Wednesday 29 July 2020

Ten Steps To Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 5): Prophecy of Doom "The Peel Sessions" 12'' Ep, 1990

There are a couple of tacit but nevertheless crucial, and indeed immemorial, rules that even the most seemingly unflinching crusty has to abide by if the all-important crust credibility is to be maintained at all time. Some have been thoroughly documented by notorious crust anthropologists and I strongly recommend to read such classic studies as The Elementary Structures of Crustship or Coming of Age Rituals in Patched Societies. Today, I will focus on one of these ground rules so that the unexperienced reader will no longer be caught dithering like a speed virgin when asked about his or her favourite recording of /insert name of classic UK hardcore crust bands from the mid/late 80's/, a common enough question in punk socialising spaces like glamorous d-beat gigs, distro stalls or, of course, the bar. Make no mistake as a wrong answer to such a critical enquiry could have you banned from the crust elite for any number of years and from being asked to play in a retro stenchcore band, which is pretty much the highest rank in crusty social groups, the very top of the crust chain. In fact, there have been many instances where the question merely served as a means to gauge the current crust level of a new recruit, not unlike a rite of passage marking the transition from "poser" to "proper". So if you nurture the dream to one day become the guitar player of a tasteful synth-driven stenchcore band, the right answer could be decisive whereas faltering awkwardly "the first album?" will probably not suffice and might condemn you to only attain the spot of the bass player in a new school d-beat band. Therefore, whenever possible, safely go for "the Peel Sessions are excellent". 

A fine example of Midieval art

Not only is such an answer - almost - always true, as you could indeed argue that the best materials of Extreme Noise Terror, Doom or Napalm Death were recorded during their visits to the BBC studios (I personally consider the transitions between ENT's "I'm not a fool" and "In it for life" and between Doom "Symptom of the universe" and "Multinationals" to be some of the most poignant moments of crust magic ever put to tape), but it also shows that you acknowledge the influence that John Peel has had on the making of the so-called UK hardcore scene and sound. To be offered a Peel Session was a big deal for punk bands at the time. Pretty much every punk kid was a fan of the man's open-mindedness and enthusiasm and got to discover top bands through his show so it was felt as a major achievement to be invited to be a part of it, without mentioning that your band was going to be broadcast nationally on the BBC with all the exposure that ensued. I suppose one of the main reasons - if not the main reason - why punk Peel Sessions always sounded ace was that, for many bands, it would be the only opportunity to play on state-of-the-art equipment, as opposed to the usually shitty amps of their practice spaces, which accounted for the fantastic sound production they were treated with. Besides, the very idea of playing the noiziest, filthiest grinding hardcore on such expensive appliances, live on the BBC radio must have felt quite exhilarating and an antithesis in action. Punk, innit?  

When it comes to Prophecy of Doom, from Tewkesbury, you can confidently assert that their two Peel Sessions deserved to be regarded as the best material they ever recorded (although the second one from 1991 might be even better than the first). It will undoubtedly shine a knowledgeable glow upon your person. PoD were certainly one of the most unique and convincing bands pertaining to the original UK crust wave (as usual, I strongly urge you to read the chapter devoted to them in Trapped in a Scene) and, at their peak, their brand of intelligent, oppressive grinding stenchcore certainly amounted to the best of what crust had to offer. In spite of the two aforementioned Peel Sessions, one genuinely classic crust Lp - 1990's Acknowledge the Confusion Master - and a number of contemporary reissues (thanks to the good people of Agipunk for that), PoD have unfairly remained something of an underappreciated band, fervently revered by a few but tragically ignored by many. I first came across PoD through their second album, the Matrix cd, released in 1992 on Metalcore, which I got for cheap (it figures) ages ago. It was not, to say the least, an ideal introduction to a band that I had seen mentioned on several tasteful thank lists and that shared a split cd with Axegrinder, which entitled me to expect some proper crust from them. Matrix is not good and the last time I played it, I think Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. However, it stands as their only admittedly lacklustre work and you can trust all the rest, safe in your crusthood. 

