Sunday, 26 May 2013

Acid Rain Dance "Melting resistance" 12'' 1993

I have written quite a bit about trends on Terminal Sound Nuisance and how they reflect our representations of punk from a diachronic perspective (diachronic: a useful and fancy word that can make you look smart; to be stored just next to "dichotomy"). But trends are not all about the music and if you read the lyrics of your favourite bands, you will notice that some topics come back over and over again at certain times. Before it became a silly and meaningless gimmick, the possibility of a nuclear war was a genuine source of fear in the 80's and it makes sense that many bands talked about that (though it was also, at least partially, a topical trend). Recently, resistance to the war in Iraq and to Bush was the topic of the day. Judging from lyrics, in the early 90's, 1992 being the key date here, Indigenous resistance in North America, the sad anniversary of Colombus' "discovery" of the Americas and the specific oppression affecting Native Americans were often tackled by bands from the more politicised side of the punk spectrum. And not only by US bands either. Several events probably contributed to this dynamic: the aforementioned 1992 anniversary; the campaign to free Leonard Peltier, a political prisoner framed by the FBI; the Oka crisis in Canada that saw a wide-spread Mohawk revolt and of course the Indigenous uprising in Chiapas led by the EZLN.

Although always well-meaning, the political support given to Native tribes was at times awkward, idealistic, if not patronizing. Often, Native Americans were depicted as helpless, innocent victims, timeless beings living in perfect harmony with "Mother Nature", a vision that probably had more to do with specific White fears and anxieties and the old notion of the "Noble Savage" (also known as "the brave Indian"). Many early Biritsh anarcho bands saw in Indigenous societies (or in their idealized version of them) a source of inspiration in terms of harmonious, peaceful living and solidarity. Bands like Flux of Pink Indians, Indian Dream and City Indians (all top bands to be sure) even showed their admiration in their very names. On the other side of the Atlantic, Antischism/Initial State included tribal imagery in their own aesthetics (to undeniablygreat effect) and later, Black Kronstadt/Iskra would write songs about the Oka crisis and sociopolitical issues that First Nations people face. In Britain, the 90's saw many bands showing solidarity and/or using Indigenous themes and images: One By One (with their excellent, AIM-themed "Common ground"), Disaffect, Cress and, obviously, Sedition/Scatha, who were the most articulate of the lot as they merged their own Celtic cultural roots with anarchist politics and world-wide support to struggling Indigenous people. The celebrations of the 500th anniversary were not exactly welcomed in South America either as they were seen as a provocation. 1492, to many conscious people there, symbolizes the beginning of ruthless exploitation and genocide that still go on today for many Indigenous communities. The oppression of Native people there certainly hit closer to home and it is no surprise that bands as different as Abuso Sonoro, Los Crudos or Anarchus - without mentioning a brilliant tape compilation from Medellin - had songs about this. Finally, European bands showed solidarity and concern towards Native Americans and anger at the 500 year old ongoing genocide they have had to endure. Bands like Bad Influence (as was shown in a previous post), Forgotten Prophecy (that Hopi prophecy certainly struck a chord), Amen, Mushroom Attack, Heyoka, Autonomia Indigena (as the name suggests!), Stress, Acoustic Grinder, to name but a few. Bands like Acid Rain Dance from Bremen.

A couple of years ago, I read an article about Germans who chose to live "just like Indians". They lived in tipis, did traditional Lakota rituals and I seem to remember that they were learning a tribal language too. Depending on your sense of humour and your patience, you will find this either ridiculously appalling or ridiculously funny. Fortunately for us, the geezers of Acid Rain Dance did not try to live like they saw in "Dance with the wolves", although the band's artwork is all about American Indian themes and representations (both for that particular record and the equally good 1991 Ep). The five songs of the 12" were recorded in 1992 and the record was released on the ever reliable Skuld Releases. It was Skuld's eigth record (between Bad Influence's first Lp and the Zygote compilation Lp) and the label was still in its early days. Information about ARD is scarce and my limited knowledge of the Bremen scene certainly doesn't help. Judging from their ugly mugs (and their music but we'll come back to that), ARD must have been as much part of the punk scene as they were of the metal one. Punks playing thrash-metal or metalheads having go at hardcore? It doesn't really matter in the end as the band managed to create a sound of their own and developped its own identity.

