Tuesday 25 December 2018

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 5): Monoteizm-Co-Existence "Patrz I Odczuj!" tape, 1998

It's that time of year again. On the streets, people look stuffed and exhausted while they are clumsily dragging suitcases full of meaningless gifts that they won't know what to do with in about two weeks. Books they won't read, clothes that do not fit, nasty sweets that your great-aunt bought on her last trip abroad, overcomplicated boardgames or, worse, a mainstream pop-rock album. "Happy homes destroyed and for what?" to quote a great band. 

So to make up for all the consumerist frenzy - and the awkward misery it implies - that social conventions have brought upon you on this day, here is a much more punk-appropriate present for you: a Polish crust tape from the 90's. And if you live in a country where Christmas is not celebrated, well, then that's just a regular gift because we are incredibly generous and honourable at Terminal Sound Nuisance headquarters and we would probably deserve to be selected for the Nobel Punk Prize next year. 

Of course, because under the patches and the extremely cool punk shirts, I am very respectful of conservative traditions and have been confirmed to be, overall, a decent, neighbourly citizen who won't hesitate to play Atrocious Madness at late hours if the situation requires it, I tried to emulate the grandiose Christmas spirit and therefore picked a band with a message of hope, togetherness, peace and interfaith dialogue. This band is Monoteizm-Co-Existence. Now, I suppose the moniker is a bit odd for a gruff metallic crust band that sounds about as friendly as a charging hippo. I am sure the band had good intentions and meant "please everyone, let's not slaughter each other in the name of imaginary friends because that's kinda unhealthy and just insane" but I cannot help being reminded of the Coexist bumper stickers that I used to see in the States. Well-meaning but really cheesy and naive. Fortunately for you, the cheesiness in Monoteizm-Co-Existence (which will be referred to as MCE from now on) did not result in them playing folk punk or alternative reggae rock. Otherwise, this post would just be another nail in the Christmasy coffin. 

I know it is becoming like a running joke but I haven't been able to discover much about the band and most of the things I am going to assert below in a scholarly fashion are really just informed guesses. MCE were active in the second part of the 90's, a decade when crust ruled over Europe with an iron fist and a smelly armpit. They were from Kolno, a small town northwest of Bialystok (that's in northeastern Poland you ignoramus) and their first demo, entitled Oblicze Prawdy, was released in 1995 on Demonstracja Tapes, a Bialystok-based tape label (I am quite the investigator) run by Martin from Sanctus Iuda. Even a quick look at the discography of Demonstracja will show you that it was responsible for tape versions of records from the likes of Doom, Meanwhile or Agathocles, as well as demos from ace Polish crust bands like Hostility, Disgusting Lies and of course Sanctus Iuda. They even released two tapes from Sarcasm and if that is not a definitive proof of good taste, I don't know what is. Oblicze Prawdy was a rather rough and brutal crust attack with dual vocals reminiscent of Embittered, Money Drug or early Disrupt. The demo tape shows a lot of energy and anger and if you are a sucker for raw eurocrust like I am, I strongly recommend it. For some reason, I did not buy it at the Ultra Chaos Picnic festival although it was available and only got the second MCE tape. I don't remember why, I probably never will and needless to say that I feel very silly for this system failure.

Some people prefer the first tape over the second one, and while I really enjoy it, my vote still goes for Patrz I Odczuj!. The band had improved since Oblicze Prawdy (I think Patrz I Odczuj! was released in 1998 but I am not completely certain) and there were some lineup changes as they welcomed a new bass player and recruited a new - female - vocalist. The sound became heavier, groovier and more metallic. Yes my faithful readers, you know where I am getting at, MCE were now playing raw metallic crust with dual male/female vocals, a common artistic practice in the 90's DIY punk scene and one I have been obsessed with since I first heard Nausea. As I mentioned the production is better in this second recording and I just love the dark, dirty heaviness of the guitar sound. It works great whether the band is in fast eurocrust mode or when they unleash their old-school crusty metal power, and overall the balance between both moods is amazing. The vocals are aggressive and raucous but not overly gruff, which gives the song a tasteful anarchopunk vibe (there are some overt anarcho musical references in a few songs). It is pretty obvious that MCE had been listening to a lot of Sanctus Iuda, Silna Wola and Homomilitia, but then I guess it is a pleonastic comment to even mention it considering the tremendous influence they had, while the crunchy metallic vibe that they injected into their crust recipe probably points to the cruelly underrated Hostility. Classic bands like Nausea and Hiatus are also major influences here and judging from the MCE's font, it is safe to say that you can add Extinction of Mankind to the list, which would account for the old-school crust streak running through their vernacular take on the genre.

That's a picture from their '97 Poznan gig with Counterblast and Scatha... What a cracking lineup! 

This is a top-shelf metallic crust tape and it is frustrating that I know so little about MCE. It was released on Malarie Records and you can still find this gem on distros for cheap (meaning for its real price). Wouldn't that make a brilliant Christmas present for 2019? 

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 4): Stupor "Prawdziwe oblicze..." demo tape 1997

I have to admit that I had never listened to, nor even heard of, Stupor before I lifted Prawdziwe oblicze... from the box that lied solitarily on the distro stall. This box only contained tapes from the 90's, mainly from Polish bands, and you could tell that they had not been looked at for a long time. In fact, they looked like they had not seen the light of day at all for a good few years and I felt like a fearless archaeologist carefully and lovingly excavating some rare artifacts in a distant land, while still remaining on the lookout for wild animals that might attack from behind. The only realistic risk was that a drunk punk would spill his beer on my classy jacket while I was browsing through the tapes, or, worse, try to engage a conversation, but I have to say that I handled the situation particularly well, the local fauna was mostly peaceful and I was unharmed. As I mentioned, I did not know Stupor but the fact that they had a good name for a punk band (not to mention one that I could understand) combined with the grim postindustrial artwork sealed the deal and I ended up with the demo tape in my bag, which I was carrying around lovingly, like a punker, but much less manly and adventurous, Indiana Jones (I always bring an umbrella at punk festivals because I don't like getting wet, which is kinda unpunk I suppose but then I get very grumpy when my socks are soaked so it is really for the best).

