Friday 1 June 2018

Noize Not Music is a Fine Art: "No Hesitation to Resist" compilation 10'', 1998

This is the last stop of our leisurely journey through the untamed land of Japanese crust noise-making. We hope to see you soon on Terminal Sound Nuisance Cruise. Please, don't forget to collect all your belongings before going back to your crazy fucked up daily life. Ta!

And to wrap up our noizy ride, let's enjoy a longer record in the shape of a format that I love: a bloody compilation 10''. For fast, hard-hitting hardcore music, you could make a case that this is the ideal format, neither too short nor too long, a bit like a 45 rpm Lp but not as heavy to manipulate. For some reason, I have always been into 10'' records. The size appeals to me and their relative scarcity makes them look more stylish than regular records, not unlike flexis nowadays, except I loath flexis. In 2018, flexis are the format equivalent of a hipster with brand new old-school tats and an ironic metal shirt. In fact, I strictly buy new flexis in cases of emergency. 10'' records are more akin to your loyal mate who has always been a bit of an eccentric but has his heart in the right place (meaning he is genuinely into Discharge). Anyway...

No Hesitation to Resist is made up of twelve Japanese hardcore punk bands (in a broad sense) that can all be defined as noizy, meaning - in the frames of this study - that they make a point in playing punk music that sounds essentially raw by nature and by choice. Rawness becomes a creative choice and an artistic postulate, not just the reflection of teenage urgency, lack of means and dodgy musicianship. Not unlike a school of thoughts but without having to read any critical theory and with a lot of studs and gratuitous growls, because it's punk, innit? 

I find this 10'' highly enjoyable. I do not think I could listen to a full album of all the bands it includes, but I feel that, on a compilation, the lineup is excellent as it displays a crispy variety of punk (sub)genres that are all tied up together with their attraction toward and their focus on a raw and direct sound, so that you do not have that annoying patchwork feel some compilations unfortunately have. Although taken individually, the songs on No Hesitation to Resist may not all be amazing, the tone cohesion of the selection makes for a really solid record, as opposed to a compilation that would have superior individual tracks but without any strong sense of togetherness and fluidity of form and thus of content. Know what I mean? As for the previous records tackled in Noize Not Music is a Fine Art, this one can also be considered as an accurate illustration of the Japanese crusty scene in the late 90's with well-known familiar faces as well as smaller bands that did not leave much of a trace afterwards. Hindsight is cruel. 

Since there are twelve bands to talk about, I will try to be brief but, as you all know by now, I like too much the sound of my own voice for that to really happen (who said Terminal Self Importance?). So let's go forward into battle to the end of the Earth, shall we? The first band is Truth of Arize from Tokyo and they deliver the best song of No Hesitation. Honestly. As simple as that. In fact, you could get the record just for the song "Controlled freedom" and it would still be a good deal. 

I do not know much about ToA. They formed in 1996 and released three demos: a 1997 split demo tape with Ignorance from Yokohama entitled Abuse and Abusers..., a self-titled demo tape in 1998 and another tape, called System Crucified (no date for that one). Because life is deeply unfair, I am only familiar with the '98 demo from which "Controlled freedom" is actually taken. And it is an absolute scorcher, without the shadow of a doubt one of the best - if not the best - dual vocal crust band from Japan that I have been given the opportunity to hear. The songs are brutal, intense and very catchy, with that typically obnoxious, obliviously angry vibe that defines the finest cavecrust. Of course, I can hear classics like Extreme Noise Terror, Abraham Cross, Amen or Disrupt, but there is also a crushing, relentless Japanese scandicrust vibe in the songs that brings Framtid or Frigöra to mind. The over-the-top vocals work perfectly together and, combined with the insane energy of the recording, ToA sound pretty much unstoppable. Look me in the eye and tell me that the way the music speeds up after the mid-paced D-beat introduction of "Controlled freedom" is not devastating. Come and have a go if you think you're crust enough! This song as well as the three others off the '98 demo are essential and we should all pray for it to be reissued someday. 

