Friday 27 May 2016

"Chaos of Destruction 2" 2xLp, 2000

Context is everything.

It always amazes me how the meaning of a same word can change throughout the years. In fact, 10 years is now more than enough to alter the implications of a particular term. It is not always for the worst actually as I am not one to mourn for any supposedly lost purity that never was in the first place. Sometimes, the meaning and the concept itself can be expanded meaningfully and tastefully, and 90's crust was a good example of such a phenomenon. On the other hand, the meaning can also be diluted into irrelevance and laziness, or it can become an awkward blueprint that focuses solely on the outcome and never on the actual creative process, dismissing the context that allowed both. So, what does one think about in 2016 when reading the adjective "raw" applied to "hardcore" (well "hard core" actually) on the cover of a new record? He or she will irremediably expect modern "raw punk", in other terms bands trying to recreate the direct and raw sound of 80's hardcore punk bands, usually through the addition of effects that will make the music purposefully dirty. Usually these newer bands know how to play and master what they are doing, "raw punk" is just another genre to play and "raw" one of its prerequisite. As a recent creation, "raw punk" retroactively includes bands as diverse as Wretched, Anti-Cimex or RIP precisely through the "raw" prism (a move that also speaks volume about the polished sound of "modern hardcore" that a lot of people listened to before). Of course, there always was punk music that was raw. But there wasn't always "raw punk".

All this to say that, even though "Chaos of destruction 2" does indeed claim to be a "raw hardcore compilation", it is very different from what we understand as "raw punk" nowadays. In the case of this compilation, "raw hardcore" is purely descriptive: the bands play hardcore punk music - in the broad sense of the term - and the sound is raw. Had it been released today, "raw hardcore" would have been indicative of a structured genre much more than of a sound and a way of playing punk. Words are tricky things.

"Chaos of Destruction 2" was co-released in 2000 by Dan-Doh Records, a Kochi-city-based hardcore label that has been delivering quality Japanese punk music for twenty years (Disclose, Insane Youth, AGE...) and Chaos of Destruction, a small label that was run by none other than Kawakami which makes this compilation very interesting (after all, he pioneered the concept of "D-beat raw punk"). Kawakami was the one who compiled and produced the two "Chaos of Destruction" compilations and as everyone knows, the geezer had a good ear for raw punk music so it is a safe bet to assume that they reflected his tastes and his vision of what "raw hardcore" meant. In our decade marked by very high levels of (often half-digested) referentiality, trend-following and calculated genericness, the relative diversity, the open-mindedness and the obvious passion and genuine love for punk that permeate the compilation is refreshing. Of course, we are in the realms of hard-hitting punk music so don't expect anything melodic here, but still, there is no denying that bands like Xaotiko Telos, Dios Hastio or Framtid sound very different from one another. "Chaos of Destruction 2" gathers hardcore bands with a raw sound, not "raw punk bands". And I like it. The compilation sounds unpretentious and it is a proper celebration of punk-rock. It doesn't try to look punk, it just is. Here is what Kawakami enthusiastically had to say about the making of "Chaos of Destruction 2": "All the bands are great. Although their sound style is same Crust/UK HC noise, there are some difference between each band's expression, so you will enjoy all of them."

While the first volume of "Chaos of Destruction" from 1997 only included Japanese bands (it was a freakish 3xLp compilation...), the second one is firmly rooted in the international punk scene, just like "Whispers" and "Iron Columns", which, in addition to its variety, gives it a real 90's DIY feel. It is obvious that Kawakami strongly believed in the internationalist nature of punk as the numerous splits Disclose did with foreign bands can attest. The object looks great, the punk as fuck cover was drawn by a Brazilian bloke while the backcover was done by Jacky Crust War. The cover is made up of a huge gatefold poster with artwork and lyrics from all the bands. There are some rather famous names here next to very obscure bands, united in an unabated and shameless true love for noisy and fast punk music. 22 bands for 45 songs.

- AGE: what could be better than open "Chaos of Destruction" with some proper CRUST? Nothing, of course. I absolutely love AGE's 90's records ("Inside darkness" and "Exploding insanity" are old favourites at the TSN headquarters) which rate as some of best crust music Japan has ever produced. "Insolent Japan" is an early AGE song recorded in 1997 and embodies everything that is good about proper crust: heavy, groovy and dirty. The song is deliciously metallic with a crunchy guitar sound and top bass lines, very reminiscent of Antisect, SDS and even Sacrilege. There is a deceptive, flowing simplicity in the songwriting that is often the sign of genuinely good crust. A band that will eventually be back here. Top shelf.