The thing is that I should at least have been aware of Stupor since they did a split Ep with Portland's Harum-Scarum in 2000 and I do like Harum-Scarum (especially Suppose we try actually) so I was a little upset about my own ignorance when I got back home and checked the band's discography. But you cannot know everything, even in our era of mass information, and, if anything, it demonstrated once again the vastness of the 90's Polish punk scene as well as some possible lacks about US anarchopunk on my part. But anyway, it always feels exciting to discover an old band that has flown under your radar for no apparent reason, so my enthusiasm certainly prevailed over my narcissistic injury. Judging from the cover, I was expecting some heavy metallic crust with nasty blast beats (I mean, Stupor did have a hairy logo so it made sense) but I was wrong - again - and probably for the best. Hailing from Oleśnica (not so far from Wrocław), the band formed in 1996 with two former member of Sonderkommando in its ranks and Prawdziwe oblicze... was their first recording, a demo tape recorded in May, 1997. Stupor would subsequently appear on a split Ep in 1999 with Verrecke (from Poland too I think?), a split tape with Slaughterhouse in 2000 from Spain and, of course, that same year, on the split Ep with Harum-Scarum released on Malarie. 

As for the music, you can tell in a heartbeat that, stylistically, Stupor were a 90's band since they adopted a punk cultural practice that this decade consecrated: fast anarchopunk with dual male and female vocals. The sound of my copy of the tape is trebly and unstable in places but that is what you get. And after all, the blog is also about sharing experiences and making you feel as if you were right here, with me, listening to the same tape while enjoying tremendously my witty insights, being inspired by my unrivalled analysis not to mention awed by my charisma. But then, if you have a better rip of the tape, I'm not against it. The production is pretty raw and a bit thin but the energy certainly makes up for the lack of heaviness. There is a strong thrash influence in the songwriting, especially in the guitar parts, but the raw and angry vibe of the music makes it sound really punky, upbeat and passionate. I am reminded of early Disaffect, Jobbykrust, Mushroom Attack, or even Fleas and Lice, or indeed of a thrashy blend of Harum-Scarum and 105 Lux (a fantastic early 90's female-fronted Polish band). While the songs are mostly fast and direct, there are also some metallic mid-paced moments to give some variety and on the whole the eleven songs make for a great listen if you are into that kind of sound (and if you have read that far, I suppose you are). The two vocalist complement one another very well, the female singer sounding more tuneful with a warmer, but still aggressive, tone while the bloke goes for the gritty, throaty shouts. I cannot really tell you anything about the lyrics but I am sure that they were of a serious political nature (it is pretty much a prerequisite of the genre, right?). The tape could be described as a promising and great-looking demo with a lovely foldout insert - as Polish tapes often had - and the split Ep with Harum-Scarum (I haven't been able to find the other recordings) confirmed Stupor's potential thanks to a better production that highlighted their proper 90's anarchopunk sound.

Prawdziwe oblicze... was released on N.I.C., a label and distro operated by singer Kudłaty (who now plays in a band called The Axe) that is still very much active to this day (even more so maybe) and has been running since 1994 with releases from bands like Aferra, Evil and Amen.

Now, for real, does anyone has a spare copy of the Stupor/Harum-Scarum split Ep?   

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 3): Earth Movement "S/t" tape, 1997

This band takes me back to the early days of Terminal Sound Nuisance. 6 years ago, in October of 2012 to be accurate, I reviewed and posted Earth Movement's Ep, W Sprawie Ocalenia. It was a very different time, an age of innocence when I could write fourteen entries for the blog in a single month (the novelty effect made me feel unstoppable and imbued with a dignified sense of purpose, though some would call it self-importance), and yet still struggled to find my voice in this virtual jungle and offer contents I was truly pleased with. And here I am, six years later, a bit older but still in pretty good shape despite a receding hairline, still writing about forgotten punk bands with dodgy musical abilities or foggy monikers (they are not mutually exclusive obviously). So when I found the tape this summer on a distro, unjustly covered with the dust of indifference, I got a bit sentimental and instantly grabbed it, like an unexpected Proustian madeleine.    

The one thing that really has not changed is Earth Movement's status as the band seems to remain inextricably shrouded in mystery. I haven't been able to learn more about them and no one really seems to know much about this lot twenty years later. It is pretty sad that you can find easily all sorts of nonsensical frivolous bollocks on the internet (sometimes without really intending to) while relevant intel about solid Polish hardcore punk bands from the 90's are hard to come by. Unfair, yeah? I am not even completely sure about the release date on that tape. It could be 1998 (like the aforementioned Ep) for all I know, but the rawer sound made me think that it had to be a previous recording and since the label had already put out, at least, two tapes in 1997, I went for that year. But do correct me if I am mistaken.

EM were from Suwalki, in northeastern Poland, not far from the borders with Lithuania and Belarus, and were, I suppose, active in the late 90's. This self-titled tape was recorded at Salman Studio in Białystok, a recording space also used by the likes of Sanctus Iuda (who were actually from Białystok), Disgusting Lies or Piekło Kobiet as well as quite a few grindcore bands. I can definitely hear similarities in terms of sound and songwriting between EM and Sanctus Iuda actually, though the former were not as crusty. EM played powerful, energetic, fast, riff-driven anarcho hardcore punk with a crusty touch (it was the 90's after all). The eleven songs included on the tape flow and fit very well together and in spite of a raw(er) sound, the musicianship sounds pretty strong and focused. There are enough tempo changes to keep everyone interested, the vocals are passionate, pissed but with some tuneful hooks, the riffs are epic and catchy and when EM go into full on pummeling crusty hardcore mode, they sound relentless. There is even a punky reggae number, something which, in another context, would make me very dismissive (alternative reggae rock bands have been plaguing the French scene for the past three decades), but works very well here with its almost cold and moody vibe (it has to be said that reggae has been a very popular style in Poland and a lot punk bands have been toying with it, usually with admittedly good results). I can also hear a definite anarchopunk influence reminiscent of Conflict and, of course, of Włochaty and Guernica y Luno (two extremely influential bands at the time). Add a bit of the hardcore sound of Mushroom Attack and Anger of Bacterias with a crusty spoonful of Hiatus, Sanctus Iuda and Stradoom Terror (it was the 90's after all) and it made for a very promising first recording that the Ep certainly confirmed. EM had potential, were able to write good, potent, aggressive punk songs and, well, who knows what happened next. They may have got lost in the crowd of good bands at that time.

The tape was released on Qrwa Sistema (get it?) a tape label based in Slupsk that released some strong works from Silna Wola, Stracony as well as Swedish bands like Society Gang Rape or the delicate Dissober. I don't really know what EM sang about but judging from the Sedition/Oi Polloi pagan ecopunk imagery, without mentioning the abstruse name Earth Movement, I would endeavour that they were into radical ecology, nature and nudism. 

This is a great, unpretentious tape and I love it.   

