Wednesday 29 September 2021

The Empire Crusts Back (part 4): Mindrot "1990 demo" tape, 1990

Alright then, this is the last part of The Empire Crusts Back (rolling out with laughter, right?), my short and humble series about the so-called OC crust bands of the late 80's. As usual, it was a fucking pleasure to be able to school the great unwashed about so crucial a subject if one seeks to understand how the world works and to make sure as to what trendy crust shirts to wear this winter 2021 (in case you haven't heard, OC crust fashion is making a massive comeback so you'd better take my word for it). If you missed out on the first three instalments of the series, I recommend you take a bit of your precious time to take a look at them since it will provide some important musical context from a diachronic perspective and a definition of what is meant through the term "OC crust" at that particular time. As I moaned about previously, the peacepunk and crust bands of this era and area unfortunately remain largely undocumented although Jang from Resist and Exist has interviewed some bands that were part of that wave - along with classic bands from the UK, current anarcho bands and videos about political activism - and uploaded some rare recordings and live performances for his youtube channel. Check it out punk as it is truly a work of passion and dedication that could not be further from the online posing contests that punk-rock sadly too often engages in nowadays.
But enough grumbling as I am not here to act like a middle-of-the-road gammon and today we are going to talk about arguably the most famous of the OC crust bands, the brilliantly-named Mindrot (which I have already tackled here with their top notch 1991 Endeavor Ep so I will try to keep it short). Although Mindrot can be said to be something of a respected and recognized band in the extreme metal world, they are rarely connected nowadays to the hardcore punk and crust music scene from which they originally emerged. Just knock on your neighbour's door and ask the geezer about Mindrot. He is very likely to reply "The doom metal band from the mid-90's" rather than "The early OC stenchcore from the early 90's". Or he might just let his staffies out. He'll probably do that actually so let's just pretend you knock on his door. So Mindrot are basically the biggest name of the original OC crust and yet are largely seldom identified as such, although things might be different in California and punk old-timers, who knew of Mindrot before the mid-90's Relapse period, might say otherwise and link the band to the hardcore world so it could be a generational thing.

I mentioned in the review of A//Solution's mastercrust Ep that I first heard of them thanks to the Mindrot's thank list included on their Dawning album, a cd (of course it was the cd version) I bought after reading, or being told, that they used to be a crust band. But then, I tried hard to remember where I might have read such confidential intel or which gentle soul guided my virginal self through my discovery of OC crust. Could I have made that story up or do I actually have imaginary friends? Who cares. Probably both. Perhaps the cd looked enticing enough, with the Relapse label being vaguely associated with hardcore in my tiny mind, and spotting Final Conflict, Total Chaos and Chaos UK on the list - it was second-hand so I could open the case - was enough to convince me that Mindrot was possibly a band that I should know about. That sounds like a much more plausible story actually. Anyway, Dawning is a doom-metal album and at the time the genre was about as alien to me as disco polo so to say that I was disappointed and above all completely out of my comfort zone is an understatement. I did not play the cd much - although I did try to be honest - but I often consulted the thank list and did my best to get information on the bands graced with a punk-sounding name that were included on it. Thank lists are dead, long live thank lists. This grail-like manuscript from 1995 illustrated significantly the position that Mindrot occupied: the space between Orange County's flourishing extreme metal scene and the peacepunk/crust world. With them rubbing shoulders with Morgion, Nausea LA and Fear Factory just as casually as they did with Armistice, Total Chaos or Final Conflict, early Mindrot can be approached as the definitive bridge between both worlds as their sound could appeal to metalheads addicted to doom and death metal as well as crusty punks craving for mean and heavy metallic hardcore music. But then, maybe it was a case of "too metal for the punx, and too punk for the metalheads", an argument that can sometimes be said to be something of a poor excuse used by terrible bands to justify their lack of recognition from either world.

