The vocals sound very harsh and angry, the drums are thundering, the riffs are quite obvious - in a "I <3 scandicrust" kinda way - but work well enough and the production, raw and punchy, is just as it should be for the genre and format (I don't think it would work on a full Lp for instance). If you fancy some heavy, gruff cavemen crust with dual male/female vocals then these three songs recorded in 2002 will delight you to no end. Sadly, this particular crust exercise slowly went out of fashion in the 00's and you could argue that, musically, even AOS were already closer to being a surviving trace of the 90's anarcho/crust sound rather than a sign of what was to come, namely the so-called stenchcore revival and the neocrust trend (though the dark and melodic ending to "Desperate cry for change" is not far off with its acoustic bit). Not many bands still play that old-school style of crustcore today and it might not be a wide-spread opinion, but I miss honest, direct bands like AOS that delivered the polyphonic harcore crust savagery with a good attitude and politics. AOS might not have produced a classic record - the following split Ep with Crossing Chaos, that I bought upon its release this time, was not as powerful - like Consume did for instance and I doubt many people still listen to them, but I'd rather listen to them than to the legions of ego-driven instagram bands passing for hardcore punk that seem to pullulate these days.

On the other side are Human Waste from Östersund, a Swedish crust punk band that existed from 1998 to 2006 and must have chosen their name from that great Skitsystem song. I think I knew HW before listening to this split as I must have bought their Ett 6 Pack Folköl Antipolis compilation cd on Hardcore Holocaust in 2003. Until now, I had never really thought about the band's insane productivity in the early 00's. Mind you, between 2001 and 2004, HW recorded 6 Ep's and 5 split Ep's! I suppose the fact that the singer Joakim was also a recording engineer must have helped the band and pushed them to record a lot, but that's still impressive. I suppose they are now remembered as being Joakim's first band as he later on played in countless bands like Dödsdömd, Uncle Charles, Ambulance, Electric Funeral, Desperat and of course the very good Paranoid without mentioning he founded the excellent and of course very prolific label D-Takt & Råpunk that specializes in releasing Swedish crust and hardcore. I hadn't played HW for some years before this post so let's check them out.

As remembered, they played fast and crusty Swedish hardcore with very distinctive screaming vocals that sound a little porcine. Like marmite, you will either love or hate them I suppose. As for me, I can handle them for the length of an Ep but not much longer to be honest. The three songs on the split with AOS were recorded in 2003 and have more variations and tempo changes than the band's earlier material that was very straight-forward in the songwriting (not that there is anything wrong with that of course) and also a little monotonous. On this one, you will find some dark melodic riffing, some heavy mid-paced moments that are not unlike Wolfbrigade or Acursed and on the whole I am reminded of Kontrovers' great first Lp, probably the best example of a successful blend between the traditional, fast and furious crusty Swedish hardcore and the more complex, more layered, more progressive dark hardcore sound of the 00's. Although they sound very much "of their time" (meaning too many "dark melodic neocrust" riffs), I enjoy these three songs enough and I like how, despite the epic crust turn, they still sound furious and urgent and not like some boring and overproduced post-hardcore band.

To be fair, at the time we often only played the AOS side (sometimes several times in a row because it was jus three songs) and I think I still would. This solid and humble split Ep may sound a little dated when compared to how punk sounds and is produced today but it is a relevant artifact of the early 00's scene. In terms of visuals, it is also a blast from the past since the cover was drawn by Marald, a Dutch artist with a graphic style close to American comic books that did a lot of covers in the 90's and 00's for US anarchocrust bands like Destroy!, State of Fear, After the Bombs or Scorned. At the time, I remember growing a bit bored of his covers since they often portrayed the very same things (skulls, skeletons, bodies, war and shit) but then I think it had more to do with what the bands wanted and not Marald. Oh well. I guess it almost looks vintage now since no one does this type of comic book crust aesthetics anymore. And he could really draw great zombies.  

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 1): Abuso Sonoro "Revolte Se" Ep, 1997

Blimey, it has been a while. Almost three months in fact since I last wrote for Terminal Sound Nuisance. I know, I know, how unprofessional of me. The break was not really intentional though and it certainly hurt to imagine the blog - my child substitute - having to survive in the ruthless world of the internet on its own, in the dark, lonely, screaming for my return. I did check up on it from time to time, to reassure it that daddy had not cheated with an indie-rock or a shoe gaze blog hosted on a more fashionable, edgier platform, but deep down I just knew that it was barely enough and that it would take some time before I could get back to my optimal shape again (the one with proper digital abs) and get TSN running as smoothly as it used to.

The thing was that I moved out from my château a few weeks ago and, as you can imagine, I had little time to rave about these cultural items that we cherish so much, even though they unavoidably tend to gather a lot of dust because we have so many of them and just cannot listen to them all. The logistics of carrying a record collection to a new place were nightmarish, a back-breaking toil that proved to be the source of much stress. On a lighter note, it was also a good opportunity to rediscover the collection (and realize how bloody massive and burdensome it had become) and think about my (our?) own materialism, about our relationship with these artifacts that take up so much of our time, money, attention and space. Sometimes it feels a little paradoxical to hoard so many records, many that I don't really listen to for time reasons, while being so critical of capitalistic overconsumption and overproduction at the same time, records that, for the most part, hold a message that condemns materialism. In fact, the more boxes you carry, the more you ponder about the meaninglessness of it all, and then you find yourself about to take a life-changing decision by selling it all off, giving it all away, freeing yourself from the chains of collecting punk records and maybe become interested in yoga or some shit. 