- Neurose Urbana: raw. This is raw. Very raw. Not in a calculated way, not as a fashion statement, no "let's press quickly our demo tape onto a limited Ep" bollocks. Neurose Urbana were a Brazilian duo playing 80's-flavoured hardcore punk influenced by the Brazilian and Swedish schools. I am aware that the term has become pretty meaningless but this is the real deal. Sloppy, brutal and pummeling fast punk music with super aggressive reverb vocals reminiscent of this raw Brazilian sound of bands like Ulster, SP Caos or Kaos 64. The three songs were recorded in early 1997 and the band also released three Ep's in the early 00's. "We are punx, chaotics and anti-fascist. We speak about punk, chaos and urban neurosis. Viva o punk, viva o chaos". Did I mention this was raw?

- Cluster Bomb Unit: an early song from 1994 by the mighty Cluster Bomb Unit that is here to remind you how to play energetic, fuzzy, distorted punk music. CBU's music certainly became more refined throughout the years but this song is just a wall of Scandi drum beats and Japanese-styled distortion captured through a cheap tape recorder. Absolutely brilliant.

- Hell On Earth: more sloppy and raw Scandinavian hardcore music, this time from Bratislava. The three songs have an urgent and direct feel that cannot be faked. They were recorded in 1997 "in 30 minutes high on weed, lyrix are in Slovak so don't try to singalong kids!". Sounds like a jam between Avskum and Shitlickers.

- Χαοτικό Τέλος: although it does not show in his music, Kawakami must have loved good crust. At least, he certainly knew quality crust when he heard some. Were Χαοτικό Τέλος the best European crust bands of the 90's? This is a bold statement but one that I tend to agree with. Their "Πέρα Από-Τα Τείχη Της Σιωπής" demo from 1991 is probably the best work of synth-driven crust I have heard (truth be told, you do have to love epic and dramatic synthesizer to get into it) and their "Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια" Lp from 1993 is a flawless blend of mid-paced UK crust à la Axegrinder and Amebix, Hiatus/Doom-type crust and Antisect/Anti-System-anarchopunk, seasoned with that specifically Greek dark sound and epic songwriting. A band that truly worked on the classic bands to shape a sound and world of their own. "Fugitives of silence" must have been recorded in the mid-90's and is a bouncy fast crust number with appropriately heavy and groovy Frosty breaks. Winner.

- Katastrofialue: sounds like an evil dogfight. Noise-infused rabid and mean Finnish hardcore, like Kaaos getting drunk with Gai and Bathory. The music is very chaotic, distorted and bass-driven and the energy is certainly not lost. The singer really sounds like he is barking though. This is ripping and intense but slightly exhausting and I don't think I could listen to a whole Lp of Katastrofialue. Actual noise not music.

- Ability: a band I know virtually nothing about. Ability were from Japan and deliver distorted D-Beat punk music with a distinct Japanese noisepunk feel (especially with the very loud and thick bass sound and the triumphant riffs), somewhere between Disclose and State Children or something, although they are not quite heavy enough to fall under the crasher-crust umbrella. These two songs are their only recordings says Discogs.

- Holocrust: cavemen crust at its best but the name gives it away. Seriously. This would be the perfect soundtrack for a neanderthal wedding party. Absolute Swedish crustcore with over-the-top dual gruff vocals and this relentless vibe that is so characteristic of 90's crust. It sounds like a sloppy, archaic version of Warcollapse and actually the two bands had members in common (Jalle from Warcollapse drummed for them and recorded the songs as well). The two songs were recorded in 1996 and were meant to appear on an Ep (Holocrust intel). I don't like it: I love it.  

- Agathocles: yes, Agathocles, not in their usual mincecore mood but having a go at Discharge-influenced, Scandi-flavoured hardcore punk. The sound is very rough and it is sometimes a little difficult to understand what is actually happening. You wanted raw, well there you go! The three songs were recorded in 1994 in Barcelona at the Violent Headache's headquarters and point to a period when grindcore was definitely punkier.

- Squandered: the follow-up to Cracked Cop Skulls. Distinctively British D-Beat orthodoxy with cracking angry double-track vocals, groovy bass lines and a guitar sound to die for. Stick from Doom drummed for Squandered and you can spot his usual rolls here and there. The band also covers a 6 Minute War song, "Nurses", which is a lovely choice. Ace.

