Tuesday 30 October 2012

Blyth Power "Pont au-dessus de la Brue" Lp 1989

I solemnly declare open Blyth Power week.

Punk-rock is in constant flux and always has been. It has spread and continues to spread throughout the world and I for one am a constant enthusiast when it comes to discovering new bands from parts of the world I know little about. But this extraordinary punk breeding ground can also make one dizzy and overwhelmed. That's why I think we need anchors so that we don't get lost in an ocean of distorsion and studs. To me, these anchors are my favourite bands. They are a bit like best mates you visit regularly, but wish you did more often, and will always be there. You understand them as well as they seem to understand you and you can always rely on them during hard times as they get you through the daily grind. These bands we hold the closest to our hearts are reminders that we are indeed alive and kicking. Antisect and Deviated Instinct work that way to me, as does Blyth Power.

Now, how is that for a cheesy intro?

I have to admit that Blyth Power and I didn't really get along at first. For some reason, I had overlooked them in the midst of the myriad of British punk bands. I was acquainted with them but they remained a distant relation I didn't really care about but would shake hand with whenever I bumped into them. And then I had an epiphany while listening to the "Junction signal" 12'' that I had downloaded but never really given a proper listen to. And it just hit me: this absolutely fucking brilliant! The song "Bind their kings in chains" made me ecstatic and from that moment on, I couldn't listen to this song without picturing myself in medieval times fomenting a peasant rebellion in the English countryside, harmed with forks and spades.

I quickly proceeded to buy everything I could from Blyth Power and fortunately for me, I could find all their records from the 80's and 90's for cheap (thanks fuck they are not a hyped band and people don't have flawless music tastes like I do). The record I will be talking about today was released in 1989 on Midnight Music, a rather big English post-punk record label. "Pont au-dessus de la Brue" is a compilation of early Blyth Power songs as the record was destined for the French market (an oddity when you know how French people generally suck at listening to good punk-rock). According to the very good Blyth Power's website, the band didn't have great relations with the label and ironically none of the Lp's made it to France as Midnight Music went bankcrupt before the records even left the warehouse and it is even inferred that the band still has copies of it stacked in the Blyth Power's headquarters.

"Pont au-dessus de la Brue" is a perfect introduction to early Blyth Power: it contains the four songs on the "Chevy chase" 12" from 1985, two songs ("Junction signal" and "Sordid tales") from the "Junction signal" 12"" from 1986, two songs ("Emmanuel" and "Coriolanus") from the "Ixion" 12"" from 1986, two songs ("Father O'Brien" and "The rookery") from the "Goodbye to all that" 12" from 1988, two songs ("A tale of a cock and a bull" and "Blow the man down") from the "Up from the country" 12" from 1988 and one unreleased version of "McArthur" that was meant to appear on the band's second Lp, 1988's "The barman and other stories", but never did. The 1985 and 1986 recordings were originally released on All the Madmen records, while the 1988 ones were already licenced by Midnight Music.

For those who do not know, Blyth Power has Joseph Porter from famous anarchopunk bands Zounds and the Mob on drums and vocals, and during their early days, Curtis from the Mob also played bass in the band. By 1988, Blyth Power also had one of Lost Cherrees' singer, Sian, among their ranks. All the Madmen records was run by members of the Mob and released materials from challenging bands that were keen on experimenting beyond the punk formula like the Mob (obviously), Thatcher on Acid, the Astronauts, Flowers in the Dustbin and Blyth Power.

Describing Blyth Power's music is as difficult as describing what their lyrics are about (but then what can you expect from a band named after a railway locomotive). Now, I guess it doesn't really help you if you are not familiar with either. Some would qualify Blyth Power as "postpunk" but to be fair I have grown rather tired of seeing the "postpunk" tag being applied to pretty much anything lately. The latest postpunk trend has revealed that what passes for "postpunk" today is really "goth-punk" and there is nothing wrong that genre, but the term "postpunk" doesn't imply that you have to sound like Sisters of Mercy, Crisis or Joy Division, two bands that Blyth Power couldn't be further from.

Let's say that Blyth Power goes well beyond formulaic punk-rock by incorporating elements of English folk music and pop-rock. There is a distinct theatrical quality to the music, not only because all the songs actually tell a story, but also because of its epic and dramatic nature. Joseph has an emphatic voice that brings to mind old English minstrels telling a tale, so he is singing as much as he is telling. And he REALLY can sing. There are gloriously infectious choruses in the songs, greatly improved by the addition of female singers and instruments like the piano, the violin and even - gasp - an acoustic guitar. All the songs are memorable for their tunefulness, their incredible energy and their originality. Mind you, they are even danceable. There is just no other band that I know of that sounds like Blyth Power. Their songs display a wide range of tunes, emotions, moods, as well as paces and tones. You can hear that the song-writing is very strong and thoughtful. And while many bands didn't survive the 90's, Blyth Power actually went on making great records and I would even argue that some of their 90's recordings are superior to their All the Madmen years.

