Wednesday 23 February 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (2012-2021): Carnage "34°23'41"N 132°27'17"E" demo tape, 2017

It is generally agreed that punk-rock is a genre that has seen both a lot of carnage (everyone still have in mind the infamous streetpunk debacle or the ghastly Concrete Sox reunion a few years ago) and a lot of Carnage. And for a good reason: it is undeniably a great name for a punk band. It is therefore little surprising that bands striving to express some sort of anger, despair or bloodthirsty medieval in punk history. You had a decent, albeit pretty standard, and quite prolific 80's anarchopunk band from East Sussex, a very good Antisect/SDS-influenced stench-crust band from Mie City, Japan, and a noizy 80's punk band called Karnage (the amount of bands picking that spelling probably as a way to be original and break out from the Carnage crowd is paradoxically astonishing) from France. The other Carnage-oriented genre is predictably metal music, this time in awe-inspiring proportions. You have of course the early Swedish death-metal Carnage but also at least four 80's thrash-metal acts with the same name. That possibly made for some awkward situations in the mid-80's but, after all, the lads all had sleeveless denim jackets, permed hair and played overlong solos so confusing Oklahoma's Carnage with Illinois' Carnage cannot have been that bad a mistake. In fact, if you were to gather all the metal Carnages, you would be able to have a proper two-day festival (three-day if you invite the Karnages too), not to mention a great aftershow with the hip-hop Carnages. The Carnage Festival. You read it here first.

The Carnage we will take a look at today wreak havoc on Lisboa and I suppose they must have been well aware that the lexical spot was already well crowded but still took the liberty to be baptised as such. And who would blame them, is it not an ideal name when you do the crust? And after forty years of hardcore punk, all the good names have been taken so that the Council of the Punk Sages (an unelected body of pompous record collectors) decided that it was alright to recycle a punk band name as long as and only if said name had not been used for twenty years in a given punk subgenre. A fair enough amendment. 

I am not completely sure about the members' resume but drummer Rafael previously played in the brilliant Subcaos in the 00's as well as bands like Etacarinae and Atentado. Given the obvious aptitudes and apparent songwriting experience of the musicians, I would venture that the Carnage boys (that's a great name for an Insta-compatible oi band) are not exactly pubescent punks. Not the wildest guess. In fact, I was supposed to review this tape years ago but ended up procrastinating like a prat. But since 34°23'41"N 132°27'17"E is one of my favourite European metallic crust recordings of the past decade, it was hight time I included the work in Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust, the number one online resource about the crust lifestyle. 

34°23'41"N 132°27'17"E are the exact coordinates of the Hiroshima hypocenter and I don't think I need to tell you why. Let's get to the music which is, as could be expected, heavy, dark and rocking. In spite of the tape being technically a demo, you really should listen to it more as a proper album. The production sounds precisely as it should, heavy and clear without being clean, just raw and primitive enough, which allows the two guitars to work properly together. You can hear everything perfectly and the level of the vocals is just right for the metal crust genre. Carnage are an epic lot and they love guitars, so be prepared for hyperbolic Japanese-styled metal punk leads. There are four songs on the tape, two of which are significantly longer and, well, epic as fuck. "Carnage", an eight-minute long adventure, starts out with a triumphant rocking metal-crust galop with throaty shouts that will have you ride a horse or a motorbike (or - if you're too much of a wimp for both like myself - tap your foot pretty hard) before going into an eerie, soft and slow progressive part with first anguished choking words and eventually climaxing into a massively heavy and moody sludge-y conclusion with some actual Amebix-like spectral creepy singing. Brilliant songwriting work here. The last song "Final debt", an apocalyptic crust ballad with similar vocal versatility, is equally well thought-out and shows that Carnage genuinely succeeded to set up an atmosphere of their own although their influences are clear and proudly worn, no mean feat considering the well-trodden path.     


There is a certain 00's stenchcore influence on 34°23'41"N 132°27'17"E as Hellshock and especially Limb From Limb come to mind but Carnage have something of a more rocking, almost Frost-like, pounding metal-punk side to them and it is no coincidence that they mention GISM, Antisect, SDS (later period) and English Dogs as influences. As previously pointed out, there is a significant pagan Amebixian sense of epics running through the music and I would throw some of Sworwielder's galloping crust power, Fatum's thrashing madness and AGE's demented metallic punk grooviness, just to be safe. I could go on but it would feel a little silly (a crust version of Maggot Slayer Overdrive? anyone?) and unnecessary as the band is definitely good enough to stand on its own terms. Carnage are old-school and referential enough to attract old-fashioned fool like myself and modern enough to make them stand out and memorable. It's heavily rooted in classic crust but they include other metal elements into their sound, or rather they syncretize the best of vintage guitar-driven mean metal-punk (Japanese and British) with old-school apocalyptic metallic crust to give birth to a dark, moody and epic crust hybrid that will make you do Mad Max cosplay in no time.

