Thursday 26 December 2019

The Beat to End All Beats: Mania for Discharge (1991-2006)

Today is bloody Christmas and here I am, trying to come up with the most relevant way to introduce this ace d-beat compilation, retrace its genesis and highlight its cohesion. 

Of course, as you well know because you must be one of my millions of faithful readers and therefore do not really need an explanation that I am still going to provide for the sake of it, The Beats to End All Beats must be seen as some sort of summarizing conclusion to the two series about Discharge-loving hardcore punk that I did for Terminal Sound Nuisance, namely The Chronicles of Dis and Sonatas in D Major. Although the present compilation can be enjoyed greatly in itself, my previous writings about the things of the D reflect its deeper meaning and its cohesiveness. 

As a teenager, the 1995 tape compilation Does Dis System Work? proved to be a major eye-opener, not just about overt Discharge fanaticism but also, love it or hate it, about d-beat as an actual, legitimate punk subgenre. Discharge relentless repetitiveness was duplicated and repeated again and again and again, just like the horrors depicted in the lyrics still repeat themselves. This tape was as much about the great Dis music than it was about the d-beat phenomenon, about the mandatory and yet creative over-referentiality. Does Dis System Work?, in addition to covers of Discharge and top shelf Discharge mimicry, also included actual Discharge songs. About 25 years after its making, I chose to focus on a specific timeframe, from 1991 (the release year of War Cry and the first Dischange Ep) to 2006 (arguably the last year before social media and streaming service took over and radically changed the ways we listen and relate to music, but the choice is subjective). As a nod to Does Dis System Work?, I chose to include some Discharge covers that were also on the tape (Final Conflict, Asocial and Perukers for instance), however instead of the actual Discharge songs (in the "played-by-Discharge" meaning of the term) I focused as much as possible on "just like Discharge" d-beat songs, either on bands that tried very hard to sound like Discharge and embrace the Discharge aesthetics or on bands that delivered quality covers of Discharge. Hopefully, my compilation will illustrate meaningfully both the d-beat genre as a coherent style and the unquenchable referential passion that necessarily generates it.

The selection ranges from classic d-beat heavyweights (Meanwhile, Disclose, Disfear) to super raw and rather anecdotal recordings (Realities of War, Hell On Earth), one of which I am not even sure of the identity (Discontrol). Some bands with wicked names like Warcry or Final Warning rubb shoulders with others going by such monikers as Disjah or Disfornicate, but such is life. There are 52 songs from 52 bands in about 84 minutes. Play loud, enjoy and comment. And play proper d-beat for fuck's sake!

01. Discard "Four minutes past midnight" from the Four Minutes Past Midnight Lp, 1994 (Sweden)

02. Warcry "Mania for war" from the Harvest of Death Ep, 2003 (U$A)

03. The Perukers "Protest & survive (Discharge cover)" from the GBG 1992 Ep, 1993 (Sweden)

04. Cluster Bomb Unit "Without a warning" from the Endless Struggle compilation 2xLp, 1995 (Germany)

05. Realities of War "Untitled?" from the S/t Ep, 2013 (recorded in 1992) (Japan)

06. Slander "Politicians cause it..." from the Politicians cause it... demo tape, 1992 (England)

07. Destrucción "Sus hijos se mueren" from the S/t split Ep with Sida, 2002 (Spain)

08. Disjah "Why (Discharge cover)" from the In Defence of Our Future... A Tribute to Discharge Lp, 2001 (Sweden/Japan)

09. Distress "Я Вам Не Верю" from the Еби Систему Пропаганда cdr, 2004 (Russia)

10. Dischange "On knees" from the S/t split Ep with Excrement of War, 1991 (Sweden)

11. Funeral "Religions victim" from the Cry of State Desperation Ep, 2003 (U$A)

12. Squandered "Enemy within" from the Chaos of Destruction vol.2 compilation 2xLp, 2000 (England)

13. Deadlock "What is war for?" from the Fear will Continue Ep, 1994 (Japan)

14. Disgust "Anguished cry" from the Brutality of War Lp, 1993 (England)

15. Disprove "Devastated hope" from the S/t split Ep with Avgrund, 1997 (Japan)

16. Asocial "Q: And children? A: And children (Discharge cover)" from the House of Gore Ep, 1992 (Sweden)

17. Warcollapse "The blood runs red (Discharge cover)" from the Crap, Scrap and Unforgivable Slaughter Ep, 2003 (recorded in 1994) (Sweden)

18. Final Warning "Faith" from the Eyes of a Child Ep, 1994 (U$A)

19. Decontrol "Victims of conquest" from the In Trenches... Lp, 2000 (Canada)

20. Deathcharge "See through their lies" from the Plastic Smiles Ep, 2001 (U$A)

21. Disclose "The nuclear victims" from the Chaos of Destruction vol.2 compilation 2xLp, 2000 (Japan)

22. Disfornicate "Who loves the poor" from the Left with Fear / ...and the Darkman Smiles... split Ep with Disregard, 1995 (Sweden)

23. Hell On Earth "Progress" from the Chaos of Destruction vol.2 compilation 2xLp, 2000 (Slovakia)

24. Concrete Sox "Death dealers (Discharge cover)" from the Discharged compilation cd, 1992 (England)

25. Extinction of Mankind "Ain't no feeble bastard (Discharge cover)" from the Ale to England Ep, 2002 (England)

26. Aus-Rotten "No change, no future, we're lost" from the Anti-Imperialist Ep, 1993 (U$A)

27. Driller Killer "Bombs away" from the Brutalize cd, 1994 (Sweden)

28. Cracked Cop Skulls "Bloodstock" from the Why Pussyfoot when you can Kill? Ep, 1998 (recorded in 1995) (England)

29. Discontrol (?) "Finally" from an unknown recording, probably the mid-90's (probably from Sweden but they are not the same Swedish Discontrol that did the split with Demisor... So the name could be wrong but the beat doesn't lie)

30. Mobcharge "Antichrist" from the S/t demo tape, 1997 (Spain)

31. Besthöven "More victims of war" from the More Victims of War Ep, 2003 (Brazil)

32. Abraham Cross "Why (Discharge cover)" from the Peace can't Combine 12'' Ep, 2002 (Japan)

33. Four Monstrous Nuclear Stockpiles "Napalm'n death" from the Give Peace a Chance cd, 2000 (France)

34. Avskum "The bomb is our future" from the In the Spirit of Mass Destruction cd, 1999 (Sweden)

35. Disaster "Devastation" from the War Cry mini Lp, 1991 (England)

36. Disfear "No hope of survival" from the A Brutal Sight of War cd, 1993 (Sweden)

37. The Dischargers "But after the gig (Discharge cover)" from the There's no Place like Hell cd, 2006 (England/Belgium)

38. Nausea "Hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing (Discharge cover)" from the Discharged compilation cd, 1992 (U$A)

39. Hellkrusher "Dying for who" from the Dying for who Ep, 1992 (England)

40. Meanwhile "All for a fistful of dollars" from the The Show must go on Ep, 2002 (Sweden)

41. Recharge "Politics, lies and deception" from the Chaos of Destruction vol.2 compilation 2xLp, 2000 (Germany)

42. Final Massakre "Probability of deaths construction" from the The Bells of Hell Toll the Final Chime Ep, 1999 (U$A)

43. Doom "The possibility of life's destruction (Discharge cover)" from the Why can't we hate more compilation cd, 1998 (England)

