Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Civilised Society? / Deviated Instinct - live in Bradford 6.3.87 + Rhetoric - live in Yarmouth 11.2.88
I got this tape a few years ago from a bloke on ebay who was selling a lot of tapes he had made himself. Now, that was before I even knew about music blogs and I almost fainted when I saw that he had live tapes of bands I loved and of bands I didn't know yet but was sure I was going to love. Two quids and one week later, I received a dozen of tapes among which this particular tape with a stellar line-up: Civilised Society?, Deviated Instinct and Rhetoric.
Now, I will start with a warning: the recordings are rough and the sound quality is low, especially the CS?/DI side. And yes, the hiss is a bit overwhelming at times. However, don't let these mere details spoil your listening experience because, after all, the gigs were probably recorded by a drunk teenager with a small tape-recorder in a shabby pub. For those unfortunate enough not to know Civilised Society?, they were an anarchopunk band from Yorkshire with Hammy from Peaceville and the Instigators as one of the singers. In fact, they had three singers at some point, one female and two males, which gave the band a sort of Chumbawamba-like quality. I like to think that if Chumba had been into hardcore and metal, they would have done something not unlike CS? because they really succeeded in being tuneful in a A-Heads/Lost Cherrees way but could also be fast and heavy like Antisect or Potential Threat. I am REALLY into CS? and I was slightly disappointed with the former members' apparent lack of enthusiasm about the band in Trapped in a scene... Oh well, call me oversensitive I guess... Anyway, the sound during CS? set is quite awful and if you have never listened to them, I would recommend you start with their excellent Lp's first. For those who already had the pleasure to be acquainted with them, you will notice that the set has songs from both albums, punky "Scrap metal" and more metallic "Violence sucks!". I am not sure what went on with the guitar player but he kept tuning and re-tuning his instrument between each song. Lyrically, CS? was very much a traditional anarcho band with songs dealing with feminism ("The fairer sex"), social control on the individual ("I can be free"), the arms race ("Star wars"), a "freedom, peace and unity, that's what it's all about" anthem ("Life is pain"), alienation ("Tooth & claw") and a great anti-work song ("Is there life after work?"). Just a little quote from "Tooth & claw" to brighten your day "Lepers in a sterile world / Trying to halt our fall / Do we scratch away the surface? / Or forever shall we crawl?".
After CS? come Deviated Instinct as both sets were recorded during the same night, on June 3rd, 1987, in sunny Bradford. The DI set suffers from the same sound flaws as CS?'s, though for some reason, DI managed to sound a bit better. This said, the guitar is very low in the mix during the first few songs so it is pretty much a guitarless "Stormcrow" you'll be faced with (who knows, maybe the soundman had gone for a piss) and on the whole this is more bass-driven than most of the band's live recordings that I have heard so far. This DI set is classic for the time, with songs from the second demo, the Ep and the third demo. The rendering of the songs is fairly chaotic (the sound quality certainly doesn't help) but there is a lot of energy and intensity nonetheless. The songs played that night were the following: Stormcrow / Welcome the orgy / Disciples of the storm / Rock'n'roll conformity / Master of all / Scarecrow / Warmachine. This was the snotty and dirty metal-punk period of DI, some sort of alcohol-fueled maelstrom reminiscent of Antisect, Celtic Frost, Bathory and Venom, played with the energy and aggression of Italian hardcore and the incivility of Chaos UK. The lyrics of DI were also one of their definite assets as, far from being haikus about war, the pigs or animal liberation, their words painted a bleak vision of society using metaphors of decay and unavoidable destruction to signify man's alienation, self-destructive power and self-imposed slavery. Some heavy shit, right?
Finally, we have a live set from Rhetoric, another band from Norwich, recorded in 1988. It is a really a shame that the band only has two songs on record, the "Consolidation" split Ep with Deviated Instinct (small world) and Revulsion, because not only does this live set sound great and a lot of songs would have fitted just right on a record, but Rhetoric were fun. Just listening to them joking between songs is enough to make me wish there were more bands who enjoyed themselves openly on stage. If Rhetoric had some serious lyrics from what I can suppose from the song titles, they also had joke songs, "Virgin raper" being a piss-take of satanic metal band and I can only guess at what "Beefburger" was about. If you have never heard of Rhetoric, this is actually a great start as the sound is loud and clear enough and the band is pretty tight. Musically, Rhetoric were a band of their time as they played straight-up gruffy metal-punk with a sense of humour, not unlike a more metal ENT or a more binary Mortal Terror. But who the hell is Simon Cooper?