- Sista Civilisationens Död: I know very little about this Swedish lot to be honest. SCD played pretty standard Swedish hardcore with a raw sound (you saw that coming), not unlike a rough Diskonto. The songs are not bad but I feel they lack energy and intensity but then, the production does not exactly help either.

- Framtid: how intense can you get? As a kid, I wanted to become a wrestler, which is pretty funny considering how skinny I am today. I have come to terms with the sad reality that I will never be a wrestler. However, I am pretty sure that taking a dropkick must feel something like these two Framtid songs. Whirlwind hardcore punk that is incredibly relentless and punishing. The band was formed by Jacky from the Crust War label and has acquired a cult status throughout the years and I can understand why. The two songs were recorded in october, 1998 and sounds like a steroid-induced brawl between Extreme Noise Terror and Confuse with a super tight drummer playing for his life. Sheer brilliance.

- Dios Hastio: that's a tough one to describe. Fast and intense epileptic hardcore punk from Lima that is genuinely original and inventive. The vocals sound demented, furious and threatening, a little out of sync, with a lot of reverb, while the rhythms of the songs are unconventional but still manage to be energetic. There is an atmosphere of insanity floating over Dios Hastio's music. I can hear some classic Peruvian hardcore here like Descontrol or Kaos, but also Italian bands like Negazione or Indigesti and I am guessing that the song structures of powerviolence gave Dios Hastio a few ideas as well. But all in all, they really have a sound of their own and they have penned smart, slightly morbid, deep political lyrics that are well above average.

- Nailed Down: for some reason, a band I have always ignored although the name is of course familiar. It is probably too American-sounding for my tastes but I suppose that these two songs fit well on "Chaos of Destruction": raw, fast and angry hardcore from Australia with super fast parts.

- Recharge: "Hear nothing"-worshipping hardcore punk from Hannover with a Deutschpunk feel in the raucous vocals. Recharge are often forgotten when discussing the 90's D-Beat wave. I would argue that their take on the genre was probably closer musically to mid-90's Varukers and Hellkrusher than to Disfear or Dischange, although they still referred heavily to Discharge and aimed at emulating them. And that's the issue, they probably focused on the wrong things: instead of emphasizing the directness and crude power of the Discharge formula (like Dischange), they tried to beef it up with typically mid-late 90's hardcore-punk production and vocals that cannot really work if you still try to stick to Discharge too much. This said, the two songs (recorded live in Japan) still do the job and they did sound like a good live band.

- Muckspreader: to some extent, the odd one of "Chaos of Destruction 2" as Muckspreader were not really a hardcore band but raw and fuzzy they certainly were. The band started after the demise of Zygote and kept building on their heavy, mid-paced, grungy, dark but rocking punk sound. If you are familiar with Smartpils or Zygote, you can tell that Muckspreader had this typical Bath pagan sound, slightly psychedelic, in an incantatory way, but still ominous. "Hellraiser" is one of their best songs: the sound has an earthy and organic texture and the mood is appropriately anguished and macabre. A clear winner that shall return here.

- Plutonium: yet another band I know very little about. And that is a shame since the two songs are really good. Plutonium were from Utsunomiya and played high-energy, bass-driven distorted Japanese hardcore. It is difficult to tell from just two songs (one of which is an epic, slow number with spoken words, more of an intro probably but I really like the triumphant anarcho vibe) but I suspect Plutonium were into lightning fast angry hardcore with singalong chorus (the second song makes me think of a cross between Ripcord and Gauze).

- Sanctus Iuda: a great Polish anarchopunk band that already got invited at Terminal Sound Nuisance. I love the aggressive, slightly crusty, but still song and tune-driven music of Sanctus Iuda. Dynamic, angry and expressive. On "Chaos of Destruction", SI tried something particularly difficult: a Crass cover. This exercise is extremely tricky because if you try to stick too much to the Crass sound you will end up making a mess of it as their music was much more complex and intricate than one might think and it is almost impossible to replicate the Crass texture. But if you cover Crass with a totally different genre, you can end up making the original song unrecognizable and the very particular flow of the lyrics can prove to be almost impossible to adapt to many other genres. Tough shit. I think SI did it well though, they turned "Do they owe us a living?" into a fast-paced, but still tuneful, anthemic hardcore-punk songs with a cool singalong chorus (although the singer does struggle a bit with the vocals but who can blame him?). Really good job.