44. Uncurbed "Hell on Earth (Discharge cover)" from the In Defence of Our Future... A Tribute to Discharge Lp, 2001 (Sweden)

45. The Varukers "Bomb blast" from the Still Bollox but still here cd, 1995 (England)

46. Excrement of War "Toxic gas" from the Dogtags and Bodybags split Lp with Deformed Conscience, 1998 (recorded in 1995) (England)

47. Final Conflict "A look at tomorrow (Discharge cover)" from the Discharged - From Home Front to War front Ep, 1991 (U$A)

48. Holokaust "Behind the barbed wire" from the S/t Ep, 2002 (U$A)

49. Ruin "Distort/Confuse" from the Distort/Confuse Ep, 2006 (Scotland)

50. Dispense "The end of the world" from the In the Cold Night cd, 1994 (Sweden)

51. Final Blood Bath "System of Hell" from the Dear or Alive Ep, 2002 (Japan)

52. SDS "Why (Discharge cover)" from the Discharged compilation cd, 1992 (Japan)

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 12): Ruin "Distort/Confuse" Ep, 2006

We are finally reaching the last stage of Sonatas in D Major. Thank you for riding with us! We hope to see you soon on the Terminal Sound Nuisance coaches (we welcome men, women and children of course). We would also like to congratulate you for making it this far into yet uncharted punk territories, covered with blind alleys, dark and gloomy corners where feral d-beat bands can roam freely after the gig, looking for the odd dog end and, sometimes, even food. I will try to improve our pertinacious readers' experience in order to attract a younger audience for the next dis-themed series by using new technology. Assuming people got the proper 3d glasses for it, "3d-beat raw punk" doesn't sound too bad, does it?

But before thinking about the futuuuuuuure, let's wrap the present series in majestic fashion with one last Ep. If the last part - with Final Blood Bath - dealt with an Ep recorded in 2002, I chose to skip a couple of years for this one, which was released in 2006. There is no particular reason for it, only that Ruin stand for a school of Discharge-influenced hardcore punk music that I had not tackled yet and felt needed to be included given the postulates of Sonatas in D Major, a series meant to cast some meaningful light upon the pre-internet d-beat phenomenon that swept through the 1990's and consolidated and legitimised the artistic practice of emulating Discharge (and later on, the practice of emulating the emulators of Discharge). Although I have to humbly admit that I am not quite the all-knowing cultural figure I wish to be, I still don't think that punks' mania for Discharge, best embodied in the d-beat style, has any equivalent in other subculture. And while I honestly don't know if such a particularism is a good thing or not, I still feel weirdly pleased and proud about this achievement, assuming it is one at all.

For this last part, we are back to where it all started: Britain. And we are north of the North since Ruin were from Scotland. I cannot recommend enough reading the issue of great fanzine Our Future that deals with Discharge-inspired hardcore punk bands from Scotland as it has an interview with Ruin among other bands like Social Insecurity (whose Ep was previously reviewed on Terminal Sound Nuisance), Oi Polloi and the mighty AOA. If you have never heard of Ruin, you definitely know about other bands the members used to be part of (unless you just stumbled upon the blog while looking for actual sonatas, in which case I wish to apologize but still encourage you to keep reading). In fact, Ruin was far from being the first collaboration between the guitar and bass players, Brian and Andy, since they played together in classic bands Disaffect and Scatha and in the cruelly underrated Debris along with Ruin's singer Neil. As for the drummer, it was none other than Stick, from Doom and many others, a man who, if you add up all the hours he spent beating the D on the drums, is estimated to have spent a whole year of his life (368 days in fact) behind his kit playing variations of the exact same beat. A genuine punk hero. 

With such an experienced lineup, Ruin were unsurprisingly quick in releasing their first Lp in 2005, entitled Ghost of the Past and released on Agipunk for the vinyl version and MCR Company for the cd. It was a very solid album with some genuinely cracking numbers and a heavy, crushing production that went straight for the throat. Truth be told, Ruin were not a "just like" d-beat band in the same way as Disaster or Meanwhile. The Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing influence is certainly strong and foundational but the band added other dischargic flavours to their recipe, most notably 90's crusty UK dis-core and mid-80's Swedish hardcore. Ghost of the Past certainly set the standards pretty high and everything in that album, from the songwriting, to the musicianship, the lyrics and the visuals, screamt that they definitely knew their craft and were clear about their creative intent, as the inclusion of two tasteful covers (of Disclose and Ultraviolent) confirmed. A split Ep with Pause, from Finland, saw the light of day on Fight Records the same year, with a top Mau Maus cover this time, and another Ep, Distort/Confuse, was released in 2006 on Putrid Filth Conspiracy, a Swedish label based in Malmö and run by Rodrigo (from Intensity, Kontrovers and Satanic Surfers) that was prolific from the late 90's to the late 00's. 

Distort/Confuse is an excellent record of angry, politically-charged, heavy Discharge-influenced hardcore punk. It is a more focused effort than the album in terms of songwriting and probably one of the most intense UK hardcore Ep's of the decade. I am aware that qualifiers such as "intense" or "relentless" often tend to be misused in reviews but I cannot really think of more relevant attributes in this case. Ruin created eight minutes of furious and desperate hardcore that leaves the listener somewhat dizzy. The sonic equivalent of being trampled by an angry hippo (but they are generally angry, aren't they?). I had not played this record for a while before the series and I was surprised at how mean and powerful it sounded. As I said, Ruin did not really play straight-forward d-beat hardcore and opted for a variety of scando-influenced paces that went from fast and pummeling to superfast and pummeling, a bit like how Discard sped up the original Discharge rhythm, if you know what I mean. Mean-sounding bands like Totalitär, Asocial or No Security plainly come to mind, to which you could add the gruff heaviness of local beasts like Excrement of War, Hellkrusher and of course mid/late 90's Doom. The massive riffs sound quite classic but the band always add a twist to the songwriting or use a different guitar texture on a lead or a slight change of pace to keep things unpredictable while staying in the strict perimeters of dis-oriented hardcore punk. It requires a trained ear for the D and Ruin plainly had it. The number "Hate to be alive" is a fantastic reworking of the canonical mid-tempo Discharge song and exemplifies how it can be done with taste. 

The production is perfect for what the band wanted to achieve, crunchy, aggressive and heavy, the balance between the instruments is solid and Neil is an amazing vocalist, with a low, deep and expressive voice that manages to convey the primal anger and rage adequate to the style and still add on some warmth and genuine human emotion in the tone and accentuation. The singing style combined with the particular vocal tone set aside Ruin for me and I think this voice is the ideal vessel for lyrics that are all accurately political and belong to a specific context (the mid-00's war on terror, the rise of austerity politics, eugenics, rape culture) instead of playing with the usual Discharge mythology. If the lyrics rely on the classic syntax and metrics of Discharge-inspired haikus, they are complemented by explanatory texts developing the political message and Swedish translations (for the label's compatriots). There is also a long essay about the sociopolitical climate of mid-00's Britain and especially the Terror Bill which completely criminalized the ALF and other groups promoting direct actions and set the stage for even more state control (and state violence of course). Interesting read highlighting how relevant Ruin were trying to be.

The next and last Ruin record was a 2007 split Lp with TRIBE, an ace metallic tribal crust act with Angus and Brian from Scatha and members of Fastard, and it was another scorcher building on a similar basis of Sweden-meets-the-North in a Discharge-themed pub, this time with a stronger anarcho vibe (and a Raw Power cover!). Quality stuff. 


