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.    

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Ten Steps to Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 8): Coitus "Darkness on Streets..." Ep, 1994

Although not as uncomfortable to wear as that Genital Deformities one, my Coitus shirt remains one of those punk garments that I avoid to sport during family reunions, at work or on Valentine's Day. Nothing wrong with the design itself (I mean, who doesn't crave for gasmask-wearing skulls?), but having "Coitus" and "Fucked in to oblivion" written on a shirt might somehow send the wrong message socially as heads are bound to be shaken in disbelief whilst eyebrows rise judgmentally and loud sighs of disapproval are openly breathed out. However, when one consider that the first incarnation of Coitus, in 1989, was called Eternal Diarrhoea (and apparently had Lippy from Antisect on the bass, the choice of instrument being almost as surprising as the band's moniker), one can be thankful indeed for the terminological change to Coitus as an Eternal Diarrhoea shirt could only have been worn safely at all-male events like goregrind gigs, which is pretty narrow. But let's skip the fashion talk already and switch to the band Coitus, a powerful raw hardcore unit that any self-respecting crusty punk should be, at the very least, familiar with.   

Battered copy because of too many moves (additional punk point)

As foreplays to Coitus, drummer Alien and guitar player Martin had played in the legendary Sons of Bad Breath in the mid-80's, a cult band made up of members of the so-called Hackney Hell Crew, basically a bunch of drunken punk squatters looking like Mad Max rejects making a bloody noizy racket that made Chaotic Dischord sound tame and bourgeois. This tight connection to the punk squatters' scene, especially in London but also abroad, was part and parcel of the identity of Coitus and, as their chapter in Ian Glasper's Armed With Anger can attest, they have unsurprisingly more than a few crazy squat-related stories to tell, in particular when it comes to the brutal tactics used by the police against squatters. at the time. The third member of the early Coitus was Skinny on the bass, an Irish punk who had previously served in Paranoid Visions which accounted for the band's frequent trips to Dublin to record and tour. Martin was quickly replaced with Pato in 1991 for the band's first tape, In Two Minutes You'll Be Smokin' in Hell, that comprised two recording sessions, the first one done in March, 1991, in North London, the second in May, 1991, in Dublin. Pato then left the band and Mik was recruited on the guitar and the classic Coitus lineup was in place.  

If Coitus can arguably be considered as one of the most striking UK punk bands of the 90's and certainly as one of the very best and unique in their field, like too many bands of that decade, they sadly do not really enjoy the cult status they deserve. While swarms of internet-crazed punks idolise any 80's band that barely lasted 18 months and recorded two and a half songs before turning new wave, crucial punk as fuck 90's bands, who kept the flame of DIY punk alive, recorded genuine classics and contributed in the making of networks of punk scenes that we still witness and rely on today, are neglected. Not cool, kids. The first time I read about Coitus was on the distro list of the Nottingham-based Missing the Point sometime in the early 00's. The Coitus' retrospective cd Necrocomical, released on Inflammable Material, was then described, and I am quite sure that those are the almost exact terms, as "Antisect-influenced punk aaarrrghhhhh". Since I was already well into Antisect at the time, almost unreasonably so actually, I promptly ordered the cd but must admit I was a little disappointed, or rather, taken aback by their rocking metallic sound which I did not relate to Antisect at the time (I had only heard In Darkness by then), and it took me to dive into Out from the Void and Peace is Better than a Place in History to understand and enjoy Coitus properly and be able to grasp the significance of their sound. So why - I rhetorically hear you ask - should you need Coitus to make your life crustier then? Well, it is well-established that a flawless and knowledgeable adhesion to the Antisect mystique is a required predicate for the healthy development of one's crust identity but, given the harsh competition in the field, it no longer suffices and it is therefore strongly advised that one also becomes highly proficient in those bands displaying a prominent Antisect influence, like SDS or, in this case, Coitus. And anyway, they were so good that you don't really need a reason, right?

Multinationals, politicians and the army literally raping the Earth in case you didn't get the subtle metaphor. 

Whereas SDS (especially in the early 90's) openly used precise sonic and visual references to Antisect in order to create their own aesthetics and situate their band in terms of relations to the influence of Antisect, Coitus' driving take was very different, much more organic and spontaneous, without referentiality. Coitus took the more rocking, groovy, sweaty side of Out from the Void-era Antisect and built on it with their trademark thundering bass sound, an emphasis on the crunchy dirty metal parts, an obsession with Celtic Frost and a two-fingered attitude. I like to think that if Antisect had kept going in the early 90's and played the same London squats Coitus did, they would have sounded really close indeed. The Darkness on Streets... Ep, released in 1994 on Tribal War Records (UK), was recorded in December, 1992, in Dublin with help from Deko Paranoid Visions, at the same time as their When we Depart... Let the Earth Tremble (tape only) Ep and, in my opinion, this recording sessions stands as the defining Coitus moment (the Submission/Domination tape is stellar too) and an absolute UK crust classic, although the band, to my knowledge did not claim the crust tag. The Ep opens with the anthemic "Darkness on streets", a claustrophobic number of brooding and heavy metallic punk, somewhere between late Antisect, Hellbastard and a squatter version of Motörhead, which is followed by "Total collapse" a beefy mid-paced scorcher that sounds like an old-school crust band covering Poison Idea and, finally, the ultimate Frost-worship song, "Mind right?", which manages to recreate the threatening glamorous groove and the rocking aggression of the Swiss while adequately soiling their sound because that's what punks would do. The production is absolutely perfect for the brand of dirty, rocking and powerful heavy metallic punk the band set out to achieve and I would not change a thing to it. You can almost smell the music on Darkness on Streets... and it is a rotting cocktail of sweat, anger and beer. The band was tight by then - and it really shows - and I especially enjoy how the different vocals - Alien's on side one and Skinny's on side two - blend with and enhance the powerful music but still manage to sound vindictive, desperate and strangely nihilistic and hedonistic at the same time (the long Bukowski quote makes much sense in that regard), like a mad punx choir or something. As Coitus' existence epitomised and as their dark tortured lyrics reflected, punk life was tough but it was both a fighting answer and a means of survival to the urban paranoid oppression and alienation-fueled madness, and few bands could convey this idea as brilliantly as Coitus. In our era of mass tastelessness and punk blandness, (re)listening to the band is strangely comforting.

