Friday, 25 December 2015

Effigy "Evil fragments" 12'', 1999

The last two records I am going to rave about were recorded at the very end of the 90's, in 1999 to be specific, so while they technically belonged to that decade, they also heralded things to come crust-wise in the 2000's. In that sense, they are both transitional works and can be seen as bridges between the two eras, a perspective that makes them even more interesting. Let's start with a band that was all the rage in the first half of the 2000's: Effigy. I had never found a decent rip of this record so far so I figured it was high time someone did it properly. Yes, I am a man on a mission.

Nice carpet underneath, isn't it?


First things first: they picked a cracking name. I absolutely love it as it can mean a lot of different things in terms of representation and metatextuality (were Effigy an effigy of crust?) and it works all the better for Japanese bands, since they are really keen on referentiality and band-worship, sometimes excessively (remember that SDS were supposedly "the ghosts of Antisect"). And let's face it, the name "Effigy" sounds super cool. It may sound trivial, but it matters nonetheless. The trio formed in 1998 and were from Takamatsu, on the Shikoku island. I couldn't find any information about potential pre-Effigy bands so it might have been their first shot, although, given the high level of accurate punk references, even on their first work, I personally doubt it. But then, I am not an endless well of knowledge when it comes to Japanese punk.

I would tend to think that Effigy were not exactly from the same generation as the crust bands who were already established by 1999, like AGE or Abraham Cross, not to mention old-timers like SDS or Gloom. But Effigy were a few years earlier than the metal-crust revivalists like Zoe, Disturd or Acrostix, bands they are often associated with through their common crust background or through their respective records on Crust War. Were Effigy in-between both generations? Or perhaps the wave dynamics didn't have as much effect on Effigy because of their specific location? The fact is that Effigy don't really sound like their elders, although, of course, they sound like a Japanese crust band (but has there ever been a Japanese crust band that doesn't?). But I don't hear any real, tangible SDS influence, especially in terms of song-writing and production. There are a few riffs that could remind one of SDS, but they don't intend to have the same cold slickness as Antisect-era SDS or the same controlled and focused fury as their latter period. One thing they certainly shared is the obvious Antisect influence, but they didn't translate in the same way. Where SDS intended to rework the sound and the atmosphere of Antisect's songwriting, Effigy basically "japanized" Antisect riffs, meaning they played them with more over-the-top metal energy.




Undeniably, Effigy's influences had more to do with Antisect, Hellbastard, early Axegrinder with a touch of early black and doom metal than with the local crust production, which was the case of most Japanese crust bands at the time and the gloriously obsessive "Doom-Throat" approach of Abraham Cross attested to that. To be fair, it is pretty easy to spot Effigy's models. Their 2004's split 10'' with Hellshock contained two unashamed borrowed songs from Antisect ("Choice of darkness" is actually a slightly reworked intro that Antisect used to play in 1987) and Bathory. And I have to confess something here: I knew Effigy before I did Bathory. I know it may sound weird, but I have never been into proper metal and at the time, classic extreme metal bands weren't really appealing to me. And I thought that the riff on "The day the Devil reigned" was fantastic! How flabbergasted was I when I finally discovered that it was pretty much an undeclared Bathory cover...




Anyway, this 12'', "Evil fragments" was Effigy's first record and despite some sloppiness, a production that lacks crunch and an overall feel of incompletion, I think it is still a pretty solid, enjoyable effort. The four songs sound like a Japanese crust take on late Antisect and "Ripper crust" era Hellbastard with great over-the-top dual vocals only the Japanese know how to pull out. The beat is mostly fast, but there are enough groovy metal breaks to keep things old-school. And, to end "Evil fragments", they used the same tune as Concrete Sox on the intro to the "Your turn next!" Lp, which is both a little odd and lovely. It is not Effigy's best work by far, the "From Hell" Ep that Crust War released in 2003 is their defining moment but it definitely pointed in the right direction and I would argue that it may have triggered some renewed interest in the classic UK crust bands in Japan. And maybe even in Portland. The dudes in Hellshock had probably been listening to the Peaceville sound for years, but Portland being Portland, Japan is pretty big over there, so to speak. More than bands like Misery or Extinction of Mankind, a band like Effigy, with overt UK crust influences, might have ignited the idea to do a project along the same lines in Portland. I am not saying that the day after one of the blokes listened to Effigy, they started Hellshock, but it might have played a part. Or not.



Effigy got better and better time passing, the split Ep's with Äpärät and Häväistys showed definite improvement and the aforementioned 2003 Ep was their crowning glory. I would love to say that the split with Hellshock was brilliant but I have always felt a bit let-down by it, probably because of the very high expectations I had at the time. And then, there is that Bathory story that will make me feel like a fool for eternity.

After the end of Effigy, Kakuda, the drummer, played in Axewield, a band that tried to fuse doom-metal with the Effigy recipe but that I never really got into. He recently joined Disturd and plays on the new album, entitled "Dark". I have only listened to it twice but let me tell you that I am really loving it so far. One of 2015's best crust albums and hopefully one that will inspire a new generation of Japanese punks to work on these terrific Antisect riffs...



Wednesday, 16 December 2015

3-Way Cum "The last cumshow?" Ep, 1997

At the sorry game of "good bands with terrible names", 3-Way Cum might take the fucking biscuit. A few months ago, I had mentioned that Slimy Venereal Diseases pretty much shot themselves in the foot, but as corny as their moniker was, it still indicated that they were a grinding band. 3-Way Cum, on the other hand, picked a name fit for an embarrassing porngrind band reeking of sexual frustration, while they actually were a top-notch Scandinavian crust outfit, certainly one of Sweden's very best in the 90's. Blimey if that makes any sense. I guess one may argue that something got lost in translation, a bit like Raped Teenagers was fortunately not a band about child pornography, but they probably wanted a name that expressed the idea of "being young, skint and fucked by the system in 1984" and ended up with one of the most horrible things to type on Google 30 years later. I am honestly clueless about the meaning of the name "3-Way Cum", since there is nothing sexually graphic or sexist in their lyrics. One of the band members must have lost a bet after a drunken party and had to use that name for his next band.



Anyway, 3-Way Cum's existence stretched from 1993 to 1997, four years during which they recorded one full Lp, two Ep's and two split Ep's, one of which (with State of Fear-worshipping Another Oppressive System from Connecticut) would be released posthumously in 2001. The line-up comprised two members of Sauna, an early 90's crustcore band most famous for their split Lp with Disrupt, and that, incidentally, also had a bit of a strange name, and had the drummer of Warcollapse. So even if you have never heard about 3-Way Cum, these connections will already give you some idea about their sound.