But back to my personal conquest for crust. Because I was unimpressed with Dawning (which I used to call Yawning), I did not really bother researching the earlier Mindrot material and focused instead on bands like A//Solution, Glycine Max or Carcinogen, and of course Apocalypse. When I realized that some Apocalypse songs listed as belonging to the Terror Tapes on the discography cd had actually been released as a split Ep with Mindrot, I immediately got curious and decided to investigate the band's early years further. Fortunately for me, I was able to obtain a copy of the Endeavor Ep from some Profane Existence sales, which proved to be a thoroughly convincing and solid slice of old-school crust metal, and I did manage to find alright mp3 files of the split with Apocalypse, a top record and a genuine crust classic that I rate as one of the greatest crust split Ep's of all time (although it looks absolutely shit, a real shame when you see what both bands were able to offer visually). But the best was yet to come when I finally managed to go back in time and listen to this 1990 demo, an astounding recording that left me in awe.  

The Mindrot demo is undoubtedly an old-school crust classic. The term "demo" might be more than a little misleading in this case. When you read about a demo recording from an early crust band, you are entitled to expect something quite rough around the edges, an enjoyable if rather raw and primitive work that, more often than not, is characterized by dodgy musicianship and a certain ineptitude in the studio, a punk-as-fuck sound which is precisely why people love them so much. The Mindrot demo does not correspond to that definition at all. The boys were already quite accomplished musicians and knew exactly what they wanted to achieve. In fact, it sounded far more like a proper debut album - it is a thirty-minute long sonic behemoth - than a demo as it easily outclassed, not just in terms of production but also very much in terms of creative intent, of cohesion, of focus, of what the band aimed at creating, most crust demos of the era and beyond. 


Mindrot were undeniably the most metal-tinged band of the OC crust wave. In fact, you would not be wrong to describe them as "doom crust" or "crusty death-doom" but the recording still retains enough of this chugging and filthy threatening crust edge for it to rightly belong in the crust canon, though I would understand that others disagree (not a common sentiment on my part, let me tell you). When I first heard the demo, I was strongly reminded of a blast beat-free Prophecy of Doom, or a doomier, more mournful Bolt Thrower or a death metal act trying to be sound like Axegrinder on antidepressants. Know what I mean? The music is mostly slow, heavy, suffocating almost and very fucking dark though songs like "Lifeless beauty" and "Impurity" have faster moments. The atmosphere of despair, rage and pain that Mindrot try to create is meaningfully enhanced by the amazing sense of storytelling and narration permeating the demo. From the first song till the last one, a whole story is being told, unravels and the listener can spot classic elements of a narrative plot: the demo starts with an instrumental introduction; "Dying breed" and "Hidden people" are eerie spoken poems interspersed between songs; "Demoniac death metallers (from the satanic realm)" is a Sore Throat-like comic relief; and of course, the absolute hit "Darkened existence" halfway through the tape can be considered as the ultimate stenchcore ballad of the OC crust wave. I particularly enjoy recordings that tell a good story and reflect a creative process from the band. They are not just a collection of songs - as great as they might sound individually sound like - as they act as coherent, self-reflexive wholes that engage the listener through music as a narrative. For that reason, I much prefer the 1990 demo to Mindrot's 1991 Ep's as, I feel, the band was more comfortable with a longer format that allowed them to really weave their punishing stenchdoom vibe.  