There were only 150 copies of 34°23'41"N 132°27'17"E and I was lucky enough (and quick, I am not known as the Crust Viper for nothing) to grab one. Unfortunately, I could not find a copy of their subsequent Ep, Duality..., released on Profane Existence in 2019 which is a genuine bummer. One day I will. The tape was released on Monolith Records, a local label, and looks brilliant with its gloomy artwork and runic-like lettering for the lyrics. 

The real deal.   

Unleash the carnage

Friday 18 February 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (2012-2021): Kärzer "Howl" tape Ep, 2017

The crust punk is an organism that has fascinated scientists since its birth and rapid virus-like spread in the mid 1980's. Some of the brightest in their fields, biologists, anthropologists, zoologists and even astrologists, for some reason, all tried to define and theorise properly and rationally what makes the crust punk so unique, mysterious and, indeed, endearing. Once a rather common punk subspecies that could be found in most industrial cities - there was a clear connection between the vitality of the crust punk population and how socially acceptable dumpster-diving appeared to be - up until the late 00's, the population of crust punks has seen a dramatic decrease since. The decline of crust punks and their culture is polyfactorial and studies have shown that there could have been several causes for the downfall including the rise of the price of brew, having to get an actual job or the gentrification of punk-rock (also called the postpunk revival). 

This resulted in the disruption of the traditional crust mating season (often, though but not restricted to, three-dayers crust festivals during the summer) and therefore, were it not for some heroic crust strongholds, in some specific areas in the world, crust punks would have probably gone extinct. Even its Japanese subspecies, the cruster, is starting to be endangered according to alarming studies. What a world we live in... It has become rare to be able to witness such magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, they who once roamed city centres, attired in elaborate crust pants, sleeveless brownish jackets that used to be black and rotting biker boots. Under pressure from the WWF, the international community has even thought of creating natural reserves for crust punks where they could thrive again, free from shoegaze and indie rock. Please, donate to Terminal Sound Nuisance and help protect the crust punk population.

One of the places where crust is certainly neither dead nor dying is Russia. The past decade saw the rise and solidification of a strong and lively hardcore punk scene that has produced some of the best crust records between 2010 and 2019, an incredible feat considering Russia did not really have d-beat crust bands of note prior to that, with the notable exception of the mighty Distress who undeniably pioneered a whole new punk territory, and their influence in kickstarting the Russian crust contingent cannot be underestimated. I first heard Distress in 2005 as a friend of mine had traveled to Russia and brought back a demo tape of the band. It was the first Russian d-beat hardcore band I became aware of and because I found the Russian language particularly deep and aggressive and fitting the genre perfectly, I figured I would be watching out for more bands. I think Komatoz was the first "post-Distress" crusty thrash band I became familiar with, followed by Antimelodix whose metal-crust blend also caught my attention, despite a somewhat odd concept. I got to bump into the latter through the great Crust Demos blog that was a massively useful source for young upcoming crust bands keen on promoting their shit and while some of the bands posted were quite average and quickly vanished, I loved the dedication and got to discover some proper gems. Closely after Fatum came along with Skverna and then it was not just "crust" that was knocking at my door but its evil metallic twin: stenchcore.

Clearly the old-school metallic crust style, stenchcore, has been the most popular take on the genre in the 2010's in Russia but maybe I just have not lend an ear to the other styles. In any case, Russian stenchcrust bands regularly started to pop up, confirming that Moscow and Saint-Petersburg were the real deal and, at some point, could be said to have become effortlessly the genre's new epicentre. Solid bands like Repression Attack, Duke Nukem, Chaosbringer, Step to Freedom and of course Kärzer, the band that we are dealing with today. They started in 2012 and I think they are still active, although Covid may have struck a fatal blow to the band for all I know. The Ginsberg-ish Howl was recorded in 2016 and first released on tape on Go Tape, an apparently rather important and diverse tape label. It was rereleased the following year on Headnoise, a good label that specialised in the d-beat/crust/käng thing. The tape adopts a "barbarian Warhammer orc crust" imagery which is seemingly quite popular among Russian crusties (The Lord of the Rings has a lot to answer for this). 