Friday 15 November 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 11): Final Blood Bath "Dead or alive" Ep, 2002

That one was definitely just around the corner.

The price of pixels

As tackled in the previous entry, a common way to pay tribute to the Stoke-on-Trent deity has long been to adopt a title taken from the holy scriptures - with Why being obviously the Old Testament of a vengeful d-beat - as your band's name. It is probably the most demonstratively effective fashion to show your love for Discharge to the world and, more importantly, to fellow Discharge-lovers who may be tempted to get your records and help you cover your petrol expenses during tours. If you use the classic Discharge font not just once but twice on the record cover (for the moniker and the title), then it clearly screams that you mean business and see yourself as a serious contender. And finally if one of your songs has the same name as a Discharge anthem but is not a Discharge cover ("Decontrol" in the present case), then it is undeniably synonymous with demanding a shot at the World D-beat Federation title. It is a bold move that reflects an unbreakable self-confidence and possibly feeds on an Icarus complex but I suppose that you could see Final Blood Bath in that light after all. 

There is not much information floating around about them but they were from Tokyo and must have formed in 2000 seeing that there is a live tape from a gig that took place in March, 2001. A eight-song (demo?) tape entitled Dead or Alive was also released, probably before the Ep's, but I haven't heard it. This tape is still quite fascinating since Final Blood Bath did not merely include the Discharge font and other references on the cover, they went further and re-used the Fight Back cover picture. Of course Active Minds did the same thing a couple of years before but the point they were making was of a very different nature and, as usual with them, was the strong means to formulate a strong criticism of d-beat as a subgenre, the validity of which they were arguing against (a battle Active Minds obviously lost as subsequent years confirmed). Final Blood Bath's use of the same Discharge photograph comes from the completely opposite critical stance: the picture is both an overt tribute and an identificatory trope. Still, if you think about it, Final Blood Bath basically put a picture of another band on the cover of their own tape, an action turning the classic Fight Back band shot into something akin to a religious representation, an icon that far transcends what it originally depicted - teenage British punks playing live in the early 80's - to become a symbol, the signified.

Final Blood Bath (who will be referred to as FBB from now on because of global warming and that) picked a great Discharge song for their band although it is admittedly a bit of a mouthful. But then by the early 00's, the catchiest Discharge song titles had already been taken and bands had to resort to names like Four Monstrous Nuclear Stockpiles in order to exist at all. Those were tough years for the D as the 90's wave was surely fading and only punk fanatics like Disclose or Meanwhile still engage willingly in the strictest Discharge worship. FBB belonged to that category of bands for whom the Discharge '80/'83 canon was creatively-speaking both the basis and the aim to their sound. Meaning that they carefully used some classic Discharge elements in order to craft a new and paradoxically fresh-sounding tribute to Discharge. I remember that the mate of mine who was distributing Crust War Records in Paris at the time introduced Dead or Alive to me in such a fashion: "they are an absolute Never Again rip-off with cheesy vocals and a Japanese vibe. Great stuff". And I guess he was right. He also described Zoe as "terrible Amebix-like heavy metal with members wearing make-up. It's crap and you will love it", and I guess he was also right. Contrary to most of the 90's d-beat legions, FBB did not try to go for harsh, hoarse vocals but rather opted for a reverbed tone highly reminiscent of Never Again but also and even more so of the more metallic, thrashier post-1982 Discharge. Until quite recently, the general consensus was that the last great Discharge record was the State Violence State Control Ep, but the 2010's have seen a growing number of people claiming that Warning or The Price of Silence were equally great (some raving lunatics even believe that Brave New World is not that bad if you forget that it is a Discharge Lp... The fools!). I don't dislike those records but never really loved them as I distinctly remember that the songs were at the end of my first Discharge cd (one that contained the Hear Nothing Lp and the '82/'83 singles) and I used to wonder why all the UK bands had turned shite around the mid-80's, a principle I had theorized after suffering a double cd Blitz discography. But anyway, the influence of such records as Warning and The Price of Silence was rather low on the d-beat production at the time so FBB's song "See the dark see the gream", an ace bouncy mid-paced blend of "The price of silence" and "Born to die in the gutter" sounds refreshing in the context and clearly points to Final Bombs in terms of intent, the legendary d-beat-free Discharge-loving heavy band. Although I have to say that I have no clue as to what "the gream" is meant to be (a grim gleam?). If you listen closely to Dead or Alive, you will find many details, dis-nuggets (some bass lines, intonations, guitar leads and so on) that refer to '82/'83 Discharge which, in the early 00's, paradoxically made FBB's songwriting original in its referential range. The basis for the cake is devout Never Again worship but the icing is clearly '82/'83. I just love that Ep. My only tiny complaint would be that the effect on the vocals, if it does achieve the intended result in terms of recreating a "1983 Cal vibe", lacks a little in aggression. But this is the price, the price to pay.

Dead or Alive was recorded in June, 2002 and was Crust War's fifteenth release and it was mixed by Habi, the drummer of Gloom and Defector, who managed to confer a raw but energetic vibe to the sound. The cover of the Ep is a live shot of FBB and it is full of leather and studs and charged hair and it is perfectly natural. What I love however is the (involuntary?) mise en abyme that lies in the presence of a Fight Back patch on the singer's right shoulder. It is a live shot inserted in a live shot, the second live shot - the cover - being a reference to the first one - the detail. Amazing, right? What I don't quite love as much is the highly pixelated quality of the cover, a common flaw in those years. It is odd to think that older records have aged much better visually than those that used a digital technology that was in its infancy. I don't remember noticing the pixels much at the time but in retrospect I cannot believe labels and bands thought they could get away with such results... FBB recorded another Ep just a week before Dead or Alive, a self-titled work released on Paank Levyt that also comes recommended but is not quite as good in my opinion (it is another pixel fest of course). In 2003, FBB then shortened their name for Final and also changed direction with more of a metal-punk vibe and more studs. They recorded an Ep for Crust War under the Final moniker that I personally find really enjoyable and powerful, a bit like a cross between Painajainen, Broken Bones and first-raising Japanese hardcore (they called their new style "Kamikaze gravecore metal" which makes me giggle all the time). I only wish they had done a full-on cavemen crust band called Final Bath. That would have been legendary.


Monday 4 November 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 10): Meanwhile "The Show must Go on" Ep, 2002

How criminal would the absence of Meanwhile have been in the context of a series dedicated to d-beat music? To exclude the most consistent "just like Discharge" band to ever come out of Sweden, an exploit that is no mean feat to say the least, the band whose very artistic path was heavily criticized on Active Minds' Dis Getting Pathetic... cult Ep, would have looked as either a silly provocation or the definite proof that I have no idea what I am talking about.