Saturday, 25 August 2012
Today, it is not one but two demos you are getting on TSN. In fact, the two demos of great anarcho-punk band Haywire. I got to see Haywire play 5 years ago in London and to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. The few doubts I might have had were soon to be blown away by their amazing performance. They were energetic, powerful, the set was made up of older and newer (well, less old) songs, and above all they really looked like they believed in what they were singing and their enthusiasm was obvious.
But enough arse-licking and to the point. In fact, Haywire formed in 1984 when they litteraly just kids and they took their time to record their first demo, entitled "Blood money", in 1988. Like many punk bands of the era, there is a definite metal influence going on, but have no fear, there are no lengthy guitar solos (I don't think they could play well enough) or high-pitched screams here (and I doubt there were many tight leather pants either as the band has always been adamant about animal rights). Though metal-tinged, the guitar riffs have this punk simplicity and the drumming is decidedly in a binary mode. Somewhere between early Concrete Sox and AOA probably with some Icons of Filth as well (especially the vocals). It must be said that the recording is quite rough but on the whole it is very much enjoyable. As previously mentioned, Haywire firmly believed in animal rights and no less than four songs of the demo deal with animal abuse. My personal favourite is "System's grave" though, a rebellious song against the class system. On the whole, a great slice of sloppy metallic anarcho punk.
Two years and a half later, in 1990, Haywire recorded their second demo, called "Freedom?". The tape cover with a picture of the riot squad doing their dirty job aptly emphasizes the question mark of the title and indicates that the band has left none of their anger. This second demo is definitely better than the previous one. For one, there is a different singer with a more aggressive voice that fits the music better (except on the song "Blood money" which has the same singer as the first demo's). Musically, the band seemed to have given up on becoming a metal band at this point, though there are still a couple of very effective chunky riffs here and there. This is fast, snotty and raw English hardcore-punk reminiscent of Insurrection or Dirge (for the pace) but also AOA, Exit-Stance and Anti-System as Haywire have that distinctive anarcho edge. The songs are quite varied as well (there's even an attempt at grindcore on "13 word"!) which makes for a very pleasant listening experience as rough and ready as the recording may sound. The band had also improved as far as writing lyrics was concerned. If animal rights songs hadn't left the picture ("Endangered species" is an anti-hunt song and "Whose coat?" is an anti-fur/anti-leather number), the band tackled more issues on this one: "Freedom" is about the fall of the Berlin Wall and how England is becoming a police state; "State of emergency" is about state racism and discrimination; "End products of imperialism" deals with the effects of colonization and Western imperialist economic policies; "Radiation nation" is about nuclear waste and how whole areas got contaminated because of them; finally, "Paranoid visions" is about fear of a nuclear war (surely their tribute to Discharge). An excellent demo that hints at what the band would do later on, the "Mad cow disease" Ep and the split Ep with Obliterated, both very good records.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
When I think of criminally underrated bands, Toxik Ephex is often the first one that springs to mind. In fact, I firmly believe they were one of the catchiest and original anarcho-punk band of the 80's, successfully walking on the fine line between fun-loving tuneful punk-rock and serious politics. Like an anarchist Toy Dolls or a merrier Instigators. I bought this first Ep a while ago and I knew nothing about the band at all. But it was only 2 quids and the band logo on the cover reminded me of a sloppier version of Blitz' skull logo so I went for it. And it was entitled "Punk as fuck" and released on Green Vomit records, so there was little hesitation on my part. And then, my life changed. Well, not really, but I was in a state of shock at how good it was.
Toxik Ephex were from Aberdeen, Scotland, and I suppose they are best known for their split Lp with the mighty Oi Polloi. However, whereas fellow Scotts like Oi Polloi, Disturbed and AOA were noisy animals, Toxik Ephex put a strong emphasis on tunefulness and infectiously catchy song-writing. The first song of the record is an absolute anthem. It starts with a rather melancholy bass lines, not unlike what Blitz were doing just before they turned New Romantics (I always play "Why?" whenever I am reminded of this sad fact), and then post-punky guitars with proper melodies and this typical anarcho beats kick in. When the singer starts, you are already taken in, and his clear, melodic voice just merges perfectly with the instruments. The chorus is monumental, a huge singalong that instantly sticks in your head and that you will be bound to hum during your weekly shower (I actually took to bathing more regularly just to be able to sing that song more often). This song, "Fallout shelter", is basically too good to be true and in this sort of situation, one is brought to fear that the other side won't be as potent. And one is wrong! The two other songs are almost as incredible. "Always skint" is a faster, shorter number with brilliant chorus while "Nothing's permissive" is back to the mid-tempo mode. Like "Fallout shelter", these two other songs are jewels with a slightly vibrant, clear guitar sound, simple but effective riffs, a driving bass that gives the songs their energy and those vocals full of teenage angst and frustration and when the epiphanic chorus come, you know you are confronted woth sheer punk-rock genius. Toxik Ephex are not that easy to define since in terms of song-writing I always found them to be unique and a notch above the rest. They succeeded in sounding serious and angry as well as warm and fun to hang out with. Besides, especially on this record, they really stand at a crossroads between classical British anarcho-punk, post-punk and the very first wave of punk-rock. Ian Glasper saw them as a cross between Blitz and the Instigators and he's not far off the mark. Take the tunes of Demob, External Menace, No Choice, Rudi or The Threats, mix it with Flux, Dirt or Fallout anarcho beats and add a spoonful of post-punk like Paranoia or Wartoys, and you might get an idea.