Truth be told, 3-Way Cum didn't exactly start up as an all-out crusty madness band. Their first Ep, the really good "Battle of opinions" from 1993, successfully walked the thin line between furious Swedish hardcore and ENT-type crust, an exercise that many attempted in the 90's but that few did as well as 3-Way Cum. Fast, powerful Scandicore, not far from Asocial, enhanced with crusty dual vocals. Not as heavy and meaty as Hiatus, but faster and more hectic. "Battle of opinions" exemplified the great potential of blending crust and Swedish hardcore and can be seen as an early blueprint of what would come to be known as "scandicrust". 1996's "Killing the life" Lp, released on Sound Pollution like the aforementioned Ep, seemed to validate the fact that 3-Way Cum's essence was located in classic Swedish hardcore. With its cleaner, rocking production, that somewhat makes me long for the rawness of "Battle of opinion", the Lp tended to indicate that 3-Way Cum were efficiently using the same songwriting formula and even, if anything, that they were slowly drifting toward a more pronounced Swedish hardcore influence in terms of sound. And then, the following year, the band recorded "The last cumshow?" (I am not even going to try to understand the title of this Ep).



I already wrote on Terminal Sound Nuisance that Sweden, like Finland or Italy, has not really produced a lot of proper crust bands. Of course, you have the mighty Warcollapse, G-Anx or Dom Där had their crust moments, and Counterblast's "Balance of pain" is arguably one of the best metal crust Lp's ever... Very often however, what people lazily call "Swedish crust" is really just heavy Swedish hardcore with harsh vocals (and there's nothing wrong with that type of punk-rock obviously) but lacks the specific groove and tension of proper crust. But "The last cumshow?" precisely has these two things. This fantastic Ep, without the shadow of a doubt, epitomizes Swedish crust, meaning that it is a distinctively Swedish adaptation of Disrupt/ENT's crustcore. Not unlike Warcollapse, they crustified the Scandicore influence and even the metal breaks nod to classic Swedish death-metal. This Ep is absolutely glorious, with enough beat variations to keep it from being redundant and a sound that is powerful, crunchy but spontaneous. The vocals are more upfront than on their previous recordings and the combination has never worked better. They sound like a disgruntled bear with a sore throat is having an argument with a chain-smoking wolf in a pub. The songs are actually pretty catchy as well and are bound to stick with you for the rest of the day (they are still difficult to hum to, but you get the gist).



To some extent, this Ep can almost be seen as the logical progression from Sauna's crushing "Ei Leiki" demo tape from 1991, although it was recorded much later. In any case, "The last cumshow?" is certainly as good and powerful as vintage Warcollapse and that's not a small thing. It also reminds me a little of 2000's crustcore band like Visions of War in terms of impact and intensity. The lyrics are your usual mix of politics (antifascism and animal abuse) and misanthropy, with the song "Slowly we rot", being about the decaying of the human body, infertility and and loneliness. The artwork is one of a kind with stylized drawings of anonymous but smiling bodies. I am not too sure about the cover though... You can see one of these faceless characters being tied down and blindfolded by an Hitler-looking geezer, who is also chaining a fake smile unto the poor fellow's face. There is a camera at the bottom that suggests that this is meant to be photographed. Was it the band's vision of the phrase "say cheese"? I'll go for that.



This Ep was released on Elderberry Records, a label responsible for putting out records from top Swedish bands like Dom Där, Warcollapse, G-Anx, Tolshock or Counterblast, which makes it Terminal Sound Nuisance's favourite Swedish punk label ever. Elderberry even did the Extinction of Mankind/Misery split Lp. I love you guys. Following 3-Way Cum, the singer Pjär played in Parasit and in Raised By Drunks, and Kalle kept doing what he does best with Warcollapse.  


  

Monday, 14 December 2015

Under Threat / I.A.F. "Self-titled / Masakre animal" split Ep, 1994

Brazil

What does this word convey to the average wanker on the street? Clichés like football, beaches, parties, favelas and transexuals. I remember my stepmum telling me in a drunken state that she had sunbathed in Brazil more times than she could remember, and thus was a bit of a cultural expert, and that she couldn't possibly imagine Brazilians playing punk because it was not in the "Brazilian mentality". Of course, she didn't use the word "punk" because to her, anything faster than Oasis sounds like noise (or "ruido" in this case). The next morning, I played Rot and Brigada do Odio really loud, and I proved my point. Sort of.



What does the word "Brazil" convey to me? That's an easy one: in-your-face, intense, sloppy punk brutality. I am not going to do a dissertation about Brazilian punk since the country has had a long, prolific and dense love story with punk and metal for the past 35 years. But there is undeniably such a  thing as a Brazilian punk sound so that I can always spot a band from that area when I hear one. For some reason, crust was never Brazil's favourite genre and while they embraced hardcore and grindcore (and anything brutal and fast fast), they never really seemed to fell for Amebix-type bands. Acts like Extreme Noise Terror, Doom or Disrupt were certainly influences on many extreme bands but there were actually few local bands that played all-out crustcore, as if they had picked some elements from it in order to make their own stew, rather than follow the crust trend. The 90's provided many bands that were crust-influenced (like Subcut or Cruel Face for instance) but few that were actually crust if you know what I mean.



There are exceptions to this of course, and bands like Dischord, Masher and No Prejudice definitely carried the crust torch as brutally as they could. And you had Under Threat, a band that started as a side-project of the mighty Rot's drummer. Like the vast majority of Brazilian punk bands, Under Threat were from Sao Paulo (one of the world's punk capitals), and like most of their extreme music comrades, they were incredibly sloppy. Now, they were not "sloppy" in the same sense that the first demos of Disorder or Doom are sloppy. In that context, "sloppy" implies a sound that is direct and raw, if not rough, and yet intense and completely comfortable. It is not even a matter of technical abilities as the geezers can play, they just think that a DIY rehearsal sound conveys the energy and essence of the genre better than a proper studio. As Under Threat wrote it themselves on the Ep's insert:

"There's a care from us to keep the Hc music sources and characteristics in our music, showing a dirty and raw sound; then we think our recording on this Ep is OK. But also this is a way to show we don't need really to be involved with money to show we are active people acting on the things we believe". 

If you ever need a quote to illustrate the difference between the 90's and our present decade, then look no further. Under Threat didn't try hard to have a "raw punk sound", they didn't need special effects, they didn't need a studio and they didn't even need a bass player (yes, you are reading correctly, on this recording Under Threat were a fucking duo!). They just came in their own DIY practice space and unleashed a barrage of simple and effective distorted crusty punk. That's probably where a lot of the typical 90's Sao Paulo punk sound originated from: they didn't try to sound, they just did. And that's why a band like Neurose Urbana will always be more "raw" and aggressive than its heirs. Now, it doesn't mean that there was never any level of production involved or that the songs are rushed, but it underlines a certain lack of self-reflexivity and self-consciousness that is refreshing when compared with the abusive and excessive self-referentiality of current days.



