Monday, 23 October 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 3): Disclose / Homomilitia "Attack the enemy / Milczenie = Śmierć" split Ep 1995

This split was a pretty obvious choice if you keep in mind what the overarching trope of this series is all about. You could always argue that the record was neither Disclose nor Homomilitia's best mid-90's offering and fair enough, it may not. However, in terms of historiographical relevance and from a diachronic standpoint, it seemed impossible not to tackle a Disclose record and a dual male/female vocal eurocrust band. Perhaps the combination of both bands and what it entails contextually matters more than the actual songs in this case, which is not to discard the text at the sole benefit of context, of course, since both must be read in the light of one another. 



But enough academic chit-chat and let's start with Disclose then. I already wrote extensively about Kawakami's art and vision in The Chronicles of Dis last year, although the record in question corresponded to another creative era for the band (namely their 00's "Disbones" period). The songs included on today's record are a different animal and anyone telling you that Disclose were always a one-trick pony are either intellectually deaf or actually looking for a fight (the way you chose to respond to such provocations is completely up to you). 

Kawakami playing to an audience made up of bewildered plaid shirts


The three tracks that make the Attack the enemy side of the split belong to the so-called Swedish era of Disclose that culminated in the release of the Great Swedish Feast 10'' in 1995 (a tribute to Swedish hardcore). Interestingly, Attack the enemy was recorded during the same session, at Grave New Studio (you just can't make that up) in March '95, as the aforementioned love letter to Scandinavia, the split with Cluster Bomb Unit, the compilation tracks that appeared on Damn the control and Kamikaze attacked America and the B-side of the Visions of war Ep, with chef d'orchestre and Discharge mythologist Kawakami on the guitar, Fukugama on the bass and Iro beating the D. I strongly recommend listening to the 19 songs of this recording session in a row (the first cd of the Raw brutal assault Vol.2 comes pretty handy for that) since not only will it give you a meaningful sense of what Disclose were up to at this moment in time, but it will also offer you an idea of what they were trying to achieve and illustrate how rather similar songs can be played differently - through sound setting, guitar textures, actual technique and whatever Kawakami had in his bag of Dis-tricks - in order to create a different vibe. It also raises the question of song selection. Disclose were a prolific bunch with a lot of planned appearances on vinyl and even though I am not enough of a Disclose buff to be familiar with their selection process, I sense that they certainly gave it some thoughts, as can be noticed on Attack the enemy.



The first song, "Pollution of development", is actually quite unusual for Disclose. It is a two and a half minute long song which was a bit of an oddity for the band whose songs - their longer mid-paced dischargy number notwithstanding - very seldom reached the two minute mark. In fact, even the riffs themselves sound a little at odds with what they did then. They are... rockier. I think the truth could be unveiled in the crunchy break that happens about halfway through the song and is quite reminiscent of later Anti-Cimex. Since Kawakami knew exactly what he was doing, there is a high chance that this particular number was actually an "avalanche of distorted noise" take on the late Cimex sound which would account for its rocky vibe and length. Does it work? Well, not completely but it is subjective. I don't think that this brand of heavy and rocking Swedish hardcore can really benefit from the distortion treatment which works far better for short, sharp bursts of Discharge-informed hardcore. The two other songs, "Report of a gun" and "Attack the enemy", are one minute long each and are more typical mid-90's Disclose scorchers, early-Discharge-Discard-and-Shitlickers-crashes-into-a-wall-of-noise kinda sound. Aggressive riffs that fit perfectly together, brilliantly educated vocal flow, the whole thing is repetitive but never dull, on the contrary it is always very intense and the repetitiveness acts like a metaphor for the never-ending death march of our war-plagued world, like a key to comprehend the essence of the genre. And although it sounds simple, it is not. Simple is always more difficult (I'm feeling pretty fucking profound today). Is this for everyone? Of course not. I remember a story that a close friend told me years ago. She was a big Disclose fan and had bought Raw brutal assaul Vol.2. One day she played it to a mate of hers who wasn't into punk but could still listen to some without cringing. She played him the full double-cd and the poor lad actually felt highly uncomfortable and almost physically sick. The sheer intensity, the deafening sound and the cryptic repetitiveness did not make sense to him and he just could not take it. Such is the power of the Dis.



On the other side of the split are Homomilitia. Now, I know - or rather, I think I know - that a lot of people are familiar with them, but I am also aware that this perception could be a generational thing. Do the younger generations (outside of Poland where they are quite renowned and have a - well-deserved - cult status) still listen to Homomilitia? Or do they even still listen to 90's eurocrust? Are all my readers going grey? Or have you already? Am I flogging a dead record? 



