Monday 26 December 2016

Japanese Crust vs The World (part 10): Acrostix / Contrast Attitude "Awave! / Now the world is from CHAOS to another more CHAOS..." split Lp, 2004

This record makes me a little nostalgic actually as it takes me back to an exciting time when I was proudly flying the "No war but the crust war" flag and trusted the label for top crust records with my life (as well as with indecent shipping costs sometimes, this goes without saying). Thinking about the 2002/05 crust period retrospectively is interesting. In the grand Crust Narrative, these few years are situated just before the so-called stenchcore revival of the mid-noughties which - although it admittedly did produce some good records - certainly changed the way crust music was being looked at, further sectioned the genre and turned what were essentially takes on the genre into the genre itself by giving it a new name: stenchcore. That it coincided with the rise of the internet culture from the mid-00's onwards should be no surprise and the growing codifications it implemented have become today's norms. But this Lp, along with the Effigy records of the early 00's, also made me realize something else, that Japanese crust (and indeed Japanese punk music on the whole) is, to a large extent, oblivious to the punk trends regularly sweeping across the rest of the world. They just seem to do their own thing in their own context and I highly doubt the short-lived 00's stenchcore revival had any significant influence on Japanese crust bands (Hellshock being arguably an exception in that respect, but then, if anything, they were themselves highly influenced, in terms of intent more than sound, by Japanese crust music), which accounts for the usually high quality level and the sound specificities of crust bands over there.

This record also makes me giggle a little as I am reminded of how people reacted to it at the time. They were all pretty unanimous (and, by and large, still are). Contrast Attitude's side absolutely ruled, but what was that cheesy heavy-metal band doing on the B-side of a hardcore/crust record? I would be a rich punk (understand "I could buy a decent brand of lager for a change") if I had had one euro each time I heard "I have never even listened to the full Acrostix side... That shows how much it sucks. I mean... who do they think I am? Some hard-rock fan with greasy hair? I only bought it for Contrast Attitude anyway because I <3 D-beat and that". Almost 13 years after its release, the general appreciation of the Lp has not really changed and you can be sure that Contrast Attitude will be raved about while Acrostix will be promptly discarded (to be fair, some people did get into "(A chain of) hatred" later on though). As for me, as much as I enjoyed CA, I always preferred the Acrostix side. Sure, they were not a hardcore-punk band at all on the Lp, but I loved the fact that, while they sounded familiar through the heavy Amebix/Axegrinder influences, they also sounded really different from what I knew at the time, with the epic layers of synth and the strong ballad vibe. It was crust music but it felt like they had picked one aspect of old-school crust - in this case the rocking melancholy vibe of "Drink and be merry", "Right to ride" or "The final war" - and assiduously worked on it in order to tell a different side of the Crust Story. And I bloody loved that idea. Of course, I now have a much more articulate idea of what the band originally was going for and where they coming from in their early days, but despite the more cerebral view I acquired, I still see these three Acrostix songs as genuine masterpieces and proper attempts at telling the story distinctively, from a different but complementary narrative position if you will. It is quite ironic and even sad that crust music became so generic and forceful shortly after.

Like Contrast Attitude (with whom they shared a member, bass player Sin), Acrostix were from Matsusaka, in the Mie prefecture. The band's birthdate is unclear but seeing that their first appearance on a record was in 2002, it is safe to assume that they formed not long before that. On the paronomasia front, "Acrostix" is actually a great name methinks. Beside the "-ix" suffix obviously nodding toward Amebix (and they did nod a lot), undeniably the band's primary influence, referring to the concept of the acrostic was a clever move and I see it as a comment on songwriting and how by changing the order of elements you can create something that is both new and yet rooted in a tradition. The constant retelling of a story that changes with each telling and narrator and yet retains its intrinsic meaningfulness. And it sounds great as well, but I am grateful they did not go for "Acrustix", it would have been too corny.

If the first appearance of Acrostix, with the original version of "Filth chain" on the "Crust night 2002: the war begins for them!!" compilation cd on Tribal War Asia, did give a few hints about the band's identity, it still very much had an incomplete feel. Basically a raw rewriting of "Arise!", the song had some solid Effigy-like riffing (another important early influence) but lacked that groovy atmospheric vibe that made Acrostix stand out. The second effort, the self-titled four-songs demo recorded in late 2002, was more convincing, if still on the raw side of things. Keeping building on the Amebix gloomy rocking sound, especially with the omnipresent groovy bass lines and the raucous but distinguishable vocals, the songs were heavy but not in a punishing way as they relied more on vibe than sheer power. But it was on "The darkest 4" tape (a four-way split between Acrostix, Effigy, Disturd and Zoe) released in 2003, that Acrostix truly took off. Despite a rough production, the band made a choice that proved to be a game-changer and considerably improved the atmospheric quality of the songwriting: they added a synth. And not just a little of it, no, they completely went for it, ballistically. The synth provided that extra texture, a new meaningful layer that fitted and further developed the melancholy vibe of the amebixy numbers perfectly. The song "The day comes" paved the way for what was to be the apex of the early Acrostix period: "Awave!".

Now, before I go on with the Lp I am actually here to discuss, just a few words about synth-driven crust music, because that is exactly what we are dealing with here. Of course, Amebix did use the synth on some songs (on "Arise!" and especially "Monolith") and at the end of their existence, they even had a full-time synth-player on stage, George. Although the synth was undeniably crucial in establishing and enhancing that gloomy, monumental, otherworldly vibe that Amebix created, it was still mostly used as a textural layer, as a means to an end, rather than an actual instrument on par with the guitar or the bass, although some moments on "Monolith" were certainly synth-driven and pointed in that direction. It was in this interstice that Acrostix flourished, by taking the "Monolith" mood and vibe and adding a new structural voice with a more important role being given to the synth. Building on the Amebix synth-tradition, some bands had used it afterwards, often parsimoniously, like Axegrinder on their Lp, Saw Throat, Counterblast, Filth of Mankind in a very meaningful way and Morne (their 2008 demo being a masterwork on that level).

