Thursday, 11 May 2017

Ashes to ashes, crust to CRUST (round 11): Disturd "Dark" cd, 2015

Any punk elder (or wannabe elder really, since they are basically the same thing, age being a bourgeois social construct and all that) will tell you - even if you didn't request his opinion (it is often a "he") on the matter - that it is unwise to break some sacred rules when brainstorming for a band name. As History has often proven, picking the wrong moniker may eventually condemn your top band to obscurity and make your shirt highly difficult to sell. When it comes to names with a Dis prefix, one has to be even more careful as the frontier between an acceptable Disname and an embarrassing one is tenuous indeed. 

Here is a short guideline to help you through the Dis-picking process (this is a strictly linguistic enquiry and does not take the band's quality into consideration):

- Great Disnames: they are referential, relevant to the Discharge worldview and actually mean something (Disaster, Disaffect, Distemper...).

- Decent Disnames: still referential and meaningful but tend to stray away from the Discharge signifying web (Disclose, Discard, Dislike...).

- Fantasy Disnames: neologisms relying solely on referentiality with still some kind of sense (Disfear, Dischange, Dissystema...).

- Tasteless Disnames: Dis-based neologisms that sound corny and on the dark side of humour (Disbeer, Disfornicate, Dishit...).  

Unfortunately, and as much as I like the band, Disturd fall into the last category. When I first read about them about ten years ago, I ignorantly scoffed and mentally discarded them as a "comedy Dis-band" unworthy of my royal attention. Even though Disturd were often mentioned in the same breath as Effigy, AGE or SDS, I was not going to waste my princely time and money on a band that had "turd" in its name (the only exception I was then willing to make applied to Pink Turds in Space). It took a short review of the Isolation Ep which compared them to Antisect (it really is that easy if you want to make me buy a record, just say casually that they sound like Antisect) for me to, first, order it and then realize how mistaken I had been. Of course, I could blame my past foolishness on the arrogance of youth or on the troubled relationship I had always had with Japanese punk. But I will try - for once - to acknowledge my errors with dignity and take it on the chin. If I have to be slapped in the face as many times as I mocked the Disturd name, so be it. And well, at least they did not go for Hellturd or Turdgrinder.

I had originally thought of including a Disturd Ep in the "Japanese crust against the world" series but decided against it since the band had just released Dark in late 2015 which qualified them for this crust series instead (quite a fascinating TSN anecdote, innit?). Perhaps because of their bold moniker, Disturd are seldom seriously discussed when the burning topic of Japanese crust inevitably pops up, be it at a dinner party or while you are at the gym with your mates. This discrepancy, which has nothing to do with the music since Disturd certainly deliver the goods, can be partly explained with the band's unusual history. Because of the rather recent span of their prolificity (from 2012 to 2016), they are sometimes thought to be a late 00's/early 10's band. But Disturd must have actually formed in the late 90's as the existence of an early demo (with no actual date) seems to suggest. However the songs of the aforementioned demo being apparently - I haven't heard it - in a UK82/pogopunk vein (which might explain the silly name of the band if you know what I mean), I will not take this mysterious recording in consideration. In 2002, Disturd released a two-song demo, Fight back/Life, one song of which, "Fight back", ended up on a MCR compilation the same year. In 2003, they also appeared on the quietly seminal The Darkest 4 alongside Effigy, Zoe and Acrostix. If by 2003, Effigy were already a confirmed crust band (arguably one of the very best of the period), Acrostix and Zoe were, just like Disturd, in their infancy and had not had a vinyl release yet. But whereas the former quickly went on to have their own record out, the latter waited until 2011 to do so. 

It does not mean that the band was snoozing, since they self-released a tape, entitled Darkness... Faint gleam... in 2007 and Discogs lists a couple of other undated as well tapes, about which I was unable to find sufficient information (Disturd are actually little documented on da internet). In 2011, Black Water released the Isolation Ep, then one year later the Collapse Ep came out on ヤシマレコード, and, in 2014, Hardcore Survives unleashed the new Disturd incarnation with the Inside Ep. At some point between the last two Ep's, Disturd frontman Age relocated from Tsuyama to Kobe, bringing with him the full band's repertoire. My knowledge in Japanese culture being fairly limited, I do not know the specifics of Tsuyama, but from I have read, it looks like a pretty quiet town, so quiet in fact that Disturd were the first punk band to ever emerge from the location, an impressive, if anecdotal, fact when one considers the number of Japanese punk bands in the past four decades. Age reformed the band in Kobe with a new line-up, with Kakuda (formerly in Effigy and Axewield) on the drums and Nassan (Sex Messiah's singer) on the bass. The Dark cd was recorded with this new-look outfit.

Calling Dark a new album (in the sense of novelty) is actually open to discussion. It is undeniably a full length record with a collection of Disturd songs but none of them are technically new. Indeed, all of them had already appeared in different versions on previous recordings. As a consequence, it would not be irrelevant to see Dark as a compilation of re-recorded Disturd songs (some of them written in the early 00's). It does not mean, however, that it is a lazy work or one that you should ignore assuming that you are already familiar with the band's Ep's. If you are not acquainted with Disturd, then Dark is clearly a great starting point, but even if you are, the band has developed a slightly but significantly different sound with the new line-up and it is always an interesting exercise to compare different recordings of the same songs and try to notice the discrepancies in terms of texture, production and vibe (as you can imagine, afternoons with me can be really fun). Despite having a rather limited stock of them, Disturd's songs, from one recording to another, can sound really raw and distorted, or totally triumphant in a Japanese hardcore way, or totally epic like a classic old-school crust anthem... Variety in details if you like.  

