Friday 28 January 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (2012-2021): Akrasia "Observe the darkness" Ep, 2019

Here we go, let's crust again. As I pointed out earlier Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust is a series that will probably be carried out throughout the year and will focus on new contemporary crust music, works released between 2012 and 2021. After years of - mostly - tackling older bands, I felt the urge to promote modern recordings, not because I have grown tired of writing about old records - I could read myself all day, as you know - but because we are caught between two seemingly contradictory trends that have more to do with global cultural consumptional dynamics than solely with punk music, an ultimately small, if brightly coloured, fish. On the one hand, we have become obsessed with a glorified past as the constant flux of reissues suggests while on the other we engage in an endless race for novelty and the newest hot bands that are consumed impulsively and emphatically before their inevitably quick discardment. There is much room for complaining for a chap like myself. As a result, in order to save punk-rock once again, not unlike Lorenzo "Renegade" Lamas but with less hair and my uncle's moped, I will try to depict the vitality of crust in the past decade with the mighty force of my well-known - and indeed feared - wits so that you will get an excellent idea, the best possible idea in fact since the selection is mine, about what this beloved hardcore punk subgenre has been up to since 2012. And Terminal Sound Nuisance celebrates its tenth anniversary this year so it made sense on that level as well.

So what about Akrasia then? Despite duly watching out for new crust bands to assess, Akrasia completely slipped under my radar at first, which is extremely odd and even a little offensive and I did have to let my apparently inept scandicrust informant go as a consequence. What makes this mishap even weirder is that I have been following the label, Ruin Nation Records, and always keep an eye on the latest release (well, clearly not in the case of Akrasia but if a lesson should be learnt it is that no one is wholly perfect). On the bright side, since I did not see the band coming and was late to the party, I had no real expectations and was taken by surprise by the existence of an old-school crust band that already had two (!) records out, something of a blissful ignorance which, in 2022 sadly does not happen too often because of my advanced and omniscient crust detector (it is cider-fueled if you must know). In any case, it felt great to meet a relatively established band with all the refreshing candour I could muster.     

Akrasia are from Oslo, Norway, and must have formed in the mid-10's. While they are technically a young band, some - if not all - of the participants in this crust-making enterprise cannot be said to be exactly innocent inexperienced newcomers and I am not saying this just out of discourtesy. For instance, my confidential sources (well, Discogs really...) tells me that the singer, aka Offender, a common name in Norway, also growled for the metal band Throat Violence and grindcore machine Whip in Oslo in the 00's, as well as two other extreme acts in Italy (I smartly assume he moved to Italy at some point) more recently, Morbo and Sangue, four bands I have never heard and therefore will not make a fool of myself by commenting. Guitar player "Kraka" however is a much more familiar punk face since he used to play, among others, in Hevn, a strong anarchopunk band from the 00's and the magnificent Summon the Crows, undeniably Norway's best crust band. 

Akrasia play, and I quote, "cataclysmic space crust", a brilliant name for a subgenre of a subgenre of a subgenre. In general, the specialists of such terminological inventiveness are Japanese punks ("d-beat raw punk" is the most famous example but the presupposition that any Japanese d-beat and crust band have coined their own lexical style almost always proves to be true) but I salute this bold and daring move from this wild Scandinavian lot and I personally like the concept of cataclysmic space crust a lot. Observe the Darkness includes two long songs, almost twelve minutes in total, of heavy metallic old-school crust with some psychedelic space rock moments. The length of the songs really allows the band to tell and developed a full story (with an introduction, the setting of a specific atmosphere, a pause, changes in mood, a climax and so on) with each number which places Akrasia in the great crust traditions of epic crust of Amebix, Misery and the likes, a narrative aspect reinforced by the use of a psychedelia-inducing synth which I am a huge sucker for. 

