Here we go again, this is the third part of Ace Compilations for Less Than a Fiver on Bloody Discogs and yet another lovely compilation Ep that you should be able to grab for the price of a döner kebab, a suspicious pint of lager in Paris or a single ticket in the London subway (for real, I almost lost it the last time I went there and I demanded to see the manager immediately, I mean, £5!!!). I have to admit that I had absolutely never heard of, never mind seen, this Ep until quite recently when fate graced me with the opportunity to own it for a particularly inexpensive sum. Hail old-school distros and their sleeping stock from the 1990's. It felt a little odd that no one ever mentioned 1997 - Damn the Contorol to me and that even the nerdiest corners of the internet appeared to be devoid of references to it. A mate of mine told me that there were rumours on the dark web that the Ep was haunted and that every owner suffered particularly violent death, their bodies dislocated, pure expressions of horror upon their faces, shoegazed to death. It does make one shiver and there's little wonder that, faced by an awful doom, people kept silent about this Ep.
However, I am not one to be afraid of any record and I once again proved that my fearlessness and proverbial placidity before danger were real and not the stuff of old wives' tales (in fact, only ponies, geese and Dire Straits can scare yours truly, the combination of the three, say a couple of geese riding a pony while playing Dire Straits on their phone, would certainly cause sudden death). So I picked the Ep and, after playing the geezer, thought out loud - and I am quoting with utmost exactitude here - "Fuck me, that is an exquisitely lovely piece of punk art that I shall proudly dress with the gleaming escutcheons of Terminal Sound Nuisance". I still keep being astonished in no small degree at the relative obscurity and unpopularity of the compilation especially since it does not appear to have been hard to find at all. Did any of you, my dear readers, know of it? Maybe I just don't hang out with the cool used-to-be-kids anymore. Sob, fucking sob.
From what my ready mind can infer, and rather predictably, 1997 - Damn the Contorol (yes, actual spelling and a top example of Japanese-English) has something to do with the year 1997. The Ep was released on Vomiting Label, a short-lived (it was actually the label's sole release) entity based in Finland (EDIT: well-informed elders told me that behind Vomiting was actually Otto from Força Macabra who liked to change label names so that people would be very confused. Good one!), which possibly accounts for the presence of two Suomi bands (there's the quick-wittedness at it again). Did some sociopolitical unrest occur in Finland in 1997? I found no information supporting this claim. Since the blurry and highly contrasted picture on the cover depicts some sort of riot or urban unrest and that the subtext reads "That's the information they don't tell you... That's the information that exists... That's the information we never get...", one may deduce that the title refers to a political event that took place in 1997. I did not find much about this particular year in terms of eruptions of anger and violence promptly cured with state-sponsored truncheons, water cannons, teargas, good old beatings and even, if you're very lucky, non-lethal crowd control weapons. 1997 saw intense rioting in Northern Ireland on the part of Irish nationalists and bloody state repression against the Uhygur populations in China known as the Ghulja incident. Some things sadly never change. There was also the unexpected retirement of Eric Cantona but that's a French-only trauma that I'd rather not get into. It still hurts.
Another political element to Damn the Contorol lies in its open antinazi stance with a picture of local boneheads with targets on their faces and a "Break Neck Action" caption. I doubt any nazi actually saw this compilation Ep but regardless giving the finger to the scum is always a noble intention. If the purpose and binding theme of the compilation in relation to the context of 1997 is never properly expressed but there is however an inflated dithyramb from the producer/label guy on the eternal glory of hardcore punk, stating at some point that: "The dance floor leaves and breathes, and the dancers are one with each other in a huge machine gun panorama of noise and light and movement. When music is good for today's dancing, it's HARDCOREPUNK". Now that's a moving declaration of love and, even if many of us have a bad back these days, I suggest we all joyously dance together like the man said.