Although it is technically Meanwhile's first appearance on Terminal Sound Nuisance, the band's former incarnation, Dischange, was previously dealt with on two occasions: the split with Excrement of War and the Crust and Anguished Life compilation cd. I am not sure why the members felt the need to switch from Dischange to Meanwhile in the mid-90's (the first record under the Meanwhile moniker was the Remaining Right: Silence 1995 album). Maybe they realized that "Dischange" was too goofy-sounding and that the idea to combine the dis prefix with a random word made them look a bit silly after all. Besides, by '95, there were many bands rocking a Dis-name, especially in Sweden, so that, despite them objectively and gloriously pioneering the genre, they may have thought that picking a Discharge-related but dis-free moniker was a wise move. And so they went for a Discharge song: Meanwhile. The practice of selecting a Discharge hit as a name for your Discharge-influenced band is an old, time-approved one that many bands (Fight Back, Decontrol, Realities of War, Visions of War...) have relied on throughout the years. It provides your band with a Discharge reference that is quite explicit but that still requires people to be familiar with the Discharge gospel, maybe not all faithful but at least believers. And so Dischange renamed themselves Meanwhile, and of course "Meanwhile" is a brilliant Discharge song that is beloved by all although it is not their most transparent title. But Meanwhile's music speaks so much for itself anyway, loud and clear, that you couldn't sound much more like Discharge and stand for the d-beat subgenre than Meanwhile do. They are that iconic. This said, I tend to think it is an objectively pretty strange name for a hardcore punk band, and while I love the implications hidden in the meaning of "meanwhile" (the idea of different realities for instance), it still is an adverb, a lexical category that is uncommon in the naming of punk bands. Let's face it, not many hardcore unit are called "Henceforth" or "Afterwards" and I don't remember thinking about the Discharge song the first time I heard Meanwhile (it was on The Best Crust Album in the World ever! compilation cd, a deceitful work if there ever was one), I was just a little confused as to why they weren't called Disdoom 47 or something unequivocal like that.

If you are not familiar with Dischange/Meanwhile, here are a couple of details you should know. They were from Eskilstuna, Sweden, and started playing as a three-piece under the name Dischange in 1989. Jallo, who also drummed in No Security, was the guitar player (and vocalist at first) while Kenko, who also played the guitar for No Security at the time, was beating the D in Dischange, so that it could be quite relevant to see the band as some kind of Discharge-oriented side-project when they started. After the split Ep with Excrement of War, Dischange recruited a proper singer, Jocke, a tremendous addition to the band as his rough-hewn shouted vocal style fitted the Discharge-worship perfectly: aggressive but not overdone with the proper Cal-inspired prosodic elements. The band progressively got better and better, rebaptized themselves Meanwhile, and recorded what is arguably their best work in 1996, their third album entitled The Road to Hell. I personally enjoy everything Dischange/Meanwhile did, but I rate that album as one of the finest examples of "just like Discharge" d-beat with some songs being genuine punk hits. 

The Ep The Show must Go on was recorded in November, 2001, and was the follow-up to the very strong Same Shit New Millenium 2000 Lp on Sound Pollution. By that time, Meanwhile had started to incorporate more rocking elements to their d-beat tornado, reminiscent of Motörhead at their hard-hitting best. In general, I get extremely suspicious whenever I read phrases such as "motörcrust" or the even more appalling "d-beat'n'roll". In fact, if you want to get me out of a venue, just tell me that it is a Metal Punk Death Squad night and that a "d-beat'n'roll" band is playing next, and I will rush outside and remain in hiding for at least a few weeks, protecting myself from the aftermath of such abominations... But yeah, I am not a big Motörhead fan and the chances that you are going to spoil a decent d-beat song with lame Lemmy impersonations are always high. But Meanwhile can and do pull it with class as their rocking d-beat sound actually convincing, heavy and groovy, without overdoing or overproducing it and keeping it angry. While their '00 Lp, and most of their releases really, enjoyed a solid production emphasizing the Discharge power without sacrificing the punk rawness, The Show must Go on is purposefully underproduced, or, as the band put it, "not very produced". Seeing that Kenko is a sound engineer at Communichaos Studio, the raw sound is not accidental. It could be an attempt at sounding as direct, spontaneous and aggressive as possible, not unlike some sort of return to the hardcore punk roots out of a desire to sound meaner and grittier, maybe as a counterpoint to the massive production that many d-beat/crust bands opted for at the time (like Disfear or Skitsystem). Whatever the intent was, I love this Ep. It opens with the eponymous "The show must go on", a one-minute long, crunchy and rocking mid-paced dischargy number, while the three remaining songs are anthemic bass-driven raw d-beat scorchers with a primitive Motörhead vibe. It sounds mean and direct with a dirty rock'n'roll energy that works well with the format (an full album with such a production would have been riskier I suppose). That the result sounds so pissed and dynamic shows that even with, or maybe especially with, such a limited genre as orthodoxal d-beat, you need to focus on writing solid songs in order to succeed and no amount of guitar layers or distortion pedals will change that. Genuine d-beat raw punk.  

The Show must Go on was a cojoint release between Communichaos Media, run by Kenko, a label that also put out materials from Imperial Leather, Burning Kitchen (he also played in both) and DS-13, and Feral Ward, a well-known Portland-based label run by Yannick from Tragedy that reissued the two first Meanwhile albums and the 2008 Lp Reality or Nothing, all top-shelf works. 1500 copies of this Ep were pressed so that it is not too difficult to bring this lovely geezer home.         


Sunday 27 October 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 9): Funeral "Cry of State Desperation" Ep, 2003

And while we're at it, let's stick in Portland for a bit longer then. I have never been there but the name of this town sounds so familiar that it feels like it is located, not unlike the final bloodbath, just around the corner. It is definitely not, though, and while I am quite conversant with punk music from Portland and have proven myself in hard-fought argumentative battles over the worth of Tragedy (a fairly common initiation ritual for young punks in the early 00's), I am literally clueless about the town of Portland itself. To me, it is synonymous with quality punk-rock that still tends to be overhyped, and therefore I have trouble imagining that actual persons that are not even punks also live there. The idea that someone could live in Portland and yet be unaware of the existence of Hellshock is something of a nonsensical aberration. I mean, what's the point of living there then? It cannot be just for the shit weather, right?     

The early noughties were a prolific time for the Portland hardcore punk scene and was home to some of the most wanted - or so they seemed judging from the hyperbolic qualifiers that often preceded them - bands around at the time. Bands like Remains of the Day, Tragedy, Atrocious Madness, Hellshock or Blood Spit Nights made a lasting impression on many young crusty punks like myself as they sounded both new and modern and yet grounded in the classic stuff (that was how I saw it then anyway). And that's without even mentioning studs'n'spikes-free bands like The Observers or The Exploding Hearts that were also active although then, though to be fair, they were extremely unappealing to me with their checkered shirts and their sensitive tunes. I craved to be beaten hard with relentless and tasteful hardcore punk that made me feel cool and Portland provided exactly that. I was aware that this geographical location gave bands an edge, if not a prestige, and there was certainly an element of trend to it as they were usually talked about and promoted in positive terms, sought-after and visible. Let's face it, not all those early 00's PDX bands were amazing, some were just decent small local bands, and I now realize how important and foundational the 90's were to the development of the aforementioned bands, but of course, when you're younger, you just have to feel that you are living in an exceptional time, in a good or bad way, otherwise it all becomes a bit pointless and you become aware of the repetitive circularity that make up our cultural practice and you do not really want to think about that when you are 20.