The Peel Sessions 12'' Ep was recorded on January, 28th and broadcast on February, 14th, 1990. It included four songs that originally appeared on the album, released the same year on Deaf Records (a Peaceville sublabel) and recorded with the same lineup of Shrew, Shrub, Tommy, Dean and Martin. I suppose that if you played PoD for the first time to an innocent punky bystander, a common first reaction would be one of genuine wonder at Shrew's very peculiar vocals since he used a guitar effect pedal (some sort of delay) making him sound like the rotting corpse of some unidentified but undoubtedly monstrous and barbaric creature growling at your guilty conscience from beyond the grave. It is just a lovely feeling. While I am generally not a massive believer in using too much effect on your vocals, the combination of the delay with the threateningly gruff, insane-sounding vocal style works ideally with PoD and it has to be said that it was a daring move for the time. If life has been so miserable that you have never had the opportunity to enjoy PoD at their best, let's suggest that they could be defined as an oppressively groovy grinding crust band with a leaning towards early death metal or as an epic pub brawl between early Carcass and Mindrot, '89 Deviated Instinct and '88 Hellbastard but I feel that such comparisons cannot render the suffocating atmosphere of madness permeating PoD's sound and their original take on the genre, be it in terms of song structures, writing or sonic textures. You will find many different paces in these four songs, from fast-paced cavemen crust to mid-tempo mean pummeling stenchcore, blasting grinding death metal or painful and dark sludgy moment, all shades of crust punishment answer the call. As you can expect, the production is absolutely perfect and the bass sound is to die for. The lyrics were another strong point of the band with rather thought-provoking words about our pervasive egotism, the subconscious thought processes, the lies and conceit we create to keep going and the ensuing personal and social insanity. PoD's lyrics were like their music: quite unique and smart.

This 12'' Ep was released on Strange Fruit, the BBC-related label that put out all the Peel Sessions and of course everyone recognized the distinctive style of Mid who drew the cover of the record (I encourage you to use this intel as a scholarly piece of crust trivia) and kept experimenting with more layered visual techniques. Fortunately for you, Boss Tuneage released a PoD discography entitled Retrospective 1988-1991 last year (without Matrix though) that is still available on vinyl and cd so there is really no excuse.     

Sunday 12 July 2020

Ten Steps to Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 4): Extreme Noise Terror "Are you that desperate?" Ep, 1995

This step is going to be a relatively small but still important one toward a well-balanced stenchcore diet and a harmonious relationship with the crustmos. So place your healing crustals on the table, light some sweat'n'cider-flavoured incense sticks and let's unclog those chakras.   

I guess everyone here is familiar with the cavemen crust pioneers Extreme Noise Terror so prattling at length about them - as I normally would - does seem a little pointless. Besides, the inclusion of this ENT Ep into the present series has a lot to do with the fact that it is a live recording and a rather rare occurrence of savage but listenable live crustery on vinyl. The marriage between the extreme sonic characteristics inherent to the style, the very limited means of recording in the 80's and a marked inclination to get plastered before playing, explains that there aren't that many good live recordings of the classic crust era, which is a shame since those bands usually played a lot. I certainly can think of a couple of great ones (of Antisect and their three live Lp's and Amebix of course, and even Axegrinder, that were done through the mixing deck), but often it was just an enthusiastic hardcore punk fan armed with a tape recorder in one hand (and a pint in the other) which logically accounted for the sound quality being very rough and the listener being barely able to make out all the instruments amidst all the drunken blabbering of the punters sometimes. All in all a pretty amusing experience and certainly one that makes the passionate punk feel like an archeologist exhuming scarce and precious artifacts of an ancient civilisation, which is probably not completely wrong when one considers that every gig is filmed by at least twenty persons in the audience nowadays.

Are you that Desperate? belongs to that rare category of "listenable live recordings of 80's crust" and let's face it you need to master at least one of those if you want to be a credible crust punk. Apart from the aforementioned forefathers of the genre Antisect and Amebix, Extreme Noise Terror have been the only vintage crust band to enjoy a proper live record of one of their late 80's performances - although the first pressing of the Ep was only released in 1991 - namely their gig at the Powerhaus in London on October, 5th, 1989, with Doctor and the Crippens. Of course, Doom would also have a couple of solid live Ep's later on, 1992's Live in Japan and 2001's Pissed Robbed and Twatted, but those were not recorded in the 80's. Of course, you could also argue that protocrust noize masters Chaos UK - with the B side of 1986's Just Mere Slaves 12'' recorded in Japan - and Disorder - with their full Lp 1985's Gi Faen I Nasjonalitenten Din recorded in Oslo - had official live recordings on vinyl prior to ENT, but since we, at Terminal Sound Nuisance, posit that "crust" is both continuation as well as change, and that, although the Bristol hardcore heroes played a major role, in terms of musical influence, aesthetics and logistics, in the making of crust, they were not, strictly speaking and in spite of similar lifestyles and hygiene, "crust bands". Know what I mean?