But back to our lovable sloppy slice of crust. This was Under Threat's first release and it must be said that their subsequent split Lp with Battle of Disarm or the split Ep with their noise comrades Dischord were not as sloppy and rough. The first time I listened to these four songs, I couldn't help but smile as it sounds really thin, very much like a tape recorder was placed in the middle of the rehearsal room. Some of you will probably think that it sounds like shit, but I personally find the Under Threat side quite marvelous as it epitomized the energy and the exuberant aggression of early 90's crustcore. Just imagine the first take of the first Disrupt demo but with only two members and you won't be too far. Just simple, fuzzy, fast, pummeling, dual vocals crustcore. And what vocals they are! They are so over-the-top and uncontrived that it works perfectly for the genre. This is miraculous practice room Sao Paulo crustcore and you need these songs in your life.



Following this Ep, the band got a little more serious, with one full-time singer, a bass player and a second guitar. They gradually went for a slightly more Scandinavian, crusty D-beat style, and even though their sound improved significantly, they always kept that "sloppy and proud" touch. Lyrically, Under Threat proved to be quite political, despite the broken English, and even wrote a short text explaining their cover choice for the Ep and how a picture from the Apartheid era was still relevant not only to South Africa, but also to Latin America.



On the flip side are three songs from IAF (meaning "Ideal Anti Fascista") from Barcelona. Believe me, after the Under Threat side, they will almost sound overproduced. IAF existed for 10 years, from 1994 to 2004 roughly, and involved old-timers from bands like Violent Headache and later on Mobcharge and Totälickers (and probably many others). This split Ep was the band's first offering and it is a relevant look to what the band would come to be not so long after. While their 1998 Ep or the 2000's split Ep with HOW showed a strong influence from the faster brand of Swedish hardcore (think Scumbrigade meets Disfear) and super fast hardcore, this 1994 record has punkier production and songwriting that reminds me of mid-90's anarchopunk bands like Antiproduct or Disaffect but with a Dropdead touch. It is an enjoyable listen actually and I strongly recommend their Sludge Records follow-up. Lyrics are, obviously, of a political nature, this time with an emphasis on animal suffering and corridas.




This split Ep was released on Japankore Records, a small label run by Dropdead's drummer that was originally dedicated to putting out noisy Japanese punk-rock like Disclose. Well, Under Threat were from Brazil but they still gave the Japanese a run for their money in terms of distortedness, although I am sure their recording budget, if there even was one, was much lower, not even the price of a Disclose Ep on Discogs in 2015.            



    

Sunday, 6 December 2015

MVD / Pink Flamingos split Ep 1994

Throughout recent conversations with fellow nerdy punks, we realized there was something weird with Germany. While the country is the host of a massive, dynamic punk scene with top venues, an incredible amount of touring bands and probably the highest rate of punks per inhabitant anywhere in the world, it has not, considering these elements, delivered that many classic bands (I don't include the ones from the 80's in that comment). Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I dislike German punk-rock as there are bands that I hold close to my sensitive heart. But still, compared to its potential, Germany has never been a high producer in the field of anarchopunk or crust. Or could it be that they just didn't spread? Bands like Accion Mutante, Enola Gay, Lost World, Autoritär, Acid Rain Dance, Cluster Bomb Unit and Instinct of Survival (possibly the best crust band of the past 10 years) are obviously really good, but the truth is that, while everyone enjoys pilgriming to Berlin, local punk music isn't exactly the most popular outside of home, especially in recent years. There are certainly genres that German punks have excelled at, with cult bands like Yacopsae, Acme, Mörser or (sigh) Gut, but these are not really Terminal Sound Nuisance material. But wait, there is one iconic crust band from Berlin that, for some reason that I don't even want to try to understand (but it could be the dreaded "had they been Swedish theorem"), is constantly left out of the crust canon: MVD.



Apparently, if my German is not too rusty, MVD formed in 1986 in Berlin and were originally called Mundus Vult Decipi , which must have been a bit of a mouthful since they switched to MVD after their first release, a split Lp with deutschpunk heroes Malinheads in 1990. Probably because some of their songs on this Lp had been written a few years prior to its release, the MVD side is not actually that crusty. Rather, I would argue that it sounds like the brand of hardcore-punk that original crusties would have played to death. In 1989/1990, MVD delivered raw and intense, angry political hardcore influenced by bands like Crude SS, AOA, Final Conflict or even early Doom, but faster. There is a German punk feel to the music and one can suppose that local bands like the brilliant Enola Gay or Vorkriegsphase were also on heavy rotation at the MVD HQ.



Their first Ep, the classic "Stagnation of thinking" Ep from 1992, saw them pick a new singer (like Amen, MVD have had quite a few singers shouting behind their microphone) and polish their sound. A bit, not too much, they remained firmly rooted in raw and angry hardcore for the punks, only this time with a noticeable Extreme Noise Terror influence added to their own brand of beefed-up, "Italy + Sweden = <3 " hardcore. By the time of their third release however, the present split with Pink Flamingos from 1994, MVD had definitely fallen to the crust side of the Force. The addition of a second singer with vocals so gruff that I think he may have been locked up in some damp room with "Phonophobia" constantly playing (hence the famous phrase "he who shall be Sore-Throated to life") certainly enhanced the crust element in the music and complemented the first singer's hardcore vocal style perfectly. The dual vocal work on this Ep happens one my of favourites ever in the crustcore field, worthy of the much-coveted "Terminal Sound Nuisance Dual Vocal Attack Award". Musically, the songs are fast as ever, hit even harder and should be considered absolute eurocrust classics, hands down. Lyrically, MVD were (and still are, if you are wondering) a seriously angry bunch. Songs about police brutality, alienating consumerism, servility and racist violence, all written in a very brutal, direct fashion (and a slight "English as a second language" feel as well). And to top it all off, there is a Shitlickers' quote in one of the songs. What else could you possibly need?



The following MVD record was yet another split Ep with Pink Flamingos, recorded live this time, and it is arguably even more intense and manic as the studio one, albeit a bit more shambolic too. It is difficult to release good, live crust records, only top bands like Hiatus can pull it, but MVD's side on this one is definitely one the best examples of a crunchy, powerful, raw set of crust punk songs played live. The following MVD records would confirm the band's potential and position as one of the most reliable eurocrust band ever, that has never failed to deliver quality crustcore: 1997's split Lp with (German) Ebola (with whom they shared one member), 2001's split Ep with Préjudice from Canada and their latest convincing Lp, 2009's "War species". I don't think MVD managed to reach the same level of aggression and "all-out-crusty-bollocks" as on their first Ep with Pink Flamingos, but then, I am a pretty picky bastard.



