Monday 30 October 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 4): Crocodileskink / No Security split Ep, 1995

This Ep almost made it to last year's Japanese Crust vs The World series. After days of intense meditation, self-doubt and olympic chain-smoking, I finally decided to consult the family astrologist, who assured me that, should I decide to leave this record out this time, the future shall grace me with another opportunity to rave about Crocodileskink and No Security. I went home with a lighter heart and wallet and wisely chose to wait. Until now.

In the grand History of punk names, Crocodileskink will certainly be remembered as a rather perplexing one. Before I did some research about this Ep (as you know, knowledge is never innate but a lifelong process, never trust those that are too imperious and peremptory about punk as arrogance often goes hand in hand with ignorance), I did not have a clue about the meaning behind the moniker, which is not to say that it is completely clear now to be honest. At some point, I had even thought that the word "skink" could be a blend between "skin" and "punk" (I blame this poor theory on my oi musical upbringing and mediocre knowledge in biology) and that, therefore, "crocodile skink" might imply some sort of half-punk, half-skinhead crocodilian, which is a pretty fucking terrifying concept. But in fact, a skink is some kind of lizard with short or absent limbs that likes burrowing in sandy ground. So basically, a crocodile skink would be a crocodile with the aforementioned attributes of a skink (judging from the youtube tutorials, they are apparently a real thing). I suppose it is better than my previous theory but it still is highly confusing. Could it figuratively suggest powerlessness and helplessness since a croc without limbs would have a pretty hard time hunting and moving without looking absolutely ridiculous? Are we all crocodile skinks, unable to live and merely surviving because we have been socially deprived of our limbs/capacities? Or was someone in Crocodileskink studying and breeding weird reptiles when the band was active? I guess we will never know. 

But anyway, Crocodileskink were a Tokyo band active from 1990 to 1997 who were part of the 90's Japanese crust wave. Twenty years after they stopped playing, their legacy is quite hard to establish since they are rarely discussed or even mentioned, contrary to a lot of their local contemporaries with whom they shared records like Battle of Disarm, Abraham Cross or even Collapse Society (but I suspect this has something to do with their name since sporting a Crocodileskink shirt and still look serious is a challenge that only elite-level punks can really accept). Arguably, the band is best remembered for the work of its bass player Shige who ran Asia Records and later on Tribal War Asia and released some brilliant records throughout the years. 

CS did not start as a crust band though. As their earlier recordings, the '91 War Compilation recording session and their self-titled Ep from 1992, showed, they originally were in full on Japanese hardcore mode. If the band always kept elements from the national brand of hard-hitting hardcore (there is a triumphant, relentless vibe in the songwriting), they still moved steadily in a crustier direction. The three CS songs included on the smashing Animal Rights Tape released on DIY Records in 1993 (with an impressive lineup that also had Dropdead, Disclose and Hakuchi among others) showed a strong distorted Swedish hardcore vibe with a heavy caveman crust sound and some Japanese hardcore techniques thrown in for good measures, like Shitlickers making out with Doom and Crow at the same party. And I suppose that's exactly why CS work so well for me. I am appreciative of Japanese hardcore but I cannot be said to be a massive fan of the genre (yes, you may scoff, sneer and shout abuse) so that I like it to be smoothly blended with Doom-type Scandicrust for me to properly relate to it. 

The next CS vinyl contribution was on the rather glorious Tokyo Crusties compilation Ep with two songs (though I am pretty sure they were part of a longer session) that reinforced the band's position at the crossroad between England, Sweden and Japan. The band's subsequent work, the split Ep with No Security on DIY Records, can be seen as their most remarkable as far as the aforementioned punk cocktail is concerned. Taking the groovy, gruff sound and vocal style of early Doom, Hiatus or indeed the mighty Macrofage (if anything, CS were probably a Macrofarge-type band) and energizing it with over the top Japanese hardcore arrangements (like Bastard and the likes) and ripping Scandicore, the band found a very convincing compromise that could appeal to everyone (in a manner of speaking, my dad does remain utterly unmoved to this day). The recording is pretty raw but I do feel it makes the songs sound closer to mid-90's crust, which is a prerequisite for the genre and this series. 

Following this Ep, CS appeared on a split Ep with Força Macabra in 1997 with a more Swedish feel (very Crude SSey) that would be further dvelopped on Kawakami's titanic Chaos of Destruction 3xLp compilation to which the band contributed three absolutely crushing songs. CS' final appearance (their cd discography notwithstanding) would be on Tribal War Asia's Crust Night 2001 with two covers, one of them being a No Security song, which makes for a pretty amazing transition, I think we can all agree on that.