Following Darkness on Streets..., Coitus recorded the Real Cold Fear Ep, produced by Lippy from Antisect and released in 1996 on Inflammable Material, it was another cracker with the desperate-sounding eponymous song easily breaking the catchiness detector. Skinny moved back to Ireland and was replaced with Keith from Dread Messiah as the two bands often played together, but the band eventually split as the heavy touring took its toll. Mik went on to form The Restarts, Skinny joined Cold War (he died tragically in 2009), while Alien played in Mush with Keith and in Dirty Love with Martin. In 2010, Dublin label Underground Movement released a double-cd discography, Fucked Into Oblivion, including everything the band recorded (apart from the early In Two Minutes tape) and it goes without saying that you should rush to get a copy as it is an essential piece of both UK punk history and crust evolution as well. The last incarnation of Coitus reformed in the 2010's and released two convincing records since, the Fed to Wolves cd in 2015 and a split Lp with the excellent Bulletridden from Bristol in 2018.  
Play fucking loud.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Ten Steps to Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 7): Doom "The Greatest Invention" cd, 1993

Doom is to the common crusty what complaining is to a French person: both an essential part of the identity and a relevant lifestyle, without which life on Earth would just not be quite the same. 

Since introducing such a widely known, iconic band could be deemed as patronising and needlessly superfluous - if not actually offensive - I shall take care not to condescend to my proud educated readers and therefore won't write anything about the band's conception, a birth that has been well documented anyway and does not require my customary written gesticulations. Everyone knows Doom, at least superficially, and judging from the vast amount of patches, shirts and painted logos one can detect at any summer crust gathering, d-beat gig or Lady Gaga video, it is quite obvious that Doom is a popular band, respected by their peers for their loyalty to the DIY punk scene ("In it for life" as opposed to "In it for cash" if you know what I mean), for their political stands and for their genre-defining sound that really has not changed that much throughout the years, thus emphasising their unshakeable faith in the validity of Swedish-flavoured cavemen crust punk. Not bad for a band that just wanted to be Discard and Crudity. 

Doom's '88/'89 era (referred to in most self-important punk circles as "the Peaceville era") is often what most people, guided by the suspect belief that a band's "early stuff" is always the best, will know about them - unless you are actual fan of the band of course. In spite of an impressive discography, and depressingly enough, it seems that too many of us remained stuck at the absolute classic Police Bastard Ep, or even just at the song "Police bastard", quite possibly the most covered - and butchered - crust song in history. If you are playing in a crust band and you have never tried to cover "Police bastard" or "Relief" then you should really start to ask yourself the right questions. It goes without saying that a comprehensive knowledge of the Doom catalog in relation with their lineup changes is paramount to the establishment of your crust credibility and any faux pas could have devastating consequences to your reputation and get you banned from respectable masonic crust circles. Do you want to end up hanging out with that shirtless drunk guy at the front constantly shouting "P...po...police...bastaaaaaaard"? Of course you don't, and in order to join the club of Real Doom Fans, beside a symbolical yearly fee, a critical analysis of some of the band's most interesting works is necessary and this is exactly what I want to provide here for your personal enlightenment: my personal views on what is probably Doom's least popular album (in fact, even the band dislike it), The Greatest Invention

Recorded in June, 1992, and released on cd and vinyl on Discipline (a hardcore-oriented sublabel of Vinyl Japan) in 1993, The Greatest Invention was the last recording of the original Doom lineup with Bri, Stick, Pete and Jon. The early 90's were a strange period for the band. In 1989, guitar player Bri had left the band, leaving Doom working as a three-piece until 1990 with Jon singing and playing the guitar. At that time, the band tried to include fresh elements to their cavemen scandicore recipe with the addition of slow-paced, heavy and rocking grungy moments with a bit of a psychedelic vibe. The two songs from the band's fourth demo recorded in those months, "Confusion remains" and "Alienation", were dissimilar to anything Doom had done or would subsequently do. Even though listening to a six minute long Doom song is a rather otherworldly experience, I personally would not say they are bad Doom songs as you still get their typical fast d-beat hardcore moments while the heavy slow moments do confer an oppressive atmosphere. The songs would have required some polishing in terms of songwriting but the idea of blending direct crust with heavy psychedelic rock was anything but poor as bands like Bad Influence, Dazd or Iowaska would eventually demonstrate. What if Doom had kept experimenting with this new formula? Would they have become a proper space crust unit? If you come from a parallel universe where this happened, please feel free to comment below.

