Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 2): Another Oppressive System / Human Waste split Ep, 2004

I have absolutely no recollection of getting this split Ep. None. I know for sure that I did not buy it at the time it came out so, I suppose, I must have found it for cheap on a distro table recently and, out of nostalgia and perhaps inebriation, decided to bring it home. And then, of course, the next morning, I completely forgot about my grand gesture and life went on. So I was pleasantly surprised to see it when I took a peak in the boxes of records during the move. 

Paradoxically, although I didn't even recall owning the thing, I know this particular record very well as we would play it very often at a mate's place when it came out in early 2004. Since he had bought it and since I used to spend a lot of time at his place, there was no need for me to buy it as well (that seemed reasonable as we all had little money for records at that time and a very limited access to the internet, so to share listening experiences was the sensible thing to do and we could always justify it with some kind of anarcho-collectivist theory). I would just bring some records along with me and we, with some other friends, would spend the afternoon listening to crust music and talk about our future band, discussing such crucially important matters as "should we include blast beats?", "are From Ashes Rise too melodic to be claimed as an actual influence?" or "do we all agree that there will be no soloing?". We were very serious and excited about it all and not jaded like everyone is or pretends to be these days. 

But anyway, in the early 00's, Profane Existence was an important political and artistic compass for me, and I was always on the lookout for new records and new issues of the magazine. It was at about that time that the magazine changed drastically, it got thicker and more professional-looking, with a glossy cover and a compilation cd included in it. I remember it got a lot of criticism because it was obviously more expensive (and there was, horror, a barcode!) and, to be fair, I do think the content was not as political and radical as it used to be, but then PE was also a collective and I suppose the magazine reflected the stances, ambitions and prospects of the people active at that time in it and well, people and contexts do move and change too and maybe the scene itself was not as political as it used to be. I didn't dislike the new version and enjoyed reading it enough although I did find it a little too polished (I much prefer the chaotic cut'n'paste look for punk zines) but then it was meant to be better distributed, more accessible and a proper magazine about DIY political punk, a rather ambitious goal that it sadly failed to achieve. Maybe it just didn't survive the new selfie punk generation and its expectations? Maybe it was already dated and not "edgy" enough? Maybe reading a punk magazine requires more efforts and support than playing a youtube video or liking a post (and the end of MRR as a printed medium may be seen in this light as well, though I have to say was never really an MRR reader)? Was it a generational change? Is it a global epistemological change due to the absolute prevalence of social media even when it pertains to underground and supposedly subversive punk music? I remember that only 10 years ago, questions and criticisms were still being raised about the need to use sites like myspace for punk bands and there were attempts to create autonomous alternatives to corporate social media platforms (and to be fair, there still are some). Now, you would just be shouting in the wind if you formulated similar reserves and over the past few years youtube, facebook or bandcamp have become taken for granted. We (I) just got lazy and complacent. But I should cut the whining and get to the actual crust.

As I said, in the early 00's, we paid a lot of attention to Profane Existence. I was looking closely at labels like Hardcore Holocaust, Crust War, Stonehenge Records, Putrid Filth Conspiracy or Plague Bearer (I had been appointed the official nerd in my group of friends so it was my duty to watch these things closely), but it was really PE that made the link between good music and anarcho politics for us (the ace-looking dove logo almost felt like a tribal sign). None of us had heard of either Another Oppressive System nor Human Waste before though but the Ep certainly looked very crusty (it has to be said that crust covers were very formulaic then) and the limited access to punk music made a lot of bands sound a lot more exciting and better than they actually were. So let's take another good listen to this split Ep.

