Today will be a turning point in the life of Terminal Sound Nuisance because I am about to offer the unsuspecting punks nothing less than two unknown Anti-System songs.
Now that I have everyone's attention, let's talk a little bit about this tape. In 2006 (I think) I bought a batch of tapes from bands I either didn't know or rare recordings. I had very little knowledge of downloading at the time and I figured some old geezers copying old demos and records onto tapes was the only way to get to listen to them. In the midst of this tape-buying frenzy, I ordered a tape of Anorexia, a band that I had never heard of.
On this particular tape, you can find on one side the "Radical riot" demo that was recorded in 1986 at Ritch Bitch studio (which makes sense since Anorexia was a Brummie band), their Ep and, on the flipside, a full Anorexia live set and the first three songs (well, two and a half really, including the intro) of an Anti-System set, both recorded in Anti-System's hometown, namely sunny Bradford. At the time, I regularly listened to the A side of the tape but didn't really bother with the live part for a very obvious reason: the sound is shit. Unfortunately, it is a mono recording and the sound is buried under the hiss of the tape, but once you get used to it, it becomes quite bearable. For those of you who are not familiar with Anorexia, they were an anarchopunk band from Birmingham which coincidentally had at some point as members the two first Napalm Death drummers (Rat and Mick Harris) and Rat (from Statement this time) later on. Although undeniably politically motivated, Anorexia didn't really leave much trace in the collective punk psyche. Perhaps their brand of old-school anarchopunk at a time when hardcore and other harder and faster punk genres were emerging in Britain didn't help. There are, however, a couple of solid songs on their set list, reminiscent of Icons of Filth, Exit-Stance and Conflict. The singer sings clearly and you can actually understand what he's on about, which is good since Anorexia definitely had something to say. Though they apparently started off as a "pissed and proud" UK82 kind of band, they were, by the mid-80's, a staunch anarcho band talking - a lot - about animal liberation, sexism, pornography, standing together as one in order to fight back. Nothing new maybe but they do sound genuine. If you have never heard Anorexia, I would recommend starting with the "Radical riot" demo first and then give a go at this live recording. The demo is excellent and the vocals are much snottier and raspier (in fact, it is quite likely another singer on the live tape).
At the end of the Anorexia set, which seems to have been greeted with little enthusiasm by the underwhelmed Bradford locals, there are three songs of Anti-System. It is safe to think that the two bands shared the stage at this gig taking place at the Manhattan Club. If you are really into Anti-System, some uneasiness and uncertainty must have started to pervade your mind at the beginning of this post. Something is just not quite right but you can't really say what. And then, suddenly, it dawns on you that it just cannot be and that I got it wrong at some point: Anti-System split up in 1986 and this live recording is from 1988. Case solved. Or is it?
In "The day the country died", it is said, indeed, that Anti-System split up just after "A look at life" hit the shops (well, the distro tables I guess). However, if you have bought the recent reissues of the band's records and if you have read the many interviews that were included in the thick booklet (Antisociety did a top job on these), you will have noticed an interview from 1988, two years after they initially stopped, with a reformed Anti-System following a gig at the Manhattan Club in Bradford. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the very gig that appears on the tape. I have scanned the interview so you can all read for yourselves.
It is a slightly confusing interview. Apparently, the band had reformed as a three-piece that included Mick, Tracy and Sean - Mick being probably the only original member. They also mention a name-change several times but never actually reveal what the new name could be and they are always referred to as Anti-System throughout the interview. Otherwise, it is a pretty interesting read that shows that the band still held their political beliefs and DIY stance.
As the band itself rightfully admits, Anti-System were very influenced by Antisect. And although the prefix "anti" is actually a coincidence, the fact that Anti-System had two singers and a strange interlude on their Lp is proof enough that indeed they may have been the first band ever to be overly influenced by Antisect. If "No laughing matter" is not quite as good as "In darkness there is no choice" (but then, what album is?), it is nevertheless a crushing Lp that is among my favourite. After this first Lp, Anti-System, like Antisect and many others, went a bit metal, but contrary to their metaphorical mentors who basically pioneered crust-punk, Anti-System took on a more thrash-influenced path (they did listen to a lot of Onslaught, English Dogs and Sacrilege as it is confessed in Glasper's book). The result was "A look at life", which was very different to "Out from the void", and is possibly the perfect metallic version of Icons of Filth. When a lot of bands going metal traded openly political lyrics for dark and apocalyptic metaphors (that was in the best case scenario) or tried to write evil lyrics (that was in the worst case scenario), Anti-System retained their direct politics and I would even argue that they have never sounded as angry and radical than on their last recording.
So where does that leave us? By 1988, Antisect had just split up and when listening to the Anti-System songs recorded that year, one can't help thinking that they sound A LOT like "Out from the void" era Antisect. You have an epic crusty intro with a filthy metal riff not unlike the one you can find on "Live in Leeds 1986" and the first song, "A look at life", is played with more heaviness and crunch than on the studio version and the guitar solos are not dissimilar to Lippy's. The third song is unfortunately uncomplete, unnamed and the vocals are so loud (I have no idea why the singer decided to scream like that to be honest) that you really have to focus in order to understand what's going on. The sound, like for Anorexia's, is in mono and is quite rough so it will probably be of interest only to people who are already into Anti-System. The song is good though, mid-tempo, with a real structure and dark riffs. I don't know if the band had written other new songs (but it is quite likely) or if they played other gigs in 1988. If anyone has the full set of this particular gig or any other gig of this Anti-System reformation, I would be internally grateful if he or she could share them.