Howl is self-described as an Ep and, fair enough as it has a solid sound quality and production so that it is definitely better-sounding than what you would expect from a demo recording (although you never know these days, there are crust demos that could easily pass as class albums). You can tell that the Kärzer boys are quite proficient with their instruments and had precise ideas as to what they yearned to achieve in term of songwriting. The result is brilliant. Greatly helped by a top notch production able to highlight the many details of the guitar without losing any of the power and heaviness that define the genre, Howl is an impressive and inventive Ep that builds significantly on stenchcore revivalists like Contagium, Instinct of Survival and of course Fatum. You will find the typical filthy and thrashing mid-paced moments, the heavy and slower mosh-crust parts and of course the punishing and pummeling fast bits. I would be perfectly fine with Kärzer sounding just like a traditional, if generic, stenchcore revival band. It's not like there are dozens of bands doing it as well as this Saint-Petersburg lot so I would have been happy. But Howl is more than your predictable stenchcore band as it incorporates eerier, more melodic guitar parts, that borrow from heavy Killing-Jokesque postpunk as well as bands like Zygote and especially Bad Influence. Of course, Instinct of Survival's Call of the Blue Distance precisely did that, mix old-school crust with more psychedelic, moodier sonorities so that Kärzer's Howl can be said to be as influenced by North of Nowhere as it is by its followup. The Ep almost sounds like a equidistant meeting point between the two, with the great Contagium carefully refereeing and because the band is so tight and intense - they really sound like an angry and anguished lot with those mean howling screams -, the production so clear and enhancing the guitar works, the recording does achieve what it set out to and installed Kärzer right away near the top ten of the official Crust Rankings.


The next logical step would have been the recording of a full album which, if it kept that sort of progressive stenchcore sound and songwriting, would have become a classic. But Kärzer then undertook a lineup change and decided to record another tape Ep in 2017, which I have never physically seen (even Howl proved to be a little difficult to grab hold of). The band wisely stuck to its old-school crust recipe but somewhat the four new songs have a rawer vibe and lacked the energy and magic of the previous tape's and I just was not as excited, but then I might have been a little overexcited the first time around so the element of surprise was logically no longer there. It still is a solid slice of metal crust, don't get me wrong, and if you see a copy on a distro table, get it quickly and, if you are a generous and rightly deferent person, send it to me as an offering. Thank you. 


Friday 11 February 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (2012-2021): Yuppie Gore Filth "...+ The End" demo tape, 2021

It is often said that subcultural dynamics are cyclical in nature. I guess bitter bastards would say that is just a fancy term for going around in circles but you get the idea. This is just as valid applied to high street fashion (you know, that thing that will be burning during the coming anarchist revolution and shit) as the recent dramatic increase in twats wearing Fila trainers attests as it is for punk-rock (still pretty much a Fila-free haven). Once new and exciting punk innovations - amazing and inspiring music like käng or crust and other much more distressing ones that are better left unmentioned - have turned into proper subgenres. This process implies that, through their sphere of influence and because of the strong desire to emulate, they become solidified and codified, the initial newness generally giving way for replications and adjustments. Or even blatant resurrections, out of nowhere, so to speak, wherever nowhere is located at a given time, as the French oi revival proves. Fuck me. Who could have predicted that one? 

The issue of cyclical trends (or "cyclicality of subcultural dynamics" if you studied sociology in college and need to feel smart) has been a major one in the punk scene. Many people, once very active, moved on and left the scene because of punk's creative stagnation and craving to emulate past trends. And fair enough. On the one hand, it can be disheartening to see punks still doing Discharge cosplay in 2022. On the other, it can signify a genuine subcultural practice and identity. On a meta level, trend revivals could be approached through the prism of survivance and liveliness. Retelling the same stories has a certain consolidating quality. It is a cultural validation. Whether it is a validation of punk's fear to innovate and thus of its imminent irrelevance or a validation of its undying pride in and renewal of its fundamentals is a matter of perspective and of how much a bitter bastard you really are. It's probably both, really. It can give birth to sterile bands just as much as class acts. Whether Yuppie Gore Filth belongs to the first or the second category is up to you. But if there is one thing everyone can agree on it is that YGF are fun.