A friend of mine called Disturd "the ghost of SDS" and, even after thinking long and hard about it, I cannot really think of a better phrase to characterize them (and of course, I love the high degree of nerdery of the remark, since SDS referred to themselves as "the ghost of Anti-Sect"). If you blended all the different eras of SDS into one tight, cohesive unit, the end result would sound something like Disturd. They have the heaviness, the intensity, the referential but clever songwriting, the Antisect-worship to a tee, the chugging riffs, the shredding ones and they even nod directly and respectfully toward the national crust pioneers with the song "Scum system fear". Significant dissimilarities do exist between both bands as Disturd are globally more metallic in terms of songwriting and the production is unlike any of SDS'. The band fearlessly went for some glorious UK crust moments and I cannot think of many bands able to recreate the dark vibe of "Out from the void"-era Antisect as well as Disturd (who did not think twice about borrowing a couple of riffs and vocal parts in the process). Add to this some heavy, filthy early Hellbastard riffing and mid-paced thrashy moments reminiscent of Sacrilege's flair and you will get a sonic picture of the band's backbone. As I previously pointed out, SDS remain the main compass but I would argue that their overarching influence is as structural as it is literal since it also provides the band with a creative template for the seamless incorporation of classic UK crust elements into the Japanese crust sound. They make it sound easy but it clearly isn't. Contrary to SDS who mostly and contextually worked on the UK sound, Disturd also largely build upon the national brand of metallic crust and I distinctively hear some influences from AGE in the overall triumphant groove and from Effigy, not only in the drumming (the peculiar but brilliant double-bass parts evidently come to mind) but also in the arrangements and the balance between the three instruments. 

Disturd do not really bring anything new to the table but they are remarkable in the way they keep that specific school of Japanese crust alive, without pretension but with an unrivaled conviction, especially when one considers that Age has been playing these songs for almost 15 years. The tempos are diverse, ranging from the fast and pummeling dischargy beat to the mid-paced crunchy metal specimen and the slow, moody epic trek. The sound production is perfect for this kind of sound, it has a definite rawness and urgency but still maintains a degree of crispiness so that it feels organic and not the product of a fancy engineer (truth be told, it also works because they are a tight trio). The distorted bass sound is truly to die for, groovy, brooding and thick, it cements the heaviness into the composition and leaves enough space for the guitar to thrash. The vocals are very upfront, which I like, naturally pissed and harsh, with a some variety in the tones (from caveman growls to angry shouts). 

The artwork is pretty simple, darkly suggestive and looks a lot like the Inside Ep's, so that it ties both records aesthetically (perhaps too much so). Dark was self-released by the band on cd only (for now anyway) and is still available if you care to look for it, but then it might take more efforts than just clicking twice on youtube.            


  1. I had their early demo tape, when they were still play pogopunk/uk82. They do not play these songs later for some reason.;) Also I heard what Drink In 99' is pre-Disturd (this is cool raw pogo-punk), but I'm not sure that correct.

    1. I guess their previous pogopunk style (late 90's sounds like a fair guess, I suppose they were young spiky punx then) accounts for the "Turd" name and they decided to stick with it afterwards.

      And "Way of life" sounds nothing like their crust period, it is difficult to believe it is the same band.

      Thanks a lot for that man.

    2. About early Disturd. I think, early Disturd, Drink in 99' and Destruction is an one oi/pogo/skins crew from the end of 90s (?). On the cover from this tape they thanked to Destruction in the first place, this is atypical raw pogo punk with patriotic lyrics about Japan, power and glory. I had all these tapes: Destruction thanked to Drink in 99', and Drink in 99' thanked to Destruction. No year on these covers!

      I was writing a letter to Disturd on your Facebook (I wanted to find out the year of this demo), but they didn't answer. I think, the band are embarrassed to this demo tape.:)


    4. Ha!! Also all these bands thanked to K2 Studio, and I think it is in early days.

    5. Oh boy... I would be embarrassed too to be honest.

  2. One song from that demo:

  3. I always thought DISTURD was a mispronunciation/misspelling of DISTURB , as the Japanese are wont to do sometimes. I just can't see them taking (and sticking to) a name like DIS-TURD. But what do I know?

    Also- have ya heard MORTAL WAR yet? One of the best Crust demos I've heard in ages. Axegrinder for A New Dark Age, if ya catch my drift.

    1. I actually about a possible spelling mistake but then, there was already a Japanese crusty band called Disturb (they had a split with Destroy! if I am not mistaken) in the early 90's so it is unlikely that they would have gone for that name. Perhaps Disturd sounded funny when they started as a pogopunk band, perhaps as teens? Who knows indeed!

      Yes Mortal War's demo is very good. I am still not completely sure about the black metal production but it is certainly one of the best new crust bands around. Really looking forward to the physical version of it.

  4. Disturd has been a disappointment that hasn't lived up to the associations. This CD is their best release. Thank you. I probably wouldn't have heard it otherwise. -ZM

    1. The new line-up gives much more power to the songs I think. Very curious to see where they will go next.

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  6. My friend spoke with AGE years ago in japan. He asked him, of course, what's up with the name? AGE mistakenly believed TURD meant the same "lazy" or "bum" (in the USA meaning, not the UK and"rear end" euphemism), "ne'er-do-well" if you will. He was unhappy to hear this was not the case.

    1. Ha! I can imagine the disappointment! One of the guys from Swordwielder told me that he also asked Disturd what was up with the silly name and apparently what they meant with "disturd" was "not shit", "opposed to shit". Anyway, sometimes things really get lost in translation. I saw them in Osaka in March and they were brilliant though, absolutely crushing.