Sunday, 3 December 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 10): Okotta / Visions of War "恐った / Untitled" split Ep 2000

Could there be a better choice than a Visions of War record to close the Kids of the 90's series with splendour? I think not. I am pretty sure everyone reading this will already be familiar with the mighty VOW. They have been going through thick and thin for twenty years, have toured extensively and released records at a steady pace, so unless you have been hiding under a crust-proof rock for years, you must have heard about them (which is not synonymous with actually hearing them, I'll give you that). Although it is true that the majority of their materials was released from the early 00's on, I personally see VOW as a quintessentially 90's band and not just because of the age of the participants. They stand for a specific genre - in terms of vibe and sound but also of casually genuine DIY attitude - let's call it eurocrust for the sake of clarity, that reached its peak during the mid-90's and almost completely vanished during the last decade (there have been a couple of sporadic instances to be sure but while everyone's talking about a so-called 90's revival, I am still not seeing much of a difference in my punk niche). But, not unlike bands such as Hellkrusher or Extinction of Mankind, they are still standing, undisturbed and unperturbed by the endless flow of newish punk trends and if that's not true dedication and crust heroism (albeit a quixotic one perhaps), then I don't know what is and I should probably open an organic, gluten-free, gender-neutral, streetfood stand selling kale cupcakes and lattes instead of raving like a cyber lunatic.



You can notice that the release date of this split Ep is actually 2000 (hence not the 90's, thanks for pointing it out Captain Obvious) but since the VOW songs were recorded in December, 1998, and mixed in January, 1999 (and since this blog is a domain I rule with an iron fist), I decided to select it as a logical conclusion. Let's start with Okotta, on side A. I must admit that I wasn't really familiar with this lot and therefore had to ask some knowledgable old-timer (merci Lolo!) for details about them. They were a short-lived band from the Antwerp area in Belgium, active in the late 90's (they had split up when the Ep came out). Okotta was made up of Tim and Kurt who had previously played together in Noise Reduction (who did a split Ep with Disaster-fanatics Deadlock from Japan), in Karma and in Orchestrange. Tim was also running Filth-Ear Distributions, a noisy label responsible for some solid records from the likes of Active Minds, Social Chaos and even Jobbykrust (the first Filth-Ear release in fact). With such a pedigree, I guess you can already imagine what Okotta may sound like, right? Noisy hardcore indeed.




The six songs on Okotta's side are raw and to the point, gruff and angry bursts of fast hardcore thrash with hoarse vocals and tightness as an option. If a bunch of grizzly bears tried to cover Hellnation, they would come close to this. There is an undeniable sense of fury and urgency conveyed by the rough sound of the recording and I would venture that the simplicity of the songwriting is also intentional and is meant to reinforce that vibe. But simple is difficult and although I think the songs work as part of the split Ep, I am not sure I could go through a full album. The lyrics are pretty dark, direct and aggressive which of course works well with the genre. There is no recording date but I suppose the songs were done in 1999. Another Okotta release does exist as Filth-Ear put out a cdr album entitled 恐った, same as their side of the Ep, in 1999 (apparently it means something like "I was scared" but I am pretty clueless when it comes to Japanese). 



On side B are the always valiant VOW, also from Hellgium, with their second vinyl appearance. The first one was on the Ups The Record compilation Ep from 1998 (which also included Sin Dios, PCP, Boycot, Dekadent, Shears and Point of Few) but the least you could say about VOW's contribution is that it was a bit of a miss since the song "D-Cay" was at the wrong speed and sounded much slower than it was supposed to (I also love the 90's for stories like these). This track was actually part of the band's first demo, recorded in April, 1998 (VOW formed during the autumn of '96), an ultimate collection of eight songs epitomizing rough and ready dual-vocals cavemen crust that makes Accion Mutante and Warcollapse sound almost soft in comparison. The three songs included on this split Ep were taken from the second demo recorded in January, '99 (the full demo can be found on the cd version of the split with Mass Genocide Process from Czech).



Because the 2002 split Lp with Olho De Gato was released on Maloka Records, it was very easy to find copies of it in Paris in the early 00's and a mate of mine taped the Lp for me at a time when I was slowly but surely getting heavily into crust. But in these days of intense crust exploration, I suppose it kinda got lost in the midst of so many other bands, so I did not pay that much attention to it at first (though I did mentally classify VOW in the ENT/Disrupt drawer). Then in early 2004, at an afterparty in Leeds, someone (I cannot remember who exactly but I do recall that, among the guests, he was reputed to play only "super gruff crust and grind" which, reflecting on it now, I am not sure was exactly a compliment) played VOW's side and, amidst the cider fumes, I was struck by how bloody great it sounded. Fast-forward to spring and to the 2004 K-Town festival, back when it was still an anarcho/crust event relatively hipster-free, where some good mates of mine went (I could not for some stupid reason I forgot) and saw VOW play. According to several trustworthy reports (with the usual hyperbolic storytelling of course), the band pretty much outcrusted everyone on stage: they were savagely intense and the equivalent of time-traveling to see ENT in 1988. At that time, to be convicted of outcrusting at K-Town was not something many could claim to have achieved so I was, once again, really quite impressed and thus the aforementioned record (which I had bought in the meantime) got played even more often at home. 

These are all silly stories of course, but, being sentimental, I suppose the band means a lot to me. VOW is a bit like that old friend you can always rely on. Sure some years were better than others in your relationship, but he's one of the proverbial boys. I am not sure whether or not the band still played the songs from this second demo when they hit the K-Town stage, but it can still give you a significant idea about where the allegation of outcrusting comes from. 