On the flip side are four songs of Pink Flamingos, another Berlin band. PF belongs to this category of bands that I know because I have split records with them but that I bought for the band on the other side (like MVD or Substandard). So they are a familiar name but not really a band that I am actually familiar with, if you know what I mean. So listening properly to the PF songs made me realize how absolutely ferocious they were. I mentioned earlier on that there were some styles that Germans did really well, and insane, ultra fast hardcore with tons of manic breaks (aka powerviolence) was certainly one of them in the 90's. This is not a genre I often listen to so it may sound fresher to my ears than it actually is, but I feel the four PF songs on this split are probably top-of-the-shelf in their field. The lyrics are really dark and violent, very direct and graphic as well, but I suppose they adequately fit the genre's requirements. I will definitely play the split with Substandard soon.

Both MVD and PF recorded their songs in the same studio, Hole In the Wall in Berlin, so you've got the same kind of sonic urgency throughout the records. Two local bands recording in a local studio: now if this is not a genuine split Ep, I don't know what is. One last thing though... The name... Seriously? Pink Flamingos? This is moniker fitting for a fun-loving and costume-wearing high-school ska-punk band, not a bleak powerviolence one, but there you go...



This split Ep was released on Farewell records from Hannover, a label that has been around since 1991 and has been involved in releasing materials from MITB, Battle of Disarm, Uranus, Wolfpack and even Extreme Noise Terror reissues.





  

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Ανάσα Στάχτη "Self-titled" cd, 2005

I couldn't possibly do a 90's crust special and not rant diabolically about Greek crust. It would have been a major mistake, so terrible in fact, that I would have almost expected a mob of disgruntled crusties waiting for me with forks and torches.



90's Greek crust should be seen as genuinely classical. Greek bands should be mentioned spontaneously and with awe when discussing crust. Some albums are just so good that they should have become points of reference. But none of that is actually true. For some reason, Greek crust is beloved by punk nerds but has largely remained obscure, even for those who claim to love crust music. Could it be the language barrier? Unlikely, since we all love Finnish hardcore. It is true that, for a long time, a lot of classic Greek crust was really difficult to listen to, since the records were so hard to find and super expensive (this has not changed actually...). But thanks to the internet, they are now freely available and it should have generated a lot more interest than it actually has. It is a bit of a mystery to me to be honest... I cannot accept, on an intellectual level, that such great bands remain vague record collector items instead of proper crust classics. You happy? You all made me angry now...



Greek crust has this specific feel that makes it instantly recognizable. The Greek wave was probably the most influenced by the original British one, even more so than the Californian one I would argue. Basically, Greek punks just got Amebix, Antisect, Axegrinder. I don't know why, but they embraced this brand of apocalyptic, crunchy mid-tempo metallic punk and built upon it, enhanced it, often through the addition of synth, which is fine by me, but can understandably annoy some people (but then, what would Amebix do?).



Thankfully, Greek crust is slowly being reissued, like the Chaotico Telos Lp, the Panikos demos or the Psychosi unreleased Lp that should be released - hopefully - soon. But there are still so many amazing, unbelievably good stuff left that it truly is a task of epic proportions. Like this Anasa Stahti album for instance.

***

- Hey you! At the back!
- Who? Me?
- Yeah, you with the Axegrinder backpatch. Come here for a sec please.
- Alright...
- (showing the Anasa Stahti Lp) Do you recognize this album?
- Nope... doesn't ring a bell... Some band from an Eastern country, yeah?
- Not really, no. It is a classic record of 90's Greek crust. 
- From Greece? I didn't know they did the crust thing over there.
- I wish I were deaf... Of course they did, and they did it much better than most. 
- But do they sing in Greek?
- They do. 
- I am not sure I am gonna like it, it sounds weird...
- Do you listen to any Greek punk-rock at all?
- No... I don't think I know any Greek band actually...
- I thought as much. So instead of liking Hellshock videos on Facebook, why don't you give this geezer a shot. It will change your life and you will become addicted to Greek stenchcore and spend ridiculous amounts of money on discogs when you go home blind drunk from a gig.
- Thank you Terminal Sound Nuisance! You have just renewed my faith in crust. I was actually toying with idea of switching to indie-rock... (sobs heavily)
- You're welcome. I am only doing my job. Now go and enjoy the Greek crust life. And don't come back until you can actually spell Ανάσα Στάχτη!
- I will! 


***

Anyway...




Anasa Stahti formed in 1992 in Athens and was originally made up of Thanasis (from the early Chaotico Telos line-up and Χαμένα Ιδανικά, a late 80's raw hardcore-punk band somewhere between Disorder and Lärm), Nikos (from the obscure ισοπέδωση), Kostas (from Σκατόψυχοι) and Themis. The latter two would soon be replaced with John (from Αναβίωση) and Georgios (from Akros Antithetoi, a Broken Bones-type band). The final line-up of Anasa Stahti would see John leaving room for Makis on bass, who also played in the brilliant Αρνητική Στάση (yes, that's the Negative Stance that did an Ep on Profane Existence).



Like most political punk bands at the time in Greece, Anasa Stahti were connected to the Villa Amalias radical anarchist squat in Athens and the label that released their Lp, Do It Yourself Records, was actually run by Villa Amalias and another squat in Thessaloniki, Villa Barbara. The label only did four records though, with the addition of the fantastic Διατάραξη Οικιακής Ειρήνης compilation Lp (that also had bands like Panikos, Psychosi or Mastiga), the Shit Hit The Fan Ep and the second album of Ανατέλλων Τρόμος. The record we are dealing with today is not, however, the original Lp, but the classy cdr reissue that was released in 2005 by Do It Yourself Records and Punk.Gr, a small label that reissues classic Greek punk (probably to fight the ridiculous prices on Ebay and make the music available for an amount of money that is not outrageous) and also helps releasing top modern Greek bands like Pandemia or the rather good Balkan tribute to Amebix.




Don't be scared by the phrase "cdr reissue" as it is probably the best-looking cdr record I have ever seen. The actual cd even looks like a vinyl! There is an Ep format booklet with the original poster and artwork so it really couldn't have been done better, and in fact, a lot of "proper" cd releases don't look half as good as this one. As a bonus, they even included the two songs that Anasa Stahti contributed to 1996's Διατάραξη Οικιακής Ειρήνης on the cdr, so really there is nothing to complain about here. Musically, Anasa Stahti played pure Greek crust with a groovy, tasteful thrash-metal touch in the guitar. It is heavy, intense, dark, apocalyptic metallic punk with gruff vocals, bits of synth here and there (because that is what people do over there) and epic songwriting. It is probably best defined as "Hellbastard-meets-late-Antisect-at-a-Coitus-gig-in-Athens-when-they-opened-for-Naftia". Or something. The vocals are aggressive and angry, the riffs are effective and more intricate than they first appear to be, there is an anthemic, brutal, threatening quality to the music. The whole beat range is covered on the album, from crunchy mid-tempo scorchers, to faster pummeling moments. If it were not for the typical 90's production (there is no real technicality to it in this case), some of the songs would have been genuine hits during the last stenchcore revival of the mid 2000's.