No Security is actually one of the first 80's Swedish hardcore bands I really got into, along with Mob 47, Anti-Cimex and Avskum. The reason was actually pretty simple as I just bought a NS tape at an emo gig (please, don't ask) about 15 years ago (I bought Stockholm Hardcore 1983-1986 and a tape with Mob 47 and Asocial demos on that gig so you could say that it was a great night despite the music...), namely When the Gist is Sucked from the Fruit of Welfare, basically a bootleg tape version of the Lost and Found cd discography (but I did not know that at the time). I was aware that the band had shared a split Lp with Doom but what really prompted me to pick the tape was the fact that "No security" was the name of a Chaos UK song, so I figured that the band logically had to sound a bit like Doom and Chaos UK. That's deductive reasoning for ya. Funnily enough, if NS were named after a Chaos UK song, Masskontroll were named after a NS song. And, wait for it, wait for it, Winds of Genocide are named after a Masskontroll song. This kind of referential lexical chains always amuse me, although I honestly doubt this one will go further unless a band chooses phrases like "In the darkness of eternal nuclear winter" or "The howling wolves of armageddon" as a name. But what do I know? After all, it is only 2017 and who knows what kids will be into in 2037? 

NS formed in late 1985 in Eskilstuna (halfway between Örebro and Stockholm according to the map) but I am unclear as to the time of death. Their latest recording dates back from May, 1993 but they may have been active afterwards. I cannot claim to be a well of knowledge in terms of 80's Swedish punk (though I am able to hold a decent conversation about it) so chronological categorizations are a bit tricky and potentially irrelevant, but there you go, a life without making wild guesses about punk-rock just doesn't seem worth living. I guess you could view NS as being a second-generation Swedish hardcore band, along with bands like Totalitär, Raped Teenagers, Rövsvett or Svart Snö, basically acts that were active and recorded during the second part of the decade. I suppose NS are still very much revered among the proper Scandicore nerds (no need to raise your hand, we know who you are), but contrary to Totalitär, who have significantly become synonymous with what Swedish hardcore should sound like (I have always seen Anti-Cimex as being in a league of their own so let's dismiss them for the sake of argument here), they do not seem to be as sought after or discussed. Yet, from the perspective of quality and consistency, I would argue that NS epitomize Swedish hardcore just as meaningfully as Totalitär. Energy, speed, pummeling beats rooted in Discharge's realms of influence, fantastically catchy riffs, fast aggressive vocals with a very specific flow, raw but powerful sound... all these genre-defining elements were condensed in NS' music. Perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that I definitely overplayed my tape and have unconsciously expected every self-proclaimed käng band to sound like them, but you cannot take away the fact that songs like "Hycklarfolket" (with its Disarm-like tuneful chorus), "Liberta" or "Jag bara frågar" (a crash course in threatening hardcore vocals) are absolute scorchers. 

I am not going to delve too much into the band's discography and try to focus on the period at stake. The three songs from the split Ep with Crocodileskink were actually recorded in December, 1990, as part of a longer recording session that had seven songs in total (according to my tape anyway). And that's where it gets a little confusing, because even though this split Ep saw the light of day in 1995, these three songs already appeared on the 1993 cd version of When the Gist... I cannot be sure but I do sense some of the proverbial Lost and Found dodginess in all of this, especially since the band states in the foldout that "these tracks can also be found on a full length album later" (which would never happen, sadly). But let's get back to the actual songs on the Ep that were recorded just six months after the brilliant split Lp with Valvontakommissio (possibly my favourite NS record). They are perhaps a little more guitar-oriented and rawer but every bit as furious and raging. The vocals sound so hoarse, pissed and threatening. The riff in "Politikernas misstag" is exactly what I want from the genre and why I love it and the rockier vibe of "Kollaps" is a prime example of how to infuse heavy rock elements into your hardcore (I am very picky about this particular aspect). And man, these vocals... It's like the singer is actually grabbing you by the collar (or the bandana for that matter), so close that you can see (and feel) the droplets of spit flying from his mouth... Genuinely crucial hardcore here. 