Lyrically, Toxik Ephex tackled social issues like poverty, social control and police brutality with great insight but they also had funnier songs celebrating teenage tomfooleries. On "Punk as fuck" though, the tone lies more on the serious side of things. "Fallout shelter" is about someone who wants to isolate himself from society and from nuclear madness by hiding in a fallout shelter. The song really captures the paranoia and the fear of the atomic bomb that prevailed at the time (just watch the movie "Threads"). "Always skint", from what I could gather since only "Fallout shelter"'s lyrics are included, is about living on the dole and not being able to afford anything because you are poor. Classic Thatcher years. Finally, "Nothing's permissive" deals with the illusion of freedom when you are forced to go to work or when your parents want to enforce their set of values on you. "You want to make me go to work / You say it's good for the country, it's good for me / I don't want to! / Gonna get up by 7 o'clock / Five days of the fucking week / I don't want to! / Nothing's permissive / It's just a prison / That's what you tell them / But they won't listen to you!".
Finally, I would like to point out that the band has self-released a double-cd discography including all of their studio outputs as well as a live recording. It's called "Punk as 2 fucks" and I suppose it might still be available so you really should do yourself a favour and try to get a copy. Singing Toxik Ephex in the shower could very well become your new favourite hobby.
Edit : the mediafire link has been disabled, probably on demand from the band, so I am afraid you will have to listen to Toxik Ephex in some other way.
As much as I hardly use it, the songs from the Ep can be listened to on youtube: Fallout shelter, Nothing's permissive and Always skint.
Saturday, 18 August 2012
Someone once mentioned on a message board that he saw Atavistic and Heavy Discipline in the same light: two under-estimated, articulate political punk bands. While the Peaceville connection somehow helped Atavistic being at least remembered, it seems Heavy Discipline sank in obscurity. I am sure you will be forever grateful to Terminal Sound Nuisance for unearthing the one and only record Heavy Discipline did. They also had a couple of demo tapes, notably the excellent "Extreme Mutilation Increases" tape that will eventually appear on this blog one day or another. I actually got a copy of the tape for 2 euros and I then proceeded to find the record, and let me tell you that it does not disappoint.
Like The Next World, whose Ep was posted here a few months ago, Heavy Discipline were from Kettering and yes, they chose the name because of the GBH song so that is a first indication as to what they sound like. This Ep was released by Real World records, a short-lived label that also did the Disturbed Ep (small world since it has also been posted here). Like many productions of this time, the sound is a bit thin but doesn't affect the energy of the songs and even confers a sense of urgency. Heavy Discipline played fast hardcore punk with a twist as they include some more melodic guitar lines in the mix. Actually there is a classical music tune hidden on "What's next?" but since I know fuck all about classical music, I have no idea what it is, I just know I have heard it before. But don't let that scare you, because it surprisingly fits very well, giving the song an atmosphere of edginess and dementia (I am not sure I have made it less scary here!). The pace is fast on the whole apart from a mid-tempo song, the guitar has a slight but distinct thrashing sound, the vocals are aggressive and raspy and there are some great bass lines here and there as well that remind us that we are dealing with bass-driven punk-rock here. GBH, The Disturbed, early Onslaught and Anihilated or even a lighter Anti-System do come to mind but the guitar leads and the bouncy bass lines make the songs stand out and give Heavy Discipline a real sound of their own.