In 1992, the band got offered a tour in Japan which prompted the four original members to reform and resurrect Doom for the occasion (the trip was immortalised in the Live in Japan Ep on Ecocentric Records). Considering that Doom have always been a tremendous influence for the Japanese crust scene (from Macrofarge, to Abraham Cross or Reality Crisis), such an endeavour made sense and I am convinced that the tour further strengthened the cult of Doom there, so much so that, almost 30 years later, more than a few Japanese bands still aim poetically and gutturally at sounding like early Doom. Back from their trip, the band recorded the Greatest Invention, a mini Lp which was to be the definitive swan song of the original lineup. The personal (and probably creative) tensions running through the band at that time were important and pervasive and you can just sense that The Greatest Invention was not recorded in a serene context. It is a very dark and edgy album. Of course, Doom's earlier material had a very angry and pissed edge too but, by 1992, they sounded like a desperate band about to self-destruct in an explosion of mean, vicious and hopeless hardcore music. The Greatest Invention is unlike any other Doom records. Not because of the admittedly poor production, but partly because of a substantial change in the songwriting and primarily because it sounds almost nihilistic. 

Although The Greatest Invention has its fair share of classic Doom numbers ("Trash breeds trash" being a genuine hit), it is undeniably the band's most versatile work. Thanks to added effects (like the flanger on the ace "Dig your grave" for instance) and textures on the guitar, the music is openly dissonant and eerie at times, with a lot of feedback and fuzzy distortion altering the mood of the original Doom formula. The more noticeable change lies in the presence of slow-paced, heavy psychedelic crusty rock songs, with the Saw Throat-on-shrooms "Drop out", and especially the nine minute long (!) "My pornography", an oppressive Godflesh-y industrial crust number that sounds about as joyful as the grinding noise of a sinking ship. It is obvious that Doom were not only trying new things musically but also craving to modify the vibe of old, to apply a new varnish to it. You could argue that the nine songs making up The Greatest Invention have a disparate feel to them, that for a Doom album - whose template is officially based on the repetition of gruff scandi-influenced cavecrust numbers with a couple of groovy mid-paced ones thrown in for good measure - it is too diverse and not straight-forward enough. While I agree that the album lacks unity and cohesion (more songs and a proper Lp format instead of a mini would have helped in that regard), the angry tension and raging heaviness permeating the work, whatever the songs' pace, make The Greatest Invention one of my favourite Doom recordings. Just listen to the new version of "Same mind" (only included on the cd version for some reason) and how tormented and pissed it sounds, to the filthy old-school crust vibe of "Dig your grave", to the Cimex nods in the pummeling "Worthless nothing", to the heavy punk cover of the Dead Wretched's anthem "No justice" pointing to Doom's local punk roots beside being one of the band's best covers. In spite of the thin production, all the songs are actually memorable and punishing in their own way and on the whole it remains an incandescent work and an apt farewell for that incarnation of Doom. 

Doom would keep going with a different lineup throughout the 90's but never really experimented as much as on The Greatest Invention, which is also paradoxically their shortest album to date. I tend to see Jon's subsequent band, the magnificent Police Bastard, where he played the guitar and sang, as building on certain ideas touched upon in Doom's 1992 Lp, and, albeit to a slightly lesser extent, the same could be said about Bugeyed, Bri's heavy noise rock project with members of Pleasant Valley Children, so I suppose the desire to write something different had to be expressed anyway. 

The cover is quite striking (but Doom's covers usually are) and decidedly dark with a man being shot in the head and an endless river of weapons (bombs, guns, knives, you name it) flowing out of the bullet hole. Perhaps the name "Doom" (for the first time with the new font they would keep using later on) was never as ominous and apt as on The Greatest Invention. The doom of Doom indeed.   

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Ten Steps To Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 6): Sarcasm "Your Funeral My Party" Ep, 1991

Yes, you guessed it. Once more, I am going to rave wildly and without any restraint, with an excitement similar to that of a teenage punk upon finding a rusty Blitz badge crushed on a sticky venue's floor, over a 90's band that embarrassingly few people seem to care about nowadays. And, mind you, it won't even be my first time since I already wrote about Sarcasm in 2012 (no less than eight years ago according to my calculator! o-m-g!!!) and yet, in spite of my very positive review of their Brave new World Ep, it saddens me to say that the band has not seen any spike in popularity for the past decade. I have to admit that this horrific realisation made me feel like a crust army general, standing upon a hill and about to charge headlong at the enemy (at, say, a legion of shoegazers), and taking one last look, before unleashing the fury, at his glorious orc-like troops lying in wait behind him and... seeing no one there at all since everybody fucked off because they suddenly all remembered at the same time that they were really into postpunk after all. However, being a resilient bastard basically unwilling to face the truth with a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer disease, I was bound to try again and spread the good word about Sarcasm.