And... yes you guessed it, the time has come for cheesy reminiscing!!! Yay! I originally bought this split Ep for the Homomilitia side, although I am aware that most would buy it for Disclose's nowadays (the same thing could be said about pretty much all their splits). I do not remember who first told me about HM but I do remember buying their wonderful Twoje Ciało Twój Wybór 1996 Lp from a Polish distro at a squat gig around Paris in the spring of 2003. I had never listened to them but I knew, for some reason, that they were great and a bit of a "90's crust classic", which the distro guy confirmed before adding that I really should get it while I could since it was his last copy, which gullible and enthusiastic me obviously did. I was not very familiar with Polish punk at the time, apart from a couple of usual suspects like Dezerter or TZN Xenna and anarcho bands like Włochaty (whom I had sloppily interviewed the year before when they played in Paris), but HM were the first Polish band I really and completely got into, both on musical and political grounds, and they are the original reason why I am such a sucker for 90's Polish crust almost 15 years later.



Poland was certainly a stronghold for eurocrust in the 90's and they had tons of angry, intense bands all sharing that particular way of writing songs and riffs that had no real equivalent anywhere else, maybe unique in the same way Greek crust was if you like. To drown you with a list of names would be utterly pointless and uninteresting but carefully listening to Sanctus Iuda, Hostility or Silna Wola would definitely give you a sense of what I mean. But let's get back to HM, shall we? The band formed in the early 90's (1991 apparently) in Lodz (that's pretty much right in the centre of the country if you're wondering) but it is unclear when they actually stopped playing since there is a live recording from 2000 floating around on youtube. The early period of the band can be glimpsed at on the Niszcz Rasizm Ale Najpierw W Swojej Głowie tape that Malarie released in 1995 and where you can find four studio tracks recorded in 1992 (not 100% sure about the exact date but it is definitely not far off). You can also check videos of their early '91 live performances if you need an illustration of the sheer intensity the band conveyed. 



That they started so early in the decade definitely puts HM in a precursory position in the grand narrative of European crust. The comparison game might not be that relevant in this case but the metallic crust sound of Nausea would be an influence to my ears (the early song certainly "Nic wiecej do powiedzenia" attests to that) especially in terms of aggression, metal drive and vocal template, and I am also hearing a lot of early Hiatus crushing crusty power as well (they were quite possibly the most influential eurocrust band anyway). I find touches of the Californian crust vibe at times (Apocalypse, Glycine Max and the likes) but, given the time frame, it must have been a case of contextualized, commonly shared influences. Finally, for the thrashiness, the wild, groovy fury of bands like Sedition or Pink Turds in Space (Agnes' raspy vocals are not so different at times) are also brought to mind. I suppose that, to some extent, in order to grasp the importance of Homomilitia, you could very well draw a parallel between them and Disaffect. They started out the same year and, although there were significant differences between both bands (HM were more metal-tinged), they both pioneered the now classic sound of blistering, heavy and crusty anarchopunk with aggressive and distinctive male/female vocals. Don't get me wrong though, there is undeniably a vintage Polish hardcore vein running through the band's work as well (they covered the mighty Moskwa in their early days and there are hints of bands like Rejestracja or The Corpse) but the very specific local and global context of the band's creation, the moment in punk history, definitely shaped what they would become and made them one of the major architects of eurocrust and 90's anarchopunk. 




The first vinyl output of the band was a split Ep with your favourite Brazilian hardcore nerds from Finland, Força Macabra, with two songs recorded in December '93, although the Ep was released in 1995. At that time, the band still had more of a caveman crust crunch to their songs but I suppose it took a lineup change for HM to become what they would be remembered for (in terms of recordings at least, though I personally love everything they've done) when two members from Toxic Bonkers joined the band on drums and bass. The band became tighter and more focused. In March '95 they recorded three songs that would appear on this split with Disclose (the songs from the album were also recorded on that same day), one original number, the crushing "Milczenie = Śmierć" (meaning "Silence = Death") with that hard-hitting aggressive metallic punk sound and amazing trade off vocal style the band mastered so well and two covers, a gloriously snotty and pummeling cover of The Partisans, "Police story" (a cover song that, interestingly, Sedition also recorded for their split Ep with Disaffect) and a noisecore take on Post-Regiment's "Ostatni raz" which shows that you always need a sense of humour and some perspective about things, and what better way to do it than the sorethroatian one?



Following the split with Disclose, released on the ever reliable Gdansk-based Scream Records (it was the label's fourth vinyl), the album eventually came out in 1996 on NNNW and it would sadly be HM's last release as the band apparently had lineup issues and could no longer commit. An unreleased session containing an Lp worth of songs also exists, which sees HM in an even heavier, gloomier mode, but I haven't been able to find recording details about it. On it, Agnes' vocal style sounds much closer to the one she used for her following band, the crucially underrated Lost (a band that wrote one of the best crust albums of the 00's), so I am - wildly - guessing it was recorded in the very early noughties (2004 pops up on da internet but I'm not really buying it) however do correct me if I am wrong.  