Lyrically, HD was also a different animal. Contrary to a lot of bands of that era who had chosen more metaphorical images to express their anger, their feeling of alienation or socio-political views, HD chose straight radical anti-capitalist rhetorics. The song "Corporate compassion" is an angry protest song against the Apartheid regime; "Complete anihilation" is your usual "nuclear devastation" song and "Extreme Mutilation Increases" is a rant against EMI and the arm trade they were involved in (this was a major argument against EMI and other major companies at the time and boycotting them was not only a matter of "not selling out"). Where HD strikes hard is with the song "What's next?" and the two texts included in the record. "What's next?" is an anti-capitalist tirade tackling the privatisation of the national industry, the notion of private ownership that the rich instill in the poor so that they have a little something to lose in times of revolution, but also the notion of nationalisation, as the song ends with a call for workers' self-management. "We can start to build a society, based on freedom, equality, get up of our knees and cease to crawl". The artwork accompanying the lyrics is called "Liberation of economics" and shows a clenched fist tearing through a factory. Following this, a long text with the same title serves as a revolutionary anarchist critique of the capitalist system, including short definitions of all the parties involved (the management, the trade-unions, the work-force) and of the problems inherent in this system and it also offers some insight on self-management and anarcho-syndicalism. It is quite well done and it manages to avoid the too technical theoretical terms. I suppose the point of this is to get the young punk's attention give him or her some basic information about anarchism and maybe get him or her to look further into it, all this while providing great hardcore punk.
The second text is an article illustrating of the ills of capitalism in Latin America with proper numbers and data about the repartition of wealth and land (taken from a book called "Profits out of poverty"), interesting, if a little out-dated, stuff.
As a conclusion, don't let the rather psychedelic cover fool you. You won't need acid to enjoy this one and if you haven't started to organize for the general strike yet, here is a record that might quicken the process.
Monday, 13 August 2012
Today, let's enjoy a 7 inch record from a band that everyone seems to know and yet is seldom talked about. Concrete Sox were from Nottingham (and not from Derby as I originally wrote...) and managed to last longer than most of their peers, reforming punctually throughout their lifetime. Actually, they are still around though some witnesses confided their recent live performances haven't exactly been convincing. And that's a shame, because if that live Ep teaches us one thing, it is that the Sox were a great live band in their prime.
The songs were recorded during their 1989 European tour with Doom if I'm not mistaken, in the Dutch town of Groningen, home of Extreme Noise Error, Mushroom Attack or Fleas and Lice. The label responsible for this was Desperate Attempt, from the US, and one look at the list of their releases is enough to leave one speechless: Apocalypse, Hiatus, Chaos UK, Deviated Instinct, Disorder, Thatcher on Acid or Filthkick all had records on Desperate Attempt. Good work. Anyway, "Lunched out" is only the second DA release and only 1000 copies were pressed. This is a live recording, probably from a squat gig, therefore don't expect too clear a sound: it lies on the "rough and ready" side of things as far as the sound quality is concerned. However, what the record lacks in clarity is balanced with the energy of the band's playing. The songs are a tad faster than on records and the band is tight enough to make this an asset. In fact, the recording has a real squat quality to it, as if you had traveled back in time and were in a damp basement surrounded by mulleted punks with a dodgy hygiene, watching a bunch of tramps playing blazing, whirlwind-like metallic hardcore-punk. Idyllic, isn't it? The Dutch streetpunk band Antidote had a song called "I wish I was 15 in 1977", but when I listen to this record, I'd definitely sign for "15 in 1987"!
Despite the relative shortness of the record (only 4 songs), you still have one song from each of their albums played live: "Eminent scum" from "Your turn next", "Scientific slaughter" from "Whoops, sorry vicar!", "Speak Siberian or die" from the split Lp with Heresy and "Product" from "Sewerside" (my favourite Sox record). This is pretty much Concrete Sox at their peak, you can feel the intensity and the motivation. If you have never heard Concrete Sox, they could be defined as a metal-punk band with a healthy dose of thrash-metal and anarchopunk lyrics. I hate the term "crossover" but I guess they might fall in this category, although the "Sewerside" Lp (their best achievement if you ask me) had more of a crusty feel to it, heavier guitar and pummelling drums. Somewhere between Legion of Parasites and English Dogs with an amazingly snotty, aggressive vocalist who still remains to be quite tuneful (in a GBH meets Deviated Instinct way). Lyrics are included in the record and show that Concrete Sox gave a shit. "Scientific slaughter" is about the cruelty and greed of whale hunting; "Speak Siberien or die" is a song against Billy Milano ("a fat fascist wanker!") and his prejudiced and narrow-minded views (I suppose that one didn't age too well lyrically); "Eminent scum" is in two parts, the first one deals with fascist politicians and powerful people in general controlling us, keeping us all in line, while the second part is about hunt-sabbers being abused and beaten and the double-standards of the law that always protects the wealthy landlords and harshly punishes the sabs. Finally, "Product" is a song against homophobia and machismo and how they reflect the perpetrators' insecurities, ignorance and frustration.