Thursday 6 December 2018

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 2): Undecided "S/t" demo tape, 1996

The next band to get the full Terminal Sound Nuisance treatment is Undecided. For those of you who arrived late at the party, the point of the Polish Tapes Not Police States series is to review a couple of 90's Polish punk tapes that I was fortunate enough to get my grubby hands on last summer at a muddy festival. To make the endeavour more interesting and challenging, I picked six tapes I had never listened to or, at the very least, completely forgot I had, and three of the bands involved were actually unknown to me. Among these punk acts shrouded in mystery was Undecided, probably the most obscure band of the lot. 

While foraging for forgotten gems on the distro tables, the Undecided tape caught my attention with its use of the crass font. Of course, there is nothing original in this particular typological choice, but being a sentimental fool, as a rule, I always check bands who use the crass font. I cannot really help it as it is akin to an automatic response to a sensory stimulus, like some strange punk reflex, and although I am aware that such an ordinary - if not cheap - punk trick seldom indicates a likeness to Crass or their politics, it still gets me every time, though not as much as the use of the Antisect font which makes me lose my legendary cool and I end up looking like a cat chasing a laser beam. Undignified indeed. But anyway, I noticed the crass font, then realized that it had been released on Malarie Records, a well-established label run - at the time - by a Polish and Czech tag team responsible for a lot of quality hardcore and crust recordings throughout the years. Malarie put out too many great tapes and records to mention them all, but it would not be far-fetched to say that the label played a crucial part in supporting, promoting and spreading Polish punk from the 90's onwards. They also made classy tape versions of albums from foreign bands aimed at the Eastern market, at a time when tapes were still very much the main format there, and I clearly remember getting the Malarie versions of Detestation and Scatha albums from them a long time ago... Funny how such outwardly minor events stick in the memory... But let's get back to the matter at hand. What I meant to say is that Malarie could be trusted and that their 90's catalogue was very much to my liking and therefore that Undecided must be decent, maybe not amazing, but at least interesting and enjoyable. Judging from the cover and the font, I was mentally betting on some fast anarcho hardcore-punk, maybe like Włochaty or Guernica y Luno, but perhaps a bit darker and heavier and "modern" because, after all, there was a skeleton on the cover. And I was wrong: Undecided are crustier than a pair of socks after an open air three-dayer.

By now, you all know how much of a sucker for proper 90's eurocrust I am. My militancy to promote this once flourishing subgenre knows no bound and I could be described as a candid enthusiast (or a raving lunatic) when it comes to unadulterated vintage Hiatus worship. And blimey, that's exactly what Undecided were up to, which makes me think that they were not so undecided after all and were, on the contrary, very much resolved to unleash that specific brand of crust that was all the rage in the mid-90's. Undecided were, in the context of the musical production of that decade, generic. If you played the tape to someone who is even remotely into crust, he or she should be able to point out the timeframe and the global area with condescending ease and maybe a sneer. Now, I know that sounds like a rather negative statement, and to be described as "generic" or "derivative" is rarely a sign of creative genius. But in the case of Undecided, I don't see it in that light at all. They were gloriously, positively generic if you will. The fourteen songs on the demo summarize and synthesize what eurocrust typically sounded like at its best and while you could legitimately see that stance as a lack of originality and creativity (because after all, you can always improve on a formula, work on sound textures or moods in order to bring something else to the crust table), you could also consider the tape as a sort of ultimate cavemen crust guidebook (like Dual Vocal 90's Crust for Dummies or something) that fervently and predictably checks all the appropriate boxes, like a validation of crust for crusties.

The Hiatus influence is tremendous on all levels, in the riffs, the structures, the super hoarse vocals, the gratuitous crusty growls, the filthy metallic breaks, the relentlessness, the energy... I have already talked about the importance of Hiatus in the development of crust music in the 90's and I would argue that a record like Way of Doom was probably as influential as any other (without mentioning the band's heavy touring). This tape is everything you are entitled to expect from a top shelf mid-90's gruff crust band, it has that dirty and unstoppable pummeling punk feel, great dual over the top vocals, a bit of variety even, as the first song is a mid-paced old school crust number, the moody and dark "System wartosci" reminds of early Mindrot. On the whole, if most songs play the "forward into crust" game, they also display some clever structural changes with intros, varying beats or some effective metal breaks so that it never sounds dull or - too - linear (because it still has to retain some linearity for it to qualify as proper crust in my book). The sound is raw but powerful (I love the dirty, fuzzy, expressive sound of the bass) and Undecided were actually pretty tight. Unoriginal as they may have been, they could fit comfortably in an act of emulating love with early Disrupt, Subcaos, Enola Gay or Amnesty. Closer to home, I can hear elements of Silna Wola (for the harshness) and Hostility (for the metallic crust moments), but on the whole, I would argue that Undecided did not really sound like the other great Polish crust bands of their time, which may be a little paradoxical for such an openly referential band stylistically. 

There is very little I can tell you about Undecided unfortunately. This tape was their sole record and I haven't been able to identify the members to learn about their punk careers before or after Undecided. They were from Bartoszyce, in the northeast of Poland but that's about all I know. As I mentioned in the first post, there were a massive amount of punk bands at the time in the country so it is not completely surprising that a band with only one demo under its belt would fade into obscurity (even in our arrogant digital age, there are more unearthed gems than we think). Also, the few old-timers I interrogated about Undecided, people who were active in the 90's and saw them live were rather unimpressed by the band's work, if not dismissive. But I suppose it also makes sense. By 1996, this brand of derivative eurocrust must have felt a little tedious and needlessly redundant. Although the tape itself is, I think, very good at what it sets out to produce, it could be discarded as just one more Hiatus type band as well. The context of the listening also conditions the critical reception of any work. 22 years later however, upon first hearing it out of its context, I cannot help but feel favorably for this unpretentious, unoriginal, but incredibly effective and tasteful crust band. But then, who still plays that kind of crust in 2018? And with that same urgency and unselfconsciousness? So, in the end, could I be projecting my own craving for that passé sound onto this 90's artifact? I am undecided.   

Friday 30 November 2018

Polish Tapes Not Police States (kurwa 1): Bisect "Następna Krwawa Interwencja" demo tape, 1995

The idea for this modest series came to me while traveling in Poland last summer. I was at a DIY punk festival, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, not far from the Ukrainian border, called Ultra Chaos Picnic, an appellation that admittedly made me shiver with dread as I was half expecting to be trampled to death by a horde of drunks. All went very well in the end, as I evidently survived the fest, and there were many distros to browse through to my great delight. Most of them had been going for a long time which accounted for the presence of rather oldish records as well as boxes full of tapes dating back from the 90's (old stock indeed). There were quite a lot of them and I realized that I did not know half of the bands or labels involved. Most, if not all, of them were Polish, some of them demos, others proper tape albums, and all were very representative of that 90's DIY punk spirit that flourished in Europe at the time, and especially in Poland, that I am such a sucker for. Of course, the aesthetics looked very typical and defined by the time and place, if not generic, but then you could argue that a band's proclaimed timelessness is always an illusion and that all classic punk bands were all heavily conditioned by their social, political and cultural environment and products of it and that our critical perspective on a given band is also contextualized. If some genres sound dated and even corny today (like 90's crust and anarchopunk I suppose), I am sure you just need to add a layer of hip and edgy varnish to them to make them look "cool" and worthy of nostalgic longing again. I mean, just look at grunge now. 