It would be long and probably too tedious a read to list the activities of the members outside NS but drummer Jallo has played throughout the years, in one spot or another, in some of the most influential Swedish hardcore bands like Totalitär, Meanwhile, Disfear or Krigshot (without mentioning his label Finn Records). And it would be difficult not to mention that the singer Harri went on to play the guitar in Kent, a band that - apparently - is considered as "the most popular rock/pop group within Sweden and throughout Scandinavia." Well, I certainly did not see that one coming! 

Monday 23 October 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 3): Disclose / Homomilitia "Attack the enemy / Milczenie = Śmierć" split Ep 1995

This split was a pretty obvious choice if you keep in mind what the overarching trope of this series is all about. You could always argue that the record was neither Disclose nor Homomilitia's best mid-90's offering and fair enough, it may not. However, in terms of historiographical relevance and from a diachronic standpoint, it seemed impossible not to tackle a Disclose record and a dual male/female vocal eurocrust band. Perhaps the combination of both bands and what it entails contextually matters more than the actual songs in this case, which is not to discard the text at the sole benefit of context, of course, since both must be read in the light of one another. 

But enough academic chit-chat and let's start with Disclose then. I already wrote extensively about Kawakami's art and vision in The Chronicles of Dis last year, although the record in question corresponded to another creative era for the band (namely their 00's "Disbones" period). The songs included on today's record are a different animal and anyone telling you that Disclose were always a one-trick pony are either intellectually deaf or actually looking for a fight (the way you chose to respond to such provocations is completely up to you). 

Kawakami playing to an audience made up of bewildered plaid shirts

The three tracks that make the Attack the enemy side of the split belong to the so-called Swedish era of Disclose that culminated in the release of the Great Swedish Feast 10'' in 1995 (a tribute to Swedish hardcore). Interestingly, Attack the enemy was recorded during the same session, at Grave New Studio (you just can't make that up) in March '95, as the aforementioned love letter to Scandinavia, the split with Cluster Bomb Unit, the compilation tracks that appeared on Damn the control and Kamikaze attacked America and the B-side of the Visions of war Ep, with chef d'orchestre and Discharge mythologist Kawakami on the guitar, Fukugama on the bass and Iro beating the D. I strongly recommend listening to the 19 songs of this recording session in a row (the first cd of the Raw brutal assault Vol.2 comes pretty handy for that) since not only will it give you a meaningful sense of what Disclose were up to at this moment in time, but it will also offer you an idea of what they were trying to achieve and illustrate how rather similar songs can be played differently - through sound setting, guitar textures, actual technique and whatever Kawakami had in his bag of Dis-tricks - in order to create a different vibe. It also raises the question of song selection. Disclose were a prolific bunch with a lot of planned appearances on vinyl and even though I am not enough of a Disclose buff to be familiar with their selection process, I sense that they certainly gave it some thoughts, as can be noticed on Attack the enemy.

The first song, "Pollution of development", is actually quite unusual for Disclose. It is a two and a half minute long song which was a bit of an oddity for the band whose songs - their longer mid-paced dischargy number notwithstanding - very seldom reached the two minute mark. In fact, even the riffs themselves sound a little at odds with what they did then. They are... rockier. I think the truth could be unveiled in the crunchy break that happens about halfway through the song and is quite reminiscent of later Anti-Cimex. Since Kawakami knew exactly what he was doing, there is a high chance that this particular number was actually an "avalanche of distorted noise" take on the late Cimex sound which would account for its rocky vibe and length. Does it work? Well, not completely but it is subjective. I don't think that this brand of heavy and rocking Swedish hardcore can really benefit from the distortion treatment which works far better for short, sharp bursts of Discharge-informed hardcore. The two other songs, "Report of a gun" and "Attack the enemy", are one minute long each and are more typical mid-90's Disclose scorchers, early-Discharge-Discard-and-Shitlickers-crashes-into-a-wall-of-noise kinda sound. Aggressive riffs that fit perfectly together, brilliantly educated vocal flow, the whole thing is repetitive but never dull, on the contrary it is always very intense and the repetitiveness acts like a metaphor for the never-ending death march of our war-plagued world, like a key to comprehend the essence of the genre. And although it sounds simple, it is not. Simple is always more difficult (I'm feeling pretty fucking profound today). Is this for everyone? Of course not. I remember a story that a close friend told me years ago. She was a big Disclose fan and had bought Raw brutal assaul Vol.2. One day she played it to a mate of hers who wasn't into punk but could still listen to some without cringing. She played him the full double-cd and the poor lad actually felt highly uncomfortable and almost physically sick. The sheer intensity, the deafening sound and the cryptic repetitiveness did not make sense to him and he just could not take it. Such is the power of the Dis.