Funeral was one of many PDX bands active in the early 00's and I have had this Ep since it came out. Truth be told, it never was a favourite of mine, especially compared to other heavier and tighter PDX formations around then or to the so-called stenchcore revival bands that were about to rise. Still, Cry of State Desperation is an Ep I have always enjoyed listening to and that I have grown to appreciate more and more. I suppose you could compare Funeral to another band that got invited to Terminal Sound Nuisance in The PDX-Files, Final Massakre. Like Funeral, Final Massakre was a referential hardcore d-beat side-project that was not meant to become "the main band" but that presumably everyone enjoyed doing because it was fun to play this kind of music with mates. And because Portland appears to be a small place with overactive punx, there is one member in common between Final Massakre and Funeral, namely Frank (then also yelling in a microphone in the great Atrocious Madness, and later on the distorted 6-strings in Lebenden Toten), playing the bass. On vocals, you can find Simon (from Bacteria - that also comprised members of Remains of the Day and Warcry - and Bombs Away - with Harum-Scarum and Fall of the Bastards members), on the guitar you had Chris (from Yankee Wuss - with members of Harum-Scarum and Atrocious Madness - and Midnight - with members of Hellshock, From Ashes Rise and Harum-Scarum) and finally, on the stool, the D was passionately beaten by Todd (then in Tragedy, Severed Head of State and Call the Police, and drum-wise responsible for the dynamics in Deathreat and Trauma). That was already an intense session of name-dropping (that could earn you some decent punk points in 2003) and something that was very typical of the PDX scene. Every punk in town played in three bands so that, from the outside, judging from the number of bands, you had the impression that there were massive amounts of dedicated punks while the truth was far less epic. But then I guess most DIY punk scenes work this way. 

As you can see, Funeral was a band made up of busy bees and Cry of State Desperation was their first recording although it came out in 2003, after the 16 Song Ep that was recorded after (2002 I guess). I think I read somewhere that Cry of State Desperation was actually a demo recording that got to be pressed onto vinyl (a problematically common occurrence in 2019 but no so much then) and considering the absence of production and the raw rehearsal sound, it sounds like a very plausible origin story. The six songs that make up the Ep were recorded in September, 2001, although it does not say if it was before or after the eleventh, an event that along with its aftermath (the imperialistic oil policy and the wars of George W. Bush) certainly redefined, directly or indirectly, what American punk-rock was going to be about in that decade. This said, the songwriting would not have been affected too much if it were recorded on the 12th instead of the 10th and it would still have qualified as d-beat with a genuine raw punk vibe. I suppose the following years have crowned Warcry as the iconic PDX d-beat band, a title they do deserve as I cannot think of a better "just like Discharge" hardcore band in the 00's, thus overshadowing more humble bands like Funeral in the process. However it would be far-fetched to claim that Funeral (brilliant name for a punk band by the way) were going for the much-coveted "just like Discharge" throne. If there is a definite Fight Back and Decontrol influence that acts as a general structure, I can distinctly hear Discharge-influenced bands from the 80's as well. Peacepunk hardcore bands like Iconoclast, Diatribe or Against do immediately spring to mind, as do UK bands like early Antisect, Anti-System and Varukers or Europeans like EU's Arse or early Cimex. Funeral sound both like a contemporary of those 80's hardcore greats trying to get closer to Discharge and like learned punks doing their best to sound like they were an 80's hardcore band in love with Discharge. Undeniably, much of this strong 80's vibe derives from the very raw sound of the recording that confers a proper old-school hardcore aggression to the songs. Although I think that Funeral really recorded these six songs quickly and urgently, in a couple of takes if not in only one, with no overdubs, firstly to keep it raw, real and closer to the raw punk sound of their 80's inspirations, and secondly, because the members were all so busy with other bands that these few hours were all they could dedicate to Funeral at the time but seeing that they were all experienced musicians, the result was still pretty solid, energetic and intense instead of sounding like a sloppy mess. 

If you like your d-beat with a strong raw hardcore punk flavour, Funeral will be your thing. It has a great spontaneous and direct hardcore punk energy that shows that d-beat does not necessarily have to sound like a nuclear explosion. I would not go as far as stating that Funeral demonstrates that d-beat can be diverse (as it should not be! Who wants to listen to "blackened d-beat"? Exactly, no one does) but it shows that you can have several shades of D. Contrary to many modern bands claiming to be "raw" when they just use too much distortion or to boringly overproduced metallic d-beat bands, Funeral's songs were actually raw and punky and pogoable, as if taken from an old tape. Like with many PDX bands, you have two levels of appreciation. You can enjoy Cry of State Desperation for what it is primarily, a lovely slice of fast, riff-driven hardcore punk, and you can try to spot the Discharge Easter eggs and other hardcore references that they threw in the mix. The 2002 12'' Ep is not quite as raw and maybe a little too long given the genre's template, but it still comes recommended if you are like it raw and unpolished.              

Monday 21 October 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 8): Deathcharge "Plastic smiles" single-sided Ep, 2001

It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you that we now leave the 90's, a decade often referred to in academic circles as, and I quote, "the golden age and Garden of Eden of the d-beat style, a time period that cemented the foundations of the epistemological tropes that define, aesthetically and critically, this rich cultural praxis". In the 90's, Dis-oriented hardcore was to punk-rock what costuming was to professional wrestling: an essential part of it, often mocked, sometimes awkward, but nevertheless crucial and looked at with nostalgia in retrospect. Did the D survive the new millennium?

To answer that vital question, I chose to invite an old friend on Terminal Sound Nuisance: Deathcharge. If you remember, about three years ago, I wrote about their self-titled 2005 Ep in a series called The PDX-Files (now that was a good name, wasn't it?) so I will do my best not to repeat myself too much and will skip the presentations. That '05 Ep however is not a d-beat record. It is a brilliant and rather unique slice of dark punk music evoking many personal favourites like (late) Antisect, Bad Influence, Smartpils and of course (mid-80's) Discharge but it cannot be defined as a d-beat record. One could venture that Deathcharge in the mid to late 00's probably played an important part in making postpunk or goth punk popular again locally, and even nationally when you consider how influential Portland is. I read somewhere that someone once coined the term g-beat (with "g" for goth) to name the sound that characterized this new wave of bands that suddenly all pretended to be lifelong fans of Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy and X-Mal Deutschland. I am sure the author thought it was very clever but "g-beat" did not stick and I think we're better off without it. The hashtagification of punk is depressing enough as it is.

But let's get back to Deathcharge. Although they are now undeniably a goth punk band, and a very good one, Deathcharge saw the blinding light of domesday in 1997 as a d-beat band. Adam (on vocals) and Roger (on drums) were formerly in Masskontroll so I suppose the idea behind Deathcharge was to take it down a notch and play old-fashioned Discharge-loving hardcore punk combining the acute referentiality allowed and imposed by the genre with a tasteful raw punk styling. Was it meant to be a proper band or just a side-project? From what I read in an interview, I think it depended on who you asked. The first Ep, A Look at Their Sorrow, was released in 1997, probably not long after the band started playing, and, as announced, it is a thoroughly enjoyable record of referential dischargy hardcore. With song titles like "Fear their power", "A look at their sorrow" and "The price of violence", the riffs and prosody openly borrowed from Discharge, without even mentioning the very name "Deathcharge", the cover depicting a dove impressed over pictures of men, women and children hibakushas or the familiar font used for the lyrics, the worship detector went through the roof. In terms of production, A Look at Their Sorrow is a wonderful instance of raw hardcore punk done well (despite some sloppy bits) as it sounds energetic, angry and very direct. You could say it ticks all the right boxes and the music is reminiscent of UK bands like Antisect, Hellkrusher or Anti-System and Swedish fanatics like Dischange or Discard but it is a crust-free work. I suppose Deathcharge was the first American d-beat band. Of course, there were always a lot of Discharge-infuenced band in the States, from Iconoclast, to Final Conflict, Diatribe, Nausea or Against, and of course all the 90's crust punk bands like Disrupt and Destroy! or Aus-Rotten's very dischargy early days. For the density of its Discharge references, its general aesthetics and its "just like" approach of Discharge-oriented hardcore, Deathcharge can therefore be said to be the first genuine, proper d-beat band in the United States of America. A round of applause please. Of course, 1997 is arguably a little late if you consider what happened in Sweden, England or Japan, but being French I am in no position to condescend.  