- GJPB: I'm afraid to say I am not really familiar with that one either. Apparently the name means "Great Japanese Punk Band" which is both ridiculous and really funny (but then the song is also called "Grope in the dark"). They were from Tokyo and played fast and distorted Japanese punk, not far from the local noisepunk classics with a dash of Doom. The bass sound is absolutely monstrous, but I am not sure yet if it is a good or a bad thing.

- Domo Arigato: people often make fun of Japanglish and while I think it is a little unfair, I must admit that some bands did fall into nonsensical lyrics, closer to futurist poetry than protest punk. Domo Origato were from Switzerland, with members of Earth Citizens, Viktors Hofnarren and Strongly Opposed Records, and sang in Japanese so that, for once, the table was turned. Musically, Domo Origato played basic and fast 1-2-1-2 punk with a rather clear guitar sound. Lovably sloppy.

- Silêncio Funebre: the name won't probably ring a bell but Silencio Funebre was actually a side-project (in the shape of a duo) done by Fofao from Besthöven. The presence of Fofao on "Chaos of Destruction 2" is obviously relevant, if not mandatory, since he has embodied a certain idea of hardcore punk for a long time and, to a large extent, set the standards for what we call "raw punk" today. By the time the compilation came out however, Besthöven had not released anything on vinyl yet, and the inclusion of three Silencio Funebre on such a project may have helped put the horrorcore sound on the punk map for good. Musically SF sounds a lot like Besthöven: genuinely, rather than aesthetically, raw punk inspired by 80's hardcore from Sweden, Brazil and Italy. Despite the very thin sound, the songs are very dynamic and you can sense the anguish and the tension in the dark bottom of the music. This is good.

- Disclose: yes, them again. Two songs recorded in may, 1999, "The nuclear victims" (which contains the classic Discharge line "Men women and children crying in agony") and "The end approaches", a cover of The Sexual, that would also appear on "The nuclear victim" Ep from 2000. Disclose in their D-Beat Raw Punk prime.

Are you going to survive this?

Tuesday 24 May 2016

"Iron Columns" 2xLp, 1999

Contrary to "Whispers", which was a record that deeply informed my conception of punk when I bought it in the early 00's, I actually got "Iron Columns" relatively recently although it is a more recent work. Truth be told, I have pretty much ignored this record for a long time. I wish I had a good excuse but I don't. I even remembered seeing copies of "Iron Columns" floating on distros 10-15 years ago and getting average "neocrust" Lp's instead that I promptly sold when the trend died. What a lack of insight... The sad thing is that I cannot have been the only one to dismiss this wonderful compilation as copies go nowadays for a mere tenner on discogs, which only confirms that there is no correlation between quality and monetary worth in our growingly trendifying punk economy. Our attention span is just becoming shorter and we are lazily being subjected to the appeal of novelty.

"Iron Columns" is both similar and very different to "Whispers". While the Skuld record can be seen as the definite snapshot of early 90's European anarchocrust, "Iron Columns" embodies the second part of that decade. The focus is proudly international as well but from an American perspective this time (quick thinkers would say it means "more hardcore, less crust" although it is not as simple). IC is a stunning compilation on all levels that epitomizes the level of dedication and faith in punk as being more than music that often characterized the 90's. In terms of genre, the scope of the compilation is impressive: from crust, to scandicore, old-school and modern anarchopunk, fastcore, D-Beat and even streetpunk. I am an obsessive bastard, I'll be the first to admit that I tend to focus too much on punk niches, and I am sometimes suspicious when I am being told that a compilation is very diverse. It is not so much variety I am wary of, but the lack of cohesiveness and direction. Few records are as painful to listen to as compilations without a clear focus and purpose that include bands from all over the punk spectrum that have nothing in common but their name on the backcover. And to be perfectly honest, I can get this patchwork feeling even with bands belonging to the same subgenre actually. The  very essence of a punk compilation is to offer, literally and figuratively, a meaningful example of punk collaboration driven by the same passion even when they sound very different. If it is merely a collection of new songs, then it is just a label sampler, there is nothing necessarily wrong with it, but don't expect me to listen to it more than once (especially in 2016).

