Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Records I Forgot I Owned (part 6): Positive Negative "Throughout the holocaust" Ep, 1999

Few countries can pride themselves on having an 80's punk scene as classic as Finland's. Vintage Finnish hardcore (I have bumped into the phrase "finncore" or "finn-core" on a couple of occasions but it sounds too cheesy, even for me) is the stuff of legend. That a dedicated bunch of Japanese punks have been trying very hard to reproduce that sound - as well as learn some basic skills in Suomi and wear the Bristolian headlace kinda gracefully - is no coincidence and proves that this brand of hardcore is not only a genuine style but also a tasteful one. I mean, you wouldn't see that with French punk, although now that French oi music has become fashionable I wouldn't be that surprised to hear about a Tokyo-based Komintern Sect cover band. What a world we live in. 

Although these days, we are quick in calling "classic" any short-lived band that vaguely recorded a demo in 1983, there is no denying that Finland produced its fair share of absolute classic bands. Back when I decided to educate myself about the world of hardcore, I used to make list of bands that, apparently, judging from what older and wiser punks said in fanzines, were "classic hardcore". Internet and downloading - without even mentioning streaming obviously - were still very much out of the picture at that time so, on a small budget, I had to target the good stuff and started to make lists of crucial foreign hardcore bands organized by country. I came up with a short list of Finnish punk bands that, if I understood well, I just needed to know if I did not want to be a poser, and since I was really worried that I might be called one at the time (yes, I know it sounds incredible in this age of social media but posing and wearing patches of bands you don't actually know was once frowned upon) I promptly bought some records. Of course, I could only find what was available (and affordable) at the time and I suppose I should have asked some old-timers to compile a mixtape for me instead, but that is how you learn. I remember ordering the Brazilian cd reissue of Rattus' Finnish Hardcore originally on BCT tape (not the greatest Rattus release to be honest and the whole thing's actually hard to digest as a first encounter with the band) and Terveet Kädet's Deep Wound cd (not a good one and it kept me away from TK for years) which I was not really happy with. However, I was lucky enough to find cheap vinyl copies of the amazing - bootleg - compilation Killed by Finnish Hardcore (the ideal comprehensive introduction to the genre) and two Höhnie Records reissues of classic Finnish hardcore, Riistetyt's As a Prisoner of State Lp and Kaaos' Totaalinen Kaaos Lp (basically the 1982 recordings of the band). The latter two completely won me over and the internet age even further consecrated the cult status that we collectively awarded these Tampere bands and the typical Tampere sound. I don't think I have ever met someone who dislikes early Kaaos. It is this kind of consensual band that is unanimously loved and really, I don't see how anyone could resist the insane teenage energy and snotty aggression that permeate their early works. Why am I talking about all this? Well, Positive Negative had two original members of Kaaos in its ranks.

I have absolutely no recollection of buying or being given the Ep so I am going to skip this part. If you lent me this record years ago and never gave it back, please leave a message. This is the only Positive Negative record in my collection and I am not really familiar with the rest of their discography. I don't think the band existed for that long but they sure were very active during their short run with four PN records being released between 1997 and 1999 (one of them was a split with Detestation). The members already had juicy resumes and the lineup was closely tied with the Kaaos story with Nappi on the bass (original Kaaos bass player who also played in Riistetyt in the 80's and Absurd Attitude and Ensam among other bands) and Jakke (original Kaaos singer) on the vocals, both of whom sadly passed away 2011 and 2007 respectively. On the drums you could find the first Janne who was also behind the kit in 00's-era Kaaos and Ensam, on the guitars you had another Janne (from Olotila and Diaspora) and Vege (from 00's-era Riistetyt and Vapaus) and on second vocals was Purtsi, who also sang in Absurd Attitude and Pause as well as playing the bass in 00's Kaaos. Some would call the 90's Tampere scene as a close-knit hardcore family, others would just say incestuous, I would just say that it is typical of the way punk scenes have always been working and it is always fun to make connections that you had never thought of before.

Throughout the Holocaust is a wonderful record and I don't understand why I haven't played more often. If you expect vintage Tampere hardcore revival, you will be disappointed, since the global trend crowning the minutious reconstructions of golden era hardcore music (and costuming, some people like to dress up as knights during the weekend, others choose 80's Finnish punks) only really started ten years after. PN definitely sounds like a 90's band in the best way possible. Of course, there is a solid mid-80's Finnish hardcore influence as PN could be defined - broadly - as a Scandi-thrash punk band. The aggressive thrashing hardcore riffs are there, the beats are fast and punishing and the presence of two guitars adds thickness to the sound. The dual trade-off vocals definitely point in the anarcho-crust tradition that was prominent in Europe however and, notwithstanding the fact I am an absolute sucker for this kind of vocalisation, it gives the songs a mean yet welcome crusty edge (I am reminded of Counterblast and Policebastard in the vocals' tones and structures). The Ep has a genuine narrative quality as all the songs either blend into each other or are connected with samples or quotes. In fact, the opening of side B is the same as the ending of side A, so you can see that PN were trying to tell a complete story and saw Throughout the Holocaust as a whole and not just a bunch of songs, something that the absence of song titles confirms. I am not saying that it is perfectly executed but it makes the EP more interesting and it allowed the band to include gloomy and melodic mid-paced moments with anarcho-tinged spoken parts that fit well into the work's structure as a whole. You could say that it is a well-balanced 90's blend of crusty anarcho-thrash bands like Disaffect or Homomilitia, of aggressive Finnish hardcore, with a dash of Brazilian crossover and some Bad Influence's anarcho weirdness. It certainly bears similarities with Kaaos' excellent 2001 record, Ismit and Riistetyt's best 00's materials and although it would be far-fetched to claim that PN was transitional in that respect, it is not completely absurd either. Lyrically, the band was in the anarcho tradition with antiwar and antiracist words and a foldout poster with a slogan that made me giggle: "The system is like a fart; you can not see it but it stinks". What's not to like about a crusty anarcho-thrash punk band that still adds a fart-related joke on a poster?     

Throughout the Holocaust was released on Fight Records, which will not surprise anyone, in 1999, like PN's second and third record, and it certainly holds up with the best releases of this quality Tampere hardcore label and since no one seems to really give a damn about this kind of sound, you should be able to blag a copy for cheap.


  1. Lots of good information, as always. I like this band quite a bit. At the time, I looked forward to each next release. Their opus. Quite progressive, really. Maybe that is why they weren't so greatly received. How great would a full-length have been. -ZM

    1. I sincerely think that their late 90's sound would have made for a great album. Missed opportunity I guess.