YGF are extremely unoriginal. YGF are also very original. They are to Electro Hippies what Disturd are to Antisect. And how many hyperbolic Electro Hippies-loving bands can you name? Exactly. And I love EH. I remember getting the Peaceville digipack reissue in the early noughties because I loved the Spanish Revolution reference on the cover - and therefore thought the band would probably sound like Sin Dios - and because it was called The Only Good Punk, which proved to be quite the premonition in my case. What's not to love in EH? They play blinding fast mid-80's anarcho hardcore punk with a distinct UK vibe and a metallic influence, not to mention that their lyrics are both political and sarcastic. They were never technically a crust band - although later versions of songs like "Acid rain", "Terror eyes" or "Unity" did have that UK stenchcore vibe - but the crossover tag is somehow pertinent. I have to admit that I have always disliked the term "crossover" primarily because of its heavy American hardcore origin (it was coined by DRI after all and as everyone knows "DIY not DRI") but EH can be part of a reasonable conversation about DRI, Siege or Septic Death, in spite of their distinct British sound, as well as one about Deviated Instinct or Hellbastard, in spite of a significant US influence. 

But let's get back to the pith of the business and to Yuppie Gore Filth (a name that sounds like a Sore Throat song). As a band emulating EH, can they be said to belong to the recent crossover trend? Bands connected to in vogue labels like Quality Control or Sorry State, acts like Scalple, Tempter, Tower 7 (those two are really good) or Mere Mortal have been resurrecting that crossover sound that was rather unfashionable not so long ago judging by the low amount of Suicidal Tendencies and Corrosion of Conformity shirts and bandanas at gigs. Those bands do not sound alike, truth be told, and the degree of speed, metallic crunch and constipated tough guy impersonations does vary. Because of the insularity, Japanese punks tend to have their own trends and dynamics so I would argue that, if YGF's music could sonically fit with a contemporary "crossover trend" - the term "revival" would be too much of a stretch given the marginal, if significant, number of bands involved - it is more by chance than by design. Something in the water maybe.

YGF started around 2020 in Osaka, a town renowned for its many quality punk noise units. As you would expect from punk's incestuousness, members of YGF are not young'uns - the live videos suggest they are not part of Osaka's old guard either - as they play or played in bands like the top notch all-female gruff crust band Defuse (for drummer Hisako), the ferocious anarchocrusters Avvikelsse, one of the bands I was too hungover to properly pay attention to but sort of sounded like traditional Japanese hardcore Rigid, a band I have never heard of Trans and even Osaka's undisputed noise crust champions Zyanose. However, YGF do not try to sound like any of those as they firmly intend to build on raw UK-styled 80's fast crossover stench hardcore which, as an elite-level nerd obsessed with 80's UK punk, speaks to me on a pretty profound level. As mentioned, Electro Hippies are at the head of the table but they also gladly invited Notts heroes Heresy and Concrete Sox as well as Ripcord and Scum-era Napalm Death (the cavemen voice of the second vocalist does convey a grinding crust feel). I was never scholarly trained in crossover hardcore and apart from the crustier-sounding British bands that stemmed from the buoyant DIY hardcore and anarcho punk scene but were equally influenced with the fastest US hardcore bands and thrash metal, I don't know that much about worldwide 80's crossoverness so that there could be more adequate comparisons (SOB? DRI? COF? other acronyms?). Feel free to pontificate.


Apparently, YGF claim to play "filthy crusty stench speedcore" which sums it all appropriately and with all the class one would expect from an Osaka crust punk band. The tape has six songs, two of which are merely 5 seconds-long short blasts of hardcore noise - like Electro Hippies, Napalm Death or Sore Throat used to do. The first five tracks were recorded in late January and early February 2020 while the final song "The end" was recorded in November of the same year along with three other songs, each of them appearing separately on the three other versions of the demo tape. My copy is the white version released on the Dis-obsessed Deleted Records from Malaysia has "The end" (like the red version) while the UK version on PMT (a good London-based tape label) has "Anihilation" and the brown Japanese version on Armed With a Mind has "Life". Cheeky bastards. 

This is not the best demo tape of the year but it is certainly one of the "freshest" in my book. Some crusty crossover anyone?    