Lyrically, Blyth Power is an anomaly in the anarchopunk world. A lot of their songs actually deal with British History, famous or colourful characters ("Coriolanus" or "Father O'Brien") and events. Trains is another recurring theme, especially in the band's early days, as well as cricket ("Chevy chase") and village life in the English countryside. The meaning of the songs is often circumvoluted, twisted and they often refer to real places, characters or even other texts (that's intertextuality for you). As previously mentioned, "Chevy chase" is a cricket anthem; "My lady's game" is a metaphor about Thatcher's foreign policy and her alliance with Reagan during the Cold War; "God has gone wrong again" is a drunken story about the English playwright Benjamin Jonson and his feeling of being forsaken by God; "Song of the third cause" is a bit of an obscure one with references to Brecht, Hemingway and Camus, I think it is about pacifism and desertion and how the most vocal political speakers can often be after domination. "Sordid tales from the ffucke masticke room" is another weird one with references to Thomas Hardy's novel "Under the Greenwood tree", a love story taking place in rural Wessex, and to travels into strange, hostile lands. I see this one as being a  humorous story of impossible love, lust and loss. "Junction signal" is a song about the magics of trains and a mythical railway worker; "Emmanuel" is an adaptation of an Hebrew text in olde English. "Coriolanus" is about class struggle. Coriolanus was a famous Roman politician and general who despised the plebs and would rather have them starve than taking part in Rome's political life. The song is told from the point of view of a hungry railway worker who wants to revolt against the Coriolanuses of this world. "A tale of a cock and a bull" is about an English political scandal involving Thatcher and her Defence Secretary, Lord Heseltine. The song uses irony to emphasize the manipulations, the hypocrisy and the cowardice of the political elite. "Blow the man down" is a song playing with the proverb "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness" as applied to political repression and suspicion. "The rookery" is about autumn and the passing of seasons with references to Greek mythology. "Father O'Brien" is a story about an Irish priest who led a rebellion against the feudal system in the Philippines in the 80's. Finally, "McArthur" is about boozing to forget your problems and how you just keep stuck in them in the process.

I am not utterly positive that my interpretations of the songs are all accurate, so I have included all the lyrics so that everyone can see for themselves. The next two posts will also be epic rants about Blyth Power.


Saturday 27 October 2012

State of Filth / Anarchy Spanky split cd 2003

I suppose one could find some similarities between the Mortal Terror/Aural corpse split Lp and today's record, the State of Filth/Anarchy Spanky split cd. After all, both splits are made up of one band playing old school anarchopunk sounding music (Mortal Terror and Anarchy Spanky), while the other is an all out crusty massacre (Aural Corpse and State of Filth). And thinking about it now, my favourite splits are those that have two (or more) bands that don't sound the same and yet are pulling in the same direction. In this spirit, the bands wrote this at the bottom of their thank lists: "Over the years the development of the punk scene has led to the creation of many sub-groups and unfortunately, divisions between people who share a common goal. With this release Anarchy Spanky and State of Filth bring together two totally different styles of punk in unity of the DIY ethos. Enjoy!" Now, that's definitely the state of mind I love!

I know cd's are uncool now. Whereas tapes were looked down upon only a few years ago, they seem to be all the rage now and I have recently seen a band that had their brand new album on vinyl for 12 euros and on cd for just a fiver! It was the exact same record and yet the vinyl version was twice as expensive. While I do prefer the vinyl format to the cd, I find this disdain for cd's snobbish and elitist. And don't get me started on the new trend on making tapes again. But anyway, the State of Filth/Anarchy Spanky is not even a proper cd: it is a fucking cdr! Shock! Horror! Disgrace! Joking aside, the object is as DIY as you can get, you can tell it was a small project done with the heart and that is really what matters. It was released in 2003 on Why Records from Yorkshire and FCR, the label done by the Ripping Thrash bloke, a fantastic, long-running DIY hardcore punk zine.

SOF were from Preston, Lancashire and must have formed around 1997. I actually got to see them in february 2004 at a hardcore fest at the 1in12 Club in Bradford. The band was fronted by Wayne Southworth, who also used to sing for the Blood Sucking Freaks, the Devils and, of course, for Doom in the late 90's (which I also had the chance to see with Wayne on vocals at the 1in12 in early 2005) and let me tell you he always displayed great showmanship, making ugly faces and looking mean and demented. I am not sure if there were other ex Blood Sucking Freaks' members in SOF, but it really sounds like there could be as I can really picture SOF being the sonic continuation of BSN. SOF played fast, heavy and direct crustcore with a classic dual vocals attack. There are also old-school grindcore influences on some of their songs, like early Rot or Terrorizer. It is absolutely brutal, crushing and angry. What makes is so good is that it is not overproduced, but it is not fakely raw and distorted either. Doom would obviously be a good point of comparison - though SOF are noticeably faster - or a more grinding Excrement of War, Deformed Conscience or even modern bands like Massgrave from Canada.