Friday, 10 August 2012
Atavistic was probably one of the most original band of their generation. In fact, one may even argue that they were as unique as they were misunderstood, and for understandable reasons. I mean, they used harmonica on a harcore punk record! HARMONICA!!! Joking aside, Atavistic didn't really sound like any other bands, yet their music still fit perfectly with their peers. The recording I am interested in today is their first demo, recorded in may 1986 in a garden shed as the band points out in "Trapped in a scene". Reading this, I can't help wishing my parents' garden shed had been used by punk bands rather than cats pissing everywhere...
Anyway, for some strange reason, this first effort from a very young band feels much less fuzzy and chaotic than Atavistic's first two Ep's, which were almost proto-grindcore in their relentless approach. Here, there is not as much distorsion on the guitar and we are certainly closer to bands like Siege, MDC, Lärm or Heresy. The songs are really fast and aggressive, and with the distinct English accent, the comparisons with early Heresy (or even Plasmid) are relevant, especially in terms of pace and intonation, albeit in a sloppier fashion. A couple of guitar solos remind the listener that Discharge were still a reference point. The songs are obviously fairly short apart from one odd five minutes number called "Your times up" that instantly caught my attention. It is quite possibly the most obvious early Antisect tribute song I have ever heard. The riffs are straight out of "The eternal myth and paradox" and "Channel zero reality" (though the guitar sound is nowhere as powerful as "In darkness"'s, but then it is a demo), the drum section is similar as well, the structure of the song mimics those Antisect songs too with long, intense, pummelling, instrumental moments before the singers kick in with angry political prose (just for the sake of accuracy, I would say the vocals on this Atavistic song sound closer to Dirge or pre-"In darkness" Antisect's). I absolutely love this song and I would go as far as asserting that you should listen to this demo, if only for that one song (but while you are at it, give the other ones a chance as well, they are pretty good too).
Now, I have something terrible to confess for which I might deserve to be chastised. There was a massive booklet with lyrics and plenty of political writings accompanying this tape and it has unfortunately been lost. And that's a real shame, because, if Atavistic were undeniably a great band sonically, they especially stood out for the great, analytical pieces that went with their records. See the one on the place of women and the specific hardships they have to endure during wartime on the "Life during wartime"Ep. Besides, considering their writings, Atavistic appeared to be a genuine bunch who tried to think and understand by themselves, they never sound like trying to regurgitate some half-read theories. So, if anyone does have the booklet that goes with the tape, I would be eternally grateful if he or she could provide me with scans or pictures of it.
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
For once, it is not an actual record or a single recording that I am going to offer the world but a selection of lesser known recordings of a rather well-known band, Axegrinder. Someone pointed out to me that the 87 live in Wimbledon could no longer be found on the web and before this screaming injustice I have decided to act.
Judging from the amount of Axegrinder regalia one can witness at any crust-oriented reunion, one could either think that they are no mystery to anyone or that their art looks great on a studded vest. Now, I am sure most people reading this will already know Axegrinder and their fantastic Lp "Rise of the serpent men" (no, not the Reptilians). Quite probably, you would be familiar with Axegrinder's first demo "Grind the enemy". However, what went on in between these two marks is far more obscure and that's what I am really interested in today. Listening to 80's bands' discography nowadays, one is bound to realize that those bands moved really fast indeed. For instance, there are few similarities between the punky, almost chumawambesque at times, Deviated Instinct of 85 and the heavy metal-edged Deviated Instinct of 89. You will come to the same conclusion if you take early recordings of Antisect or Amebix and compare them to five year older ones. Maybe bands were more likely to experiment at that time (not always for the better, Discharge anyone?) or they wanted to innovate, I don't quite know but the fact is they seemed to evolve quickly. And Axegrinder were no exceptions as you will hear.
The file is divided into two parts. The first one consists of the cd "Still grinding enemies", a good-looking bootleg (I know they're evil but I would be the first to jump for joy if a proper reissue was to see the light) that has the "Grind the enemy" demo from 1986, a live in Wimbledon from July 1987 and a live in Bradford from 1989. While many bootlegs, especially cd's, have little information about the band, here you will find the lyrics of the demo songs, as well as some pictures and artwork. The other part of the file is a live recording from 1988 which was poetically called "The squat tape". These tracks were meant to be a live Ep but things did not materialize (although it is never too late to do well, right lads?). The review will therefore be chronological as it reflects the evolution of Axegrinder in a more relevant fashion.