But back to IC. The object itself is breathtaking. It looks fantastic and, like for "Whispers", I can only imagine the amount of time and work that it necessitated. IC is a gatefold with a thick, 12'' size, glossy booklet with lyrics and art from the bands as well as political texts. This is one of the indisputable strengths of IC: its political dimension. In "Whispers", the politics appeared in the bands' lyrics and in the untold DIY implications in the realization of such a project. With IC, you also have explicit, detailed and creative anarchist writing as well that reminds me strongly of the political and personal zines that abounded in the 90's and early 00's (before it all got too inward focused or sloganeering). What I particularly enjoy is that the texts, content notwithstanding, also look nice and, well, punk, and that is an idea that informs the whole of "Iron Columns". Feminism, sexism and gender roles are central themes here and are tackled in different ways. You can find at the beginning and the end a montage of short pieces of articles about women revolutionaries, lore and history among other things, very different pieces of information aiming at giving a meaningful and cohesive picture of an alternative "herstory". You also have a personal text about the pervasive sexism in the punk scene written by Charlene from Mind Control. Prison struggle is the other main theme of IC and there are two letters from anarchist prisoners at the end of the booklet as well as an introductory text by Raze the Walls, a prisoner support group. The record is unashamedly anarchist and the label wrote a text stressing the political motivation behind such a project and why the phrase "iron columns" is meaningful metaphorically to describe our oppressive social relations and historically as well (the famous "columna de hierro" of the Spanish civil war).

"Iron Columns" was released in 1999 on Mind Control, an Austin-based label run by Jack Control (from Enormous Door studio, Severed Head of State and WB2D) that put out a couple of very good records between 1991 and 2003 from Antischism, Masskontroll or Warcollapse to name but a few. And as the label logo unambiguously states: "Mind Control is agit-prop for social revolution". Ambitious, naive perhaps, but I'd rather have that than the fake cynicism that is so prevalent today. There are 39 songs for 28 bands on IC. Let's 'ave it.

- Antiproduct: along with Aus-Rotten, the band that exemplified 90's US anarchopunk and that really spoke to me. I have always loved them to death, whatever they did, they did well. Intense, energetic, clever and passionate fast anarchopunk with dual male/female vocals that sound angry but also determined to do something. This song was recorded in 1997 and the production is just perfect, aptly bass-driven and super dynamic (that was before the genre was coopted and overproduced into meaninglessness by streetpunk bands), two years before the more intricate Lp that saw Antiproduct toying with emocore influences to great effect, not unlike Unhinged.

- Defiance: a band that is commonly associated to the streetpunk scene but was really an anarchopunk band to begin with (well, if people had kept in mind that anarchopunk is not an actual genre but rather a set of values and a way of doing things, things like that wouldn't have happened...). I like Defiance and their updated version of UK82 punk, although I sometimes feel they tend to overdo it at times, thus lacking the sloppy snottiness of the original bands. This is a drinking song and a cover of The Sex Aids, a Vice Squad side-project.

- Obnoxious: a Parisian band on such a compilation is surprising but there you go... Fast and sloppy direct 90's hardcore punk with a typical British feel, not unlike Truth Decay or In The Shit maybe. It does the job.

- Hall Keft: I know next to nothing about this Swedish lot but this song absolutely smokes. This is an intense and pissed cover of Missbrukarna played with a raw hardcore power reminiscent of Shitlickers and early Anti-Cimex. I want more.

- Cress: two songs from the superb Cress. I know that the drum machine is usually a deterrent in punk-rock (and being French, I know what I am talking about as "drum-machine punk-rock" is our sadly our national specialty) but this lot always knew how to pull it. Cress is a potent punky blend of many things: I can hear two schools of 80's UK anarchopunk, the more melancholy and dirgy sound of bands like The Mob or Vex along with the protocrust crunchy mid-paced anthems of Antisect and Anti-System, a Killing Joke element as well, a psychedelic, incantatory component too, not so far from Smartpils or Bad Influence and a cold, synth-driven element reminiscent of European cold-wave. Unique band with great-looking visuals and top lyrics.

- La Aferra: I wish I were more familiar with La Aferra because this song is one of the absolute highlights of "Iron Columns". Heavy, mid-tempo, dark punk-rock with a posthardcore, almost progressive, feel, a synth and dual male/female vocals. The songwriting is solid and distinctively Polish in terms of witty and tuneful arrangements. La Aferra was a prolific band apparently but I have only listened to a few other recordings from them. Brilliant music.

