Thursday, 29 October 2015

Disrupt / Destroy! "S/t" split Ep, 1991

To open solemnly my grand ode to 90's CRUST, I chose to pick a real classic record that features two well-known bands: Disrupt and Destroy!. Besides, it made sense to pick the most emblematic format of the decade in the shape of the split Ep. Not only did the 90's really validate the relevance of this format that has been so common in the magic world of punk-rock ever since, but there is nothing quite as exhilarating as a solid, meaningful cooperation between two great bands. Successful split Ep's usually make you crave for more and, if one of the bands is not as established, they are a great way to get one familiar with it. And let's face it, they are the perfect format for crust punk bands as they can cram three or four songs on each side and yet can't sound (too?) redundant as one side only lasts about 6 minutes. It is of course a very different story when a full album has to be written...

But back to our lovable Ep. Along with Nausea and Misery, Disrupt and Destroy! were the first American crust bands I got to know and love. I remember getting the Destroy! discography cd pretty much when it came out and I was able to borrow from a friend this shitty-looking bootleg Disrupt cd that claimed to be a "discography" whereas it was missing "Unrest" (as a result of that, I wasn't even aware of the album until a good few years later...). Back then, I was able to listen to these two 80-minutes cd's back to back without tiring, although, to be fair, I am not sure I really got what was going on when I did.

Disrupt is probably one of the most famous crust bands ever. Partly because their "Unrest" Lp was released on Relapse Records at a time when it was becoming a big metal label, thus drawing a semi-mainstream metal audience, so I assume that if you were into metal before getting into punk, you'd have bumped into Disrupt through the Relapse connection. In my case, what really got me into the band was the fact that they once did a split Ep with Resist (that's what the nasty cd backcover said anyway), a band I was really into, so while I had no idea that Disrupt were a classic crust band, I knew that they were somehow tied to the anarchopunk scene at the same time as Resist (though they did strike me as being far more brutal than the Portlanders...). And they covered Conflict, that I knew!

Disrupt formed in 1987 in Lynn, Massachusetts, not far from Boston. Their early days seemed to have been marked by the infamous Oi Polloi curse: ever-changing line-up changes. In fact, the constant flux of members started even before they recorded a proper demo! I guess Pete and Jay, the two singers and sole members who stayed all the way through, must have had an undeterred motivation, an unshakable belief in their band to be able to pull it. Either that or all their mates took turn playing in the band... In 1988, they recorded their first demo, "Millions die for moneymaking", probably after spending two weeks listening exclusively to Extreme Noise Terror and Napalm Death tapes. I know many dislike this demo because of its rather poor sound (and I am being polite here). To me, it epitomizes the phrase "sloppy crust" in a magnificent manner: it is (very) rough and ready, energetic, gruffy and the vocals are completely all over the place, too loud and excessive. I can definitely picture a bunch of 16-year old in a basement doing gratuitous growls and yells.

Another 5-songs demo (with other members) was recorded the next year in 1989. It solidified the band's style and was released as a self-titled Ep in 1990 on Crust Records, a label that had put out its first record the previous with Apocalypse's "Earth" and would later release materials from Dropdead, Disclose or Wartorn. Following more internal musical chairs, the band recorded an eleven-songs session in early 1991 that would appear on the "Refuse planet" Ep on Relapse Records (back when the label was still in its infancy) and on the split Ep with Destroy!. The line-up eventually stabilized from mid-1991 until the band's demise in late 1993 and were quite prolific during that time with no less than five split Ep's, one full Ep, one live Ep, one split Lp and their earth-shattering album.

This glorious tag-team Ep showed Disrupt at the peak of their early game. It was not the groovier, relentless "Unrest" Disrupt yet, but it was probably the band at its gruffy best, meaning that it was still the old neanderthal crustcore style but this time you could actually hear everything. I feel that the departure of the original drummer, Harry, after this recording session marked a shift in the band's sound. His replacement, Randy, was probably more gifted and had a more focused way of playing, while Harry's had more of an "all-out 1-2-1-2 fast crusty hardcore attack" drumming technique. Arguably, they became a better band afterwards and more importantly, their evolution reflected the shift from 80's crust to 90's crust. One could see this split with Destroy! as an 80's record in terms of sound and direction. But from 1992 on, Disrupt really embodied what would become the iconic (well, iconic to me anyway) 90's crust genre that Jay would go on practicing with State of Fear (with a distinct Swedish twist) or Decrepit (in a dogfight mood) after the demise of Disrupt in the second half of the 90's.

Apparently, Namland were meant to be featured on this split... How crusty can you get?

