Thursday, 28 January 2016

Bellicose pessimism and the melancholy of Ελληνική πανκ (Part 5): Πανδημία "Mοντέρνα Πανούκλα" Lp, 2013



The last chapter of the Terminal Sound Nuisance Greek epics will deal with the the record that actually inspired it: Πανδημία's "Mοντέρνα Πανούκλα" Lp. It would be an understatement to say that it took everyone by surprise when it came out two years ago and that absolutely no one, apart from the local punks in Athens probably, saw it coming. In fact, no one even knew about the band until the album was released and, if it were not for its high quality, it would have been met with the same indifference that so many younger, "smaller" bands from lesser-known scenes experienced. In this day and age when so many records are released everywhere, we often tend to focus on familiar punk scenes that we feel deliver good, if predictable, punk-rock (say Portland, Malmö, Bristol or wherever you placed your trust) and dismiss the others. And a certain lack of curiosity doesn't explain everything, it is ironically also very hard and overwhelming to keep track of what is going on punk-wise. Despite means of communication that have never been so efficient, it sometimes feels like we are lost in an unreadable world of unfamiliar bands. Pandemia, like Arxi Tou Telou, were rightfully noticed because of the quality of their composition and certainly not because of any "ex-members" connection, unless you were really into Kalazaar or Räjähtää to begin with (again, things are different if you are local to Athens).



This work is very different from the previous four I posted and how could it not be? While Genia Tou Xaous, Gulag, Arnakia and Xaotiki Diastasi were essentially rooted in the early Greek punk scene (even though some of them reached their peak well into the 90's), Pandemia is decidedly a modern band, whose intent was not to rehash the classic Greek dark punk sound and go for all-out Ex-Humans or GTX worship. Given the context of the band's creation (they formed in 2008 but only recorded in 2013), I would argue that they were driven by the "postpunk" revival of the early 2010's, but not in the sense that they wanted to emulate sonically a trend that quickly, and sadly, became formulaic. Beside ripping off Skeletal Family, Vex and X-Mal Deutschland, the latest "postpunk" trend put an emphasis on moodiness and melancholy using bass-driven punk-rock and dark guitar leads, and although most of the recent postpunk bands didn't look to Greece for influence, Pandemia may have seen this as a chance to modernize and rebuild upon the old Greek dark punk sound by infusing it with a whole new bunch of influences. Or they just wanted to play dark punk music and went for it. The truth is probably somewhere between both.



The most striking difference with the classic Greek punk sound is the thickness. "Mοντέρνα Πανούκλα"'s sound is heavy, almost oppressive, but not in a sludgy way, it feels more like an explosion of restrained frustration than an attempt to crush the listener. The guitar is far more present than on earlier Greek punk records as well and its sound more upfront. Some more or less well-meaning friends of mine (who shall remain nameless) argued that the sound texture of the guitar melodies reminded them of neocrust, and while I sensed some dismissal in such comments, they are not irrelevant as there is definitely an Ekkaia vibe to the guitar (not a bad thing as they were excellent at writing gloomy melancholy guitar tunes). Even in terms of the overall production (and indeed of aesthetics), the comparison holds to some extent as there is a relentless intensity that is not dissimilar to the early/mid-00's crusty hardcore sound. However, the songwriting itself is firmly ensconced in anthemic mid-tempo punk-rock and, seen in that light, Pandemia's Lp is clearly a new fascinating chapter in the Greek dark punk sound.



The Lp is suffused with catchy bass lines that, albeit a tad overshadowed by the potent guitar leads, progressively make more sense listen after listen. The vocals are aggressive, almost threatening and raspy but they still convey a similar sense of fighting despair, of anger in the face of alienation. Like with all the others classic Greek punk records, the moods are pretty diverse on this Lp and the music is always a tool to express them (and not the other way around and that is a crucial point in the songwriting). From open doom and gloom, to frustration, melancholy, outrage, hope, foreboding, urgency... "Mοντέρνα Πανούκλα" aptly reflects them all while remaining a cohesive unit. Musically, I would argue that the production makes it sound angrier and more raging than the other records of the series (not unlike Adiexodo perhaps), but it would be relevant to point out that the particular political context in Greece at the time of the recording certainly incited the band to go for a more tense atmosphere. Modern sounds for modern times. All the elements that characterize the classic Greek dark sound can be found in Pandemia's Lp (the smart lines on the bass, the guitar leads, the variety of drum beats, the desperate yet beautiful vocals...) but they have been updated, so to speak, so that it really feels like the band was not paying a tribute to the older generations (strictly speaking, it is not a referential Lp at all) but rather, used the essence of the 80's sound, recreated its shapes and made it genuinely relevant again. This is a rich Lp that can appeal to many. It brings to mind old anarcho bands like The System, Stalag 17 or Virus, late Peni, acts like Part1 or Nerorgasmo, but also brooding, modern dark hardcore bands, and even No Hope for the Kids.