Prior to VOW, vocalist Stiv (who is gossiped to have started as the "high-pitched" screamer in the band) had been singing in Insane Youth, a crusty and noisy hardcore punk band who did a split Ep with Boycot, second vocalist Steffen was part of Deconsume and guitar-hero Stef played in Corpus Christi, a Mob-47-meets-Zyklome-A-at-a-crust-conference kind of band who did a split Ep with Força Macabra, and in the late Insane Youth Lineup. As for the very original moniker, the rumour has it that it was the result of a dare with the guys from Hellkrusher who challenged Stef to form a crust band with a clichéd Discharge-inspired name. I doubt anyone involved expected said band to last twenty years but here it is. 

And the three songs on this particular Filth-Ear split Ep I hear you ask? Well, they are top-shelf pummeling gruff crust with dual vocals and a crunchy, powerful and heavy raw sound, up there with the finest of the 90's. Vintage Hiatus, Amen, Warcollapse, Amnesty, MVD, all the best come to mind and the VOW side can be seen as a "90's crust for dummies" guideline, or, perhaps more accurately, as the perfect eurocrust synthesis of the decade. Absolutely ace stuff done with taste and knowhow. In 2000, Lolo from Primitiv Bunko and Arnaud from Detritus joined the band and contributed to the making of the furious split Lp with Olho de Gato. More records followed but that's a story for another time. 



Get some fucking 90's crust in your life, yeah?            






Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 9): No Prejudice / Dischord "Uma Guerra Entre Classes Pela Paz Entre Os Povos" split Lp, 1998

Believe or not, I always have to prepare mentally and physically before the start of the actual listening process when I work on a series for Terminal Sound Nuisance. Sometimes, I feel like an astronaut getting ready for his future journey into space, only I do not need as much cool technology and my journey is much less boring (I never got why people would even want to spend time in space, it looks like a snoozefest up there) although probably not as telegenic. As I prepped for Kids of the 90's, I realized that you could actually recognize and identify a lot of 90's punk records just by the looks of them. Of course, it is perfectly sensible if you take into consideration the evolution of trends and the aesthetic commonalities linked with a contextualized timeframe. But what I mean does not only have to do with covers, fonts or themes, but also with means of production. Technological advances certainly led to better, cleaner-looking productions in the following decades (even when some tried to look "vintage" and "authentic") but what really struck me is how amateurish, simple and even cheap a lot of 90's DIY punk records looked and felt. A mere sheet of paper printed on both sides and folded correctly was often good enough for the cover of an Ep. It was not all like that as you also had records with massive booklets with amazing drawings and lovely posters and everything, but for labels and bands with limited finances and logistics, you had to make do with what you had at your disposal in terms of material means. That's passion and dedication. This, in turn, resulted in a record that accurately reflected its conception and fabrication, as if the way it had been made and the efforts it took to do it were as visible and tangible as the object itself. Or maybe I have just had too much coffee this morning. Who knows. 



This 1998 split Lp reeks of this proper DIY spirit from the 90's, both in form and content. Despite its rather unsophisticated look, you can tell - even before actually listening to it - that much passion and a strong faith in the core values of punk-rock were involved in its making. If you have some kind of hippie gift and can feel vibrations, energies and whatnot, just place your hands above the cover, close your eyes, concentrate and you'll get my point. No Prejudice and Dischord were two Brazilian bands, from São Roque, in the state of São Paulo. Now, if you claim to be into punk and hardcore, sport the whole studded uniform and yet are unaware of the significance of São Paulo punk-rock, not only on a national level, and not even just on a continental one, but in the history of punk-rock as a whole, then do yourself a favour, get off instagram for a second and research some SP hardcore right now. If you can't be arsed, please leave your membership card on my desk before the end of the week. 



I cannot claim to be an expert in Brazilian punk, that would be far-fetched, but an incredible amount of bands, past and present, points to the direction of São Paulo, a monstrous industrial city that birthed Brazilian hardcore which I mean here as a genuine genre. No Prejudice and Dischord were not from SP itself, but from a nearby town, so I suspect they played in the big city quite often and the São Roque punk scene must have developed thanks to the impulse it provided. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there were hundreds of active punk bands (of all kinds) in the SP area during the 90's and to this day the punk dynamics inherent to the city are quite overwhelming. But let's get to the record, shall we? In fact, a mate of mine recommended this Lp to me arguing that it was "absolutely glorious and sloppy grindcore and crust recorded in a cave" so I obviously took the bait.

On the first side are No Prejudice. They were active during the late 90's and, all things considered, I think this first recording of theirs - from April, 1998 - rates as one of the sloppiest crust/grind records from the 90's that I own, which is no mean feat. In fact, I am not even sure the lads tuned up together or that they even cared to. It is all over the place, messy and sometimes you can tell that they play the wrong chords, if not the wrong songs, and I can imagine them looking at each other in bewilderment during a session that they must have rushed through for financial reasons. As for the production, the guitar is trebly and buried, the vocals and drums are too loud but the level of the bass is alright I guess. If you are wondering what NP sound like, just imagine an energetic and inept blend of vintage Rot, Agathocles and the great Discarga Violenta with over-the-top undecipherable vocals. And it is amazing! I bloody love it. Of course, I would not advise to play it to someone who is getting into punk or even into grindcore since the 19 songs are rough as a badger's arse and quite obnoxiously so. But NP is exactly my kind of primitive grindcore, very punky and hasty, with ridiculous dual vocals and a sense of urgency that is very similar to traditional Brazilian, Italian or Finnish hardcore. I realize that bands like NP will probably appeal to the punk, rather than the metal, side of the grindcore crowd and there were quite a lot of raw and primal grind bands like them in the 90's. Urgency and impact are two words that characterize well Brazilian hardcore so it should come as no surprise that there are still bands like this today in São Paulo (alright, maybe not as overtly messy but still). This is chaotically glorious and when I need to play some genuinely raw and disorderly fast punk music, I'd rather play NP than most of the current pseudo "raw punk" bands. It is to be noted that playing NP's side can also allow you to kick someone out of your flat without actually having to ask. Works all the time.