The early 90's saw the crust genre going international and it is not irrelevant to see ARD in that light. One can notice that their thank lists (in both their records) include Contropotere and Naftia, two unique bands that are hard to pigeonhole and go beyond easy categorization. If MVD were the German answer to Extreme Noise Terror and Doom and if Slimy Venereal Diseases had a sore throat, then Acid Rain Dance could very well be approached from a Concrete Sox-meet-Kreator angle. The thrash-metal influence is fairly obvious but it also has a strong early crust vibe and brings to mind English bands like Deviated Instinct (the first Lp), Senile Decay and especially Energetic Krusher (who were more a metal band anyway) as well as American crossover bands. Some guitar riffs clearly look in the early death-metal direction and the vocals are gruffy and hoarse as they should be. The songs are very well structured and the quiet, eerie parts (either as intros or breaks in the songs) make for a great listen (however, I don't think the funky bass lines in "No 11" was really necessary...). There is a discordant feel in the song-writing which is not something I usually like but it works perfectly here, adding to the rage and the intensity through many tempo breaks and layered climactic storytelling.

All the lyrics are in German but English translations are provided. Unfortunately, some ideas seem to have got lost in the process. The songs deal with rage, alienation, social conditioning and violence from a personal, physical perspective. I wish I spoke German... The last song, "Starrheit", is about peer pressure and how the traditional nuclear family structure contains the potential for totalitarian obedience. The cover is pretty dated (though it was 1993, it still has this cheesy 80's metal feel) but one should not judge a record by its cover (well, not always). Acid Rain Dance was an original metal-punk band with something to say (not something I say often about current metal-punk bands) and "Melting resistance" is a great record. Finally, just a quick word about punk bands singing about Indigenous resistance. Let's not forget that the people who know best about this subject are the ones directly affected by it: Native people themselves. There are some good and interesting Native American/Indigenous punk bands around, Resistant Culture and Black Fire being the most famous. But get some Subsistencia (Aztec anarchopunk?), Psicosis Social (Bolivian band with some songs in Quechua) and S-cuk Gogs, a rez band from the Tohono O'odham nation in Arizona (they are rough and ready enough to be included in Shit-Fi, punk innit?). There are probably hundreds more so any suggestions would be warmly welcome in the Terminal Sound Nuisance's headquarters.  


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Tolshock "The heritage of violence" Ep 1999

Edit: because of a copyright complaint, only the review of this record will be posted. You will have to find the music files elsewhere... Sorry.

Sweden is to punk-rock what France is to cheese. Almost too many bands, mostly quality stuff, but a lot of them a bit similar-sounding. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. After all, Swedish bands have developped throughout the years their own brand of hard-hitting, Discharge-loving hardcore punk and it makes sense that there is such a thing as a classic Swedish punk sound. If the 80's are vastly revered, and for good reasons, the 90's don't seem to get that much attention currently. And that's a real shame, as the Swedes kept brewing 80's influenced hardcore but infused it with other influences, in today's case, crust-punk.

The term "Swedish crust" is vastly applied to a lot of bands these days, from Warvictims to Skitsystem or even Massmörd, which raises two important questions: "do people actually listen to their records?" and "why does the word 'crust' have to be used indiscriminately to characterize bands that have few similarities with this actual genre?". There is absolutely nothing wrong in playing or not playing crust music, but if one wants to use the term, one should maybe think twice about it and care a bit more about the music. But anyway... I have been sick for days and I am a bit grumpy today. Let's get back to the topic of the day.