Let's start with "Grind the enemy". A funny coincidence maybe but it always puts a smile on my face when I think about the three major demos of metallic punk: "Ripper crust", "Terminal filth stenchcore" and "Grind the enemy". Not only were they all recorded in 1986 but they have "crust", "stenchcore" and "grind" in them. This is geek paradise. Anyway, if the Axegrinder Lp is Amebix, their demo is Antisect indeed. The band must have seen Antisect play quite a few times because you can hear that the "Out from the void" era is definitely the main source of influence here. The sound is rough and ready as expected but the songs are too good to let this be a hinderance. The guitar sound is dirty and has a earthy feel to it. If it were an image I would picture it as a ball of dirt. That's a compliment by the way. The songs are all mid-tempo apart from "Thealphobia", a fast number that reminds me of Hellshock. The vocals are certainly one of Axrginder's strong points: raucous shouts managing to be deep and angry-sounding. Don't expect too much musicianship here and in fact I believe the songs wouldn't work as well if they didn't have this simple, honest, spontaneous rendering. Sure, you have probably heard better drummers, but I wouldn't trade the almost awkward, mechanical rhythms for the best double-bass drum metalhead in the world. Lyrics here are very much esconsed in the anarchopunk tradition. "Grind the enemy" is (yet another) "Arise!" rewriting but its barbarian, pagan metaphor gives it an anthemic quality (no wonder it's been the most covered Axerginder track so far); "Thealphobia" is a "Fear of god" type of song; "Master race" is an anti-fascist song about the death camps; "One law" is a take on "Out from the void" where "Your laws, your rules" has replaced "Your standard, your law"; "Damnation of the living" is an apocalyptic song and finally "Special brew" is about... well, drinking odd-smelling beverages. The demo is nicely structured with a spoken word as an introduction, an synth and guitar instrumental, "Armistice, that is both cheap and yet very moving in the middle and then "Special brew" as a conclusion since I suppose they were all off to a drinking marathon after spending a couple of hours in the studio.
The main question that arises now is: what happened between Antisecty "Grind the enemy" and Amebixian "Serpent men"? Well, as a clue, the band did record a song for a Peaceville compilation, "A vile peace", that started to reflect this transition. For some reason, this song, "Where evil dwells", seems to be unanimously hated by the members of Axegrinder, for they claim they were trying to be Slayer but miserably failed, giftless punks they were. To be honest, I don't really care about Slayer and I am hardly the thrash-metal expert, but "Where evil dwells" sounds nothing Slayer to my ears. In fact, I think the song is great despite an odd moment when drummer and guitarist have trouble keeping with each other. And, more importantly for us, it appears on the 87 live in Wimbledon included in "Still grinding enemies". On this live recording, you will also find a version of "Damnation of the living" from "Grind the enemy" (oddly enough, the only song of the demo that the band still played), "Black days ahead", "The butcher of Jerusalem", "In death she awaits" and a new intro (Axegrinder appeared to love intros and to change them frequently, just like Antisect really). Sonically, there is a distinct evolution from the demo, and while it is not overwhelmingly different (the shadow of Antisect is still lurking), it still indicates a shift. First, there are more obvious Amebix influences, a quiet arpeggio to start a song, some heavy and epic mid-tempo parts. Second, I can't help but think that the band may have been on a light thrash-metal diet at this point, especially on some song structures and guitar riffs. It is to be noticed that Axegrinder always tended to play faster live, so one might venture that those songs, had they been recorded in a studio, would have been a tad slower. I unfortunately don't know the lyrics of the songs apart from "Damnation of the living" (see above) and "Where evil dwells", an anti-religious song. Judging by the live comments between songs, I think it is safe to say an anti-religious theme pervades the set. The sound here is really good for a live, you can hear everything and this is as crisp as you are likely to get when it comes to old live recordings.
Now, let's talk about "The squat tape", a very interesting live set that epitomizes the transitional state of Axegrinder at that time. Recorded in 88, a mere 6 months after the previous live recording, it contains songs that will eventually appear on the Lp, namely "Never ending winter" (and yet a new intro!), "War machine", "Hellstorm", "Life chain" and "Final war", as well as a remnant from their 87 live recording, "Black days ahead". Both lives were actually recorded in Wimbledon and it may have been in the same venue, though this is a mere guess. However, whereas the 87 one had a rather clear sound, this one lies on the raw side of things and has a thick, grassy sound. In fact, the overall sonic atmosphere is not unlike early Hellbastard or even Hellhammer with their artificial sloppiness. The main interest of this live set is that, while "Never ending winter" and "Life chain" sound pretty much the same than the Lp versions, "War machine" and "Final war" are very different. Indeed, in the middle of the song, the band included a fast, d-beat part follower by a quiet instrumental part. Add this to the riffing, and you may very well have the ultimate Amebix hommage ("Fallen from grace" comes to mind). I think I like this version as much as the final one. "The final war" too was apparently rewritten before the Lp was recorded. The version we have here is again in a total Amebix songwriting worship mood, this time with an emphasis on the energetic mid-tempo epics (think "Arise!", "Drink and be merry"). In fact, most of the song is hardly recognizable as it is much faster than the final version, though they did keep the quiet part in the middle with that great bass line and guitar arpeggio. This live recording will delight Axegrinder lovers who happen not to be aware of its existence and prove that Effigy were heavily into this one.
