Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Ashes to ashes, crust to CRUST (round 6): Đornata "Simple, Fast and Good + So What" Lp, 2014

Đornata is exactly the kind of band I go to festival for. I stumbled upon the band last summer at the Monte Paradiso festival in Pula, Croatia, and instantly loved them. I am not going to pretend I had heard of them prior to that gig, but then, the discovery of yet unknown local bands was precisely what prompted me to travel there (well, that and the rather flimsy - it appeared - rumour that you could set camp close to the seaside without too much hassles). Obviously, the presence of familiar faces on the festival's lineup (in this particular case, FUK and Extinction of Mankind) and of bands I was really curious to see (Pizda Materna and Crude SS) comforted and reassured me, but the prospect of watching bands I was utterly clueless about was a thrilling factor and therefore, in order to make the whole thing more exciting, keep an open mind and give a proper chance to all the bands, I chose not to check those I had not heard about before I went. The Monte Paradiso is an old-school punk festival, one that does not go for monomania and instead offers a diverse array of punk music, which is totally fine by me as I usually have troubles with festivals that only have one or two subgenres represented. They always get tedious after the first day and, even though I specifically favour certain types of punk music, I no longer can stand eight crust bands in a row, as good as each one of them is separately.

But on the whole, I am not a huge sucker for festivals anyway. You inevitably get pissed early and you usually have to bear with grindcore bands playing for far too long (without mentioning their contractual encores), survive the apocalyptic state of the bogs after dark and deal with wankers bellowing and bleating all night on the camping site. Call me a diva all you like, I am seldom in the mood for idiots, even when they wear studs, dreads or a mohawk... But let's not digress, I'll tell you all about my fascinating holidays when I write my autobiography (or more likely, when I finally get someone to do it for me). A local friend of mine had told me good things about Đornata and how I would probably like them, which made me both eager to watch them play and, paradoxically, slightly vexed that I had not heard of them before, although I had decided not to on my own. And she was completely right, I did like them a lot and got their record after chatting up to the lads when they were done playing. The rest of the festival was good but Đornata remained my personal highlight because I did not expect to appreciate them that much and because, nowadays, it can prove difficult to be pleasantly surprised and, let's get real, this feeling is unbeatable.

Đornata (it is pronounced something like "Djornata") are based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and have been playing since 2012 according to their website. The drummer, Gaber, also sits behind the kit for the national grindcore heroes, Extreme Smoke 57, while vocalist/bass player Dan (who has been in quite a few bands apparently) and guitar player Lisko had already teamed up together in Wasteland, an interesting mid-tempo dark metallic crust project, somewhere between Warcollapse's slow moments, Misery, Intoxicate and Bad Influence, but with a modern twist. The recording dates on the Lp are not indicated (or maybe I just did not get the insert or the memo, which is plausible) but seeing as it was released in March, 2014, I suppose that 2013 is not such a wild guess (thanks fuck Captain Obvious was whispering in my ear on this one). There are actually two different recording sessions on the Lp, each corresponding to a side, as the first one contains the "Simple, fast and good" Ep while the other includes the "So what" Ep. It is unclear whether these Ep's saw the light of day in physical format before the Lp's release, for all I (and discogs) know there could have been cd or tape versions of them or just digital releases. Angry Voice, from Germany, a label with a focus on international punk music (they also released records from Antimelodix, Los Rezios, Mutabo, NoWhiteRag among others) was responsible for putting out the vinyl.  