But no, of course not, and instead you inadvertently browse through the collection while unpacking and then you stumble upon some records you completely forgot you owned, and it gets a bit Proustian, they are not bad records, you just forgot you had them, they are not "classics" but they are pretty solid, and you know what, it would make a perfect topic for a Terminal Sound Nuisance series. Right? Right???

So basically, this new series will not revolve around a stylistic theme, around an era or an area. The only common point between the coming ten Ep's (yes, ten) will be that I forgot I had them in my collection but they are still pretty good and do not deserve to sink into the gaps of our collective and selective punk memory that's getting shorter by the day (to be honest, there were others that I had forgotten about but it was  quite justified... it was more a matter of "I am amazed I didn't get rid of that one, who am I going to give it to?"). You can see it as a tribute to the records that you yourself forgot you owned, to the bands you forgot you knew. 

Let's start alphabetically and, therefore, with Abuso Sonoro. Now, let's be clear, I didn't forget about Abuso Sonoro at all, they are a classic 90's band, I like them and I distinctly remembered owning the first two Ep's, 1994's Jogo Sujo and 1995's Prisões, the latter being my favourite, as well as a split Ep with Autoritär. However, I had no idea I also had Revolte Se, which was released in 1997 and was a collection of compilation tracks that the band had contributed in their early years. I suppose AS don't really need an introduction. They were around for about 15 years (they formed in 1993 and stopped playing in the late 00's), I guess they were one of the best Brazilian hardcore punk bands of the 90's, released some great records, recorded some of the most intense and furious political hardcore of their time, with that distinctly insane Sao Paulo hardcore aggression, and contributed to build bridges between hardcore scenes in South America and the rest of the world. AS, for me, represent everything that was good, honest and idealistic about the political 90's hardcore punk scene and, at a time when current bands work so hard on their self-image, on their sonic referentiality, on their look and on their fake nihilism (or on their toothless liberal politics inherited from the academia), it feels fresh to hear a band that just unleashes the fucking fury and hits you in the jaw with blasts of ruthless and direct heavy hardcore punk.   

I suppose this kind of bands are quite unfashionable now. They are not old enough to be "vintage" or "authentic" and not new enough to still be cool. Who cares. I do prefer the early period of AS, when they had that dirty crust punk edge injected into their triumphant and groovy Sao Paulo hardcore thrash sound, although, truth be told, the first thing I heard from them had a much cleaner sound (the 2002 split Ep with Autoritär on Yellow Dog). The playing might be sloppy here and there, but the energy is so pervasive and the anger so hard-hitting in these six songs that such trifles don't matter. The production is - obviously - quite raw (I love the dirty bass sound) but I would argue that its thick primitiveness serves the music's purpose even better. The vocals are gruff and direct, with some shouted screams as backing vocals, the Brazilian way, aka very fucking pissed. It sounds like a 90's crust punk version of the mid 80's thrash punk powerhouse that were Ratos de Porão, especially on Descanse em Paz, and Olho Seco. I suppose the Ep Já Basta!!! from 1997 was the band's best "raw crust thrash" material (but everything they did between 1994 and 1997 is ace) before they turned to a more modern and polished fast hardcore sound that, if it still sounded as furious and angry (maybe even more so), I do not like quite as much. It still got them an Lp on Six Weeks though.

Revolte Se!!! was released on a Minneapolis based label, Sin Fronteras Records, that, as well as supporting local bands (like Calloused and Misery), specialized in political hardcore punk from Latino America and it is no surprise to see some crucial bands of this era like Dios Hastio, Execradores or Sick Terror in its discography. As I mentioned, the six songs on the Ep originally appeared on various compilations - but they were part of the same recording session from January, 1996 - namely No Fate Vol. 2 on HG Fact; Não Somos Tão Violentos Quanto Temem Nem Tão Pacíficos Quanto Desejam Lp on Grito Records, Pas Fier d'Être Français - Not Proud To Be French Ep alongside Seein Red and Battle of Disarm; and the grind oriented Sem Estilos Para Definir o Nosso Odio Lp. The lyrics on the Ep are of a libertarian-revolutionary nature and the band included a text to explain their political stance and why they believed in the idea and praxis of revolt. It also referred to the Chiapas uprising that AS certainly supported (as the cover suggests) and, more generally, a lot of their lyrics dealt with the living conditions, political climates and liberation struggles in South America. Strong, contextualized subversive hardcore punk with an angry, but positive attitude. Shortly after the release of Revolte Se, AS would also include Elaine on vocals to give their fast hardcore sound an angrier edge and a more feminist approach.

A great band that epitomized what political 90's hardcore/thrash was all about that can delight fans of Hiatus, Los Crudos and RDP alike.