The vocals also distinguish the band, they are quite theatricalised and reminiscent of an angrier Tom G. Warrior, which is something of a double-edge sword, but at least can be considered as a welcome change from all the grizzli growls that crust is usually and rightly associated with. While I did not feel the vocals always worked on the First Demons - Birth of the Void Lp from 2017, they perfectly fit here. And actually I cannot find any real flaw to the Ep, it is a brilliant crust record. The space rock influence is present but acts more as an atmospheric tool than a structural songwriting one. I am reminded of progressive crust bands like Morne or the mighty Counterblast, with the potent metal groove of Celtic Frost and late Amebix, a dash of classic Misery and early AGE and a spoonful of Iowaska and Bad Influence trance crust. It reads like name-dropping nonsense but just trust the crust, Observe the Darkness is nothing less than one of the best records of the genre of the past decade. and above all they do not sound like any other bands while still comfortably relying on the classic canonical crust tropes. Both fresh and yet familiar.

This wonderful Ep was released in 2019 on the ever-reliable and hard-working label Ruin Nation Records that has been going since 1993. It is still available so I strongly suggest you treat yourself and support the label and the band at the same time and actually take a fiver from your wallet and get the thing. Space anarchy propagation indeed. There is a link just below to RN's website comrades.

                                                                                Get it

                                                                    Cataclysmic space crust  


Friday 14 January 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (2012-2021): Deformed Existence "Hate with patriotism" demo tape, 2019

If you are unaware of Terminal Sound Nuisance's resolutions for 2022, please read the first entry to the brand new series Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust - it is my family motto if you must know, with our coat of arms depicting a cheap-looking plastic battle axe and a half-empty cider bottle. We like to keep things realistic. For the tenth anniversary of the blog, I will focus only on modern, contemporary crust recordings that I enjoyed in the past ten years in order to illustrate how important it is to support new bands, distros, what's left of the fanzine scene or gig promoters (cough cough, and blogs, cough cough). As much as I revere the old classics just like your average snobby nerd, new and active bands are those who keep the punk scene alive and interesting ("new and active" also includes heroic old farts who will keep crusting until the end of times, hail to them). Reviews will be shorter (?) but there will be more of them. Basically less anecdotes about my thrilling life but still my proverbial jocularity.

I first heard of Deformed Existence when planning my trip to Osaka in 2018 for the All Crusties Insane Noise Victim festival. I had never been to Japan and a brilliant lineup in addition to the last ever Gasmask Terror gig convinced me that the time, indeed, had come. I had a great time of course although I drank myself into a stupor like a twat on the first night, got lost on the way back to the hostel, overslept and missed bands on the day after that I had specifically flown to see. A cultural practice also known as "in true French fashion". I still feel like the ultimate bellend for this unforgivable misgiving although I suppose it does make for a good story and, at the very least, gets me some extra punk points (right?). More details about that fateful trip will be added in due time throughout the series (possibly as a cliffhanger at the end of the season three's finale or something). But back to today's topic since I actually saw Deformed Existence during the All Crusties Insane Noise Victim (a very apt name for the lineup). 

I remember reading the band's moniker on the poster online before leaving and wondered inquisitively what this lot were about. Let's deal with the lexical elephant in the room right now: "Deformed Existence" sounds exceedingly like classic 90's band's moniker "Deformed Conscience". In fact, to this day, older punks have proved to be almost completely unable to pronounce "Deformed Existence" correctly. They always end up overheating, awkwardly mumbling something like "Deformed Conscistence", collapsing on the floor and having to be turned on and off again. Typical. I obviously love Deformed Conscience - I am not a poser - but even a renowned man of letters like myself struggle to properly pronounce Deformed Existence, and I do actually like the name a lot (which, I suspect, must refer more to Reality Crisis' Deformed Society than Connecticut's crust stalwarts). I quickly guessed, thanks to my innate deductive power, that they were a young band since I could not find any song from them online and indeed they had that young-band feel on stage. Upon asking around, several rumours seemed to indicate what I already knew in my bones: they were an old-school crust band. Of course, it was only a hypothesis which needed to be confirmed with the scientific method, in this case fucking off to Osaka and enjoying the noise (and drinking far too much for my wimpish constitution). 

DE played quite early on the first day of the festival - at King Cobra Squat of course - and were very enjoyable. The omnipotence of streaming platform and the pressure to always be connected and updated about this week's new bands have made us very difficult to surprise. We are all guilty of systematically checking out bands before seeing them live or buying their records so that we seldom get to watch a band we have never heard before at all (the first gig of your mates' new bands do not count and you only have to endure a couple of songs out of forced friendship anyway). Even though I knew it was going to be crust - crust pants were involved to dissipate any possible doubts - it was a pleasant feel to watch a band I knew I was going to like but did not know yet but it might have been the booziness talking.