As I was trying to guess what the bands I was unfamiliar with sounded like (meaning that I was frowning heavily, a finger across my lips, trying to analyze the covers and understand what the bloke running the distro was mumbling), I was struck by a paradoxical thought. The past few years have seen punk tapes make a strong comeback in the punk scene in Western Europe and North America. While it is true that in some areas of the punk world, for structural reasons, tapes have never ceased to be a relevant format, they had pretty much vanished locally when I got into the punk scene in the early 00's. Local bands released their demos on cdr's because that was the relevant format then and that less and less people bought new tapes (this trend would increase in the following ten years to the point where many people no longer even owned a tape player). Cdr's were cheaper, it was a new, logical thing to do and we basically only used tapes to tape a record from a friend or a rehearsal. The only times I saw distros with large tape sections was when distros from Eastern Europe carrying Malarie or NNNW releases were around in Paris. It was always great since not only were we able to take a look at unknown bands with strange names we could not pronounce, but these distros also offered tape versions of bands like Resist or Oi Polloi or Detestation which were really cheap for us but still great quality with proper booklets and artwork. But it made sense for such labels and distros to deal with tapes because the format was still technologically and economically relevant and pertinent in their context at the time. Almost twenty years on and tapes are back on distro tables in an age of dematerialization and massive music streaming and it is both ironical and unsurprising that the trend came from countries where this particular format had lost all its relevance and convenience and was the stuff of old punks' war stories. If you were being literal, you could joyfully state that tapes never really disappeared, that they are still a meaningful means of sharing art because all the cool hardcore bands do tapes nowadays (both a cause and a consequence of their coolness) but the material reasons why they are doing so (trendy nostalgia for the 80's, the "charm" of the object, punk's accelerating intentional insularity and so on) are very different than those behind 90's DIY punk tapes. I don't mean to say that these are purer representations of punk. They just correspond to and serve different needs and purposes.

I am not anti-tape by any means, I still buy new ones and this is just a reflection (that could be applied, to some extent, to other formats or areas of punk). After all, there is a market for tapes, to be blunt, they are still pretty cheap to produce, nostalgia is a booming industry and there are some smashing new punk tapes being released every week, undeniably. But sometimes, in my darkest mood, I feel we are not that different from snobbish hipsters using Leica cameras to take pictures in 2018 in order to feel "authentic" and "unique". Oh well.  

But I - largely - digress. Enough silly considerations about the economics and technological dynamics of the punk scene and let's get to the first tape of the batch. I picked six Polish punk tapes at this festival. Three of the bands I had never heard and three I was pretty familiar with. All the tapes were released between 1995 and 1999 and sometimes I haven't been able to find much intel about them which, if anything, proves that there are still untapped corners of the global punk scene worth investigating. The thing was that, according to my knowledgeable informers in the Polish scene, there were hundreds of crust/hardcore/thrash bands in Poland in the 90's. Literally. It was a thriving scene with many dedicated people involved, great turnouts and the amount of tapes released in this period is massive and as a consequence it is no wonder that some of these bands, two decades later, have sunk into obscurity. So let's just assume for the sake of my inflated ego that the six tapes I chose are meaningful if modest samples from the 90's Polish hardcore punk spectrum. And because it is Terminal Sound Nuisance after all, I obviously selected works that looked appealing and fitted the template: hairy fonts, nasty pictures of war and desolate imagery. 

I had never heard of Bisect before getting the Następna Krwawa Interwencja tape and the element of surprise an mystery was welcome, since I rarely buy records from bands I do not know anymore (now that it is so easy to check the music online beforehand). I quite liked the name but found the gory picture of a child soldier holding a human skull pretty tasteless (but then, very 90's). What sealed the deal was the presence of a Hellkrusher cover on the tape. Yes, a cover of a 1992 Hellkrusher song ("Dying for who") recorded in 1995. Of course, I fell for it. Bisect originally hailed from Radom, a town located between Lodz and Lublin (roughly) and formed in 1993, with bassist Jancy being apparently the instigator. The first lineup included Jancy and drummer Wara (both formerly in Means of Control and the Wara also played in Homomilitia at some point) and Jaga on the guitar (from bands like The Corpse, Disgusting Lies and even Oi Polloi and Disorder). By 1995 the members had changed however with Jaga being replaced with Wasyl and the recruiting of two singers, Japko and Pieczara. Can you guess already where I am getting at? Two singers? Some dual vocal crusty stuff? Man, you are too smart for this game.

Despite the rather grindy aesthetics, Bisect were a metal-tinged crust act with dual gruff vocals and they would nor be out of place on a "90's Cavemen crust volume 2" compilation. It's not all that straight-forward though as the drummer is obviously very skilled and capable. From grinding blast beats to death-oriented double bass drumming to mean metalcore mosh parts, he manages to fit it all in more or less subtly on this recording but his technical abilities never overshadow the simple and direct crust formula (which is for better, no one wants to listen to technical cavemen crust, right?). There were a lot of top shelf crust bands in Poland in the 90's like Homomilitia, Sanctus Iuda, Silna Wola, Enough! so I am guessing that Bisect did not really stand out from the crowd at the time and even in retrospect, I suppose you could say they were quite generic in 1995. However, if you are looking for a solid, raw, energetic and honest typical 90's eurocrust band with a metal-edge and hoarse vocals, look no further (but realistically, if you have read this far, that's probably exactly what you are looking for). There are some heavy and groovy metallic breaks and intros but mostly the band rely on pummeling eurocrust to get their point across. I am reminded of mix between a rawer Toxic Bonkers, Hellkrusher and vintage Subcaos (especially in the vocals arrangements) and also, for some reason, of 00's Czech crust bands (like Dread 101 for instance).