Along with Napalm Death, ENT were the most iconic band of the mid/late 80's hardcore crust wave in Britain and their early works remain unsurpassable cult releases like Scum or War Crimes. However, whereas Doom, who started a bit later as a band, always stuck both to the ethics of the DIY punk scene and to their cavemen adaptation of Discard, ENT decided to go for bigger things, signed to Earache Records in the 90's and tried to become a medium-sized metal bands, leaving their crust punk roots and anarcho lyrics in the process, which was seen by many as selling out and understandably left a stain on the ENT name to this day even though the band (which was always singer Dean's band) have gone back to their old-school cavemen crust style and to DIY punk label, a return that some have deemed more than a little questionable and hypocritical. However I am not here to pontify but to talk about the actual piece of wax and the band's legacy because, as much as one may be critical of ENT's past direction, there is no denying the sheer power and insane intensity characterising their 80's period and in 1989 they sounded bloody unstoppable.

Like many a snot-nosed punk of yore, ENT was the first crustcore band I ever knew through their split Lp with Chaos UK, a record that did not really convert me to the cause of noize at first as it all sounded a bit much and just plain silly to me, whereas I immediately connected to Doom at about the same time. I remember not being able to get my head around ENT's dual vocals. Were they for real or just arsing around in the studio? And what about that name? Sure, your band can reasonably be described as an extremely noisy terror but does that justify being so literal? It took a listening session of A Holocaust in your Head while inebriated for me to really grab the essence of ENT. Many years have passed and my appreciation of late 80's ENT is strong and pure and I still cannot help singing along to "Murder" whenever I hear it (with the appropriate level of discretion that the social situation requires of course). The widely accepted current consensus concerning the band's body of works is that the Peel Sessions (all three of them: 1987, 1988 and 1990) along with the In It For Life split Lp with Filthkick are the most ferocious ENT records (and their cover of the Rejects has to be one of the most inspired punk covers ever), but you cannot go wrong either with the raw pogo crust power of Radioactive, A Holocaust in Your Head's emphatic - if a bit sloppy - template for the traditional dual vocal crust attack formula and 1991's Phonophobia certainly heralded the new era of controlled and tighter crustcore brutality that would define the 90's and climax with Disrupt's Unrest.

Contrary to Doom, with whom the comparisons are unavoidable because of common members, who pretty much stuck to their initial career plan to sound like Discard/Crudity/Svart Parad, the spectrum of influences of ENT - who grew out of the ashes of mid-80's bands Raw Noise and Victims of War - was broader and included, beside the Bristol noise merchants Chaos UK and Disorder and anarcho bands like '82 Antisect (to whom they owed their famous trade-off vocal style) or Anti-System, classic foreign hardcore bands from Japan (GISM, Swankys or Kuro, Italy (Wretched or EU's Arse), Finland (Kaaos or Rattus) in addition to the usual Swedish suspects (Anti-Cimex and Shitlickers). Those rather varied but always savage hardcore influences were then blended together until you obtained a smooth enough texture meant to be played at full speed, with cider-fueled intensity and with completely over-the-top extreme dual vocals that still manage to sound punk as fuck. To get back to Are you that Desperate?, it includes six absolute classic ENT classics: "Deceived", "Another nail in the coffin", "Subliminal music", "Murder", "Raping the Earth" and "Punk - fact or faction?". The Ep appropriately starts with "Deceived", and its classic and so epic introduction that has certainly sent shivers down many a spine throughout the years and is just the perfect opener. The sound is pretty decent and the band quite tight so that you can easily understand what is going on. I would not recommend this Ep to someone not previously familiar with ENT as it sounds even more brutal than usual - because of the proximity created by the live recording - like an enraged mob of drunk cavemen banging on your door at 2am. A couple of speeches between the songs indicate that the band was not too happy with the macho dancing and "metal attitudes" they were witnessing at the gig which I suppose is fairly positive and showed that they still cared and, beside the lyrics, there is a text entitled Meat Food for Thought exposing the impact of Western carnivorous diets in terms of pollution, ecological destruction and social inequities in developing countries, that is - sadly - still very much relevant.

The live Ep was originally released in 1991 but this present version of Are you that Desperate? is the second pressing from 1995 with the black border cover. Both were released on Crust Records, a Providence-based label run by Dropdead's guitar player that was responsible for a couple of noizy classics from the likes of Disrupt, Diskonto, Totalitär and of course Drodpead. My only minor issue with the Ep is that the cover, depicting a Oliver Hardy lookalike in a uniform pouting at a burger, is not what it could have been. Indeed, the drawing on the backcover with its crustier than thou gnomish caveman making noise out of a helplessly broken guitar would have made for a legendary cover (but since it already appeared on the insert of The Peel Sessions 1987-1990 maybe they refrained from the idea of putting it on the cover, I dunno).