On the other side of the split are Homomilitia. Now, I know - or rather, I think I know - that a lot of people are familiar with them, but I am also aware that this perception could be a generational thing. Do the younger generations (outside of Poland where they are quite renowned and have a - well-deserved - cult status) still listen to Homomilitia? Or do they even still listen to 90's eurocrust? Are all my readers going grey? Or have you already? Am I flogging a dead record? 

And... yes you guessed it, the time has come for cheesy reminiscing!!! Yay! I originally bought this split Ep for the Homomilitia side, although I am aware that most would buy it for Disclose's nowadays (the same thing could be said about pretty much all their splits). I do not remember who first told me about HM but I do remember buying their wonderful Twoje Ciało Twój Wybór 1996 Lp from a Polish distro at a squat gig around Paris in the spring of 2003. I had never listened to them but I knew, for some reason, that they were great and a bit of a "90's crust classic", which the distro guy confirmed before adding that I really should get it while I could since it was his last copy, which gullible and enthusiastic me obviously did. I was not very familiar with Polish punk at the time, apart from a couple of usual suspects like Dezerter or TZN Xenna and anarcho bands like Włochaty (whom I had sloppily interviewed the year before when they played in Paris), but HM were the first Polish band I really and completely got into, both on musical and political grounds, and they are the original reason why I am such a sucker for 90's Polish crust almost 15 years later.

Poland was certainly a stronghold for eurocrust in the 90's and they had tons of angry, intense bands all sharing that particular way of writing songs and riffs that had no real equivalent anywhere else, maybe unique in the same way Greek crust was if you like. To drown you with a list of names would be utterly pointless and uninteresting but carefully listening to Sanctus Iuda, Hostility or Silna Wola would definitely give you a sense of what I mean. But let's get back to HM, shall we? The band formed in the early 90's (1991 apparently) in Lodz (that's pretty much right in the centre of the country if you're wondering) but it is unclear when they actually stopped playing since there is a live recording from 2000 floating around on youtube. The early period of the band can be glimpsed at on the Niszcz Rasizm Ale Najpierw W Swojej Głowie tape that Malarie released in 1995 and where you can find four studio tracks recorded in 1992 (not 100% sure about the exact date but it is definitely not far off). You can also check videos of their early '91 live performances if you need an illustration of the sheer intensity the band conveyed. 

That they started so early in the decade definitely puts HM in a precursory position in the grand narrative of European crust. The comparison game might not be that relevant in this case but the metallic crust sound of Nausea would be an influence to my ears (the early song certainly "Nic wiecej do powiedzenia" attests to that) especially in terms of aggression, metal drive and vocal template, and I am also hearing a lot of early Hiatus crushing crusty power as well (they were quite possibly the most influential eurocrust band anyway). I find touches of the Californian crust vibe at times (Apocalypse, Glycine Max and the likes) but, given the time frame, it must have been a case of contextualized, commonly shared influences. Finally, for the thrashiness, the wild, groovy fury of bands like Sedition or Pink Turds in Space (Agnes' raspy vocals are not so different at times) are also brought to mind. I suppose that, to some extent, in order to grasp the importance of Homomilitia, you could very well draw a parallel between them and Disaffect. They started out the same year and, although there were significant differences between both bands (HM were more metal-tinged), they both pioneered the now classic sound of blistering, heavy and crusty anarchopunk with aggressive and distinctive male/female vocals. Don't get me wrong though, there is undeniably a vintage Polish hardcore vein running through the band's work as well (they covered the mighty Moskwa in their early days and there are hints of bands like Rejestracja or The Corpse) but the very specific local and global context of the band's creation, the moment in punk history, definitely shaped what they would become and made them one of the major architects of eurocrust and 90's anarchopunk. 