For all the stylistic sloppiness, NP were a very serious band and, although I am not sure the singers actually utter the words, the lyrics are political, short, honestly angry bursts against patriotism, police repression and scene elitism, and really that's exactly what I want from my grindcore. Following this split Lp, 1999 was a busy year for the band since NP appeared on a compilation Ep with three other fast Brazilian bands (Septicemia, Provocazione and Contraste Bizarro) and shared a split tape with Parental Advisory and an Ep with the mighty Rot on Absurd Records (the label of Rot's singer Marcelo).        



On the other side of the split are a band I am more familiar with, Dischord. If you expect any similarity with Dischord Records then be prepared to be sorely disappointed because the Brazilian Dischord were one of the few national bands standing for a punk genre crucial to the 90's: crust. I have no reasonable explanations for this surprising discrepancy, especially when one considers the vitality of the Brazilian punk scene and how attracted to fast aggressive music it has always been. So why so few crust bands? There were loads of noisy grindcore, fast thrash ones or metal-punk bands but very few all-out crust ones, no real Hiatus-y bands (let's just use them as a crust measuring stick for the sake of argument) and if Extreme Noise Terror and Disrupt can be said to have had a noticeable influence on 90's Brazilian hardcore, it was only to the extent that the borrowed elements fitted the grindcore caveat. Very good bands like Abuso Sonoro, Execradores or Amor, Protesto y Odio did have some crust-infused moments, but the only bands I can think of that went for gruff crust savagery were early Under Threat (that I have already raved about here) and Dischord. 

Dischord were a rather prolific São Roque band active between 1996 and 2002. Their first offerings were the rather rough '96 split tape with Rotten Sound (back when they were great) and '97 4-way split tape with Agathocles, Grossmember from Poland and the oddly-named Orchestral Pit's Cannibals from Russia on the quaint Oral Diarrhoea Records. Their side of the split Lp with NP was recorded during two sessions, one in April and the other in October of 1998, which accounts for some songs sounding crunchier and more powerful. Dischord played typically fast, pummeling dual vocal 90's cavemen crust (though Marcelo did all the "singing" parts on this recording) reminiscent of Hiatus, Disrupt and Amen. The production is raw but fits the genre perfectly, conferring the instruments a spontaneous, organic tone that I crave. For all I know, the band could have been working on the clock because there is a definite feel of urgency in the songs, in a "race against time" kind of way that reminds me of Namland at times. I like how aggressively upfront the vocals sound, a common trait in Brazilian hardcore, and how simple yet effective the songwriting is. The song "Dead nature" uses some spoken words done over the cavemen crust savagery and is a lovely nod toward Doom's "Means to an end". This is classic hyperbolic 90's crust done with a lot of heart and conviction.



The lyrics are in English on this record but Dischord mostly sang in Portuguese on their subsequent productions. If the genre they embraced can be thought to be raw and schematic (something I have no qualms about), the band certainly had a lot to say and were more political than most. The foldout includes a text from them which explains how their lyrics connect with each other and tackle subjects that are linked with one another shaping a global resistance to oppression. "Uma Guerra Entre Classes Pela Paz Entre Os Povos". Revolutionary crustcore for ya.

Following the Lp, Dischord relevantly did a split Ep with Under Threat and a split Lp with fellow gruff crusties Lies & Distrust from Czech in 1999. I suppose they made some meaningful contacts there because they went to record a full Ep, Fuck Copyrights, in 2000 for Insane Society Records and a split Ep with Čad in 2002.

This punk as fuck split Lp was released on Shit Records (you cannot make that up), which was Dischord's guitar player's label.


Weird choice for the labels... The pressing plant's? 



Thursday, 23 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 8): Slaganfall / Scumbrigade "S/t" split 10'', 1998

If you were to list every Swedish hardcore punk bands active in the 90's, you would need a bloody long time. I am pretty sure that I could watch the director's cuts of the three episodes of The Lord the Rings, take a nap and call my gran, and you would still be working on it. Back when Terminal Sound Nuisance still had some subservient, toilful staff (the bastards all quit to pursue a career in "instagramming", whatever that means), I would ask one of these ungrateful subordinates to prepare an exhaustive memo while I focus on the actual thinking and writing. But these are hard times we live in and I sadly had to turn the blog into a one-man operation and sell the TSN ivory tower, the historical birthplace of this once flourishing business, in order to move into a much less respectable part of town... Oh dear, oh dear.  

But let's not wallow in melancholy. Today's record is an all-Swedish affair from 1998 with two bands I have a soft spot for, although they did not exactly change the world of punk (but then, few actually did). I wonder if there are still people playing this record almost twenty years after its release as I very rarely see Scumbrigade and especially Slaganfall being mentioned. When I did my selection for Kids of the 90's, this 10'' (a rather unusual format for a split record) was one of the first I picked, spontaneously, inexorably and rather pompously. Not because it is a classic record (it ain't) but because it illustrates what used to be a very common musical practice from the 90's to - roughly - the mid 00's: the application of dual male/female vocals to crusty hardcore/anarchopunk. I have already touched upon the subject when writing about Homomilitia and we have seen on numerous occasions that dual vocals (of whatever gender) was a common trait in 90's political punk music. However, the occurrence of having two bands from the same country both relying on the classic male/female vocal attack on the same record is rather rare, so this split appeared like an ideal choice for me to celebrate a custom that, if it has not vanished completely, has become scarce. 



