Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Grind the Enemy / Discarded "S/t" split tape, 2011

It does not take a genius to guess - at least superficially - the main respective influence of Grind the Enemy and Discarded: Axegrinder and Discard. But merely pointing out the obvious would make for a pretty shitty review, wouldn't it? And would it make the bands appealing to someone who has never heard of them, which, I assume is the vast majority of world's population? If anything it would be a disservice to both bands.

GTE and Discarded were local London bands, active in the late 00's and early 10's. These were the years of the Scum Fest collective, great squats and brilliant gigs. London is probably one of the most cosmopolitan towns in Europe, along with Barcelona and Berlin, home to dozens of punks from all over the world. These two bands are to be seen in that blooming internationalist context that is the London DIY punk scene. I got to see them both at the 2010 Scum Fest (I think). I had never heard of any of them prior to the festival but I remember getting a GTE shirt before I actually saw them. A band with an Axegrinder song for a name? You could count me in. To be honest, GTE's live performance was pretty sloppy as they played quite late and appeared to be as drunk as the audience, but that didn't make them any less enjoyable to me anyway. Discarded, on the other hand, had played a very energetic set earlier in the night. None of them had any demos to sell though so I made a mental note to my cider-fueled self (because that is what I do when in England): "I'll definitely get something from 'em at some point". And what could be possibly more relevant than a self-released GTE/Discarded split demo tape?

GTE was a band made up of four Italian punks living in London. Gianluca, from Nailbiter and Give Up All Hope, played the drum for them but I have been unable to confirm if the other members had been in bands previously. As you are entitled to expect, GTE played heavy metallic crust, or stenchcore if you will. By the time they recorded the tape ("in 2009/2010"), the so-called stenchcore revival of the mid/late 00's was breathless and the next generation of bands having a go at this subgenre was not quite there yet. I usually have troubles relating to the newest "stenchcore" bands as they tend to demonstrate too much cheap Bolt Thrower-worship or death/black metal leanings and essentially lack of the distinctive filthy groove and tension that characterize crust (or at least are meant to). Fortunately, GTE don't fall to the usual horrific shortcomings: no "blackened crust", no over-the-top Bolt Thrower wanking, just simple, sloppy but groovy, mid-tempo old-school crust, with the odd fast parts. They did not reinvent the wheel, the songs are a bit rough, but then they are much more enjoyable and genuinely crust-sounding than most today, and there are days when that is all I am asking for.

There are six songs on the GTE side, including a gloomy, typically crusty introduction. The songwriting is quite simple and effective as the emphasis is put on filthy grooviness and dark atmosphere rather than crushing power or musical extremity. In terms of influence, I am reminded of early Axegrinder, late Antisect, late Nausea, Coitus but also of Effigy or Revölt from Japan, and even Contagium's mid-paced moments (but sloppier). The guitar riffs are quite basic in their conception but are used very smartly, the way it should be done; the bass is distorted and gives a nice crunchy texture to the whole, not unlike Misery or Coitus; the drumming is a little all over the place but not in a distracting way (let's call it "added squat crustiness") and works well because you can tell that the drummer knows his shit despite apparent technical limitations; finally, the vocals are just what they should be, raucous, a little gruff but not overdone with some reverb (maybe a little too much) which gives an adequate old-school vibe. It would be hyperbolic to say that GTE were a great band, but their take on crust was accurate, you can tell that they really got it and, all in all, this is exactly the kind of bands I am craving for when I want to listen to recent, proper crust music.

The songs were recorded at the Deathdrop squat (the singer lived there apparently) and mixed at the Clifton Mansion squat, which accounts for the raw production (but to be fair, I'd rather have a raw DIY punk production than an overproduced all-out metal one). The artwork of the orc was done by Stiv of War (who else?) and while the lyrics aren't included, song titles such as "Don't laugh at work" or "Your power, my disgust" can give an idea of what the band was about. "Don't be fooled, don't be dragged along, don't be enslaved... Grind the enemy". Squat crust indeed.

On the b-side are Discarded, a Scandi-flavoured hardcore-punk band. The band also had Gianluca in its ranks, this time on the guitar (a spot where he truly shines), as well as Alex, who now sings for Agnosy, on the bass, the rest of the line-up being completed by two Brazilian punks. I am aware that there are hundreds of bands throughout the world doing the "Swedish Raw Punk" thing (or whatever it is called this week) and it is not a genre that I listen to that much at home or that I am especially familiar with. This said, Discarded did it pretty well, certainly better than most of the newer bands that I have come across in the past five years.

Since this is a demo recording, recorded in a squat no less, the production is probably not as refined as the new trend requires but I don't feel there was that much calculation on the band's part in terms of sound anyway. Although they were called "Discarded", the band was much closer to late 80's/early 90's Anti-Cimex with a slight Besthöven touch. Greatly helped by brilliant guitar leads (the Nailbiter connection makes a lot of sense here) and vocals shouted lovingly at the Swedes, the ten Discarded songs will delight everyone obsessed with Anti-Cimex (and I am guessing that's a lot of us).

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