                                


In true DIY fashion, "Mοντέρνα Πανούκλα" was the result of a collaboration between six record labels, the excellent Scarecrow records, Scull Crasher records, Eye5 records, Punk.gr and We don't fight it records from Greece, as well as Imminent Destruction records from the UK. Pandemia unfortunately split up but their follow-up, the split Lp with fellow dark punks Era of Fear, from Xanthi, is also worthwhile and probably closer to the classic Greek sound with a distinct emotionnal influence (I never thought I'd be writing this, but there you go).


   

Pandemia             

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for all this wonderful Greek punk. I wasn't familiar with any of it, and I'm enjoying it a lot. The Pandemia album was recommended a few times, but this is the first I'm hearing it. Best to you.

    *FYI - the bandcamp download of this Pandemia is lossy. They probably uploaded MP3s as master files, so even the wav and FLACs are lossy.

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    1. Thanks a lot for the kind words. It was a lot of work to be honest, but I love Greek punk to death so it was worthwhile anyway.

      The rip is from my own record by the way hence the few scratches...

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  2. I'm always looking for recommendations and leads for anything that brings Bad Influence to mind. I've dug through your blog here, but if you know of others, please mention or share them. A tall order, I know. Some of the tones and melodicness of your Greek shares have me thinking of this. Thanks again. -ZM

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    1. That's a really tough request. I have been thinking about it. I have got a feeling that you could find some bands with a similar feel to Bad Influence in the Balkans and in Poland, although it would be utterly unintended.
      Muckspreader also comes to mind to some extent but I am sure you already know that. The 1984 Antisect live that I posted is actually pretty close to Bad Influence actually as well, you should give it a listen if you haven't already.

      I'll keep thinking and hopefully something more specific will come out.

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  3. Sorry, if I misunderstand you but for me this thread about Greek bands sounds a lot like if Greek bands would just put their lyrics on English/American bands stuff...
    It's difficult to tell any influence on bands sound if you don't ask them - I know so many musicians that don't know so many other bands and this is also a good way to create your own band sound - and I guess it's too simple to explain the sound with so many bands from outside of Greece. On the other hand there is also influence from German bands (may be) as in Germany were living 500.000 Greeks, NDW (German Wave) influences are strong in ANTI, CLOWN aso and many punx loved SLIME but if you wanna understand all the real influences you have to dig deeper and buy lots of Wipe-Out and Lazy Dog stuff to understand. Because Greece gots also a lot of cool just Rock, Indy and (funky) crossover bands - there was also a boom with Virgin Records Greece in the 90ies - lots of bands you would never get into if they would sing in English but in Greek they sounds great and most of the Greek post-punk is influenced by itself; I think also the impact of lyrics is very important, be it Greece or Italy (as you mentioned nerorgasmo check out pioggia nera and havoc btw, find it on punk4free.com) as most of it gets presented in a true punk and hardcore way so that the listener can understand without "read my lyrics"-bullshit.
    to find more cool Greek bands look here, most links are dead but the rewiews will help youhttp://seidis.blogspot.de/

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    1. Hey there,

      I am sorry to see that my reviews upset you but I think there may be a misunderstanding here and perhaps my writing didn't make it clear enough.

      The point of my Greek series was never to imply that these bands sounded like US or UK bands or even that they were directly influenced by them. As you said, I actually do not know. I am sometimes reminded of other bands when I listen to Pandemia for instance but I have no idea whether they were influenced by them. I am just trying to describe the music with my own musical references and I am aware that sometimes comparisons are irrelevant, and while I tried not to use too much of them, maybe it could give the impression that the bands intended to sound like others.

      The whole point of the writings was precisely to show that the Greek sound was specific, unique and had its own identity. That is why I tried to focus on the moods, textures and feelings of the music. But remember that I am an outsider to Greek punk, I absolutely love it, but I am certainly lacking in background information. Where I live, people either don't know or care about this scene, so it was a solitary work and my own perspective on these bands. I did listen to the whole Wipeout and Lazy Dog catalogues though and I concluded that there was such a thing as a distinct, insular "Greek punk sound" that is neither derivative or generic. So the purpose of the articles was to put en emphasis on that aspect. I hope I conveyed it correctly.

      Thank you for your comment. I will take constructive criticism over indifference any day.

      Cheers

      Romain

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