There were great Swedish bands in the 90's. You had Warcollapse (possibly the best blend of Swedish hardcore and crust punk that I have been given to listen), Counterblast ("Balance of pain" has to be one of the best Lp's of the 90's: take Axegrinder, add some early Neurosis influence, and play the songs as if you were a black-metal band), 3-Way Cum (ENT meets Mob 47) Uncurbed, Driller Killer, Wolfpack, Disfear, Diskonto or, I don't know, Dischange. But none of these bands were really proper crust bands, as the fast and furious side of Swedish hardcore often took the better of the filthy metal side. Apart from maybe Jesusexercise, some Warcollapse ("Crust as fuck existence" springs to mind), some Dom Där Songs and the aforementioned Counterblast Lp (which may fall in the mysterious and unpredictable "involuntary crust masterpiece" category), what is refered to as Swedish crust should be more aptly qualified as "crusty Swedish hardcore" or something equally ridiculous. Now, isn't that a world-changing perspective on music? And after all, Doom started out as little more than a Swedish hardcore tribute band (you know, Discard, Crudity, Shitlickers, Anti-Cimex...) but with gruffier vocals and sloppier playing. Seeing Doom as crust (especially the early years) would actually tend to confirm the crust tag in its application to what is essentially a Swedish hardcore-inspired band (though they were definitely part of the early crust scene in terms of aesthetics and lyrics).

So yeah... Tolshock. This is their last and best Ep, recorded in 1999. Before that, they did another Ep and a split Ep with Scumbrigade as well as a 4-way split tape with the mighty Hibernation, Chaos Front and Anti Order. Three labels worked together to get that geezer out: Panoptic Vision from Scotland (that released some Disaffect, Debris and Quarantine), long-standing Farewell Records from Hannover and fellow Germans, Borkenkafer Records. The Swedish scene is, was and will probably always remain very incestuous so you could find in Tolshock punk virtuoso who previously or additionally deafened people in Warcollapse, Counterblast, Jesusexercise (small world) or Farcical.

What I like in this record is that, although it is pretty much pure Swedish hardcore, it has this anarcho look and content. The title of the Ep is also its main theme, "the heritage of violence". It is the first song and the sentences of its first verse have been used to illustrate the artwork in the shape of Crass-fonted framed slogans. And it looks great and there is actually a connection between the images used and the words. This song deals with domestic violence and how one inherits it from his/her parents, how it spreads through generations. The beaten kid becomes the wife-beater. The only other song in English is "The blood runs blue" and isn't as serious. It refers to the death of Lady Di and what a cause for celebration it should be. Bring us back the guillotine! I will leave the other songs' explanations to the Swedish-speaking punks reading this! Musically Tolshock played top-notch, fast, aggressive Swedish hardcore with dual vocals, not unlike Diskonto or a less savage 3-Way Cum, with enough distorsion to make it raw but not so much as to make it noisy, if ya know what I mean. Because people have outrageous tastes in music nowadays, you should be able to find this record in a 1 euro/£1/$1 bin on a distro table where all the other Ep's will go for a fiver (seriously though, I got to score an Amen Ep last week-end on a distro table and the fellow who was running the distro told me he was relieved to see it go because he thought it was a great record and had been sleeping for years in the distro; fortunately for him, good old me was around!).

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Bomb Heaven "S/t" Ep 2003

The hundreds (if not thousands) of fanatical followers of Terminal Sound Nuisance will probably stare in disbelief when they read this review. Today's special is a modern Portland band. Now, I know the Portland scene doesn't exactly need even more promotion and attention than they already get. For some reason - and I am not even sure the punx there are really aware of it - any new band from Portland has been immediately stamped with a seal of approval from the punk-loving nerds, whatever the genre the band has decided to pick, since the late 90's. It is basically assumed that said band is not only attention-worthy but also very tasteful. And I can partly relate to the Portland punk attractiveness: it is usually well executed, knowledgeable, highly referential in a way that make us feel good about ourselves (I bought the first Hellshock Lp on account of them using the Antisect font...), well recorded, accurate in their aesthetical recycling of punk iconography. Though not all memorable, most of the records coming from Oregon are usually very solid.