- Extinction of Mankind: I am not going to lie here, I pretty much bought "Iron Columns" in order to have these two EOM songs. I suspect these were recorded during the same session as the "Scars of mankind" Ep and are therefore the last with Mass on guitar. I already mentioned that I am a huge sucker for his guitar sound when I review the aforementioned Ep: it is heavy and yet eerie, dark and yet groovy with a thick and slimy texture, probably the closest to Lippy's playing in Antisect circa 1987. "Remnants of war" and "Won't be broken" rate as two of the best EOM songs ever, the only letdown being the drums that would have deserved a heavier sound. My personal winners.

- Black Kronstadt: I never could get into Iskra, not for a lack of trying. Black Kronstadt are mostly remembered as a pre-Iskra band and I, for one, am much more comfortable with them. Epic, apocalyptic blackmetal-infused crusty anarchopunk with male/female vocals and radical anarchist politics. Exactly what I expect from this lot in the 90's. I like it.

- Fucking Mass Destruction: two songs from this Memphis band that I know nothing about. We are not far from powerviolence here, with a distinct American sound. Is it good PV? I think it works well on this compilation because the songs are intense and punk enough. They make sense basically.

- DDI: awesome Italian hardcore from Pavia with catchy hooks and dynamic male/female vocals. It is exactly what you want from Italian hardcore: intense, furious and anthemic. They remind me of Infezione, Contrazione (for the mid-paced moments) and even Franti (especially on some the eeriest parts) with a 90's feel. The third song is not that good (sounds like a horrible fiesta punk band) but the first two are brilliant. DDI had Milan from Agipunk in its ranks.

- Ebola: the Northern England take on 90's powerviolence I guess? I like Ebola probably more for their message and their aesthetics than for their music that corresponds to a genre I am not really familiar with (though I really enjoy the first Lp... to be honest because it is punkier). This is heavy and dark anarcho hardcore with harsh male/female vocals and manic tempo changes but there are some good tunes in the guitar to remind you that it was a post-One By One band. The song "Half human" is great here and fits perfectly with the spirit of "Iron Columns".

- Terminal Disgust: another band I know little about. I like the song though. Reminds me of Armed Relapse and The Pist: direct, beefy and fast anarchopunk with angry vocals you can understand.

- Força Macabra: one of the most beloved oddities of the punk world. A Finnish band singing in Portuguese and emulating 80's Brazilian thrashy hardcore. I love the idea, I relate to the passion totally. Expect raw but accurate and energetic metallic hardore punk along the lines of Armagedom and Lobotomia.

- Krigshot: I am not sure if I actually like Krigshot or find them ridiculous. I honestly don't. There are days when their songs sound insanely good for their outrageously fast take on classic Swedish hardcore and others when I feel they paradoxically lack the necessary aggression of Swedish hardcore because everything is diluted in manic speed. Early Krigshot was still very impressive and the first time I listened to "Orebro-mangel" I was flabbergasted (and I still am to some extent). Members of Nasum and Meanwhile playing 3 songs in 90 seconds of Mob 47 at the wrong speed (and yes, they cover "Krigshot" by Mob 47 here).

- Counterblast: a regular guest at Terminal Sound Nuisance offering a very interesting song, recorded in 1996 just after "Balance of pain". This is demented, angry, dark, anguished, inventive, progressive crust music at its very best, like Neurosis meeting Axegrinder and Zygote in the dark Swedish woods. It doesn't get much better than this song, "Activate", in the genre.

- Liberate: a band whose name I have seen countless times but that I don't really know that well. This is classic Japanese hardcore in the Burning Spirit vein: high-energy, tight, anthemic and triumphant hardcore punk with epic guitar solos and fist-raising singalong chorus. I am hardly the expert in that subgenre but I can tell it is good.

Boycot: pretty standard mid-90's anarchopunk from the Netherlands with snotty vocals and cool lyrics. I guess Boycot always sounded a little too generic for me to really get into their music but the three songs here feel fresh and genuine. And you gotta love the "Only stupid bastards help Epitaph" slogan. Sooooooooooooo 90's, right?

- Armistice: I love Armistice as they proudly carried, along with Resist and Exist, the banner of that mid-late 80's SoCal anarcho/OC crust sound that I enjoy so much. Metallic, angry anarcho hardcore-punk reminiscent of Final Conflict, Bitter End and Glycine Max. The guitar sound is particularly good here and owes a lot to Jeff Harp. And I love the Winnie the Poo logo as well. Cheesy crust.