There is a cheeky, snotty feel to the songs as well. The lads are pissed (both literally and figuratively) but also a bit deranged, as if the hardly hidden madness of our modern societies was really taking its toll. I really love the lyrics and they only stress the mad aura of the music. There are 29 songs, so I am not going to comment on all of them but my favourites are: "Whatever happened to the wankers", a song about "hardcore superstars"; "Poncified I", an anti-emo song; "Shitlist" is a rude but glorious attack on the decadent lifestyle of the toffs; "Shitend of the stick" describes the anger and frustration fuelled by having no money and working shit jobs while the rich "wine and dine"; and "Royal assassin" is about the hypocrisy of the aristocracy and the sycophancy and submissive behaviour of those who admire them.

Anarchy Spanky is another kind of animal as they played in the spiky punk league.  They were from the Manchester area and were around in the early 2000's. Unfortunately for me, when I lived in Manchester during the school year 2003/04, they had already split up and this record is therefore a postumous release as far as AS are concerned.

I have always been a sucker for female-fronted British punk-rock so I was bound to love AS and I have to say their music is both familiar and yet quite unique. First, AS were not a one-trick pony as throughout their seven songs they use several rhythms from fast ("Mobile Ho") to bouncy and mid-paced ("Smack your vein"), and there is even a rather sad and melancholy ballad song in there ("Parent reject"). The guitar has a thick, earthy sound and there are some great melodic leads as well. Straight-up punk-rock may look like a simple genre to play, but contrary to louder punk styles where you can hide behind a wall of noise and aggression, you have to come up with solid tunes when playing old-school punk-rock and AS certainly understood that because each song is quite memorable. What really makes the band stand out is the peculiar voice of the singer. It is raucous and powerful but still remains tuneful. AS reminds me of Scattergun, Slaughter of the Innocent and Combat Shock on that level, with a bit of Potential Threat for the vocals.

The band's lyrics dealt with rather original subjects too: sadomasochism ("To satisfy a sick mind"), sexual predators and perversion ("Black box"), hypocrisy and fake friendship ("Mobile Ho"), neglected children and Parent Reject Syndrome ("Parent reject"), great sex ("Give me more bliss"), the sickness and shallowness of plastic surgery ("Designer vagina") and the danger of heroin abuse ("Smack your veins I'll smack your face"). Somewhat unusual topics for some of them but you can tell that the songs come from the heart.

As for the aesthetics, the cover is an old drawing depicting an apparently respectable bearded old man on all four being riden by a maiden while she whips his bum. The backcover is a pixelated reproduction of an old war painting representing an army charging and killing commoners. To be honest, I don't really see the connection between both pictures. Any idea?

State of Spanky       

Thursday 25 October 2012

Mortal Terror / Aural Corpse split Lp 1990

For some reason, when people talk about early UK crust/grind, Looney Tunes Records seldom pops up in the conversation. Indeed, bands that did records on Looney Tunes in the early days don't really enjoy the same status than Peaceville or Earache bands for instance. The reason for this could be that Looney Tunes remained a DIY anarchopunk label while Peaceville and Earache took on a more commercial route. So today, in order to restore some sort of balance and justice to the realms, I will be writing about a great Looney Tunes record.

Mortal Terror were from Newcastle and belonged to the same scene as Hellbastard, Generic, Senile Decay or Debauchery. Before pairing with Aural Corpse, they had already done a split Lp with the brilliant anarcho hardcore band Generic in 1988. On that first record, Mortal Terror didn't sound like a crust band because saying this would be an understatement: the Mortal Terror side just WAS crust, it embodied the genre perfectly. It was like the perfect blend of early Deviated Instinct, Extreme Noise Terror and Napalm Death. However, on their second record, Mortal Terror decided to change and try something a bit different (a decision that coincided with some line-up change as well), namely some old-school anarchopunk. They must have been the only band of the period to actually grow less metallic and punkier throughout the years, and just for that, they deserve the much coveted "Golden Gluebag Award".

There are eight songs on the Mortal Terror side, going from fast hardcore punk ("Get real!") to mid-tempo punk-rock ("Conditioned to accept") and even some reggae punk ("Time bomb"). I would say that the songs are mostly reminiscent of Antisect (I could recognize some borrowed riffs from "In darkness"), AOA, Anti-System (especially the vocals), early Bad Influence, early Anihilated, Exit-Stance, Oi Polloi or City Indians. The first song opens with a guitar intro that instantly brings you to anarchopunk territory and then merges into a fast, pummelling antisectish number to great effect. The songs are actually rather diverse in terms of pace, riffs and intent thus creating a cohesive with 80's anarchopunk as a common principle throughout the songs. Unfortunately, the sound is quite rough and shoddy and the guitar is too low in the mix and the bass a bit too loud (well, at least that way you can really hear the great bass-lines). That is a real shame, because given the quality of the song-writing, a better production with a heavier guitar sound would have produced an absolutely brilliant record (thinking about it, AOA's Lp "Satisfactory arrangements" suffers from the very same flaws).