Let's start with Slaganfall (they are actually the side A, although there was a misprint on the layout, another classic DIY punk tradition when it comes to split records). Sadly, I know very little about this band and could not find much on da internet. The record tells me that they were from Norsborg (a Stockholm suburb apparently) and that they were around between 1994 and 1997 but that's pretty much it. Slaganfall may have belonged to this category of bands that were important, active and relevant locally but did not really bother with recording or touring, which - judging from their six songs included on the 10'' - is a bit of a shame. This is, to my knowledge, the sole recording from the band, taken in 1997, and I haven't been able to determine if the members had played in other bands before or if they did after. So if you do know, my dear reader, please enlighten me.






It would be hyperbolic to claim that SA broke new grounds but what they did, they did very well and - more importantly in the frame of this series - in accordance with the aesthetics of their time. Although the dual male/female vocals is a practice that can be traced back to the golden era of British anarchopunk (Crass, DIRT, Chumba, Civilised Society? and so on), I would argue that Nausea was the real game-changer in terms of vocal tones and how they applied to dark, heavy, crusty hardcore. However, the actual structure of the vocal arrangement in practically every 90's crusty/anarcho bands with male/female vocals (namely the trade-off style), directly derived from the Extreme Noise Terror school (who had themselves borrowed it from early Antisect) more than Nausea's. All this to say that SA were completely in that alley, trade-off male/female vocals applied to fast and crusty hardcore punk. You can hear that they knew and loved their Swedish hardcore as the riffs clearly point in that direction but I would venture that they were probably more into Homomilitia, Excrement of War, Society Gang Rape and Jobbykrust (especially in Anna's voice) in terms of inspiration, intention and direction. The music is heavy, has thickness, without being too clean, and sounds really powerful with a crunchy metallic texture that goes well with the very punky vibe of the songwriting. Simple but effective, heavy and dynamic, angry and honest crusty anarchopunk with a 90's scandicore vibe and lyrics about male violence, feminism, class hatred and booze. Nothing earth-shattering for the genre but very few bands did it as potently. "I am the boozer, you're nothing - a loser."



On the other side are Scumbrigade, a band that was significantly more famous than Slaganfall and definitely more prolific. They even toured the States in 2000 and if that does not symbolize accomplishment, I don't what does. SC were a Stockholm-based band active in the late 90's/early 00's and this split 10'' was actually their first release with six songs recorded in October, 1997. I distinctly remember ordering the tape discography in 2003 (along with tapes from Amen, Battle of Disarm and A//Political) from some distro solely because I loved the name "Scumbrigade" and I could not imagine a bad band with a cool name like this (needless to say this way of reasoning led me to some bitter disappointments in the years that were to come). And I was not wrong, SB were really enjoyable and matched my expectations at the time: fast as fuck dual vocal crusty hardcore with political lyrics. The undeniable plus was that they sounded kinda frantic and even sloppy at times which made them accessible and even more lovable to me.





I suppose SB are mostly remembered (if they are at all, I haven't done any survey) as this really fast crusty thrashcore band bordering on powerviolence and their early steps into the big wide world were already taking that direction, though the road was paved with shaky and decidedly crusty rocks. Although not deprived of elements typical of the 90's brand of fast hardcore (the characteristic breaks, the guitar riffs, the overall song conception...), the present songs have a crusty vibe reminiscent of the fastest specimens of the genre like Embittered, Excrement of War, State of Fear or Amen, and the aggressive, relentless dual vocal attack further reinforces that impression. Fast hardcore recipe with crust ingredients? Works for me. The harshness of Tekla's voice - which reminds me of Mags from EOW or Agnes from Homomilitia - certainly gives the songs a raspy angry edge and a feel of urgency that is hard to top which balance well with Love's breathless hardcore shouts. The structure of the songs follows the traditional pattern of "all-out fast thrash followed by groovy hardcore breaks you can dance to" and I suppose SB was this kind of bands that, musically, could be pleasing to hardcore and crusty crowds alike (assuming such distinctions were relevant at all then and there, context is everything). The production here is a bit rough which gives SB's side a raw hardcore feel that can be thought to fit well with their very fast, manic approach (but one cannot help but notice the discrepancy with SA's sound). Aesthetically and lyrically, SB were rooted in the radical politics of 90's anarchopunk with songs about compulsory heterosexuality, antifascism, the alienating nature of beauty canons or squatting as a means to resist capitalistic notions of ownership. 

SB went on to release more furious materials, with split Ep's with Ens and Tolshock and a full Lp, Negative Hardcore Destructive Youth, in 2000. Following the demise of the band, singer Love formed Skitkids, bass player Peter played in Sista Civilisationens Död, Audionom and - later on - in Skitkids and Herätys, while guitarist Jocke (who was also a part of Yuppiecrusher and Diaspora when he was in Scumbrigade) did some time with Life's a Riot! and War of Words. 




This split 10'' was released on Död & Uppsvälld Productions, a label run by members of SB that also put out materials from Muckspreader and Totalitär.        





