"Is it a thunderstorm?"
"Is it a typhoon?" "
"Is it a tsunami?"
"Or THE END OF THE WOOOORRRLD?!", (that one's definitely coming from that one loud geezer who alway gets pissed far earlier than everyone else, dances too hard and eventually collapses on a sofa).
"Nah, it is just Gloom,"the DJ replied, with a thinly veiled glow of arrogance, before proceeding to nail all the punters to the floor with that one vaguely listenable Plasmid song.
Gloom. What a bloody great name for a band. It is even quite surprising that there aren't dozens of bands under that moniker. Beside the obvious meaning of the word, I suppose the band picked it for the phrase "doom and gloom" (well, I know I would have), especially considering that they had more than a passing fancy for everyone's favourite Brummies (lovely paraphrasis, innit?) and that they even used the Doom font as their own. Because I used to study English literature, I was aware of "doom and gloom" before "Doom and Gloom" (which, I fully realize, might cost me a few punk points) and also, this goes without saying I presume, of Doom before Gloom. So that, when I first heard of a band called Gloom, I immediately thought "now, that's witty, I need to check them out". The first time I came across them was through Punk Shocker (a brilliant Newcastle fanzine with a passion for Japanese punk music that gave my young self more than a few tools to learn and understand it in the early noughties) and Andy's raving review of the "Mentally achronistic" Ep. Although it never was my favourite Gloom record, it certainly made me ponder on the concept of achrony, that comes pretty handy when dealing with postmodern literature for instance. Here is a fairly accurate definition:
"Achrony is a form of paradoxical temporal and historical representation. It denotes the game employed by collective memory and literary narration of paradoxical actualization of the past. Achrony does not preclude depiction of temporal and historical sequence; however, it does not view this depiction as a determinant. Nor does achrony preclude reference to the past, though it does not represent it as formative because a reference to the past is necessarily a reference to the present. Achrony entails a definition of the present as a potential realm of the past which is not necessarily compatible with the present. The function of achrony is characterized by: a demonstration of the possibility of instauration of the historical account and literary memory, without impinging on the rights of the present."
Could the reference to achrony in Gloom's final Ep mean that they were critically aware of and embraced punk's nostalgic, albeit heart-felt and genuine, tendencies in order to re-actualize and re-engage with the defining vibe from the past, but in a present when time matters only as a crucial, pivotal place of re-enactment? If you think about it, such a notion could be applied to a lot of post-lapsarian punk bands. Or maybe they just misspelt "anachronistic" but this would be a lot less romantic.
Gloom formed in Osaka in the very early 90's (the first recordings from the band are from 1991 but it is likely the boys had been toying with their instruments before that) and the role they played in the making of the Japanese crust scene throughout the decade cannot be underestimated. The band organized many gigs in Osaka, the infamous "Final Noise Attack" - they could be seen as a continuation of the "Punk and Destroy" ones in Nagoya (they are discussed in the introduction) - which saw pretty much every crusty/noizy/Dis bands from Japan play and whose lineups were completely mouth-watering and equivalent to a Japanese crust version of the Cannes Film Festival. I suppose you could distinguish three main eras in Gloom's career (not that there are spectacular discrepancies between them) which coincided with different guitar players: "Speed noise hardcore (rags)" with Taki, "Crasher crusties" with Yamakawa and, arguably, "Insane crusties" (or something) with Jacky (the last one being more temporally, rather than stylistically, based).
"Speed noise hardcore (rags)" corresponds to the first period of Gloom, roughly from 1991 to 1994, with Taki on the guitar. Although both bands truly differ in terms of texture and songwriting, I hear a real connection between early Gloom and early CFDL, and it is no coincidence if Jhonio (the notorious bass player who also played in Defiance along with Gloom's drummer Habi in the early 90's) said about Atrocity Exhibition (pre-CDFL if you have been following correctly) in "Inferno Punx" that: "It was the first time made myself conscious of "CRUST" much more than E.N.T.!"If you listen closely to Gloom, especially in their early years, you can identify a similar point of confluence in terms of punk influences, they are not as many as in CFDL - who were a hardcore celebration - but still enough to make their music both familiar and yet strangely special. The first two demos, "The end" and "Self-interest" both recorded in 1991 (although in truth the latter was never sold or distributed but merely given away as a gift at a gig) introduced a remarkable number of different influences, and even though CFDL and of course ENT do come to mind (tell me that "Nuclear annihilation" is not a massive nod toward 89 ENT if you dare), there are specifically US hardcore mid-paced breaks, a lot of vintage Japan-via-Bristol noisy punk, traditional Japanese hardcore, and a rather glorious Doom tribute song. The band had not gone full-on blown-out distortion yet (something they became renowned for later on and certainly helped to bring back to the punk front with Disclose) and I am guessing that, to put it simply, they played genuinely raw hardcore that was non-derivative and quite varied in terms of beats and moods. From the start, Gloom were highly referential visually. The sheet coming with the tape "The end" displayed the same picture as the one used by Disaster on "War cry" (incidentally, both Jhonio and Taki, on "distortion" and "Shouts" respectively, played in War Cry around 1993, a Sore Throatian noisy cavecrust side-project with three "singers"), punk smiley à la Electro Hippies and CFDL and pictures of crusties that would make Deviated Instinct proud.
