Next saturday, Reality Crisis are playing the 1in12 Club with Doom, Sedition and Anti-System. This is normally the kind of memorable gig I would be the first in line to go to but fate (also called "employment") decided otherwise and instead of having a great time in Bradford, I will be selling bloody kiddies' books all day, basically trading a beloved form of aural racket for a much less enjoyable - albeit about as noisy - one. Believe me, the level of chaos produced by children playing with sound books (the one with the farm animals is particularly frightening) can put to shame most punk bands. If you listen carefully, I am sure you can hear my heart bleeding from where you are... But anyway, despite my bitter disappointment, I have been thinking about Reality Crisis lately, a band that, for some unfathomable reason, I had never really bothered digging into. So the time to correct this mistake could not be more right (and more hurtful) and today's chapter of my 90's split records series is going to deal with a rather little-known pre-Reality Crisis band: Mindsuck.
To tell you the truth, the internet is not exactly ripe with details about Mindsuck and although I had already picked this record for Kids of the 90's, I was not entirely sure that the band was actually connected to Reality Crisis. Fortunately for me, I could ask some reputable punk nerds about it (it was not that difficult, Japanese punk music being of course a traditional field for dedicated geeks, so much so that I often wondered if you actually had to be classically trained in Japanese punk-rock in order to reach proper punk nerd status) and they kindly confirmed that, indeed, MS shared three members with RC: Daisuke on vocals, Shintaro on the bass and Eishiro on the drums (though he was not part of the very first RC lineup, he was in charge of the mighty D on the Deformed Society Ep, the split with Avskum and the first album from 2003). So I humbly thank Luc, Zach, Tom and Takeshi for their help.
MD were from Nagoya but the date of formation is unclear (I'd say 1995 but I could be wrong). There is no practical information about the band itself on the insert, apart from a thank list that is still useful if you are into guessing games. This split Ep with Unarmed was released in October, 1996, on MCR Company, so it is relatively safe to assume that the five MS songs were recorded earlier that year. The band had already appeared on an MCR production though, on the Natural Crust & Punk Force compilation Ep, which they shared with Order and the Nausea-loving Mental Disease, released in February, 1996 (I sadly do not own the record so I am unable to tell you much about it other than it has a pretty funny cover). MS were also included on the Punk and Destroy vol. 4 VHS and you can actually watch their intense performance on youtube if you're so inclined (and why wouldn't you be?). These festivals, organized by members of CFDL and SDS, took place in the early/mid 90's at a Nagoya venue called Huck Finn and the volume 4 also included Abraham Cross, Iconoclast, CFDL and Defiance which is a star lineup if you ask me. Since the venue, the promoters and Punk & Destroy itself are all listed in the thank list, it is safe to assume that MS played the festival before the release of the split Ep (in '95 or '96 I suppose, I could not find the date). I know, I know, I am being picky but I like to know these things.
The band did leave a rather clear message as to where they stood in terms of influence and intent with a highly referential slogan right in the middle of the insert: "Rags noise crust". Now, as I mentioned in the Japanese Crust vs the World series, the "rags" analogy was started by the mighty Acid and perpetuated by Gloom (and others). So the fact that MS referred to the ragscore tradition while slightly altering it lexically (from "Speed noise core rags" to "rags noise crust") gives you a significant idea about their artistic stance and also places them purposely in the historical narrative of Japanese crust. But let me rephrase that: noisy crust with gruff vocals. Quite typical of this brand of Japanese cavemen crust pioneered by Macrofarge with a huge early Doom influence (the importance of the band in Japanese crust music and aesthetics cannot be overstated) in the riffs, beats and especially in the vocals which sound impressively like Jon Doom's (the work on the flow, the accentuation and the tone is amazing). Abraham Cross, in terms of intent, are definitely another major point of reference, although MS were not quite as powerful and thunderous and Sore Throatish and sounded more minimalistic and stripped down. The songs on the Ep also significantly have two layers of guitar, one that is Doom/Discard inclined while the other sounds completely distorted and overblown. This crust-marries-noisepunk technique was also used by Gloom and I would argue that MS certainly looked in that direction when they were thinking about their sound texture, especially with the presence of a very upfront crunchy bass sound that leads the charge.
The early period of RC is really not unlike MS as the three songs from Chaos of destruction 3xLp compilation show (they are even rawer actually) and the permeating, almost cosmogonic in a structural sense, Doom influence was still to be felt heavily on Deformed Society and the Let's dance to the mass of sound '99 tape.
I think I've seen this picture before...
If this first side of oblivious cavemen ragscrust did not scare you away, let's get to the other one with a band from Sweden, Unarmed (not to be confused with Tokyo's Unarm), that were about as subtle and neanderthalian as their Japanese partners. If there was little intel about Mindsuck, Unarmed appear to be even less documented. In fact, apart from their city of origins (Färjestaden, a small city on an island at the South West of the country), I could not find anything. But after repeated listens, I could not shake the feeling that I had heard these vocals in another band. I know that most people find 90's crust, and especially its cavemen persona, to be generic and that gruff bearlike growls sound like just any other gruff bearlike growls. But people are wrong (oh yes, they are) as there is a fine art to crust vocalization, and even the smallest variations can turn your perfectly unintelligible orthodox crust warcry into a magical moment or, on the contrary, make them fall completely flat and tedious. It is a tough game.
And then, in a moment of epiphanic fulgurance, it struck me: 3 Way Cum. Unarmed's singer had exactly the same voice as 3 Way Cum's - the one with the low voice - on their last Ep The Last Cumshot, which is incidentally one of the best Swedish crust records ever (and I stand strongly by that statement, first because it is the truth and second because I have already raved about this very record on the blog). I checked the names of the bands' participants and indeed, Joppe sang in both and EA also played the bass in 3WC (the two of them were in the last lineup of the band, before they split up in 1997). It is plausible that Joppe and EA were already playing in Unarmed before they were asked to join 3WC since the four songs included on this split Ep were recorded in February, 1996, but since EA played both the drums and the guitar on this particular recording, Unarmed may have only been some kind of studio project initially.
Listening conjointly to Unarmed and late 3 Way Cum makes a lot of sense as it helps one understand where the massive crust influence on The Last Cumshot came from. Unarmed were actually even crustier and more primitive. If there were strong Swedish hardcore influences in late 3WC, Unarmed's sound was more basic and direct, almost atavistically cavecrust with some of the gruffest vocals - without ever sounding like the source is constipated or just cheesily trying too hard - I have ever heard. Absolutely brutal. The first three songs are quite generic for the genre (and I am saying lovingly) with a heavy guitar sound unleashing slightly metallic riffs, a punishing dischargy beat, the expectedly groovy Swedish songwriting flair and a raw production, somewhere between early Sauna, Warcollapse and early Sarcasm. But the real gem here is the last song, "As mankind dies", a slow-paced apocalyptic number with a dark guitar tune which perfectly fits the scorching vocals and I wished they had written more songs like this one.
Unarmed recorded four songs - with different members on the bass and guitars - for a second split Ep released the next year, in 1997, this time with Czech/Polish cavemen crust warriors How Long?, on Insane Society Records. Unsurprisingly, these new tracks were very much in the same spirit, though lacking a little in the crunch power department because of a rather thin raw sound (but perhaps that was the idea).