Did you know there was a late 80's Slovenian speed metal band called Sarcasm? No, neither did I. Or a mid-80's crossover hardcore band from New York also called Sarcasm and even humbly referred to as "The Original Sarcasm" on youtube? Well, I did not know them either, and if the rather typical New York hardcore boasting does not come as a surprise, NYC Sarcasm may not have been the first Sarcasm around since the first incarnation of Leicester's Sarcasm had their first run in 1984. If you want more details about the band's story (and you should in fact crave for more details), as usual, a dive into Trapped in a Scene and a lovely cup of tea come highly recommended, but strictly out of crustian charity, I am required to provide at least some intel about the band. At the start, during their existence in the mid-80's, Sarcasm endeavoured to be as noizy as possible and were influenced by the likes of the legendary Skum Dribblurzzz (which they considered as their mentors and even covered) or the mighty Dirge and could therefore relevantly be seen as being part of the noisiest part of the squat-loving UK hardcore punk spectrum that also welcomed such hugely talented acts as Asylum (from Stoke), Eat Shit, No Brain Cells or System Sikness and religiously drank scrumpy at the altar of Bristol's punk gods Chaos UK and Disorder. Sadly, I have never had the privilege to enjoy the noizy chaotic punk sound of early Sarcasm but for some reason but I still know how it sounds: fast and fuzzy and fun and gloriously ear-damaging.

The second coming of Sarcasm took place in 1989 and their subsequent noisy career was well documented with three full Ep's, two split Ep's (with Sanctus Iuda and Wojczech), a split tape with CFDL as well as other demo and tape recordings. Today's post will focus on the band's first Ep, Your Funeral My Party, that was released in 1991 on Rotthenness Records from Sao Paolo, a label specialised in grindcore. The Ep was actually a reissue of Sarcasm's first demo that was originally distributed as a tape at gigs (no idea what it looked like as it is not on discogs) although judging from the crunchy, powerful sound, you would not guess that it was "just" a demo recording (done in only 8 hours!). By the time Sarcasm reformed, singer and songwriter Mark had played the guitar in Extreme Noise Terror (you can hear him on A Holocaust in Your Head and the second Peel Session) and guitar player Barney was formerly in Dirge so you can imagine without too much trouble what the revived Sarcasm sounded like in the early 90's: a noizy and crusty thrash attack.

If maximum crust cred is to be achieved, as we have seen, anything less than a substantial mastery of the stenchcore canon will not do and if you have to spend sleepless nights learning the early Peaceville catalog by heart, then so be it. However, filthy metallic crust punk cannot suffice if you aim to become a well rounded crust lord prone to display an impeccable piosity so that it is crucial that you develop a sensible expertise in the noizier branch of the crust philosophy, primarily influenced by the sophisticated works of the Bristol and Kyushu schools, and more generally 80's hardcore bands that believed in the curative powers of distortion, glue and really fast music. Sarcasm is a fun band to listen to - and I say this with the utmost respect - especially on this recording which truly conveys their intent to make a bloody racket and enjoying themselves in the process. Starting with the song "Suppression" which opens with a deliciously filthy stenchcore introduction, à la Deviated Instinct, before diving headfirst into cavemen crust oblivion, Your Funeral My Party is an intense listening experience and if you are looking for nine minutes of extravagant aural savagery, it will be your thing. While the aforementioned "Suppression" and "Crisis point" can be described as aggressively gruff and distorted cavecrust numbers reminiscent of Extreme Noise Terror, Doom or early Disrupt but with a Bristol vibe, the four remaining songs are shorter and faster, highlighting the band's talent for revisiting the mid-80's Disorder/Chaos UK hardcore sound, not unlike Plasmid, Dirge or Insurrection but with a heavier sound and a nod toward Gai and raw Japanese hardcore. I love the hyperbolic, insanity-driven crusty vocals and the classic "low growls reply to high-pitched barks" pattern. Primitive and gnarly noizy crusty UK hardcore thrash or something. Whatever you want to call it, this Ep is a proper delight if you like old-school ear-slaughtering hardcore punk that smells like cider and squats and, on some odd ontological level, Sarcasm sound like what their font look like. Right?

As you can imagine from the title of the Ep - which I personally adore - the lyrics are quite angry and direct indeed with songs against popstars (with the classic line "Don't give me one of their record, or I'll stick it up your ass"), the rich, politicians and the fucking system. The following Ep, The Lowest Form of Wit released in 1992 on Tribal War Records, might even be better and, well, even crustier. I strongly recommend the compilation of all their vinyl output, entitled Noise Bastards Vol. 1: a Collection of Ep's and Splits released in 2007 on Impulso Ruin from Peru.

This Ep kills posers.  

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Ten Steps To Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 5): Prophecy of Doom "The Peel Sessions" 12'' Ep, 1990

There are a couple of tacit but nevertheless crucial, and indeed immemorial, rules that even the most seemingly unflinching crusty has to abide by if the all-important crust credibility is to be maintained at all time. Some have been thoroughly documented by notorious crust anthropologists and I strongly recommend to read such classic studies as The Elementary Structures of Crustship or Coming of Age Rituals in Patched Societies. Today, I will focus on one of these ground rules so that the unexperienced reader will no longer be caught dithering like a speed virgin when asked about his or her favourite recording of /insert name of classic UK hardcore crust bands from the mid/late 80's/, a common enough question in punk socialising spaces like glamorous d-beat gigs, distro stalls or, of course, the bar. Make no mistake as a wrong answer to such a critical enquiry could have you banned from the crust elite for any number of years and from being asked to play in a retro stenchcore band, which is pretty much the highest rank in crusty social groups, the very top of the crust chain. In fact, there have been many instances where the question merely served as a means to gauge the current crust level of a new recruit, not unlike a rite of passage marking the transition from "poser" to "proper". So if you nurture the dream to one day become the guitar player of a tasteful synth-driven stenchcore band, the right answer could be decisive whereas faltering awkwardly "the first album?" will probably not suffice and might condemn you to only attain the spot of the bass player in a new school d-beat band. Therefore, whenever possible, safely go for "the Peel Sessions are excellent". 