I hear you ask: what's not to like then? It would be ridiculous to dislike a band just because of its geography. Indeed, I hold many Portland bands close to my heart (mostly Tribal War-related bands like Axiom, Final Warning, Godless and anarcho usual suspects, Resist, Deprived and Defiance). What unsettles me a little is the insane number of short-lived bands that put out two or three records, then split up and adopt a completely different style. I understand no one wants to play the same old bollocks all the time (well, some people do...) but it sometimes feel as if there were a list of all the punk subgenres and as soon as one band ceases to  exist, the subgenre it had been exploring is checked off the list and it is time to pick another one. Call me a romantic fool, but I love bands who stick together through and through, as a band, and where this notion of "band" prevails over the notion of "genre", where the band developps its own identity and grows. Portland's Hellshock are a good example of that since they have evolved from their initial intent to play old-school crust but they remained together as Hellshock. They could have stopped, being bored with the niche or whatever, but they kept going. In a time when a band's lifespan seldom excedes two years, they have been going for ten years which is quite respectable (although I must confess that their last records were a bit of a disappointment for me).

Now, these nasty remarks are not exclusive to Portland. This shift from "band" to what could be called "project" can be seen pretty much everywhere and, after all, it is really not that negative. I am fine with "proper bands" and I am fine with "short-lived projects" as well. I just tend to see both differently. Which brings me to Bomb Heaven (at last!). This is definitely an obscure one and little information can be found on the web. It was released in 2003 on Doomsday Records and was the label's only production. This Ep is also the band's only release. In other terms, this is definitely a short-lived project tackling a subgenre that had been spared until then, a "punk subgenre" tribute band if you will. But, as insubstantial as Bomb Heaven might seem, it is undeniably a great record. One cannot fail to be impressed with the craftsmanship and the very real punk flair that the people behind BH have. If the motivations remain blurred (to put out a record for the very sake of it? to complete the checklist?), the result is nothing short of amazing.

It would be more accurate to say that Bomb Heaven chose to pay tribute not really to a subgenre but to elements of a sub-subgenre. Confusing but nevertheless true: this Ep is an homage to the mid-tempo parts of Antisect, Anti-System, One Way System ("In the end" has the riff of "All you kids" along with a very GBHy singing style) and Icons of Filth. I know it sounds very narrow but this mid-tempo fest is exactly what comes to mind: heavy and slightly metallic like the "In darkness" era, the crunch and chunk of "No laughing matter", the angsty frustration and hopelessness of "All systems go" and the groove of "Onward Christian soldiers". There is even a knowing nod to Broken Bones at the beginning of "Prisoner for life". The riffs are simple, heavy, and while rid of any pretention to originality, manage to feel just right. The songs feel instinctive while they are calculated. Unashamedly not creative but unquestionably terrific, this unpretentious record will please lovers of the aforementioned bands like myself. The lyrics are appropriately dark and angry, "Warfear" being the obligatory war song, "In the end" being about alienation and doom and "Prisoner for life" a bleak description of life in an asylum. From what I could gather, members of Bomb Heaven went on to play or were already playing in Blood Spit Nights (hence the mention of a "Blood spit choir" in the record) and Hellshock (them again).


Friday, 3 May 2013

After The Massacre "A future discarded to the bonepits" cd 2007

When evolving in the realms of the Dis, you don't get much more cliched a name than "After the Massacre" (apart from "After the Bombs" probably), it being the title of a great Iconoclast song notwithstanding. In fact, there were even two contemporary bands using that moniker, one from California and one from sunny Liverpool. If you are a regular reader of Terminal Sound Nuisance, you already know which one I am going to talk about.