ToA went on to release a full Lp in 1999, the delicate Genocide Massacre Holocaust, which was some sort of demented concept album combining noize and harsh noise. Basically, a blend of harsh ambient music with a lot of white noise and shit with some bouncy Doom-loving crust like Abraham Cross and Mindsuck. I personally like it a lot but it is not something I would play at 9am on a sunday morning (I would wait until at least 10). Try it if you dare. I love that band.

Next are one of Tokyo's most famous anarcho crust export and Terminal Sound Nuisance regulars, Battle of Disarm. I have already written about them several times (here and here) but they were invited on a lot of compilations in the 90's and early 00's so their presence is not surprising. BoD contribute a rerecording of one of their early 90's classic, "Our invasion", with a super crunchy eurocrust Hiatus-y sound, filthy metallic guitar and gruff vocals which makes this version more powerful than the original.

Disclose follow and what can be said about the metaphysicians of d-beat (maybe this)? They turned a band - Discharge - and their tentacular influence into an endless source of inspiration, into a proper structural worldview, into a validated genre. They can be defined as THE noizy band by design. If only one had to be picked, it would be Disclose, for Kawakami's dedication and unshakable faith in Discharge-loving hardcore punk. The Disclose song here is "In agony" and I am actually at a loss since I cannot state with my customary self-assurance the recording session to which this version of the song belongs. We are clearly in the Dis-Lickers era of the band (to rephrase it, Discharge by way of 80's raw Swedish hardcore) and the lineup is the same as on the split with Totalitär, however the version is slightly different to the one from that split. Both are very similar but there is more distortion on the guitar and the vocals are double-tracked, which gives this take of "In agony" a nice old-school Discharge feel (I know some dislike double-tracked D-beat vocals but I am generally in favour). Or perhaps I am going deaf and I am hearing (dis)voices. Whatever the truth is it is a brilliant Disclose song, with a strong Discard and Shitlickers influence. And Discharge? And Discharge.

The next band is Absent from Amagasaki (not too far from Osaka) and I am sadly not familiar with this lot. Discogs tells me that they also had a demo tape called Fixed Contamination....... (yes with seven suspension marks) and judging from the lyrics, the band was heavily into green politics but that's about it. They were also included on an antiwar compilation Ep along with Argue Damnation (who released it on their own FFT Label) and Victims of Greed (it's a small world since both bands are also on No Hesitation to Resist) so one might infer that they belonged to the same crew of political punks, but that can be far-fetched. Absent played energetic, hard-hitting and angry Japanese hardcore thrash with a d-beat feel and intense raspy vocals (not quite unlike Argue Damnation) and fit perfectly on this compilation. 

And my mentioning Osaka's Argue Damnation above was premonitory since they are the next in line. I have always liked AD and have much respect for their staunch DIY spirit and their genuine political lyrics and attitude. Since they had toured in Europe (in the late 90's I suppose?), I remember the band was regularly referred to positively by older, wiser (?) punks in the early 00's. And I find their manga-styled drawings of punks to be ace, but that's probably because I grew up watching Saint Seiya in the 80's. AD was formed by Aoishi after Iconoclast folded and played typically fast and intense 90's anarcho thrash punk, with that distinctive triumphant energy borrowed from traditional Japanese hardcore and some crusty punk for good measure (after all they played a lot in Osaka in the 90's so that was unavoidable). They were usually pretty fast and furious - especially at the time of No Hesitation - but their song "Anti the new Japan-US security" (about a military agreement between both superpowers) has a moderate pace. The sound is thick, the aggression raw, the bass thunderingly groovy, the guitar riff catchy and epic and the vocals have that snotty and pissed punky vibe that I crave. A bit like a Japanese take on Sedition? A great band that does not the recognition it deserves (probably because their records still go for cheap).