Of course, the "Monolith" period and the few songs recorded afterwards by Amebix remain Acrostix' primary pool of inspiration, however there has always been one scene, oft forgotten, heavily into synth and old-school mid-paced groovy crust: Greece. And that is exactly where I pinpoint the other main songwriting influence of Acrostix. A quick look at Acrostix' side of the Lp's cover gives the game away for me. It depicts a wolf howling to the sky. Now I am aware that it is not exactly the most original motif in the world of punk and metal (and to be honest, the cover is the one thing I do not really like on the Lp, well, along with the celtic cross on the "o" of Acrostix, it does not roll that well on a shirt in Europe, does it?), but I am definitely reminded of the cover of Χαοτικό Τέλος' "Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια" Lp from 1993 that has wolves howling in a moonlit forrest (flying crow included of course). Even more so since Χαοτικό Τέλος had possibly been the most synth-driven crust band so far and their 1991 tape "Πέρα Από Τα Τείχη Της Σιωπής" remains, to this day, the best example I can think of synth-driven "amegrinder" apocalyptic crust music. I may be reading too much into the wolf reference but Acrostix cannot not have been aware of Greek synthcrust (there is another subgenre for ya) and despite significant discrepancies between the sound of Acrostix and Χαοτικό Τέλος, I do not think I am mistaken to think that the former took some important cues from the latter and Greek crust as a whole in terms of arrangements and placements. Interestingly the release of the split with Contrast Attitude coincided with that of another synth-driven crust record (despite the rarity of this take on the genre) in the shape of Χειμερία Νάρκη's "Στη Σιωπή Της Αιώνιας Θλίψης" in late 2003 (yes, Hibernation if you prefer).

On the Lp, you will therefore find three songs of synth-driven mid-tempo dark and rocking heavy crust music with a distinctive Japanese feel in the guitar (that crunchy distorted sound being the trademark), groovy bass lines and half-sung/half/shouted vocals. As I mentioned several times, the late-Amebix influence is all over (literally with songs called "Awave!", "Eternal winter" or "The biginning of the end" and the "Amebirider" drawing that blends Amebix' face with the Hellbastard one, just in case it was not clear enough) and Acrostix do manage to recreate this deceptive simplicity, organic, earthy and atavistic with an incantatory quality, although they also add some punch and intensity thanks to a great production and an emphatic songwriting intentionality. The three songs blend with each other so I left them on a single track as it stresses their flowing atmospheric quality. The standout number here is the closing one, "Eternal winter" with an epic and ethereal intro where Sin the Baron (also on the bass, quite obviously...) sings for real (and I mean SING) before the song builds up into an intense, crunchy, catchy, gloomy crust anthem with simple yet amazingly effective bass lines and top tunes. That is melancholy crust and rocking bleakness you can actually dance to, unique and yet heavily referential. Japanese crust at its best. Following this split Lp, Acrostix took a different musical direction, adding a lot of punchy Japanese hardcore to their recipe, and, although very powerful, I never was quite as taken by their (synthless) later records, even if I must admit that I do like the "Truth turned gray with justice" Ep from 2008 and the sax-driven (yes, you read correctly) crust song on the B-side.

The other side of the Lp, poetically entitled "Now the world is from CHAOS to another more CHAOS...", has four songs from Contrast Attitude who have a very different take on the whole thing and that often makes for great split records, right? Looking at the foldout cover, you can pretty much guess what CA are all about with the use of the Discharge font and "D-beat till death" being proudly stated... or can you? CA are not really a D-beat band and although they do make use of the beat and of some riffing, they are in no way as orthodox as Disclose or Final Bloodbath for instance and sound like a much more versatile bunch with one idea in mind: hardcore intensity. Not quite as monomaniacally systemized as Disclose, as crustily insane as Gloom nor as hyperbolically relentless as Framtid, CA are maybe somewhere in the middle. There is a noize element in the guitar but it is not exaggerated, it is fast and punishing without being manic, heavy and thrashy but not really metal, catchy and with a fist-raising intent but never going into Burning Spirit territory... CA are a balanced band if you think about it and the songs, without ever being truly memorable, are clearly effective and well written. The four songs on the split Lp have a great sound which highlights their modernity as I never felt the band tried to go for old-school or openly referential. The drumming is super tight, as usual, with a delightful pummeling crasher crust feel, the riffs are good and bring Diatribe or Broken Bones - more than Discharge - to mind, the yelled vocals are intense, direct and harsh but never forceful and on the whole there is an undeniable hardcore energy and spirit permeating the sound through smart hooks and tempo changes. The production may not be heavy enough on this particular recording but the songs remain top-shelf in their style and I can definitely imagine them being particularly great live (like a useless fool, I missed them when they toured in Europe a few years ago). CA have been going since 1998 and still deliver the goods which is something that I always admire.

The foldout is quite good-looking with an abundance of visual references to Discharge, Amebix or Antisect and you have got plenty of band pictures for added crustness. I am not such a sucker for the covers however as they are pixelated and have a real "early digital imaging" feel, and I guess they should have gone for the old-school DIY punk look of the inside. Oh well, it was another time. And good news, as this quite wonderful split Lp still goes for cheap today and can be obtained for a tenner. The gods of punk-rock are sometimes undecipherable.


Wednesday 21 December 2016

Japanese Crust vs The World (part 9): Defector "パンクシステムデストロイ (Punk system destroy)" Ep, 2003

As I mentioned at the start of the series, selecting records that could, taken diachronically as a story and synchronically as a whole, give a sense of what Japanese crust was all about felt like something akin to a Herculean task. Not unlike the Hydra of Lerna, you pick one record and then another crucial one just pops up from your memory. It is bloody endless but cuts had to be made and top bands like Crocodile Skink, Guillotine Terror or Argue Damnation were eventually left out (but I will come back for you, I promise). The five year gap between SDS' "Ameber" and the present record does not imply that there was no significant Japanese crust record released between 1998 and 2003, but let's say that I wanted to write meaningfully about the noughties because it was a very rich decade on that level and I had to start somewhere. So there, Defector it is.

Writing about Osaka's Defector just a month after my extravagant ravings about Gloom might sound a little pointless, if not redundant, and I do think that the various hyperbolic mumbles that are to follow should be read while keeping in mind Gloom's creative perspective (if you are too lazy to do more than three clicks, meaning you were probably born after 1992, here it is). There are bands wishing they were judged on their own actual production rather than that of the members' former bands. But I do not think that Defector belongs to that category of bands since, beside having former Gloom people, the band kept building openly on their predecessor's legacy.

I first heard Defector in 2005. Of course, I had seen their name on distros but the "noize" tag kinda frightened me (even more so because it was written with a "z" instead of an "s", thus suggesting that it would be even noisier than that Gloom Lp or that Confuse live side I had so much trouble listening to... and can you really blame me?) and I did not really care to give them a shot. Until the summer of 2005 when I stayed in Dublin for a couple of weeks with my best mate. I have great memories of those crazy days but I guess this is not really the place and you will have to wait for my autobiography for details. We were staying at some friends' house in a neighbourhood called Phibsboro, where a good few punks lived. And painted on a derelict wall in the hood there was a slogan that I bloody enjoyed: "Punk system destroy". Of course, it was a tongue-in-cheek thing (you know, Irish humour and that) but I loved it. It sounded both silly and witty. So I asked where the slogan came from and learnt that it was the name of a Defector Ep, which was then promptly played at the house. I cannot say I liked it though because Defector's (noize not) music is not really one that you can really grasp fully when drinking and chatting with mates, but I still made a mental note that said, roughly, "it's alright that, a bit shambolic and fuzzy but I'll remember to give it a proper go". Truth be told, I really needed to understand Gloom first in order to get what Defector were up to but I eventually did, although it did take me a few years to achieve (but really, you just cannot focus on everything).