A fine example of Midieval art

Not only is such an answer - almost - always true, as you could indeed argue that the best materials of Extreme Noise Terror, Doom or Napalm Death were recorded during their visits to the BBC studios (I personally consider the transitions between ENT's "I'm not a fool" and "In it for life" and between Doom "Symptom of the universe" and "Multinationals" to be some of the most poignant moments of crust magic ever put to tape), but it also shows that you acknowledge the influence that John Peel has had on the making of the so-called UK hardcore scene and sound. To be offered a Peel Session was a big deal for punk bands at the time. Pretty much every punk kid was a fan of the man's open-mindedness and enthusiasm and got to discover top bands through his show so it was felt as a major achievement to be invited to be a part of it, without mentioning that your band was going to be broadcast nationally on the BBC with all the exposure that ensued. I suppose one of the main reasons - if not the main reason - why punk Peel Sessions always sounded ace was that, for many bands, it would be the only opportunity to play on state-of-the-art equipment, as opposed to the usually shitty amps of their practice spaces, which accounted for the fantastic sound production they were treated with. Besides, the very idea of playing the noiziest, filthiest grinding hardcore on such expensive appliances, live on the BBC radio must have felt quite exhilarating and an antithesis in action. Punk, innit?  

When it comes to Prophecy of Doom, from Tewkesbury, you can confidently assert that their two Peel Sessions deserved to be regarded as the best material they ever recorded (although the second one from 1991 might be even better than the first). It will undoubtedly shine a knowledgeable glow upon your person. PoD were certainly one of the most unique and convincing bands pertaining to the original UK crust wave (as usual, I strongly urge you to read the chapter devoted to them in Trapped in a Scene) and, at their peak, their brand of intelligent, oppressive grinding stenchcore certainly amounted to the best of what crust had to offer. In spite of the two aforementioned Peel Sessions, one genuinely classic crust Lp - 1990's Acknowledge the Confusion Master - and a number of contemporary reissues (thanks to the good people of Agipunk for that), PoD have unfairly remained something of an underappreciated band, fervently revered by a few but tragically ignored by many. I first came across PoD through their second album, the Matrix cd, released in 1992 on Metalcore, which I got for cheap (it figures) ages ago. It was not, to say the least, an ideal introduction to a band that I had seen mentioned on several tasteful thank lists and that shared a split cd with Axegrinder, which entitled me to expect some proper crust from them. Matrix is not good and the last time I played it, I think Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. However, it stands as their only admittedly lacklustre work and you can trust all the rest, safe in your crusthood. 

The Peel Sessions 12'' Ep was recorded on January, 28th and broadcast on February, 14th, 1990. It included four songs that originally appeared on the album, released the same year on Deaf Records (a Peaceville sublabel) and recorded with the same lineup of Shrew, Shrub, Tommy, Dean and Martin. I suppose that if you played PoD for the first time to an innocent punky bystander, a common first reaction would be one of genuine wonder at Shrew's very peculiar vocals since he used a guitar effect pedal (some sort of delay) making him sound like the rotting corpse of some unidentified but undoubtedly monstrous and barbaric creature growling at your guilty conscience from beyond the grave. It is just a lovely feeling. While I am generally not a massive believer in using too much effect on your vocals, the combination of the delay with the threateningly gruff, insane-sounding vocal style works ideally with PoD and it has to be said that it was a daring move for the time. If life has been so miserable that you have never had the opportunity to enjoy PoD at their best, let's suggest that they could be defined as an oppressively groovy grinding crust band with a leaning towards early death metal or as an epic pub brawl between early Carcass and Mindrot, '89 Deviated Instinct and '88 Hellbastard but I feel that such comparisons cannot render the suffocating atmosphere of madness permeating PoD's sound and their original take on the genre, be it in terms of song structures, writing or sonic textures. You will find many different paces in these four songs, from fast-paced cavemen crust to mid-tempo mean pummeling stenchcore, blasting grinding death metal or painful and dark sludgy moment, all shades of crust punishment answer the call. As you can expect, the production is absolutely perfect and the bass sound is to die for. The lyrics were another strong point of the band with rather thought-provoking words about our pervasive egotism, the subconscious thought processes, the lies and conceit we create to keep going and the ensuing personal and social insanity. PoD's lyrics were like their music: quite unique and smart.

This 12'' Ep was released on Strange Fruit, the BBC-related label that put out all the Peel Sessions and of course everyone recognized the distinctive style of Mid who drew the cover of the record (I encourage you to use this intel as a scholarly piece of crust trivia) and kept experimenting with more layered visual techniques. Fortunately for you, Boss Tuneage released a PoD discography entitled Retrospective 1988-1991 last year (without Matrix though) that is still available on vinyl and cd so there is really no excuse.     

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Ten Steps to Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 4): Extreme Noise Terror "Are you that desperate?" Ep, 1995

This step is going to be a relatively small but still important one toward a well-balanced stenchcore diet and a harmonious relationship with the crustmos. So place your healing crustals on the table, light some sweat'n'cider-flavoured incense sticks and let's unclog those chakras.   

