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.

1 comment:

  1. I'd forgotten how much I liked these Wind of Pain tracks. In so many ways, this represents Eastern Europe and the punk riches of the 90s. Thanks for the rip and writing. -ZM