Monday, 21 May 2018

Noize Not Music is a Fine Art: "Final Noise Attack" compilation Ep, 1994

To ignore Final Noise Attack in a series revolving around the canonisation of the notion of "noize" would be criminal. Or dumb. Or even worse, a proof that you are not familiar with the record. And this discrepancy could mechanically have you eliminated from the contest for the - much coveted - Noiz Cruster of the Year award, assuming you did survive the Crust Pants of Hell battle royal of course. It is a tough game. 

But really, doesn't the very phrase "final noise attack" basically point to the next logical step, the sensible continuation of "noize not music"? Once you have settled that noize (and not conventional music, whatever it entails) is your project, then it makes sense to push the statement further and emphasize the agency inherent in the concept. The purpose of this music is to be hostile and relentless, to attack in a radical fashion that relies on noisiness and crudity. After all, radicality and extremity have always been punk's main selling points and attractiveness so you could argue that the call for a "final noise attack" can also be read as a healthy return to the basics, to the genuine foundations of hardcore, raw and noisy by essence, like the noize to end all noise...or something. Strictly speaking, the bands included on the Final Noise Attack Ep are not even that spectacularly noisy, though it depends what meaning one gives to this term and what is expected from it. But they are not particularly deafening or strident (especially by Japanese standards). They cannot be described as a wall of blown-out distorted d-beat noise, which would be the implication if the phrase was used today, since "noise" has come to be equated - I blame our epoch's compulsive need to classify everything for it - with the Disclose-style sound. At least within our little quarter of the hardcore punk scene, since to other people, "noise" will designate grindy noisecore bands or grungy dissonant bands or harsh noise electronic band or ambient stuff and so on, while Joe Public will probably be thinking that this is all bollocks and give him Phil Collins any day. We are all someone else's noise I suppose.

But my point is that this compilation is not so much "noizy" in a literal, sonic way (although it is also that), but above all for its focus on referenced influences and their almost systematic aestheticization, and for its unshakable belief in the value and relevance of hardcore punk as a raw, unpolished, noisy music belonging to a particular tradition, as opposes to the overproduced brand of hardcore that was blooming in the early/mid 90's. Noize becomes a way of looking at and creating punk music. On that level, it very much echoes with the almost bitter message on the back of Gloom's Recomendation of Perdition from 1997, dismissing crusty bands they deemed too melodic (which brings us to the real £100 question here: did neocrust kill Gloom?). But then of course, it makes sense since Final Noise Attack was, by essence, an Osaka record since it was compiled by members of Gloom themselves. As mentioned in the introduction to the Japanese Crust vs the World series (here), Final Noise Attack was originally the name given to the gigs organized by the then young and enthusiastic Osaka crusties in the early 90's. Not unlike the Punk & Destroy gigs that took place in Nagoya, Final Noise Attack gigs were numerous and certainly helped foster a new generation of raw punk and crust fanatics on a local level and consolidated crust as a powerful genre on a national one (just look at the posters and you will see that basically every single Japanese bands going for the crusty, d-beat, scandicore sound played at those events). I am not sure how many Final Noise Attack gigs were organized throughout the years (but judging from what I saw on da internet, quite a lot of them during a relatively short period, which says a lot about the dynamics and the momentum of the 90's Osaka scene) or when (or why) they stopped using that name, so I would be grateful is someone could shed some light here. What is pretty clear however, looking at the posters on the Ep's backcover, is that the visual aesthetics promoted by the gigs (a blend of Discharged-loving imagery, Bristol-by-way-of-Kyushu drawings, Crass-y anarchopunk symbols and so on) adequately reflected the music style of the bands playing (and the fashion of the people attending). Subcultural in the noblest sense of the term. And that is why I love this Ep. Of course I like the music and the looks of it, they are replete with visual cultural clues, nods, precise references, and it validates what I already know, like and know I like. But it also acts as a wonderfully accurate cultural artifact of a specific time and place. It has true meaning and meaningfulness as it concentrates what it was all about, and despite the many references to the glorious decade of the 80's, it completely conveys the energy and conviction of the next decade so that it does not feel nostalgic. But let's get to it.

The main surprise here is the absence of everyone's favourite 90's Osaka band: Gloom. I have no idea why since members of Gloom were the instigators of the Final Noise Attack gigs and I am sure they had a hand in the making of this Ep but there you go. They released Speed Noise Hardcore Rags the same year, in 1994, so maybe they did not have any songs ready for the compilation but that is just a wild guess. But if Gloom were technically absent from Final Noise Attack, it did not mean that all its members were. Indeed, the first band of the Ep, Defiance (the name is unlucky enough in retrospect), actually had Habi and Jhonio from Gloom in its ranks while Kaco and Okamoto respectively played in Warcry and Asphyxia. Noizy bands to say the least. I have already talked about Defiance on Terminal Sound Nuisance (here) since they were included on the magnificent Meaningful Consolidation 1994 2xEp and to which they contributed the brilliant metallic punk scorcher "Future is darkness". I could be wrong but I believe that the two Defiance songs on Final Noise Attack could be from the same recording session. Although they are nowhere near as metal-oriented, the production is similar and the thick and groovy bass sound that is genuinely appropriate for some thunderous Dis-oriented heavy scandi hardcore - with a mandatory dash of crust - is the same. I can hear obvious hints of Anti-Cimex, especially on the rather rocking "Violation of human rights", early Doom, Private Jesus Detector, Discard (the riffs on "Never be deceived") and even Anti-System (especially on the guitar texture). The songs are heavy, relentless and have this high energy, explosive quality that characterizes Swedish hardcore. The almost organic thickness of the bass and guitar certainly confers an edge to the otherwise classic 90's Discharge-flavoured songwriting and I really enjoy them. Classically-trained but very effective in a "Swedish hardcore crusties" way. The vocals are shouted but neither yelled nor gruff. This recording is from February, 1994, and Defiance also had a demo tape from 1993, the three songs of which subsequently landed on 1995's Truth compilation Lp, and had two tracks (with added crustness due to a dual vocal attack) on the What is Crust? cd from 1998 (though I guess they were recorded much earlier). I wish there was more from them...

