As time passes and as the global ecological apocalypse looms ever closer, it seems that, not unlike most of the world's wild species, the average lifespan of punk bands has also grown shorter. According to the last estimate of the World Health Organization, a punk band formed in 2020 is now expected to live a total of 800 days, whereas a band playing a similar style in 1992 could live at least 2000 days. Of course, some factors external to the punk scene like global living conditions, economic hardships, dictatorial regimes or postpunk's growing instagrammability have to be taken into consideration when one tries to analyse the transience of modern hardcore bands. Still, the fact remains that many bands split up after just two years of existence (often involving one 20 minute long album, one Ep, one European tour and about ten different shirt designs), before members disperse in order to start new band with a slightly different approach, thus launching a new punk life cycle. The intrinsic shortness of hardcore punk bands' lives is a subject that has been on my mind for a while now and, in spite of my infinite wisdom and invaluable experience, I don't have much to offer to enlighten this process other than the global acceleration and increase of our consumption of cultural goods and the decrease of our attention span, both as audience and musicians. If internet has affected the way we listen and relate to music, it must have changed how we write and play music and form bands. In any case, it is always heart-warming to see bands formed in the early 90's that are still active, still hold the same values and still deliver the same sonic assault, thus showing that crust music can be a potent - without mentioning largely organic - preservative indeed.
Today, Terminal Sound Nuisance will be hosting two familiar ugly faces, gathered on the same split record, an Ep released in 1994: Manchester's Extinction of Mankind and Sweden's Warcollapse, the latter being the only non-British band of this crust lifestyle series. The inclusion of this split Ep made sense on several levels. First, it is a way to connect the past - in this case the early 90's, a crucial time in crust development - to the present, since both bands are still playing in 2020 and although WC have not been anywhere near as active and prolific as EOM in the past decade, the latest Desert of Ash 12'' was released in 2019 and is worthy of your attention. Second, in the timeframe that interests us, from the late 80's to the early 90's, the split Ep format grew to become a proper DIY punk staple. The format was emblematic of the period itself as it symbolised the idea of cooperation and was also a lesser financial risk with the involvement of two bands. Just consider the number of split Ep's released in the 90's and 00's that unquestionably belong in the upper level of the crust punk canon and it is utterly clear that, not only did the Ten Steps series dearly needed such a format as a matter of diachronic relevance, but that you should also have a list of your ten favourite crust split Ep's ready in case you are being challenged to a crust joust by your arch nemesis one day (lets get real, it's bound to happen). And finally, you did not get much crustier than EOM and WC in 1993 when they recorded their respective side of the split.
I have already written about EOM's Scars of Mankind Ep (here) and WC's Crap, Scrap and Unforgivable Slaughter Ep (here), so that I do not really need to tell you about their origins again and the fascinating stories about how and when I got to know them probably don't deserve another round. I often feel as if I am droning on about the same old bands and sanity, or something approaching, dictates that I should avoid literally repeating myself too often. The day I accidentally review a record I forgot I already dealt with will be the last day of the blog and the first of a gofundme page for my retirement party (possibly a massive Discharge karaoke night). But we're not quite there yet and we have a lovely split Ep to rave about so let's get to it. There are several connections between EOM and WC, the split Ep being only the most obvious, and many parallels can be drawn between both bands. As punk bands do, they toured together in Sweden in late 1994 (Counterblast were also invited) and in central Europe again in September, 1995, but far more strikingly, both bands each recorded a tribute Ep to UK punk bands - Ale to England and the aforementioned Crap, Scrap and Unforgivable Slaughter - that included the exact same three bands (Antisect, Discharge and Amebix). If the similar choice of classic bands undeniably reflected major influences, there remains an impression of crust bromance that I find particularly endearing and relatable since, as any faithful believer of crust knows, Antisect, Discharge and Amebix is the official trinity of our cult. The Extinction of Mankind / Massgenocide split Ep was the first proper record for both bands (although EOM had one song off their Without Remorse demo on Loony Tunes' compilation Lp A Scream From the Silence Volume 2) and it proves to be an apt representation of the bands' rawer past selves.