The first vinyl output of the band was a split Ep with your favourite Brazilian hardcore nerds from Finland, Força Macabra, with two songs recorded in December '93, although the Ep was released in 1995. At that time, the band still had more of a caveman crust crunch to their songs but I suppose it took a lineup change for HM to become what they would be remembered for (in terms of recordings at least, though I personally love everything they've done) when two members from Toxic Bonkers joined the band on drums and bass. The band became tighter and more focused. In March '95 they recorded three songs that would appear on this split with Disclose (the songs from the album were also recorded on that same day), one original number, the crushing "Milczenie = Śmierć" (meaning "Silence = Death") with that hard-hitting aggressive metallic punk sound and amazing trade off vocal style the band mastered so well and two covers, a gloriously snotty and pummeling cover of The Partisans, "Police story" (a cover song that, interestingly, Sedition also recorded for their split Ep with Disaffect) and a noisecore take on Post-Regiment's "Ostatni raz" which shows that you always need a sense of humour and some perspective about things, and what better way to do it than the sorethroatian one?

Following the split with Disclose, released on the ever reliable Gdansk-based Scream Records (it was the label's fourth vinyl), the album eventually came out in 1996 on NNNW and it would sadly be HM's last release as the band apparently had lineup issues and could no longer commit. An unreleased session containing an Lp worth of songs also exists, which sees HM in an even heavier, gloomier mode, but I haven't been able to find recording details about it. On it, Agnes' vocal style sounds much closer to the one she used for her following band, the crucially underrated Lost (a band that wrote one of the best crust albums of the 00's), so I am - wildly - guessing it was recorded in the very early noughties (2004 pops up on da internet but I'm not really buying it) however do correct me if I am wrong.  

Is Disclose teaming up with Homomilitia the epitome of what the 90's DIY punk passion and dedication were all about? Yes, pretty much indeed.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 2): Deformed Conscience / Scourge split Ep, 1993

There were tons of bands in the 90's. In fact, just a quick search on the internet would be enough to give a vertiginous glimpse into the insane amount of punk bands that were active during that decade and I cannot help but remember this ace sample that both Subcaos and Destroy! used as an introduction to one of their mid-90's songs, "Sugadores" and "Anthem" respectively (granted, this one is more a burst of noise than what most people would consider "a proper song" but there you go, punx did challenge the ontological status of the music piece after all), in which a girl epically claims: "I think that punk-rock now is stronger than it ever was". I suppose you could argue endlessly over the relevance of such a statement and the definition of "strong" but still, I feel it does ring true to some extent. Of course, there are probably more bands today worldwide, but the main difference does not lie so much in sheer numbers but in the awareness of the actual existence of the bands. In 2017, all bands (this is rhetorical, there are of course exceptions) have a physical, local presence as well as a global, digital one. Even bands that are very local can potentially be heard by someone at the other end of the globe, which is both sensational and a little overwhelming at times. But twenty years ago (or even ten, really), a lot of bands were intrinsically local and unless you got their demo or saw them live in their area or if they happened to tour or if you had a mate who knew them, you would probably never hear them. 

I know it must all sound pretty obvious, and it is, but whenever I come across a great 90's "local band" that has flown under my anarcho detector, I reflect upon the role and the significance of punk bands in their scenes and how they and our own perceptions of them evolve through time, conjointly with broader cultural changes triggered by technology. Did you know that there were two bands called Scourge in the U$ of A active at the same time? I did not, until I scouted the internet for details about the Scourge included on today's record (and to be honest, I did not find many...). Then I realized, completely by chance, that there was another Scourge, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, that had a demo from 1993 and played amazing anarchopunk with male/female vocals, somewhere between Antischism and what Flat Earth Records put out at the time. How many more ace bands are there from that period that I have never heard, and maybe even never will? Exactly, bloody loads of 'em. And that's a very exciting thought for me.

But enough meditative bollocks already and let's get to this split then that saw Connecticut-based Deformed Conscience teaming up with Scourge. As I briefly discussed in the post about Crust and anguished life, Deformed Conscience is the perfect example of a band that most people kinda know but is not really listened to any longer. I first heard DC when I got my grubby punk hands on their split Lp with Excrement of War, however I had read about them quite often in the early 00's. I distinctly remember mentions of other crust bands (like React or State of Fear) featuring "ex-Deformed Conscience members" which indicated that, not only were the band an early instance of US crust, but also a respected, influential, act. And Marald drew covers for them so they had to be good, I thought. 

Years later, now that I have been graced with crust superpowers, I see DC as being part of the Big Three D's of Fast 90's US Crust (I copyrighted the phrase so don't bother nicking it, yeah?), along with Disrupt and Destroy!. DC never became as good as Disrupt (but then, who really did?) or as versatile as Destroy! but regardless, I would argue that their sound also helped shape what US crustcore would grow up to be throughout the 90's. And besides, their moniker has always reminded me of Deviated Instinct's which cannot be a bad thing, right? 