Aesthetically, the album is a small wonder. The cover is stunning, with a drawing of a young crusty punk armed with a stick entering an evil computer screen. Each song is illustrated with its own drawing which makes for an impressive result and gives that much strength to the band's lyrics. Although some of their contents may have been lost in translation, Anasa Stahti wrote superb songs. The topics are usually dark and rather hopeless, but there always remains a sense of insurgency, a glimmer of life, like a faint heartbeat. Evocations of social and religious alienation, despair, self-hatred, self-sacrifice, imprisonment... The band smartly ties our darkest feelings, our inner suffering with the more global oppression and control. This is intelligent, deep and yet unintellectual political punk music (that's a compliment actually).



Icing on the crusty cake, there is an Anasa Stahti interview included with the booklet. It was done in 1993 and was published in a local fanzine called "Audiatur et Altera Pars". It is all in Greek so I don't have a clue about what they are talking about, apart from Villa Amalias and nazis...





This album is by any reliable, decent standards, a crust classic and anyone who gives a shit, even a small amount of it, about the metallic end of crust should be familiar with it. When Anasa Stahti called it a day, three members formed Ανατέλλων Τρόμος in 1998, helped in their glorious quest by an ex-Pyschosi member. Ανατέλλων Τρόμος carried on where Anasa Stahti left but, as good as they genuinely are, I guess they lost a little of the heaviness and primitiveness of crust, key elements indeed, and tried to write more complex, more melodic songs.



Sunday, 22 November 2015

Amen "Don't imitate / Show your hate" Ep, 1993

As planned, let's take a healthy dose of early 90's, dual vocals crustcore from Finland. Because that is what punks should do on a sunday to frighten neighbours and appall lovers of mainstream music. It is childish, futile and thoroughly enjoyable. Do it.



When one thinks of Finnish punk, crust is not the genre that usually springs to mind. In fact, even if you think hard about it, you'd probably be struggling to name 10 proper crust bands from Finland. And it is quite odd, since Finnish hardcore and bands like Kaaos, Rattus, Tervet Kadet or Riistetyt have been definite influences on many crustcore bands worldwide. So one would presume that Finns cannot possibly dislike crust, and I don't think they do, they'd just rather play fast hardcore, sometimes with a light crusty twist, but hardcore nevertheless. There were a few exceptions in the late 80's/early 90's though: Painajainen (whom you can read about here and who were originally part of the 80's hardcore scene) whose blend of hardcore and metal, probably by accident more than design, was really close to early UK crust circa 1986, and you have Amen, who formed in 1989, in Helsinki, and made an ENT-styled racket on purpose.



When discussions about early ENT-influenced crust punk occur, at a cocktail party for instance, one usually hears mentions of bands like Disrupt, Hiatus, Destroy!, Battle of Disarm, Embittered, MVD and a few others, but despite a solid discography that should secure them a comfy spot in the crust canon, Amen are often left out. OK, they picked a shitty name, but then, that fact never stopped anyone from listening to Battle of Disarm, Fleas And Lice or even Anti-Cimex...




"Don't imitate / Show your hate" was recorded in 1993 and can be seen as the band's most powerful crust offering and one of the records that is the most representative of early 90's eurocrust. Like most bands at the time (Hiatus being a notable exception), Amen looked like they struggled a bit with singers since no less than five people ended up growling for them throughout their existence, but the guitar/bass/drums backbone remained the same however. The first Ep, 1989's "Gospelcore", is possibly the best mix of Kaaos and early-ENT I have ever heard, teenage sloppiness and snottiness included. 1991's "Feikki" Ep and "Paranemia" Lp were already heavier, thrashier endeavours that saw the band giving Hiatus a go for their money while keeping that Finnish hardcore edge. The split Lp with Rytmihäriö, recorded the next year, included songs that had a more of filthy metallic crust feel at times and it is arguably their less "Finnish" recording. 1993's "Don't imitate / Show your hate" Ep summarized the best of what Amen had been doing since 1989: fast crustcore with over-the-top vocals and a raw, powerful sound. The songs are effective and dynamic and crustier than your socks after a three-day festival in Czech Republic. I find the voice of Sebastian particularly original as he sounds like a rabid duck. Yes, a duck, I am not sure he meant to sound like a duck but that's what I hear anyway! And it's not bad at all, it gives a sense of insanity to the songs and provides extra punkiness. Following that great Ep, Amen recorded a split Ep and a full Lp, "Memento Mori", in 1996 that were a bit cleaner musically and less of an aural savagery (it's still all-out eurocrust though, I am just nitpicking).



In terms of content, Amen wrote rather simple socio-political lyrics from the heart. On "Don't imitate" you can find a song about the condition of Native Americans (remember that 1992 was the 500th anniversary of the "discovery of the Americas") and one about believers that I feel is aimed more at pseudo satanists than anyone else ("Fuck believers"). On an archeological level, Amen was also a breeding ground for other Finnish bands. Amen singers Basse and Edu would later sing for the well-respected Selfish and the sadly under-appreciated Wind of Pain respectively. Kaide (bass) and Mika (drums) would later form the great, Tervet Kadet-inspired, Viimeinen Kolonna that have running for almost 15 years, while Marko (guitar) got to sing for hardcore revivalists Uutuus.



Visually, "Don't imitate / Show your hate" is an interesting piece. Whereas the cover looks like a regular 90's crust one, the backcover has a picture of a punk with an Amebix-themed leather jacket that is just horribly pixelated... It was the early days of digital imaging and it showed! Oh well, that's 90's glamour I presume. The fact that they put Amen in place of Amebix at the top of the jacket made me smile though! Now that I think about it, a lot of Amen's artwork referred to Amebix, though they don't sound anything like them... Were they part of an Amebix sect or something? I bloody hope so.



Finally I included the Missing Link mailorder insert that was included with the Ep. It was a German distro and it gives a good idea of what DIY punk trends looked like in 1993. I found the Ep in a 2 euros box at a gig a few years ago. The bloke at the distro told that it was his copy (he had two of them) and that it had been sitting in that box for ages... We live in a strange world.









Saturday, 21 November 2015

"Crust and Anguished Life" compilation cd, 1993



This compilation is quite possibly the crustiest compilation of the 90's and that's not even a bold statement (who said "for once"?). In fact I would argue that it is easily one of the best punk samplers of this decade as well, along with my personal favourite, the extraordinary "Whispers" double Lp and one Ep (!), and with the "Iron Columns" double Lp not being far behind. I'll grant you that "Crust and Anguished Life" lies proudly on the noisiest side of the punk spectrum so that, if you are not too keen on crust and grind, it could turn into a bit of a long listen (but then, I suppose the title would have already given you a hint).