Defector formed after Gloom's final split (there were three of them apparently), following the release of "Mentally achronistic". The band had Jhonio on the bass and Habi on the drums (both of whom had always been in Gloom), Jorge on vocals and two guitar players, Taki (Gloom's first guitar player) and Toyo. The name "Defector" was itself taken from the 16-second Gloom song I love so much (from "Recomendation of perdition") and I suppose both bands can be said to play a similar genre. So that's a lot of Gloom in one single band. Do Defector sound like Gloom? Absolutely and definitely not. Although you do find the same structural basis, Defector were far more noise-oriented as the title of their first Ep, "Ultra noize violence" (there's a new subgenre for ya), can attest. They were noizier but not necessarily noisier than Gloom, noizy but not noisy. Am I being cryptic? Let's put it that way. Defector, like Gloom, saw the noise aspect of punk music as a creative statement and an aesthetic trope. As it was rightly pointed out to me about my review of "Recomendation of perdition", Gloom's assertion that "All answer it chaos!" was also a comment on the mid/late 90's trend of cleaner production, sound and texture in crust punk and hardcore. The chaos they referred to was precisely their intent to go back to a hardcore essence where noise and rawness prevail. Although there is no denying that the noisiness of mid-90's Gloom and Defector were completely intentional and denoted some crafty and tight musicianship, as opposed to a lot of 80's bands whose noisiness had a lot to do with limited skills and/or shitty gears (though the noise intentionality should certainly not be discarded either), these Osaka bands embraced and advocated the noisy textures of Confuse, Gai and the likes. This is how I read Defector's use of the word "noize", as the stance of "noise as a creative choice".

However, Defector did not use "noize" in the same way as Gloom and not to the same effect either. In fact, you can almost grasp Defector's perspective just by looking at the cover and the insert of "Punk system destroy" since they are ripe with information. In 2003, Defector's message was the following: "It's just like a law / Punk system destroy / Fuck regulations, fuck it!! / Burn away your explanation!! Kill the regulation punks!!". Now, that sounds a bit harsh, innit? You could probably read it in the same light as Gloom's, meaning that it could be a critique of the drive for a better, more polished sound displayed by the hardcore world then. I would argue that it also had a lot to do with the growing musical restrictions and closed-mindedness, not only in terms of sound but also of genre, that the band felt. This Defector's Ep (more so than the first one) could be listened to as a purposefully noizy and versatile work that endeavoured to be free from the constraints generated from punk trends and limited expectations. It is like a big proverbial "fuck off!" if you will. Of course, it is also "just" a good crasher crust (or noize violence or however you want to call it) and even as such, it is a worthy one. But then, well, we do have two guitars, don't we?

Two guitars in Japanese crust is very unusual, to say the least, and seeing that Defector were made up of rather experienced punks, it must have meant something. While the drumming and bass parts are not that different from Gloom's in terms of intent (understand, they are insanely tight and effective), the guitar work is something else. While Toyo deals with the blown-out, distorted, fuzzy guitar texture and piercing feedbacks, Taki is responsible for the monstrous crunchy metallic crust riffing. And, despite the obvious difficulty to make the two guitars work together, especially when they seem to go in different directions, they do work perfectly but nevertheless tensely, they managed to complement each other but are still somehow frictional. You have that extremely distorted sound that is used almost as a layer of noize on the one hand and then groovy old-school crust riffs on the top of it and the crux of the Ep lies in the conflicting yet pregnant songwriting relation between both. I am not a particularly good musician, but I am pretty sure that cannot be easy to do right and tastefully. The two songs on the B side ("No control" and "Lunatic annihilation") demonstrate fantastically a very unusual blend of Confuse/State Children texture with SDS/Effigy metallic crunch. But if the blend is so successful, it is also because of the songwriting vibe of Defector and what they intended to create as an atmosphere. While I argued that Gloom were going for a representation of the brutal insanity of modern life, Defector picked another side of insanity, one that is clearly deranged and emerges from a desire for the loss of strict meanings. Defector's music sometimes does not just represent insanity, it just sounds insane and demented. It stems from the unexpected changes and moments in the songs (the opening of the "Lunatic annihilation" sounds like a madman's dream), the drooling ferocity of the songwriting and also the constant presence of that distorted guitar that gives the impression that the songs were recorded over an old tape and that some of what you hear belongs to completely different songs. It was a conscious creative effort from the band (quite postmodernist actually) to convey the sense of a dislocation of meaning that still produces liberating artistic cohesion. Fuck regulations, right?

On a strict musical level, this is a crust hardcore tornado you are facing. The Japanese Bristol sound is here, the Doom/ENT/Sore Throat tradition too, some Hellbastard/SDS metal riffs, I hear some Anti-Cimex worship here and there and Discharge also plays a central role (there are several visual references to them on the cover)... This is a very intense, aggressive, over-the-top, noizy punk as fuck record but also one that I think is very interesting to listen to carefully. A proper "Noize not music" effort is always more than just that and in this case, it is certainly more subtle than the primitive "5 mobs 2 cord thrash" suggests, like an articulate primitiveness. Similarly to Gloom's "Recomendation of perdition", you can find dead crusties on "Punk system destroy", this time impaled rather than hung and the slightly deranged cheesy montage with the band members indicates that fun was had indeed. "Punk system destroy" was released on Crust War in 2003 and the band also appeared on the label's 2005 compilation Lp "混沌難聴大虐殺 Konton Damaging Ear Massacre" alongside Framtid or Poikkeus. Interestingly, the two guitar players kept doing what they did, with "Metal penis" Taki playing in Zoe and "Noise penis" Toyo fronting ZyanosE a few years later.                      


Monday 19 December 2016

Japanese Crust vs The World (part 8): SDS "Ameber" 12'' Ep, 1998

I wish to express my sincerest apologies for the short break I had to take (I wish I had an alright excuse but it is mostly because I am a disorganized lazy bum) and truly hope that no breath was held. But let's not dwell on this and let's get back to Japanese crust, shall we?

