This one is a little personal I suppose.
I got Realities of War's "Constructs of life" in 2012 while visiting my friend Steve in Leeds. I had not been there for a few years and the trip was prompted by the opportunity to attend a great show he was putting on at the 1in12 Club in Bradford with Antisect, Hellkrusher and Cress (no less). A top gig which saw giggle like a 16-year-old fanboy at my favourite punk venue and some catching up with an old friend, it was bound to be a great weekend.
On the second day, we were chatting about our past and future respective projects and he told me that he had been singing with a dischargy band called Realities of War a few years back. Now, I was a little surprised (if not slightly upset) since I had literally never heard of the band and I do try to keep myself updated about what is going on in this part of the world. They had released an Ep, "Constructs of life", that had come out in 2011 but the recording session was actually much older, from February 2006. It took five years for the record to see the light of day and this slow process made me smile a little since it is quite the opposite nowadays, when bands usually release one Lp and two Ep's (often the demo, originally released as a tape, is repressed on vinyl) in 18 months, tour Europe and then split up leaving a hot trail of average records in their wake. I knew Steve had been singing for Project Hopeless in the mid-00's and I always loved his writing in his fanzine, Attitude Problem, which epitomized the politics and aesthetics of proper anarchopunk to me, so I was looking forward to listening to ROW. After all, it couldn't really go wrong: the band took their name from the first song of the first Discharge Ep and the booklet was replete with anarcho symbols. I was confident. Besides, I knew how much Steve loved Discharge. After all, he was the one to introduce me to Disaster. When we regularly wrote letters to each other, he would often say "and I am still listening to Discharge". Now, I guess anyone with even just a small amount of good taste in punk-rock could say the same: who isn't still listening to Discharge? Exactly. But in this case, I would read the sentence as meaning "I am doing fine and I am still here". Listening to Discharge had come to signify this kind of continuity and resilience in the face of daily life. And to this day, when I am being asked "How's life?", it is still what I mean when I reply "I'm still listening to Discharge (or Antisect or Amebix)". It is an encoded answer, to some extent, but those who love such bands as much as I do will know exactly what I mean.
But enough sentimentalism already. ROW formed in 2005 and, apart from Steve on vocals, had ex-members of Flyblown (from Essex) and Burning the Prospect (from the other Boston). Now, I have sadly never seen Flyblown live but their "The fear and the fury" Lp from 2005 definitely rates as one of the best British punk Lp's of that decade. It is a crushingly intense, almost excessively so at times, angry and powerful album that manages to sound savage and yet completely focused. It often struck me as the perfect balance between the heaviest brand of Scandinavian hardcore and British anarcho-crust, and the fact that the line-up also had (at least) one Swedish member (on drums) was of course meaningful in that respect. So even before playing the Ep, the Flyblown connection indicated that I was in for some seriously heavy hardcore. And then, flipping through the thick booklet on my way home, I realized that there were two guitars. That could be a problem. I was expecting something really Dis-oriented (couldn't help it and I'm not even sorry) but two guitars sounded risky. In fact, when someone usually mentioned a two-guitars D-Beat band, it was inevitably to talk about much dreaded sub-sub-subgenres such as "Rocking D-Beat" or, even worse, "Crust'n'roll". Bands daring to adopt such genres usually sounded like a cheap version of already cheap early-00's Disfear or mid-00's Inepsy. I am not necessarily against having two guitars when playing the Dis-thing but you really have to know what you are doing because I, for one, am not into seeing bad heavy-metal solos, cheap Lemmy impersonations and lazy D-beat paces spoiling otherwise relatively decent (at best) Discharge riffs. And besides, why would anyone want to do a "rocked out" version of Discharge? They were intrinsically a groovy band and the bass lines were rocky enough to start with. So I was really anxious when I got home, although, truth be told, I was not that worried about the quality of the music as Steve had never struck me as the kind to have Motörhead posters in the bathroom.
"Constructs of life" is a solid Ep. The sound is, as expected, heavy, pummeling and thick. The songs (which blend together through feedback) have a relentlessness that I always crave for that genre as it aptly reflects the idea of disastrous endlessness that pertains to Discharge. It should grab you and not let you go. My worrying about the two-guitar attack was unfounded. It allows for extra heaviness and a few tastefully wise guitar leads but the guitars never hide the bass, which is essential as D-Beat is a bass-driven genre if anything. Here the balance between the punishing, ominous sound of the guitars and the all-important groovy bass hooks is cohesive and effective: it just works very well. The riffs are probably more rooted in Scandinavia than Stoke-on-Trent in nature, I am reminded of Disfear or Skitsystem at times (especially on the metallic intro and a on a couple of breaks) or even Consume, and while the pace never strays far from Discharge, it is also harder-hitting. Swedish-inspired early 00's D-Beat in a word. However, contrary to Flyblown who used harsh, over-the-top anguished screams, the vocals on "Constructs of life" are actually much closer to the original Discharge and discharge-loving 80's anarchopunk bands. Like Cracked Cop Skulls, the band opted for vocal doubling which gives a very vintage energetic feel to the music and roots it in 80's territory. Since the music itself was already relentless enough, the idea to use the double tracking was brilliant, especially if it accompanies the bass work closely. As mentioned, I am reminded of old anarcho bands like AOA or even Icons of Filth and the presence of a few delectable spoken parts delights me.
As the artwork and the thick, superb booklet with cardboard covers can attest, Realities of War were probably more an anarchopunk band having a go at the D-Beat orthodoxy, rather than an all-out D-Beat band: Crass font instead of the Discharge one, an antisectish logo instead of a dead soldier. Aesthetically and thematically, the booklet is replete with anarchopunk references and topics and while the lyrics themselves are short (but they need to be given the genre's requirements), explanatory texts developing the topics at stake and useful resources are provided as well. The songs are about the validity of a State-run society ("When will we ever learn?"), animal abuse ("Torture chamber"), state surveillance ("Orwell nation"), subservient conformity to social norms ("Complicit") and the need to do something positive and constructive with our punk lives ("Look within"). This is thoughtful, meaningful and caring political punk music coming from the heart. And there is even a free patch coming with the Ep. What more could you possibly ask for?
As I remember it, "Constructs of life" was a benefit Ep for the 1in12 Club in Bradford (it was recorded there by Bri) and it was released by Active Distribution, Crisis Point, Never Healed and Not Enough Records. Below is a link to an interview with Steve about Realities of War and "Constructs of life" that appeared on TrakMarx: Dis-interview
And there is the bloody patch!