Lyrically, Mortal Terror were an angry bunch of lads. "Collision course", "Get real" and "McRapist" deal with the ecological destruction of our planet at the hands of the powers that be and the industry; "Conditioned to accept" is about social conditioning and how we are made to conform to our social roles through school and education; "Mind police" is about conformity and dehumanization; "Time bomb" deals more specifically with the pollution created by the nuclear industry; "Slaughter of the innocent" and "Life is cheap" are songs against animal abuse and exploitation. The band introduced themselves as "a bunch of pisshead hippy tramps", a paraphrase for "crusties", so you know they still had a dodgy hygiene and drank special brew. A special mention should be made about the artwork, especially the drawing on the center of the record that depicts a skull with flowers and Antisect-like plants growing and blooming from it and the peace symbol as the sun. Maybe cheesy but great nonetheless.

On the other side, Aural Corpse sound like their cover looks like: a zombie-like face screaming with his tongue protruding. While the sound quality somehow hinders the potency of Mortal Terror's songs, the rough and ready production works just fine for Aural Corpse. I don't have much information about Aural Corpse. They were from Middlesbrough and gravitated around the same scene as Mortal Terror's and this is their only known recording as far as I know. Despite this relative shortage of data, one thing remains certain: Aural Corpse were the real deal.

There are 18 songs on their side and they are about as subtle as a rusty pneumatic hammer. The band played raw and fast crusty punk like a pack of rabid hyenas singing along to a "Holocaust in your head". Extreme Noise Terror, Doom, Hiatus, Genital Deformities, Extreme Noise Error, early Napalm Dath, and indeed early Mortal Terror all come to mind when trying to describe Aural Corpse's chaotic racket. I fuckin luv it though. Most of the songs are fast but there are also a couple of heavier, more metal-oriented tracks that are not unlike Sore Throat or Genital Deformities's mid-paced moments. The singer has a rough guttural voice which indicates that he might have been a caveman or a feral child caught in a Northern forrest somewhere in the North York Moors National Park.

The production is rather thin but it emphasizes how unabashed, snotty and, ultimately, punk as fuck, Aural Corpse's songs are. If one is to believe the band's "logo", they claimed to play "North East Earth Core" and though their music may sound a bit over-the-top and even ridiculous to some people, Aural Corpse were also an angry bunch. "Delusion of masculine supremacy" is a making the connection between the rape culture and the male sexual frustration embodied in the porn industry; "Nicaraguan nightmare" is about America's bloody foreign policy in Latino America; "Live with dignity" is about the elderly who, after working shitty jobs all their life, end up dying alone, poor and miserable; "Lives bought and sold" deals with social control and how our lives have become products to be bought, sold and discarded. You also have a couple of (obligatory?) songs against war, the army, patriotism, religions, the pigs and pollution. On a more original note, they have an anti-masonic song called "Die masonic police scum", a Carcass-like gory song "Instant dysentry" and a Sore Throat-tribute, "Benetton wool shop song", about people buying expensive shirts because of the brand: "£30 for a fucking shirt / you stupid fucking cunt". If that's not good poetry, then I don't know what is.

Aural Corpse also seem to have spent some time on their artwork, as you can find a full cut-and-apste page of newspapers' title, my favourites being "Dangers lurking on supermarket shelves", "Alert after attacks on butchers' vans" and "Insults make poll tax official hang himself" (there are several other references to the Poll Tax and the resistance to it in the record). Their thank list is also a page long and includes other unusually funny articles' titles of the period.

Great split. Great bands.

Mortal Corpse / Aural Terror                

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Hybernoid "Technology/Regression" Ep 1993

As my faithful readers have probably already noticed, I have more than a passing interest in metallic punk. This said, I hardly ever listen to proper metal bands, only to punk bands attempting to play filthy metal with spiky anger (and that is a huge difference, believe me). However, Hybernoid was an actual metal band, though to be fair, their music doesn't really fit in any stable category.

Hailing from the North of England, Hybernoid formed in 1991 and split up in 1998. They appear to have been an underground metal band and were rather prolific with three Ep's and three albums, among which the brilliant "The last day begins". "Technology/Regression" was released in 1993, a few months after their first Ep, "Dust in the wind" and a few months before their third, "World of ruin". The band must have had a bargain price for the recording studio or something... "Technology/Regression" was put out by Displeased Records, record label specialized in death/doom/black/extreme-brutal-hairy metal.

As previously mentioned, Hybernoid was not your typical extreme metal band. Though there are certainly elements of doom-metal (for the crushing and sad atmosphere) and black-metal (especially the evil sounding female vocals), their music is much moodier and almost atmospheric and is actually quite close from early Amebix (think "No sanctuary" and "Winter"), especially in some drumming patterns. The songs are mid-paced and the guitar is distorted enough to make you think you are actually listening to an old-school crust band at times, especially since the sound quality lies on the raw side of the spectrum. The songs have a dirgy and eery feel and don't make the listener very comfortable to say the least. The band had no less than seven members and there is a synth and a violin for added morbid weirdness and at times creepy chorus seem to call for winter and an equally cold and unpleasant thing. The two songs are very mournful-sounding and they possess an incantatory texture that is also symbolized in the band's artwork and its pagan stones.

