This Ep almost made it to last year's Japanese Crust vs The World series. After days of intense meditation, self-doubt and olympic chain-smoking, I finally decided to consult the family astrologist, who assured me that, should I decide to leave this record out this time, the future shall grace me with another opportunity to rave about Crocodileskink and No Security. I went home with a lighter heart and wallet and wisely chose to wait. Until now.
In the grand History of punk names, Crocodileskink will certainly be remembered as a rather perplexing one. Before I did some research about this Ep (as you know, knowledge is never innate but a lifelong process, never trust those that are too imperious and peremptory about punk as arrogance often goes hand in hand with ignorance), I did not have a clue about the meaning behind the moniker, which is not to say that it is completely clear now to be honest. At some point, I had even thought that the word "skink" could be a blend between "skin" and "punk" (I blame this poor theory on my oi musical upbringing and mediocre knowledge in biology) and that, therefore, "crocodile skink" might imply some sort of half-punk, half-skinhead crocodilian, which is a pretty fucking terrifying concept. But in fact, a skink is some kind of lizard with short or absent limbs that likes burrowing in sandy ground. So basically, a crocodile skink would be a crocodile with the aforementioned attributes of a skink (judging from the youtube tutorials, they are apparently a real thing). I suppose it is better than my previous theory but it still is highly confusing. Could it figuratively suggest powerlessness and helplessness since a croc without limbs would have a pretty hard time hunting and moving without looking absolutely ridiculous? Are we all crocodile skinks, unable to live and merely surviving because we have been socially deprived of our limbs/capacities? Or was someone in Crocodileskink studying and breeding weird reptiles when the band was active? I guess we will never know.
But anyway, Crocodileskink were a Tokyo band active from 1990 to 1997 who were part of the 90's Japanese crust wave. Twenty years after they stopped playing, their legacy is quite hard to establish since they are rarely discussed or even mentioned, contrary to a lot of their local contemporaries with whom they shared records like Battle of Disarm, Abraham Cross or even Collapse Society (but I suspect this has something to do with their name since sporting a Crocodileskink shirt and still look serious is a challenge that only elite-level punks can really accept). Arguably, the band is best remembered for the work of its bass player Shige who ran Asia Records and later on Tribal War Asia and released some brilliant records throughout the years.
CS did not start as a crust band though. As their earlier recordings, the '91 War Compilation recording session and their self-titled Ep from 1992, showed, they originally were in full on Japanese hardcore mode. If the band always kept elements from the national brand of hard-hitting hardcore (there is a triumphant, relentless vibe in the songwriting), they still moved steadily in a crustier direction. The three CS songs included on the smashing Animal Rights Tape released on DIY Records in 1993 (with an impressive lineup that also had Dropdead, Disclose and Hakuchi among others) showed a strong distorted Swedish hardcore vibe with a heavy caveman crust sound and some Japanese hardcore techniques thrown in for good measures, like Shitlickers making out with Doom and Crow at the same party. And I suppose that's exactly why CS work so well for me. I am appreciative of Japanese hardcore but I cannot be said to be a massive fan of the genre (yes, you may scoff, sneer and shout abuse) so that I like it to be smoothly blended with Doom-type Scandicrust for me to properly relate to it.
The next CS vinyl contribution was on the rather glorious Tokyo Crusties compilation Ep with two songs (though I am pretty sure they were part of a longer session) that reinforced the band's position at the crossroad between England, Sweden and Japan. The band's subsequent work, the split Ep with No Security on DIY Records, can be seen as their most remarkable as far as the aforementioned punk cocktail is concerned. Taking the groovy, gruff sound and vocal style of early Doom, Hiatus or indeed the mighty Macrofage (if anything, CS were probably a Macrofarge-type band) and energizing it with over the top Japanese hardcore arrangements (like Bastard and the likes) and ripping Scandicore, the band found a very convincing compromise that could appeal to everyone (in a manner of speaking, my dad does remain utterly unmoved to this day). The recording is pretty raw but I do feel it makes the songs sound closer to mid-90's crust, which is a prerequisite for the genre and this series.
Following this Ep, CS appeared on a split Ep with Força Macabra in 1997 with a more Swedish feel (very Crude SSey) that would be further dvelopped on Kawakami's titanic Chaos of Destruction 3xLp compilation to which the band contributed three absolutely crushing songs. CS' final appearance (their cd discography notwithstanding) would be on Tribal War Asia's Crust Night 2001 with two covers, one of them being a No Security song, which makes for a pretty amazing transition, I think we can all agree on that.