The tape was originally released on Wild Rags records (a label that was responsible for releases from Nausea LA, Pungent Stench or Benediction) and I have no idea why this fantastic demo was never reissued especially when one considers how good and coherent it sounds. And it looks brilliant too, with an iconic cover and proper cut'n'paste DIY visuals. The absence of reissue is basically criminal, especially when one looks at the amount of very average demos from totally anecdotal UK82 bands being rereleased. As was customary with early crust/grind and extreme metal bands, a seemingly endless thank list is included where the accomplished punk maniac will be able to notice the usual OC crustpects but also UK's Sacrilege and Hellbastard, local anarchos Media Children and even Lance Hahn from Cringer. Small world, punks of all scenes unite and fight. Following this demo, Mindrot released the aforementioned Ep's in 1991, and then a live demo on Life Is Abuse (guitar player Matt's then brand new label) in 1992 that saw them going in an even more doom/death metal direction and they eventually recorded Dawning in 1995. As indicated previously in previous reviews, Matt Fisher (RIP) played the bass in Mindrot in parallel with his singing duties with Confrontation and his modelling career with Apocalypse, while Mindrot's guitar players Dan and Matt (although the latter had left by the time of the album) formed the legendary Dystopia in 1991 along with Dino from Carcinogen and Todd from Confrontation, which can be seen as something as the OC crust equivalent of the 1992 Dream Team.

Crucial piece of crust history here. All crusties should be required to own at least one '90/'91 era Mindrot patch. 

Sunday 19 September 2021

The Empire Crusts Back (part 3): Confrontation "1989" Ep, 1992

Growing old sometimes sucks. Well, I am not technically quite old enough - though Tik Tok would definitely disagree - to utter such pompous and peremptory statements and therefore may lack the necessary legitimacy and worrying back pains. But still, one observes, one witnesses and one is not a fool. As punks grow older, their record collection gets more and more important, threatening to make the living room's floor - and oftentime their marriage as well - crumble and collapse under its weight of vinyl, potentially crushing a charming gran living downstairs or, better, a twattish busybody who could not stop complaining whenever you play Chaos UK supposedly too loud. We've all heard horror stories of honest, ebay-abiding record collectors being squashed under a landslide of single-sided Japanese flexis, of granduncles being knocked out cold during a family reunion by a box of demo tapes that you had promised to take care of or of innocent pets being flattened by the limited edition of the Noise Not Music Discharge box (there are far worse deaths than this one actually). The exponential activity of collecting records can be hazardous physically but also mentally. 
Indeed, as records keep piling in their living room, old punks can become quite pedantic about some aspects of hardcore music (it is almost always about hardcore music), especially about the correct terminology of subgenres and about the inclusion or exclusion of specific bands in specific genres. Just ask on a message board roaming with officially recognized record nerds who the first real powerviolence band was and enjoy the ensuing verbal brawl and below-the-belt name-calling. Occasionally, physical violence can ensue - although it is quite rare as record collectors usually only resort to fighting to get first to merch tables - and combatants end up solving their personal issues in the octagon to assert their supremacy. As much as I would love to tell you that I am above such rivalries and epistemological disagreements, I must confess that I have already engaged in heated arguments about the archaeological position of Los Saicos in punk culture or the value of post-"New age" Blitz and while I haven't headbutted anyone because of my proverbial lack of basic bravery, also called being a wimp, there was a lot of finger-waving, scornful looks and offending accusations about being a middle-class poser and only getting into Blitz after I did. Oh well. I still think genres do matter and should be discussed and that precise descriptive names can be useful in order to reflect on histories, eras and areas. But instead of being bones of contention, arguments about genres should improve our appreciation and not limit it. Peace and love my friends. Which takes me to today's record: the 1989 Ep from Confrontation.