          

Monday, 20 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 7): Proyecto Terror / Denak "Hagamos del punk una amenaza / Estado de bienestar" split Ep, 1996

Grindcore. Without a shadow of a doubt the punk subgenre my neighbours like the least (judging from their hopeless moaning whenever I play some at home). And fair enough, after all it did take me a few years to get into it and even so I have always very picky about my grindcore. Ironically enough, a lot of the earliest punk gigs I went to were of the grindcore variety and I learnt about the very existence of the genre on the spot. Needless to say that 17 year old me was completely unprepared to be exposed to cavemen growls and blasting hardcore. At that time I was much more interested in spiky punk-rock and I just did not understand the connection between the two although I was told that grindcore was also "punk-rock", a statement that deeply confused me at the time. But the thing was that, if you were a Paris punk kid between 1999 and 2002, you would obviously go to the Squat du 13, a brilliant venue with brilliant people that hosted an insane amount of punk gigs of all kinds, but especially grindcore bands. In fact, you could argue that this squat was perhaps the best grindcore place at that time, anywhere. 

As for me, even if I did go to the gigs, I did not always actually watch them. In fact, I would often hang out in the yard drinking beers with my punker-than-punk mates, all wishing there was at least one streetpunk band on the bill in lieu of all these bizarrely-named "hardcore-grind-crust-whatever" bands like Cripple Bastards, From Ashes Rise or Denak indeed. We were young fools and I try not to think about all the great bands that were playing a few meters away from us and that I could have seen if I had made the effort to open my mind instead of being a juvenile wanker with a crush on mediocre oi-punk. Oh well, you grow and you learn. 

I realize we haven't been to Spain very often on Terminal Sound Nuisance and the reason is pretty plain. I certainly enjoy some Spanish bands but I suppose I am just not well versed enough to be able to write relevantly about it. But then, there is Proyecto Terror and I absolutely love this band as they sound exactly (and I mean EXACTLY) how I want my grinding crust to sound: simple, raw, direct, aggressive, obnoxious and punky. No technical bollocks, no cheesy metal moments, no constipated grunts and no falsely provocative "fun" lyrics about penises and excrements. 



PT were from Zaragoza and they were active between 1992 and 1997 which locates them at the historical heart of the eurocrust wave. Apparently, the band originally started as a side-project that was formed because Psychotic Noise were playing in Zaragoza and some kind of grindy, noisy band was needed to support them and the boys seized the opportunity (the first bass player Kike and singer Avellano were already in Bastardos del Metal together at that time). Now, that's what I called a proper DIY spirit. I am not sure which of the split with Denak or the one with Violent Headache was released first (the former was recorded in April, 1996 but I have no date for the latter) but both saw the light of day during the same year, in 1996. PT did not have a demo from what I can gather although there is a pretty rough cavemen grindcore rehearsal recording from 1993 included on their Shitcography cd with deliciously gruff covers of Doom, Disrupt, Extreme Noise Terror and Napalm Death (just in case you still hadn't figured out how this band with "Terror" in their name sounded like). 



The six PT songs on this self-released split were actually part of a longer recording session (eight more songs from the session can be found on the aforementioned cd) and are my favourite from them. I suppose you could claim that PT was pretty much the crustiest band in Spain in the mid-90's, although they definitely had a strong grindcore edge too (possibly because there were quite a few excellent grind acts at that time over there). Blend the early days of Disrupt and ENT, without forgetting to add a spoonful of Extreme Noise Error for some crusty sloppiness, and then soak it in a raw grindcore marinade made out of early Napalm Death, Rot, Agathocles, Violent Headache and Terrorizer. The music is highly dynamic, fast, aggressive with two growling singers who sound so over-the-top (and enjoying it) that it is just perfect. The "production" is as it should be for the eurocrust genre, crunchy, raw and energy-oriented. 

The split with the mighty Violent Headache on Mala Raza also comes recommended (with both bands covering each other) but I prefer the thick sound of the collaboration with Denak. PT's lyrics were of a political nature ("Machicidio" is about sexism, "USA" about imperialism) but they also had a tongue-in-cheek side with pisstakes about Kurt Cobain and punk fashions. Sounds good to me. Following the split of the band, and among other things, Avellano kept singing in the thoroughly enjoyable Mobcharge, Konguito played in Fuerza Para Vivir, Kike in KBKS,  Dani in Criatura and Raul in Manolo Kabezabolo y Los ke se Van del Bolo (quite an albatross of a name).  



On the other side are Denak, a grindcore band from Madrid that is actually well-respected in "da scene". Denak is a perfect example of a top band I could have seen in 2001 (when they played with Cripple Bastards at the Squat du 13 in Paris) but probably did not because I was busy boozing before the venue, probably discussing the merits of Oxymoron's first album... I have no precise recollection of most of the gigs I went to at that time (unless there was actually a band I wanted to see, which also happened fortunately) but I do remember distinctly a slightly older, and thus infinitely wiser, punk - who happened to be a grindcore convert - telling me that Denak were, to him, currently, the best grind band in the world. That was quite a statement and although I still did not bother checking them out before a long time, credulous me remembered his words, so much so that, to this day, Denak will always be a band that holds an aura of awe for me. 

I am not a Denak (or grindcore) expert but I understand the members were heavily involved in the DIY punk scene and its grindcore subdivision in the 90's. Iñaki and Gerardo also ran Upground records, a grind label that put out materials from Rot, Cripple Bastards as well as a tape compilation in 1995 entitled Reality Shows that included Violent Headache, Carcass Grinder, Patareni and... Proyecto Terror. Denak formed in 1994 but the split with PT corresponded, I think, to their first proper recording session from May, 1996 (their songs on the split with the delicately-named Excreted Alive were from the same session) although they appeared on compilations in 1995 so I guess there must have been some kind of demos or rehearsal recordings prior to '96 too. But this is early Denak we're dealing with here. 