After thirty years of passionate War Crimes worship, you would think the impact of Doom on crust-loving Japanese punks would be less preponderant than in it was in the 90's. You would be quite mistaken, it is still pretty much intact, acting like an ancestral source of power for the local rags-core punks. So, of course, and it won't come as a surprise: DE also love Doom. But they love Doom in a way that is both traditionally deferential and somewhat original (to a degree, it is still Doom-loving cavecrust, don't expect ska breaks). From what I gathered, DE formed as a three-piece around 2015 and are based in Niigata, although drummer Yoichi - who also hits things with the fantastic Asocial Terror Fabrication and plays guitar for the long-running Voco Protesta - is from Tokyo. There is apparently a 4-track demo crd predating this tape but I haven't been able to hear it and I suspect it must be a rougher version of Hate with Patriotism's songs. 

From the opening introduction "Catastrophe", you get a distinct idea of where the band is sailing toward, as it is a tasteful blend of Doom's "Confusion" and the opening of "Means to an end". The discerning crusty would be quick to jump to the conclusion that DE is then going to unleash a barrage of gruff early Doom worship like the classical Japanese bands Abraham Cross/early Reality Crisis did. But that's where, as discerning as one might think to be, you would be - partly- wrong as DE have a very strong 90's crust vibe (more mid-90's Doom than '88), even reminiscent of 90's eurocrust, not a common occurrence in Japan. In terms of vocals, singer Kubo sounds very much like Tom Croft, who stood behind the microphone for Doom for most of the 90's and had a very Swedish-like aggressive, direct and threatening style, while most Doom-like bands go for the emphatic gruff style of Jon. To my great delight, DE's sound is strongly rooted in that 90's style, and as well as Doom - and the inescapable Japanese love for Sore Throat - other top cavecrust bands of the era definitely come to mind like 93'/95' Hiatus, Excrement of War or Private Jesus Detector (although they always claimed that they were a raw Dis-loving hardcore punk band and not crust which they associated with the more metallic sort of school which made sense in the late 80's/early 90's) but I am also reminded of pioneering just-like-Discharge d-beat bands like Disaster or Meanwhile and even Hellkrusher. And to keep gratifying myself at my own acuity, let's throw some national points of comparison like the aforementioned kings of Doom-love Abraham Cross and '93/'95 Battle of Disarm as DE share a similar sweeping, seemingly unstoppable power.

DE's music is simple and energetic with appropriate dark riffs, some welcome spoken parts and a desperate angry feel running through the music. The tape has eight songs for about 17 minutes of crispy pummeling crust so it feels like a serious work that could easily appear on vinyl. I have to say that I was rather surprised by the guitar sound at times as it uses uncommon effects (flanger? chorus? some guitar magic?) for the genre. I do enjoy it a lot as it one of the elements that makes DE subtly stand out despite the traditional, unambiguous and therefore very sharply defined crust style. The band's lyrics are also better than most given the template with "Merchant of death" tackling patriotism and "Elitists" being a criticism of the superficiality and artificiality of some corners of the punk scene. The insert displays a reworked Doom cloud logo at its centre (in case you forgot for a minute what you are holding in your grubby hands) while the black-and-white cover and the fount nod toward the classic 90's crust aesthetics. Hate with Patriotism was released in 2019 on Doomed to Extinction, a label based in California but run by a Serbian punk, that has been releasing some of the best crust records - among other styles - of the past decade. A cracking label whose productions we will be seeing again in Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust

Now, there is the retro 90's crust band I had been waiting for. More of that please.  



Deformed Existence           

Sunday 9 January 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (2012-2021): Instinct? "Pray to death" tape Ep, 2020

So I have been thinking. 