Lyrics are of a metaphorical nature. "Technology/Regression" deals with the perverse notion of progress and how our obsession with progress actually makes our humanity regress. The second one, "Akeldama", is about Judas. Yes the bloke in the Bible. Now I am not really familiar with Bible-themed music but I think it stresses the schyzophrenic notions of damnation and redemption in christianity with the figure of Judas as the site of these contrary and yet clashing impulses. Or maybe it is something else... Anyway, this is a great Ep. As I said, Amebix definitely comes to mind, but also Nausea (with male/female vocals), early Misery or Saw Throat, and some - even - more metal-sounding affairs like the excellent 13 and Winter from New York and early Paradise Lost. Don't be afraid: there are no cheesy solos, the production is sufficiently rough around the edges and the guitar tuned in a Bristolian fashion, so that the record will be filthy and primal enough to please the punks.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Bad Influence "Wake up" Ep 1992

Unique bands are probably what keeps punk-rock music alive. Certain bands seem to defy easy musical categorization but remain punk however far from punk-rock conventions they may have drifted. They are also Marmite bands: you either love or hate them (but at least they provoke a reaction, nothing is worse than indifference I suppose). Saying all this I would like to clarify that bands experimenting for the sake of music avant-gardism usually don't interest me. While I like bands bringing new things to the table, when they do so self-consciously in order to "break rules" or "express their artistic selves", they always lose me in the process. Novelty for novelty's sake is a Terminal Sound Nuisance's repellent.

I would argue that Bad Influence is one of these unique bands that are so hard to classify. In fact, I often see them in the same light as Contropotere, not because they sound alike, they don't, but because they created their own sound in an unpretentious fashion and you can't possibly mistake Bad Influence or Contropotere with any other bands. As I wrote in a previous about Coitus, I have the greatest interest in bands drawing influences from the mighty Antisect and it is undeniable that Bad Influence fit the part musically and aesthetically. They actually started as a straight-up anarchopunk band in the mid 80's and played raw hardcore punk in the tradition of UK anarcho bands like Potential Threat, Symbol of Freedom and usual suspects like Anti-System/Antisect/AOA and early Swedish hardcore. This first incarnation had male and female vocals and often reminds me of a less crusty but equally raw and sloppy version of another excellent Belgian band, Private Jesus Detector. Bad Influence recorded a demo at this period (you can find it on the great Terminal Escape blog) in which you can find an early version of a song, "Wake up", that would appear later on the Ep we are interested in today.

In the early and mid 1990's, the Ep was recorded in 1992, Bad Influence was really prolific as just in 1992 they had an Lp and a split Ep out as well. The peak of creativity indeed. On the "Wake up"Ep, the band didn't leave their UK influences, but they explored another side of them. The two songs on the Ep are mostly mid-paced and are not dissimilar to Antisect, Anti-System or Icons of Filth's mid-tempo numbers. However, the production is definitely not as heavy as Bad Influence also took influences from post-punk bands like the Smartpils, Zygote (they shared a member with Bad Influence at some point) or Crow People as there is a strange-sounding, smoky, psychedelic feel to the songs. On paper, blending heavy Antisect with psychedelic Smartpils would make me suspicious but Bad Influence pulls it off perfectly. The songs sound both dark and hopeful with an earthy feel, they are quite heavy but not crushing, they just seem to flow. It is pretty unique but the mix does make sense: after all in the Stonehenge festivals you had punk bands as well as psychedelic rock bands. The vocals are very clear, it is sung more than shouted. The tone of the singer's voice actually reminds me of a little of Omega Tribe.

The artwork confirms that the band is definitely anchored in the anarchopunk tradition. They even used circular Japanese plant logos as a heavy nod to Antisect.

The front cover revolves thematically around Indigenous cultures: the first frieze is probably Aztec, the second one could be Lakota and there are also Celtic motifs for the third frieze. In the center of the cover, you have the same face of a Native elder replicated thrice with only his hair changing. The third version represents him with punky charged hair so there might a be a Flux of Pink Indians, City Indians or Indian Dream tribute going on here.

The backcover is much darker as it has a painting called "The creation of woman" which shows a woman either kneeling with her head down. It is a very dark image as you cannot see her face hidden in shadows which the painting a sort of hopelessness.

The booklet is more classic crusty punk imagery: you have two skulls on each side vomiting rows of soldiers. On the right side, a drawing of an eye with a face of a starving child in the pupil reflects Western apathy before starvation in "far away" countries. All in all, it is not very joyful and the whole artwork confers a sense of madness, sadness, hysteria but also of beauty to the object. Regardless of its meaning, the graphic side of "Wake up" is definitely a success.

