Monday, 29 September 2014

Pro Patria Mori "Where shadows lie" demo 1986 (updated version)



A few days ago, while I was roaming through older posts thinking about something smart to add, I bumped into the first one I ever wrote here for the second Pro Patria Mori demo. Here is the original text:

"Pro Patria Mori, meaning "to die for your country", formed in Wokingham, Southeast of England in 1984. Though they never released any proper records, they still recorded two demos of which "Where shadows lie" is the second and this is just unbelievably good. In fact, and I am not even exaggerating here, I had two reactions the first time I heard this tape: I couldn't believe how good it was and I was angry that no one had told me about this band before and how good it was.

Being a huge sucker for the British anarcho punk sound, I can say without hesitation that this demo is a jewel and would have deserved the record treatment. While the political lyrics (from what I can understand) and the overall atmosphere of the songs are distinctively rooted in the anarcho tradition (you'll find haunting spoken words and dual vocals), the atmosphere of the songs is much darker and gloomier than the first wave of anarcho bands, an impression reinforced by the cover depicting a part-wizzard, part-judge dodgy-looking geezer staring at skulls and screaming heads. This imagery is also paralled by a great, dirty metal influence typical of mid-late 80's UK bands. But if metal was indeed influential here, the anger and rage are firmly ensconsed in pissed-off punk tradition (you probably won't be disappointed to hear that Odin, the hammer of Thor or black magics aren't on the Pro Patria Mori programm). The guitar sound is aggressive and mean, the dual vocals reminds me of an angrier, harsher version of Anti-System or Antisect's. The pace is fast with heavy mid-tempo parts. Awesome stuff to be sure, strongly reminiscent of the mighty Antisect, Anti-System, AOA or mid-late 80's Oi Polloi, with a bit of Concrete Sox and Anihilated for the riffage. Yes, it really is that good.

It is a shame that these brilliant songs haven't made it to vinyl (yet? If one is to believe their interview in the excellent book "Trapped in a scene", in which Pro Patria Mori has a section, the demo might hopefully be reissued at some point)."


I got this recording through soulseek in 2009 from a user who, in retrospect, must have been an ex-member. To be honest when I downloaded the file, I initially thought that it was some old Italian hardcore demo (although quite close to intellectual perfection, I can't read Latin). So when I actually heard the demo, I almost fainted when I realized that, not only was it a mid-80's British anarchopunk band, my favourite field of studies, but also that it was really close to being one of the best bands of the period (and for once, I am saying this without hyperbolic pretense). At the time, there was very little information about Pro Patria Mori (not that the internet is overwhelmed with it now though) and for a few years, I thought of starting a blog, if only to post that demo and be done with it. Of course, when I finally took matters in my own hands and posted the demo, I realized that, hardly ten days before this crucial act, someone had just posted it, namely The Immortal Old Punk, who, being a bit older and everything, had not only seen Pro Patria Mori live in his youth (a fantastic experience apparently and I trust his judgement) but managed to get top-notch versions of the songs (I actually strongly suggest that you take a look at his post). So in less than two weeks, a demo that had been absent from the world wide web for years got posted twice. What were the odds?

As I already mentioned, this demo is stellar. Recorded in early 1986, the same year as Hellbastard's "Ripper crust" and Deviated Instinct's "Terminal filth stenchcore", it would not be reasonable to rate "Where shadows lie" at least as high as both. The recording is very powerful and accurate, astonishingly so even. Far superior in terms of sound quality to most other early crust demos of its time, it is drenched in rage and anger, absolutely furious. If Antisect had been bitten by a rabid Slayer fan, you would get something close. But what also makes it so bloody brilliant lies in the use of dark talk-over passages and ambient guitar sounds, which, along with the fast metallic parts, make Pro Patria Mori the embodiment of the shift from more punk-sounding anarcho bands to all-out crusty metal madness. Listening to that demo, one can get the sense that the band, through this musical syncretism, symbolized this junction of influences better than anyone in 1986.