Next are Reason Why. And... that is unfortunately all I can tell you about them! I have not been able to find any detail about the band so far (no trace of them on the internet) and it looks like the song "Contradiction" was their only vinyl appearance. The only thing I know about Reason Why is how their singer looked since there is a picture of the band in the book Inferno Punx. I know, it is pretty slim. As for the song itself, it sounds a lot like early Gloom (the 91-94 period). In fact, I even wondered at some point if it was not a Gloom cover or Gloom in disguise. Seriously. Perhaps Reason Why was a young band trying to emulate what was the most exciting punk band in town at the time? It certainly would not be the first time in punk history (more like a rule of thumb really). Anyway, judging from that one song, RW played a direct style of proto crasher crust with a very raw sound, distorted guitar and screams. A bit like listening to Chaos UK, CDFL and Confuse having an argument over a dove logo in the basement. How very Osaka.

Condemned follow on the other side with two songs, "Remember" and "Depends on bloody human". Like for Reason Why, information about this band is scarce (someone should write a book methinks) but it was not their sole recording. Condemned had two demo tapes out before Final Noise AttackDo you respective live? in 1993 and To all human error (possibly '94?), the latter being actually the very first Crust War release (catalogue number CW001 if you're wondering), and Jacky even played the guitar for Condemned toward the end of their existence (he formed Framtid after they split up). They were also included on Japankore's first omnibus tape compilation (that I have sadly never heard but also had Disclose, Battle of Disarm and the deliciously intriguing Ace of Shit) and contributed live recordings to the third volume of Bondage Maniac Record's tapes. If you are a devout Terminal Sound Nuisance believer, you will remember that I included the song "Depends on bloody human" on my cavemen crustmas compilation so that already gives you a hint at what Condemned were about. In Inferno Punx they are described as "PRIMITIVE BLAST CRUST CORE" which is pretty fucking accurate (I love the neological terminology used in the book). Condemned played fast, all-out primal crust with savage vocals reminiscent of early Disrupt, Embittered, Extreme Noise Terror (obviously) and the local Warcry (without the Sore Throat influence). There is a distinct early British feel to the band that is reinforced with the band's visuals being heavily "inspired" by the UK anarcho aesthetics (they use The Mob's dove and the logo of Dirge). The sound is raw and the songwriting direct and I so wish someone would reissue the band's demos on vinyl one day. Basic but glorious nonetheless.   

Finally, you have two songs from Despair, yet another rather obscure band that did not quite fulfill its potential. Despair had Gun from Asphyxia (he later on played in the tough guy hardcore act T.J. Maxx) on the bass but that is about all I know about their lineage. The band released three demo tapes in the early 90's, the last of which was called Victims of War, and were also included on the Outlast compilation tape (released around '95 or '96, I would say, and alongside a couple of brilliant Japanese hardcore bands like Toxic Noise, Scum Blast and GJPB) and the aforementioned Bondage Maniac tape (the Despair songs are taken from their third demo). In terms of sound, you will not be too astonished to learn that the band was into punishing the audience with fast and intense crusty hardcore with really gruff vocals. The production is pretty thin and is lacking in heaviness but the music is frantic, energetic and pissed enough to make up for this and I like the deep, hyperbolic crust vocals (they are forceful but not goofy-sounding and work well on a short format). Judging from the metallic opening of "The free world" and the crunchy guitar sound, Despair were clearly into early SDS, though I would describe the overall tone as a blend between early eurocrust and blazingly fast Japanese harcore (with a twist of Ripcord too). Two short sharp shocks that do not fuck about.

Final Noise Attack was released on MCR Records in June, 1994, and you could see this Ep as being part of the series of hardcore compilations focusing on specific Japanese towns that the label put out at the time. It should be pointed out that this Ep did not merely celebrate hardcore punk from Osaka but also the work and efforts from a bunch of young punks into raw punk and crust to create their own scene in their hometown through the Final Noise Attack gigs and bands. It highlights and validates specific dynamics. You could argue that this Ep (especially taking into consideration the reputation and distribution of MCR) pretty much put the Osaka crusty hardcore scene on the map, although the compilation itself, from a strictly musical point of view, with four quite short-lived local bands, is solid but not earth-shattering (and not as potent as Tokyo Crusties). Context might be more relevant than text here. At that time, all these Osaka bands (and by and large most of the growing second generation of Japanese crust) only had demo tapes so to be included on a proper Ep was probably a success for the whole Final Noise Attack scene. Also around that time, Crust War Records released the first Gloom Ep and the rest is crustory.


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