Sunday, 4 April 2021

How Crust Survived the Millennium Bug (part 12): Campus Sterminii "Life is a Nightmarish Struggle" Lp, 2009

Alright, here we go then, this is the last part of the Homeric series How Crust Survived the Millennium Bug. It was, as usual, a pleasure to grace you punk plebs with awe-inspiring knowledge and bitingly insightful examinations into some of the most crucial crust works and bands from the noughties. If you want an autographed photo, please send a personal message and I will provide you with banking details for a transfer that will help fund Terminal Sound Nuisance. It's all for the cause comrades. Before I enlighten guttersnipes with yet another top article that will conclude the series in great fashion, I wish to say that the series was not meant to be, properly speaking, an 00's crust best-of. Although the endeavour to achieve such a task could be worthwhile in its comprehensive scope (and I would be very curious indeed to read lists on the subject), the series did not attempt to achieve it. Rather, I have tried to select works that reflected both the variety of crust styles with their different contexts of creation and the genre's evolution and milestones that defined the decade; how those recordings connected with the 90's; if they brought something new and original to the orgy or if they purposefully chose to keep closely to the tradition, a move which might be, in itself, innovative contrary to what the end result might sound like. For instance, you may argue that Consume's Forked Tongue cannot be said to really stand as an instant crust classic in itself, however the band proved to be not only very influential and memorable but also acted as a symbolic hyphen between the 90's scandicrust sound and its continuation into the 00's, hence the necessary inclusion, from my point of view, of a Consume Ep. Just another day at the office really.

Establishing rankings is always a struggle that oft causes one to wallow in self-doubt, but of course the twelve records making up the series would be part of my own 00's ranking. Others, that were already discussed previously on the blog and therefore were not mentioned in the present series, would also be elected, like the Acrostix / Contrast Attitude split Lp or the Defector Ep. I also chose to leave those bands that were extensively dealt with in the past - like Filth of Mankind, Extinction of Mankind or Warcollapse - out of the series, although it goes without saying that The Final Chapter, Northern Scum and Defy definitely have their place. Other records and bands had to be, sometimes heartbreakingly, omitted for lack of space and stamina as I did not want to embark on a two-year long series with fifty records (beside you probably would have gotten fat spending your precious time reading my achingly long reviews and I do care a little about your health). This said, and because of my beneficent nature, I shall provide some clues if you are inclined toward a deeper, more thorough exploration of 00's crust. In this prospect, you might want to try to quench your thirst for knowledge through attentive inspections of the Stormcrow/Sanctum split Lp, Doom's World of Shit Lp, the Stagnation S/t Ep, the Cancer Spreading/Disköntroll split Lp (one of my favourite CS records), Zyanose's Loveless Ep, Instinct of Survival's North of Nowhere Lp and Winter in my Mind Ep, Svart Aggression's Tänk Själv Ep, Against//Empire's The One Who Strikes the Blow Lp, Man the Conveyors' Cheers cd, Visions of War/Olho de Gato split Lp and many more, this is only a sample, but since I cannot be arsed to namedrop bands on punk civilians for the rest of the afternoon, your suggestions are as good as mine and feel free to add to the list. 

Today, we are going to tackle - with the inspiring erudition and intellectual dynamism that have come to characterize Terminal Sound Nuisance - Campus Sterminii from Bologna, which will also serve as an opportunity to tackle the new wave of Italian metallic crust that emerged in the mid-00's. I have already touched upon Italian crust punk in the rather distant past through a review of Scum of Society's '97 Ep Violenza Legale, a humble but thoroughly enjoyable Ep that happened to be one of the few examples of an Italian take on the 90's eurocrust wave that swept through the continent. In fact, I cannot think of many 90's Italian crust bands but maybe I am just unaware of some. Original anarchocrust legends Contropotere could hardly be described as "crust" anymore by then and, although they rubbed shoulders with many bands that fitted the tag in the 90's, they did not belong to the decade's wave, even if their progressive 1991 Lp Il Seme Della Devianza was not deprived of an old-school metallic crust influence. Jilted only belonged to the category to some extent as they were - and in fact still are - more a crusty hardcore band and most of their records were released in the 00's. Considering the insane number of class Italian hardcore acts in the 80's, the lack of typical 90's crust bands in the country is surprising though there was definitely no shortage of grindcore or fastcore bands then. Things drastically changed in the 00's.