There was a first demo, recorded in 1985, that I have never heard. And that makes me really sad indeed. From what I can gather, while "Where shadows lie" is a fast bastard on the whole, apart from the eerie intros and spoken parts, the first demo was very much an exercise in Amebix-worshiping. In fact, when Dig from Earache reviewed it for MRR, he called it "Brit plod", a term that the band would use as a label when they released their two subsequent demos. If Pro Patria Mori had got the attention they deserved, one may imagine that "Brit plod" could have been the term used to describe the metal/punk hybrid that we call "crust" or "stenchcore" today. To be honest, I think "Brit plod" sounds terrible and I am pretty happy everyone stuck with "crust" but it's still fun to think about alternate versions of history (in the same spirit, imagine a world where Antisect did not lose the tapes of their second Lp in a London cab?).

This is the only picture of the first demo that I have seen...


A third demo was recorded in 1987, "Lament of the damned", a track of which you can find in the Old Punk's post. A powerful song, decidedly on the English Dogs/Anihilated side of things, but somewhat hindered by a sound production that fails to reach the same level as "Where shadows lie"'s (it'd still be great if I could give it a listen). For all I know, there could also be some live tapes since the band seems to have played quite a few gigs in the UK and, like Antisect and Amebix, even toured in Italy.

Pro Patria Mori is the prime example of a terrific band that, in spite of all their qualities, because they never released anything on vinyl, sank into obscurity, only to be remembered by those who were lucky enough to see them in the first place. And that's unfair. Pro Patria Mori should be that brilliant band everybody whispers about at the end of a drunken night, that mysterious anarcho crusty band whose demo reissues the world is desperately waiting for... For those of you who enjoy punk trivia, Russ, the first singer later played in Stalingrad and bass-player Paul now drums for the Revolutionary Dub Warriors.

So now, who's got the first and third demos so I can listen to them?



18 comments:

  1. thank you, I didn't know this band

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  2. In August '87 the band wrote a number of new songs,they only did one more UK gig (Wimbledon with Atavistic). These songs formed a large part of the set used on their Italian tour of September '87.Live tapes do exist of some of the gigs, Rome and Brescia for certain as I've heard them. I believe these songs were a strong progression and as good as anything prior. PPM had yet to peak and went long before their time.

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    1. Could these be the songs from the so-called "Lament of the damned" demo then? I wish I could hear the live tapes too...

      Thanks for the info.

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    2. 'Lament To The Damned' is one 5 minute song, originally recorded for the USA compilation 'Apathy.... Never!',it was never released and not actually a demo but is the only studio recording made when the band were a 3 piece. The live tapes were recorded through the pa system on the Italian tour and by friends who had traveled with them.

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  3. Brit plod was a derogatory term by Dig which was used because they hated the first demo. It was used on the second demo as a joke.

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    1. Do you mean Dig and MRR hated the first demo? I actually want to listen to it even more now!

      Thanks for the inside information by the way.

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    2. No, I mean the BAND hated the 1st demo and adopted the Britplod which Dig used (rightly so I feel) as a joke for the far superior Where Shadows Lie catalogue number.

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  4. the first demo is actually really good..its more ``anarcho-punk`` than total thrash and was even better live..

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    1. Damn... I so wish I could give it a listen... Any chance you know someone who might have it and would be kind enough to share it?

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  6. prior to PPM some of them were in the DISTORTED not quite as good but worth checking out..

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    1. The same band that did the "Desecrate" demo? Interesting fact! The demo is alright for what it is I suppose.

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    2. None of Pro Patria Mori were on that recording and only the guitarist played with them briefly.

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  7. im assured someone plans to officially reissue all the PPM tapes. hang in there..

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    1. That's easily the best news of the month so far, I have been holding my breath since I read about the likeliness of a PPM reissue in "Trapped in a scene". Thanks for letting me know!

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    2. I have now officially heard that Where Shadows Lie is to be released on vinyl very shortly.

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  8. i'm from wokingham (at least i was raised there), i'd heard of them at the time, people talking of them etc (circa 1980s?), but i had no idea they were local. its just that the name of the band popped into my head after centuries and i just had to check it out and here it is..

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