Lyrically, Bad Influence tackled rather usuall anarcho topics, though it has to be said that on later recordings like "New age witch-hunt" or "Afterbirth", the band would grow to use metaphors and poetry to convey meaning and their feelings of alienation. "Wake up" is about the nuclear threat and nuclear arms and the danger they stand for. "Unacceptable" is a long text about the many sides of animal exploitation, be it in the food or fur industry. This Ep was released by German labels 42 Records and Skuld Releases. The latter was extremely prolific in the 90's and the "Wake up" Ep was its 7.5th release (I know, it is weird).

I can't praise Bad Influence enough. They are still going strong and a new album was released this year so you know what you should do.    

Friday 19 October 2012

Death Sentence "Death and pure distruction" Ep 1982

This Ep is as good as Death Sentence were short-lived. Basically, and I say this in a non-hyperbolic fashion for once, "Death and pure distruction" is one of the very best record of the UK82 genre.

Now that I have everyone's attention, let's dissect this unsung English punk-rock wonder. Death Sentence could be assumed to be from the North of England, where aubergines are not to be taken for granted (or so I have heard). More seriously, I initially thought they were from the Leeds area since this Ep was recorded in a Leeds studio. Besides, "Death and pure distruction" was released by a label called "Beat the system!!" whose field of expertise was punk-rock from Northern England (The Fits, Antisocial, Uproar, One Way System) and Scotland (External Menace, Chaotic Youth), and in fact, there is one compilation Lp creatively entitled "Total anarchy" that includes all the aforementioned bands. But I was all wrong, since Death Sentence were from Northampton. Oh well, there's still "North" in the town's name...

But back to Death Sentence. This Ep is their sole vinyl appearance and it was released in 1982. As you can see from the cover and backcover, the band had little graphic skills. Like countless other English punk-rock bands of the 80's, you have a picture of the boys in a working-class environment, not posing before a brick wall this time but right in the middle of a construction site. Funnily enough, the two on the left of the cover stare epically on their right side while the two on the right just smile at the camera. Ahhhhh... the golden days of youth. On the backcover you have a lot of pictures of the lads rocking out during the recording session. To be fair, you can't really discern that well their faces at times because they are small black and white pictures with black writing on it. But regardless, this record looks so amateurishly punk that before you even listen to it you know you will be in for a proper slice of vintage punk-rock. And when you have actually played it, you realize that proper punk-rock is an understatement: this Ep absolutely rules.

Death Sentence was certainly a band of its time as the looks of the boys suggest with their boots, studded jackets and spiky hair. The four songs on this Ep epitomize everything I love about that genre. It is fast and basic, it is sloppy, it is snottier than a six-year old on a rainy day, it is pissed, spontaneous and distorted. The shouted vocals are really at the front of the music and have this juvenile feel with a distinct English accent. The drummer must have been heavily into Chaos UK's "Burning Britain" and Disorder's "Complete disorder" as you can spot the particular drum rolls so cherished by the Bristolians (and keep in mind that this was only 1982). The guitar is effortlessly distorted, the bass sound is buzzing, and while the band's influences are pretty obvious, this is done in  such a fresh, direct manner that it can't really fail.

Contrary to a lot of modern bands, Death Sentence appeared to be utterly unselfconscious just like you can be when you are a spotty teenager with only a bleak future ahead of you. The pattern of the Ep's first song, poetically entitled "Death and pure distruction", is strongly reminiscent of early Discharge and Varukers and definitely points at the direction many raw hardcore-punk bands would take. The other three songs are pure UK82 jewels bringing Instant Agony, the fastest Abrasive Wheels numbers, Subhumans, Partisans, Ultra-Violent, Uproar or Mau Maus (minus the vocals) to mind, but I would argue that they are even better which is no small feat. There are some catchy singalongs on the chorus too, which make all the songs almost too good to be true. The lyrics are not included for some reason, but, from their names, one can venture that they deal about war, destruction, the army and having no future.

The band was one of the few multi-racial punk bands of the UK82 wave as there were two black kids in the band. Not only that, but these two boys were also twin brothers.

Now let's have a really geeky moment. If you look closely at the Ep's name it is "pure distruction" and not "pure destruction" (even Discogs wrote it "destruction"). This is clearly a nod to Discharge (the band thanks them as well as all the "hard core punks") and probably the very first "dis" joke in punk history. No wonder Kawakami from Disclose quoted Death Sentence as an influence. Finally, one may suppose that the band Victims of War, half the members of which would give birth to Extreme Noise Terror (the other half being Raw Noise), took their name from Death Sentence's song "Victims of war". I know no one gives a fuck. I'll be off then.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Muerte En La Industria "No dejes que te exploten, sin ti no son nada!" cd 2006

I love Mexican hardcore-punk from the 80's. Now, I know you probably don't really care about what I happen to love, and that's fair enough. But I really do love the Mexican sound and anyone into raw hardcore punk should give it a chance. This post is therefore my personal attempt to promote this style because I feel like I am on a mission to spread good punk music (and I also have ego problems).

