Friday, 27 May 2016

"Chaos of Destruction 2" 2xLp, 2000

Context is everything.

It always amazes me how the meaning of a same word can change throughout the years. In fact, 10 years is now more than enough to alter the implications of a particular term. It is not always for the worst actually as I am not one to mourn for any supposedly lost purity that never was in the first place. Sometimes, the meaning and the concept itself can be expanded meaningfully and tastefully, and 90's crust was a good example of such a phenomenon. On the other hand, the meaning can also be diluted into irrelevance and laziness, or it can become an awkward blueprint that focuses solely on the outcome and never on the actual creative process, dismissing the context that allowed both. So, what does one think about in 2016 when reading the adjective "raw" applied to "hardcore" (well "hard core" actually) on the cover of a new record? He or she will irremediably expect modern "raw punk", in other terms bands trying to recreate the direct and raw sound of 80's hardcore punk bands, usually through the addition of effects that will make the music purposefully dirty. Usually these newer bands know how to play and master what they are doing, "raw punk" is just another genre to play and "raw" one of its prerequisite. As a recent creation, "raw punk" retroactively includes bands as diverse as Wretched, Anti-Cimex or RIP precisely through the "raw" prism (a move that also speaks volume about the polished sound of "modern hardcore" that a lot of people listened to before). Of course, there always was punk music that was raw. But there wasn't always "raw punk".

All this to say that, even though "Chaos of destruction 2" does indeed claim to be a "raw hardcore compilation", it is very different from what we understand as "raw punk" nowadays. In the case of this compilation, "raw hardcore" is purely descriptive: the bands play hardcore punk music - in the broad sense of the term - and the sound is raw. Had it been released today, "raw hardcore" would have been indicative of a structured genre much more than of a sound and a way of playing punk. Words are tricky things.

"Chaos of Destruction 2" was co-released in 2000 by Dan-Doh Records, a Kochi-city-based hardcore label that has been delivering quality Japanese punk music for twenty years (Disclose, Insane Youth, AGE...) and Chaos of Destruction, a small label that was run by none other than Kawakami which makes this compilation very interesting (after all, he pioneered the concept of "D-beat raw punk"). Kawakami was the one who compiled and produced the two "Chaos of Destruction" compilations and as everyone knows, the geezer had a good ear for raw punk music so it is a safe bet to assume that they reflected his tastes and his vision of what "raw hardcore" meant. In our decade marked by very high levels of (often half-digested) referentiality, trend-following and calculated genericness, the relative diversity, the open-mindedness and the obvious passion and genuine love for punk that permeate the compilation is refreshing. Of course, we are in the realms of hard-hitting punk music so don't expect anything melodic here, but still, there is no denying that bands like Xaotiko Telos, Dios Hastio or Framtid sound very different from one another. "Chaos of Destruction 2" gathers hardcore bands with a raw sound, not "raw punk bands". And I like it. The compilation sounds unpretentious and it is a proper celebration of punk-rock. It doesn't try to look punk, it just is. Here is what Kawakami enthusiastically had to say about the making of "Chaos of Destruction 2": "All the bands are great. Although their sound style is same Crust/UK HC noise, there are some difference between each band's expression, so you will enjoy all of them."

While the first volume of "Chaos of Destruction" from 1997 only included Japanese bands (it was a freakish 3xLp compilation...), the second one is firmly rooted in the international punk scene, just like "Whispers" and "Iron Columns", which, in addition to its variety, gives it a real 90's DIY feel. It is obvious that Kawakami strongly believed in the internationalist nature of punk as the numerous splits Disclose did with foreign bands can attest. The object looks great, the punk as fuck cover was drawn by a Brazilian bloke while the backcover was done by Jacky Crust War. The cover is made up of a huge gatefold poster with artwork and lyrics from all the bands. There are some rather famous names here next to very obscure bands, united in an unabated and shameless true love for noisy and fast punk music. 22 bands for 45 songs.

- AGE: what could be better than open "Chaos of Destruction" with some proper CRUST? Nothing, of course. I absolutely love AGE's 90's records ("Inside darkness" and "Exploding insanity" are old favourites at the TSN headquarters) which rate as some of best crust music Japan has ever produced. "Insolent Japan" is an early AGE song recorded in 1997 and embodies everything that is good about proper crust: heavy, groovy and dirty. The song is deliciously metallic with a crunchy guitar sound and top bass lines, very reminiscent of Antisect, SDS and even Sacrilege. There is a deceptive, flowing simplicity in the songwriting that is often the sign of genuinely good crust. A band that will eventually be back here. Top shelf.

- Neurose Urbana: raw. This is raw. Very raw. Not in a calculated way, not as a fashion statement, no "let's press quickly our demo tape onto a limited Ep" bollocks. Neurose Urbana were a Brazilian duo playing 80's-flavoured hardcore punk influenced by the Brazilian and Swedish schools. I am aware that the term has become pretty meaningless but this is the real deal. Sloppy, brutal and pummeling fast punk music with super aggressive reverb vocals reminiscent of this raw Brazilian sound of bands like Ulster, SP Caos or Kaos 64. The three songs were recorded in early 1997 and the band also released three Ep's in the early 00's. "We are punx, chaotics and anti-fascist. We speak about punk, chaos and urban neurosis. Viva o punk, viva o chaos". Did I mention this was raw?