No Security is actually one of the first 80's Swedish hardcore bands I really got into, along with Mob 47, Anti-Cimex and Avskum. The reason was actually pretty simple as I just bought a NS tape at an emo gig (please, don't ask) about 15 years ago (I bought Stockholm Hardcore 1983-1986 and a tape with Mob 47 and Asocial demos on that gig so you could say that it was a great night despite the music...), namely When the Gist is Sucked from the Fruit of Welfare, basically a bootleg tape version of the Lost and Found cd discography (but I did not know that at the time). I was aware that the band had shared a split Lp with Doom but what really prompted me to pick the tape was the fact that "No security" was the name of a Chaos UK song, so I figured that the band logically had to sound a bit like Doom and Chaos UK. That's deductive reasoning for ya. Funnily enough, if NS were named after a Chaos UK song, Masskontroll were named after a NS song. And, wait for it, wait for it, Winds of Genocide are named after a Masskontroll song. This kind of referential lexical chains always amuse me, although I honestly doubt this one will go further unless a band chooses phrases like "In the darkness of eternal nuclear winter" or "The howling wolves of armageddon" as a name. But what do I know? After all, it is only 2017 and who knows what kids will be into in 2037?
NS formed in late 1985 in Eskilstuna (halfway between Örebro and Stockholm according to the map) but I am unclear as to the time of death. Their latest recording dates back from May, 1993 but they may have been active afterwards. I cannot claim to be a well of knowledge in terms of 80's Swedish punk (though I am able to hold a decent conversation about it) so chronological categorizations are a bit tricky and potentially irrelevant, but there you go, a life without making wild guesses about punk-rock just doesn't seem worth living. I guess you could view NS as being a second-generation Swedish hardcore band, along with bands like Totalitär, Raped Teenagers, Rövsvett or Svart Snö, basically acts that were active and recorded during the second part of the decade. I suppose NS are still very much revered among the proper Scandicore nerds (no need to raise your hand, we know who you are), but contrary to Totalitär, who have significantly become synonymous with what Swedish hardcore should sound like (I have always seen Anti-Cimex as being in a league of their own so let's dismiss them for the sake of argument here), they do not seem to be as sought after or discussed. Yet, from the perspective of quality and consistency, I would argue that NS epitomize Swedish hardcore just as meaningfully as Totalitär. Energy, speed, pummeling beats rooted in Discharge's realms of influence, fantastically catchy riffs, fast aggressive vocals with a very specific flow, raw but powerful sound... all these genre-defining elements were condensed in NS' music. Perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that I definitely overplayed my tape and have unconsciously expected every self-proclaimed käng band to sound like them, but you cannot take away the fact that songs like "Hycklarfolket" (with its Disarm-like tuneful chorus), "Liberta" or "Jag bara frågar" (a crash course in threatening hardcore vocals) are absolute scorchers.
I am not going to delve too much into the band's discography and try to focus on the period at stake. The three songs from the split Ep with Crocodileskink were actually recorded in December, 1990, as part of a longer recording session that had seven songs in total (according to my tape anyway). And that's where it gets a little confusing, because even though this split Ep saw the light of day in 1995, these three songs already appeared on the 1993 cd version of When the Gist... I cannot be sure but I do sense some of the proverbial Lost and Found dodginess in all of this, especially since the band states in the foldout that "these tracks can also be found on a full length album later" (which would never happen, sadly). But let's get back to the actual songs on the Ep that were recorded just six months after the brilliant split Lp with Valvontakommissio (possibly my favourite NS record). They are perhaps a little more guitar-oriented and rawer but every bit as furious and raging. The vocals sound so hoarse, pissed and threatening. The riff in "Politikernas misstag" is exactly what I want from the genre and why I love it and the rockier vibe of "Kollaps" is a prime example of how to infuse heavy rock elements into your hardcore (I am very picky about this particular aspect). And man, these vocals... It's like the singer is actually grabbing you by the collar (or the bandana for that matter), so close that you can see (and feel) the droplets of spit flying from his mouth... Genuinely crucial hardcore here.
It would be long and probably too tedious a read to list the activities of the members outside NS but drummer Jallo has played throughout the years, in one spot or another, in some of the most influential Swedish hardcore bands like Totalitär, Meanwhile, Disfear or Krigshot (without mentioning his label Finn Records). And it would be difficult not to mention that the singer Harri went on to play the guitar in Kent, a band that - apparently - is considered as "the most popular rock/pop group within Sweden and throughout Scandinavia." Well, I certainly did not see that one coming!