If Proyecto Terror epitomized what I mean with grinding crust, Denak exemplified crusty grindcore (you may scoff all you like, there is a distinction, in my head at least, it is a matter of intentionality, shape and balance). The five Denak songs on the split are beefy, heavy, raw and, most of all, very punky. The songwriting is direct and clearly old-school oriented, which is fairly logical considering the timeframe. This is my type of grindcore: primitive, effective and groovy. They also rely on dual vocal orthodoxy but with tones and flows that are different to PT's and meaningfully illustrate the stylistic divergence between crust and grind. I am reminded of Terrorizer, Rot, Disassociate, Agathocles, Warsore and Violent Headache and that is no bad thing. Grindcore glory in all its tasteful simplicity. Denak were a pretty serious band as well with lyrics about the daily grind, alienation and keeping it angry. 
     




  

Monday, 13 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 6): Mindsuck / Unarmed split Ep, 1996

Next saturday, Reality Crisis are playing the 1in12 Club with Doom, Sedition and Anti-System. This is normally the kind of memorable gig I would be the first in line to go to but fate (also called "employment") decided otherwise and instead of having a great time in Bradford, I will be selling bloody kiddies' books all day, basically trading a beloved form of aural racket for a much less enjoyable - albeit about as noisy - one. Believe me, the level of chaos produced by children playing with sound books (the one with the farm animals is particularly frightening) can put to shame most punk bands. If you listen carefully, I am sure you can hear my heart bleeding from where you are... But anyway, despite my bitter disappointment, I have been thinking about Reality Crisis lately, a band that, for some unfathomable reason, I had never really bothered digging into. So the time to correct this mistake could not be more right (and more hurtful) and today's chapter of my 90's split records series is going to deal with a rather little-known pre-Reality Crisis band: Mindsuck. 



To tell you the truth, the internet is not exactly ripe with details about Mindsuck and although I had already picked this record for Kids of the 90's, I was not entirely sure that the band was actually connected to Reality Crisis. Fortunately for me, I could ask some reputable punk nerds about it (it was not that difficult, Japanese punk music being of course a traditional field for dedicated geeks, so much so that I often wondered if you actually had to be classically trained in Japanese punk-rock in order to reach proper punk nerd status) and they kindly confirmed that, indeed, MS shared three members with RC: Daisuke on vocals, Shintaro on the bass and Eishiro on the drums (though he was not part of the very first RC lineup, he was in charge of the mighty D on the Deformed Society Ep, the split with Avskum and the first album from 2003). So I humbly thank Luc, Zach, Tom and Takeshi for their help. 

MD were from Nagoya but the date of formation is unclear (I'd say 1995 but I could be wrong). There is no practical information about the band itself on the insert, apart from a thank list that is still useful if you are into guessing games. This split Ep with Unarmed was released in October, 1996, on MCR Company, so it is relatively safe to assume that the five MS songs were recorded earlier that year. The band had already appeared on an MCR production though, on the Natural Crust & Punk Force compilation Ep, which they shared with Order and the Nausea-loving Mental Disease, released in February, 1996 (I sadly do not own the record so I am unable to tell you much about it other than it has a pretty funny cover). MS were also included on the Punk and Destroy vol. 4 VHS and you can actually watch their intense performance on youtube if you're so inclined (and why wouldn't you be?). These festivals, organized by members of CFDL and SDS, took place in the early/mid 90's at a Nagoya venue called Huck Finn and the volume 4 also included Abraham Cross, Iconoclast, CFDL and Defiance which is a star lineup if you ask me. Since the venue, the promoters and Punk & Destroy itself are all listed in the thank list, it is safe to assume that MS played the festival before the release of the split Ep (in '95 or '96 I suppose, I could not find the date). I know, I know, I am being picky but I like to know these things. 



The band did leave a rather clear message as to where they stood in terms of influence and intent with a highly referential slogan right in the middle of the insert: "Rags noise crust". Now, as I mentioned in the Japanese Crust vs the World series, the "rags" analogy was started by the mighty Acid and perpetuated by Gloom (and others). So the fact that MS referred to the ragscore tradition while slightly altering it lexically (from "Speed noise core rags" to "rags noise crust") gives you a significant idea about their artistic stance and also places them purposely in the historical narrative of Japanese crust. But let me rephrase that: noisy crust with gruff vocals. Quite typical of this brand of Japanese cavemen crust pioneered by Macrofarge with a huge early Doom influence (the importance of the band in Japanese crust music and aesthetics cannot be overstated) in the riffs, beats and especially in the vocals which sound impressively like Jon Doom's (the work on the flow, the accentuation and the tone is amazing). Abraham Cross, in terms of intent, are definitely another major point of reference, although MS were not quite as powerful and thunderous and Sore Throatish and sounded more minimalistic and stripped down. The songs on the Ep also significantly have two layers of guitar, one that is Doom/Discard inclined while the other sounds completely distorted and overblown. This crust-marries-noisepunk technique was also used by Gloom and I would argue that MS certainly looked in that direction when they were thinking about their sound texture, especially with the presence of a very upfront crunchy bass sound that leads the charge.

The early period of RC is really not unlike MS as the three songs from Chaos of destruction 3xLp compilation show (they are even rawer actually) and the permeating, almost cosmogonic in a structural sense, Doom influence was still to be felt heavily on Deformed Society and the Let's dance to the mass of sound '99 tape. 

I think I've seen this picture before...


If this first side of oblivious cavemen ragscrust did not scare you away, let's get to the other one with a band from Sweden, Unarmed (not to be confused with Tokyo's Unarm), that were about as subtle and neanderthalian as their Japanese partners. If there was little intel about Mindsuck, Unarmed appear to be even less documented. In fact, apart from their city of origins (Färjestaden, a small city on an island at the South West of the country), I could not find anything. But after repeated listens, I could not shake the feeling that I had heard these vocals in another band. I know that most people find 90's crust, and especially its cavemen persona, to be generic and that gruff bearlike growls sound like just any other gruff bearlike growls. But people are wrong (oh yes, they are) as there is a fine art to crust vocalization, and even the smallest variations can turn your perfectly unintelligible orthodox crust warcry into a magical moment or, on the contrary, make them fall completely flat and tedious. It is a tough game. 