- Cluster Bomb Unit: an early song from 1994 by the mighty Cluster Bomb Unit that is here to remind you how to play energetic, fuzzy, distorted punk music. CBU's music certainly became more refined throughout the years but this song is just a wall of Scandi drum beats and Japanese-styled distortion captured through a cheap tape recorder. Absolutely brilliant.

- Hell On Earth: more sloppy and raw Scandinavian hardcore music, this time from Bratislava. The three songs have an urgent and direct feel that cannot be faked. They were recorded in 1997 "in 30 minutes high on weed, lyrix are in Slovak so don't try to singalong kids!". Sounds like a jam between Avskum and Shitlickers.

- Χαοτικό Τέλος: although it does not show in his music, Kawakami must have loved good crust. At least, he certainly knew quality crust when he heard some. Were Χαοτικό Τέλος the best European crust bands of the 90's? This is a bold statement but one that I tend to agree with. Their "Πέρα Από-Τα Τείχη Της Σιωπής" demo from 1991 is probably the best work of synth-driven crust I have heard (truth be told, you do have to love epic and dramatic synthesizer to get into it) and their "Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια" Lp from 1993 is a flawless blend of mid-paced UK crust à la Axegrinder and Amebix, Hiatus/Doom-type crust and Antisect/Anti-System-anarchopunk, seasoned with that specifically Greek dark sound and epic songwriting. A band that truly worked on the classic bands to shape a sound and world of their own. "Fugitives of silence" must have been recorded in the mid-90's and is a bouncy fast crust number with appropriately heavy and groovy Frosty breaks. Winner.

- Katastrofialue: sounds like an evil dogfight. Noise-infused rabid and mean Finnish hardcore, like Kaaos getting drunk with Gai and Bathory. The music is very chaotic, distorted and bass-driven and the energy is certainly not lost. The singer really sounds like he is barking though. This is ripping and intense but slightly exhausting and I don't think I could listen to a whole Lp of Katastrofialue. Actual noise not music.

- Ability: a band I know virtually nothing about. Ability were from Japan and deliver distorted D-Beat punk music with a distinct Japanese noisepunk feel (especially with the very loud and thick bass sound and the triumphant riffs), somewhere between Disclose and State Children or something, although they are not quite heavy enough to fall under the crasher-crust umbrella. These two songs are their only recordings says Discogs.

- Holocrust: cavemen crust at its best but the name gives it away. Seriously. This would be the perfect soundtrack for a neanderthal wedding party. Absolute Swedish crustcore with over-the-top dual gruff vocals and this relentless vibe that is so characteristic of 90's crust. It sounds like a sloppy, archaic version of Warcollapse and actually the two bands had members in common (Jalle from Warcollapse drummed for them and recorded the songs as well). The two songs were recorded in 1996 and were meant to appear on an Ep (Holocrust intel). I don't like it: I love it.  

- Agathocles: yes, Agathocles, not in their usual mincecore mood but having a go at Discharge-influenced, Scandi-flavoured hardcore punk. The sound is very rough and it is sometimes a little difficult to understand what is actually happening. You wanted raw, well there you go! The three songs were recorded in 1994 in Barcelona at the Violent Headache's headquarters and point to a period when grindcore was definitely punkier.

- Squandered: the follow-up to Cracked Cop Skulls. Distinctively British D-Beat orthodoxy with cracking angry double-track vocals, groovy bass lines and a guitar sound to die for. Stick from Doom drummed for Squandered and you can spot his usual rolls here and there. The band also covers a 6 Minute War song, "Nurses", which is a lovely choice. Ace.

- Sista Civilisationens Död: I know very little about this Swedish lot to be honest. SCD played pretty standard Swedish hardcore with a raw sound (you saw that coming), not unlike a rough Diskonto. The songs are not bad but I feel they lack energy and intensity but then, the production does not exactly help either.

- Framtid: how intense can you get? As a kid, I wanted to become a wrestler, which is pretty funny considering how skinny I am today. I have come to terms with the sad reality that I will never be a wrestler. However, I am pretty sure that taking a dropkick must feel something like these two Framtid songs. Whirlwind hardcore punk that is incredibly relentless and punishing. The band was formed by Jacky from the Crust War label and has acquired a cult status throughout the years and I can understand why. The two songs were recorded in october, 1998 and sounds like a steroid-induced brawl between Extreme Noise Terror and Confuse with a super tight drummer playing for his life. Sheer brilliance.

- Dios Hastio: that's a tough one to describe. Fast and intense epileptic hardcore punk from Lima that is genuinely original and inventive. The vocals sound demented, furious and threatening, a little out of sync, with a lot of reverb, while the rhythms of the songs are unconventional but still manage to be energetic. There is an atmosphere of insanity floating over Dios Hastio's music. I can hear some classic Peruvian hardcore here like Descontrol or Kaos, but also Italian bands like Negazione or Indigesti and I am guessing that the song structures of powerviolence gave Dios Hastio a few ideas as well. But all in all, they really have a sound of their own and they have penned smart, slightly morbid, deep political lyrics that are well above average.

