Stenchcore. I have always had mixed feelings about that term. In itself, the phrase was just a joke from the Deviated Instinct lads meant precisely to make fun of the trend to invent new genres through the mere addition of "-core" at the end of a word. Since in their own case, they smelled pretty bad, they made up the word "stenchcore". I suppose it was also a comment about their own music that was as dirty and filthy as you could get. But in the end, they could have called it "trampcore" (interestingly the name of a Chaotic End song) or "filthcore" or whatever (in fact, a very similar analysis could be made about the creation of the term "crust" by Hellbastard that was born from the same musical and cultural context). So, why the sudden resurgence of the stenchcore tag? Whereas "crust" has been kept and spread widely, "stenchcore" only rose again about 10 years ago, basically at the beginning of the old-school crust revival spawned by Hellshock. However, the bands that kept playing that genre in the 90's (Extinction of Mankind, Misery, Filth of Mankind, SDS, Coitus, Effigy, Hibernation, you know the drill) certainly didn't use the "stenchcore" tag. So why did it re-appear? Or more correctly, why did it get used at all, since in the mid/late 80's, it didn't seem to be used at all either?
The Hellshock boys probably sensed that discrepancy and opted for the term "PDX stenchcore" in order to stress that they were playing old-school, UK (and California) influenced crust. Much more than most of their 90's counterparts (SDS being the obvious exception), Hellshock was a referential band to begin with, probably because the members had already played in quite a few bands before and definitely because they know punk music and punk records very well (Portland, right?). Reading a very early interview of the band in an old Warning issue lately, I don't think the band took itself very seriously at the beginning. They were just doing a tribute to all the great British metal-punk and I really doubt they could have imagined doing three albums, touring extensively and becoming the new reference of the genre. Like many short-lived PDX projects, I think Hellshock wasn't necessarily meant to last long (a bit like Bomb Heaven). But then, they have had a tremendous impact for several reasons: they brought back the old-school metal sound into crust at a time when bands like EOM and Misery were no longer at their best, they revivified the aesthetics and resurrected the relevance of the old UK bands for a new generation, and, of course, they released absolutely crushing records. After years of boring Discharge clones, wasn't it great to finally hear some Sacrilege-type riffs?
Like with their longevity, Hellshock certainly didn't expect to start a new trend, a proper crust revival, or rather, the "stenchcore" revival. A lot of North-American bands started playing referential crust music, some were not exactly newcomers (like Stormcrow or After the Bombs) but others were actual young, spotty bands (like Sanctum, Stagnation or a bit later, Contagium). Very few of those bands are still active (contrary to Hellshock). Japan, being Japan, already had its fair share of old-school crust bands (Effigy, Zoe, Acrostix...) so I am not sure this new stenchcore wave had much of an impact over there, but I could be wrong. Europe got caught up some years later with, among others, Last Legion Alive from Belgium, Instinct of Survival from Germany (though their case is a bit different since they were already around, but playing another genre), Hellisheaven from Poland, Grind the Enemy from London, the mighty Fatum from Russia and Cancer Spreading from Italy.
As my faithful readers already know, I love bands sticking to their guns and Cancer Spreading is one of the kind. They formed in 2006 and have been really prolific: four split Ep's, one Ep, one cd album and two split Lp's. Usually, their records are the product of collaborations between many small DIY punk labels and that too is something I appreciate since it epitomizes, to me, the spirit of togetherness that punk should promote. But above all, the thing I like most about Cancer Spreading is that they are a proper punk band. Contrary to many stenchcore bands that already had a heavy, powerful sound even on their very first recording, CS started out as a shitty, yet loveable, band paying tribute to Deviated Instinct's "Terminal filth stenchcore" (an equally shitty and loveable piece of music that I hold close to my heart). The split with Children of Technology is an amazingly sloppy and yet undeniably great stenchcore record and it is quite possibly the only songs I know of that are genuinely influenced by Deviated Instinct (but after all "Cancer spreading" is a DI song). And then the band evolved, grew, improved, got tighter and tighter so that now, they are probably one of the five best CRUST bands today.
Cancer Spreading is a band I have been following since they started. To be fair, with a name like theirs, I was bound to fall in love with them. The Ep we are dealing with was released in 2011 and exemplifies what the band sounds like today. While it would be easy to dismiss as yet another metal crust act, Cancer Spreading have this genuinely dirty sound: they don't crush you with a clean metal production, rather they bury you under a pile of filth and then proceed to stomp on it while screaming like boars. They don't fall in the "we-want-to-sound-like-Bolt-Thrower-so-hard" trap like most, no, they adapt the impending, unstoppable sense of doom that bands like Bolt Trower, Prophecy of Doom or Mindrot inspire to a dual vocal crust attack owing to Extreme Noise Terror, A//Solution or Mortal Terror. The vocals are completely over the top, which I bloody love, they are gruffy, throaty and mean as if a drunk rabid zombie were preaching the apocalypse. There is that feeling of uncontrolled insanity pervading the music. If cavemen tried to cover Hellshock songs, that's what it would sound like. You really don't get much crustier than that nowadays and their new split with Fatum might even be better (a synth-driven, Greek-influenced, mid tempo scorcher with bear-like vocals? Fuckin A!).
As with most CS records, the artwork is absolutely amazing and a lot of efforts have been put into it, a right orgy of axes, orcs and deformed skulls. Cancer Spreading is part of this new generation of top notch Italian bands that produce quality punk-rock whatever the style they are playing: Terror Firmer, Campus Sterminii, Into The Baobab, Infamia, Dystopian Society, Warpath, NIS and so on.
Cancer Spreading play solid, sincere, proper crust music and I wish more bands were still carrying the banner today. For that I will rely on Instinct of Survival, old-timers like Extinction of Mankind, Misery or Hibernation and newer bands like Fatum, Swordwielder or Ruinas.