The band was pretty active in putting on shows in their areas in the mid-90's and they even recorded materials for splits with Diskonto and Stereofoniczna Pralka do Szycia (whoever they were) that sadly never saw the light of day. Następna Krwawa Interwencja was released on a label called TKA, based in Nowy Targ, that put on a couple of tapes 1994 and 1999 from Polish bands like Action Freedom or Alkochol Front and even a tape version of Disclose's demos and Extinction of Mankind's first album. The lyrics are of a political nature and are appropriately angry with topics ranging from Western imperialism, homelessness or religion in Catholic Poland (English translations are provided). Out of nowhere, Bisect reformed with a completely different lineup (made up of people from Poland, Italy and France) in Dublin in 2013 but I am not sure about the connection between the two incarnations of the band.

And by the way, the Hellkrusher cover is ace.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Stations of the Crust: an overview of 90's metallic crust (part 2)

This is the second part of my 90's metallic crust retrospective and I refer you the first one if you need details about its making, perspective and intent. 

25 bands with 25 songs of crunchy, groovy, heavy metal-oriented old school crust recorded between 1990 and 1999, with one exception since Absurd Attitude's song is from 2000 (but since they were definitely a 90's band and their song is absolutely brilliant, I chose to include it). As I wrote previously, the format of a decade may not be the most relevant template when looking at crust (I suppose working with scenes and areas would be more effective). Therefore, although there are similarities between songs, they also sound very different with varying international influences ranging from doom metal, black metal or even metalcore. 

I suppose that more than just a few bands included here were not "crust bands" (Ironside were a SxE hardcore band after all and Sonic Violence were part of the industrial metal scene). However, according to my infallible crust detector, they did pen top notch crust songs, willingly or not, so here they are. 

Finally, the two compilations are of course subjective in the sense that they represent what I love, and expect from genuine, proper metallic crust music. I tried to focus on mood, vibe and tension rather than a crust checklist. I hope it was worth it. 

There we go then:


01. Χειμερία Νάρκη / Hibernation « Χαμένο Παιχνίδι » from the S/t Ep, 1997 (Athens, Greece)

02. Dystopia « Anger brought by disease » from the split Lp with Skaven, 1996 (Oakland, U$A)

03. Sonic Violence « Symptom » from the Jagd Lp, 1990 (Southend, England)

04. Dread Messiah « Gutted » from the Whispers compilation 2xLp, 1994 (London, England) 

05. 13 « Plague » from the Falling Apart / Wither split Ep with Grief, 1993 (New York, U$A)

06. Effigy « Destructive of the Earth » from the No Hesitation to Resist compilation 10'', 1998 (Kagawa, Japan)

07. Ironside « Smothered conviction » from the Neutered Innocence tape, 1992 (Bradford, England)

08. Jesusexercise « The voice of profit, the sound of poverty » from The Voice of Profit, the Sound of Poverty Ep, 1990 (Vaxjo, Sweden)

09. Earth Citizens « System slaves » from the No God No Leaders No State No Religion Ep, 1991 (Zürich, Switzerland)

10. Blood Sucking Freaks « Smash the swastika » from the Those Left Behind demo tape, 1994 (Up North, England)

11. Ξεχασμένη Προφητεία / Forgotten Prophecy « Never ending road » from the split Lp with Mushroom Attack, 1990 (Athens, Greece)

12. Genital Deformities « Genocide » from the Who did this to my Sister? split cd with Subcaos, 1994 (Kingswinford, England)

13. Hostility « Massmedia » from the I Niech Jeden Strzał demo tape, 1995 (Ełk, Poland)

14. Acrasy « Godsucker » from Deviated Instinct's Re-Opening Old Wounds cd, 1993/1990 (London, England)

15. Counterblast « Depression » from the Balance of Pain Lp, 1996 (Jönköping, Sweden)

16. Holocaust « The ultimate end » from the S.I. One compilation Ep, 1991 (Lawndale, U$A)

17. Sarcasm « Think about it » from The Lowest Form of Wit Ep, 1992 (Leicester, England)

18. Oi Polloi « Thin green line » from the In Defence of our Earth Lp, 1990 (Edinburgh, Scotland)

19. A//Solution « Tumor » from the Things to Come cd, 1995/1992 (Orange County, U$A)

20. Corpus Vile « Mourn the shadows » from the Soggy split Lp with Maggot Slayer Overdrive, 1993 (Bristol, England)

21. Patareni « Zastave » from the 6343 / Same cd, 2002/1994 (Zagreb, Croatia)

22. Carnage « Desperate future » from the Mie City Hardcore compilation Ep, 1994 (Mie City, Japan)

23. Absurd Attitude « Popularity hell » from the North Ep, 2000 (Tampere, Finland)

24. Ψύχωση / Psychosis « Αιρετική Κραυγή » from the S/t Lp, 2016/1996 (Athens, Greece)

25. Skaven « Severed » from the S/t Ep, 1996 (Oakland, U$A)

Monday 22 October 2018

The Filth and the Crusty: an overview of 90's metallic crust (part 1)

After the resounding success of Terminal Sound Nuisance's cavemen crust compilation that focused on brutal and fast gruff crust music produced in the 90's, it was high time I got off my arse and dealt with the other, darker side of crust, the genre's guilty pleasure: metal. 

Sometimes, lines are thin, boundaries are fluid to the point of irrelevance and attempts at grasping the essence of metallic crust can prove to be futile, if not sisyphean. Like for its fast and furious brother, mood, vibe and tension are defining factors, and the mere addition of strict musical elements is not enough to characterize crust. It is not all subjective however, and of course, there are compulsory aspects for a song to be called a metallic crust one. Heavy, groovy apocalyptic riffs, an epic sense of atmosphere, gruff vocals, a thundering bass sound, without mentioning the crucial punk energy and aggression. 

It could be argued that metallic crust has become very redundant and predictable since the 00's (with some exceptions, fortunately). This tendency is paradoxical since, contrary to cavemen crust, which offers limited possibilities for innovations and creativity, the infusion of metal should be door-opening rather than formulaic. But more often than not, when I hear about a contemporary metal crust band, it often sounds like Bolt Thrower with a d-beat, which, I suppose, has a lot to do with the so-called stenchcore revival of the 00's. So while all the songs compiled here have meaningful similarities (especially in terms of vibe I think), I tried to highlight the variety in the contributions to the genre that 90's bands made. There are influences from doom metal, death metal, industrial metal, heavy metal, but it still organically refers to the original wave, and hence fall under the crust umbrella (maybe unwillingly!).

The choice to work from a chronological perspective is probably problematic. If all the songs included here were recorded between 1990 and 2000, some bands were not necessarily "90's bands" like Nausea or Prophecy of Doom. Similarly, some bands make much more sense on an area-based compilation rather than a time-based one. I am aware of these discrepancies but I wanted to do a global overview based on musical similarities and shared attributes. Of course, a Japanese or Californian crust comp would offer a deeper, more significant perspective (like I did for the Greek scene for instance). Maybe on another occasion.

