Thursday, 1 September 2016

The PDX-Files: Final Massakre "The bells of Hell toll the final chime" Ep, 1999

This entry should be relatively short for once. Not because I am running out of inspiration or because my insightful mind is shriveling, have no fear about that, I still have a lorry load of punk divagations to offer. No, the reason why this PDX chapter will be concise is that this Ep is objectively not a great record. I still like it, obviously, since I never write about bands that I do not like (however, if you are into gratuitous, inarticulate slander, I strongly recommend youtube comments), but Final Massakre's "The bells of Hell toll the final chime" is not a classic PDX punk record (not even a minor one) nor is it a favourite at Terminal Sound Nuisance's headquarters. So why bother writing about it, I figuratively hear you ask? Why? Well, the answer is "Why?" or rather "Why, why? Why, why, why?". Yep, we are back to Discharge-love.

Although, this FM Ep is not the most spectacular or the most orthodox example of PDX Discharge-worship, it is still a very relevant and, I would argue, a genuinely lovable one. In the first chapter of "The PDX-Files" I pointed out that PDX punk is cool. Whatever genre these punx recycle, they do it properly and tastefully. The PDX scene even managed to give birth to a solid Blitzy oi band in the guise of Criminal Damage. And even though you could argue that the vast difference in the contexts of production between Criminal Damage and the Northern working-class oi bands from the 80's is unsurpassable, thus rendering CD's attempt inherently deprived of the directionless teenage anger that was the essence of oi (I'll be honest here, that was my argument when their first Lp came out and all the hardcore kids suddenly loved Blitz), the truth is that they were a good band and wrote good songs (too much guitar for me, but hey, I am a grumpy bastard). The thing is that, on the whole, there is a tradition of good, knowledgable punk music in PDX. These punx just know their shit, to put it bluntly, and it shows. It is no coincidence that from the 90's onwards, PDX punk (the brand I know anyway, I am not qualified to talk about plaid shirt bands like The Observers) became more and more referential and adapted foreign punk genres to the then strengthening PDX sound, sometimes renewing an interest on a global scale and even reviving subgenres altogether (I am thinking really hard about Atrocious Madness and Hellshock right now but I shall delve deeper into the matter in subsequent entries). Add this to the fact that PDX bands usually tour a lot and are often prolific and then the reputation of the scene starts to make more sense. You can enjoy PDX bands on a very direct level because they basically always deliver solid punk-rock and also from a cultural, cerebral perspective because you will find plenty of nods to other bands. It works both as top punk music you can get pissed to AND as geeky fanservice. They just can't lose.

I am guessing Final Massakre was more of a side-project than a proper band but I could be wrong. Their first recording, the "Nothing left but wasteland", was from 1998 and they also did a (really fitting) split Ep with Decontrol that year. "The bells of Hell toll the final chime" was released in 1999 and proved to be the last for the band, but certainly not for its members. In FM you could find Kelly (Resist, Detestation and so on) on the drums (he is a man of many talent apparently), Hopper (Starved and Delirious, Detestation and so on) on the guitar, Jeramy (from the Ministry of Peace label) on the bass and Frank (Atrocious Madness) on vocals. I am guessing FM started after Detestation stopped and around the same time as Atrocious Madness. This Ep was released on Tribal War (what a surprise) and was a benefit for the Buffalo Field Campaign.

So what about the band? Final Massakre exemplifies a type of fanservice and Discharge-inspired referentiality that finds its roots in the 90's. Listening to and looking at the record, you can tell that the members had fun doing it. It is ripe with references to Discharge and dischargy bands. On that level, I feel that the idea behind FM owes a lot to the 90's Swedish D-beat wave and maybe even more to 90's Japanese crust and D-beat. It is basically a cross between these two schools in terms of conception. There are far too many Dis-references to list them all but if I ever open a Department of Dis Studies, a thorough and exhaustive analysis of this Ep would work brilliantly as an exam. From the mention "Full metal jacket D-beat raw punk" on the backcover, the use of the Antisect font in the lettering, such songs as "Death from below" and "Probability of deaths construction" (these two really cracked me up actually), to the completely excessive Sore Throatian title of the Ep, without mentioning all the riffs respectfully borrowed from Discharge, Discard, Disclose and Dischange, this record is like a game of "Where's Wally?" for Discharge punx. And I bloody love it for that. By no means is Final Massakre the best band that this bunch of PDX punx played in, nor is it the most significant. But man, it certainly comforts the inner-nerd in his ways.

So what about the music then? Well, as expected, FM played D-beat raw punk in the strictest sense of the term with 6 songs in about 6 minutes. It is nowhere as distorted as Disclose though, probably more akin to early Disfear or Dischange but with the focus on Discharge-loving bands rather than Discharge itself, somewhere between Subversion, EU's Arse, Shitlickers and Discard maybe. The recording is actually raw, bordering on the sloppy as far as the drumming is concerned, and is probably lacking in bass to my liking but the guitar sound is powerful and there are a couple of proper leads here and there. It does works on the whole, as it is very energetic and the riffs are good, effective and used wisely. As I said, you can tell that they know their shit. Frank's vocals are a strong point here, very hoarse but not excessive, they sound very angry and not overdone, not unlike in Italian hardcore or Japanese D-beat.

As for the lyrics... Well, you could literally find a Discharge reference in each song if you really cared to look. You have got the classic Discharge enumeration (two occurrences of "Men women and children" with the second one including the variation "children and animals"), funny Discard intertextuality ("by death from below and not above"), the classic Discharge chiasmus with the repetition of the last term of the verse at the beginning of the following ("Refuse to make a change / a change in our lives") and so on. The artwork is just as you can expect, black and white, cut'n'paste pictures of nuclear armament and World War One soldiers and gas masks. After Final Massakre called it a day, the dynamic duo of Kelly and Hopper kept playing together in War Machine while Frank kept going with Atrocious Madness.

Studded punx with skull heads: 2 cool 4 skool


  1. Punk is another way of expressing one's self though, i did into it in my college years, i love how they play the guitars and the drums, it's basically different from other genre, learn to play the guitar yourself and be counted, ask expert's advice check this one out

  2. Great EP I have this as well. All I need is the Final discography cass but I can't get a copy... and all links are dead... Anyone care to share it?