Victims of Greed are next. Hailing from Itami in the Hyogo Prefecture (like Absent), they can be seen as one of the forgotten heroes of crust in Japan. And I mean this quite literally since everyone seems to have forgotten about them. They were around in the mid/late 90's so you could argue that the crust throne was obviously a coveted position and that competition was bound to be harsh, but they deserve more than a mere footnote in the grand story of gratuitous growls and patched up pants. In terms of outputs, FFT released a split Ep between VoG and Scum Noise (from Brazil) which saw the band unleash fast polyphonic crusty hardcore and the label also included them on the aforementioned 反新安保 compilation Ep, to which VoG contributed two genuine gruff crust hits (probably from the same recording session as the song from No Hesitation to Resist) and reveal their true ugly face to the world. "Mouth head" sounds like a beefy cross (or a cider-induced brawl) between Battle of Disarm, 90's Doom, the mighty Hiatus and Condemned, one capable of outcrusting a lot of what the decade had to offer (which was an awful lot). Bear-like cavemen vocals, a raw but loud crunchy guitar sound with a lot of feedback, a heavy metallic bass sound. This is seriously heavy. The song starts off with a filthy mid-paced Discharge part before diving dreads first into extreme noise heaven. Fuck me, this is great. If their Authority --> Rotten demo is as anywhere solid, I think we have a real winner. Simple, direct and glorious cavemen crust. After the demise of Victims of Greed, Yosuke (guitar and vocals) joined the very good Reduction.  

It is now time to flip side and deal with Äpärät from Kanagawa, who open for side Protest (aka side B). If you ask your average geezer about a Japanese band with lyrics in Finnish, he would just stare at your blankly and think that you have just broken out of the local asylum. If you ask the same thing to a hardcore punk fan, he or she would merely lift an eyebrow and reply "Be more precise, are we talking about the Kobe or the Osaka school?". Japanese punks are well known for their devoted passion and reverence about Scandinavian hardcore and for their absolute sense of detail so it makes sense that some of them would form referential hardcore bands with lyrics in Swedish (Frigöra), Italian (Isterismo), Spanish (Desperdicio) or, of course, in Finnish (I am really looking forward to the day when they will try to sing in French in a Béruriers Noirs type band, great fun ahead). I think Äpärät may have been the first Japanese hardcore band to sing in Finnish and play typical 80's Finnish hardcore, a genre that  - not unlike Japanese noizy punk - owes a lot to Chaos UK and Disorder, so I guess it all makes sense in the end. Of course more bands like Laukaus, Poikkeus or Folkeiis would follow that path of Kaaos/Riistetyt/Tampere SS worship in their native tongue afterwards.

This said, in 1998, Kanagawa's Äpärät did not sing in Finnish yet, although the Kaaos influence is clear on the song "The staff of life" (especially in the raw aggressive sound of the bass and the fast and referential chaotic drumming). This song is pretty much Raw Punk 101 and beside Finnish hardcore, I can hear a UK82 influence with some early Discharge-loving hardcore thrown in as well (Death Sentence meet Diatribe in Sweden or something). I love the punky snotty binary break in the middle as it makes me feel like I'm 16 and hating high-school again. A great hardcore punk song that is as deceptively simple as it is effective. Previous to No Hesitation to Resist, Äpärät had contributed three songs of the same vibe to the first volume of Chaos or Destruction. After that, they recorded a rather rough demo tape in October, '98, and then went full on Finn punk (linguistically and stylistically) on their excellent split Ep with Effigy in 2001.

Next up are Instinct from Fukuoka and let me warn you, they are absolutely relentless. The band was set into motion in 1997 by two members of the respected grindcore band Voltifobia when the latter folded. However, Instinct did not play grindcore but opted instead for that brand of raging, brutal, heavy, pummeling Swedish hardcore that was the flavour of the day in the mid/late 90's. Furious shit that goes straight to the point and can be seen in the same light as early Skitsystem, 3-Way Cum or Driller Killer with whom they shared a split Ep, also in 1998, on which they sounded just like a 90's Swedish band (for real). Their contribution to No Hesitation to Resist, "Groundless pains", is my favourite material from them as it still retains a Japanese hardcore feel in the vocals and the typical chorus which makes it sound more exuberantly, fist-raisingly angry, and the drums just sound like the apocalypse is just around the cornaaarrrgh. They must have been a steamroller live.

