Friday, 26 February 2021

How Crust Survived the Millennium Bug (part 7): Guided Cradle / Instinct of Survival "S/t" split Ep, 2006

When it comes to Terminal Sound Nuisance, I always look for inspiration, wisdom and enlightenment in order to offer the deepest insight to the millions of readers spread over the world (according to the estimates of my rather competent Public Relations manager). While the mundanity of everyday life can be efficiently dealt with without involving too much of the - by nature limited - attention span and brain availability, writing for the blog requires the greatest intellectual commitment and the non-negotiable and total involvement of my resourceful knowledge. To achieve such a secondary state of utmost intellectual presence, Revelation must be attained through intense sessions of fasting and meditation (I recommend waterfall as meditation spots as they look great on Instagram and can highlight your abs) and then, and only then, is my mind ready to focus on punk music and the forced conversion of the unsuspecting masses. If you want to know more about my refined and beauty-enhancing meditation techniques, look out for my new book Essential Chakra Meditation: Awaking your Crust Power with Meditation, Visualization and Cider

One of the numerous visions that I experienced after two days straight of standing motionless under that waterfall and freezing my arse off in the process is that, once upon a time, I often waited ardently for records to come out and my expectant chatter could be heard at punk venues and even, according to flatmates, in my sleep. Excitement barely contained, eyes sparkling with anticipation, watching our for the record's release with bated breath. If this incomparable feeling of suspension has not completely disappeared when it comes to my record buying habits, the years combined with our new gargantuan and yet blasé consumption of cultural goods online, their seemingly unstoppable commodification as well as the constant flow of new bands and new trends somehow tempered my once insatiable enthusiasm and eagerness for new punk records. Perhaps it has to do with growing older and with the steady accumulation of records that the loyal support for the bands, for the labels and for materialism necessarily entails. With the improvement of one's knowledge, the probability to be genuinely, not to mention pleasantly, surprised decreases. I sharply remember with a tinge of nostalgia the seemingly endless wait for the split between Hellshock and Effigy to come out, or the one between Stormcrow and Sanctum, or the After the Bombs Lp, and that's just sticking to the old-school crust sandpit (admittedly my genre of affinity). That's not to say that my proverbial ebullience dried up after the mid-00's as my expectations for more recent records like the split between Fatum and Cancer Spreading, the one between Extinction of Mankind and Apocalypse or the one between Zygome and Kaltbruching Acideath were quite high indeed. However, the stenchcore revival of the noughties undoubtedly marked the peak of my anticipative years and the split Ep between Guided Cradle and Instinct of Survival was one record that I waited for feverishly.

I already wrote about my intense relationship with Instinct of Survival - one of the few current crust bands that has proved to be able, time and time again, to surprise me - so for the sake of literary brevity I shall not tell the story of my first encounter with the band again but if you are interested in this classic moving tale of initiatory journey, I encourage you to read the review of Lapsed into Absurdity, their one-sided flexi from 2013. I obtained this very fine split Ep at a Guided Cradle gig in Paris in 2006 during their European tour. I first heard about GD, that band from Czech with two American punks in it, from a mate of mine who had already seen them live and, although he was not especially a sucker for this style of hardcore punk, was very complimentary about the band's performance which he described as "stadium crust". Now, that is a tag that makes one wonder, doesn't it? While a quick survey revealed that GD did not actually play crust music, I could understand where the "stadium" qualifier came from after ordering the first 2005 Lp and why it sorta made sense. GC were epic. And I don't mean epic like a neocrust band, far from it, they were epic like an over-the-top metal-punk band, one potentially able to entrance the audience and have them collectively fist-pump and cheer as one to their brand of bulldozing Swedish-inspired metallic hardcore punk. I witnessed GC for a second time at the Play Fast or Don't festival (in 2009 I think) playing to a large crowd and, if it could not be realistically called a stadium-sized audience (unless we're talking about of a mid-table November game at the Salford City stadium), the band definitely packed a severe punch and worked particularly well on a big stage supported by a massive sound which brought their crushing power to the fore. A live hardcore tornado that unfortunately had not materialized at their Paris gig.