Probably not the most ideal listen for an ENT novice but an undeniable treat for your inner crusty.  

Sunday 5 July 2020

Ten Steps to Make Your Life CRUSTIER Starting Today (step 3): Genital Deformities "Shag nasty! Oi!" Lp, 1989

I have been thinking about all those bands that never got to exist lately. Those that never went past the practice stage, assuming they actually got enough of their shit together to enter a practice room. I suppose we all have dozens of unborn bands, often the result of boozing sessions with your mates during which everyone thought it'd be hilarious to form a mock ska band or agreed that what this town really needed was a more traditional d-beat band called D-Charge. Usually, after sobering up, such projects never really happen since the very concept of it often proves much more fun than its actualisation and the logistics involved in playing in a band. And let's face it, if many such ideas sound hysterical when formulated while intoxicated, the truth is that, in most cases, a lot of them should indeed remain in the realms of projection and although I have been threatening for several years to concretise Skarcass, my ska band devoted to covering early Carcass songs, I am fully aware, deep down, that humanity may not deserve to have this calamity unleashed upon it and that it would be safer for all involved that Skarcass, tragically, never sees the light of day. It would be a right laugh though.

Was Genital Deformities the product of a heavy drinking session somewhere in the West Midlands in 1987 when a drunk teenage punk offered excitedly to form the noisiest band possible with the most disgusting and obnoxious name they could think of? Quite likely indeed. Fortunately for punk history, GD became real and created a genuine early crust classic with Shag Nasty! Oi!. However, and rather unfortunately for matters of appropriacy, they stuck with the moniker Genital Deformities, a courageous choice maybe, one that may have some appeal to lovers of purposefully gory disgusting noise, but akin to shooting yourself in the foot and then trading your crutches for some shite speed offered by a right dodgy geezer in the loo if you are not actually a goregrind band, which GD never were although they have been misconstrued as such.

I haven't learnt much about the band since I last wrote about them in my review of their 1994 split cd with the mighty Subcaos (here) but what you must know is that GD recorded their first demo in December, 1987, a recording (I doubt it was ever actually released physically) that respected the "noise not music" doctrine with the utmost loyalty as it was, quite literally, noise and certainly not music. Made up of fifteen "songs", most of them being short and brutal bursts of hardcore noise, it was recorded with a drum machine and a singer who was clearly on white cider and it can be said to be a prime example of early noisecore giving Sore Throat's Aural Butchery a run for its money in terms of gruff roughness. Amidst the blasting chaos and the utter dementia pervading the demo, some songs introduced heavy mid-paced Frost-like riffing and atmospheric crust moments that did point to where GD would be heading the year after once they got a stable lineup (or once they saw themselves as an actual band) and decided to write proper songs. In 1988, GD recorded an Ep that was never released and included six songs that would all be rerecorded on the Lp. Since this recording can be considered as a sort of rawer version of the album, there is no need to slobber over it too much but let me tell you that it easily outcrusted most of the competition at the time (thanks a million to Panzer Badger for exhuming this unreleased masterpiece). So let's proceed to Shag Nasty! Oi!.

I suppose that when the name of your band already refers to deformed genitalia, calling your album Shag Nasty! Oi! should be considered as rather benign, even though it certainly conjures up the saucy songs of the Macc Lads. Since the Lp does not have an insert, I am unable to assess how ironic this title was in the light of the lyrics which, from what I can decipher, with some difficulty because of the super gruff cavemen vocals, were quite serious and abstain from the lewd and fruity. As for the cover of the album, I could write a whole article about it. First, because it is a stunning artwork drawn by Skinny who had already done covers and posters for Doom, Napalm Death, SxOxB or Extreme Noise Terror at that point and second because it is a stunning but penis-based artwork. Again, you could argue that a band called Genital Deformities and an album called Shag Nasty! Oi! would use a phallic landscape for a cover, it just makes sense, and at least their artistic choices are coherent and the vision is clear, as overrun with dicks as it might be. On the one hand, I love the cover because it looks very macabre, nightmarish and grotesque and very punky too and it can be admired for the well-composed and detailed piece of punk art that it is. On the other, it makes wearing my GD shirt a highly delicate endeavour for, if its aesthetics kinda look like Nightmare Before Christmas from a distance, anyone looking closer can notice that I am covered in erect ejaculating penises and there is a priest with two cocks in his mouth holding what appears to be a penis-made nunchaku and very much enjoying it (without mentioning the lecherous Thatcher-like figure seemingly involved in some kind of wild orgy with penis-shaped skeletons). So probably not the most adequate outfit to wear for your nan's birthday (although you never know, do you?). In spite of all the sexual references and if you manage to abstract yourself from the penis imagery, the overall atmosphere of GD's visuals did possess that dark apocalyptic and decadent feel one can find on a lot of classic crust records, locating the band in the original strong crust tradition.