- Scum of Society: this lot already did a stint at Terminal Sound Nuisance a few years ago. Coming from Italy, SOS played raw crusty punk with a great anarcho squat feel. Sloppy but utterly lovable and genuine.

- The Unseen: yes, The Unseen, that iconic streetpunk band from the late 90's. And why not? After all, there were some great songs on "Lower-class crucifixion" and some good political lyrics too. The development of separated punk sub-scenes has largely made such crossovers unlikely today (unless the compilation is local) but I like the idea. The song is alright as well, quite raw and relatively catchy, it fits. Validated.

- Los Crudos: yes, Los Crudos, that highly influential hardcore band that took the 90's by storm. One minute of unadulterated intensity and anger. I don't often listen to Los Crudos but whenever I do, I am always impressed with the level of passion they put in their music. Inspirational hardcore to be sure.

- Dezerter: yes, Dezerter, that legendary 80's Polish band. I am not sure when these two songs were recorded but my bet is 1996. Classic Polish punk-rock, dark and tuneful with catchy chorus, that you can't possibly mistake with any other style. I dare anyone not to sing along to the re-recording of their anthem "XXI wiek". Yes, it is THAT catchy.

- Scatha: my favourite band from the Disaffect/Sedition/Scatha trinity, not a light statement since the three bands are among my favourite 90's bands ever. Not unlike Counterblast or Panikos, Scatha took crust to another place, another dimension, reworked it in order to shape a soundscape and an identity of their own. A difficult band to describe Scatha. Fantastic tribal drum section that sounds inventive but is meaning-driven and echoes with the band's essence as a whole instead of being merely a show of skills; a heavy, world-creating, textured sound with innovative guitar riffing and a groovy bass; a songwriting that organically conveys a whole set of different moods; and vocals that are harsh, desperate but also outraged and beautiful. Scatha aimed at transcribing traditional Celtic culture into heavy punk music and its aesthetics, an incredibly difficult task with the risk of falling into lame, clichéd folklore, but they pulled it superbly. "Necrophobia" is a song about the modern and perverse vision of death and how it differs from the old Celtic notion of rebirth. Unique stuff.

- Disclose: total D-beat raw noise punk attack! This was Disclose in their early Sweden-loving stage with Kawakami using double-track vocals. Ultimate Discharge love.

- Brother Inferior: classic US anarchopunk with that typical 90's sound that never really got the credit they deserved, but maybe coming from Tulsa did not help. Angry and intense punk music with smart lyrics and tuneful guitar leads that set them a little ahead of their time. Do I have a soft spot for Brother Inferior? Yes, I do.

- Sbitch: a band I know virtually nothing about. Sbitch were from Austin and played fast and thrashy anarchopunk with raspy female vocals, not unlike Antischism or Disaffect maybe. I like the imagery and listening closely to their song makes me want to dig more into their solid and intense angry 90's anarcho sound.

- Sharpeville: one of the highlights of "Iron Columns" and a band that no one seems to remember. Sharpeville were from Finland and played heavy, dark and crusty hardcore with a gloomy and demented feel that was incredible. The multilayered vocals confer their music a real sense of raging insanity and creepiness that I rarely heard in other bands. This fast song is quite thinly recorded but their 2000 Lp is an unsung classic that got unfairly dumped in the HHIG bandwagon. "War is stupid and unfair" is actually a clever song (Sharpeville could really write) about the everyday class war. A rather unique band that will eventually come back to Terminal Sound Nuisance.

- Mâkhi: the most obscure band on the compilation and for good reason as these are the only two songs they ever recorded. Mâkhi were from Austin and I suppose that, unless you were around in the late 90's, they will not ring a bell. Well, let's take a look at the line-up: Kelly Halliburton, Chris Pfeffer, Jack Control and Todd Burdette. Sounds familiar, right? Mâkhi were basically Severed Head of State under another name. I guess you could say that the two songs are rough versions of what SHOS did better later on: heavy and pummeling music blending American and Japanese hardcore.

As I mentioned, "Iron Columns" goes nowadays for a tenner. So instead of buying a "raw punk" Lp that no one will care about in two years, do yourself a favour and give this genuine and varied anarchopunk compilation a chance, if only for its cultural worth as a testimony of another time in punk history.