Wednesday 29 October 2014

Monuments To Ruins "Under the rise of progress... The rise of deceit" 12", 2005

As we saw with Slimy Venereal Diseases, picking a moniker that doesn't quite inspire the narrow-minded and always grumpy punk (and yes, I am talking about myself here) may very well mean that you will hopelessly sink into the dreaded but always pregnant realms of the "fuck-me-I-had-completely-forgotten-about-that-band". On the other hand, such ill-inspired bands may also end up on Terminal Sound Nuisance and that, since it became THE blog to follow among the coolest no-lifers, is no small achievement.

What's wrong with the name "Monuments To Ruins" I hear you ask? Well, in the second half of the 2000's, dark years also known as "the neocrust era", such a name had you pigeonholed straight away in the tragically named epicrust box. It was bad enough that dozens of bands all started to ape Tragedy, Ekkaia or From Ashes Rise (none of which actually claimed to play crust but myspace then begged to differ) and quite detrimental when bands with a different, more meaningful agenda also tapped into the horrendous melodic crust lexicon.

Basically, what I mean to express is that they should have picked a better name. I know, straight-forwardness is not a virtue I master.

I first heard of MTR through their interview in an issue of Attitude Problem from Leeds, possibly my favourite British zine of the 2000's. It was a time when the remnants of the lively 90's American anarchopunk scene could still be felt, though one may argue that this type of sound was by then on its last leg, only to be replaced with a new generation of more referential bands (there is good in both, though I certainly miss the punk spirit of earlier bands and tend to be annoyed with the self-consciousness of the latter, but then whining is the path I have chosen). Hailing from Tampa, Florida, MTR can be seen to have recorded a highly transitional work with this 2005 record (it was actually recorded in 2003). While their first Ep from 2000 was strongly rooted in the 90's in terms of sound and aesthetics, this geezer reflects, despite itself probably, the new sound that would prevail in years to come. The 2000 Ep, arguably their best work, is top-notch old-school crust with male/female vocals, armed with the earthy, greasy production you would expect (somewhere between Misery, Nausea and Naftia). Released on the glorious Tribal War Records, it had a proper anarcho fold-out poster sleeve and a massive booklet with lyrics, artwork and literature (I'll grant you that some drawings were so pixelated that you can tell the exact year of production just by looking at them). Basically it was your typical, 90's Tribal War/Profane Existence/Skuld Releases ecocrusty political punk records, and I say this with the highest regards for a genre I hold dear to my heart and that takes a significant amount of room in my flat.

It apparently took longer than planned for the 12'' to happen, but it was released on Arizona-based Catchphrase Records, a label also responsible for goodies such as Contravene and Axiom, two of the very best US bands of that period. The sound is more polished than on the Ep and you can hear a modern influence creeping in at times, especially in the guitar leads and in some slower, instrumental, moody parts. But it is still really solid, intense and passionate metallic crust punk that brings to mind aforementioned Misery, Nausea, but also Detestation (in the faster, hardcore-sounding moments), late Antiproduct and even Civilised Society? (I had to mention a British band at some point, didn't I?).

Or Morne (completely anachronistic but there you go, you'll hear it too). Why, you ask again, interrupting me for the second time already, completely ignoring the "three stroked and you're out mate" golden rule? Because MTR played synth-driven music. And nothing gets me quite as excited as synth-driven crust music. I personally would have added more of it, but each time the synth is used, be it for a good ole Amebix/Axegrinder atmosphere or just wind or rain effects, the songs really take off. Besides, it fits perfectly with the mood MTR managed to create here, something dark and desperate but still ready to bite.

Only four songs here, but they are well written and well worth your time. In a sea of often similar-sounding bands, MTR definitely had something more and in the end, that's how bands and records stand the test of time.



Monday 13 October 2014

Hiatus / Fleas And Lice "Polish bastards" split Ep, 1993

A split record between Hiatus and Fleas And Lice. Yes indeed, this post will reek of classic eurocrust. You may be shrugging now, but wait until the eurocrust revival kicks in (my money is on 2018). Fancy punk scenes will start emulating the 90's greats and this kind of records get some appraisal again and Terminal Sound Nuisance will finally rule the internet world.

Cheesy prophecy apart, these two bands were trademarks of the specific sound and attitude that swept over Europe in that decade. Do the young punks of today still listen to those bands? Judging from the poor turnout at the last Fleas and Lice gigs in Paris a few years ago, I wouldn't think so. Musical considerations notwithstanding, both bands constant touring really helped build the DIY punk circuits that still exists today and establish long-lasting connections. Seeing this humble Ep as a relevant piece of punk history that future archaeologists will excavate in a few centuries, teary-eyed, overwhelmed with the greatness of their discovery, is not so far-fetched.