Most of the 25 songs were ripped from my collection and, as usual, for the lazies, I uploaded the thing onto youtube. The second part will be posted shortly.

Enjoy this unhealthy slice of CRUST. 

01. Filth of Mankind "Zwiastun" from their Czas Końca Wieku Ep, 1999 (Gdansk, Poland)

02. Prophecy of Doom "Onward ever backward" from the second BBC Peel Session, 1991 (Tewkesbury, England)

03. Ανθρωπινος Ληθαργος "Μονος Μπροστα Στο Θανατο" from their s/t demo tape, 1992 (Athens, Greece)

04. Hiatus "Equality, conception of life" from their In my Mind demo tape, 1990 (Liège, Belgium)

05. Warcollapse "It's time to..." from their Crust as Fuck Existence mini Lp, 1995 (Värnamo, Sweden)

06. Stagnation "Songs of praise" from their Answer to Time cd, 1998 (Dublin, Ireland)

07. Cirrhosis "?" from a practice session, early/mid 90's (Minneapolis, U$A)

08. Depressor "Mammoth" from their Grace demo tape, 1997 (San Francisco, U$A)

09. AGE "Inside darkness" from their Inside Darkness Ep, 1997 (Niigata, Japan)

10. Ανάσα Στάχτη "Καταδίκη" from their their s/t Lp, 1994 (Athens, Greece)

11. Coitus "Arbeit macht frei" from the Submission/Domination tape, 1992 (London, England)

12. Nausea "Cybergod" from their Cybergod Ep, 1991 (New York, U$A)

13. Carcinogen "Civilized" from their Kure demo tape, 1992 (Orange County, U$A)

14. Defiance "Intro + Future is darkness" from the Meaningful Consolidation 2xEp compilation, 1994 (Osaka, Japan)

15. Policebastard "Major label control" from their Traumatized Lp, 1995 (Birmingham, England)

16. Scatha "I am one" from their Respect, Protect, Reconnect Lp, 1996 (Glasgow, Scotland)

17. SDS "Apocalypse now" from their In to the Void unreleased Lp, 1992 (Gifu, Japan)

18. Misery "Children of war" from their Who's the Fool... Lp, 1994 (Minneapolis, U$A)

19. Σαρκασμός "Απόγονος Ανθρώπινου Μυαλού" from their Ο Ζωγράφος Της Παρακμής demo tape, 1995 (Greece)

20. Lardarse "Slave" from their Armchair Apathy Ep, 1997 (Nottingham, England)

21. Mindrot "Blink of an eye" from their s/t demo tape, 1990 (Huntington Beach, U$A)

22. Extinction of Mankind "Puppets of power" from their Scars of Mankind still Weep Ep, 1998 (Manchester, England)

23. Confrontation "Contortion" from their Dead Against the War Ep, 1991 (Huntington Beach, U$A)

24. Insurgence "Hawk and the dove" from the Squat or Rot 2 compilation Ep, 1990 (New York, U$A)

25. Χαοτικό Τέλος "Τίποτα Αληθινό" from their Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια Lp, 1993 (Athens, Greece)

Monday 8 October 2018

Summer comps not summer camps (part 5): "Spleurk!" compilation Lp, 1988

There you go, here is the fifth installment of my unseasonal series about lovely compilations to listen to in the summertime. Some argue that I should have picked at least one record that includes jumpy, shorts-wearing Californians - usually wannabes - singing in nasal tones, but I just did not find it in my heart - and in my record collection - to do it. I suppose you can consider yourselves lucky for that discrepancy since I have never been into melodic hardcore from that side of the pond and writing about it would have been very challenging indeed (not to mention ripe with gratuitous negativity). So let's stick with the comfort zone of UK punk, although, it has to be pointed out, some bands on this one certainly looked up to American melody makers.

OMG! A barcode! :'o

I guess a compilation Lp called Spleurk conjures up images of nasty, distasteful, gore-oriented grindcore bands or numbingly deafening one-man noisecore bands, but you would be wrong. If the onomatopoeia is indeed used to convey the sense of something slimy and gross splashing on a surface (like a fat smoker's phlegm or a slice of your granny's sunday cake), the lineup of Spleurk has more than a few tunes in its bags and sounds decidedly more melodic than other late 80's UK compilations like Hiatus or Digging in Water (but about as much as Airstrip One if you need a point of comparison). But then, I suppose it makes sense since Spleurk was released on Meantime Records - the label founded by Ian Armstrong, who played in the tuneful Dan and then Sofahead - an entity that illustrated two coexisting sonic faces of the UK punk scene of the mid/late 80's. If Meantime did put out some illustrious gruff crust works by the likes of Sore Throat, Hellbastard or Mortal Terror, it also promoted the more melodic, US-influenced part of the scene with records from HDQ, Exit Condition or Leatherface, which certainly showed that there was more variety to the punk scene then than what is officially thought. As a result, the Lp sounds very diverse and, if it would be far-fetched to claim that it is packed with unforgettable punk anthems (the epic claim is often found on the cover of corny streetpunk/oi compilations and it is pretty much never true, I mean, who really needs live versions of Anti Nowhere League or Anti Pasti?), there are still some genuinely brilliant songs that will surely make your punk day. Besides, the Lp includes a thick booklet with artworks and lyrics from - almost - all the bands and that, faithful readers, is what a top notch comp is all about.

The first band of the Lp is Exit Condition, who hailed from one of punk's most sacred places: Stoke-On-Trent. Now, I am sure that the band is revered in some dark, badly ventilated corners of the punk scene but I am not that familiar with their discography (especially their 90's period). What I do know however is that their late 1988 Ep, Bite Down Hard, was not only a prime example of energetic and fast melodic hardcore but also ticked three incredible boxes for the time: it was released on Pusmort, produced by Bones and had a cover drawn by Squeal. If that does not qualify the Ep as a classic, I don't know what would. The song "Twisted tracks" is taken from EC's first demo tape, Impact Time, recorded in early 88', which was rawer and snottier than the Ep (works for me) but already contained the formula the band were great at, fast hardcore with great tunes, reminiscent of Hüsker Dü, Minor Threat and The Stupids. This is a perfect opener from a solid band that, I'm guessing, must be held in very high esteem by some segment of the punk population.