Today I am extremely pleased to rave, once again, about a band that has become a regular guest on Terminal Sound Nuisance (they deserve to have their own parking space at that point), the mighty SDS. Since it feels pointless to make the introductions, I refer you to earlier posts (Future stays in darkness fogCrust and anguished life and Meaningful consolidation) if you want to know more (and why wouldn't you really?) about the band's pre-"Ameber" period. Probably more than any other act, SDS embodies the essence of Japanese crust, although the band never defined itself as "crust". This is not as paradoxical as it might seem since they belonged to the first generation and, under the moniker Sic Death Slaughter, appeared on the "Suck my dick" compilation tape as early as 1987, which not only made them contemporaries of the UK crust explosion but, more importantly, located the band in a timeframe when the term "crust" was not yet consolidated as a genre-signifier. Basically, SDS, like many early crust bands, witnessed the retroactive use of the concept of "crust" applied to their work, even though their influences were to be found in protocrust bands like Discharge, Amebix and, above all, Antisect. A much more relevant way to look at SDS would be to see them as a "UK sound band" (the notion was discussed in the introduction to the series) since the recreation of the classic British hardcore punk sound - understood here more as a specific sound and vibe rather than a strict geographical space - was always at the core of the band's songwriting. This peculiar drive in the broader Japanese punk context of the late 80's made SDS a somewhat unique band, despite their overt referentiality which should not be mistaken as a lack of originality in this specific context. While the Bristol sound had been very popular for the largest part of the 80's, SDS were the pivotal ones who, also thanks to the earlier impetus of Crow, significantly shaped the love for the UK sound of Discharge, Discharge-loving bands (not to be confused with "Discharge-influenced bands", as it is all a matter of degree and template) and the Discharge-fueled metal-punk breed that they generated that would prevail in the 90's and spawn a new genre in Japan.

As mentioned in them fancy sentences above, SDS were a unique band and their originality lied as much in the music itself as in the concept underlying the music. They took what they saw as "the UK sound" and used it as a meaningful clay in order to create cohesive works that are much more intricate and subtle than a mere superficial glance would suggest. And this is why I have always loved SDS records, they all have a creative direction while simultaneously echoing with each other through the UK sound chamber. That and because they are about as intense as a charging rhino. I chose "Ameber" for two reasons. The first one is cheesy. "Ameber" was the first SDS record I bought as the cd version could still be located on some distros when I got it (that'd be in 2004 methinks). But I also wanted to write about it because I feel it is the SDS record that is the least discussed (if at all) and the most misconceived. And I just won't have that. Not on my watch.

"Ameber" was recorded in Nagoya, in June, 1998 and released on MCR Company in September on vinyl and in December on cd (it was actually the label's 100th release). "Ameber" was the follow-up to the "Scum system kill" 1996 Ep that marked the start of the band's "Punk metal bastard" era which revolved around insanity, musically and aesthetically. With a twelve-year long existence, SDS had already been around for a while when "Scum system kill" came out and for any crust band to survive, they have to evolve and add new things to their recipe (Misery is a prime example of that). To a relevant extent, the last four SDS records can be seen from a narrative perspective, each of them a retelling of a similar madness story but from a different point of view in time. "Ameber" is about shapelessness and polymorphism. Far from being just a nod toward Amebix, the name "Ameber" (meaning the parasitic amoeba) actually pointed to the many forms or indeed, to the absence of form, that evil and alienation can take. The cover is purposefully unsettling as the band aimed at breaking from the traditional black and white visual on the vinyl version. If the name "SDS" wasn't written at the top of the cover, I would think it was some sort of heavy psychedelic space-rock record. The idea behind the drawing was one of a threat without definite boundaries and matter and, given the very futuristic design, I would tend to think that it also expressed the coming of an alienating and discarnate digital age that causes a directionless insanity (a theme that would appear again on 2000's "Digital evil in your life"). The trope of a threatening shapelessness can be found in several instances in "Ameber", notably with the ominously blurred drawings of a soldier and of the circular design. Interestingly, the cd version introduced a new cover that looked very different but expressed a similar idea. Even though the threat has the shape of a monster made of electricity, it is still immaterial, fluid and subject to change, just like a modern amoeba that would be the child of the swamp technology feeding on dead matter rather than the product of a natural process.

Out from the cyber void

If the music of "Ameber" was meant to reflect this idea of a madness-inducing, shapeless technological society, it does not imply that it is without direction or focus, quite the contrary. It is one tight and powerful storm of a record. It is certainly SDS' most atmospheric and versatile work. The four songs are blended with each other through the use of creepy, psychedelic noises and ambient textures which confers "Ameber" a sense of narrative wholeness and storytelling. Although the songs themselves are pummeling fast-paced numbers, the different layers of sounds that tie them together, the changes in vocal tones (from gruff possession to evilly high-pitched), the presence of heavy epic mid-tempo transitions and the looped, stretched guitar riffs gives "Ameber" a strange and deranged organic quality. Antisect's "In darkness" era is of course an important reference point here, especially in the emphatic riffing and in the structural fluidity of the record, Anti-System also comes to mind and I distinctively hear some Zygote (for the heavy psychedelic vibe) and Amebix as well (for the incantatory mood) but it is clearly, first and foremost, SDS creatively at work. The bass lines are insanely groovy as they provide the backbone to and enhance the deceptively simple guitar riffs the impact of which relies on their circularity; the drumming is focused and super tight; there are some over-the-top aggressive guitar solos and the vocals are aptly insane-sounding and convey that sense of techno dementia. It is like Antisect had been caught in an electric storm and were battling in cyberspace. There is a relentlessness, an inevitability in the songwriting as the songs crash like waves. In its precise play between form and content, "Ameber" is almost a concept album, although I dislike the term, there is a sense of an organicity conflicting with technology and about to clash with it (as song titles like "Brain invader" and "Cyber god" suggest), on the brink of losing the battle, which is actually a recurring motif in crust if you think about it. "Digital evil in your life" would finish the story of this tension by offering a savage glimpse into an actual insanity that has finally come.

Mega hyper super thanks to Kenichi who took the time to answer my questions for this post and gave me some interesting insight into "Ameber".        

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Japanese Crust vs The World (part 7): Gloom "Recomendation of Perdition" 12'' Ep, 1997

And the incredulous crowd attending the punk disco kept asking, in awe:

"Is it a thunderstorm?"

"Is it a typhoon?" "

"Is it a tsunami?"

"A blizzard?"

"A hurricane?"

"Or THE END OF THE WOOOORRRLD?!", (that one's definitely coming from that one loud geezer who alway gets pissed far earlier than everyone else, dances too hard and eventually collapses on a sofa).

"Nah, it is just Gloom,"the DJ replied, with a thinly veiled glow of arrogance, before proceeding to nail all the punters to the floor with that one vaguely listenable Plasmid song.