The final live recording was taken from a live in Bradford from 1989 (it is on youtube as well but the user who uploaded it dated the live on 1990, which is impossible since the band broke up in late 1989) and Axegrinder had by then totally given up any pre-"Serpent men" songs and had even written new songs that were not included on the Lp, which made me wonder at their songwriting pace. For a self-proclaimed bunch of lazy sods (see "Trapped in a scene"'s chapter about Axegrinder), they did write a lot of great songs in a mere 3 years of existence. As hinted by the previous lives, the pace of the songs is faster compared to the studio versions, more dynamic but maybe losing a bit their sense of impending doom on this particular live set (the gig was a very metal affair with Deviated Instinct but also Paradise Lost and Tallion). You will find here old acquaintances such as "The final war", "Life chain" and "War machine" (the usual suspects really) as well as two new songs, "Return to Arcadia" and "Requiem for" (I am actually unsure of the the exact name, the singer does utter it and that's what I understood, though it could also be "Requiem four". Does anyone know? The geezer who did the bootleg certainly did as he just wrote a couple of question marks in place of the song title!). These two songs sound like a natural evolution to the Lp, with added double-bass drum and a couple of heavy-metal influenced rhythms, not unlike what Amebix were doing at the very end I suppose. "Return to Arcadia" is superior I think with its gloomy, eerie intro. It might be unfair to judge these two last songs just on their live rendering, but to me they could indicate that the band was starting to run out of inspiration, passion and power, as they don't really hold to the older ones. They are still good enough to be a suiting epitaph for that great band.
Thanks to Mariana who gave me the idea for this post.
Friday, 3 August 2012
I have been meaning to post this geezer for a while now but Lp's demand more work and my scanner is too small for the Lp size. Tough shit. Anyway, here it is finally for all to enjoy and believe me, there is much to be enjoyed on this amazing record.
For those who aren't in the know, Peaceville used to be a punk label and was probably the main label responsible for the UK hc/crust/grind explosion of the mid-late 80's (along with Earache I guess). "Hiatus" was Peaceville's sixth release and it had a stellar line-up with crust pioneers Deviated Instinct, Axegrinder and Doom among others. Yes, it is that good.
There are 10 bands and 18 songs on the record which opens on two Electro Hippies tracks. Now I love the Hippies and their seamless mix of hardcore and grindcore and their Lp is probably in my top 10 of the period. The two songs here were recorded in 88 but are not quite as powerful as the album though, not as inspired shall we say, and while one can easily spot the filthy and heavy guitar sound that made the album so great, the overall sound could have been better and the vocals on "Sometimes I'm so glad" are a bit cheesy to my ears. However, it is still classic grinding metal punk and the Hippies had set the bar really high with "The only good punk" anyway. Lyrics here deal with animal testing and the dilemna that might arise if someone needed an animal-tested drug in order to survive ("Could you look me in the eyes?") and with pretentious punks who have an ego-problem and treat people like shit if they are not vegan/SxE/whatever ("Sometimes I'm so glad"). As usual, thought-provoking, smart words from Electro Hippies.
Next are two songs from a weird band with a weird name and actually they sound even weirder: Gold, Frankincense + Disk-Drive (yes, that's the name). They were from England and recorded in the same place as anyone else at the time (Lions Studio in Leeds) so it's a fair bet to say that they were involved in the punk scene. Musically, expect strange new-wavy industrial pop-punk. Or something. Not my cup of tea but to be fair it's still listenable. No lyrics unfortunately.
After that moment of strangeness come the bursts of madness with 3 songs from the mighty Sore Throat. I have always loved Sore Throat and their sense of humour and I even got through their noisiest records once or twice. The first song is a Shitlickers cover, "War system" and it's done in a raw, distorted fashion that would make Abraham Cross and the dozens of Japanese bands aiming for that sound blush in defeat. Next is "Money for knobheads" (and not "nobheads" but I have kept the typo on the mp3 name just because I'm a geek) and it is a crusty metallic number, with simple and yet dirty and heavy riffs and the same snottier than thou outlook. Finally, "1 in 12 song" is a long blast of noise. The artwork includes the famous "Positive drinking attitude" drawing with a crusty punk enjoying what must be special brew.