I have seen Confrontation being qualified as grindcore, as powerviolence, as crust - and even as modern hardcore but it was an honest mistake and the person was actually talking about the late 90's German band on that one so that the virtual tar and feather might not have been totally warranted and I probably should have refrained from sending anonymous threats to his house but I prefer to see this incident as a life lesson for the both of us. In actual fact, you would not be wrong indeed to qualify the band as grindcore, powerviolence or crust as each appellation makes sense for different reasons. Because of its dirty metallic groove and its blast beats the grindcore tag would fit Confrontation; but then 1989 having been originally released on Infest's label Draw Blank and because of the band's typical hardcore breaks and riffs you could say that powerviolence is not far off the picture either; and of course, because of the band's close connections to Glycine Max, Apocalypse or Mindrot - in a word the OC crust galaxy - and its raw and filthy punk production and emphatic cavemen vocals, claiming Confrontation were an old-school crust act is not irrelevant, and since we are on Terminal Sound Nuisance here, the Ep will be approached and tackled through a distinctively crust perspective, without discarding the other influences, because I am, after all, known, among other things, as The Magnanimous One. However, not being particularly well schooled in old-school grindcore - though I can hold my own to some extent - and being absolutely clueless about powerviolence - it always sounded too American to my delicate ears and I never really got the appeal, I will ask you to bear with potential inconsistencies. Now that the issue of terminology and nomenclature has been settled, we may proceed to the crux of the matter: my own record coll... I mean the band.
Confrontation was actually the first OC crust band I came across although at that time I had absolutely no idea that there had been a fabulous crust source over there and, apart from Resist and Exist, I don't think I was aware of other anarcho/crust bands from that area or aware that this area had its fair share of extreme bands. I was, as you might say, still green. Because finances were low and grim while enthusiasm was high and unquenchable, I was able to lay my hands on a second-hand copy of the Confrontation's discography cd after hearing the In Crust We Trust compilation that a gentle soul had found for me on soulseek, back when it took two days and a half to download an album. I did not enjoy In Crust We Trust as much as I thought I would to be fair. At that time, I was still in the process of discovery of crust and the title, which I now find cheesy as fuck, announced something spectacular and developmental. There were some good bands on that compilation, don't get me wrong, it had Disfear, No Security, Concrete Sox and Heresy, but if you look closely, there was not much proper crust and it was bit misleading really. In retrospect, I understand that it was just a sample of Lost & Found's catalogue and that the misleading title did not illustrate the content, much like The Best Crust Compilation in the World Ever! compilation whose hyperbolic irony was lost on me when I bought it, especially since, without really disappointing, there was, again, not much crust in it. But I did like the Confrontation songs - they are some of their best numbers - and seeing that Lost & Found also released a full cd of the band and that it was cheap, I did not fuck around and bought the copy online. I learnt later on that the not-so-virtuous label released this cd because they claimed that the band had received an advance payment for the recording of a full album which they never did since they broke up and the cd was a way to get some money back. Not really the classiest act on the part of a label that was famous for this kind of dodgy moves and it is no coincidence that the cd is listed as "unofficial" on Discogs. Just bad punk ethics.

I couldn't find many details about Confrontation's noisy career and I really wish some heroic old-timers from that time and place will one day write a book about the Californian 80's peacepunk/crust scene like Ian Glasper did for the British waves. A boy can dream. The band formed in Huntington Beach probably in late 1988 - the Ep was recorded in May, 1989, so that sounds plausible enough. I have seen a mention of that record being a demo Ep and it might have originally been some sort of demo tape that they decided to reissue as a proper Ep. Still it does not seem very likely as this practice was not widespread at the time, whereas releasing a demo again on a vinyl has become very commonplace these days. What's the point of engaging in an activity bound to saturate the already fragile punk records market especially since demos are readily available online and, well, they are demos, I hear you ask from afar? I ain't got clue guv. To get back to Confrontation, the band was from Huntington Beach and had Matt Fisher from Mindrot on vocals and future Dystopia bass player Todd on the bass. As my jaundiced speech indicated earlier, the band remained mostly associated with the mean and manically fast hardcore bands - the early powerviolence wave - and they shared some common ground with the groovy grindcore freaks that roamed this very part of California at the time. Just consider that powerviolence legends Infest were from Valencia, Crossed Out from Encinitas, No Comment from North Hollywood and the unique Man Is The Bastard from Claremont. All those hardcore acts lived in a 50 kilometers radius and therefore it is little surprising that the area, in punk's more or less unreliable collective memory, has often been closely connected with powerviolence. Similarly, just consider that grindcore legends Terrorizer - the grindcore equivalent of the 1992-era Ultimate Warrior - were from Huntington Park and Nausea from Los Angeles. The Infest connection is clearly the most relevant since 1989 was initially released on Infest's own label Draw Blanks Records - it was only DB's second release - although Confrontation sounded nothing like them so that's the grand network of friends in action for you. The version we are dealing however is not the original but the remastered one from 1992 that Misanthropic Records - the first output of Todd's label - took care of. 