As far as I can guess, they must have formed sometime in 1990 and recorded two demos in 1991, a self-titled one and No excuse for suffering, that set the stage for their blend of Scandinavian crusty hardcore and fast and raspy US hardcore. I suppose you could describe DC's take as being rooted in Scandicore riffing and pummeling beats (No Security or Disrupt come to mind) but with a more extreme hardcore songwriting that certainly coincided with the rise of powerviolence at the time (bands like Dropdead or Demise are not far off at times). Basically, the harsh vocalic tone and (even more so) flow would not be out of place in a more strictly US hardcore setting and some beat structures are here to remind you that the year is 1993. Their first eponymous Ep (though some call it Indian givers after the name of the first song for some reason) was a deliciously crusty and raw hardcore record with punk-as-fuck artwork, aggressive dual vocals (a shame they didn't use them on the subsequent split) and enough cohesive variety in the songs to keep it from falling into genericity (early Doom meets Dropdead and Embittered or something?). Some sloppy bits here and there, but they are what made early 90's crust so enjoyable in my book, on this great unpretentious Ep released on Swiss label Off The Disk (which also put out materials from Infest, Fear of God or Disrupt if you know what I mean).

The additional sleeve...

The year after, DC came back with a better, heavier bass-driven sound on this split Ep. Although I personally miss the dual vocal attack, this effort is more powerful indeed. The song "How free am I?" starts off with a punchy mid-paced moment with dark riffing before exploding into typical crustcore crunch. All in all reminiscent of Hiatus which is always a good thing. The second one, "End the pain", opens with a slow and groovy metallic part (somewhere between Siege and Deviated Instinct) before getting to Scando fury with the delightful addition of an anarcho spoken part from the singer which makes this song some kind of 90's crust bingo. The last one is short, more aggressive and faster than the rest and more akin to the Dropdead school of thought. Following this, DC would release three more records, the Constant strife Ep in 1993, a split Ep with 3-Way Cum the next year  and the aforementioned split Lp with the might EOW (which took three years to be - very poorly - released though...).

The lyrics on the split deal with the oppressive nature of American democracy, the desperation of drug abuse and animal cruelty. And I just love the cover art on DC's side with its vintage late 80's underground metal-punk vibe. This is how it is done. After the demise of the band, drummer Pete went on to hit things with Dissension, React and Hail of Rage, while guitar hero John sang and played the bass for State of Fear, before switching back to the ole "guitar and voice" for Calloused.

I wish I had a lot to say about Scourge but unfortunately I do not. This split was their sole vinyl contribution and the internet is remarkably quiet when it comes to them (it could be a curse put on bands called Scourge since very little information is available about their Albuquerque homonym either). There were actually three versions of this split Ep. The one I own was released on Spoon Fed Records with cover art and lyrics for each band. But there is a second version of it, released on the same label, with a different foldout cover (that was still included in my version of the record for some reason...) but no information or anything about DC and with different artwork and a lot more more details about Scourge. Finally, there is a third, pre-release version of the split, released on Fetus Records, a Phoenix label who did not seem too happy about Scourge... A bit of an odd one. But anyway, judging from the inlay included in the second version, Scourge were a four-piece from Arizona and... that's about all I know. Well, not completely, since the singer and artist of the band, Mike, would play the bass later on in a hugely influential Oakland band, and arguably one of the very best crust acts of the decade, namely Skaven. The connection between the two bands is fairly obvious if you only care to actually look at the Scourge's art drawn by Mike, who also did a lot of artwork for Skaven (and let's face it, he is a very talented geezer with a distinct, disturbed artistic vibe). I had that OMG moment when lazily manipulating the record, looking for clues, until I thought "this is funny, it reminds me a lot of some Skaven drawings" and then "wait a second, it has to be the same bloke who did them" and finally "what a fool I have been all this time..." which is turning into a bit of a mantra for me lately.

Anyway, Scourge played a very different kind of punk-rock though, slightly dissonant, freakish hardcore with great snotty vocals and a hypnotic vibe. Like Resist and Econochrist on mushrooms or something? Not necessarily a genre I am that familiar with but it works perfectly on that split. The art is amazing (there is another piece by someone named Gross that also looks fantastic) and I really enjoy the aggressively anti-religious diatribes that make up the words of the two songs "Moral prison" and "One fine sunday with Jesus" (especially this last one actually). If anyone has more intel about Scourge, please share.

