Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Chronicles of Dis (part 5): Disaster "War cry" cd, 2006

I could probably just write "Disaster are the best Discharge-impersonators ever" and be done with it, enjoy my new dole-scrounging life by taking a walk outside or even having coffee in some fancy bar while pretending to read the French existentialists to look smart. However, precisely because I believe deeply that Disaster ARE the best Discharge-impersonators, I just cannot leave it at that. Besides, I have a Disaster story to share.

I was going to write that I first became aware of Disaster in 2004, in Leeds, but that would be a half-truth. At that time I already owned the "Discharged" album and therefore had heard Disaster's cover of "Mania for conquest". But since there is absolutely no information (or booklet for that matter), I had no idea who Disaster were in the first place. For all I knew, they could have been Japanese or Swedish or some kind of one-off side-project band. And the number of bands choosing "Disaster" as a moniker certainly did not help either. So, I situate my first real Disaster experience during a night of March, 2004, at the home of Steve from Attitude Problem. It was after a Seein Red gig and a few punks were gathered at his place, enjoying cans of cider and beer and listening to good music while having a laugh (perfectly normal things to do after a friday night gig). I remember the second Kontrovers Lp was played (it had just come out) and then Steve decided to pick a record. I asked him what he intended to play (he had/has a massive record collection and very similar tastes to mine so I was definitely interested) and he replied (this is from memory):
"The Disaster Lp"
"I don't think I have heard of them..."
"They are great, they sound like Discharge".
"Sweet! A D-Beat band then?"
"Yeah... well not exactly," and then he added half-jokingly, but still very serious. "I mean they really sound JUST like Discharge".

And that was that. I was flabbergasted. He played "War cry" and people gently took the piss because Disaster really sounded JUST like Discharge, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable moment and I instinctively knew that the band were - ironically perhaps - something special (I had never heard a band that sounded as much like Discharge as them, they DID sound JUST like Discharge) and I instantly made a mental note about them. For the record, the next morning I listened to Civilised Society? (an older mental note) for the first time while eating a great vegan breakfast. A lovely, exciting weekend indeed.

That was the Leeds gig!

But let's stop the cheesy reminiscing already (my future grandiose autobiography will cover all these facts in details). The cd reissue of "War cry" was released in 2006 on In Crust We Thrash Records, a short-lived Japanese label that had reissued Anihilated's "Path to destruction" prior to Disaster. Of course, "War cry" was also reissued on vinyl a few years ago by La Vida Es Un Mus (the booklet is great, with interviews and plenty of old flyers) and since we all prefer vinyls to cd's (which most have grown to loath), I suppose that, on the surface, this cd is unlikely to arouse much interest. However, there is something on this cd that the vinyl doesn't have (and I am not even referring to the 1991 live recording): witty liner notes from Kawakami. That makes it worthwhile, believe me (well, it didn't keep me from buying the vinyl version too to be perfectly honest). But more on that later.

Disaster formed in Halifax in 1989 with a very special purpose. In the introductory text of the cd, Russ (the singer) gives some crucial context to Disaster: "In the UK Doom were doing something similar, but whereas Doom were basing their sound on the Scandinavian Discharge copies we were gonna sound just like Discharge". Just like Discharge: the intent that made Disaster so great. In 2016, this may not sound like that big a deal, but at the time, I am pretty sure that they were one of the first punk bands (if not the first) to claim that they were going to sound "just like" another band. Even Discard, who openly copied Discharge's aesthetics, were not actual Discharge copyists but rather designed the blueprint for the Swedish worship of Discharge, they were the Swedish hardcore take on Discharge, while Disaster literarily aimed at being Discharge and that is a big difference. It may sound a bit childish or immature for those of you who value originality above everything else, but I just love the utter lack of pretension, the self-awareness and the deep Discharge-love such a stance displays. That is a real romantic move if you ask me. And besides, it must have been great fun to do.