- Nailed Down: for some reason, a band I have always ignored although the name is of course familiar. It is probably too American-sounding for my tastes but I suppose that these two songs fit well on "Chaos of Destruction": raw, fast and angry hardcore from Australia with super fast parts.

- Recharge: "Hear nothing"-worshipping hardcore punk from Hannover with a Deutschpunk feel in the raucous vocals. Recharge are often forgotten when discussing the 90's D-Beat wave. I would argue that their take on the genre was probably closer musically to mid-90's Varukers and Hellkrusher than to Disfear or Dischange, although they still referred heavily to Discharge and aimed at emulating them. And that's the issue, they probably focused on the wrong things: instead of emphasizing the directness and crude power of the Discharge formula (like Dischange), they tried to beef it up with typically mid-late 90's hardcore-punk production and vocals that cannot really work if you still try to stick to Discharge too much. This said, the two songs (recorded live in Japan) still do the job and they did sound like a good live band.

- Muckspreader: to some extent, the odd one of "Chaos of Destruction 2" as Muckspreader were not really a hardcore band but raw and fuzzy they certainly were. The band started after the demise of Zygote and kept building on their heavy, mid-paced, grungy, dark but rocking punk sound. If you are familiar with Smartpils or Zygote, you can tell that Muckspreader had this typical Bath pagan sound, slightly psychedelic, in an incantatory way, but still ominous. "Hellraiser" is one of their best songs: the sound has an earthy and organic texture and the mood is appropriately anguished and macabre. A clear winner that shall return here.

- Plutonium: yet another band I know very little about. And that is a shame since the two songs are really good. Plutonium were from Utsunomiya and played high-energy, bass-driven distorted Japanese hardcore. It is difficult to tell from just two songs (one of which is an epic, slow number with spoken words, more of an intro probably but I really like the triumphant anarcho vibe) but I suspect Plutonium were into lightning fast angry hardcore with singalong chorus (the second song makes me think of a cross between Ripcord and Gauze).

- Sanctus Iuda: a great Polish anarchopunk band that already got invited at Terminal Sound Nuisance. I love the aggressive, slightly crusty, but still song and tune-driven music of Sanctus Iuda. Dynamic, angry and expressive. On "Chaos of Destruction", SI tried something particularly difficult: a Crass cover. This exercise is extremely tricky because if you try to stick too much to the Crass sound you will end up making a mess of it as their music was much more complex and intricate than one might think and it is almost impossible to replicate the Crass texture. But if you cover Crass with a totally different genre, you can end up making the original song unrecognizable and the very particular flow of the lyrics can prove to be almost impossible to adapt to many other genres. Tough shit. I think SI did it well though, they turned "Do they owe us a living?" into a fast-paced, but still tuneful, anthemic hardcore-punk songs with a cool singalong chorus (although the singer does struggle a bit with the vocals but who can blame him?). Really good job.

- GJPB: I'm afraid to say I am not really familiar with that one either. Apparently the name means "Great Japanese Punk Band" which is both ridiculous and really funny (but then the song is also called "Grope in the dark"). They were from Tokyo and played fast and distorted Japanese punk, not far from the local noisepunk classics with a dash of Doom. The bass sound is absolutely monstrous, but I am not sure yet if it is a good or a bad thing.

- Domo Arigato: people often make fun of Japanglish and while I think it is a little unfair, I must admit that some bands did fall into nonsensical lyrics, closer to futurist poetry than protest punk. Domo Origato were from Switzerland, with members of Earth Citizens, Viktors Hofnarren and Strongly Opposed Records, and sang in Japanese so that, for once, the table was turned. Musically, Domo Origato played basic and fast 1-2-1-2 punk with a rather clear guitar sound. Lovably sloppy.

- Silêncio Funebre: the name won't probably ring a bell but Silencio Funebre was actually a side-project (in the shape of a duo) done by Fofao from Besthöven. The presence of Fofao on "Chaos of Destruction 2" is obviously relevant, if not mandatory, since he has embodied a certain idea of hardcore punk for a long time and, to a large extent, set the standards for what we call "raw punk" today. By the time the compilation came out however, Besthöven had not released anything on vinyl yet, and the inclusion of three Silencio Funebre on such a project may have helped put the horrorcore sound on the punk map for good. Musically SF sounds a lot like Besthöven: genuinely, rather than aesthetically, raw punk inspired by 80's hardcore from Sweden, Brazil and Italy. Despite the very thin sound, the songs are very dynamic and you can sense the anguish and the tension in the dark bottom of the music. This is good.

- Disclose: yes, them again. Two songs recorded in may, 1999, "The nuclear victims" (which contains the classic Discharge line "Men women and children crying in agony") and "The end approaches", a cover of The Sexual, that would also appear on "The nuclear victim" Ep from 2000. Disclose in their D-Beat Raw Punk prime.

Are you going to survive this?

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