Gloom. What a bloody great name for a band. It is even quite surprising that there aren't dozens of bands under that moniker. Beside the obvious meaning of the word, I suppose the band picked it for the phrase "doom and gloom" (well, I know I would have), especially considering that they had more than a passing fancy for everyone's favourite Brummies (lovely paraphrasis, innit?) and that they even used the Doom font as their own. Because I used to study English literature, I was aware of "doom and gloom" before "Doom and Gloom" (which, I fully realize, might cost me a few punk points) and also, this goes without saying I presume, of Doom before Gloom. So that, when I first heard of a band called Gloom, I immediately thought "now, that's witty, I need to check them out". The first time I came across them was through Punk Shocker (a brilliant Newcastle fanzine with a passion for Japanese punk music that gave my young self more than a few tools to learn and understand it in the early noughties) and Andy's raving review of the "Mentally achronistic" Ep. Although it never was my favourite Gloom record, it certainly made me ponder on the concept of achrony, that comes pretty handy when dealing with postmodern literature for instance. Here is a fairly accurate definition:

"Achrony is a form of paradoxical temporal and historical representation. It denotes the game employed by collective memory and literary narration of paradoxical actualization of the past. Achrony does not preclude depiction of temporal and historical sequence; however, it does not view this depiction as a determinant. Nor does achrony preclude reference to the past, though it does not represent it as formative because a reference to the past is necessarily a reference to the present. Achrony entails a definition of the present as a potential realm of the past which is not necessarily compatible with the present. The function of achrony is characterized by: a demonstration of the possibility of instauration of the historical account and literary memory, without impinging on the rights of the present."

Could the reference to achrony in Gloom's final Ep mean that they were critically aware of and embraced punk's nostalgic, albeit heart-felt and genuine, tendencies in order to re-actualize and re-engage with the defining vibe from the past, but in a present when time matters only as a crucial, pivotal place of re-enactment? If you think about it, such a notion could be applied to a lot of post-lapsarian punk bands. Or maybe they just misspelt "anachronistic" but this would be a lot less romantic.

Gloom formed in Osaka in the very early 90's (the first recordings from the band are from 1991 but it is likely the boys had been toying with their instruments before that) and the role they played in the making of the Japanese crust scene throughout the decade cannot be underestimated. The band organized many gigs in Osaka, the infamous "Final Noise Attack" - they could be seen as a continuation of the "Punk and Destroy" ones in Nagoya (they are discussed in the introduction) - which saw pretty much every crusty/noizy/Dis bands from Japan play and whose lineups were completely mouth-watering and equivalent to a Japanese crust version of the Cannes Film Festival. I suppose you could distinguish three main eras in Gloom's career (not that there are spectacular discrepancies between them) which coincided with different guitar players: "Speed noise hardcore (rags)" with Taki, "Crasher crusties" with Yamakawa and, arguably, "Insane crusties" (or something) with Jacky (the last one being more temporally, rather than stylistically, based).

"Speed noise hardcore (rags)" corresponds to the first period of Gloom, roughly from 1991 to 1994, with Taki on the guitar. Although both bands truly differ in terms of texture and songwriting, I hear a real connection between early Gloom and early CFDL, and it is no coincidence if Jhonio (the notorious bass player who also played in Defiance along with Gloom's drummer Habi in the early 90's) said about Atrocity Exhibition (pre-CDFL if you have been following correctly) in "Inferno Punx" that: "It was the first time made myself conscious of "CRUST" much more than E.N.T.!"If you listen closely to Gloom, especially in their early years, you can identify a similar point of confluence in terms of punk influences, they are not as many as in CFDL - who were a hardcore celebration - but still enough to make their music both familiar and yet strangely special. The first two demos, "The end" and "Self-interest" both recorded in 1991 (although in truth the latter was never sold or distributed but merely given away as a gift at a gig) introduced a remarkable number of different influences, and even though CFDL and of course ENT do come to mind (tell me that "Nuclear annihilation" is not a massive nod toward 89 ENT if you dare), there are specifically US hardcore mid-paced breaks, a lot of vintage Japan-via-Bristol noisy punk, traditional Japanese hardcore, and a rather glorious Doom tribute song. The band had not gone full-on blown-out distortion yet (something they became renowned for later on and certainly helped to bring back to the punk front with Disclose) and I am guessing that, to put it simply, they played genuinely raw hardcore that was non-derivative and quite varied in terms of beats and moods. From the start, Gloom were highly referential visually. The sheet coming with the tape "The end" displayed the same picture as the one used by Disaster on "War cry" (incidentally, both Jhonio and Taki, on "distortion" and "Shouts" respectively, played in War Cry around 1993, a Sore Throatian noisy cavecrust side-project with three "singers"), punk smiley à la Electro Hippies and CFDL and pictures of crusties that would make Deviated Instinct proud.

The Ep "Speed noise hardcore rags", beside creating an awesome new name for a punk subgenre, brought Acid to the referential equation and saw the band take a decisive step toward the genre they would - arguably - pioneer: crasher crust. Through a more focused and precise songwriting, the band included more noisepunk elements (the use of feedbacks is interesting on this record) while keeping that sort of ENT/early Disrupt raw, savage crust punk vibe and the energetic tightness of Japanese hardcore and a whole lot of different but always very effective and hard-hitting beats. The drumming is key on this Ep as it is very upfront, almost too much if you are not used to it, with the crash cymbal suitably punishing, more viciously executed rolls than you can count and the numerous variations basically pounding you into a cider frenzy (but it could be just me). On a visual level, the Ep cover overtly rooted Gloom in the "cheesy crust" tradition with this kind of naive, simple sketches of crustier than crust goofy punx (borrowing from the Sore Throat/ENT/Doom brew crew and the Bristol school and passing these elements through a Japanese noisepunk filter, not quite unlike what they achieved on a musical level) that would become closely linked to the crasher crust aesthetics.