Beyond Description follow and what can I say about them? Even in 1998, BD were old-timers (they formed in 1988) so the fact that they are still active now is fairly impressive. Mind you, they even released a full album last year (The Robotized World) which sounds exactly as it should: old-school crossover hardcore thrash. I must admit that the genre is not really my cup of tea and that I am mostly familiar with BD for the splits they did (with Excrement of War or Detestation for example), though I remember enjoying A Road to a Brilliant Future when it came out. The 1998 lineup of the band had Tomo from Äpärät on the bass and the song "Development" is a straight up fast and raw thrash punk song, not so far from traditional Japanese hardcore really, played with a lot of energy and determination. It fits perfectly with the rest of the compilation and I think selecting a metal-free song was wise. And of course, No Hesitation to Resist was released on the label of BD's singer Hideyuki, Forest Records, so it is only fair that they appeared on it (why would you have a label if you cannot include your own bands on cool comps? I mean, duh).

Mental Disease are next and I have already discussed them in the previous post (here) so I am not going to repeat myself too much. To be honest, I think the song "Mental sick" is a definite highlight of the compilation and MD sound much tighter and more focused than on Natural Crust and Punk Force Noise Making. The band is in full Extinction era Nausea-worship mode (the guitar riff, the solo, and the way the bass and the guitar work together are heavy nods toward New York) and the clever collaborative work between the male and female vocalists makes the already fast and furious song even more pissed and intense. I am also reminded of (Japanese) Iconoclast and SDS which is an excellent thing. Late 90's Mental Disease should be recognized as top drawer dual vocals crust and I still cannot get my head around their currently low profile. Should I start campaigning?

Another crust band is next, this time of a much higher profile: Effigy. Of course, the band has already been discussed in the past (here) which makes me realize that I may be going around in circles... Have I been caught in an endless crust loop? Anyway... In that review, I tackled their transitional status between the 90's and the 00's old-school crust schools. Effigy made the link nationwide between bands like SDS, Carnage or AGE and the new generation embodied in Zoe, Acrostix or Disturd, while worldwide, on the strength of their brilliant From Hell Ep and the split with Hellshock, they certainly had a big influence on the so-called stenchcore revival of the early/mid 00's. But let's be factual first.

They formed in 1998 in Takamastu, Kagawa Prefecture, and Masuda (on the bass) previously played in COSA (oddly meaning Cache Of Strategic Arms...), a metallic punk band with a thrash influence that had an Ep in 1992 and were included on such compilations as the Truth Lp and the What is crust? cd. Effigy's contribution to No Hesitation to Resist, "Destructive of the Earth", was actually the band's very first vinyl appearance, although you can hear quickly that, if the band was technically young, there was some solid punk experience behind it. I really enjoy this Effigy track, better than Evil Fragments actually. It is a moderately fast one (in a mid-paced d-beat way) with crunchy metallic riffs enhanced with a raw and heavy textured sound; low and gruff, hellish-sounding dual vocals that work particularly well here; and overall a rather simple structure that is adequately mood-oriented. There is nothing technically spectacular in the song per se but the stenchcore balance is just right and tasteful as Effigy wisely used simplicity and sound as assets to generate the proper crust vibe. It is a clear winner. I am not really reminded of other Japanese crust bands here (maybe AGE), but 90's metal crust classics like Misery, Coitus, Warcollapse or Greek bands like Σαρκασμός or Βιομηχανική Αυτοκτονία do come to mind. ACE!

The final song of No Hesitation to Resist is "Ideal" from a band called System Kills. Based in the Gifu Prefecture, they look quite obscure and I have not been able to find a lot of details about them. System Kills played hardcore with a NYHC influence (there is a massive metallic moshpart in the middle), some epic guitar leads typical of Burning Spirit hardcore, tough screaming vocals and the compulsory gang chorus. I would not listen to a full album from them but I guess they represent a style that was absent from the compilation so far and it gives a bit more hardcore variety to the whole. Still, I am pretty sure they wore bandanas.

This record is a lovely, unpretentious compilation and there is something for everyone here. Beside you have just got to love the pixelated cheesy drawing on the cover with a bunch of punks (meant to stand for the different schools in da scene I guess) being surrounded by a threatening bonehead, a demented businessman, a rabid soldier and a whole faceless squad of riot cops, without mentioning the nuclear explosion in the background. Such is the the power of metaphors. Seeing that you can find it for a reasonable price, you know what to do.