There are eight songs on this Ep and let me tell you that Confrontation had little time to waste. The opening song "Deathtrap", my favourite number on the record, is a grinding crust masterpiece that reminds me of the early rawer Napalm Death, Electro Hippies and crust maniacs Mortal Terror. The first riff epitomized what old-school crust has always been supposed to sound like and Instinct of Survival on their split Ep with Guided Cradle had no reservation about borrowing it - to great effect I must say. After that groovy metallic crust introduction, Confrontation unleash their brand of fast and abrasive crusty hardcore with harsh cavecrust vocals. The rest of 1989 keeps maintains this high level of quality, navigating between snotty UK hardcore classics like the above-mentioned powerhouses, local OC crust heroes like A//Solution and Apocalypse and that contemporary brand of punishingly fast and violent US hardcore (some of the breaks undoubtedly fall in that category). In terms of production, and in spite of a second mastering work, the Ep sounds like raw and urgent early stenchgrind - the band included a five-second burst of referential noise called "Scum..." to wrap up the Ep, just to make sure the listeners understood where they were coming from - and can be said to be a typical and solid example of the sound of the area at that time. I love the cut'n'paste DIY look of the foldout bringing to mind the traditional early crust aesthetics and the band's logo depicting a roughly-drawn picture of a rather melancholy-looking crusty punk's shrunken head is wonderful and gets an A+ for me. The cover is undeniably more enigmatic as it is a picture of a prisoner-of-war or concentration or refugee camp with a dozen of miserable-looking men behind barbed wire. Pretty shocking and grim really. True realities of war. I do not know when this was taken or if it holds any relation to the year 1989 but judging from the prisoners' clothing I doubt it. I suppose the band's choice was meant to reflect the constant war mongering and disdain for basic human rights that defined the twentieth century and while I agree with the sentiment and the content, the visual form can be considered as awkward, or even, in 2021, as "problematic". From a very prosaic standpoint, it makes their shirt particularly hard to wear and I only sport if at grindcore gigs where I am confident the majority of the audience will be wearing far more shocking and distasteful shirts. Clever me.
The following Ep was released in 1991 - before 1989's remastered version - on Tribal War Records back when it was still located in New York City. Entitled Dead Against the War, it was the label's very first release (or was it actually the Warning Ep?). Confrontation pretty much kept on the same old-school grinding crusty hardcore tracks with new singer Ben, although they started to include heavy and suffocating doomy sludge part in the songwriting, adding a suffocating sense of atmospherics that will characterized what Dystopia would be known for a few years later. In fact, you could say Dead Against the War and the 1991 split Ep with Cantankerous (a band that had Matt from Mindrot on guitar) pretty sounded like a raw, unfiltered blend between between early Deformed Conscience, Concrete Sox and Embittered. Although I like 1989 better for its superior bollocking power and filthier blasting bum crust sound, the later material is also solid and thoroughly enjoyable and an interesting pre-Dystopia endeavour. After the demise of Confrontation and Cantankerous, Todd and Matt formed Dystopia along with Dino from Carcinogen (he actually provided some artwork and drew the liner notes on Dead Against the War) and Dan from Mindrot, a band that went on to write some of the most potent, original and influential punk music of the 90's. 
This write-up is dedicated to Matt, who sadly passed a year ago.        