"Raw punk" seems to be a rather trendy word these days and it is usually associated with those old hardcore punk bands that had a rough and ready sound and all the newer bands trying to imitate them. In general, Mexico is pretty much absent from the "raw punk" map and that's a real shame because not only did the 80's Mexican scene produced many absolutely ferocious band sonically, but they also epitomized what punk-rock is really about: primal, youthful, untamed, unadulterated anger. From what I can gather, Mexican hardcore-punk really kicked off in the mid to late 80's with classic bands like Massacre 68, Histeria, Atoxxxico, Xenofobia, SS-20, Solucion Mortal, Sedicion or Herejia. Those bands quickly developped a sound of their own, fast, crude and very energetic, from which later bands like Coprofilia or Fallas del Sistema would grow. While not the most famous or prolific, Muerte En La Industria (MELI) probably did one of the most potent recordings the genre has to offer in the guise of the 1988 demo entitled "Tu vida".

MELI were from Mexico City and only released the one demo. The cd we are interested in to day contains their 1988 demo and a live track from 1989. This cd is a 2006 Mexican reissue but there is another reissue that Japanese label Speedstate records did in 2005 with added live tracks from 2000 as MELI reformed at some point. Unfortunately, there is very little information about MELI in the booklet and I am not sure it is even the original artwork, but you have got to love the title as it translates as "Don't let them exploit you, whithout you they are nothing" which gives an idea of the band's lyrics. The demo was made up of 13 songs and they are as punk as you can get. MELI played fast and distorted hardcore punk and they certainly had this typical Mexican sound like Massacre 68, which was basically an even more primal version of Chaos UK or Disorder, as the specific drum rolls and the distorted guitar sound suggest. The demo also echoes Spanish hardcore bands like Antidogmatikss and IV Reich, English bands like Instant Agony, Death Sentence or Legion of Parasites, South American pioneers like Ratos de Porao, Olho Seco from Brazil and Autopsia, Ataque Frontal, Descontrol from Peru and noisy bands like Confuse, Siekiera or EU's Arse. To be fair though, I have no idea whether MELI were actually influenced by them or had even heard of them (the live song being a IV Reich cover, it is safe to say they were into Spanish hardcore and there is 5" bootleg released in 1989 in Mexico that has MELI as well as Confuse and Tervet Kadet on it... how strange is that!). I would argue that MELI manages to sound even more pissed off than M68 as the vocals sound just so angry and desperate and reflect both disillusionment and anger. In other terms, this is rabioso as fuck.

The sound is decent considering it is a demo and it has this roughness and spontaneity that make Mexican punk-rock so good. Unfortunately the lyrics are not included, which is something I just don't understant in reissues. But after doing some research and guessing from the titles of the song, MELI didn't sing about heartbreaks. As young punks, they were angry at the government's corruption, police violence, religion, the army, the class system, nationalism, well, society as a whole really. I really cannot recommend this demo enough as it is a crucial unealthy slice of punk-rock. The last on the cd is a live cover of IV Reich's classic "No al ejercito", a song that must have gone great with the army and police.


Monday 15 October 2012

Earth Movement "W Sprawie Ocalenia" Ep 1998

As incredibly talented as I am, I actually can't speak Polish. So while I will be able to rant about how good this Ep is, its lyrical content is unfortunately lost on me. Don't worry though, I will still make wild guesses.

Earth Movement seems to be a little-known band from Poland. This Ep is their only vinyl appearance but they released a tape as well some time during the 90's. As I said in the blog entry about Sanctus Iuda, Poland had a great anarchopunk/crust scene in the 90's, and I would even suggest that they have had a great scene ever since (and that's without mentioning the greatness of the 80's Polish scene). But back on topic, it is really odd that Earth Movement doesn't get more recognition as this record is absolutely brilliant. EM blends the awesome tunefulness and anger of bands like Stracony and Wlochaty with some gruffy vocals and metallic undertones that are not unlike Homomilitia or Sanctus Iuda (small world). The songs have an epic, urgent quality and a sense of melody that many Polish bands share but they also nod to the crusty side of things. The guitar sound is quite clear and the production is not too heavy but it remains very energetic. The main singer doesn't yell like a madman either and you can understand what he is on about (if you speak Polish obviously). For added crusty power, some gruffy, shouted vocals pop here and there and as I mentioned, there are some very effective metallic riffs as well, especially in the opening song called "Earth punx" and the whole atmosphere is one of punk spontaneity but still trying to go further than the old noisy bollocks. Earth Movement would have fitted just fine on a mixtape with Mushroom Attack, Aus-Rotten, Homomiltia and Wlochaty. This is pretty much as good as it gets in terms of Polish anarchopunk.

I am not sure what the band sings about but judging from the name of the band and the artwork I would say that they were into radical ecology. The name of the Ep translates as "To the rescue". The label that released this Ep, Dwie Strony Medalu records, also put out records by Sanctus Iuda (very small world...), Man is the Bastard and Denak.