Live, Đornata's music screamt eurocrust so I was looking forward to seeing how they had managed in the studio. Despite an undeniable crust element, "Simple, fast and good" does not dive head first into the genre like their live performance could have suggested. This first Ep is actually pretty diverse and cross over genres with an ease, a distinctly punk energy and a noticeable snotty enthusiasm that are refreshing and bring the 90's to mind. The production is very dynamic and clear but not needlessly heavy (it is arguably lacking in power sometimes). I suppose I was expecting the songwriting to be more strongly inclined toward eurocrust but I do enjoy the versatility as it remains coherent. I am sometimes reminded of early Patareni, not in terms of sound as they were much rawer, gruffer and grind-oriented, but for the ability to switch from a register to another while keeping a sense of focus (there is actually a Patareni cover on this side of the Lp). The main direction of the nine songs included on "Short, fast and loud" is still European fast crust à la Warcollapse/Hiatus/90's Doom, but there are punky grindcore numbers too and even a demented-sounding song called "Funky-punky". Clearly, Đornata are not a one-trick pony and their obvious technical proficiency (the top-notch pummeling drumming and the inventive bass lines point to strong musicianship) open possibilities that they joyfully embrace on this one. One could suggest that this kind of manic structural songwriting was influenced by bands such as Panic Overdose, a mid/late 90's Slovenian band - whom Đornata covers on the second Ep - that frantically blended raw hardcore, crust punk and grindcore (there were quite a few similarly-disposed bands in the Balkans in the 90's), or perhaps Polish crust acts like Infekcja or Toxic Bonkers. The bass parts are quite fascinating on this recording, very catchy and punky, somewhere between proper noisepunk and Patareni, while the bass sound is high and undistorted. The vocal work maybe stands as the Ep's cynosure to me. The voice is deep, hoarse and gruff, crustness incarnated (like Warcollapse singer's for instance), but can also maintain a sense of - dare I say it - tune when needed, on the song "Marchin in" for example, not unlike Ste's from EOM or Ralphyboy's from Disassociate. "Simple, fast and good"is a mise en abyme: it is simple, fast and good (simplicity pertaining to the composition).

In terms of sound, "So what" can be seen as the logical progression from the first Ep. The production is heavier, punchier and has that sweeping, buoyant quality that defines eurocrust. Texture-wise, this is definitely a crustier effort, and even though songs like "Kill" or "Punk" still retain a crazy Balkan grindcore feel, the sonic crustification combined with some clever ventures into mid-paced dark crust make "So what" stand out. The vintage Warcollapse feel remains important, and I still hear something of Polish crust in the riffs (think How Long? or Infekcja) but the influence of Belgian and Dutch crust is more pervasive, with bands like Hiatus (the eponymous song is a case in point of Hiatusitis, a medical condition that used to be common among punx in the 90's), Fleas and Lice (especially vocally), early Visions of War or even the protocrust, raw hardcore sound of Private Jesus Detector. As the number of covers demonstrate, Hiatus had a huge influence on Balkan crust in the 90's so the fact that Đornata work on that type of sound, probably best embodied by the truly excellent Spiridon Mekas Crust from Croatia at the time, makes sense (though it should be pointed that it had slowly become marginal in the area like everywhere else).

The two mid-paced songs "Why?" and "Squat" particularly caught my attention as they confer an additional dimension to the recording. "Why?" is a dark number with sung (but still deep and coarse) vocals reminiscent of the anarchopunk branch of the crust family. It is a really catchy song with a moody twist, not unlike Bad Influence jamming with Fleas And Lice after listening to Saw Throat all day. "Squat" is melancholy but ragingly so. It starts in a slow fashion with a rather mournful bass lines and Warcollapsish gruff spoken words before the chorus bursts into an excellent, intense, potent Anti-System/Antisect riff with hoarse, bear-like screams of anguish. I am not completely convinced with the emotional-sounding break at the end, but then they are always difficult to pull out (Jobbykrust were experts in those). "Why?" and "Squat" are two really solid songs that turned what was essentially a classically good eurocrust Ep (I would have signed for that anyway) into a highly promising crust one. Like on "Simple, fast and good", the bass is the focal point in the songwriting and in spite of the uncommonness of its lines and sound for the genre, I tend to think that it brings something more to the table and gives the song some extra dynamism instead of the usual layer of heaviness, which is an interesting option. The drumming is tight and song-oriented; the balance between the bass and the guitar's textures is adequate and stronger than on the previous effort. And of course, the vocals ideally cover every nuances of the 90's eurocrust repertoire, from gruffest savage growls to threatening doomy moans (what an ace alexandrine, right?).

I have read that Đornata had something coming out soon so I am definitely looking forward to seeing where they will take their band of crust and how they will transcribe in the studio what I have recently seen them do live. Breath held.      


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