This cd has everything it takes to be officially integrated into the punk canon. Not only does it have a great line-up, but it also very much stands for a specific time. Deeply rooted in the first half of the 90's, "Crust and Anguished Life" can be seen as a snapshot of a particular sound and songwriting style. It is the embodiment of a contextualized way of playing hard-hitting DIY crusty punk-rock. The fact that it is a cd, a format that many disregard today, also points to the early 90's context as cd's were still a novelty and quite uncommon at the time in the DIY punk scene (but maybe not so in Japan). Paradoxically, had it been released on vinyl (or even on tape), the compilation would probably be more sought-after today. The visual aesthetics of this compilation reek of the 90's crust spirit too, with the perfect blend of Crass-type collages and font, Discharge-inspired war images, and late 80's crusty, sloppy doom and gloom (and Doom and Gloom). This compilation was released in 1993 on Kyoto-based immortal punk label MCR Records (32 years running, no less), in collaboration with their English sublabel, MCR UK, which was based in the much less populated Bath (my faithful readers probably remember that they put tout the MSO/Corpus Vile split Lp).   


"Crust and Anguished" was produced and compiled by boss-label Yumike (who was also the singer of Fuck Geez) and Kenichi from the mighty SDS, which makes a lot of sense since they were, by far, the biggest Japanese crust band of the 90's. Now, while I said that this was the crustiest compilation of that decade, it doesn't mean that it is strictly a "crust only" work. Don't worry, there is far enough orthodox crust music on this geezer to satisfy any self-respecting crusty punk, but you will also find straight-up D-beat punk, fast as fuck hardcore or grindcore. But nothing too tuneful, have no fear. In addition to the barrage of noise that characterizes all the bands, I feel they also all share a kind of unpretentiousness, as if what mattered the most was playing DIY heavy, fast and aggressive punk music with a conscience. It is not about good production, or about aping the "good" bands, or having the perfectly distorted guitar sound just like "insert an obscure 80's band's name" on their first flexi. And what I really, really enjoy with this compilation is the fact that all the bands provided some artwork and lyrics for it, one page each, which creates a sweet-looking booklet that significantly exemplifies 90's crust aesthetics. But let's get to it, shall we?


The opening band on "Crust and Anguished Life" is Disrupt with the song "Give it back". Now, it is a fantastic way to start but it is also really difficult to top it. As we have already seen when I talked about the Disrupt/Destroy! split, the band knew two eras that I differentiated with the change of drummer in mid-1991. This song belongs to the second Disrupt era that saw them build on Extreme Noise Terror's "Phonophobia" and define the groove of 90's crustcore. The recording is a bit sloppier than on the "Unrest"Lp but actually it is for the best in my opinion. The vocals are completely over the top and really aggressive, the music is direct and crunchy, the way dual-vocal crustcore is meant to sound. Top-drawer Disrupt number about private ownership and materialism.

Next are Sarcasm from Leicester, yet another band I have already ranted about here. Sarcasm can be seen as an early incarnation of the missing link between fuzzy, distorted noisepunk and UK crust, think ENT and Sore Throat meet Gai and Gauze or something. They are one of these bands that were absolutely brilliant but that many old-timers seem to have forgotten (depending on your tolerance for noisy punk, it could be on purpose) and that newer generations are not really interested in (despite the Wankys connection). The song on the cd, "Suppression", is one of my favourites as it is also the opening track of their first Ep, "Your funeral, my party" (which was actually a demo released as an Ep) from 1991. It is gruffy as fuck, super heavy with a slimy guitar sound and a driving dischargy beat. As always, there is that impression of insanity in Sarcasm's music, as if you were actually listening to the sounds coming from a possessed animals shelter. Cool dark and sloppy artwork to accompany the music and lyrics about the right to be angry.        


The third song is "Steadfast huge power" from Unwise, a Japanese band from Tokyo that were around in the 90's. I am not going to pretend I am the expert in Japanese punk, others do it far better than I, but Unwise apparently had a member of Extinct Government behind the drum kit. I am not so familiar with the rest of their discography but judging from this song, I probably should. Distorted, bass-driven crusty punk that is unmistakably Japanese with the influence of the 80's noisepunk heros, somewhere between mid-80's Chaos UK and Battle of Disarm perhaps.

Next are Amen from Finland, a band that went for a moniker that is both brilliant and a bit terrible, a statement that is often valid when one talks about crust band names. I won't dwell too much on Amen now since one of their records will be part of my crust odyssey and I wouldn't want to spoil the fun, would I? But here is a trailer. Hailing from Finland, Amen was your prototypical dual-vocal 90's crustcore band, and I mean that in the best possible way. While they are rarely mentioned in crust-related conversations, they perfectly embodied the eurocrust of the time and pioneered the genre in their home-country. A bit like Sweden, Finland has always produced tons of quality hardcore punk bands but relatively few proper crust ones, and vaguely crusty hard-hitting Finncore doesn't count. Unfortunately, their song on "Crust and Anguished" is not a good representation of their work as it is a very thin-sounding, demo-quality number that does not even come close to the crusty savagery they were capable of in 1993... A weird choice to pick that one but here you go... I do like the cheesy punk drawing though, it reminds of me of Sore Throat or Electro Hippies and that is always a good thing. The song, "Drink or not", is about the local straightedge movement and how some members of it liked to fight to prove their point.        


Next are Destroy! from Minneapolis whom I have already discussed two posts ago. Contrary the brutal crust they served on the split with Disrupt, their song here is decidedly death-metal sounding (Destroy! actually had a couple of blasting numbers in their repertoire), something they are almost apologizing for in a disclaimer (!) stating that if punks "can't hack a little variety (well can they really?) [they can] go listen to elevator music or glam rock". Now that is a bit odd to read in 2015 since so many bands have turned all out metal in the crust world in the past 15 years but apparently, it was still a bit frowned upon in 1993. Musically, this reminds me of early death-metal, a bit raw and punky, mixed with some Prophecy of Doom. And while I'm at it, crust and death-metal don't necessarily blend well together. In fact, I am of the opinion that they rarely do and very few bands can pull a decent result from that marriage, although both genres certainly share common roots and were born at the same time. There, I said it.

The following track is much less metal and is actually made up of two songs from the great CFDL from Japan, a band that everyone kind of knows but that actually love. Their moniker is a reference to Disorder and it stands for "Crazy fucked-up daily life" so it already gives you an idea of where they stand in the punk spectrum. CFDL claim to play "hardcore trash punk" and they are so proud about it that two of their Lp's are here to remind you of it, 1996's "Thrash punk 91" and the bizarrely named "Trashpunker thrash" that was released in 2009 but recorded in 1994. The band has a solid discography and seemed to love doing splits and tapes, which points to an old-school spirit that is thoroughly honourable. My personal favourite is their fantastic "Atrocity exhibition" 12'' from 1990, a recording that features the best production I have heard in terms of Japanese-flavoured noisy punk. They don't hide behind a wall of sound or a distortion orgy or an feedback overdose or any of the cheap tricks that the genre often fall for. To me, it is just perfect, low-fi but thick and groovy with a kind of organic quality. It is the ultimate blend of Disorder, Extreme Noise Terror, Warfear and Gauze. It is an absolute classic that probably doesn't get the recognition it deserves, especially when you compare it with the insane ravings other Japanese recordings sometimes get... Oh well. The two songs CFDL contributed to "Crust and Anguished" are certainly not as well recorded and are really punky (as was the band really). One Siege cover and a super short and fast two-lines number called "Use your brain". Fun-loving, simple, distorted, fast Japanese hardcore punk with crazy vocals. Top notch.          