In 2022 Terminal Sound Nuisance will be celebrating its tenth birthday. I have never really held anniversaries in high regards, even less so now that hearing "fuck me, has it been twenty years already" is steadily becoming part of the punk conversations I regularly engage in. Time flies, aeroplanes crash. I started the blog in 2012, a time when punk blogs were already either dead, largely dying or grinding into a halt that would eventually grow to be definitive. But in the late 00's there were many active blogs all over the place. Those offering a distinct take on punk music through a selection of little-known bands that reflected the blogger's tastes and approach were genuinely great and acted as points of entry to large sections of punk history that I and many more were unaware of. Others focused on new bands, promoted the immediate vibrancy of punk and reflected a dynamism and an inspiring belief in the relevance of contemporary punk music. Others were basically database with hundreds of links to download without much, if any, context so that you were left with just the music and bits to assemble on your own. But what mattered the most were the different voices, the different places, the different time periods, the different styles and tastes that you were exposed to. Not all of them were good and some were very short-lived. Running a blog is time-consuming and requires passion. It is also by essence a solitary work that is not rewarded by instant gratification, unlike a youtube link or a social media post that you "like". A blog post cannot just be scrolled down and mindlessly "liked" - well it can, but it becomes utterly pointless - and you have to connect at least a little bit with what is being said (unless it is just a download link, but this kind of blogs are near extinct). In an epoch when our insecure selves, our tastes, our looks need to be constantly and instantaneously validated, consistent blogging, and of course fanzines and punk websites, offer something different and hopefully interesting and fun.

So I have been thinking as you can see. I gathered my scattered wits, dismissed as much negativity from my mind as possible and decided that 2022 would be a little different. Not that Terminal Sound Nuisance should transition into adulthood, it will still be governed by the heedlessness of youth, but, as my well-paid business advisor suggested, I should diversify my activities. I guess that makes sense. The same old same old is alright, we all need a routine, I know I do, but new things must be tried. Therefore I intend to publish more interviews this year and curate more scholarly punk compilations in order to bring some diversity in terms of formats and contents and provide some breaks from the coming onslaught of crust. Also, I decided to focus more - perhaps even exclusively for a while - on contemporary and active bands. Although I have oft written about old bands and vintage classics and about our contextual relation to them, I realize I have not tackled contemporary bands for a long time (not since the Ashes to Ashes, Crust to CRUST series in 2017). I am very much an enthusiast for current bands and support the scene as much as I can, even if it just means hanging out and getting pissed before the venue while haranguing the public on their bourgeois lifestyle. Punk is a moving animal, an indestructible creature and while I love raving about obscure and sloppy raw crusty punk bands from bygone days, 2022 will see me raving about obscure and sloppy raw crusty punk bands from the past ten years (2012 to 2021). A groundbreakingly different undertaking. Routine, meet your death. Where will it take me? To the gates of madness? To world fame? Surfeited with crust you shall be. 

Since all the recordings we will be dealing with are recent, it will prove difficult to study them in perspective. How will they age? Future crust classics or just decent examples of the genre? From all the works I have ripped, there are some that I know are bound to eventually become part of the crust canon. Once approved by the venerable World Crust Council it will be a done deal. Others will vanish from collective memory and be remembered only by the loyal fanatics of the genre whose brains function as giant encyclopedic archives, the names of those obscure bands gloriously engraved on mental cenotaphs. But at the end of the day, my guess is as good as yours so I could be wrong about the future classics although there is a high probability that I am right as usual and that my guess is actually better than yours. So I have decided to write shorter reviews and to focus on the band and the music as much as possible, instead of blabbering about irrelevant meditations, so that I can work on as many recordings as possible. There will be exceptions because resolutions are meant to be broken - law and order up your arse and all that - and some bands are just too good and meaningful not to be properly tackled - by which I mean lengthy tirades - but the idea is to stick to a shorter format. Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust will offer a wide panorama of crust music, in all its diversity, recordings I enjoyed in the past ten years in no particular order - because law and order up your arse and all that. I intend to speak mostly about bands that I have not had the chance to deal with yet, so that great crust records from bands that already liberally appeared on TSN might not be included (I am still a bit unresolved about that though but time will tell). Finally, all the rips provided will be my own rips. I am aware that you are able to download lossless files of most of the fuckers on bandcamp but I enjoy the process of ripping my own records. Besides, it will make you feel like you listen to my own copy on my own stereo (if you close your eyes you will be drinking my own coffee and enjoy my own conversation as well). If my tape has a sound issue, you'll hear it and if there is a scratch on an Ep, you'll hear it. That's the full TSN experience for you. Let's ave it.  

