Of course, the undeniable quality of "Στη Σιωπή Της Αιώνιας Θλίψης" meant that there had to be other Greek crust bands, because if there is one thing that I learnt rapidly about punk is that it never existed in a vacuum. So I started looking for more bands from Greece, asked "old punks" about it, read old fanzines, spent hours online searching for information (my quest coincided with the steady rise of file-sharing) and little by little I managed to get a full picture of an amazing scene that I tend to see as the passionate stronghold of good, inventive crust music that has its own strong identity (you can't possibly mistake Greek crust with anything else) and yet is inherently crusty. As I said in a former post, they just get it. And now is a good a time to write about it, as the past couple of years have witnessed some well-deserved renewed interest in that Greek crust sound as some classics are being reissued regularly and old bands are starting to play and record again.
Gosh... I really am terrible with a camera...
The years 87/89 appeared to have been dramatically pivotal ones for punk in Greece that saw the formation of such bands as Χαοτική Απειλή, Ναυτία, Ξεχασμένη Προφητεία, Ρήγμα, Χαοτικό Τέλος, Αρνητική Στάση, Βιομηχανική Αυτοκτονία... and of course of Πανικός, who started playing in 1988 in Thessaloniki. What is particularly amazing about this scene is that, while the bands shared common musical elements, none of them actually sounded alike and as they grew, each of them created its own identity but always kept that distinct vibe that set them apart from other scenes. These were bands that really wrote songs, even when they deceptively sounded simple, and I think Πανικός is a very relevant example of strong, innovative song-writing applied to the crust basics. Discogs characterized the band as being "lyrically angry anarchopunk, musically street punk with hardcore elements". Now, I know Discogs should not be read as the Revealed Word, but that is probably the shittiest description I have ever read about Πανικός. Come on, Discogs, get a grip! I don't disagree about the band's lyrical content, but really? "Street punk with hardcore elements"? You make Πανικός sound like The Unseen!
In the mid-90's, Πανικός were at the top of their game and listening to what they recorded between 1993 and 1998 gives one the impression that they could have achieved anything, that everything they touched turned into crusty gold. They were easily one of the very best crust bands of that time and I am not saying this lightly. The term "progressive crust" sounds a little ugly, as I am hardly one susceptible to be into prog-rock (although I am starting to wonder...), but in the noblest sense of the terms they can give you an idea. Πανικός did not start out as the creative monsters they would become though. Their 1990 demo, "Ο Πόλεμος Συνεχίζεται" was a raw and angry metal-punk recording that reminds me of the short-lived Χαοτική Απειλή (which makes sense since both bands shared the same guitar player), Ναυτία and Αντίδραση, and also, probably for its dark thrash elements, of Brazilian bands like Armagedom, RDP or Lobotomia. After this, the band evolved and turned into this old-school crust beast, blending heavy, mid-paced, crunchy metallic parts, fast and intense hardcore-punk bits and darkly atmospheric, progressive moments, that are almost psychedelic at times. On that level, in terms of intent, I suppose you could say that they could be compared to Bad Influence or, closer to home, to the magnificent Αρνητική Στάση, even though Πανικός always remained more amebixian than them. It is of course not a coincidence if each of these three bands had releases on Genet Records, from Belgium.
The split Lp with WWK was recorded in early 1996, almost three years after the recording session of the "Για Το Χρήμα" Ep, and I would argue that during that lapse of time, the band even further refined the progressive aspect (especially in the eerie, oriental guitar leads), but never lost sight of the crust backbone, which must have been a difficult task that required a focused vision and well thought-out songwriting. The four songs on the Πανικός side are breathtaking in their scope, their originality and their anchor. It sounds nothing like Counterblast's "Balance of pain" but it shares the same qualities. At this point the comparison challenge tends to be meaningless, because "καταστρέψει την αρρώστια" should speak for itself. Of course, I can hear some Amebix, Χαοτικό Τέλος, Dom Där or Misery in the masterful crust heaviness, some Antisect and Ξεχασμένη Προφητεία in the thick dark intensity, some Neurosis or Zygote in the gloomy progressive guitar work, but in the end Πανικός were never derivative and more than good and inventive enough to stand of their own solid feet, just like Greek crust. The production is not as heavy as on the Ep and clearer, but since the format gave the band more space to create a more sophisticated, accurate soundscape, I feel it works just fine. Aesthetically, Πανικός used and reworked pagan and traditional anarcho symbols, like on the Ep, and the drawings of planets and galaxies meaningfully conveyed the music's vibe. English translations are provided but some of the subtlety definitely got lost (how I wish I could read Greek...). The lyrics are angry metaphors about oppression, social fear and manipulation, resignation and resilience, but also about the necessity of hope and the connection with nature.
On the flip-side are WWK, from Westerwald. I must admit that I don't know much about them and that I bought the record for the Πανικός side. I doubt it was the same for the former owner though, as the WWK side has quite a few scratches and looks like it has been played to death, so I definitely apologize for the numerous skips (especially on "Nicht mit uns"...). WWK played metallic hardcore, pretty much in the crossover fashion, with a strong thrash-metal influence and a lot of changes in the songs. I guess it is well done for what it is, I can appreciate the fast and very pissed parts, but the genre is not really my cup of tea, unless you add a healthy dose of groovy crust to the blend like Acid Rain Dance. To be fair, the song "1 A Gemüse" is good, not unlike MVD meet Concrete Sox, so I suppose WWK were not bad at what they did (assuming you can hear it through the jumps and skips...) and this lot sounds very angry indeed. There must have been some strong connections between the Greek and German scenes in the 90's, since Ναυτία also had a split Lp with a German band, Graue Zellen, and that the last song of WWK ends with some traditional Greek music... This Πανικός / WWK split Lp was released on the Germans' own label, Vollalarm.