Monday, 25 January 2016

Bellicose pessimism and the melancholy of Ελληνική πανκ (part 4): Χαοτική Διάσταση "Πολίτες Της Κόλασης" Ep, 1993

This Ep is particularly significant to me for two reasons.

First, it reasserts the relevance of good music blogs. I first heard it through Music Not Noize, a blog that I really enjoy for its editorial choices (a bit of a solemn expression in the context of a punk blog, but you get the gist) and for the fact that it focuses on the tuneful side of punk songwriting, while countless other music blogs only, and lazily sometimes, deal in "crust to death" music. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, but I feel like we sometimes show ourselves as one-trick ponies, while punk has a lot more to offer. So thank you Music Not Noize.

Second, Χαοτική Διάσταση's "Πολίτες Της Κόλασης" completely floored me. I just couldn't believe how brilliant the songs were when I first listened to them. A truly epiphanic moment, a rare thing to be cherished, not unlike the first time I saw a wrestling match on telly as a kid. I instantly knew I wanted to become a wrestler. Of course, things didn't exactly go as planned and 25 years later, being a skinny chain-smoking bloke, I realize I might never become a wrestler at all. I am still thinking of embracing a career as a referee though.

Xaotiki Diastasi (meaning Chaotic Dimension) were from Patra, in northern Peloponnese, not a small town by any means, but one where the punk scene was certainly not as developed as in Athens or Thessaloniki. Xaotiki Diastasi's story is not so dissimilar to Arnakia's when you think about it. XD also formed in the 80's, in 1986, but knew an incredibly long period of silence, as they stopped playing between 1988 and 1992, when they reformed. Although they played a few gigs during their 80's life, in Athens notably, there is no recorded trace of it and they first entered a recording studio when the trio rose back from the dead in 1992 to create the "Χρόνια Σιωπής" (meaning "Years of silence") demo tape. Although thinly produced, XD's first endeavour into the studio highlighted the band's unmistakable songwriting skills and their almost organic sense of a good tune. Perhaps like Arnakia, the fact that they experienced first hand the mid/late 80's Greek punk scene, but didn't actually record until a good few years afterwards, influenced the way they composed their songs. They feel rather mature and thought through, as if XD had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve, not so much the products of a young band but more the result of a reflexive process about their 80's influences (there is a great cover of Ex-Humans on the tape).

And it is not even a shaky conjecture to say that "Χρόνια Σιωπής" was well-received at the time. When Xaotiki Diastasi recorded their first Ep the following year in 1993, it was produced by none other than Dimitri from the iconic Panx Romana. The "Πολίτες Της Κόλασης" Ep ("Citizens of hell") had four songs, two of which already appeared on the demo, and was infinitely better-recorded than their previous work which really showed how genuinely good XD were. On this Ep the composition is not as melancholy as the previous records of the series as it has an almost somber uplifting quality that could be explained by the presence of the Panx Romana fellow behind the desk (he also produced their 1996 Lp but by that time, I think the band purposefully went for a darker martial sound texture). It is certainly not joyful though, but it has that early punk-rock feel that emphasizes the idea of moody, edgy frustration and disillusionment more than it portrays antagonistic despair. There is an accurate sense of urgency in Xaotiki Diastasi's Ep that reminds me of Genia Tou Xaous and Panx Romana's first Lp's (although the two contemporary bands picked very different aesthetic paths).

Musically, "Πολίτες Της Κόλασης" is a genuine accomplishment that summarizes everything that is great about Greek punk. Deceptively simple and incredibly catchy songs that demonstrate how punk-rock energy can blend seamlessly with new wave tunes. Of course, bands like Ex-Humans or Gulag come to mind, but it also summons up Chron Gen at their moody best, the beautiful bitterness of Polish punk-rock and the energy of 80's Yugoslavian bands. The four songs on the Ep exemplify the effectiveness of smart variations of mid-tempo punk music, from Crass-like beats, dry postpunk rhythm to 77-styled pattern, they are all integrated into the band's sound. As usual for the genre, the music is really bass-driven with catchy dark guitar leads dressing the whole and the vocal are mostly sung, with that sort of tuneful spontaneity that cannot fail to hook the listener.

I am aware that most people rate the "Δεν Περιμένω" ("I am waiting") Lp higher than this Ep and indeed, it can be seen as a stronger work with a better, heavier production stressing deeply the melancholy side of Xaotiki Diastasi. I personally enjoy both an awful lot and you cannot really beat the punk quality of the Ep, although it is arguably not as refined as the album. As I understand it, the lyrics are suitably angry and pessimistic, of a political nature, with a song about heroin (not an uncommon theme I am afraid for Greek punk bands at the time). Both Ep and Lp were released on the prominent Wipeout Records and hopefully, some kind soul will reissue them at some point.

My copy of the Ep has seen better days, truth be told, so there is one scratch on the first song and the side B has surface noise... Well, punk innit?

Xaotiki Diastasi        


  1. I LOVE THESE GREEK POSTS!!! A time & place that i am unfamiliar with!!