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.  

Thursday 3 November 2016

Japanese Crust vs The World (part 4): Battle of Disarm / Brainstorm "反戦-反動物実験 / Join no army, police and politician" split Lp, 1993

Let's get back to business with the next installment of the Japanese crust series, which is proving to be so far one of the most glorious adventures the internet has ever seen. And I am not even being funny (possibly slightly delirious though) as I was offered to become the head of the Department of Crust Studies in a pretty posh university. Of course, because I am a loyal fucker, I politely but firmly declined the invite. I mean, do I really want to see essays entitled "Crust and Intersectionality: symbolically deconstructed identities as embodied in the shift from regular black thread to dental floss in the noughties" being written? And do they even allow special brew on campus? Exactly, THEY DON'T. So instead of wasting money on a pair of thick-framed glasses for that job (I was told it was compulsory for teachers), I decided to write about one of the most famous Japanese crust bands: Battle of Disarm.

Battle of Disarm (whom I will refer to as BoD from now on, although I realize it does not look so great) was the first crust band from Japan that I listened to. And honestly, it was not illogical at the time: their patches were (and still are) everywhere. No wonder the name caught my then innocent glare. You just could not avoid seeing BoD patches on the jackets worn by that part of the punk population inclined to sew cheap pieces of cloth on an otherwise good-looking garment (and yes, sometimes with bloody dental floss, ironically an item that was prohibited until 1993 in France). The omnipresence of the band was not illogical, nor was it unwarranted. After all, the "Crust, Love and Peace" 10'' could still be found on distro tables at that time (not still for long though, to be fair). The band had toured in Europe only a few years back (in 1997) and the record, released in 1999 on Malarie Records (the label also organized the tour), was a live recording of a gig in Slovenia. I guess the label had made a shitload of patches and shirts for that special occasion and they literally flooded the crusty market at that time. Even now, BoD paraphernalia is easy to find on distros almost 20 years after the tour. And fair enough really, as the band used great visuals and crispy veganarcho-crust imagery. Doves, (A)//(E)//(V) signs, peace symbols, more doves, antiwar slogans, animal rights ones and yet more doves. The whole package. A genuinely great fashionable addition to any self-respecting crusty punk looking to boast some right on politics. Did we really listen to BoD though? Not really. I will be honest here, I did not even buy that 10'' at the time as I was not a fan of live records. I still wore the patch though, not only for the sake of obvious aesthetics, but also because I loved (and still definitely do) the name "Battle of Disarm" for its oxymoronic value.

My first Battle of Disarm tape...

A friend of mine had the "Crust, Love and Peace" 10'' so I did know what BoD sounded like but it was with the "Take Action" tape that I truly became acquainted with them. The tape was unofficial and compiled all the band's Ep's and I seem to remember getting it from Catchphraze Records in 2003. And I enjoyed it very much, undeniably, but that was not quite enough, to my ears, to really get me hooked on the band, and besides, there were too many fantastic new Japanese crust records at that time for me to really bother with and dig deeper into BoD. I eventually did though, years later, when I listened for the first time to the split Lp with Brainstorm and all of a sudden, BoD was no longer "that-band-we-all-like-but-don't-really-care-to-know-much-about". To say that I felt like a fool - yet again - for not paying careful attention to a crucial crust record, for reasons that were flimsy at best, would be an understatement.

BoD's side is entitled "反戦-反動物実験" (meaning "Anti-War Anti-Animal Experimentation", clearly the two main themes in the band's lyrics) and was recorded in February, 1993. This Lp was actually the first vinyl output of BoD, as the band had only recorded a demo tape before, "Not Lie", in 1992, which included studio and live tracks. Discogs tells me they were included on a cd compilation in 1991 entitled "War Compilation" and released on Tribal War Asia (it also had GJPB, Crocodile Sking and The Deepcore Fighter among other international bands). I have never heard that comp but I am sure that it cannot have been released as early as 1991 because of the presence of Warcollapse on the record (the Swedes formed in December 1991 but didn't record anything until 1993, so I am assuming the compilation must be from 1993 or 1994... so fuck you Discogs). There could be earlier BoD recordings since they formed in 1989 and it seems unlikely that they waited more than two years to release anything, but then that is only a usual wild guess of mine. They certainly made up for the lack of recording activity of their early days: between 1993 and 1996, no less than 13 BoD releases saw the light of day, mostly splits on vinyl or tapes. This Tokyo bunch were a staunchly DIY band and appeared to have been very active live in the mid-90's, which accounted for the important number of live recordings and also probably for the relatively small numbers of songs they have penned throughout their career. Not unlike Disclose perhaps, they firmly believed in the internationalist dimension of punk and have shared records or tapes with bands from Portugal, Brazil, Holland, Indonesia, Czech Republic or Finland throughout the years, be they famous like Doom or... huh... far less so like Satellite. This belief in DIY punk as an international network of friends was also reflected in the label of Ryuji, the aptly named DIY Records, that specialized in political hard-hitting punk music from all over and basically did things the way the name suggested.