It can be said that labels and distros such as Agipunk certainly contributed to the rise of crust in Italy during the first half of the 00's through their promotion of international hard-hitting raw hardcore and fast crust music. This development can be witnessed in the evolution of Kontatto, a band that included a future Campus Sterminii member on the guitar, Koppa, who also ran the Disastro Sonoro label. From a rather typically fast and raw Italian hardcore band in the late 90's, they crustified their sound throughout the decade so that by the mid/late 00's a distinct crust vibe could be noticed in their furious hardcore sound. Although merely an example, such a process prevailed in significant sectors of the Italian punk scene in the 00's with the rise of acts such as Drunkards, Disforia, Disprezzo, Berzerk, Dirty Power Game, Dissciorda or the band that will be covered today for your greatest enjoyment, Campus Sterminii. With a moniker translating, I reckon, as "extermination camps", parading in Italy with a CS shirt is bound to raise a few eyebrows and potentially elicit some misunderstanding but you are pretty much fine in the rest of the world. The whole CS story can be found here on the Crucified Freedom blog so I am not going to bother too much with minute details. The band formed in 2002 with aforementioned Koppa from Kontatto on the guitar, Marzia from Pussy Face as well as Jessica on the bass and Gra on vocals. Their first recording session took place in 2004 and appeared on a split Lp with Poland's Disgusting Lies in 2005 released on Agipunk and, let me tell you, the six songs that made up their side of the Lp epitomized what cavemen crust has always been all about. Deliciously raw if not rough (not quite bardger's arse rough but close), CS delivered furious old-school cavecrust with insane-sounding dual vocals - like a tempestuous row between a gruff undead logger and a rabid demon taking place in a dirty Italian gutter - reminiscent of Extreme Noise Terror, Warfear, Amen or Decrepit with some epic and metallic guitar leads and a production bringing primitive Brazilian crust bands like Dischord to mind. I am not too convinced by the boisterous singalong closing track "E cosi sia" but otherwise it is pretty much flawless if you like your crust dirty, primal and vocally savage. Well, if you like proper crust really. 


After this excellent first effort, CS went on hiatus as Koppa and Marzia moved to London for a bit (and managing to play with Gianluca Nailbiter in Death From Above, a band whose genre you will never guess) and after their return CS recorded a couple of songs for a split Ep with Croatia's Nulla Osta. The three numbers on their side displayed the same fire as the previous record, this time with a Scandinavian hardcore influence creeping in, although crust as fuck sonic savagedom firmly remained their dominant trait and with the same insane-sounding feral dual vocal work I am such a sucker for. The split Ep was released in late 2006 on Koppa's label Disastro Sonoro by which time he had also started to run Agipunk alongside Mila. In 2007, CS played the Scumfest festival in London where I got to see them (twice I believe?) and became an instant fan of their direct, emphatic and filthy take on the crust genre. After the quick acquisition of their available releases upon coming home, I clearly anticipated their next move, especially in the context of the late 00's when crust's renascent old-school metallic outgrowth, stenchcore, had just peaked and was already declining. Life is a Nightmarish Struggle was well worth the wait.