After the Ep, the band sadly went dormant for a few years and woke up at the start of a crucial era for US hardcore punk: the Bush era. Between 2000 and 2008, George W. Bush was everybody's most hated figure and vehement anti-Bush lyrics and visuals spread across all the US punk scenes. Bush was without a doubt the Reagan of the 00's and I am sure that his bloody warmongering reign fueled the anger of many a young punk and prompted them to get involved in bands or in political activities. I mean, even Forward from Japan, definitely not the band you would suspect to be very politically-minded, had a song called "Fuck Bush!!". Plastic Smiles was Deathcharge's second offering and it had the new president on the cover with a target on his head and that was even before the start of the Iraqi war. This Ep is a single-sided Ep, not a format that I am particularly fond of, and lasts only four minutes. Four good minutes, it is true, but still. My only complaint about Plastic Smiles is how short it is. On this 2001 recording, the sound of the band shifts significantly as the songwriting becomes even more referential and restrictive. Not satisfied with just playing Discharge-loving hardcore punk, Deathcharge went for Realities of War-loving hardcore punk, meaning that the main, if not the sole, influence on Plastic Smiles, along with Bush's despicable character, is Discharge's first Ep. For real.

In 2001, that was a daring move. After all, throughout the 90's, the notion of d-beat and the expectations attached to it revolved almost exclusively around Why, Hear Nothing and Never Again. Sometimes, Fight Back and Decontrol were hinted at, but marginally. On the whole, you either tried to replicate Why's raw hardcore aggression or Hear Nothing's massive power. I am sure people were into Realities of War's rawer and punkier sound but, because the first Discharge offering only had one song using the d-beat drum pattern, the so-called 90's d-beat bands did not rely on it and favoured what Discharge systematized progressively on their following records, the generic trademark Discharge song was d-beat's reference point. Deathcharge literally went back to the roots with Plastic Smiles. It is basically "pre-d-beat" Discharge worship which implies that Deathcharge here do not sound so much like a "d-beat band" as we've come to expect, but like the absolute "Discharge-loving band". It is a Discharge-loving record with a limited use of d-beat drumming, opting instead with the heavy tribal mid-paced beats that characterized Realities of War. You can find re-interpretations of "Realities of war", "They declare it", "But after the gig" and "Society's victim" which, ironically, was fairly original at the time. The production is again very raw, with a couple of minor mishaps, and it sounds like it was recorded fast and loud which confers a bare directness and punk spontaneity to the songs, which is a little paradoxical since the songs were written to intentionally sound as close to Realities of War as possible and there is technically not much room for free songwriting with such a romantic template. 

I suppose Plastic Smiles appeals more to Discharge fanatics than to d-beat fanatics. I guess I have a foot in both camps, but since I love my d-beat with a very string Discharge flavour, I have a very soft spot for Deathcharge. Plastic Smiles is not a d-beat classic in the same sense as Disfear or Disaster or Meanwhile, but not only is it one of the most accurate "just like Discharge" bands that the punk scene ever produced, but they outplay everyone by restricting even more the Discharge field with an exclusive focus on Realities of War and by doing a Discharge-loving record containing marginal portions of d-beat drumming. Deathcharge just outnerded the Dis game. 

Perhaps the band will reissue their early works one day and perhaps there are some lovely demo recordings hiding somewhere (a full Lp of "just like Fight Back" hardcore punk?). Like A Look at Their Sorrow, Plastic Smiles was originally released on Distruction Records and distributed by After the Bomb Records, the latter being also responsible with Ep's from Religious War and Holokaust.

And fuck Bush.             

Friday 11 October 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 7): Disprove / Avgrund split Ep, 1997

Sonatas in D Major has been dealing with 90's Dis music and will continue to do so until we safely reach the mid-00's, the infamous turning point that saw social media tear into the delicate fabric that made up the DIY hardcore punk scene, unleashing new dynamics and new ways of writing, producing and listening to punk music that have seriously shaken things up FOREVER (see how panicked I am). That the rise of virtual platforms promoting mundane constant blabbering coincided with the slow disappearance of punk fanzines and, rather ironically, of content-driven blogs (which some younger punks qualify as being "old-school", which rather mystifies me) was certainly not accidental. Am I here to complain self-righteously about all these twenty-something ruining dad's punk and about the unfairness of receding hairlines in a world that discards the bald? No, of course not. Being an eternally buoyant and optimistic chap, I shall focus on converting the unwashed masses to the Terminal Sound Nuisance Scriptures and hope that a serendipitous encounter with the blog (and with the very word "serendipitous", see how meta I can be) can open their eyes and make them like me.

But yeah, seeing that Sonatas in D Major is mostly about old-fashioned d-beat, it may seem rather odd, if not somewhat baffling for the astute reader, that no split Ep has been given the treatment yet, since the format is an iconic 90's talisman. Well, there you have it, a typical mid-90's split Ep that will entitle you to feel nostalgic, even, or more likely especially, if you were not around at the time, because not only is it a very solid and consistent record but it also serves as a meaningful artifact of past times when the phrase "collaboration not competition" was not just office management talk aimed at increasing productivity. What we have here is a lovely Ep with Disprove, who hailed from Tokyo, on the one side, and Avgrund on the other, who wished they were Swedish, and tried hard to make the unsuspecting listener think so, but were actually from Bratislava, Slovakia. Cheeky indeed.      

Let's start with the obvious Discharge culprit which also happens to be the original reason why this split landed among these sonatas in such good company: Disprove. Not the most unfortunate Dis name around, but not the most eloquent either. It is a very average moniker, even according to the limited templates, which is only meant to indicate to the blockish punks (you know the ones) that the band is not insensitive to beating the bloody D. And since one is never too cautious, Disprove also used the Discharge font. With the people involved being pretty busy with other hardcore bands like the prolific and thrashy Beyond Description and Vivisection, I guess Disprove were more akin to a contextual side-project rather than an actual band but I could be wrong. I imagine a group of friends in a small Tokyo bar in 1994 having a drink, chatting about the current trends of playing just like Discharge, and maybe about that new upcoming band Disclose from Kochi, and thinking that they should have a go as well and that it could be a fun experience. Interestingly, two members from the group were already doing a Dis band called Discript at the time, but then, and in spite of the name, it was not a maximum d-beat project so something may have been missing in their life (we are dealing in delicate shades of Dis here). This fictional sake-induced gathering resulted in the creation of Disprove and in the recording of six songs that would appear on a self-titled Ep for Forest Record (a label that guitar player Hideyuki from Beyond Description conveniently ran). There are several ways to express the purity of your love for Discharge, they can differ but do not necessarily conflict with one another, and Disprove chose the noble "just like Discharge" option with one variation: dual vocals. If the music on both Ep's toes the "just like" line with very little room for the addition of alien, non-Discharge elements - the band clearly seal in the waters of Disfear, Dischange and Disaster - the presence of typically crusty dual vocals appears quite bizarre. I mean, I love "just like" d-beat and I love dual vocals crust but I don't necessarily expect or even want them to coexist in the same song. I would not go as far as saying that the vocals spoil the Dis worship since both singers do a really serious job at following the typical and crucial prosodic elements of Discharge (tone, accentuation, flow and so on) but at times they still go crust as fuck, which bothered me a little at first but once you get the inner logics of the band, it is just awesome.