And then, in a moment of epiphanic fulgurance, it struck me: 3 Way Cum. Unarmed's singer had exactly the same voice as 3 Way Cum's - the one with the low voice - on their last Ep The Last Cumshot, which is incidentally one of the best Swedish crust records ever (and I stand strongly by that statement, first because it is the truth and second because I have already raved about this very record on the blog). I checked the names of the bands' participants and indeed, Joppe sang in both and EA also played the bass in 3WC (the two of them were in the last lineup of the band, before they split up in 1997). It is plausible that Joppe and EA were already playing in Unarmed before they were asked to join 3WC since the four songs included on this split Ep were recorded in February, 1996, but since EA played both the drums and the guitar on this particular recording, Unarmed may have only been some kind of studio project initially. 



Listening conjointly to Unarmed and late 3 Way Cum makes a lot of sense as it helps one understand where the massive crust influence on The Last Cumshot came from. Unarmed were actually even crustier and more primitive. If there were strong Swedish hardcore influences in late 3WC, Unarmed's sound was more basic and direct, almost atavistically cavecrust with some of the gruffest vocals - without ever sounding like the source is constipated or just cheesily trying too hard - I have ever heard. Absolutely brutal. The first three songs are quite generic for the genre (and I am saying lovingly) with a heavy guitar sound unleashing slightly metallic riffs, a punishing dischargy beat, the expectedly groovy Swedish songwriting flair and a raw production, somewhere between early Sauna, Warcollapse and early Sarcasm. But the real gem here is the last song, "As mankind dies", a slow-paced apocalyptic number with a dark guitar tune which perfectly fits the scorching vocals and I wished they had written more songs like this one.

Unarmed recorded four songs - with different members on the bass and guitars - for a second split Ep released the next year, in 1997, this time with Czech/Polish cavemen crust warriors How Long?, on Insane Society Records. Unsurprisingly, these new tracks were very much in the same spirit, though lacking a little in the crunch power department because of a rather thin raw sound (but perhaps that was the idea). 





Thursday, 9 November 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 5): Money Drug / Wind of Pain "Stanowczo Dość! / Untitled" split Ep, 1995

How should crust really sound? And I mean this literally. What type of sound should a lover of crust be entitled to expect? Of course, you could just deflect the question and argue that everything is subjective, a matter of personal tastes and of how they have been moulded and forged in a specific context informed by time, place and identity. But then, you could pretty much say the exact same statement about anything, with variations in the amount of pseudo academic veneer you want to embellish your dazzling intellect with. 

I remember having a conversation with a younger punk who was - allegedly - heavily into crust music a few years ago and since it has become a rare occurrence where I live, let's say I was rather pleased. The fellow was telling me that he loved Disrupt but could only listen to Unrest and the split with Sauna because the rest was too poorly played and recorded for him. Similarly, he only was into the Axegrinder album but could never listen to Grind the Enemy in its entirety because of the same issue. I tried to argue with him that, given the context of production of both bands, it was logical and unavoidable that their early works sounded a bit rough, that it was part of the deal and that you should be expecting and embracing it. But he would not budge, maintaining that the massively produced sound of acts like Wolfbrigade or Hellshock was what he was looking for in crust, it was his personal expectation and even if it meant discarding context, it was a valid one. Clearly, our points of reference differed but it still made me think about the concept of expectation when applied to crust music (oddly, a subject matter rarely touched upon by current philosophers). When "neocrust" was all the rage in the mid-00's, a mate of mine jokingly came up with the term "crust de salon" (which you could translate roughly as "lounge crust") in order to differentiate it from the more old-school form of savage crust which he called "crust des bois" ("crust from the woods" basically, though the term could now mistakingly be applied to so-called "blackened crust" so I feel the phrase "cavemen crust" is more relevant and, well, funnier). It sounds a bit silly now but it was certainly a useful tool to talk about crust music. And it did not only have to do with sound production either. After all, Massgrave always have a good sound but are inherently cavemen crust while you can very well have a lounge crust band with a cheap trebly production (out of decency I shan't give any names here). 



But anyway, and to get back on tracks, when I am in the mood for 90's crust or when I am doing researches about it, I have specific expectations. It does not mean I am going to dismiss a crust band who tried something different (like Counterblast or Contropotere) and there were bands that certainly surpassed my expectations (like Hiatus or Warcollapse). But I have a certain fondness for the typical crust bands and records and how, from a broader perspective, they reflect upon this crust wave globally. Typical is - ironically - pretty fucking great. But again, your expectations might be different from mine. The Money Drug/Wind of Pain split Ep is a typical 90's crust record, in the noblest sense of the term. Be warned that we are deep into cavemen crust punk territory but then, this is exactly what you should be expecting.       



Money Drug were from Gdańsk, Northern Poland and were active in the mid-90's (between 1995 and 1997 I suppose). As I mentioned in the post about Homomilitia, Poland was ripe with ace crust and anarcho bands at that time and the level of quality and inspiration that they achieved was genuinely impressive. Was MD one of the best of them? Well, actually, solely judging from the four songs on this Ep anyway, they were not. It does not mean I do not enjoy them (because I really do), however, from my own retrospective point of view, that of an outsider, I feel the main interest in the band's legacy is how deliciously typical of eurocrust they sounded like. I suppose the very name of the band almost gives the game away, "Money drug" being the title of a Doom song (you could almost make a compilation with bands named after Doom songs nowadays), although I guess they could have more relevantly gone for an Extreme Noise Terror one since MD fall in the grand category of "dual vocal savage cavemen crust" (and yes I have got a copyright on this so don't you dare nick it).