For some reason, Gloom's next recording came three years later in 1997, with a new guitar player, Yamakawa, in the guise of the "Noise for moblish" tape (released on the local Crust War Records like the first Ep) which marked the start of the "crasher crusties" period. The tape saw Gloom leave that "international hardcore" vibe that they had at the beginning and completely embrace a formidable fusion of noisepunk (or what we have come to understand as "noisepunk" in 2016) and cavemen crust. "Noise for moblish" is a rough recording, a proper one, and although I suspect the band was going for a raw sound, it really sounds like an angry hardcore demo and not like an exercise in rawness recreation like so many modern bands. The new guitarist certainly added a lot of distortion-till-deafness to the sound but the music remains very aggressive and energetic as the fuzz is not here so much to create a textured atmosphere (though it also necessarily does that), like Tokyo's Collapse Society for instance, but to reinforce that all-out crust attack vibe. Although bands like Confuse or Gai immediately spring to mind in terms of sound and arrangements (the drum rolls are a case in point), the songwriting keeps that relentless pummeling savagery inherent to crust music. "Recomendation of perdition", released the same year on MCR Records, can be seen as a re-recording of "Noise for moblish" as the nine songs are exactly the same. However, the production and the quality of the sound take them to a whole other level. The level of intensity is through the roof on this record. I am aware that such praises are often used casually to describe a record but I cannot think of many that fit the phrase more aptly than "Recomendation of perdition". I mentioned the drumming several times but on this one, it sounds like a demented trance, as if the drummer was beating the shit out of a life alienation but always remained in a perfectly controlled state of anger to solve definitely the "noise + crust" equation. The bass is super heavy and distorted and leads the songs aggressively through terrific hooks, the guitar has that wall of distortion feel and the vocals offer a healthy amount of gratuitous screams (always a plus in my book) and sound incredibly pissed. "Recomendation of perdition" sounds and feels insane. Not that it is a deranged work, but because it reflects the insanity of modern life, it absorbs it and unleashes its ugly truth in just 10 minutes (and to be fair, I am not sure anyone is willing to take much more of such a delightful punishment). Is "Defector" the best 16 seconds song ever? Yes, indeed and if anything it shows that one does not need more than this to write a song able to pound someone into the ground.

Of course the title refers to Disorder and the band's iconic double Crass-circle is present and indicates Gloom's point: "10 minutes of insanity". That's probably what "crasher crusties" were going for, their agenda. The cover is rather striking, with a picture of a studded punk hanging an other one... Insanity, right? The backcover has the following intriguing message: "Melodic US 80's crusty / Who fuckin cares / We will make then fucked up / All answer it chaos!!". It could be a comment on punk's tendency to create pointless subgenres and the band's answer to this futile self-consciousness (which is pretty paradoxical considering Gloom baptized new subgenres themselves...): chaos and insanity. Gloom's next record would be the aforementioned "Mentally achronistic" Ep with Jackie Framtid/Crust War replacing Yamakawa on the guitar. Although it was clearly building on "Recomendation of perdition", I never felt the same magics on this record, as undeniably solid an effort it is. Following the demise of Gloom, two live records were released, "Noise attack devastating Tokyo city" in 2001 and "濁流玉砕雑核音" (a live from 1991) in 2010. More interesting perhaps was the "撲殺精神破綻者" Lp from 2003 (also known as "Vokusatsu seisin hatansha" if that's any help), released on Crust War. The Lp includes two recording sessions from two different Gloom periods, the A side corresponding to the "Crasher crusties" era (with the same tracklist as "Recomendation" or "Moblish") and the B side including earlier songs from the "Speed noise hardcore rags" one. It was my first Gloom record actually. I had never heard the band when it came out, though I had read about them, but a friend of mine, who was just as uninformed as I was, told me that bands that had names ending in "-oom" were probably great since Doom had such a name. I admit it was not the most clever reasoning but it worked fine in that particular case. To be honest, this Lp is a little difficult to listen to in one go as I feel crasher crust (or whatever you feel more inclined to call it) works better for 10/15 minutes. However, it is a fantastic record if you want to hear the difference in intent and songwriting between Gloom's two eras.

Finally not so achronistic, this bunch. After all, they did bring something new and relevant to their present.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Japanese Crust vs the World (part 6): AGE "Inside darkness" Ep, 1997

This was a tough one to select. Undecisiveness struck the Terminal Sound Nuisance's headquarters like never before, plundging my already lazy staff into a state of existential stupour. I asked the Gods of Punk for advice and wisdom but they remained silent, despite me sacrificing a couple of Discharge records to please them (reissues though, I have never been that religious). So helpless was I that I even asked that nice woman at the supermarket about it, but alas, she threatened to call security for some reason. I was on my own, on the verge of insanity, not unlike the nameless protagonist of Zweig's "Schachnovelle".

I honestly did spend a couple of hours listening to AGE's "Inside darkness"and Hakuchi's "Gods disturb" back to back because I just could not make up my mind. They are both excellent records, but for different reasons. Despite the fact that Hakuchi and AGE have three members in common (only the drummer is different) and that the latter can be seen, to a relevant extent, as the sequel (rather than the follow-up) to the former, their respective production emerged in different contexts, hence the difficulty. Although late Hakuchi shared significant similarities with early AGE, there was a two-year gap (a bit more actually) between the end of Hakuchi and the formation of AGE and close to four years between the recording of "Gods disturb" and "Inside darkness". So basically, while the records' musical content are not that far away from one another, their context much more so. If "Gods disturb" definitely marks the apex of Hakuchi, "Inside darkness" does feel like a band's first record. Just on a visual level, the discrepancy is remarkable. As an object, "Gods disturb" is much more refined, with an additional insert, additional artwork, translations, even the quality of the cover is superior, while "Inside darkness"'s lyrics sheet is basically a cheap photocopy. The first one was released on Overthrow Records, a label subsequently renowned for putting out some amazing records, while the second was the first production of Dewa Records (a label that released nine records in total). I am not saying that "Gods disturb" is a better record than "Inside darkness", just that, for all their likeness, as records, they cannot really be seen in the same light. And that's what made the decision so bloody difficult. But in the end, I went for AGE, a band I am much more familiar with, whose records I have a first-hand experience with and therefore means more to me on a personal level.

Still, let's talk a little more about Hakuchi first. This pre-AGE band was from Niigata and existed from 1991 to 1994. Originally, their sound was deeply rooted in traditional Japanese hardcore and their first 1991 Ep, "Fall a sacrifice to delightness", was a fine example of this singularly uplifting and triumphant genre. Little by little, they turned to the crust side of thing, and their last two works, the aforementioned 1993 Ep and 1994's "Last demo" (a live recording I know only one song of, but let me tell you that it is an anthemic, mid-tempo apocalyptic crust number to die for), clearly embodied the new sound the band had been moving toward: old-school crust with a Japanese hardcore edge. "Gods disturb" was unlike any other Japanese crust records at the time and despite falling under the same stylistic umbrella as SDS, it sounded nothing like SDS as both bands had significantly different songwriting intents. The song "Disturb" is, to this day, one of the best old-school crust songs written in the early 90's and I am not saying this lightly. From the thick, dark, organic production reminiscent of Swedish death-metal at times and even of Terrorizer (for some odd reason, I am reminded of them), the tribal Amebix beats, the crunchy, groovy riffs, the powerfully scorching vocals, the great somber anarcho visuals, the solid lyrics to the genuine nocturnal sense of doom permeating the songwriting... Everything just works on this Ep, which sounds incredibly modern from a retrospective point of view and probably doesn't get the credit it deserves, and had the band kept these dynamics, I can only imagine how brilliant a full Hakuchi Lp would have sounded in 1994...