Disprove particularly shone with their bouncy mid-paced dischargian songs and the opening number of their side of the split is one of those, a wicked "Protest and survive"-meets-"State control" number with crustier than thou singers. While the '94 Ep's production was pretty raw and direct, the sound is more powerful and sharper on this 1997 recording, perhaps because the lineup changed a little, Hideyuki switching from the bass to guitar and vocals, Yusuke from the vocals to the bass and Manabu from Senseless Apocalypse replacing Yasunari on vocals. Although the growls did not originate from the same throats as on the first offering, they still sounded as savage, if not more so, and followed the same artistic rule as on the first Ep (they do take more liberty with the classic Discharge tone though) and in terms of songwriting, the intent to play "just like" d-beat remained unchanged three years later. The two other Disprove songs on the side exemplify top shelf, heavy, raw and pummeling Discharge-loving hardcore music, with simple but authoritative, commanding riffs that have a genuinely aggressive vibe. The three songs are tied together with feedback so I left them on one single track, the way it is meant to be listened to. Punishing and highly enjoyable d-beat music.

Avgrund occupy the other side of the split and as I mentioned before, this lot were from Bratislava. Now I don't suppose you know much about the Slovakian 90's hardcore punk scene but I would strongly advise you to dig deeper into it as you are in for a treat. I mean, at that time, apart from Frigöra in Japan, outside of Sweden, can you name many bands playing scandicore with lyrics in Swedish? Exactly, you cannot. Well, there you had one and, unexpectedly, I suppose, because the Grand Punk Narrative often tends to ignore hardcore punk from Central Europe - Poland being a necessary exception because of its insane productivity - they were from Slovakia. Thanks to my global network of informers and sleeper agents, I have been able to get some information about the Bratislava scene of the 90's and you will NEVER believe what I found! Click on the link below to hear the rest of the story!

Listening to the Avgrund side for the first time, I have to admit that I had no doubt that they were from Sweden. And it is not just because of the words in Swedish, in fact compared to the stylistic Swedishness of the music, the linguistic identity of the lyrics is almost peripheral. Avgrund was undeniably a "just like" band but one that did not go for Discharge and had a different target in mind, namely the very raw, crude and aggressive sound of mid-80's Swedish hardcore epitomized by Svart Parad. They sounded "just like" Svart Parad if you wish. The idea that in the mid-90's a bunch of Bratislava punks wanted to play Svart Parad-like raw hardcore so much that they would even have lyrics in Swedish is deeply romantic for so many reasons. First, it is, in itself, an extremely nerdy project that obviously appeals to me and that I gladly give my support to. Second, material conditions in Slovakia at the time cannot have been easy and to put on gigs and play in bands and record must have required a lot of efforts and commitments. And third, at that time, in a pre-internet age when people did not claim to know a band because they had vaguely listened to a youtube link while browsing their Instagram feed, Svart Parad must have been a pretty obscure reference, as they had only done tapes in the 80's, and even if a discography had been released in 1995 by Finn Records (that one must have been overplayed in Bratislava), they were still the stuff of tape traders, people that were already into more established, vinyl-proven Swedish hardcore. All those things combined make the very existence of Avgrund very unlikely and yet, there they are, the very embodiment of passion, and that's for this kind of things that I love punk-rock so much.

At the time, Bratislava punks were heavily into Swedish crust and hardcore and the Avgrund guitar player, the very active Kono, was in touch with a lot of Swedish punks and managed to bring home a lot of Dis records from there (needless to say that there was no shortage of them at the time), records that would get taped and shared liberally so that they circulated quickly in the whole scene. This devotion to scandicore inspired many crusty/d-beat bands to form and tape compilations like Punk Není Mrkev Aneb Nežerte Krocany Vol 1 (often referred to as Bratislava Crusties comp) and Shitärna, driven by Kono at the core, are testimonies of this unrelenting passion for mangel hardcore and Discharge-associated noize with bands baptized Soul Scars, Hell On Earth, Agregat, Likvidation Friends or Slavery to Convention. If you have any interest in genuinely raw and angry Dis-punk music, do yourself a favor and check these out. It will also allow to shine in the most exclusive social circles. The Terminal Sound Nuisance spy that was hired to act as a double agent in Central Europe revealed to me that in the 90's, the Bratislava scene was close-knit and that many people played in several bands at the same time, a phenomenon that researchers have called "the Portland Syndrome" since. Busy bee and guitarist Kono was also playing in Hell On Earth, System of Greed, Anti-Capital and Nihil Obstat, singer Jozo was also yelling in Hell On Earth, the bass player was also in System of Greed and the drummer in Svablast. Finding time to rehearse with Avgrund must have been a nightmarish task (assuming they practiced much that is) but then it was a studio project only (though there is an unconfirmed rumour that they did play live once) possibly meant to sate and unbind their mania for Swedish raw hardcore. And I do mean RAW. What makes Avgrund so credible is not just the punk cheapness of the "production" but also the genuine crudeness of their unpolished sound and the concerted simplicity of the songwriting. It really sounds like a bunch of teenagers with rather limited musical abilities, cheap instruments and even cheaper amps, trying to play loud and angry hardcore on a rainy sunday afternoon in Göteborg circa 1984. Taken individually, the elements do sound a bit sloppy or off pitch, but everything put, the dirty tone, the simple compositions, the rough production, together Avgrund sound like a Swedish hardcore band you have never heard of. And these vocals... With that instantly recognizable gruff punk tone inherent in scandicore, they could fit with the greatest ease on a Svart Parad or a Bombanfall recording. I don't think I have ever heard that impressive a vocal impersonation of classic Swedish hardcore. And I'm being honest. Avgrund were like the ultimate d-beat band in terms of acuteness and reproduction but one that replaced Discharge with Svart Parad.

In our decade that celebrates the goofiest worship of 80's punk music, Avgrund should be considered as untouchable models but instead remain shrouded in obscurity, a name only whispered at night by the nerdiest of us when the moon is full and the wolves are howling (or something). Along with the three songs that Hell On Earth contributed to the Chaos of Destruction 2 compilation Lp's (Kono was in touch with Kawakami, hence their inclusion) that you can read about on this very blog, this split Ep, recorded in late '96, is the only vinyl evidence of the Bratislava 90's crusty hardcore scene (sob sob) but as I mentioned earlier, the two tape compilations are definitely worth your while.

I don't really understand the concept of the very black metal looking record cover and, to be fair, it is a bit of a visual miss. Not much to say about the lyrics either. This geezer was released on Forest Records, label of Disprove's guitar hero Hideyuki, in 1997 and it is a brilliant piece of 90's punk history. The D knows no frontiers.

PS: Massive thanks go to Tomas from Beton for all the help on the Slovakian crusty scene. Cheers mate!     

Friday 27 September 2019

Sonatas in D Major (part 6): Disgust "Thrown Into Oblivion" cd, 1997

This entry might prove tricky to write since I am not much of a Disgust fan. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy Throw Into Oblivion tremendously, but as a band in the specific context of the 90's, I cannot say Disgust, as an entity, are particularly inspiring. I cannot really imagine a poignant, tear-inducing biopic about them for instance. For what such a record is worth, they were the first to be advertised an "all-star" d-beat band in History, demonstrating that, even regarding a subgenre as pure and noble as the holy D, one must remain quite vigilant. I am not saying that they sullied the respectable and legitimate practice of being Discharge by proxy, but their career did not exactly contribute to its good name. 