Thursday 12 October 2017

Kids of the 90's (part 1): Dischange / Excrement of War split Ep, 1991

Still bollox but still here. 

I have not written anything for the past month because - in all honesty - I was clueless about what to do next. The anarchopunk series had left me drained. I was lost, cold, battered, little more than a pathetic, staggering version of myself, my good looks and proverbial biting wit all but gone. Remember when Austin Powers loses his mojo in one of the movies? Well that was me, only I have got much better clothes and hair (not too sure about the teeth but let's not focus on that). I still had many ideas for Terminal Sound Nuisance but suddenly none of them sounded fun. Sad emoji face indeed. So I took some time off and traveled to South-East Asia in order to find myself and take selfies in front of neat-looking temples. Well, not really actually, I just locally boozed my way through the month, waiting to be struck by inspiration. To no avail. 

Until one day, as I was coming home after a rather enjoyable gig, I just looked through my record collection without anything in mind, or rather, with a completely open one. I realized that a significant portion of it was made up of 90's records, most of which no longer seemed to trigger general punk enthusiasm nowadays (the average Discogs price is usually a good indicator, albeit a fairly depressing one) but were still lovable and even - in some cases - genuinely good, to me anyway. After a good hour of mumbling to myself "Who still gives a shit about this one? And about that one? And what about this little bugger, I don't even recall buying it..." I took a meditative break and tried to remember and reconnect with the core values of the blog (as stated in "The Terminal Sound Nuisance Constitution of 2012"), which can basically be summarized as lengthy talks about bands and records that deserve to be talked about but are only marginally so in our culture of cultural overconsumption, floundering attention span and neglect of punk as a critical discursive art form.  The solution became clear, obvious. Weren't the 90's supposed to be fashionable now? I remembered seeing a lot of lads with typical 90's boy bands haircut recently, which of course I took as a good omen and a sign. I had to respond quickly and accordingly. 

As a result ten loud 90's split records, mostly Ep's but not exclusively, that no one really cares about anymore were carefully selected in order to exemplify the decade's specificities. Expect sloppy, crusty hardcore from the most important common denominator: genuineness. 

And let's start with a dischargy split Ep from 1991 between Dischange and Excrement of War. If you are a consistent TSN reader (and why wouldn't you be? It's an ace blog!), you know that I have always been thoroughly obsessed with British crust and hardcore and punk in general and it would come as no surprise to read that I originally bought the Ep for EOW and not for Dischange. When I got it (in the mid 00's), I don't think I had ever listened to Dischange. I knew Meanwhile through compilation tracks but was unaware that it was the same band under a different name. At that time, with a few exceptions, I was suspicious of the D-beat genre and honestly did not rate it very high. I certainly did not see Discharge as "a D-beat band", that would have been irrelevant and anachronistic, since the genre's essence lies on the repetition and emulation of vintage Discharge (could 2017 Discharge qualify as a D-beat band, like a contextualized recreation of oneself?). I thought that Disclose were too noisy for their own good but at least had that going for them, that Disaster were lovingly goofy because they sounded just like Discharge and that Disfear sounded like a bloody steamroller, but that was that. The Dis is getting pathetic Ep from Active Minds (the first one I bought from them) certainly had a lot to do with my wariness of the D, which was quite ironic since the Ep was very much about the 90's D-beat wave, which I was too young too have known anyway. But still, I must admit that their anti-D-beat rant (which may actually have been written about Dischange if I remember well) did leave a mark on my young mind at the time and definitely made me unimpressively look at Dischange. 