Recorded in early 2009, the Lp exhibited a massive improvement in terms of production. The much heavier and cleaner sound also reflected an evident metallic influence in the band's songwriting and, more especially, a distinct and prominent addition of hard-hitting scandicore in the vein of Wolfpack, Driller Killer or late Anti-Cimex - obvious points of reference - but also particularly reminiscent of what Guided Cradle were creating in the mid-00's. CS's revisit of metallic and epic scandicore also included some overt death-metal moments and more than a few solos, further grounding them in the Swedish tradition of extreme music, even if the cavemen dual vocal attack (which always worked better on the songs in Italian) and several loving nods toward galloping stenchcore and nasty crustcore also indicated a strong crust basis. The album could therefore be seen as a solid blend of beefy scandicore and gruff old-school crust, a very fine thing in itself but not necessarily a feat that would warrant the inclusion of Life is a Nightmarish Struggle in this series. In fact, the presence of the Lp in this elite selection can be explained by "Wasteland" and "Non c'e' limite al peggio" (which is actually a reworking of an older song that you can find on the split with Disgusting Lies), two songs that - and I will firmly stand by my statement until Death (not the band) takes me to the grave - I rate as some of the very best mid-paced old-school crust anthems ever written. I realize this is no small declaration and if anyone wants to discuss this with me in a crust-themed octagon, then bring it on if you think you're fucking hard enough.


The two aforementioned gems were already heralded through the Lp's introduction "Midnight storm", one that was not only fittingly heavy, apocalyptic and foreboding but also highly reminiscent of what trad crust had best to offer in terms of narration and storytelling - I love epic crust intros - so that definitely put my private crust detector on high alert. Believe me, I was rewarded well beyond the soundest of my expectations. The two songs have everything you can dream of when it comes to mid-tempo old-school metallic crust: filthy pounding heaviness, desperate moodiness, hoarse and growly vocals, crushing beats, eerie guitar leads and memorable poignant chorus. I am reminded of Warcollapse's punishingly primitive Crust as Fuck Existence, of Skaven's painful crust dementia, of classic 90's Misery epics, of Effigy's aggressive thrashing stenchore as well. That the songs are placed at the end of the album ("Wasteland" is the antepenultimate, "Non c'e' limite al peggio" the ultimate)  somehow brings a new light on the whole work. As a conclusion, beside the usual doomsday metaphor, the songs announce the end of the Lp as much as the figurative end of the 00's stenchcore revival. By penning two of the best crust anthems of the decade, CS unintentionally - and rather ironically - symbolized the closure of a trend that recently had lost many of its representatives. It would not be the end of the stenchcore subgenre, by no means, as bands like Instinct of Survival or Visions of War would keep going, and brilliant new bands would pick up the banner and carry it throughout the following decade of the 10's with a renewed source of influence thanks to the additions of 00's stenchcore bands to the old-school canon. Still, I always felt that this Lp was one of the last great crust works of the 00's, but then to think of music with the rigid notion of decades might not be relevant though it certainly is useful to have that sort of frame to think with. 


The Lp was released on Agipunk - obviously - and my copy is the purple stained clear vinyl. Crust artist extraordinaire Stiv of War was responsible for the cover which reminds me of a cross between the yin and yang Neurosis symbol and the typical 00's obsession with bloody orcs. I think the band stopped around 2010 and after the demise Koppa certainly kept busy - he was playing in Kontatto with Marzia and Giuda at the same time as CS - as he formed the gothpunk band Horror Vacui in 2010 and now plays in Tuono - a vintage Italian hardcore band, alongside members of Komplott and Impulso - the latter two also having Marzia on the drums. Guitar player Jacopo, who had joined CS at the end of the band's existence, kept playing with Cancer Spreading (one of Europe's best crust bands of the 10's). There is no doubt that bands like CS, as important players in the revitalization of the genre, opened the gates to a substantial number of crust bands in Italy in the following decade and one can name, beside the brilliant Cancer Spreading (already dissected here and here), like Hostiliter, Nihildum, Warpath or Stasis.

A relevant record to close this series. Play loud.


Life is a nightmarish crust song



  1. dumb question but can you, the author, be found on facebook?

    1. There is a facebook page for Terminal Sound Nuisance (the link can be found on the top right corner).