The next song is from the rather well-known Rytmihäriö from Helsinki. Although they have been pretty much a straight metal band (judging from their website anyway) since they reformed in 1998, their musical agenda was to play "surmacore" which is a mix of, and I am quoting here, "death/thrash/crossover/grindcore and hardcore punk". Not exactly something you would play to a distant cousin's wedding. I am not familiar at all with what the band does nowadays but their early recordings are actually really good. Very raw, super aggressive and fast metallic hardcore punk, somewhere between Possessed, Kaaos, Heresy and Lobotomia. The band used a lot of distortion in their early days, had a really rough sound with high-pitched, raspy, mean-sounding vocals , but remained very energetic and intense, in a classic Finnish hardcore sense. It was clearly "Finnish metallic hardcore". For some reason the song on the compilation is not representative of their previous records, in fact the usual singer doesn't even do the vocals on "Right-wing youth" (this or he sings very differently on this one...). Rather than the usual Rytmihäiriö sound, we have a pretty typical Swedish hardcore number verging on D-beat, not bad, but I yearned for the "in your face" approach of the band. 

I have already written about SDS and their majestic split Lp with Misery a few years ago but, just in case you are not a devout follower of Terminal Sound Nuisance, here are a few things to know about this storm of a band. They were from Kyoto and must have formed around 1987 since you can find two rough SDS songs on a 1988 tape comp with an unfortunate title... Anyway, they were thus part of the original crust wave and were its best possible Japanese incarnation. Some might think they went a little far with the Antisect-worship but I, for one, have no problem with that if it is done tastefully (more about this here). The song "Butcher" is typical early 90's SDS, metallic crust with that distinctive Japanese sound (and way of singing) and solid technical skills. Apart from the classic mid-tempo groovy stench opening, "Butcher" is a fast and intense song not unlike Anti-System, albeit given the SDS treatment. As usual at the time, the band couldn't help knocking an Antisect love declaration in their artwork through the use of three skulls that are not dissimilar (read "almost exactly the same") to those found on the original drawing done for "Out from the void". Punk is not hippies, but SDS certainly is crust. 


Hiatus then come into the game with yet another perfectly-executed early crustcore scorcher with gruff vocals, great riffing and a couple of terrific transitions which will make everyone realize that Hiatus were actually better songwriters than most. This song was recorded during the same session as the split Ep with Embittered in late 1991.

Deformed Conscience belong to that category of bands that one is usually familiar with but doesn't really know or care for that much. When I got into crust, they were just another US band from the 90's and at the time they didn't strike as anything special. Even when I bought the split with Excrement of War, I didn't listen to the Deformed Conscience side that often to be honest, not that I feel it is bad - it is not - but the band was a bit like an old schoolfriend that I appreciate but not enough to give him a call on a saturday night. I have only really got into the band in the past two years and I must that I have been foolish not to give Deformed Conscience a proper chance before. Coming from Connecticut, DC existed during the whole first half of the 90's and were possibly the most hardcore-influenced band of the early US crust scene, and in that sense they could be seen as precursors of sort of what was to come locally. They played intense, heavy and brutal fast crusty hardcore that could appeal to ENT lovers, as much as people into Dropdead, Raw Power or Heresy. Aggressive forceful vocals that sound like someone having a seizure while arguing with you and feel almost too "new-school hardcore" at times (but that could be me). By 1993, Deformed Conscience were at the top of their game and the song on the comp, an anti-drug rant called "End the pain", clearly shows it. After they split, members of Deformed Conscience went on to play in bands like State of Fear, React, Dissension, Inhaste or Shitlist, so you know the lads believed in their sound and ideas.          


Next on "Crust and Anguished Life", coming from Japan, is... Disclose! It feels a little ridiculous introducing them because most people seriously into punk-rock would have at least heard of them (hopefully...). I have never been a Disclose maniacs and while I can listen to an Ep, the full Lp experience has often proved too much to bear. I don't dislike them though and I found their obsession with Discharge both gloriously admirable and frighteningly pointless. It is totally accurate to see Disclose as the epitome of D-Beat, a purposefully restrictive style that aims at emulating the early Discharge formula (and it was indeed formulaic). But it never was only about the specific drum beat (and those who think that Discharge were only remarkable because of the drum beat have to learn to listen to, rather than merely hear, music), there is also the peculiar riffing, the shouted vocals that don't follow the rhythm of the songs, the groovy bass lines, the breaks, the solos, the very sharp endings and openings, the artwork, the topics of course... There is a whole Discharge world to imitate and absorb and just playing "bupp-u-dupp- u - du" on the drums won't cut it. It is unclear who started the D-Beat trend. There have always been Discharge-influenced but they generally didn't sound exactly like them or at least, it wasn't their primary intent (I have a doubt about Subversion from Belgium though...). Even Discard, who were the first, to my knowledge, to stick very, very close to Discharge on so many levels, played faster. Disaster might be the first but I personally don't feel it would be all that relevant to award them that trophy because they were a such short-lived band, and even though they are the greatest Discharge impersonators I have ever heard, I think it should go to a band that, in a meaningful attempt to merge the content with the form, not only tried hard and successfully to sound like Discharge but also lasted a good few years doing so. Disclose would then definitely fit the bill although I am not sure when the band exactly formed (their first demo was from 1992). Anyway... This was Disclose at the beginning of their very prolific D-Beat career with the song "Nightmare". It is a rough, distorted listen but that was the band's own take on Discharge: make it rawer and fuzzier. 

Next are the awesome Misery, real crust-heroes if there ever were any whom I have already written about in ecstatic terms when dealing with the SDS/Misery post. I fucking love Misery and I hope I will be able to see them one day. They are the world's longest-running crust band and have delivered high quality proper old-school crust since 1987. Granted, the mid 00's were a bit hard on them and the splits with Toxic Narcotic (2004) and Path of Destruction (2007) were not as inspired as earlier works (but then when you have been around for that long, you are bound to run out of steam at some point). But since then, they have released two magnificent Lp's that demonstrated that they truly were back. I always get a little emotional with this band... Sorry for that. Their song on the compilation is a Sacrilege cover, "Life line", the opening song from 1985's "Behind the realms of madness". I am a sucker for that Sacrilege album but even I know (and I am hardly a talented or knowledgeable musician...) that it is a hell of a task to cover, if only for that slimy, groovy, powerful guitar sound. So did Misery pull it? Of course they did, but not by trying to sound like Sacrilege but by turning "Life line", in terms of sound and texture, into a Misery song. So while you can't miss that it is the Sacrilege song, you also can't fail to realize that it is being bulldozed by Misery. A great cover of a great song that was recorded in late 1991.       