Of course, Disaster were not the only Discharge-loving band in their area. The band belonged to that amazing Northern punk scene from the late 80's/early 90's that had so many top bands like Hellkrusher, One By One, Embittered, Anemia, Armed Relapse, Senile Decay, Warfear (apparently Rich Militia actually taught the Disaster's drummer "how to play the D-Beat properly but he could be writing his own legend here) or Excrement of War. A band like Hellkrusher wrote very good Discharge-inspired songs but they were never "just like". That is what set Disaster apart from the other bands: they were an amazing tribute band and it is little surprise that, in a world which glorifies accurate copies and open referentiality, they get so much recognition today. What most seem to forget however is how original Disaster paradoxically were at the time, not musically of course, but conceptually. They took Discharge-love to its natural conclusion and thus can be said to be the genuine originators of D-Beat (the term was coined later on but you get the gist).

But what made Disaster so good at copying Discharge? I have already pointed out that Discharge sound deceptively simple, not because their music is necessarily complex, but because simplicity is difficult. Just try to draw a perfect circle and you'll know what I mean. What did Disaster have over Dischange (arguably the only possible contenders at the time although I would think that they were certainly inspired by Disaster's artistic stance)?

In order to understand, one has to think about what are the defining factors that make Discharge so great in the first place. The sound on "War cry" is absolutely fantastic and Bri Doom found the perfect balance between the instruments. It is not only that it has the same raw power as "Why?" but that it feels as spontaneously furious. "War cry" sounds like the band just came in the studio and basically unleashed a discharge (pun intended) of punk anger. It is undeniably powerful and heavy but not contrived, and amazingly it never feels forceful, despite the obvious restraints of the project. It sounds round, whole, cohesive, bass-driven but still with an emphasis on the guitar's impact, and not angular like Dischange often do. And you have the shouted raucous vocals, slightly out of synch like Cal's, which are not easy to replicate at all (the rather flawed singing on "Salvation" proves it). They sound pissed but are never yelled or gruff (something that later D-Beat bands often did), and this distinct British accent certainly helped as well. Basically, Disaster sounded like they were not even trying to sound just like Discharge, but just did. And that is exactly why they are so good in my opinion. Contrary to later bands who worked on the Discharge formula, Disaster felt they working directly on Discharge, not trying to improve on what they did but to recreate the magics.

In the liner notes, Kawakami situates Disaster's greatness in the "balance of noisy guitar and heavy D-Beat (not so speedy like early Discharge) drum". And he has got a point (he also calls it "slow speed drumming"!) as you could say that "War cry" is a significant balance between "Why?"'s raw and noisy aggression and "Hear nothing"'s relentless pace. Needless to say that Kawakami was a great fan of Disaster and that, along with Discard, they were a huge influence on Disclose at the beginning, even prompting them to pick a Dis-name. So let's all trust the geezer, right?

Kawakami's Disdom

The cd contains the "War cry" 12'', the compilation tracks, an unreleased Discharge cover from the "War cry" session and a good live set, recorded on August, 14th, 1991 in Newcastle.

That gig it was


  1. you wrote everything in just one sentence : Disaster sounded like they were not even trying to sound just like Discharge, but just did.

    1. haha thanks! I actually think it might be the best TSN one-liner so far.

    2. this caught my eyes instantly ha ha.

  2. amazing record. amazing band. checkout Deathcharge - Plastic Smiles ep from 2001. It is seriously the closest thing to discharge you can get.

    1. I remember someone recommended this Ep to me on the PE board a few years ago (could it have been you?). I honestly like it but I don't think it sounds that much like Discharge to be fair. The mood in the vocals is not so much of anger as it is of dementia (or something?) and I think it is not bass-driven enough. This said, it is much closer to Discharge than most, I agree on that, and I think Deathcharge were (are?) a good, interesting band.

  3. nah it wouldnt have being me that recommended it. and yes they WERE a good band. haha

    1. Ok! The punk world is small so I was wondering!

      The "Hangman" Ep is excellent by the way and I do intend to write about this one at some point ;)

  4. Ha ha played drums for Anemia, we did a few gigs with Disaster. (We were from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, not Sweden, by the way)

    1. I so wish you had recorded a demo back then! And don't worry, I was aware of the "Sweden joke" ;)