I guess everyone here is familiar with the cavemen crust pioneers Extreme Noise Terror so prattling at length about them - as I normally would - does seem a little pointless. Besides, the inclusion of this ENT Ep into the present series has a lot to do with the fact that it is a live recording and a rather rare occurrence of savage but listenable live crustery on vinyl. The marriage between the extreme sonic characteristics inherent to the style, the very limited means of recording in the 80's and a marked inclination to get plastered before playing, explains that there aren't that many good live recordings of the classic crust era, which is a shame since those bands usually played a lot. I certainly can think of a couple of great ones (of Antisect and their three live Lp's and Amebix of course, and even Axegrinder, that were done through the mixing deck), but often it was just an enthusiastic hardcore punk fan armed with a tape recorder in one hand (and a pint in the other) which logically accounted for the sound quality being very rough and the listener being barely able to make out all the instruments amidst all the drunken blabbering of the punters sometimes. All in all a pretty amusing experience and certainly one that makes the passionate punk feel like an archeologist exhuming scarce and precious artifacts of an ancient civilisation, which is probably not completely wrong when one considers that every gig is filmed by at least twenty persons in the audience nowadays.

Are you that Desperate? belongs to that rare category of "listenable live recordings of 80's crust" and let's face it you need to master at least one of those if you want to be a credible crust punk. Apart from the aforementioned forefathers of the genre Antisect and Amebix, Extreme Noise Terror have been the only vintage crust band to enjoy a proper live record of one of their late 80's performances - although the first pressing of the Ep was only released in 1991 - namely their gig at the Powerhaus in London on October, 5th, 1989, with Doctor and the Crippens. Of course, Doom would also have a couple of solid live Ep's later on, 1992's Live in Japan and 2001's Pissed Robbed and Twatted, but those were not recorded in the 80's. Of course, you could also argue that protocrust noize masters Chaos UK - with the B side of 1986's Just Mere Slaves 12'' recorded in Japan - and Disorder - with their full Lp 1985's Gi Faen I Nasjonalitenten Din recorded in Oslo - had official live recordings on vinyl prior to ENT, but since we, at Terminal Sound Nuisance, posit that "crust" is both continuation as well as change, and that, although the Bristol hardcore heroes played a major role, in terms of musical influence, aesthetics and logistics, in the making of crust, they were not, strictly speaking and in spite of similar lifestyles and hygiene, "crust bands". Know what I mean?

Along with Napalm Death, ENT were the most iconic band of the mid/late 80's hardcore crust wave in Britain and their early works remain unsurpassable cult releases like Scum or War Crimes. However, whereas Doom, who started a bit later as a band, always stuck both to the ethics of the DIY punk scene and to their cavemen adaptation of Discard, ENT decided to go for bigger things, signed to Earache Records in the 90's and tried to become a medium-sized metal bands, leaving their crust punk roots and anarcho lyrics in the process, which was seen by many as selling out and understandably left a stain on the ENT name to this day even though the band (which was always singer Dean's band) have gone back to their old-school cavemen crust style and to DIY punk label, a return that some have deemed more than a little questionable and hypocritical. However I am not here to pontify but to talk about the actual piece of wax and the band's legacy because, as much as one may be critical of ENT's past direction, there is no denying the sheer power and insane intensity characterising their 80's period and in 1989 they sounded bloody unstoppable.

Like many a snot-nosed punk of yore, ENT was the first crustcore band I ever knew through their split Lp with Chaos UK, a record that did not really convert me to the cause of noize at first as it all sounded a bit much and just plain silly to me, whereas I immediately connected to Doom at about the same time. I remember not being able to get my head around ENT's dual vocals. Were they for real or just arsing around in the studio? And what about that name? Sure, your band can reasonably be described as an extremely noisy terror but does that justify being so literal? It took a listening session of A Holocaust in your Head while inebriated for me to really grab the essence of ENT. Many years have passed and my appreciation of late 80's ENT is strong and pure and I still cannot help singing along to "Murder" whenever I hear it (with the appropriate level of discretion that the social situation requires of course). The widely accepted current consensus concerning the band's body of works is that the Peel Sessions (all three of them: 1987, 1988 and 1990) along with the In It For Life split Lp with Filthkick are the most ferocious ENT records (and their cover of the Rejects has to be one of the most inspired punk covers ever), but you cannot go wrong either with the raw pogo crust power of Radioactive, A Holocaust in Your Head's emphatic - if a bit sloppy - template for the traditional dual vocal crust attack formula and 1991's Phonophobia certainly heralded the new era of controlled and tighter crustcore brutality that would define the 90's and climax with Disrupt's Unrest.