Saturday 11 September 2021

The Empire Crusts Back - the OC Crust Years (part 2): A//Solution "Butterfly" Ep, 1989

Of course, no one could have known then. No punk band from the past could have predicted the effect their choice of moniker would have on future punk palaeoanthropologists. And let's face it, if a time machine had been working in the 80's, I very much doubt that it would have been lent to a scruffy punk band so they could check whether people still liked their music twenty years on - that would have led to at least 90% of bands splitting up - or whether calling themselves Genital Deformities, Pink Turds In Space or Seats of Piss was such a good idea after all. But then, they could have just asked their mum for a sensible assessment. It would be unfair and even far-fetched to claim that A//Solution picked a mediocre or embarrassing name. I actually like it a lot. It does not sound as straight-forward and ominous as Apocalypse or Misery but at least it suggests a glimmer of hope to the listener instead of openly offering the end of humanity or perpetual pain also known as the king size crust menu. A//Solution used a polysemous figure with the inclusion of a capital "A" at the beginning that can either indicate, on the one hand, the common indefinite article "a" which would mean that the band believed in one actual if indeterminate solution for our future or our peace of mind, or, on the other hand, because of the two slashes between "A" and "Solution", it could also stand for "Anarcho//Solution", the "A//" acting as a graphic substitute for the circled A. Both options satisfy me and I have to say that it might be more significant to keep the polysemic potential in mind rather than fixate on one interpretation. Know wot I mean?
Do people in 2021 think hard about A//Solution's lexical play? No, they don't. Should I? Absolutely, since the band's name - as appropriate and clever I found it - also implied hours of frustratingly unsuccessful internet searches when I first came across it. Before I lie on the couch and start getting into the details of my traumatic quest for A//Solution's music and biographical information, I should probably explain why I chose to tell such personal anecdotes about my first encounters with bands that I particularly love. Most of those stories are rather unromantic and commonplace and don't offer anything special. However, I feel that the way one discovers a band not only informs the relationship that will be built with it but is also part of a global punk narrative, evolving through time, contexts, technologies, with the hunt for the music sometimes far surpassing in intensity and pleasure the music itself, though the best is when both the quest and the treasure are exhilarating. I love reading about those micro adventures involving records, people and gigs and I feel that they do matter when considered as a collective choral of hearing-impaired stubbornly untidy persons. Beside, being paid 10p per word, it allows me to go on and on and still afford a pint of IPA once every fortnight.

After reading somewhere, quite possibly in an article in which the author had engaged in a self-rewarding heavy name-dropping session, that Mindrot had ties with the early Californian crust scene, I proceeded to buy their Dawning album. While the cd (of course it was on cd and of course it was second-hand) did not really do anything for me (what with being doom metal and all), it included a massive thanks section with a list of bands that read like a scene repertoire. Such lists were always very helpful at the time as they served as ideal starting points for younger punks like myself to dig deeper into a particular era and notice sometimes surprising links between bands (scenes were clearly not as clear-cut and discrete then). I was absolutely clueless about most of the bands mentioned on the list though - and still are to be honest with ya - but some were familiar faces (like Phobia and, well, Total Chaos) or already personal favourites (like Final Conflict or Dystopia) while others did catch my attention because of their evocative names. Among them were Armistice (the peacepunkest name in the world), Black Maggot (described as "total crusty black metal" with future members of Skaven) and A//Solution for aforementioned semasiological reasons. Because of my obsessive nature, I quickly started to look hard for materials from those bands. Armistice proved to be rather easy but A//Solution did not and Black Maggot remain to this day a myth. None of the venerable punks above 30 around me seemed to know or care to know about A//Solution while searching on the internet by myself proved to be a particularly labourious and gruelling undertaking. Just try typing "A Solution punk" and look at the results. Pages upon pages of rubbish that were often about finding a solution to keep your kid away from the ills of punk-rock. Face it parents, there's nothing you can do about it.