A simple answer to the boring question "what is crust anyway?" would be to play a vintage Hiatus song. A friend of mine once said, in a state of drunken stupor, although it doesn't make his comment any less true, "Hiatus is the best band ever". I didn't quite get what he meant then but I get it now. There is so much power in their music, so much intensity, so much crunch. They managed to write simple and yet really catchy crust punk songs that, at times, were superior to the band they were most influenced by, Doom. They formed in Liège, in 1989 and released two demos before doing proper records. Although the first one is a bit rough on the edges (by which I mean that it is a really tough listen), the second one, "In my mind" already displayed the quality the band would be renowned for: heavy and pummeling, slightly metallic filthy crust punk deeply in love with the sound of Doom and ENT. This excellent demo (that ought to be reissued at some point, it really deserves the record treatment), it has to be noted, also included a couple of all-out grindcore songs as well as some overt Antisect-worship anthems that would delight, and maybe astonish, any self-respecting old-school crust fanatics. By 1993, Hiatus had reached the peak of their power and it was to be their most prolific year with the release of their first Lp "From resignation to revolt" and of no less than three split Ep's with the almighty Doom, Subcaos and Fleas And Lice.

Like Hiatus, Fleas And Lice were part of the first generation of European crusties. Although the band itself only formed in 1993, which means that, at the time of this release, it was still in its infancy, it was founded by ex-members of the brilliant Mushroom Attack and Extreme Noise Error who were around in the late 80's (read the corresponding blog entry for more information). This bunch of merry people come from Groningen, Netherlands, a city notorious for its active bands and vibrant squat scene in the 90's (and beyond). Fleas And Lice (and Mushroom Attack for that matter) were significantly less on the bear growls side of the crust spectrum and had a strong hardcore backbone which, along with top-notch writing skills (just listen to the song structures and the riffs and you will know what I mean) and peculiar male/female vocals still make them stand out to this day. Fleas And Lice sound both familiar and yet quite unique. They sometimes remind me of a less-thrash Pink Turds In Space, for the scratchy vocals and the punk-smart and political tongue-in-cheek anthems they have penned throughout the years, but also of the UK crust feel akin to early ENT or Screamin Holocaust, or even of the Squat or Rot sound not unlike Jesus Chrust. But perhaps the closest point of comparison would be Naftia, from Greece, a band that also blended the silly boundaries between genres (as it didn't seem to matter much back then) between beefy hardcore punk, crust punk and groovy metal riffs. But really, when it comes down to it, Fleas And Lice are just Fleas And Lice and that's why they are so lovable.

"Crust on parade" yet another proof of fun

This Ep is made up of songs that were recorded in 1993 in Brno during the Hiatus/Fleas And Lice tour that saw both bands get drunk in Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. It actually was not the first time Hiatus toured with the Groningen crew as there had been a Hiatus/Mushroom Attack adventure earlier in 1991. During that 1993 tour some Polish nazi shitheads smashed a van and that Ep was done as a benefit record because of that. The name "Polish bastards" only illustrates the sense of humour that permeates the bands' works and that is so often absent today. Although recorded live in 1993, the sound on both sides is really good. Two songs for the Dutch, "Negative song", about the doom and gloom pervading most of the political punk production in the early 90's, and "Enough is enough" about American cultural imperialism. Expect a potent and raw cocktail of squat-fueled crusty hardcore for the punx, like a battle royal between Naftia, Punk Turds, Potential Threat and Concrete Sox. On the other side, you will be punished with four songs from Hiatus. Well, three and a half, since the joke song "Joshua's not dead", with Joshua from Fleas And Lice on vocals, is unfortunately scratched on my copy. Tough shit. But anyway, three songs are more than enough to convince you that Hiatus were an absolute powerhouse live, the likes of which the average smelly crusty has rarely seen. The sound is heavy and powerful, like an awesome gush of wind coming from the bogs of God that takes everything in its path. The fact Hiatus toured a lot really shows there, you can feel the incredible energy, and despite their probable state of drunkenness when they played, they manages to be really tight. This is a high-energy, ruthless attack that outcrusts Doom, ENT and Sore Throat with a smile and a Belgian accent. Two songs from their first Lp and one from the "Way of doom" Ep.

This Ep was released on Polish label Scream Records, that Pawel from Filth of Mankind has been running since 1992. The bloke has good tastes too with a discography that includes Resist, Homomilitia, Warcollapse, Misery, Sarcasm, Svart Aggression and more recently Panikos, Agnosy or Cancer Spreading. The Hiatus/Fleas And lice split was his second record and, considering it is a live Ep and the relative anonymity of eurocrust today, you should be able to find it for pretty cheap. And I know you will.