Fast forward to 1996 and AGE, a moniker that was meant to be the acronym for Armed Government's Error although I have never heard anyone call them like that (it would just sound silly, wouldn't it? Like saying "Liberty Independence Freedom Equality" instead of LIFE). Looking closely at "Gods disturb"'s insert, you can actually find two separate occurrences of the word "age" ("The age of confusion" written with the Crass font in their anarcho visual and in the sentence "We know life disappears / This age is alive to muster up courage!" which is at the top of the Japanese lyrics sheet), which could be seen as subtly linking the two bands through lexicon (an idea that I like) or I am just reading far too much into this because I am hungover...

Fanservice, level 10

I first came across the band through Tribal War Asia, the Japanese division of Neil's Tribal War Records run by a Crocodile Skink dude, and the label's 1999 cd version of "Exploding insanity" that also included "Inside darkness" and the split Ep with Deride. For some reason, the record could still be found easily and for cheap in the early/mid 00's and I trusted the Tribal War tag with my life, so I jumped on it, completely unaware of the Hakuchi connection at the time (but as I mentioned, I had more than enough to do with current bands then to really bother about older ones). While there is an undeniable musical linkage with "Gods disturb" and indeed, you can hear similar ideas in terms of songwriting, "Inside darkness" is nonetheless a discrete record, that I personally see as very influential, if not responsible for, in the reopening of the metal crust gates in Japan that bands like Effigy, Disturd or Acrostix would go through. The production is thinner and rawer, which gives the songs a very primal, almost animalistic, quality. Gone are the death-metal tones and the Japanese hardcore traces (which would be back a few years later) as AGE gave room to specifically crust influences and sonorities on this first record. The Amebix influence is stronger than ever on this one and this lot was probably the first to openly incorporate Amebix worship into their music. The first song, "Women in slaughter", opens with ominous feedbacks, the very same bass chord as that of the beginning of "The moor" and the singer is madly shouting "Slaughteeeeeeeeeer", so you really cannot be more straight-forward than this (well, I am wrong, you can if your band is Zoe). The ensuing epic and filthy metal riff, played on a groovy mid-paced beat, brings to mind Sacrilege and Deviated Instinct as much as Black Sabbath, before descending into Antisect soloing and bursting into a beefy, "Out from the void"-meet-late-Nausea-at-an-SDS-garden-party, faster-paced crunchy metal punk number with emphasized, desperate-sounding vocals. The second one, "Inside darkness", uses heavy Axegrinder riffing - but played harsher, SDS-like, for AGE were sonically closer to the Japanese crust pioneers than Hakuchi were - combined with groovy Amebix beats (amebeats?) and includes a typically crusty, even orthodoxally so, eerie moment with dark intricate bass lines, bleak guitar arpeggios and haunting gruff vocal works that gloriously points to Nausea and Misery. It is all a serenade to me to be truthful.

The aesthetics of "Inside darkness" fit well with the tunes, aptly bleak, suggestive ominously rather than directly. I especially love the Armed Government Error's logo with the two obscured faces on the backcover as they could not represent the vibe and mood of the music better. Lyrically, "Women in slaughter" deal with the sexual slavery imposed on women by Japanese troops during WW2, which is not a common topic for a crust band but is definitely a great idea, while "Inside darkness" is about mind control, self-alienation and how hateful ideas are instilled in our brains. Good stuff. On this Ep, the boys all picked aliases, two of which may refer to classic UK crust (or may not, I am in full "wild guess" mode right now), with singer Asari renamed as Sacrecrow (Deviated Instinct?) and guitarist Hoshi picking Pyron (now, this is far-fetched, but could it hint at Hellbastard's "Pylons"??? And isn't "Inside darkness" basically a reformulation of "Heading for internal darkness"????). Following "Inside darkness", AGE released a split Ep with Deride in 1998 that was very much in the same vein, and then, one year later, the minialbum "Exploding insanity", with a new guitar player, Tsuzy. His arrival in AGE coincided with a shift in terms of musical direction as the band, from 2001's "Four wings" on, went for a more technical and abrasive brand of Japcore-infused crusty metal-punk, that was not quite unlike late SDS. I cannot say I relate quite as much to AGE's late materials as to their early stuff (I know, I know, it is a common cliché but I desperately need the punk points right now) but a record like "The scar of lead" still puts me in a jubilant mood whenever I play it.

My copy of "Inside darkness" has clearly seen better days, but hopefully the files and scans are good enough.

Monday 7 November 2016

Japanese Crust vs The World (part 5): Anti Authorize "Our wind..." Ep, 1995

I already briefly discussed "Antibands" in the Antiproduct post and this one provides me yet again with an opportunity to rant and rave about one of punk's most beloved prefix. Antiauthorize.

Or is it Anti Authorize? I mean, it appears as "Anti Authorize" on the backcover of the "Meaningful Consolidation" double Ep compilation, although the band's artwork does indicate the "Antiauthorize" spelling. I think we can rule out "Anti-Authorize" but the mystery remains. Now, you may think I am nitpicking but it does matter as the meaning is slightly altered, although the nuance was probably lost on the band at the time. Going with "Antiauthorize" would make sense for a reason that has little to with lexical semantics but everything with logical ones. Given the band's obvious obsession with Antisect, it wouldn't be unreasonable to read their used of the "anti" prefix as yet another nod toward the Brits, who positioned their own "anti" right before the substantive (it is "Antisect" and not "Anti Sect", that'd just look ridiculous, although truth be told, I have read occurrences of "Anti-Sect" in quite a few zines from the 80's). However, the name is actually spelt "Anti Authorize" in the photobook "Inferno Punx" and in the official video of a live performance recorded in Tokyo in 1994. I am therefore assuming that, if the name variation "Antiauthorize" was indeed used on some of the band's visuals (on this particular Ep for instance), it was for aesthetic and not semantic reasons, and that the correct spelling was "Anti Authorize". Therefore, I will be using the latter throughout this write-up or, more likely, since I am a bit of lazy bugger, just "AA" which makes this paragraph a little pointless but then I am paid by the word.

Is that an Antisect-themed bass decoration? Yes it is. Meet my new role model.