Shag Nasty! Oi! is, as deliberately disgusting as the cover might be, an absolute stenchcore crust classic, a practically flawless album worth of praises that ought to be celebrated as often as possible. I remember getting the Lp for quite cheap about fifteen years ago and looking at the prices on discogs, it looks like Shag Nasty! Oi! is a crucial piece of crust culture that is still rather affordable. I have to admit that I was extremely suspicious upon ordering it because of the band's name but it was described as "UK crust from 1989" and, in my fanaticised mind, this combination of words always evokes images of crust grandeur. It makes the heart beat so to speak. Once I got over the shock caused by the cover and mentally accepted the fact that I had been conned into acquiring a grindcore Lp, I played the album and realized how wrong, mistaken, naive, foolish, arrogant, misled and juvenile I had been. Throughout punkstory, although a consequential number of crust bands have claimed to be influenced by Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, few succeeded in crustifying properly the mighty Frost sound and among those who did, GD have to lead the pack. Shag Nasty! Oi! manages to incorporate and rework Frost and Hellhammer riffs and structures into a decidedly metallic UK crust sound. It has got the incredible rocking groove that the Swiss were known but instead of evil and ominous, GD sound like noisy cider-fueled punk cavemen in an advanced stage of dementia obnoxiously covering Celtic Frost opening for Napalm Death and Doom at the Mermaid in 1988 (quite possibly the best compliment I have ever paid on the blog). The songs are dark and heavy, mostly groovy and mid-tempo primitive crusty metal epics, but you do have a couple of faster numbers (like Frost had really) and even a grinding one, and although the songwriting template informing the fifteen songs on the album is clear to see, it never sounds redundant. The guitar sound is to die for, thick, heavy, loud and rocking, with an almost organic quality, it sounds like the gurgles of a happily rotting corpse and makes the Lp stand tall along with the vocals. I suppose you could write a whole essay about those insane-sounding, gruff vocals that sound grotesque and macabrely theatrical, but also very threatening and pissed, even more so than Sore Throat's, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the singer spent the recording session in a straitjacket.

One may venture that the intent behind Shag Nasty! Oi! was to create an hyperbolic and ludicrous, dark, organic, thick crust metal work, that is both serious and farcical. GD were certainly on a par with the best of the early crust waves and meaningful comparisons can be made with early Hellbastard, Axegrinder and Sore Throat whose mid-paced moments were also very Frost-oriented. And if you are still slightly circumspect, please listen to the song "Dark sky," basically one of the best stenchcore crust songs ever written, its anthemic value especially emphasised by the delicate acoustic intro "Crouterposs" that precedes it on the album. "Dark sky" sounds like a crusty dance of death, like the soundtrack to the end of the world, like the crust to end all crusts. The slow-paced opening beat with its long pause is a proof that crust punk can be innovative while remaining heavier than a tramp's breath, the vocals remind me of an intoxicated grizzly bear and the unsuspected ominous Amebix-like synth-driven eerie break in the middle utterly takes the song to Mount Olympus Crustus. "Dark sky" is a perfect old-school crust song, like Axegrinder's "Final war", Hellbastard's "We had no evidence", Nausea's "Extinction" or Misery's "Born fed slaughtered" and .

The lineup on Shag Nasty! Oi! was made up of Tom Croft (who would join Excrement of War shortly after), Crow, John and Tim and it was their last collaboration as the subsequent 1992 Profession of Violence tape (also released on vinyl as a split with Nuclear Death from Poland) had Crow, John, Jez and Mik Vik. That GD lineup then split up but the band kept going for the split cd with Subcaos with only Crow as original member, the rest being Higgy, Neil, Iggy and Ade (who left before the recording session). The recordings that followed Shag Nasty! Oi! may not have been as crusty, but if you are looking for Frost-inspired heavy UK hardcore punk, it does not get much better. A tragically overlooked band, doomed by a preposterous moniker. That's punk, innit?