It was bad luck really. GC were playing a squat on the outskirts of Paris (in fact it was a squatted inn), an infamous venue that hosted many gigs for a couple of years (Leadershit, Makiladoras or I Object played there) and was renowned for being inhabited by more dogs than people which could make for strange atmospheres when bewildered touring bands sometimes literally played at 2am to ten scruffy dogs barking and chasing one another and three dog owners too pissed to stand properly. On occasions though, when the place was packed, the atmosphere was crazy and electric and anything could happen. Great memories. Sadly, a massive party at a nearby squat was taking place on the very same days as GD's gig so that it was poorly attended and, well, a bit depressing. I was of course among the few excited people present in the room and the band played well enough, with the intensity you were entitled to expect after regularly blasting their debut album, until some annoying lad who was as high as a kite started to jump on one of the guitar player's pedal board (not once but twice) which brought the gig to a quick stop. Understandably, GC looked miserable enough after what must have been a major low on their tour. This sorry state of affair did not keep me from asking the band if they had the split with Instinct of Survival to sell, which they had, and I left the venue in a merry, light-hearted mood with a precious crust artifact whose coming I had anxiously awaited for what seemed like centuries but must have been less than a year.

Let's start with GC's side. The band started in 2003 in Czech as a cover band called Anti-Climax that is more than likely to have performed a couple of Anti-Cimex covers. Before GD, guitar player and intense frontman Ethan played in the crustcore band Dread 101 (that had ex-Lies & Distrust members if you wanna know) and one may presume that Anti-Climax must have been a tight hardcore unit that enjoyed some local success since they proceeded to write their own songs and become a proper band with a proper name, one that doesn't just cover Anti-Cimex but tries to creatively imitate them as well. As alluded to above, I first came across GD through their first Lp which left me in awe. The brute force released by this album was an assault to the senses and my appreciation for it has never faded as I still mentally rock hard whenever I play the geezer (for some reason, experience revealed that I really enjoy indulging in early GD on sunday mornings). With its masterful cover of "Wheel of life", the eponymous album also urged me to get hold of a copy of Anti-Cimex' Absolute Country of Sweden which frustratingly only materialized a few years later as I had to content myself with mp3's until the acquisition. The perspective of a collaboration between GD/IOS not only sounded promising but also made sense since both bands certainly packed a hefty punch in the metal punk department but nevertheless sounded very different in terms if intent and influences. 
The two GD songs on this split Ep were recorded in October, 2005, and, in spite of a thinner production than on the album, the general gist hasn't changed in the least. The listener therefore has to prepare for a heavy metallic käng attack with extremely aggressive and direct vocals and overblown guitar leads. Because of the rawer production, their side of the Ep is not as much of a bollocking as their previous work, but these two songs (one of them in Czech) still make for serious contenders in the Cimex-hardcore game. 90's era Anti-Cimex, Driller Killer and Wolfpack are obvious points of comparison and GD could definitely hold the fort with its harsh and pissed vocals, the triumphant metallic leads and the very upfront and hard-hitting drums that never fail to convey a sense of being pounded by an orc (which, in the case of GD, was completely intentional but we'll get back to the issue later). GD released a second Lp in 2007, You will not Survive, that I did not like as much in terms of songwriting as it used probably too much metal cheesiness for my liking though it sounded absolutely massive. After the split of the band, Ethan joined Mörkhimmel and then Dog Soldiers and finally Hellshock upon his return to the U$A while Austin moved to Bloomington and now plays country music (?).   

On the other side the resplendent IOS offered their first two stenchcore songs on vinyl which, in retrospect and keeping in mind what they have achieved since 2006, is a bit of a historical event in the grand narrative of crust. As my wikipedia page and my previous post about the Hamburg crust elite indicate, the first contact with IOS was akin to an epiphany. Some people get to see the face of Jesus on a dog's arsehole, I get to be possessed by the new wave of crust at a festival somewhere in Germany. To each their own. I still have vivid memories of that IOS gig at the 2005 Yellow Dog festival but I am not sure how real they actually are and how much of an idealization of an initiatory arc of my quest for crust they might possibly stand for. Somewhere in the middle I suppose. In any case, my first live experience of IOS corresponds to a large extent to the two songs they committed to vinyl for this split Ep. You do not really need me to recount the tale of the band but since we are all gathered around the bonfire tonight I might as well have a go. 

