Thursday, 9 May 2013
Bomb Heaven "S/t" Ep 2003
The hundreds (if not thousands) of fanatical followers of Terminal Sound Nuisance will probably stare in disbelief when they read this review. Today's special is a modern Portland band. Now, I know the Portland scene doesn't exactly need even more promotion and attention than they already get. For some reason - and I am not even sure the punx there are really aware of it - any new band from Portland has been immediately stamped with a seal of approval from the punk-loving nerds, whatever the genre the band has decided to pick, since the late 90's. It is basically assumed that said band is not only attention-worthy but also very tasteful. And I can partly relate to the Portland punk attractiveness: it is usually well executed, knowledgeable, highly referential in a way that make us feel good about ourselves (I bought the first Hellshock Lp on account of them using the Antisect font...), well recorded, accurate in their aesthetical recycling of punk iconography. Though not all memorable, most of the records coming from Oregon are usually very solid.
I hear you ask: what's not to like then? It would be ridiculous to dislike a band just because of its geography. Indeed, I hold many Portland bands close to my heart (mostly Tribal War-related bands like Axiom, Final Warning, Godless and anarcho usual suspects, Resist, Deprived and Defiance). What unsettles me a little is the insane number of short-lived bands that put out two or three records, then split up and adopt a completely different style. I understand no one wants to play the same old bollocks all the time (well, some people do...) but it sometimes feel as if there were a list of all the punk subgenres and as soon as one band ceases to exist, the subgenre it had been exploring is checked off the list and it is time to pick another one. Call me a romantic fool, but I love bands who stick together through and through, as a band, and where this notion of "band" prevails over the notion of "genre", where the band developps its own identity and grows. Portland's Hellshock are a good example of that since they have evolved from their initial intent to play old-school crust but they remained together as Hellshock. They could have stopped, being bored with the niche or whatever, but they kept going. In a time when a band's lifespan seldom excedes two years, they have been going for ten years which is quite respectable (although I must confess that their last records were a bit of a disappointment for me).
Now, these nasty remarks are not exclusive to Portland. This shift from "band" to what could be called "project" can be seen pretty much everywhere and, after all, it is really not that negative. I am fine with "proper bands" and I am fine with "short-lived projects" as well. I just tend to see both differently. Which brings me to Bomb Heaven (at last!). This is definitely an obscure one and little information can be found on the web. It was released in 2003 on Doomsday Records and was the label's only production. This Ep is also the band's only release. In other terms, this is definitely a short-lived project tackling a subgenre that had been spared until then, a "punk subgenre" tribute band if you will. But, as insubstantial as Bomb Heaven might seem, it is undeniably a great record. One cannot fail to be impressed with the craftsmanship and the very real punk flair that the people behind BH have. If the motivations remain blurred (to put out a record for the very sake of it? to complete the checklist?), the result is nothing short of amazing.
It would be more accurate to say that Bomb Heaven chose to pay tribute not really to a subgenre but to elements of a sub-subgenre. Confusing but nevertheless true: this Ep is an homage to the mid-tempo parts of Antisect, Anti-System, One Way System ("In the end" has the riff of "All you kids" along with a very GBHy singing style) and Icons of Filth. I know it sounds very narrow but this mid-tempo fest is exactly what comes to mind: heavy and slightly metallic like the "In darkness" era, the crunch and chunk of "No laughing matter", the angsty frustration and hopelessness of "All systems go" and the groove of "Onward Christian soldiers". There is even a knowing nod to Broken Bones at the beginning of "Prisoner for life". The riffs are simple, heavy, and while rid of any pretention to originality, manage to feel just right. The songs feel instinctive while they are calculated. Unashamedly not creative but unquestionably terrific, this unpretentious record will please lovers of the aforementioned bands like myself. The lyrics are appropriately dark and angry, "Warfear" being the obligatory war song, "In the end" being about alienation and doom and "Prisoner for life" a bleak description of life in an asylum. From what I could gather, members of Bomb Heaven went on to play or were already playing in Blood Spit Nights (hence the mention of a "Blood spit choir" in the record) and Hellshock (them again).