Contrary to Doom, with whom the comparisons are unavoidable because of common members, who pretty much stuck to their initial career plan to sound like Discard/Crudity/Svart Parad, the spectrum of influences of ENT - who grew out of the ashes of mid-80's bands Raw Noise and Victims of War - was broader and included, beside the Bristol noise merchants Chaos UK and Disorder and anarcho bands like '82 Antisect (to whom they owed their famous trade-off vocal style) or Anti-System, classic foreign hardcore bands from Japan (GISM, Swankys or Kuro, Italy (Wretched or EU's Arse), Finland (Kaaos or Rattus) in addition to the usual Swedish suspects (Anti-Cimex and Shitlickers). Those rather varied but always savage hardcore influences were then blended together until you obtained a smooth enough texture meant to be played at full speed, with cider-fueled intensity and with completely over-the-top extreme dual vocals that still manage to sound punk as fuck. To get back to Are you that Desperate?, it includes six absolute classic ENT classics: "Deceived", "Another nail in the coffin", "Subliminal music", "Murder", "Raping the Earth" and "Punk - fact or faction?". The Ep appropriately starts with "Deceived", and its classic and so epic introduction that has certainly sent shivers down many a spine throughout the years and is just the perfect opener. The sound is pretty decent and the band quite tight so that you can easily understand what is going on. I would not recommend this Ep to someone not previously familiar with ENT as it sounds even more brutal than usual - because of the proximity created by the live recording - like an enraged mob of drunk cavemen banging on your door at 2am. A couple of speeches between the songs indicate that the band was not too happy with the macho dancing and "metal attitudes" they were witnessing at the gig which I suppose is fairly positive and showed that they still cared and, beside the lyrics, there is a text entitled Meat Food for Thought exposing the impact of Western carnivorous diets in terms of pollution, ecological destruction and social inequities in developing countries, that is - sadly - still very much relevant.

The live Ep was originally released in 1991 but this present version of Are you that Desperate? is the second pressing from 1995 with the black border cover. Both were released on Crust Records, a Providence-based label run by Dropdead's guitar player that was responsible for a couple of noizy classics from the likes of Disrupt, Diskonto, Totalitär and of course Drodpead. My only minor issue with the Ep is that the cover, depicting a Oliver Hardy lookalike in a uniform pouting at a burger, is not what it could have been. Indeed, the drawing on the backcover with its crustier than thou gnomish caveman making noise out of a helplessly broken guitar would have made for a legendary cover (but since it already appeared on the insert of The Peel Sessions 1987-1990 maybe they refrained from the idea of putting it on the cover, I dunno).

Probably not the most ideal listen for an ENT novice but an undeniable treat for your inner crusty.  

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Ten Steps to Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 3): Genital Deformities "Shag nasty! Oi!" Lp, 1989

I have been thinking about all those bands that never got to exist lately. Those that never went past the practice stage, assuming they actually got enough of their shit together to enter a practice room. I suppose we all have dozens of unborn bands, often the result of boozing sessions with your mates during which everyone thought it'd be hilarious to form a mock ska band or agreed that what this town really needed was a more traditional d-beat band called D-Charge. Usually, after sobering up, such projects never really happen since the very concept of it often proves much more fun than its actualisation and the logistics involved in playing in a band. And let's face it, if many such ideas sound hysterical when formulated while intoxicated, the truth is that, in most cases, a lot of them should indeed remain in the realms of projection and although I have been threatening for several years to concretise Skarcass, my ska band devoted to covering early Carcass songs, I am fully aware, deep down, that humanity may not deserve to have this calamity unleashed upon it and that it would be safer for all involved that Skarcass, tragically, never sees the light of day. It would be a right laugh though.

Was Genital Deformities the product of a heavy drinking session somewhere in the West Midlands in 1987 when a drunk teenage punk offered excitedly to form the noisiest band possible with the most disgusting and obnoxious name they could think of? Quite likely indeed. Fortunately for punk history, GD became real and created a genuine early crust classic with Shag Nasty! Oi!. However, and rather unfortunately for matters of appropriacy, they stuck with the moniker Genital Deformities, a courageous choice maybe, one that may have some appeal to lovers of purposefully gory disgusting noise, but akin to shooting yourself in the foot and then trading your crutches for some shite speed offered by a right dodgy geezer in the loo if you are not actually a goregrind band, which GD never were although they have been misconstrued as such.

I haven't learnt much about the band since I last wrote about them in my review of their 1994 split cd with the mighty Subcaos (here) but what you must know is that GD recorded their first demo in December, 1987, a recording (I doubt it was ever actually released physically) that respected the "noise not music" doctrine with the utmost loyalty as it was, quite literally, noise and certainly not music. Made up of fifteen "songs", most of them being short and brutal bursts of hardcore noise, it was recorded with a drum machine and a singer who was clearly on white cider and it can be said to be a prime example of early noisecore giving Sore Throat's Aural Butchery a run for its money in terms of gruff roughness. Amidst the blasting chaos and the utter dementia pervading the demo, some songs introduced heavy mid-paced Frost-like riffing and atmospheric crust moments that did point to where GD would be heading the year after once they got a stable lineup (or once they saw themselves as an actual band) and decided to write proper songs. In 1988, GD recorded an Ep that was never released and included six songs that would all be rerecorded on the Lp. Since this recording can be considered as a sort of rawer version of the album, there is no need to slobber over it too much but let me tell you that it easily outcrusted most of the competition at the time (thanks a million to Panzer Badger for exhuming this unreleased masterpiece). So let's proceed to Shag Nasty! Oi!.