First, I must admit that, if the moniker "Another Oppressive System" was almost certainly a loving reference to the great old OC peacepunk band "Another Destructive System", innocent me was completely unaware of it at the time and thought that AOS was a brilliantly original name for a band. They were from Connecticut and were active between 2000 and 2005, releasing two split Ep's, with World on Welfare and the great 3-Way Cum, and one full Ep before this one. Some members of AOS also played in crust acts like Dissystema and Diallo, who then morphed into The Total End (in 2004 I think), and I guess such names inevitably carry a whiff of nostalgia for some of us. Connecticut is renowned for having produced a number of hard-hitting savage crust bands throughout the years like Deformed Conscience, Dissension, React and State of Fear, the latter being definitely the most direct influence on AOS. They played heavy, fast, furious and political US-styled cavemen crustcore with three (yes, three!) vocalists in the great tradition of Disrupt and State of Fear. The vocals sound very harsh and angry, the drums are thundering, the riffs are quite obvious - in a "I <3 scandicrust" kinda way - but work well enough and the production, raw and punchy, is just as it should be for the genre and format (I don't think it would work on a full Lp for instance). If you fancy some heavy, gruff cavemen crust with dual male/female vocals then these three songs recorded in 2002 will delight you to no end. Sadly, this particular crust exercise slowly went out of fashion in the 00's and you could argue that, musically, even AOS were already closer to being a surviving trace of the 90's anarcho/crust sound rather than a sign of what was to come, namely the so-called stenchcore revival and the neocrust trend (though the dark and melodic ending to "Desperate cry for change" is not far off with its acoustic bit). Not many bands still play that old-school style of crustcore today and it might not be a wide-spread opinion, but I miss honest, direct bands like AOS that delivered the polyphonic harcore crust savagery with a good attitude and politics. AOS might not have produced a classic record - the following split Ep with Crossing Chaos, that I bought upon its release this time, was not as powerful - like Consume did for instance and I doubt many people still listen to them, but I'd rather listen to them than to the legions of ego-driven instagram bands passing for hardcore punk that seem to pullulate these days.

On the other side are Human Waste from Östersund, a Swedish crust punk band that existed from 1998 to 2006 and must have chosen their name from that great Skitsystem song. I think I knew HW before listening to this split as I must have bought their Ett 6 Pack Folköl Antipolis compilation cd on Hardcore Holocaust in 2003. Until now, I had never really thought about the band's insane productivity in the early 00's. Mind you, between 2001 and 2004, HW recorded 6 Ep's and 5 split Ep's! I suppose the fact that the singer Joakim was also a recording engineer must have helped the band and pushed them to record a lot, but that's still impressive. I suppose they are now remembered as being Joakim's first band as he later on played in countless bands like Dödsdömd, Uncle Charles, Ambulance, Electric Funeral, Desperat and of course the very good Paranoid without mentioning he founded the excellent and of course very prolific label D-Takt & Råpunk that specializes in releasing Swedish crust and hardcore. I hadn't played HW for some years before this post so let's check them out.

As remembered, they played fast and crusty Swedish hardcore with very distinctive screaming vocals that sound a little porcine. Like marmite, you will either love or hate them I suppose. As for me, I can handle them for the length of an Ep but not much longer to be honest. The three songs on the split with AOS were recorded in 2003 and have more variations and tempo changes than the band's earlier material that was very straight-forward in the songwriting (not that there is anything wrong with that of course) and also a little monotonous. On this one, you will find some dark melodic riffing, some heavy mid-paced moments that are not unlike Wolfbrigade or Acursed and on the whole I am reminded of Kontrovers' great first Lp, probably the best example of a successful blend between the traditional, fast and furious crusty Swedish hardcore and the more complex, more layered, more progressive dark hardcore sound of the 00's. Although they sound very much "of their time" (meaning too many "dark melodic neocrust" riffs), I enjoy these three songs enough and I like how, despite the epic crust turn, they still sound furious and urgent and not like some boring and overproduced post-hardcore band.

To be fair, at the time we often only played the AOS side (sometimes several times in a row because it was jus three songs) and I think I still would. This solid and humble split Ep may sound a little dated when compared to how punk sounds and is produced today but it is a relevant artifact of the early 00's scene. In terms of visuals, it is also a blast from the past since the cover was drawn by Marald, a Dutch artist with a graphic style close to American comic books that did a lot of covers in the 90's and 00's for US anarchocrust bands like Destroy!, State of Fear, After the Bombs or Scorned. At the time, I remember growing a bit bored of his covers since they often portrayed the very same things (skulls, skeletons, bodies, war and shit) but then I think it had more to do with what the bands wanted and not Marald. Oh well. I guess it almost looks vintage now since no one does this type of comic book crust aesthetics anymore. And he could really draw great zombies.  


  1. Never heard AOS. Being a huge fan of Disrupt, I'm liking this, and their earlier records are even better. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. Human Waste ain't too shabby either. -ZM

    1. I think AOS were pretty good at what they did and this type of crust is just not really done anymore today and even at the time, I suppose it was slowly but surely going down. Definitely a band I loved revisiting.