Recorded in October, 1993, in Middlesborough, the EOM side is made up of three songs, admittedly thinly produced and rather direct in their approach, that nevertheless pack up a right punch. Although beers and fags have affected Ste's voice during his almost three decades behind the mike in EOM, you can still instantly recognise his vocal style and unmistakable flow, tone and intonations, shouted with a lot of power but never yelled or growled, and always very much understandable (if you are fluent in the language spoken "Up North"). You can hear that the band was still young and not totally comfortable and had not really found its own beat yet. The sonic ingredients that defined the early years of EOM are already present however and the Antisect influence is prevalent indeed as the band tries to offer a blend of In Darkness There is no Choice's relentless power and Out From the Void's rocking darkness, an ambitious initiative that EOM probably did not have the ability to realise at that point in time but that Scars of Mankind remarkably did eventually. There are also elements of Anti-System and Icons of Filth in those early EOM tracks, especially on the faster "Overruled" or on the groovy mid-paced moment of "Extinction of mankind", while "Suffer in silence", arguably the best song, reminds me of a cross between early Axegrinder and Hellkrusher. Lyrically, we are on standard grounds with "Overruled" (about systemic control) and "Extinction of mankind" (about humankind's fair treatment of nature, of course) while "Suffer in silence" is a visceral number about domestic violence. Although EOM would significantly improve throughout the 90's, the key elements and the referential nods, that they would build on, polish and grow to be famous for, already informed their early sound. One may also note that they were one of the few 90's UK bands to worship so openly at the altar of Antisect and Amebix and pay such a powerful tribute to the mid/late 80's both in terms of songwriting and visuals (the artworks have always been brilliantly macabre and the band's logo is the equivalent of a Crust 101 art class), and on that level it is relevant to see EOM as an attempt to continue and preserve the whole Antisect approach to punk and a love declaration to the crust greats. In the end, a rather romantic endeavour.
There are two songs on WC's side, "Massgenocide" and "Scorned by bombfighters", recorded in February, 1993. These two tracks were part of a larger session as two other songs were also recorded on that occasion, "Misery and despair" (which would end up on Tribal War's compilation War Compilation) and "Warcollapse" (included, along with "Misery and despair", on Distortion Records' Distortion to Hell classic compilation of Swedish crusty hardcore). I think it was the first session under the WC name but the band's website infers that a demo entitled Misery and Despair was recorded when they were still grinding under the Earcollapse moniker (a cracking name indeed). Being a massive WC fan myself, I cannot recommend the band's early era enough as it gloriously epitomised the 90's cavemen crust sound, albeit with a distinct Swedish hardcore vibe, and for all their rawness, the early Ep's did not fail to deliver and let it be clear that the Crust as Fuck Existence minialbum from 1995 is a masterpiece of mid-paced metallic old-school crust. The two WC songs on the split are typical of what would become the band's style. The heavy, slow, stripped-down dark crust number, "Massgenocide", points to Doom's slower moments, Döm Dar or even Saw Throat with super gruff and hostile vocals and such slow-paced epic metal-crust numbers would become a WC trademark. The other song, "Scorned by bombfighters", sees WC unleash a fast and pummeling scandicrust tornado upon the listener, somewhere between Doom, early Sauna, Anti-Cimex and Bombanfall, with the deceptively soft introduction cleverly linking it to the previous number and a spoken words moment nodding to anarcho hardcore punk. A clearly fantastic debut from the masters of Swedish crustcore and a fascinating instance of how influences circulate inside the punk scene with a Swedish band influenced by Birmingham's Doom, who were themselves inspired by Discard and 80's käng, who could not have existed without Discharge's fury. Not that many Swedish bands displayed a strong crust vibe in the 90's - be it of the stenchcore or of the cavecore variety - and many (and there were tons of bands) aimed for a harder version of the Swedish hardcore classics. WC, on the other hand, offered a punishingly convincing cocktail of old-school UK crust and vintage scandicore, and their sound, to me, defines what the term "Swedish crust" really entails.
Both EOM and WC would go on to become genuine references in the world of crust throughout the 90's and 00's. In spite of important lineup changes (the departure of Mass and the arrival of Scoot on the guitar must have been a massive sonic shift), EOM have progressively become that rather unique and distinctive UK crust band with a sound that is both identifiably linked to the old-school crust wave and yet totally their own and there is something that I find inherently respectable, if not heroic and quixotic, in keeping a band alive throughout all these years, especially when they play such an underground peculiar genre as crust punk, surviving all the shallow trends and the endless punk drama in the process. As for WC just play Desert of Ash if you need to be persuaded that they are still up for it and may the crusties of the world hold hands and pray together that it signifies the rebirth of the mighty WC.
Released on the Swedish label ElderBerry Records (responsible for records by the likes of G-Anx, Tolshock or 3-Way Cum), this is retrospectively a classic split Ep in the sense that, to some extent, it prefigures the greater things that are to come for both bands, although taken on its own as a rather typical early/mid 90's record, it would be far-fetched to call it a crust masterpiece but reasonable to describe it as a solid and promising raw crust work. It is therefore in the light of future events and of the bands' parallel progression that the EOM/WC split Ep makes the most sense.
To be enjoyed with some ale.
To be enjoyed with some ale.