Next are Gold, Frankincense + Disk- Drive but first, that we will refer to as GFDD from now on for the sake of decency. I don't really know them that well but they had a song on an early Peaceville sampler and their first '87 Lp was also released on the label. I think they were from the Leeds area since Mavis and Harry from Chumbawamba (and Passion Killers for the former!) collaborated with the band on the aforementioned album. Musically I suppose you could say GFDD (who were really a dynamic duo) played progressive punk. Or something. Their songs had a lot of variations and variety and included drum machines, samples, weird sound effects. Interesting, creative stuff for sure but it's not really my cuppa. "Necessary extremes" sounds like a trancey, darkened, demented bend of GBH, NoMeansNo and industrial punk (?).

Cowboy Killers then follow with the song "Your dreaming" (a spelling mistake since it should have been "You're dreaming" as is indicated on the CK's first Lp, Koyaanisqatsi, for which the band re-recorded the song). This number is a sarcastic critique of anarchopunk's idealism and naivety (more often than not, their lyrics were often humorous and tongue-in-cheek) and Terminus even wrote the very serious song "We're dreaming?" in response to it. Anyway, CK were a fast, energetic and tuneful US-styled hardcore punk band (not unlike Bad Brains maybe) from Wales with great singalong chorus and a Biafra-esque singer who was famous for his stage antics. This early song was recorded in 1988 but the band kept going until 1999 which is quite an achievement. 

Sore Throat are next with a...let's call it a noise contribution. Technically, the band has four ""songs"" on Spleurk but three of them are just two second long bursts of savagery while the fourth one is a crunchy Frost-like cavemen stomp with a filthy metal riff and over-the-top gruff crustier than crust vocals. Yes, I love it. Misaaaarrrrrrggghhhhhhey! I'm sure you already know about Sore Throat so need to dwell upon them. Let's just say that your dad won't probably like them too much.

After this much-needed break of neanderthalic music, let's get back to some cracking tunes with the mighty Cold Vietnam from Redditch. Actually, I have already talked about them in the past for the 8 Years Too Late article about melodic UK anarchopunk circa 88/92. This is what I had to say about them. And yes I am literally quoting myself:

"This was an obscure band from the same area as Joyce McKinney Experience that only released one demo and appeared on a handful of compilations between 1988 and 1989: Cold Vietnam. Based in Redditch, the guitarist and singer, Andy Forward, had also played on Visions of Change's final LP, My Mind's Eye in 1989. Cold Vietnam formed in 1986 after the demise of several other local bands. They were apparently not too active for the first year but, in 1988, they managed to record a demo, Blast Into Action with Hunt the Man, that should have taken them to much greater things. Despite a cover reminiscent of the cheapest crossover music, the demo tape is an incredible effort. Carried by the singer's powerful and tuneful voice, "Blast Into Action" is a unique collection of political punk hits (with a strong emphasis on animal rights) and displays a wide variety of genres, from moody anthemic post punk, to passionate melodic US hardcore, to mid-tempo anarcho punk, to melodic UK punk rock and even a punky reggae number. Perfectly produced, this demo is one of the most underrated recordings of this era. Two songs were lifted from it and landed on the brilliant "Spleurk" compilation LP in 1988. Released on Meantime Records, it saw Cold Vietnam rub shoulders with bands like Sofa Head, HDQ and Cowboy Killers. It was not however Cold Vietnam's first vinyl appearance. Indeed, earlier in 1988, their song "Rock Stars" was included on a compilation LP entitled "Vinyl Virgins" that was aimed at providing a first vinyl appearance to promising rock bands! It was released on Mighty Sheffield Records and Cold Vietnam even contributed another song on the label's second compilation LP, Lemonade and Cyanide."  

CV have two songs on Spleurk, one on each side, "9-25" and "Hunt the man", both taken from their exquisite Blast into Action demo tape. "9-25" is an intense yet melodic hardcore number with catchy chorus reminiscent of this distinctly British, very tuneful take on hardcore that was rampant in the late 80's. "Hunt the man" is a hard-hitting, rocking mid-paced anarchopunk hit about animal rights. If Omega Tribe had been into heavy rock, it would have produced something close to this gem. A cracking, versatile band that had tremendous potential. 

The Fine Arts of hardcore

Trench Fever from Brixton, London, are up next and I must admit I have never really paid much attention to the band (though I really dig the name). Trapped in a Scene tells us that TF was made up of former Bad Dress Sense and Destructors (yes, Destructors!) members so you can already guess that they - also - played fast and tuneful UK hardcore influenced by Bad Brains and the likes, not unlike what Cowboy Killers or Depraved were also doing. Not bad but maybe a bit thin. I like the backing chorus and the cheesy drawing of the punk lad though.

People who are fortunate enough to know me will all tell you the same thing: I am a huge sucker for Dan. Of course, the name is terrible and the band's aesthetics rather peculiar but Dan bridged the gap between classic UK anarchopunk and melodic hardcore with maestria, one cracking tune after another. I don't like Sofa Head quite as much, probably because the vintage anarcho influence was more in the background, but I see them as the logical, diachronic continuation of Dan. Hailing from Darlington, SH had Meantime boss Ian on the bass and Wal on the guitar (both previously in Dan), Claire on vocals and Laing (from Hex, HDQ and Leatherface) on the drums. However, the SH songs included on Spleurk were not recorded with Laing but with former Dan's drummer Jim, so you've basically got Dan with new compositions and a new vocalist. The two tracks, "Ugly" and "World", are raw but potent melodic hardcore punk anthems with top notch guitar leads and bass lines, reminiscent of other Northern bands previously mentioned but with anarcho-tinged female vocals, not unlike Indian Dream or... Dan. Really classy stuff though you can tell that the band was still in its embryonic stages. I particularly like the moodiness of "World" (the full correct title is "A world fir for nothing") which would be re-recorded for the first album. Ace! 

Next are Chopper, who also have two songs on the Lp, "Mr Shitface" and "Workout!". Now I know nothing about Chopper but from what I can hear, they were a humorous, fast, snotty hardcore band. The playing is a bit sloppy and the songwriting fairly generic but the energy is there and the lyrics to "Workout!" are pretty funny indeed. Works well enough on this compilation for me. 

The aptly-named Why? follow with the very good song "It could be better". The band was from Brighton and had a demo tape with the ineptly-named Immolato Tomatoes (Why?'s drummer would join Sleep afterwards). Why? were, judging from their aesthetics and lyrics, an anarchopunk band but they were certainly influenced by the tunefulness and speed of US hardcore like many other bands at the time included on Spleurk. I guess they retain a punkier side which reminds me quite a bit of an '87 Revulsion jamming with an '87 Hex in HDQ's shed. I really like it! The riffs are very melodic and the singing almost too happy-sounding at times but there is an undeniable drive and sense of tunes here that I find most pleasing. I wish I knew more songs from them. How catchy can punk get?