The last two bands on the first side are Insurrection and Atavistic. Insurrection were from Guernsey and played (or play since they have reformed) Disorder/Chaos UK influenced fast punk-rock but with a heavier sound and hoarser vocals (they actually had two singers). Their song starts with a simlistic yet effective metal riff and bursts into fast Bristolian worship. Not too far from Ad'Nauseam. This is good. The song is about a serial killer who hears voices and ends up in the electric chair. White cider and penmanship don't always go well together. Insurrection also had an Lp on Peaceville which is highly recommendable if you are into the aforementioned bands.
The closing song of the first side is "Pepetual motion" by Atavistic, one of the most intelligent and original band of their era if you ask me. The aforementioned piece ilustrates the shift from their Ep's to their misunderstood Lp, meaning that you do get a bit of harmonica and even a touch of synth. Musically, Atavistic were a noisy hardcore band, very fast and distorted, fuzzy even, but always keeping certain heaviness and song-writing flair. I could say that they were somewhere between Siege, Disorder, Active Minds and Electro Hippies perhaps, but really Atavistic was one of those unique bands so hard to pin-point and so intersting because of this. Lyrically, they also stood out with analytical thoughts rather than slogans and that's what the song on the comp is dealing with, the importance of ideas in motion, of challenging the comfortable norms of songs about war and vivisection. Great stuff.
The B side starts with three early Doom tracks, "Free yourself", "War on our doorstep" and "Diseased". These were recorded between the "Domesday" demo (the third one) and the split Lp with No Security so it's the classic Doom line-up in full force, back when they were still trying to sound like Discard or like Discharge before they had had their tea in the morning. The tracks are catchy, powerful and angry, just what you expect from them I suppose. Simple riffs and gruff vocals shouting about freedom as a state of mind, war in Ulster and the power of money.
Next is a rare Axegrinder track (now that should get everyone's attention). Actually it is a rare version of an otherwise classic track, "Lifechain". It is probably just a different production since the vocals are similar to the Lp version but Axegrinder have never sounded more like Amebix than on this song. The guitar level is slightly lower and they have added a good deal of synth throughout the song for perfect monolythic effect. Since this might be my favourite Axegrinder song, it is really interesting to hear it in an almost flawless Amebix impersonation, though to be fair, the lyrics were little more than a rewriting of "Arise!" to begin with (and there's nothing wrong with that in my book!). It is little surprising that the band is refered to as "Amebigrinders" in the thanks list! Recognise your chains!
The two next tracks are cross-over hardcore songs by Decadence Within, not really my thing I must say. While I really enjoy early DW with their classic anarchopunk, the later period has always left me cold. It's probably good for what it is I guess.
Next are Extra Hot Sauce, the only non-British band of the sampler. Fast, almost grinding, cross-over hardcore again, heavier and crazier-sounding than DW. Nothing really special but I find that the track fits just fine on the compilation which closes on two amazing songs by the mighty Deviated Instinct.
Now, DI have known several distinct musical periods throughout their lifetime and there is little in common between the mid-paced anarchopunk of "Tip of the iceberg" and the industrial crust of "Nailed". Even though I love everything they have done (the new Lp is fantastic by the way), I still have a preference for their third 1987 demo from which many songs were taken for compilations ("A Vile Peace", "Consolidation" Ep, "1984 the third"...) and the two songs on "Hiatus", though they are subsequent to this recording session (contrary to what I initially thought, thanks to Mid for pointing it out to me :) ), are very much in the same vein. The guitar sound just makes me crazy, it is thick, filthy and groovy at the same time, the vocals are aggressive and snotty, the songs have a real structure, a proper story to tell so to speak. The first one is a rerecording of "Scarecrow", a song included on the first Ep but the recording didn't exactly do justice to any of the songs on the Ep (some say it sounds like shit, I'd go for "it has a certain rough charm"!). There you have at last a properly recorded (and played...) version of this amazing track, so much more powerful than the first one. The song uses the scarecrow metaphor to tackle people with a superiority complex, "holier than thou" as they say. The second song is more Celtic Frost influenced with its bouncy guitar and drum. It is called "Among friends" and is unsuprisingly about friendship or rather false friendship with all the backstabbing and gossips that go on in the punk scene (or any social gathering really). The icing on the cake is the inclusion of a great piece of artwork from DI that you have probably already seen, an indigenous face with closed eyes among urban debris with a gun pointed at her head. Joyful stuff, isn't it?
As a conclusion, a short word about the look of the compilation. All the bands brought a piece of artwork of their own along with their songs and that's always a good idea when you have people in the bands who actually care about the visual aesthetics accompanying the noise they produce. I am definitely not as enthusiastic about the cover. In fact, I am not even sure what it is supposed to convey... The backcover has a long thank-list that you won't be able to read because my scanner is crap and pictures of the bands having a laugh and boozing. If you are not convinced yet about the greatness of this record, there's nothing I can do for you.