Next are Hell Spawn, a band that shared more than a few things with Misery. Both bands were from Minneapolis and if you are under the impression that Hell Spawn's guitar sound reminds you of something, have no fear, you are going insane, it was actually Jon Misery who played the six-strings for them with Gary switching from Misery's drum stool to bass. The singer was none other than the gracefully-named Pignose who later fronted the deliciously obnoxious Assrash and you had Huck on bass who would join Distraught. Hell Spawn was a relatively short-lived band who released a good split Ep with Misery (who else?) in 1992 and with Sasquatch the following year. Musically, it is quite punkier than Misery though, fast, crusty and snotty hardcore-punk punk reminiscent of Jesus Chrust. Very enjoyable indeed and I wish they had recorded more. Both Misery and Hell Spawn's songs were recorded in the same studio on the same day.

If you didn't quite get my confused D-Beat rant about Disclose, feel free to read it again now, because here is another D-Beat pioneer on "Crust and Anguished", the bizarrely-named Dischange (well, for a band precisely doesn't want to change a punk formula, I guess it is pretty ironic). Like another D-Beat originator, Disfear, Dischange came from Sweden and featured two members of No Security (I am guessing they formed the former after the latter split up). While No Security can be described as a rather traditional take on vintage Swedish hardcore full of Totalitär riffing and nods to Disarm, Dischange were an early full-on dischargy band. They later changed their name to Meanwhile (yet another Discharge reference) and went on recording D-Beat records until 2008. Their present song "Visions of horror" is about... war!    


Next is a band whose name I haven't ever pronounced properly as I can't help saying "State of Fear" instead of "Taste of Fear". My life is such a bore, I know... I am not that familiar with Taste of Fear and if they hadn't had a split Ep with Disrupt, I would probably be even less so. They were from New York and were notorious for having blokes who played in Citizens Arrest and Born Against in it. Be warned that TOF doesn't sound at like these aforementioned cult hardcore bands as we are in deep death-metal infused crusty grindcore territory here. I know it can sound a little scary but it is actually pretty good shit indeed (let's take Destroy!'s advice from earlier on) and it reminds a little of what Genital Deformities used to do at the time, heavy and groovy grinding metal with gruff vocals and blast beats. They don't fall in the "let's get super technical" trap which is definitely a plus as well. 

We are back to Japan for the following track with the mighty Gloom from Osaka. A top name for a top band that was possibly the best noisepunk combo of the 90's and provided a brilliant fusion of Japan's noise-loving heritage and savage crust. They formed in 1989 and released a couple of influential tapes and Ep's throughout the decade, most notably the "Speed noise hardcore rags" Ep in 1994 the "Noise for moblish" tape and "Recomendation of Perdition" Ep in 1997. I would argue that they played an important role in keeping that punk subgenre alive and must have been very influential on bands like Atrocious Madness or Lebenden Toten (both musically and visually), although they never seemed to be that famous among the noisepunk trendies of the 2010's. Go figure... Gloom played distorted crusty noisepunk (or noisy crust punk depending on the time of the month) and were a good synthesis of Confuse, Chaos UK and Extreme Noise Terror. The bass sound is massive and super distorted, the beat is fast, you've got your traditional drum rolls as well, the guitar sound is crunchy but not overblown with distortion (yet, that will come a bit later in time). The band released their records on MCR Company and on a young local label called Crust War that would become a reference for crusty and noisy Japanese punk-rock and whose owner Jacky will end up playing in Gloom as well. After the band's split, Habi, Taki and Jhonio carried on in Defector while Jacky formed the amazingly intense Framtid.          


Next is one song from Dropdead, who don't really need an introduction I suppose. Dropdead belongs to that rare breed of bands that everyone seem to at least like. I have never met someone who hates Dropdead's music. Their hardcore base is strong enough to please the old-school US hardcore fans, they are fast enough for the grindcore freaks, groovy enough to appeal to crusties, political enough to interest the anarchos and you can tell that they have been influenced by so much international hardcore that everyone finds him or herself at home with Dropdead, and that is not so common. The song "The circle complete" (about changing one's self) was recorded in late 1992 so it is still pretty much early Dropdead on "Crust and Anguished Life", they became tighter and more ferocious afterwards (though I almost regret the sloppiness of their childhood, but that's me, I'm a romantic). And if you have never heard Dropdead, just imagine a sped-up Royal Rumble including Siege, Raw Power, Totalitär and Ripcord.    

The last song on the compilation is by Concrete Sox, a band that has become a regular customer at Terminal Sound Nuisance. I feel it makes a lot of sense to end this fantastic record with a band that belonged to the first generation of UK crust. Granted, CS can be seen as more of an hybrid of thrash-metal and hardcore punk, especially in their first years, but then, they were still snotty, groovy and punky enough (in the particular British sense of the word) to meet crust specifications in terms of attitude and music. This is the early 90's line-up of the Sox with a returning Sean on vocals and a new guitarist, Mark, who would later play in Poundaflesh. Their song "Speak Japanese or die!" is a re-recording of an old song, "Speak Siberian or die!" which appeared on their 1987 split Lp with Heresy. This song was a piss-take out of Billy Milano who apparently couldn't stand hardcore bands that didn't sing in English (how greatly this sad man has missed throughout the past 35 years... what a shame). It is also a reference to the Japanese tour that Concrete Sox had undertaken one year prior to the release of the compilation and, it is not even their first appearance on an MCR record since the label had released their split with Nightmare. Musically,  it is solid Sox through and through with a heavy and crunchy sound, great riffing, snotty and yet guttural vocals and a hardcore energy, just the way I love my metal-punk. 


To wrap it up, I must say that the message behind "Crust and Anguished" remains shrouded in mystery to me... Why "Are you really hungry!?"... Did they mean "angry"? It might make sense since the slogan of the comp seems to be "Anger no more". Or is it a pro-vegetarian statement? Sounds like a reasonable explanation. But then, why a zombie-looking bloke with his head seemingly cut-off? Or is it about consumerism? The fact that we always want more, buy more, eat more? This last interpretation could be the right one as the next page states "Every mankind have a lot of worldely desiers. Can you cut off your fukkin worldly desiers?" I know, I know, no need to take the piss, it is broken English but the meaning is not lost (we are only at level 5 on the Shikabane scale of "lost-in-translationness"). However, the last sentence is slightly... confusing! It goes "Punk is spilitual musik!!" Well... I doubt the experience of a full album of distortion, gruff vocals and pummeling beats would feel too spiritual to most people! Does it mean that punk is something more than buying, downloading, collecting and looking the look? I believe it does and I can't agree more. It sounds like a cheesy message but is it really, in 2015?