And now let's have some half-demented, weirdo, surrealistic punk-rock in the guise of Shrug, a long-running theatrical band from Middlesbrough. They are somehow difficult to describe and I suppose that's the whole point of Shrug anyway. I can hear bits of All the Madmen type anarchopunk like The Astronauts or Blyth Power, some dirty psychedelic rock (especially with the garage beats and the organ) and an absurdist sense of humour like a more adult Wat Tyler. It is actually really good once you get into it and the song "Donna and the Daleks" (about Doctor Who obviously) will make you move your hips in a disorderly situationist fashion. If Beckett or Barthelme had been into punk, they would have listened to Shrug I'm sure. An entertaining and interesting bunch.

Next are Doom. Yes, Doom. Need I say more? Actually, yes, I kinda do. This version of "Agree to differ" was recorded in May, 1988, a few months after the War Crimes sessions and was part of an unreleased demo - their third one - entitled Domesday that you can listen to in its entirety on the retrospective Doomed from the Start (I recommend the cd version, for once, because it has a fourth demo as well). Ironically, "Agree to differ" was one of the only slow songs from Doom's repertoire, not to mention the longest. It was Doom at its rawest and most juvenile and I just love the dark tones and the threatening simplicity of this number. Unselfconscious crust. Lovely.

Following up, City Indians, from Derby, contributed one of Spleurk's most memorable moments with their song "Hanging by a thread". In spite of their well-meaning but rather awkward and cheesy name (but then, Flux of Pink Indians had opened that gate earlier), CI were a solid anarchopunk band around in the mid-80's whose drummer Andy would join the mighty Concrete Sox in 1986. Their first demo Spoilsport was enjoyable but pretty generic however, 1987 Root of Freedom was a much more accomplished, versatile anarcho work that was both hard-hitting and moody, somewhere between Conflict and Ad'Nauseam for their fast and angry side and The Mob or Omega Tribe for the mellower, more introspective, darker vibe permeating the songwriting. Very classy stuff and "Hanging by a thread", having been recorded just a few months after Root of Freedom, displays the same attributes. The song starts as a heavy, angry mid-paced number, not unlike Icons of Filth or Stone the Crowz, before going into a soft, poppy, almost hippyish moment with delicate harmonics and tuneful vocals (Omega Tribe really springs to mind), then the punky mid-tempo resumes before ending with rocking dissonant guitar solos. Quite a ride. The riffs are great, the vocals are pissed, low-pitched and adequately expressive and the conception of the song itself shows that CI certainly had original ideas about songwriting. Unfortunately I cannot say that their 1988 Ep lived up to what they displayed earlier. Still, someone should reissue the recordings from 1986 and 1987. For my birthday for example. Just saying.   

Anarcho Fine Arts 101

By comparison, Upset Tummy sound quite basic but no less enjoyable if you are into parodical anarchopunk spoken words. The song is called "State oppression" and it pretty much ticks all the boxes which makes me think that it is some kind of joke band (assuming it is an actual band). The address is from Gipsy Hill, London, where some well-known farcical jokers lived (and still do to my knowledge) so my best guess is that Sean Wat Tyler had some fun in the studio with a mate and send these 30 seconds of self-righteous anarcho outrage to Meantime. But I could be wrong.

Nox Mortis were of course much more serious - not to mention gloomier - and, like Cold Vietnam, I have already touched upon the band in that quixotic article about late 80's anarchopunk (here). If anything, our current decade can be defined as a very nostalgic one, to the point of goofiness at times. Not only are 80's punk-rock bands being reissued at a crazy pace, but even new bands tend to do little more than worship and refer to 80's punk-rock bands, often branded with the essentialist seal of "authenticity". And to be honest, it's not just punk-rock, it's pretty much a global postmodern urban thing. But anyway, I am dying to see the day when there will be a NM reissue. In fact, along with Awake Mankind, The Assassins and Polemic, NM is THE 80's anarchopunk band I would love to see reissued (and my opinion is gold so if you want to be seen as one of the cool kids, you should at least pretend to agree with the statement).

NM were from Southampton and formed in 1986 from the ashes of another local anarcho band called Suicide Pact (I unfortunately know only one song from SP but, based on that one number, they played moody female-fronted anarchopunk, just how I like it). Musically, the band was absolutely brilliant, tuneful and dark, passionate and desperate, angry and sad, reminiscent of Omega Tribe Kulturkampf, Naked or The Mob (or even Demob actually), with great emotional, bittersweet vocals, moody guitar leads and the catchiest of tunes. However, NM were not your typical punks: they were into poetry. To be more specific, into WW1 poets. Some of their songs ("Arms and the boys", "Flanders Field" and of course "In memoriam") were adaptations of poems from WW1 poets Ewart Alan Mackintosh, Wilfred Owen and John McCrae and the very name Nox Mortis referred to Paul Bewsher. Pretty grim and moving at the same time, I admit, but then it was a clever and original way to express your opposition to war and it certainly conveys an appropriate sense of hopelessness and loss. War-poem-turned-anarchopunk "In memoriam" is maybe the band's best songs, intense and profound, with that typical anarcho sensibility. It was recorded in 1987 during the same session as the Shall we Dance? split Lp. Top drawer, definitely.

Next are HDQ, a fairly well-known and respected band from Sunderland that included three members of Hex (and of course, Leatherface). I am not sure when "Bridges & walls" was recorded (1987? 1988?) but I guess it was with the same lineup as the You Suck! Lp that was also released on Meantime. So basically it was the melodic hardcore HDQ, a prime example of the British version of US melodic hardcore bands like 7 Second or Hüsker Dü. I like that song and I can definitely hear the similarities between this HDQ and late Hex. It's a winner, full of energy, passion and tunes (of course). 

The last band of Spleurk is Inside Out, the only non-British one on the Lp since they were an all-female trio from Detroit. I am not really familiar with them but I guess they fit well in this context. I suppose you could describe them as a proto-riot grrrl band, with that typical grungy rock sound and garage tones. I've never been much of a sucker for that specific early 90's American sound, precisely because it sounds too American for my ears, but this Inside Out's song does it for me. Quite poppy and punky at the same time, like cross between Androids of MU, Joyce McKinney Experience and US bands like The Gits. Fun and liberating.

To wrap it up, I have got some good news for you: you'll be able to find Spleurk for pretty cheap. I am not sure why, since it is a solid compilation from a significant label with some very strong songs and an ace-looking booklet, but there you go. If I were a cynical bastard I would venture that the reason is that the hipster fringe of the punk scene does not care for that sound (yet?) and prices haven't been inflated (yet?). A second volume of Spleurk was released in 1990 but I don't think it is quite as good, or maybe it's just not punky enough for me. Yet?