There has undeniably been a renewed interest in 80's British anarchopunk in the past few years, particularly from some corners of the American scene. Bands like OK?, Surrender or Permaculture clearly cherish Crass, Chumbawamba and Alternative, while Vivid Sekt, Moral Hex or Autonomy are obsessed with the darker side of British postpunk (Lack of Knowledge, Internal Autonomy, Part-1, Vex...). Closer to home, 1981 from Finland brilliantly blend Chumba-style punk with US folk-punk. One might think that this revival, so to speak, would also affect 90's anarchopunk or, if the 80's are still a prerequisite, early US anarchopunk, but one would be wrong (and one often is, to be honest). Apart from Crucifix and, to a lesser extent, Iconoclast (but then, they mostly get interest as "rawpunk bands" rather than anarcho bands), early US anarcho bands are not only largely ignored, but also widely undocumented. And indeed, you will find little information about A State of Mind, Trial, Media Children, Atrocity or Bodycount and about this tremendous scene from California. For social and cultural reasons, UK-influenced political punk-rock spread like fire on the West coast and it was no coincidence that the first Discharge and Crass-type bands or the first crust bands emerged from that context. Another Destructive System was one of those bands.
From Los Angeles, ADS did two demos in the mid-80's (1986 and 1987 respectively) which, despite a rather rough sound, showed the great potential of the band and illustrated the different musical influences at work in that scene. With two singers, early ADS was as much about early Antisect, Conflict or Icons of Filth than about more metal-oriented punk bands, not unlike Oi Polloi on the Toxik Ephex split or Pro Patria Mori actually, some sort of proto-crust sound, still very much anchored in the anarchopunk tradition but using filthy thrash riffs. The ADS demos epitomized that crucial moment between great hardcore-punk and old crust, the missing link between Crucifix, Final Conflict and Apocalypse.
Apparently, the band reformed several times during the 90's, one time to support Dirt when they toured the US along with Hellkrusher, but "Break the silence" was recorded during their latest (and probably last) reformation, that took place in the late 00's. The cd contains both old songs and new songs and was released on Mortarhate, Colin Jerwood's label. Re-recording old songs - and reforming a band - is a very tricky enterprise in the punk world. It is usually disappointing as the youthfulness of early recordings is often absent from the new versions recorded in a totally different context. Extreme Noise Terror's "Retro-bution" is a perfect example of the discrepancy between the compelling fury and chaos of early ENT songs and the too polished and overproduced new versions that appeared on that cd, not that it is a bad record in itself, but you can hear instantly that something is missing (and the band was aware of that as it is revealed in "Trapped in a scene"). Amebix' attempt at re-recording was, by and large, a failure too, as the songs lost their thick and organic texture in the process although one has to praise the band for not trying to do the exact same versions of their old song, which would have been ridiculous. Antisect's last 10" is more successful in modernizing their sound and although the songs lack intensity, they have the crunch of 90's UK hardcore-punk and are quite promising if the band intends to record something new (as I hope they will!). Varukers' "Still bollocks but still there" may be the best re-recorded versions of old songs that I can think of right now. The 90's records of the Varukers were excellent anyway and that cd brilliantly and effortlessly turned their 80's songs into what UK hardcore-punk sounded like at the time. Now, let's take a look at the new versions of Another Destructive System's songs.
Of the nine songs included on "Break the silence", you will find five new songs ("Another destructive system", "Apartheid system", "Days of war", "Aren't you getting the message" and "This is our world") and five old ones ("Get active", "Break the silence", "Don't get locked", "What is your nightmare" and "Animals inadequate"). Needless to say that the sound is much more polished and cleaner than on the 80's demo. Though I don't feel that it is overproduced, it is perhaps too clean and the songs lacks the raw ferocity that they used to have. On the other hand, you can actually hear perfectly what is going on. Only one of the original singers is still behind the mike (the one with the deep, almost amebixesque voice), while the other one has been replaced with a female singer who has a very energetic, angry voice. The male/female vocal combination in addition to the cleaner production, give "Break the Silence" a 90's US anarchopunk feel, a bit like a cross between Final Warning and Antiproduct, or between Jesus Chrust and Mankind?. Resist and Exist also comes to mind, which makes sense since they are the only surviving band of this 80's US anarcho wave (when the members were in Autonomy). The songs are quite diverse in terms of tempo and mood: you have tribal drumming parts, spoken parts, full-on fast antisectish moments, great crunchy metal parts. On the whole, I think it is a good album. Despite the age of some of the songs, the themes haven't become out of date (wars, animal abuse, punk as a political movement, racism, standing out against the bastards...). Some of the songs, especially some of the newer ones, might have benefited from better song-writing, but then the old ones are so good that it is difficult for them not to pale a little in comparison. More importantly, "Break the silence" feels like a record from a recent bands of its time. It fits well in the 2000's Californian political punk scene and I can perfectly imagine a gig with Another Destructive System, Resist and Exist, Scarred For Life, Against//Empire and Holokaust. A good, honest band that made a good, honest record. Punk, innit?