Is Disclose teaming up with Homomilitia the epitome of what the 90's DIY punk passion and dedication were all about? Yes, pretty much indeed.

10 comments:

  1. Homomilitia have an unreleased 2nd album. It's a crime it never officially came out. Everything they did was so great. And the Lost - Fear-Strach album from 2003, which is a post-Homomilitia band, remains one of the best, and most interesting, albums of this millennia. Thick and dripping with powerful atmosphere.

    Hostility. Their tapes need to be reissued. So good. Aren't they related to Piekło Kobiet, another high quality crust band, and from Poland, that don't get enough lip service. -ZM

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    1. Pawel Scream dropped a message on my shitbook page about this record :)

      "The last HM gig was on May 26th, 2000 at Pilon in Toruń (with Forca Macabra and Wind of Pain). I was lucky enough to be there as well as at their first ever gig (and 50+ in between, haha). I guess not so many people know that Agnes wasn't in the band since the beginning, originaly HM had two male singers but one of them (Konrad - who later played in an industrial band Jude) left after initial 2-3 months and she replaced him (funny coincidence is that quite some years later they got together and I believe they're still partners raising a child together). Agnes' first gig with HM was in October 1991 in Bielsko Biała (with Chaos UK, Rectify and Smar SW).
      That unreleased LP was recorded in March 2000 (except Wojtek's vocals that were recorded in summer or autumn the same year). The reason it remains unreleased was not line-up problems, but the fact that Strzałka (guitar player, who made their previous covers) never made the cover artwork. He just kept on promising that he'd do it "soon". I remember that at some point the rest of the band gave him certain deadline saying that afterwards they'r just go for black cover with nothing but band's logo but in the end they waited longer and nothing came out of it... Which is a shame, even if personally I like that recording less than the LP and both 7"s...

      As for the Disclose side - it wasn't supposed to sound that shitty (their usual rawness is one thing but this record is way beyond that), the thing is that something got fucked when they recorded the songs on DAT and when I got that DAT from Wojtek, I didn't listen to it (had no means to do it), sent it to the pressing plant and only found out after receiving the records... I was seriously pissed off. Another thing is, that it was originally supposed to be HM split with Health Hazard. Unfortunately, at some point there was some communication breakdown with HH, they didn't write me for quite some time and Wojtek told me "we also promised to have a split with Disclose, so let's do this first as I already have the DAT, and we'll record HH split later on". Liking Disclose (although not as much as HH), I agreed. Suddenly, perhaps a week after I sent both DATs to the pressing plant, I got the HH DAT but it was too late to change the plans. And HM never recorded for that split with HH, so even if Disclose tape wasn't fucked, I'd be still not so happy about this release"

      It's a real shame the second Lp never came out indeed. There are some seriously solid tracks on it, heavier and gloomier.

      I am not sure of any connection between Hostility and Pieklo Kobiet but NNNW reissued a brilliant Hostility demo tape this year actually. It's an absolute ripper and, assuming anyone anyone needed proof of that, it shows that 90's Polish crust was definitely at the top of the game.

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    2. And thinking about it, an Homomilitia/Health Hazard split (as it was supposed to happen) would have been quite a thing...

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  2. DAT masters were a real hassle. You either had to rent studio time, get very lucky to know someone in a band with their own over-geared basement studio, or maybe get lucky at a musician rental store that had one. -ZM

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  3. Hi Anonymous (ZM),

    The best Hostility tape (I Niech Jeden Strzał...) actually WAS reissued on LP this year and I believe it's still possible to get here in PL.

    Now imagine, I quite recently (a few months ago) lost (!!!) their DAT with that unreleased 7"s. So I've got only these mp3's that are floating around the internet... :(((

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    1. Haha, and I only now realised what ZM stands for. Long time, no hear mate! :)

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    2. Damn... that unreleased Ep is brilliant. I was hoping someone would unearth it at some point but my hopes have just been crushed :(

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  4. I'm unclear. For which band is there lost EP DATs? What band has a brilliant unreleased EP?

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    1. Hostility (sorry for the confusion). Arguably their best material, certainly the most old-school crust-sounding https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSer32n7U6M

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  5. Thanks for the clarification. I had that Hostility promo saved off youtube and didn't equate it with an unreleased 7". Good information. Hey, Pawel! Thanks for all that information on Homomilitia as well. Hope you are well. -ZM

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