After two rather glorious walks along vintage 80's punk lane, I realized it was high time I ranted a bit about a recent band. Punky goodness can be found in any time or place and if I do have my own strong obsessions, I am also a curious geezer who likes to be taken by surprise. And let me tell you that Dažd (which translates as "rain") totally took me by storm the first time I heard that wonderful album.
The last decade or so had its fair share of classic crust albums. And although it is sometimes difficult to assess the real worth of an Lp when it comes out, now that a few years have passed since Hellshock made the so-called stenchcore subgenre glamorous again, it is obvious that there were some rather average, if lovable (to me anyway), crust bands and some genuinely great works as well. Dažd fell in the second category for one major reason: they were effortlessly original. Although they clearly aimed at incorporating a lot of different influences into their music, it is neither original for the sake of originality, as each addition actually brings something to the music, nor does it have that annoying patchwork feel that bands claiming to blend genres tend to have. Dažd's music feels like a whole, it is fluid yet multifaceted.
The band apparently defined their own music as"Balkan black (anarcho) occult crust post punk". Now I must admit that this sort of annoucements usually scares me. But in this case, this definition is actually relevant. For obvious reasons, Dažd's sound is difficult to pinpoint. It is an organic, thick, substance made of old-school black metal, sludge, doom metal, old crust and metal punk. But despite the extreme metal influences, the music is not as much brutal as it is always heavy. Rather than goat sacrifices and face paints, the music is more like a potion, one that you would be made to drink during a pagan ceremony so that you fall into a trance. If you had a dinner party with an occult metal theme and your guests were filthy crusties, well, that Dažd Lp would be the main course. The music has a ritual, incantation feel to it and range from fast pummeling parts owing as much to Anti-Cimex as to Bathory, to crusty mid-tempo beats reminiscent of Deviated Instinct and Skaven, to slow and heavy sludgy, doomy moments, to dark feral rhythms lifted from Amebixes' Spiderleg era. The vocals may take some time adjusting to if you are not familiar with the band. They have been compared to GISM's which makes some sense since the singer sounds like he is on the verge of insanity, but I would argue that this is a different kind of insanity, one that has to do with the occult, with wilderness, if not with wizardry (close to Skaven's singer doing doom metal maybe?). If the music is quite dark, it is certainly not cold. There is a magical bonfire at the centre of this Lp warming the hearts and the studded jackets of the audience.
The aesthetics of the album are a perfect complement to the music, the visual side of the Dažd experience. The artwork was done by one dude called Jason Barnett and it is just stunning: creepy, slightly disturbing drawings that give a sense of the occult and of magics without falling in the cheesy gore trap (and thanks fuck for that). The lyrics in Serbian use esoteric references and deal with the end of the world, suffering, war, pain, human misery and cute kittens. And for those like me who are wary of pagan metal bands because of possible connections with right-wing politics, you are in safe waters with Dažd as they support anarcho-paganism (I am not too sure what it entails but if it involves listening to Scatha and Iowaska, you can count me in, but only if I can keep my clothes on) and take a stand against fascists. As it says on the inner sleeve "Anarchy/Peace/Chaos/Magic".
This Lp was released in 2009 (but recorded in 2007) and followed two split Ep's released in 2008, one with fellow Serbians Nakot (on the great Doomed to Extinction Records that later released records by Instinct of Survival and Contagium) and one with Order of the Vulture, a band not so dissimilar to Dažd, although they are more generic. Three labels were responsible for this beauty: Fuck Yoga records from Macedonia, pretty much a grindcore label though it also released some Depressor as well as old-school Colombian hardcore bands like Ataque de Sonido and Herpes; Gasmask Records from Czech Republic that was also involved with the records of the amazing Fatum from Russia; and Kill the Man Who Questions. I am not exactly an expert in the Balkan punk scene, but as far as I can tell, I would situate Dažd in the same wave as bands like Nakot (whose singer was the person behind Doomsday Graphics), Dishumanity, Anaeroba from nearby Slovenia or even Nulla Osta (even though they have been playing since 2002) that were around in the late 00's and succeeded to the mid/late 90's ex-Yugoslavian anarcho crusty wave that gave birth to bands like the brilliant Intoxicate, Brigade OD, Demant, Radikalna Promjena, Krvavi Mandat, Debeli Samuraj or Verbalni Delikt among others.
The Dažd Lp can still be found pretty easily (because of the infamous "had they been from Portland" paradigm) so I strongly recommend that you pick this unique 00's crusty metal punk album. I have always been more than a little dubious about so-called "blackened crust" because if often sounds like D-beat driven black metal and not like real crust and it's usually just not enough to catch my attention. However this lot are different and managed to create a largely unsung classic album without meaning to. And sometimes, this is the key.