Although Vomiting was a Finnish label (the name would have been rather fitting for a goregrind endeavour but whatever) there are no less than four Japanese bands out of the nine acts making up the thing. The first band is Chaos Channel from Osaka with the song "Don't kill future" which, whoever it was aimed at, was not an unreasonable demand after all. Modern streaming platforms such as youtube (I don't know if you are familiar with it but it's apparently pretty big and millennials really dig it) have made the noizy punk style of bands like Chaos Channel readily accessible and nowhere as obscure and confidential as they still were not so long ago. I am sure it was different in Japan because they have always had this tradition of highly distorted fast and binary Bristol punk-rock initiated by Confuse so that the genre must have been pretty normal to Japanese punks (like käng in Sweden or shite oi music in France). However, outside of the country, only the nerdiest punks were conversant with top secret bands like State Children or Gess so that it is hard to gauze the popularity of heirs like Chaos Channel. Even if the phrase "noisepunk" was only coined in the mid 00's by the Wankys, I feel it is the perfect description for Chaos Channel's music. Absolute pogo-compatible Swankys worship with the same assumed silliness and hyperbolic punkiness musically and aesthetically. The singer sounds like an absolute pisshead raised on early Disorder and Chaotic Dischord, the guitar's piercing distortion is reminiscent of the national classics, the bass is driving on a Confuse team dragster and the drummer has fun being as primitively ciderpunk as possible. If you enjoy the style, Chaos Channel, along with neighbours like Order and Dust Noise, were the real noisepunk deal in the mid 90's. Absolute swankers, "Chaotic punk is forever" as they proudly stated. The song was recorded in 1995, a busy period for the band since they released two Ep's on Overthrow in 1994 and 1995. And did I mention guitar player Yamakawa also played in Gloom?
Next up are Leben, a band from Graz, Austria, I know nothing about. Very rough and fast hardcore punk with a cavemen grindcore vibe. They only ever appeared on one other compilation Ep entitled More Noise by Nice Boys released on Insane Society in 1997 alongside Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Mrtva Budoucnost. Besthöven follow and it was Fofao's progeny's first inclusion on a vinyl but certainly not the last. The song "Sacrificio grotesco" was recorded in 1996 and Besthöven was a three-piece at the time. When Damn the Contorol came out, people who had actually heard of Besthöven, outside of Brazil, and even there they were probably quite obscure, must have been very, very rare indeed. In the Latino America's punk scene of the mid-90's, Besthöven were assuredly something of an oddity. Of course, there were legions of hardcore punk in Brazil, but their open 80's Scandinavian hardcore studded worship set them apart (they covered Shitlickers and Fear of War at that time). As they proudly claim on the cover "Our sound is influeced by hardcore punk bands that making punk a threat ever''' Swedish bands and other crustraw punk core band like Japanese and more...". Since they wholeheartedly thanked Força Macabra, I suppose that was how they ended up on this Finnish compilation. The song is exactly as you would expect early Besthöven to sound like, a blend of raw and primitive käng hardcore with Silencio Funebre-era Armagedom. Not for posers.
The last band on the first side is Kirous from Finland with a short and sweet antifascist song "Kasvava uhka". The sound is quite raw, a defining uniting feature of the compilation, and there is a mean chaotic vibe running through the song. Somewhere between Kuolema and their contemporary Uutuus and Katastrofialue maybe. If you had no idea, you could think that Kirous song were recorded in 1985. The band went on to release an Ep for No Fashion Hardcore Records and two split Ep's with the very good Sharpeville and Silna Wola. If you are into raw hardcore, you are in for one minute of classic Finnish hardcore delight. If you are not, I strongly suggest you leave the room immediately.
The following band is Guernica y Luno from Słupsk, Poland. GyL are not widely known outside of their home country but they were undeniably one of the more crucial bands of the 90's along with Włochaty, Homomilitia and of course Post-Regiment. Their lyrics, judging from the translations, were highly political and quite deep and beautiful at the same time which accounted for their undying popularity as the 2017 Nigdy Nie Będziesz Szedł tribute Lp can attest. Heartfelt, intense even emotional at times anarchopunk with male and female vocals and a raw, old-school Polish punk vibe that combined perfectly with their distinct 90's anarcho sound. Tuneful with memorable chorus and a genuine inventiveness in the songwriting for what was one of the most relevant anarchopunk bands of the 90's. The song "La programo" is actually in Esperanto which might come as a surprise to some but makes sense in the context of the band and of the 90's, the Esperanto language standing for unity between people and a common linguistic ground for peace and freedom. If you look close enough you can find quite a few European bands who had or have songs in this Language and obviously Voĉo Protesta, being Japanese, took the concept of Esperanto hardcore to its logical conclusion by singing in this language only. The GyL song is an anthemic anarcho crust punk song with a singalong chorus and something of an 80's Finnish hardcore touch like Melakka when they shout "Kontravaj al kurwa sistema". Ace.