As usual with Disrupt, the lyrics are angry and political: "Pigs suck" is a seriously pissed anti-police song; "Smash divisions" is about uniting to fight the system; and "Eat shit" is about McDonald's filthy marketing that tries to hide the treatment of animals and the environmental damage that the production of their "food" entails.

Before I tackle Destroy!, I actually have a funny Disrupt-related anecdote to tell. It took place at a rather poorly-attended Victims' gig in Paris maybe 10 years ago. For some reason, the audience had few punks but several metalheads, apparently heavily into "brutal death-metal" or "horrific goregrind" or whatever, were in attendance (I think the fact that Victims' guitar player was also in Nasum may have had something to do with this). But anyway, during Victims' set, the aforementioned real men started to "dance" (well crash into people really) in a very violent fashion. A female friend of mine proceeded to tell them to fuck off and act reasonably. Obviously this didn't go down too well and one of them, a huge bloke with a shaved head, started to threaten us physically saying that grindcore was not a style fit for gay crusties like us (our music-lover didn't seem to realize that Victims were far from grindcore but here you go...) and that being violent was the only way to enjoy it and that he would be waiting for us faggots with his mates outside. Which he actually did but we had run off by then. The funny thing? Well, he was wearing a Disrupt shirt. Being called a crusty fag by someone sporting one of the most well-known crust bands ever is indeed priceless...

But back to our record. Destroy! were another classic American crust band from the 90's although I am not sure the newer generations are really familiar with their work. I guess they have become more of a name people are more or less acquainted with, but then this could be said about 90's crust in general I presume. They formed in Minneapolis in 1988 and carried on until 1994. Like Disrupt, Destroy! underwent quite a few line-up changes during their lifetime which may account for the diversity of their material (relatively speaking of course, they didn't go emo or anything). You will find, in this order, vintage gruffy crust punk (on the "Total fucking chaos" Ep), some all-out grinding death-metal numbers as well (on the "Burn this racist system down" Ep), but also a full Lp of raw, Japanese and Swedish-influenced hardcore punk (on "Necropolis"). Not necessarily the most common or logical of evolution as bands generally start punky and end up metal (not always for the best actually).

The name "Destroy!" referred to both GISM and the Sex Pistols and personally, I am still struggling to decide if it is terrific name or a terrible one... Well, one thing is certain though, I absolutely love to have a record with "Disrupt" and "Destroy!" on the cover. It might sound cheesy (ok, let's say it does) but it has this punk as fuck straightforward spirit that is so enjoyable. The three songs on this split Ep were recorded during the same recording session as Destroy!'s first Ep, in June of 1990. The sound is certainly raw but it has crunch and it is thick enough. While Disrupt sounded a lot like the fastest brand of early UK crust like Extreme Noise Terror or Napalm Death, Destroy! were not as fast and frantic but had more weight. The British influence is pretty obvious too, it brings to mind Doom, early ENT or mid/late-80's Chaos UK, but also Swedish and US hardcore and early grindcore. Overall, the sound is bass-driven and distorted, the vocals are guttural and aggressive but not overblown, it feels sloppy but with enough focus so that you can hear that some thoughts have actually been put into the song-writing (some of the breaks attest to that). My only complaint would be the vaguely death-metal riff on "Stop thinking and follow" that doesn't really serve the song. If the two sides of the Extreme Noise Terror split with Chaos UK would fuse together in a metal container, you would get something really to Destroy! on that split.

Also in 1991, the band had their "Total fucking chaos" Ep out on the young Relapse Records, an Ep that is probably their crustiest (in the most orthodox sense of the term) and my favourite from the band. In 1992 they released the manic "Burn this racist system down" Ep on Havoc Records, which was the label of Felix, Destroy!'s singer, which would go on to become one of the most important American DIY punk label. The band's two last records were actually posthumous, the "Necropolis" Lp in 1994 that saw the band in full mid-80's hardcore mode (something like Varukers-meet-Crude SS-meet-Raw Power in Japan) and a split Ep with Disturb from Japan in 1995. Following Destroy!, Felix went on to sing in Code-13, Nate played in Brainoil and the mighty Stormcrow and Mitch drummed for the underrated Servitude. Lyrically, Destroy! were an angry bunch but knew how to take time to make their ideas clear and deconstruct some oppressive mechanisms. "Stop thinking and follow" is about mob mentality, conformism and lust for power. And about skinheads as I understand it. "Obedience/Defiance" are two songs blended into one and is about what it says on the cover. Finally "Yuppie beware" is about resisting gentrification, a statement that has never been as valid as it is today.

This piece of crust history was released on two short-lived labels, Break the Chains, that only did this record, and Adversity Records, a zine originally, that put out just one other Ep from Deformed Conscience. Disrupt's side has been reissued by Relapse on their "The rest" cd while Destroy!'s is available on the band's discography cd which should still be available.



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