Now, I hope I haven't put everyone to sleep with my linguistic divagation especially since I do not feel Anti Authorize is such a great name after all. It is a bit of a mouthful, although I can relate with the intended meaning behind it... But let's get to business. I actually only got into the band recently through "Meaningful Consolidation", which I bought on a drunken Discogs night. I had heard Anti Authorize before of course but never really paid attention to them for some reason. And even their two songs on the compilation, despite being solid tracks, did not particularly enthuse me. It was only when I decided to have an all-Japanese series for Terminal Sound Nuisance a few months ago that I gave this Ep another shot and thanks fuck I did because it is an ace record that offers an interesting insight into the creative imbrications of Japanese crust.  

Anti Authorize were from Tokyo and must have formed - at the latest - in 1992. They appeared on a Punk And Destroy vhs that also included live sets from SDS, CFDL and Battle of Disarm (what an amazing line-up...), all recorded at Huck Finn, in Nagoya, on May 15th, 1993 and they just could not sound that good in less than a year. The band seemed to have been active between 1993 and 1997 and only appeared - but for our present Ep - on compilations like the rather good (if bizarrely named) "Kamikaze attacked America / Yankees bombed Hiroshima, Nagasaki" jointly released on MCR and Sound Pollution in 1995 or the mastodonic "Chaos of Destruction volume 3" triple Lp (!) compiled by Kawakami in 1997. Anti Authorize's Ep was recorded in 1995 at Studio Penta, a network of studios used by quite a few bands (like LSD, Beyond Description or even Envy) to record, and is entitled...


... and we're back to postmodernist meaning instability. Is it called "Our wind..." or "It's time for change..."? Discogs rooted for "Our wind..." but I have seen occurrences for "It's time for change..." too. The foldout structure of the Ep does not particularly help on that level as the front cover is actually just one part of a larger - and quite stunning - drawing so that, when looking at just the cover, you can't really tell what it is and you actually have to unfold the thing to get a grasp of it. At the bottom of the drawing, "Our wind..." is written but you only notice it when you unfold the cover completely, so it looks like a self-titled Ep at first glance. But then, "It's time for change..." is mentioned just below the tracklist on the backcover as well as on the A side's label. Cornelian dilemma AGAIN. I went for "Our wind..." because the overall visual organization, despite its confusing aspect (without mentioning the cheesy fart jokes that "Our wind..." can entail), still points in this semantic direction and because "It's time for change..." is actually the name of an Anti Authorize's song included on the aforementioned "Kamikaze" comp but absent from this Ep. Now, you really have to engage with that band's work to make sense of it all, don't you?

"Our wind..." (or however it is really called) from Anti Authorize (or whatever their name really was) is an early example of self-referential Japanese crust. Let me rephrase that: SDS. Anti Authorize borrowed SDS's crucial antisectian referentiality and intertextuality, on both musical and visual levels, in order to create one storm of a record. Of course, AA referred heavily and very directly to Antisect themselves, but the way in which they did it left little doubt about the identity of their methodological mentors. Just like SDS paid tribute to the Antisect worldview during their early 90's period, Anti Authorize reworked this very particular, peculiar referential sense for this Ep. "Our wind..." was a bit like an homage to the drive behind "the ghost of Antisect" (although SDS were, of course, still very much alive and kicking at that time). Although certainly never as metallic as SDS, AA's dischargy moments, in terms of musicality, are heavily reminiscent of the Japanese crust originators. As such, "Our wind..." appears to be one of the earliest examples (but definitely not the last) of influential circularity within the national crust scene, but rather than explicitly referring to SDS, the band chose to refer to SDS's brand of referentiality.

The Ep almost reads and sounds like an Antisect bingo at times. The 83/84 Antisect font is everywhere (they even used it, not once, but twice for the label's name) and a variation on the 86/87 one can be found on the label. For good measure, the Discharge font is on the cover and the classic Crass one on the label of side B (the lettering of the tracklist being basically a blend of Discharge and Antisect fonts). The titles of the songs are rather unequivocal with, again, a reference to Antisect ("A part of mankind" and the possible Ep title, "It's time for change...", obviously hinting at "Hallo there! How's life?"), Amebix ("The darkest storm") and possibly CFDL ("(F).D.L." with the circled "F"). Musically, Antisect is a haunting presence purposely summoned by the band. The introductory song uses the same declamatory repetition of the word "Change" found on the song "Hallo there!", the sound of the wind (which acts as a trope) refers to "The ghost of mankind" and "A midsummer's night dream", the darkly insistent guitar riffs and the spoken parts (up to the effect used on some of them) cannot fail to remind one of "In darkness, there is no choice".

But does "Our wind..." sound like Antisect? Absolutely not. The influence and the overall referring only serve as props and not as basis (unlike Disclose and Discharge for example). Anti Authorize was a Japanese crust band through and through. "Our wind..." was their contribution to the work done by SDS from 1990 to 1992 upon which they staunchly built, inviting extra guests to the table. It is on the whole a tad faster than SDS (but it does have the same tight grooviness and rocking power) and the opening song (basically a Ghost of Antisect's take on Extreme Noise Terror's "Statement") ends with a blown-out, lightning fast noisy crust song with harsh vocals. The use of feedback and distortion on this one (and indeed on the whole first side) points toward Confuse and the likes, although it is nowhere as systematic. The vocals are harsh and have a raucous desperate tone that work very well and I particularly like the occasional, but always clever, use of several voices to add some extra crust edge à la ENT/Disrupt/Mortal Terror. As expected for the (sub)genre, the level of quality in the delivery of the guitar and bass is outstanding, everything works so bloody well, but I am most impressed with the drums in particular. Of course, the drumming is super tight but what really strikes me is the variety in the beats and in the sonorities, they are thick and powerful but never redundant nor predictable and always serve the songs' storytelling.

"Our wind..." is not only great musically but also textually as it sounds like a cohesive and meaningful unit rather than "just" a collection of great songs. The presence of a proper introduction and conclusion gives the record a moody, story-like quality, reminiscent of anarchopunk. It is not just a slab of top-shelf noisy Japanese crust, it also creates its own vibe, atmosphere and narrative, which is a rather ambitious move. A filmed live performance of the band in Tokyo from 1994 (and let me tell you that they ripped live) reveals that Anti Authorize also used other media than music in order to create meaning. The live set is introduced with a short montage showing gloomy, blurry images of destruction (I'm guessing) superimposed with a text in Japanese. It ends with these words: "WALK TOGETHER EQUALLY. It's time for CHANGE, LOVE & HOPE... Antiauthorize '94". And then all hell breaks loose, of course. It is nothing really spectacular, but I truly enjoy the intent to set a particular mood and offer something more than just a filmed gig. Multidimensional stuff here. Luv it.

Great, innit?

"Our wind..." was released on MCR Company (it was MCR-077, which is pretty neat) and despite the undeniable power of the record, it is not one that seems to be particularly sought for. Go figure.