If you were to list every Swedish hardcore punk bands active in the 90's, you would need a bloody long time. I am pretty sure that I could watch the director's cuts of the three episodes of The Lord the Rings, take a nap and call my gran, and you would still be working on it. Back when Terminal Sound Nuisance still had some subservient, toilful staff (the bastards all quit to pursue a career in "instagramming", whatever that means), I would ask one of these ungrateful subordinates to prepare an exhaustive memo while I focus on the actual thinking and writing. But these are hard times we live in and I sadly had to turn the blog into a one-man operation and sell the TSN ivory tower, the historical birthplace of this once flourishing business, in order to move into a much less respectable part of town... Oh dear, oh dear.
But let's not wallow in melancholy. Today's record is an all-Swedish affair from 1998 with two bands I have a soft spot for, although they did not exactly change the world of punk (but then, few actually did). I wonder if there are still people playing this record almost twenty years after its release as I very rarely see Scumbrigade and especially Slaganfall being mentioned. When I did my selection for Kids of the 90's, this 10'' (a rather unusual format for a split record) was one of the first I picked, spontaneously, inexorably and rather pompously. Not because it is a classic record (it ain't) but because it illustrates what used to be a very common musical practice from the 90's to - roughly - the mid 00's: the application of dual male/female vocals to crusty hardcore/anarchopunk. I have already touched upon the subject when writing about Homomilitia and we have seen on numerous occasions that dual vocals (of whatever gender) was a common trait in 90's political punk music. However, the occurrence of having two bands from the same country both relying on the classic male/female vocal attack on the same record is rather rare, so this split appeared like an ideal choice for me to celebrate a custom that, if it has not vanished completely, has become scarce.
Let's start with Slaganfall (they are actually the side A, although there was a misprint on the layout, another classic DIY punk tradition when it comes to split records). Sadly, I know very little about this band and could not find much on da internet. The record tells me that they were from Norsborg (a Stockholm suburb apparently) and that they were around between 1994 and 1997 but that's pretty much it. Slaganfall may have belonged to this category of bands that were important, active and relevant locally but did not really bother with recording or touring, which - judging from their six songs included on the 10'' - is a bit of a shame. This is, to my knowledge, the sole recording from the band, taken in 1997, and I haven't been able to determine if the members had played in other bands before or if they did after. So if you do know, my dear reader, please enlighten me.
It would be hyperbolic to claim that SA broke new grounds but what they did, they did very well and - more importantly in the frame of this series - in accordance with the aesthetics of their time. Although the dual male/female vocals is a practice that can be traced back to the golden era of British anarchopunk (Crass, DIRT, Chumba, Civilised Society? and so on), I would argue that Nausea was the real game-changer in terms of vocal tones and how they applied to dark, heavy, crusty hardcore. However, the actual structure of the vocal arrangement in practically every 90's crusty/anarcho bands with male/female vocals (namely the trade-off style), directly derived from the Extreme Noise Terror school (who had themselves borrowed it from early Antisect) more than Nausea's. All this to say that SA were completely in that alley, trade-off male/female vocals applied to fast and crusty hardcore punk. You can hear that they knew and loved their Swedish hardcore as the riffs clearly point in that direction but I would venture that they were probably more into Homomilitia, Excrement of War, Society Gang Rape and Jobbykrust (especially in Anna's voice) in terms of inspiration, intention and direction. The music is heavy, has thickness, without being too clean, and sounds really powerful with a crunchy metallic texture that goes well with the very punky vibe of the songwriting. Simple but effective, heavy and dynamic, angry and honest crusty anarchopunk with a 90's scandicore vibe and lyrics about male violence, feminism, class hatred and booze. Nothing earth-shattering for the genre but very few bands did it as potently. "I am the boozer, you're nothing - a loser."
On the other side are Scumbrigade, a band that was significantly more famous than Slaganfall and definitely more prolific. They even toured the States in 2000 and if that does not symbolize accomplishment, I don't what does. SC were a Stockholm-based band active in the late 90's/early 00's and this split 10'' was actually their first release with six songs recorded in October, 1997. I distinctly remember ordering the tape discography in 2003 (along with tapes from Amen, Battle of Disarm and A//Political) from some distro solely because I loved the name "Scumbrigade" and I could not imagine a bad band with a cool name like this (needless to say this way of reasoning led me to some bitter disappointments in the years that were to come). And I was not wrong, SB were really enjoyable and matched my expectations at the time: fast as fuck dual vocal crusty hardcore with political lyrics. The undeniable plus was that they sounded kinda frantic and even sloppy at times which made them accessible and even more lovable to me.
I suppose SB are mostly remembered (if they are at all, I haven't done any survey) as this really fast crusty thrashcore band bordering on powerviolence and their early steps into the big wide world were already taking that direction, though the road was paved with shaky and decidedly crusty rocks. Although not deprived of elements typical of the 90's brand of fast hardcore (the characteristic breaks, the guitar riffs, the overall song conception...), the present songs have a crusty vibe reminiscent of the fastest specimens of the genre like Embittered, Excrement of War, State of Fear or Amen, and the aggressive, relentless dual vocal attack further reinforces that impression. Fast hardcore recipe with crust ingredients? Works for me. The harshness of Tekla's voice - which reminds me of Mags from EOW or Agnes from Homomilitia - certainly gives the songs a raspy angry edge and a feel of urgency that is hard to top which balance well with Love's breathless hardcore shouts. The structure of the songs follows the traditional pattern of "all-out fast thrash followed by groovy hardcore breaks you can dance to" and I suppose SB was this kind of bands that, musically, could be pleasing to hardcore and crusty crowds alike (assuming such distinctions were relevant at all then and there, context is everything). The production here is a bit rough which gives SB's side a raw hardcore feel that can be thought to fit well with their very fast, manic approach (but one cannot help but notice the discrepancy with SA's sound). Aesthetically and lyrically, SB were rooted in the radical politics of 90's anarchopunk with songs about compulsory heterosexuality, antifascism, the alienating nature of beauty canons or squatting as a means to resist capitalistic notions of ownership.
SB went on to release more furious materials, with split Ep's with Ens and Tolshock and a full Lp, Negative Hardcore Destructive Youth, in 2000. Following the demise of the band, singer Love formed Skitkids, bass player Peter played in Sista Civilisationens Död, Audionom and - later on - in Skitkids and Herätys, while guitarist Jocke (who was also a part of Yuppiecrusher and Diaspora when he was in Scumbrigade) did some time with Life's a Riot! and War of Words.
This split 10'' was released on Död & Uppsvälld Productions, a label run by members of SB that also put out materials from Muckspreader and Totalitär.