Although now - sadly - an almost extinct genre, savage dual vocal crustcore was a bit of an olympic punk discipline. Almost every country had its own representative of the style, as if having one was in the official punk ckecklist. As I mentioned, MD were not the most gifted Polish crust band but they were the ones that absolutely fitted the dual vocal crust template the most. Early ENT and Disrupt obviously come to mind (they covered both at gigs), but I am also thinking about Embittered and Amen (especially for the sloppy over-the-top gruff vibe), Subcaos, Namland, Under-Threat and Excrement of War (which they incidentally also covered). If you are into this typical 90's crust sound (and why shouldn't you, it always goes down a storm at wedding parties), these four songs recorded in March, 1995, will put a wide smile on your face. The recording is raw and the playing is sometimes all over the place but that is exactly why I like it. The songs are energetic, fast and angry, with riffs respectfully borrowed from ENT and even an attempt at a Cimex solo (I think!). The real hit on MD's side is "Stanowczo Dość!" (meaning "Enough is enough") with its cracking overcrust mid-paced break in the middle of the song. That's exactly how it is done. I often find myself lamenting the disappearance of this once glorious genre (usually when I have had one too many at the pub, it does not always end with me standing up on the counter to encourage people to play cavemen crust but it did happen a couple of times) and listening to MD further reinforces this feeling of deep loss. The lyrics are of a political nature with songs against nationalism, police brutality and bad punx.

From what I can gather, the band was really active in the scene locally and all the members also played, albeit on different instruments, in Stench of Death, a much more crossover metal-punk affair (there is actually a split live tape from '97 between Money Drug and Stench of Death). Never too busy, some members of MD/SOD also teamed up with people from the criminally underrated metallic crust band Enough! (also from Gdańsk) to create one of the best old-school crust bands ever, Filth of Mankind, who also preserved the great tradition of naming your band after another band's song in the process.



On the other side of the split are Wind of Pain, a band from Helsinki who also took another band's song as its name (in this case Bastard) and therefore earned its place on this record. I am what you could call pretty big on WOP. I cannot recall exactly when I first heard them but the name was already familiar when I eventually did by ordering the Mutilate Mankind cd, a record I still regularly play. WOP belongs to that category of great 90's bands with a rather decent discography and a respectable lifespan (they played from 1993 to 2000) that unfairly sank into obscurity. And inexplicably too, since their crushing and accurate late Anti-Cimex worship on their Warpain Explotion tape should have ensured them some kind of cult status. Oh well, the ways of punk-rock are sometimes impenetrable.



WOP's members were certainly busy bees. Bassist Lalli also played in Força Macabra and Uutuus, while guitarist Samppa - who did VMKT in 1990 with Lalli - played in Rytmihäiriö with drummer Otto who also played in Força Macabra with Lalli and, as for singer Edu, he sang for Amen as well. Easy-peasy, right? But anyway, as I mentioned, the band's early stages could be described as a most tasteful and crunchy take on the post '86 Cimex sound, especially in the songs' beefiness, aggression and the intonations of the vocal work. Warpain Explotion (yes, with a "t") would deserve its own write-up so I will stop here but it is definitely a top-shelf recording (or recordings to be precise, since it was done during two different sessions, in '93 and '94) if you are crazy about Anti-Cimex (and how could you not be?). In March '95, WOP went back in the studio and recorded six songs, three of which landed on a split Ep with Kaaos-lovers Sian Iho and three on this split with Money Drug. The band kept that metallic Cimexish hardcore basis but expanded their musical additions with some No Security/Totalitär riffing, an early Swedish crust vibe not unlike Warcollapse or Uncurbed and some mid-90's Doom/Hiatus gruff power. WOP were particularly good at blending savagely crustified Swedish hardcore with crunchy, groovy but raw metallic parts (the song "Blindfold" is a prime example of this specific skill). Another superpower they had consisted in writing gruff and rocking Dischargy mid-paced anthem in the vein of "The more I see" like "Reality" on the present record. They always just worked. The production on the split Ep is pretty raw but everything is rather well balanced and you can feel the aggression and the intensity of the songs perfectly. The desperate-sounding vocals confer a darkly threatening vibe and are certainly a very strong point.



In 1996, WOP underwent some lineup changes with new members on the bass and guitar which coincided with a significant shift not only in terms of songwriting but also of sound textures. The State of Brutality and Wealthrevel Ep's were much tighter, more metallic affairs with a darker sound that emphasized the band's new ideas. While still building on the same Swedish influences, the metal injection gave the band more focus (despite a rather flat production sometimes) and room for musicianship, perhaps not unlike Wolfpack or Driller Killer, although you could also argue that they lost the raw hardcore power of their early recordings in the process (I am still personally undecided as I like both periods but for different reasons). WOP's last record was the 1999 Worldmachine Lp which is my least favourite work from them (but then, too much death-metal riffing incorporated to a hardcore punk basis always loses me).       



The Money Drug/Wind of Pain split Ep was released on Gdańsk-based Scream Records and it has the vintage look of a genuine DIY punk record from the 90's with the traditional foldout cover and cut'n'paste aesthetics. If one day some random stranger asks you about eurocrust typicality in the 90's (let's just assume it can occur) and he just happens to have a very bad breath, then this record might very well save you from a tedious conversation. Lovingly typical.    



I must admit that "Drunk punk uncle productions" is pretty hilarious. Good one.