The Ep "Speed noise hardcore rags", beside creating an awesome new name for a punk subgenre, brought Acid to the referential equation and saw the band take a decisive step toward the genre they would - arguably - pioneer: crasher crust. Through a more focused and precise songwriting, the band included more noisepunk elements (the use of feedbacks is interesting on this record) while keeping that sort of ENT/early Disrupt raw, savage crust punk vibe and the energetic tightness of Japanese hardcore and a whole lot of different but always very effective and hard-hitting beats. The drumming is key on this Ep as it is very upfront, almost too much if you are not used to it, with the crash cymbal suitably punishing, more viciously executed rolls than you can count and the numerous variations basically pounding you into a cider frenzy (but it could be just me). On a visual level, the Ep cover overtly rooted Gloom in the "cheesy crust" tradition with this kind of naive, simple sketches of crustier than crust goofy punx (borrowing from the Sore Throat/ENT/Doom brew crew and the Bristol school and passing these elements through a Japanese noisepunk filter, not quite unlike what they achieved on a musical level) that would become closely linked to the crasher crust aesthetics.
For some reason, Gloom's next recording came three years later in 1997, with a new guitar player, Yamakawa, in the guise of the "Noise for moblish" tape (released on the local Crust War Records like the first Ep) which marked the start of the "crasher crusties" period. The tape saw Gloom leave that "international hardcore" vibe that they had at the beginning and completely embrace a formidable fusion of noisepunk (or what we have come to understand as "noisepunk" in 2016) and cavemen crust. "Noise for moblish" is a rough recording, a proper one, and although I suspect the band was going for a raw sound, it really sounds like an angry hardcore demo and not like an exercise in rawness recreation like so many modern bands. The new guitarist certainly added a lot of distortion-till-deafness to the sound but the music remains very aggressive and energetic as the fuzz is not here so much to create a textured atmosphere (though it also necessarily does that), like Tokyo's Collapse Society for instance, but to reinforce that all-out crust attack vibe. Although bands like Confuse or Gai immediately spring to mind in terms of sound and arrangements (the drum rolls are a case in point), the songwriting keeps that relentless pummeling savagery inherent to crust music. "Recomendation of perdition", released the same year on MCR Records, can be seen as a re-recording of "Noise for moblish" as the nine songs are exactly the same. However, the production and the quality of the sound take them to a whole other level. The level of intensity is through the roof on this record. I am aware that such praises are often used casually to describe a record but I cannot think of many that fit the phrase more aptly than "Recomendation of perdition". I mentioned the drumming several times but on this one, it sounds like a demented trance, as if the drummer was beating the shit out of a life alienation but always remained in a perfectly controlled state of anger to solve definitely the "noise + crust" equation. The bass is super heavy and distorted and leads the songs aggressively through terrific hooks, the guitar has that wall of distortion feel and the vocals offer a healthy amount of gratuitous screams (always a plus in my book) and sound incredibly pissed. "Recomendation of perdition" sounds and feels insane. Not that it is a deranged work, but because it reflects the insanity of modern life, it absorbs it and unleashes its ugly truth in just 10 minutes (and to be fair, I am not sure anyone is willing to take much more of such a delightful punishment). Is "Defector" the best 16 seconds song ever? Yes, indeed and if anything it shows that one does not need more than this to write a song able to pound someone into the ground.
Of course the title refers to Disorder and the band's iconic double Crass-circle is present and indicates Gloom's point: "10 minutes of insanity". That's probably what "crasher crusties" were going for, their agenda. The cover is rather striking, with a picture of a studded punk hanging an other one... Insanity, right? The backcover has the following intriguing message: "Melodic US 80's crusty / Who fuckin cares / We will make then fucked up / All answer it chaos!!". It could be a comment on punk's tendency to create pointless subgenres and the band's answer to this futile self-consciousness (which is pretty paradoxical considering Gloom baptized new subgenres themselves...): chaos and insanity. Gloom's next record would be the aforementioned "Mentally achronistic" Ep with Jackie Framtid/Crust War replacing Yamakawa on the guitar. Although it was clearly building on "Recomendation of perdition", I never felt the same magics on this record, as undeniably solid an effort it is. Following the demise of Gloom, two live records were released, "Noise attack devastating Tokyo city" in 2001 and "濁流玉砕雑核音" (a live from 1991) in 2010. More interesting perhaps was the "撲殺精神破綻者" Lp from 2003 (also known as "Vokusatsu seisin hatansha" if that's any help), released on Crust War. The Lp includes two recording sessions from two different Gloom periods, the A side corresponding to the "Crasher crusties" era (with the same tracklist as "Recomendation" or "Moblish") and the B side including earlier songs from the "Speed noise hardcore rags" one. It was my first Gloom record actually. I had never heard the band when it came out, though I had read about them, but a friend of mine, who was just as uninformed as I was, told me that bands that had names ending in "-oom" were probably great since Doom had such a name. I admit it was not the most clever reasoning but it worked fine in that particular case. To be honest, this Lp is a little difficult to listen to in one go as I feel crasher crust (or whatever you feel more inclined to call it) works better for 10/15 minutes. However, it is a fantastic record if you want to hear the difference in intent and songwriting between Gloom's two eras.
Finally not so achronistic, this bunch. After all, they did bring something new and relevant to their present.