Next up are Conclude from Japan with their song "No need flesh". If you close your eyes and play the song, you can spot easily that they were a Japanese going in the direction quite similar to Chaos Channel or Order. The song is a sloppy but fun, drunken, punky and bouncy number with snotty vocals that will please lovers of noizy obnoxious punk-rock and the use of the Iconoclast font is not fooling anyone here. More surprising perhaps is that most of Conclude's subsequent recordings were sung in Finnish and sounded much closer to classic 80's Finnish hardcore like Bastards or Destrucktions although the vocals were still reminiscent of swanking. They even had an Ep called Made in Finland and apparently toured Finland in the 90's. By no means was their choice to shift language unique in Japan as Frigöra sang in Swedish (or in Mob 47 depending on how accurate you want to be) and Corrupted in Spanish. A decent song about animal liberation, a topic Conclude tackled heavily.
Totuus are the following contestant with their short sharp shock of a song "Kirkot Hyötykäyttöön". Pretty classic Fight Records-era Finnish hardcore, direct, fast and fierce hardcore with an added 90's touch to the old recipe. Very effective and rather well recorded compared to Kirous but I prefer my hardcore simpler and punkier.
Disclose are next with the song "Right of liberty and equality", recorded during the same session as the three songs on the split Ep with Homomilitia from 1995 (you can read a full review here). I recommend you read Pawel Scream's comment at the bottom of the review so that you understand why the Disclose song sounds so bad. The DAT (Digital Audio Tape) containing the Disclose recording got fucked at some point and as a result the noise-not-music creative stance of Kawakami became a little too literal. Anyway, you all know Disclose, we have already been talking about Disclose on Terminal Sound Nuisance so there is not much point rehashing. Typical mid-90's, Great Swedish Feast-era Disclose, distortion-drenched shitlicking Discharge mythology. Funnily enough, some of the noiziest d-beat crasher bands went for a distorted guitar sound rather similar to the one Kawakami had on this song although it resulted from a technical mistake he had nothing to do with. Such is the magic of the Dis.
Finally, you've got Blaze, a traditional "burning spirit" kind of hardcore punk band from Machida, Japan. As I have often pointed out, I am not a fanatic of the late 80's/early-mid 90's Japanese hardcore wave. I love the crust of that period but the whole Death Side/Bastard sound, if thoroughly enjoyable and regularly enjoyed at the Terminal Sound Nuisance castle, does not totally speak to the old heart. I was not familiar with Blaze until someone recently pointed out that a much-expected Blaze reissue was going to be released on the hard-working noize-loving General Speech. The book Flex - 1987-1992 tells me that Blaze were "totally in line with the Burning Spirits scene and a classic of that era. Demand for this EP (the 1992 But Nothing Ever Changes Ep) has shot up during the past years" so needless to tell you we are dealing with the cream of the crop here, such bands that generally cause the nerd elite to ruthlessly compete with one another for the throne, a bit like at a Royal Rumble but with much less atheleticism. The song "Heavy conufsion" has super epic riffs and a triumphant thrashing hardcore vibe combined with gruff vocals and beefy singalong hardcore chorus. Pretty flawless for the genre and easily the tightest band on Damn the Contorol. Makes one want to ride a massive wave while wearing shades.
The foldout cover turns into a poster when you flip it which displays an anti-technology bordered with a message that is a little hard to read. "A dream of a technophile... The beginning of the end of the world...". Not such an insightful statement considering that 25 years late people can actually pay with their watch. Well only twats do, but still. Each band included a small visual with the lyrics giving Damn the Contorol a real sense of punk collaboration and togetherness which has always been the very point of such endeavours.