But back to today's record. If the "Not Lie" demo from the previous year was a rather rough, if delightful, gruff scandi-infused hardcore affair (maybe not so far from Private Jesus Detector if you know what I mean), the eight songs of "反戦-反動物実験" are perfectly recorded, not in the sense that the production is spectacular per se, but because it fits the band's songwriting to a tee. I don't think songs like "Battle of disarm" or "Anti vivisection" ever sounded better than on this Lp. The guitar riffs are thick and thrashy, even slightly convoluted at times, and bring to mind Crude SS or Lobotomia more than Doom. They still sound straight-forward, almost deceptively so, but only because they are smart and seamless, not unlike what Hiatus managed to do with theirs. The drumming is really upfront, truly pummeling and gives the songs a vintage hardcore energy; the bass is omnipresent and does groove the songs but acts more as a support, a basis, than as an engine; finally, the vocals are growled in the purest cavemen crust tradition, never sounding forceful or constipated, just hoarse, filthy shouts brilliantly synced with the instruments to the point of becoming one of them. It will probably sound a little strange but BoD do not really sound like a Japanese crust band on this Lp. Not that Japanese crust must rigorously and necessarily include strict predefined parameters to fit the category, but still, we are much closer to early/mid-90's eurocrust here than to the national production of the time. Of course, there is a mastery, a tightness and an intensity that points to Japanese punk, but I do feel BoD made more sense sitting side by side with Hiatus, Warcollapse or Subcaos, than Gloom, SDS or Life. For the point of the argument, let's compare BoD to a contemporary Japanese band that can be said to fall in the same section in terms of subgenre, Abraham Cross. The two sound nothing like each other. Beyond the obvious fact that they both went, to an extent, for a neanderthal Doom sound, the textures, the vision, the purpose, the intent (and indeed the intentionality) were all dissimilar. I love both bands, but while Abraham Cross were clearly artistically contextualized in the buoyant Japanese crust sound, BoD were more akin to the global 90's crust wave, despite both band sharing, when bared to essentials, a rather similar songwriting.

Fascinating stuff, right? Well, all this to say that "反戦-反動物実験" (and indeed the 1994 Ep, "In the War", though it is not as cavemen-like) is a brilliant work, certainly the band's crustiest, and is up there with vintage Hiatus. Relentless gruff cavecrust with a groovy metal touch and a Scandi feel (I am pretty sure Masskontroll were heavily into that record). As mentioned above, the lyrics revolve around animal liberation, human destruction and anti-war protests and my only real issue with this record is that the insert looks pretty ugly.

On the other side of the Lp, entitled "Join no Army, Police and Politician", is Brainstorm. And I LOVE Brainstorm. I really do. Their 1989 demo and the 1990 Ep are clearly unsung early crust classics and are probably the closest incarnation of what a Peaceville-sponsored jam between Concrete Sox and Hiatus would have sounded like and, sad but true, had they been from Birmingham, Stockholm or New York, instead of Belgrade, they would probably be revered, their late 80's output (because it is always way cooler to rate the demo higher than what followed) hailed as classic, if not totally "cvlt". In fact, there will be a post about vintage Brainstorm at some point in the future so I am not going to tell too much about them now. Especially since I do not like their side of the Lp. I could get past the thin production but the US jumpy hardcore-crossover turn they took is too much for me to stomach, especially when compared to the tornado of relentless gruffness that characterized their earlier works. So I'd rather rave about them when dealing with one of their top recording.

A few words about the context though. The nine Brainstorm songs from that split were recorded in May, 1993, at a time when the war was certainly not over in Yugoslavia. The main interest of the Brainstorm side undeniably lies in the lyrical content, which, despite unfortunate losses in translation, still reflected the anger, the outrage and the urgency of that time and place. Written from an anti-state perspective, the songs read like cries against patriotism, conformity, blind faith, media and political manipulation, the brutality of war... No longer a mere punk trope used to denounce an imaginary endless war, calls for peace and disgust at the sheep mentality designated a very real situation. I cannot claim to be an expert, or even remotely knowledgeable, about the political situation in Yugoslavia at the time so I am pretty sure that I am missing a lot of references in the lyrics. Still, if only for the inherently punk nature of standing against oppression and violence literally knocking on your door (or tearing it apart really), I feel that the songs can be read as an important, urgent and crucial testimony of what it implied to be a political punk in that time and place.

This split Lp was released on No Time To Be Wasted Records, a Belgrade-based label run by the singer of Brainstorm (he also sang for a thoroughly enjoyable 80's hardcore band called Necrophilia) that was active throughout the 90's.