The band started out as Sperrzone in 1995 and played primitive and fast deutschpunk with studs, spikes and quite certainly acne. They then morphed into Instinct of Survival in 1998, the nod to Napalm Death a sufficient clue to know in what direction they were now heading: raw old-school grindcore. Most of the band's newer audience seem to ignore - intentionally or not - the pre-stenchcore period of the band which is, I believe, an error of judgement. Although personally partial to Warsore or Rot, I cannot be said to be much of a grindcore fan, however even a casual listening to their split Lp with Wojczech, recorded in late 01 and early 02, reveals that IOS had been toying with heavy old-school metallic music with gruff vocals before the mid-00's. The heavy and crunchy guitar sound enhanced with those typical slimy bends, the texture of the nasty hoarse-versus-screeching dual vocals and the overall filthy vibe are not dissimilar to the band's take on vintage Peaceville-styled crust that emerged in the mid-00's. And if you are so inclined as to look at the band's evolution from a meta crust prism, you could very well argue that, if the version of "Instinct of survival" on Scum belongs to the glorious early years of grindcore, the first version of the song on Hatred Surge had all the characteristics of the early UK crust sound of Deviated Instinct, Hellbastard and the likes. So even if IOS took it the other way around, it still makes sense. The band took the first step toward orthodox crustness around 2004 as a tape bucolically titled In Conspiracy with Crust, the Stenchcore Sessions seems to indicate. It might have been originally a rehearsal tape meant to capture the new unequivocal direction of stenchcore revivalism and it includes early versions of songs that would eventually end up on IOS records later on. 

But back to this Ep. The production is, again, a bit thin and raw but, given IOS' style, I would say that it doesn't affect their songs as much as GD's and you could even claim that it gives them an even more organic old-school vibe (if you ask me, I wouldn't change a thing). I have listened to those songs so much that it is a little difficult to provide a critical perspective on them, but then if you are clueless about the band's music then your blithe inattention is really your fault and yours only. "Axis of stupidity" is a classic mid-paced number that starts with a dark and heavy Deviated-Instinct-in-'87 introduction and then bursts into a brilliant Napalm-Deathed riff that is guaranteed to have you headbang sensually and you also get a slower early-Axegrinding moment as a break and treat. "Human" is a faster one, it opens with a kind of primitive early-Bolt-Thrower-on-speed beat before unleashing ace Sacrilege-worshiping metal riffs highlighted by a groovy mid-tempo. The vocals are top notch, Kalle goes for the bear-like disgruntled low-pitched shouts while Padde opts for high-pitched and insane-sounding screeches and I love how the two work together. Absolute classic record of 00's stenchcore that made the listener - by which I mean me 15 years ago - crave for more. And, thanks fuck, more quality old-school crust records would come out of the IOS bag in the 00's, two Ep's with the wonderful Winter in my Mind at the end of the same year and Screams of Suffering in 2009 and an outstanding Lp in 2008, North of Nowhere, probably their most famous records. Without a doubt, IOS were at that time the strongest and most consistent European answer to US bands like Hellshock and Stormcrow, they influenced many bands to take up arms and do the crust and they are still a reliable and relevant crust force at the time of writing so that they more than deserve the "classic band" tag.

The cover alone could be the object of a whole essay. It was drawn by Steve from Visions of War who can be described as both a talented artist in his own right and a talented crust artist. Not unlike Mid's art before, Steve's progressively went on to define new visual aesthetics for crust so that his drawings - or fartworks as he calls them - became closely associated with the crust/stenchcore genre in the 00's and 10's. If you are even only remotely interested in crust punk, you must have seen one of his pieces. In the case of this split Ep, Steve used a theme for the cover that was quite common in the 00's, namely orcs and skeletons in armours. I suppose the success of the Lord of the Rings movies is no stranger to recurring representations of savage axe-wielding warring orcs and heads on pikes in the crust universe (GD's first song even starts with a sample from a Lord of the Rings movie) and we have here a fine example of this trend that has not quite died out. As I said, it has also become a legitimate part of the genre's visual canon. The Ep was released on Yellow Dog Records, a now defunct Berlin-based label with a long discography that discogs will lead you through.                               

Cradle of Survival


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  2. So did Steve from Visions of War do the artwork for the whole record?

    It looks to have been done by Sean Goblin (Sean Aaberg who lives in Portland, OR), who did the zine Goblin's Armpit (when living in Oakland,CA). He was heavily influenced by the Warhammer book art. P.S. the Warhammer artist did all the work on the Bolt Thrower album covers.

    1. Hallo there. I am pretty sure Steve did it as he is the only one mentioned on the record and the style does look like his. I could be wrong but that would be odd not to credit Sean at all if he is indeed behind the art.