For some odd reason, compared to other large English towns, Liverpool doesn't seem to have produced a significant number of punk bands throughout the years. You have Public Disgrace, Das Reiner, Carcass, MDM, a couple of straight-edge hardcore bands... I am probably forgetting bands and am not really familiar with the postpunk scene so I could be wrong, but still there is that feeling that, despite its formidable musical history, Liverpool is not much of a punk city. But that was before ATM. It is always very enjoyable when you go to a gig out of the country and you unexpectedly get to discover new, exciting bands. This story began in february 2005. I was aimlessly wasting my time on the web, possibly checking out bands on myspace, when I saw a flyer that left me in a state of shock. Doom were playing again. At the 1in12 Club in Bradford. And the rest of the line-up for that all-dayer was absolutely smashing: Extinction of Mankind, Gurkha, The Dagda, Ruin and Bait. On this now legendary flyer were also programmed two bands unknown to me: Burning the Prospect and After the Massacre. This particular gig may very well be my favourite ever, all the bands were great (Ruin were a bit sloppy to tell you the truth but it may have been one of their first gigs) and so was the atmosphere and I had a very good time. The night obviously climaxed with Doom playing (Wayne was still singing for them then and he was a brilliant frontman) but it had started most promisingly with After the Massacre, who were not even supposed to play that night as they seem to have been a replacement for local Violent Minority (which I had already seen anyway).

At that time, ATM was still in its early days and you could see and hear that they were high-spirited and wild and just really happy to be playing there. Their sound was not quite as refined and focused as it would be on their album but only a deaf man wouldn't have noticed that they were a noisy crusty bunch indeed and that the dual female vocals definitely set them apart. Not that many bands have tried the dual female vocals. On the tuneful side of things, the Lost Cherrees, Dan, Harum-Scarum or Joyce McKinney did very well, but few extreme bands had two female singers (Society Gang Rape springs to mind). Not only did ATM have two pissed off singers but the vocal styles complemented each other very nicely and by nice I mean that you have mean-sounding raucous shrieks on one side and low, guttural growls on the other (poetically named "screams from the gutter" and "doomed grunts" in the booklet). It brings to mind great crusty female voices of the last decades, Excrement of War, Homomilitia, Hellbound, or closer to us, Beginning of the End or Man the Conveyor. If you are a sucker for such vocal skills, like I am, then ATM is your dream come true.

Musically, ATM played fast and punishing crustcore that, while not being as straight-forward as one might wrongly presume, remains remarkably powerful. The changes and breaks are always tasteful and never impair the intensity. Mostly fast, the songs also offer some heavy and crushing mid-tempo parts which makes ATM more interesting than your average orthodox dis-band (though one could say that there is a certain art to the most accurate and monolithic brand of the d-beat genre). The sound on this album mixed by Bri Doom is perfect for what the band wanted to achieve. It is pummelling and distorted but not distortion-driven. There are two layers of guitars and while the first one is fairly typical of Disruptish crust, the other one is reminiscent of the so-called crasher crust school of Framtid, Gloom, Defector and the likes with a sharp, piercing and very distorted sound (the omnipresence of manic drum rolls also points in this direction although the sound of the drum is not exactly similar). Homomilitia and other Polish crust bands like Toxic Bonkers or Enough!, Disrupt, Decrepit and Excrement of War with a more modern Crust War records feel would be a relevant comparison.

The lyrics are dark, pessimistic comments about modern civilisation. Alienation, pointless overproduction and consumption, wars for world domination, dehumanization, control and more control are all carved in our bodies and minds, making us sick, insane or both. The booklet is appropriately gloomy and you can see that some thought has been put into its making, with a gasmask-wearing ghost figure in an industrial wasteland (also known as the Mersey) being the interpretive thread. The cd album was released on SOA Records from Italy, a long-running, quality label that has put out quite a few records in its 20 years of existence, from reissues of old 80's bands to records from contemporary ones (Cracked Cop Skulls, Disrupt, Toxic Bonkers, Comrades, Saw Throat, Cryptic Slaughter, Cani, Peggio Punx...).