 Mindrot's formative thank list
Eventually, things sorted themselves out when the band created a Myspace account sometime in the second half of the noughties, which felt like a glorious victory against malicious and clearly nebulous odds. A miracle, that's what it looked like and I was elated. For good reason as the band had uploaded their Butterfly Ep, a work that can arguably be considered as the best Ep of early US crust, a big statement that, in my estimation, is quite reasonable indeed. A//Solution, from Fountain Valley, California, were the quintessential OC crust band (if you need a conceptual definition of the term, I invite you to take a look at the first part of the series here). In actual fact, as Head of the Crust Department at the Sorbonne, the carefully crafted curriculum of the Master's program - often nicknamed Crust Enough among students - includes an intensive comprehensive course about OC Crust. In the first week, students who were brave enough to enroll are required to listen to the Butterfly Ep for three hours straight and will be evaluated on a 10 000 word essay about it. No arsing around. That's how good and crucial this record is. 

A witch emerging from a... vagina?
A bit of history first. Information about A//Solution is scarce to come by to say the least and even in 2021 typing "A//Solution butterfly crust" in a search engine or on fucking youtube does not always lead the curious dork to the right corridors, and while I am quite fond of butterflies as metaphors of transiency and ephemeralness, the actual insect kinda disgusts me since I unintentionally swallowed a tiny butterfly upon riding a bike as a child. Not only did I become especially careful when opening my mouth since then, but I also completely gave up riding bikes, which was for the best anyway considering my poor skills and the destruction inflicted on the local fauna. Still, thanks to my relentless tenacity, I managed to find a recording of their short and lovingly sloppy demo from 1986 entitled Animal Pain/No Human Gain released on Vegan Babies From Hell Tapes (you can't make this up). It was quite certainly A//Solution's first recording, possibly done in the practice room in pure teenage punk fashion. The tape, I believe, included four songs and poems in less than four minutes and exemplified the strong aesthetical and political ties between the mid-80's Californian peacepunk waves and the late 80's OC crust bands. With animal rights activism as its main theme, this early demo was a rough and raw blend of early Antisect, Anti-System and local influential heroes Body Count and prefigured what bands such as Resist and Exist or Armistice would be doing at the turn of the decade.

 The first demo DIY OR DIE
Following this first attempt at knocking on the door of punk history, A//Solution released at least another demo. I read somewhere that there were two demos recorded before the Ep, one called Butterfly sounding precisely like the final steps towards the band's definitive 80's moment, and another one apparently entitled Love, which I have never heard and whose very existence I therefore cannot attest to, but if you do know something about it, there is what is called a "comment section" below that you can use, it's a just like the comments on Shitebook and Instacrap without the gratification. Anyway, the Butterfly demo was released in 1989 and saw A//Solution's sound really take shape. At that point, the band sounded like the perfect - and I do mean that - model answer to the early UK crust bands like Antisect's Out From the Void era (for the darkness), early Deviated Instinct (for the filthy vibe from the gutter), early Hellbastard (especially them as some riffs are liberally borrowed) and Pro Patria Mori (for the sheer intensity and bollocking). I cannot really find any flaw to the Butterfly 6-songs demo. As if such exquisite references did not suffice, A//Solution tried to win the crust race with their three (!) gruff and growling vocalists (like Insurgence had), treading heavy blows and rabid bites with one another. I find that the singers complete one another very well and it does give the songs some additional aural aggression, uncontrolled anger and a feeling of vociferous despair before the destruction of beauty and life.