Friday 12 October 2012

Sanctus Iuda / Regeneracion split Ep 1997

Now that's an odd one. So odd in fact that it doesn't even appear on the almost always comprehensive Discogs (saying this the Screaming Holocaust Ep doesn't either). I got this Ep for a couple of euros a while back and it features several elements that makes a great record: it is an international split Ep; both bands have a lot to say politically; the bands don't sound alike; it is as DIY as you can get. Let's see in more details where this record comes from.

First, I don't know for sure when this was released as there is no information about recording dates inside the record. I know both bands were very active between 1995 and 1997. The Sanctus Iuda tracks are actually also included on a tiny cd (by size) called "Jap Pressing" that contains all the band's songs that appeared on splits (with Sarcasm, Sharpeville and Regeneracion). It says that the Sanctus Iuda side of our split was recorded in June 1996, so I assume the actual record must have been released in 1997. It was put out by Cryptas Records from Mexico, which makes sense since Cryptas released all the Regeneracion records along with a few other absolutely brilliant bands like Desobediencia Civil, Tortura Auditiva, Apatia-No, Coaccion or All Systems Fail. Now that the record looks a bit less mysterious, let's have a look at its content.

Sanctus Iuda were a Polish band from Bialystok that seemed to have been really active in the mid 90's. They were very much part of the eurocrust wave both in terms of sound and lyrics. Though this kind of music appears to be quite unfashionable nowadays, I am personally very fond of it. There were a couple of great crusty Polish bands by then like Homomilitia (arguably the best one), Toxic Bonkers, Silna Wola, Stradoom Terror or Enough! and Sanctus Iuda had everything you expect from a good political Polish crust punk outfit. Sanctus Iuda were not as metallic as Homomilitia but harder-hitting and rougher than Fleas and Lice. Their songs are not really original per se but they are certainly played with heart and guts and that's really all that matters in the end. Overall, the sound is pretty raw and some great riffs will inform you that SI were above your average crusty bollocks. The singer is snotty and pretty angry and at times a second, much gruffier voice reminds us that indeed Hiatus had already toured Poland by then. I really enjoy Sanctus Iuda and an Lp has been reissued in recent years so you should still be able to find it. Lyrically, the band was firmly rooted in the anarcho side of punk. Their side of the record is entitled "The heart stops beating" and it aptly reflects the recurrent theme of their three songs: ecology. The first one is about the industry destroying the Earth/heart; the second one, "McMurder" is an attack against McDonald's and the food industry and how they sacrifice the environment on the altar of profit; the last one is an anti-capitalist song that depicts how land theft in the thrid world creates hunger and poverty. Joyful stuff as usual. The artwork on SI's side is dark and nature-themed and reinforces their message. The band also lists a number of Polish ecological and animal rights groups that you could get in touch with.

If Sanctus Iuda lied on the raw side of the punk moon, Regeneracion lived on the rough and chaotic side of Mars. I have no idea whether the band went for the noisy path on purpose but whatever their intent was, it worked. But it was not noisiness for noisiness' sake, as the band were very serious politically and indeed had a genuine revolutionary message. The term "regeneracion" was the name of Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magon's anarchist newpaper so I suppose it gives us some clues as to what the band believed in. I wish I had the lyrics of Regeneracion's songs but they are not included in the record. Instead there are two texts. The first one, "Vivir para ser libres, o morir para dejar de ser esclavos", deals with legality and illegality and how respecting the law and being a revolutionary are antithetic. The second, longer text is called "Bienvenido al infierno neo-liberal" (which is also the title of Regeneracion's side of the split). I wish I understood Spanish better but from what I can read, it is very much a call to action against capitalism and the state that supports it, basically an incitement to get off our arses, stop being apathetic and afraid and have a go against the laws that oppress us. Epic stuff. I am not sure however if the band chose the best media to get their message across as Regeneracion played really gruffy and chaotic crust punk, which is perfect for me, but might scare the average Manu Chao fan. Oh well. The cover is a pciture of a military vehicle driving by a young Indigenous kid, possibly in Chiapas as the time periods would indicate. Musically, Regeneracion lies between Brujeria (especially in the vocals and the intonation) and early Doom/Hiatus. The vocals are very deep and threatening and the guitar has a glorious fuzzy sound. It also reminds me of Mass Genocide Process, Embittered or Despite at times, but that's probably just because of the roughness. With no lyrics and a wild pig grunting in Spanish behind the microphone, I confess I have troubles getting what the songs are actually about. I think the first one (I don't even have the songs' titles!) is about the frontier behind Mexico and the U$, the second one may be about animal suffering and fuck knows what the last one is about. Don't let this put you off though, Regeneracion are one of the best Mexican crust band ever and the chaotic nature of their sound reflects their anger.

On the whole a great split and a perfect example of an international punk collaboration. Lovers of the 90's crust sound will be delighted.

Poland meets Mexico