 I am afraid our instinct is war indeed...

I had never heard of Instinct? before the tape hit crust's dancefloors during the spring 2020, back when Paris was about to experience it first lockdown. Good times. The year 2020 had its fair share of solid records, although it is far too early to claim that any one of them are grand cru or that some will eventually be seen as minor classics (some labels will have you believe that every one of their records is bound to be come "a classic" but who are they trying to con?). Pray to death still proved to be one of my favourite of the year. With five songs in about seven minutes, you can imagine that Instinct? are not fucking around. There are bands that enjoy taking their time in order to set up a mood, an atmosphere that will inform the story they are going to tell. Instinct? are not one of those bands. At all. From the very first riff until the very last growl, this Philadelphia noise unit unleashes hell without any restraints nor thoughts for the innocent and unsuspecting passerby who might just find himself within earshot of speakers. Tough shit mate. 

It is a short but furious ride. as there are only five songs on this tape (discogs says it is a tape Ep but I see it more as a demo tape, a first ferocious draft if you will). In terms of style, I would locate Instinct? at the intersection of three schools. The most obvious one is the heaviest style of käng (that's the initiated lingo for Swedish hardcore, try to remember it in order to shine) especially its 90's incarnation. It is fast, relentless, pummeling, riff-driven and I am reminded of top shelf bands like 3-Way Cum, Discontrol or early Genocide SS. There is also a distinct cavemen crust influence with the emphatic, gruff vocals and some of the arrangements that nod lovingly toward classic Doom and Sore Throat (especially the cavecore song "Gozpelfuckers" which also cheekily refers to Jesus and the Gospelfuckers). Lastly, some frantic drum parts and the overall hyperbolic noisy chaos - and some vocal intonations too - sometimes point to Japanese käng (Framtid) and crust (Reality Crisis). But then those three branches very much grow from the same tree so that Instinct? sound like a seamless synthesis in the end. The sound is deliciously raw indeed but the heavy pounding power and the intensity of the delivery are such that they completely make up for any potential weakness (although I feel the last song does not sound quite as aggressive as the rest because of the production). The tape looks alright albeit quite unoriginal. A typical war picture and a collage of crusty punks in action and not much else. Some details about the recordings, the lyrics and a thank list would have been welcome I suppose.


The band is from Philadelphia, a town that has been delivering some excellent crust bands since the mid-10's, arguably some of the best of the decade actually. We will definitely be coming back to Philly in this series. As I understand it, even though there have technically been a lot of bands, the people involved in them are very much the same, not unlike in Portland or Halifax I suppose, so that we must have five punks playing in as many different bands. It is by no means an uncommon phenomenon and it sometimes feels like telling the story in terms of groups of people rather than bands would be more relevant. Incestuous scenes. Discogs tells me that someone from Instinct? also plays in the primitive and poetic d-beat käng act Arseholes but I am sure the rest of them play in equally brutal bands too. My copy of Pray to Death was released on tape in 2020 on Sickhead Records, a brilliant Malaysian tape label specialized in international käng and crust music that is worth your attention, and there is another version of the tape released on the prolific Kiev-based No Name Label, an entity that focuses pretty much on similar noisy things. In 2021, Bunker Punks Discs & Tapes reissued the tape and a vinyl reissue also exists since Regurgitated Semen Records (the infamous grindcore label from Germany with a questionable moniker) put out a single-sided 12'' last year, an odd choice given the current prices and since Pray to Death easily fits on a 7''. Oh well. 


In any case, if you see the tape or the vinyl looking lonely on a distro table, jump at the opportunity. As for me I certainly look forward to the next Instinct?'s recording, I think a 15-20 minute long 12'' with a better sound, in the raw and heavy sense of the term, a couple of mean mid-paced anthems, some more Peaceville worship and an ace-looking poster will do nicely, thank you very much. I expect it on my desk by the end of the year.