As I pointed out previously, the Butterfly demo tape was very much a brilliant draft of the Butterfly Ep that came out the same year. Even the covers were similar, both of them depicting two butterflies being threatened - I presume - by some sort of bat-like vampiric demon with the head of a fox, the drawing on the tape's cover looking rougher and maybe not as otherworldly as the Ep's. On the other side, the backcover of the record depicts a witchy being, possibly back from the dead, emerging from a misty vagina shaped opening which, I suppose, reflected thrash metal's visual influence of the time (and, from experience, I can tell you that it does make for a pretty decent shirt on most occasions, your nephew's eighth birthday not being one of them). The Ep includes four re-recorded songs that were already on the tape, with a heavier and crunchier sound that will have you mosh frantically and give up showering right away. Quintessential, ultimate old-school stenchcore here. It does not get really better than Butterfly's demonstration of metal crust virtuosity. The balance between metallic power, genuine punk as fuck anger and a dirty crust-drenched vibe is masterly. The aforementioned British crust classics are obviously invoked and the Ep puts forward a tasteful variety of tempos that can be qualified as the Crust Grand Slam, from thrashing fast, to heavy apocalyptic sludge and mid-paced groovy trot. If I had to find one minor flaw to the Ep, it would be that the song "State of rule" is perhaps too long of an instrumental - especially when they had so much vocal power at their disposal - and that it would have worked better as the opening or closing song. But I am being picky. Listening to "Love" makes me want to run to howl "Looooaarrghhhoooove" - a clear reference to Disorder's "Life" - at the top of a building overlooking a post-apocalyptic landscape, looking up to the sky for the last time. Cheery stuff. The inside of the Ep is all in traditional cut'n'paste fashion and the lyrics are hand-written to the point of being a little hard to make out at times. Words deal with the transience of beauty and harmony, the butterfly metaphor, unity, love and its absence. Certainly not as gloomy than you would expect, and more in line with the peacepunk prose (the Iconoclast come to mind). The Ep was released on a Scarborough-based label run by Stuart from Satanic Malfunctions, I suppose they were penpals since it the only other releases were from SM.

Cut'n'paste or die presents: the second demo
Following this masterpiece, one would have hoped for a full Lp, a work that would have confirmed A//Solution as one of the very best US crust band to have walked and crawled this Earth but this was not to happen as the band tragically split up in 1990. What-iffing (yes that's an actual, if ugly, verb) is pretty useless but still, one cannot help but wonder. However, the band reformed with the full former lineup, minus one of the singers, in early 1992, their reunion gig seeing them rubbing shoulders with Confrontation, Phobia and Mindrot for what was probably the most direct way to go terminally deaf if you lived in the area at that time. A//Solution - finally - recorded seven songs for a full Lp later that same year but it did not materialize then and they split for good afterwards. I came across contradictory information about the Lp so I am not completely sure as to what the original plan was. A full album? I also read that it was meant to be a split Lp on Tempest Recors - Matt Fisher's label - with a local act called Relapse which I have never heard but has a song on a compilation tape oddly called Southercalifornia Not Saudiarabia compiled by Mauz from Dystopia before he launched Life Is Abuse (a rip of this tape would be very welcome). In 1995, an unmastered version of the '92 recording finally saw the light of day as a tribute to singer Nedwob's tragic passing. The Things to Come cd was a clear departure from Butterfly but still sounded as a logical continuation of their savage old-school crust sound. With its strong heavy rock influence and an earthy, organic feel, the album sounds like a post-crust blend of late Amebix, Zygote, early 90's Neurosis and even genuine grunge music and is actually a very interesting work, still in the realms of crust but also progressive and very well-written. Although it did take me some time to get into it - when I first heard it, I could not get into the rockier vibe - I have grown to really enjoy Things to Come and I love the story it tells as the songs resonate well with each other and illustrate great narrative abilities. You can tell that the band gave some proper thought to what they were going to express in terms of narration. Too bad it remained unmastered.  
That there has not been an A//Solution reissue yet feels like an absolute shame as it would finally show the greatness of this band to the world (well the crust punk world anyway). A//Solution were incredibly significant in that they reflected the evolution of the OC crust/peacepunk scene and their progress pretty much told its story: from anarcho peacecore, to absolute old-school metallic crust and finally heavy crust rock, all different stages and sounds but still very coherent and logical. Butterfly still remains their best effort and I rate it as the best early American crust Ep along with Born, Fed... Slaughtered, Earth and Cybergod