I suppose that when the name of your band already refers to deformed genitalia, calling your album Shag Nasty! Oi! should be considered as rather benign, even though it certainly conjures up the saucy songs of the Macc Lads. Since the Lp does not have an insert, I am unable to assess how ironic this title was in the light of the lyrics which, from what I can decipher, with some difficulty because of the super gruff cavemen vocals, were quite serious and abstain from the lewd and fruity. As for the cover of the album, I could write a whole article about it. First, because it is a stunning artwork drawn by Skinny who had already done covers and posters for Doom, Napalm Death, SxOxB or Extreme Noise Terror at that point and second because it is a stunning but penis-based artwork. Again, you could argue that a band called Genital Deformities and an album called Shag Nasty! Oi! would use a phallic landscape for a cover, it just makes sense, and at least their artistic choices are coherent and the vision is clear, as overrun with dicks as it might be. On the one hand, I love the cover because it looks very macabre, nightmarish and grotesque and very punky too and it can be admired for the well-composed and detailed piece of punk art that it is. On the other, it makes wearing my GD shirt a highly delicate endeavour for, if its aesthetics kinda look like Nightmare Before Christmas from a distance, anyone looking closer can notice that I am covered in erect ejaculating penises and there is a priest with two cocks in his mouth holding what appears to be a penis-made nunchaku and very much enjoying it (without mentioning the lecherous Thatcher-like figure seemingly involved in some kind of wild orgy with penis-shaped skeletons). So probably not the most adequate outfit to wear for your nan's birthday (although you never know, do you?). In spite of all the sexual references and if you manage to abstract yourself from the penis imagery, the overall atmosphere of GD's visuals did possess that dark apocalyptic and decadent feel one can find on a lot of classic crust records, locating the band in the original strong crust tradition.

Shag Nasty! Oi! is, as deliberately disgusting as the cover might be, an absolute stenchcore crust classic, a practically flawless album worth of praises that ought to be celebrated as often as possible. I remember getting the Lp for quite cheap about fifteen years ago and looking at the prices on discogs, it looks like Shag Nasty! Oi! is a crucial piece of crust culture that is still rather affordable. I have to admit that I was extremely suspicious upon ordering it because of the band's name but it was described as "UK crust from 1989" and, in my fanaticised mind, this combination of words always evokes images of crust grandeur. It makes the heart beat so to speak. Once I got over the shock caused by the cover and mentally accepted the fact that I had been conned into acquiring a grindcore Lp, I played the album and realized how wrong, mistaken, naive, foolish, arrogant, misled and juvenile I had been. Throughout punkstory, although a consequential number of crust bands have claimed to be influenced by Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, few succeeded in crustifying properly the mighty Frost sound and among those who did, GD have to lead the pack. Shag Nasty! Oi! manages to incorporate and rework Frost and Hellhammer riffs and structures into a decidedly metallic UK crust sound. It has got the incredible rocking groove that the Swiss were known but instead of evil and ominous, GD sound like noisy cider-fueled punk cavemen in an advanced stage of dementia obnoxiously covering Celtic Frost opening for Napalm Death and Doom at the Mermaid in 1988 (quite possibly the best compliment I have ever paid on the blog). The songs are dark and heavy, mostly groovy and mid-tempo primitive crusty metal epics, but you do have a couple of faster numbers (like Frost had really) and even a grinding one, and although the songwriting template informing the fifteen songs on the album is clear to see, it never sounds redundant. The guitar sound is to die for, thick, heavy, loud and rocking, with an almost organic quality, it sounds like the gurgles of a happily rotting corpse and makes the Lp stand tall along with the vocals. I suppose you could write a whole essay about those insane-sounding, gruff vocals that sound grotesque and macabrely theatrical, but also very threatening and pissed, even more so than Sore Throat's, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the singer spent the recording session in a straitjacket.

One may venture that the intent behind Shag Nasty! Oi! was to create an hyperbolic and ludicrous, dark, organic, thick crust metal work, that is both serious and farcical. GD were certainly on a par with the best of the early crust waves and meaningful comparisons can be made with early Hellbastard, Axegrinder and Sore Throat whose mid-paced moments were also very Frost-oriented. And if you are still slightly circumspect, please listen to the song "Dark sky," basically one of the best stenchcore crust songs ever written, its anthemic value especially emphasised by the delicate acoustic intro "Crouterposs" that precedes it on the album. "Dark sky" sounds like a crusty dance of death, like the soundtrack to the end of the world, like the crust to end all crusts. The slow-paced opening beat with its long pause is a proof that crust punk can be innovative while remaining heavier than a tramp's breath, the vocals remind me of an intoxicated grizzly bear and the unsuspected ominous Amebix-like synth-driven eerie break in the middle utterly takes the song to Mount Olympus Crustus. "Dark sky" is a perfect old-school crust song, like Axegrinder's "Final war", Hellbastard's "We had no evidence", Nausea's "Extinction" or Misery's "Born fed slaughtered" and .

The lineup on Shag Nasty! Oi! was made up of Tom Croft (who would join Excrement of War shortly after), Crow, John and Tim and it was their last collaboration as the subsequent 1992 Profession of Violence tape (also released on vinyl as a split with Nuclear Death from Poland) had Crow, John, Jez and Mik Vik. That GD lineup then split up but the band kept going for the split cd with Subcaos with only Crow as original member, the rest being Higgy, Neil, Iggy and Ade (who left before the recording session). The recordings that followed Shag Nasty! Oi! may not have been as crusty, but if you are looking for Frost-inspired heavy UK hardcore punk, it does not get much better. A tragically overlooked band, doomed by a preposterous moniker. That's punk, innit?