Older and wiser (?) now, I must say that I really enjoy the Dischange songs from this Ep and the band's relevance to the genre cannot be underestimated. They formed in the late 80's (not sure exactly when but their first demo was recorded in 1989) with Jallo, then drummer for the mighty No Security, on the guitar and vocals, and can be considered to be the first proper D-beat band, with the drive to sound and look JUST LIKE Discharge it entails, along with contemporaries Disaster (if Discard did lay the template for the dimension of Discharge worship, they never aimed at sounding just like Discharge, neither did Disattack and they were far more obscure anyway). The three songs included on the split were Dischange's first vinyl appearance and can be thought to be perfectly representative, if not foundational, of what the Swedish D-beat orthodoxy would grow to be in the following decades, with that crushing, pummeling, precise relentlessness, the monstrous riffs and the harsh vocals. The songs "After-war scars" and "Dead end" clearly fall in the Hear nothing category but my favourite is "On knees" whose groovy bass line is gloriously reminiscent of Why (I like my D-beat with some groove). The production is just fine for the genre, powerful but not too heavy as I am one to believe that there has to be an element of urgency and rawness in the D for it to be appealing (I often find Swedish D-beat to be too tight but that's not the case here, probably because it is an early instance of this peculiar variety). Dischange also released a split Ep with CFDL the following year and a full Lp in 1993 that I find a bit hard to sit through to be honest. They then changed their name to Meanwhile (and if you care to look at the label on Dischange's side it actually reads "Dischange - Meanwhile" which could indicate that they intended to call their side of the split Meanwhile... or not, it is a wild guess) which was a good call. Not only did they arguably get better during their Meanwhile era, but if the idea to swap a letter in the word "discharge" in order to obtain a new Dis-name is kinda funny, its realization is more embarrassing. 

On the other side of the split are a band whose name always makes me very self-conscious when I am wearing the shirt (I actually got into a needlessly long and unpleasant discussion with an odoriferous man about the use of the word "excrement" printed on clothes on the metro once... believe me, you do not want to know, but it was a long ride): Excrement of War, from Dudley, not too far from Birmingham if you are asking yourself. This lot were possibly the most intentionally Swedish of all the English hardcore bands of the early 90's with references to Anti-Cimex and Shitlickers even in the participants' nicknames. However, little do people know (and I only do because I am a loyal Glasper reader) that EOW originally started in 1990 as a boisterous, inept-sounding but cider-loving Chaos UK/Disorder band, before Stick (from Doom) joined. EOW was formed by Tom (of Genital Deformities), Rat (ex Indecent Assault and the greatly-named Depth Charge) and one Wonka with the idea of playing noisy Bristol punk, and although it did not work out, they still recorded a demo with that sound, which I would be very curious to hear indeed. Anyway, the proper EOW, the one we all (?) remember really started when Stick joined on drums after Doom went on a hiatus and the band decided to play punchy, punk-as-fuck Swedish hardcore with gruff vocals. This Ep was their first vinyl appearance, although the four EOW songs were originally part of a demo that Stick sent to Finn Records (the recording also included a Doom cover entitled "Relief (part 3)" which did not make it on the Ep but at least answers the fateful question of "but who did the part 3 then?"). 

If Doom initially wanted to be Discard - a noble endeavour in and of itself - you might imagine that EOW wanted to be Protes Bengt, in the sense that in their early days the band shared the same over-the-top urgent enthusiasm, that effective hardcore punk simplicity and straight-forward impactive crudity (yes, you may lol). Basically, you can tell that the trio had fun recording the songs and I would argue that the chaotic vibe that permeates the four songs, one that is also not quite unlike mid-80's Chaos UK if you think about it, makes for a nice and crunchy contrast with Dischange's starkness. And when the two bands on a split complement each other well, which is the whole point of such a format, you know you've got a good one. It could be suggested that the band's great dynamics on this record be somehow linked with Doom's lack thereof at that time. As Stick explains in Armed with anger, by 1990 "it seemed we (Doom) had lost our direction, or directness anyway, so I wanted to re-achieve what I'd already had". Who said that the way of the D couldn't be therapeutical? Of course, Doom would become again a force to be reckoned with a new lineup (and Tom on vocals) from 1993 on, but I definitely hear a manic liberating element to EOW's early years. Although clearly Swedish hardcore-fueled, the vocals also have that delightfully excessive gruff crusty edge that characterized the late 80's UK scene of Extreme Noise Terror, Mortal Terror and Sore Throat. The band went on to record fine records of fast and direct Dis-inspired crusty hardcore, The waste and the greed Ep being a tighter and better-produced take on what was glimpsed on the split with Dischange, but never really found back the snotty vibe of these early recordings afterwards (this is not to say that I don't like Cathode ray coma or the split Deformed Conscience, but they were recorded with a different lineup and I don't approach them in the same way as I do early EOW's output).  

That must have been a cracking night out

This wonderful split Ep was released on Finn Records, a Swedish label - as the name doesn't suggest - that was active from 1989 to 1999 and put out brilliant Swedish hardcore records by the likes of Totalitär, Disfear or G-Anx. There was the label's distro list from November 1991 included with the split Ep which is bound to make you feel nostalgic if you were around at the time (I was not so it just makes me excited).  

The infamous Meanwhile reference