Disgust's origin story started well though. Dave Ellesmere - he who played the drums on a record you may have heard about called Why - was so disappointed with his former band's latest offering, Massacre Divine, "we were horrified at what they were doing" he said, his voice heavy with sorrow, and who could blame him,  it is a horrifying record indeed, that he decided to form a band that would sound like Discharge should still have been sounding like, namely like their '81/'82 era, "pretty much a strict template that you don't want to mess with". In order to turn these noble aspirations into reality, Dave picked up his favourite guitar and proceeded to recruit Steve Beatty, then owner of Plastic Head Distribution and formerly the drummer for anarchopunk band Stone the Crowz in the mid 80's, on vocals, Lee Barrett (who worked with Steve at Plastic Head) on the bass and Andy Baker (ex Varukers/Warwound/Sacrilege) on the drums. Unfortunately, this lineup lasted only a couple of rehearsals and promotional leaflets proclaiming with grandiloquence the second coming of Discharge in the guise of Disgust, had to be reprinted with a new lineup, Steve switching to drums because Andy left and Barney from Napalm Death (yes, I know) taking on the singer position. Because metal bands always have, by law, at least two guitar players, Gary Sumner, whom Dave knew from their glory days together in The Insane and Blitzkrieg, joined as well. With such a long "ex members" list, it is little wonder that Earache, smelling blood and cash, signed Disgust before they even played live. But then, Barney left and Disgust, without having set foot on a live stage, experienced yet another lineup change, with the arrival of England's prime gargling growler, Dean from Extreme Noise Terror, behind the microphone. It was this lineup that recorded the Brutality of War Lp in 1993 for Earache Records.

The high five of the apocalypse

Your assessment of early Disgust will totally depend on how bilious you are feeling today and on your level of cynicism. Of course, you could see the whole operation as a quick and easy way for a bunch of no longer relevant ex punks (is someone yelling "sellouts" at the back?) to make a comeback in the hardcore and extreme metal scenes. As far as I am concerned, Disgust's backstory sounds like the corny genesis of a heavy metal band made up of lads who used to play in bands that were kinda famous at some point (but to honest, a lot of hardcore supergroup have been promoting themselves exactly in this fashion for years in the DIY scene). You could also debate the idea that they were an actual band at all, since, being all spread out across the country, they pretty much wrote the songs on the day in the recording studio and, by their own admission, did not rehearse much, if at all, and did not get along well with each other so they cannot have done many gigs. Not really the Network of Friends mentality if you ask me. So even though Brutality of War was released the same year as Dischange's Seeing Feeling Bleeding, Disclose's Once the War Started and Disfear's A Brutal Sight of War, it can hardly be said that they were comparable works, since the aforementioned trio of Dis were just young hardcore bands that were part of the DIY punk fabric and not a so-called superband supported by a big metal label. So even though the output can and should be compared, the bands as entities and the contexts of production cannot. As for the intention behind the music, I am not in a position to pass judgements or attribute punk points (I ran out of them a while ago). I would hazard the opinion that Disgust's stance looked more opportunistic than Disclose's romanticism, although I have no doubt that the members of the band all dearly loved Discharge. In the end, a fitting description could be that Disgust was the perfect introduction to d-beat's stern extravaganza for your average metalhead.    

This said, and as peevish as my vision of the band can be, I have absolutely no doubt that the lads truthfully understood and related deeply to vintage Discharge. As Dave confessed, Disgust was meant to be a Discharge tribute band and on that level there is no denying the sheer raw power of Brutality of War. It is a great d-beat album, germane to the proper codes inherent to the genre and it basically hits all the right buttons. Apart from a couple of odd-sounding arrangements with the guitars (the one reserve I would formulate about the Lp is the slightly sloppy coordination between the guitars at times, which is surprising given the resumes of the people involved), Brutality of War does not fall in the usual traps one would be bound to associate with the idea of a d-beat album released on Earache in 1993. First, it is not an overproduced metal disaster, which would have been the biggest and most predictable mistake (one the band would eventually make). Of course, the production is clear and well-balanced, and objectively much cleaner than, say, on the Dischange Lp's, but it sounds like a punk record and not like an extreme metal one: raw, energetic and aggressive and it manages to reproduce Discharge's relentless brutality well enough. You can tell that the guys were really focused on dischargian mimesis and they completely deserve their inclusion in the "just like" category. I mean, even Dean does not overdo his proverbial growls and tries his best to melt in the collective D; which is how it should be done since, if anything, d-beat is a mystical sonic experience that, when well executed, transmits an uplifting feeling of harmony and of togetherness with the impending self-destruction of humankind, a bit like with psychedelic rock but with speed and cider instead of lsd. Brutality of War sounds and looks like a classic d-beat album and Disgust is a brilliant dis-name, these facts of life have to be dealt with as much dignity as we can muster.

Thrown Into Oblivion a live recording, first released on vinyl as an Ep in 1995 and on cd in 1997, both formats on the notorious Lost and Found Records from Germany. It was recorded during a Disgust's performance in Berlin at the Festivals of Hate tour that saw them share the stage with Cannibal Corpse, Samael and Morbid Angel, a lineup that shows how involved in and committed to the punk scene Disgust were as a band. In spite of an awkward moment when Dean invites, very loudly, the Cannibal Corpse bloke to grunt on stage during a song (I hold nothing against Cannibal Corpse but am completely indifferent to them), displaying once again that kind of corny metal festival mentality, Thrown Into Oblivion is, and it pains me a little to say that, a thunderous d-beat record. If Brutality of War felt a tad long and redundant in places (the Lp could have done without a few songs to be fair), Thrown Into Oblivion is a short sharp shock of Discharge-loving hardcore punk. The sound is bloody huge, and of course it would be, it is a metal festival, but the brutality of the set , made up of the best songs of the album, is awe-inspiring. That's what the end of the world should sound like. Eight songs of crushing "just like" d-beat that abides by the inexpugnable laws laid by the Stoke-on-Trent apostles who saved punk-rock in 1980. I guess it would not be erroneous to point out that Dean is a bit loud in the mix but his presence has never been subtle on stage so that was to be expected. The band is otherwise really tight, in spite of the scarcity of their rehearsals, and if you are looking for the sonic equivalent of being powerslammed by the Hulk wearing a studded jacket with Discharge painted on his back in order to make your friday livelier, you have just found the correct artifact.

All sizes for men, women and children,

The cd itself comes in a cardboard sleeve and sadly looks like a promotional giveaway rather than the best example of a live d-beat album recorded in the 90's, which Throw Into Oblivion objectively is. And I hate when ads for band merch find their way onto the insert. I have just bought the bloody cd already, let me breathe. Disgust would record the mediocre A World of No Beauty for Nuclear Blast (a metal label once again) in 1997, an album that chiefly made all the mistakes that Brutality of War wisely managed to circumvent. It is the perfect example of what a d-beat album should not sound like, so I guess you can thank the band for providing a counterexample: an overproduced, comlacent, uninspired metallic d-beat mess that is gruelling to listen to. As for 2002's The Horror of it all..., seldom has an album worn its title as aptly as this one. With only one original member from what was not really a proper band to begin with, this last Disgust album is to be avoided at all cost and I feel a bit sad for Crimes Against Humanity Records to have been entangled with what was essentially a crime against d-beat.