Yuppie Gore Filth

Saturday 5 February 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (2012/2021): Relief "S/t" demo tape, 2016

Originality can often be very overrated. Not in the sense that it is unnecessary or inessential, and as my last post about Akrasia showed, I can heartily welcome tasteful touches of innovation in my crust. I am after all a man of rare sophistication (I am currently wearing a Zoe shirt if you need uncontested proof). However, I do not need nor crave for supposedly fresh or unorthodox takes on punk music all the time. To be fair it is not that common anyway and, more often than not, I distrust bands or labels claiming that their brand new release "challenge the listener", "blur boundaries" or "offer something new in the face of conformist punk music". This sort of fake and artificial art school PHD incantations turn out to be quite shallow and generally the promoted bands excessively rely on massive pedal boards that are bigger than an actual surf board and are worth a monthly. I'd much rather have an orthodox take on a beloved punk subgenre emerging from a new or marginalised position, area or points of view instead of wankers pretending to be trailblazers in order to appeal to the middle-class "indie" part of the scene. 

Sometimes you just need to listen to something that is extremely predictable. Something that comforts you in your long-established tastes, way of life and dubious sense of dress. Something soothing, life-affirming, something that says "you are not alone" like in that Quarantine song. Something sentimental that makes the old heart beat. Something that sounds exactly like Doom for example (may be substituted with Discharge, Antisect or Amebix) and Relief does exactly that. And I mean in every way, without flinching or trying to bring something original to the table. From the opening of this demo tape, the educated listeners instantly know what Relief are on about, the very name Relief already being a gigantic clue anyway. If you did not see that coming, you not only lost a not inconsiderable amount of crust points but may also very well be on the dangerous track of becoming a poser. Sort your shit out pal.

I am not completely sure about Relief's location but since this demo was recorded in a studio called Strange Matter apparently located in Richmond - it was shut down since though - I would venture that this three-piece were from Richmond. Yet another great piece of clever investigativeness on Terminal Sound Nuisance. I am not very familiar with the Richmond punk scene but I have been told that there were some solid noizy bands over there and quality acts like Destruct and more especially Future Terror do point in that direction and caught my attention. I would not be surprised to read that some of the Relief members are or were somewhat connected with them. 

Because of the overall lovable amateurishness of Relief - and I write this in the best way possible - I would endeavour that they were probably a side-project to a more serious and established band that may have been born after a boozy session when someone just exclaimed: "Let's do a band that sounds just like early Doom". The eight songs making up the tape are saturated with delightfull Doomness. From the opening of "Perect world" (!) to the obligatory referential "Relief Pt VI", the tape perfectly refers to and emulate the gruff and raw early days of Brum's favourite cavecore unit. There are also clear smelly hints of other classic European Doom-loving bands from the 90's like the mighty Hiatus so that on a metatextual level, Relief are as much a tribute to Doom than a conscious and self-aware tribute to the 90's art of Doom-loving, placing the band in the long tradition of Doom love epitomised by the aforementioned Hiatus or Japanese crust bands like Abraham Cross, Macrofarge or Mindsuck, a country where Doom love is strong, idiosyncratic and seemingly immortal indeed. They are a tribute to the tribute as much as just a tribute if you will and, if anything, Terminal Sound Nuisance is first and foremost a place where punk romanticism can shamelessly expressed itself and Relief's upsurge of respectful Doom mimicry does pertain to this field.

The sound on the demo is raw, direct and there is an undeniable feeling of urgency. I cannot really tell if the band consciously decided to sound as basic and primitive in a "Alright then, we've got six hours in the studio, let's record as many songs as we can and piss off to the pub as soon as we can". I feel this rather primal approach to the already primal subgenre actually benefits the songs and I do find, again, that sloppy but genuine very-late-80's/early-to-mid 90's feel of early Disrupt, Hiatus, Macrofarge and Co. Maybe Relief went even further into the meta side of prehistoric Doom love with their actual tape. The first side of my copy is actually in mono while the second one is distinctly lower. It might only be my own copy but I like to think that Relief, through the intentional bungle, are also paying tribute to such ancestral mistakes that were very common in the old world of passionate Doom-ish crust tapes. But it might only be wishful thinking. Romanticism indeed.

The tape looks fine and there is a proper double-sided insert included with the lyrics and scribbled bottles of special brew (I assume). It is a pretty rare artifact as far as I can tell and, if you are not particularly keen on a highly referential unoriginal '88-'89 era Doom tribute band or a highly referential unoriginal tribute to the 90's tribute to '88-'89 era Doom sound, you may not like Relief that much. But if you are actually a stylish person, then Relief is for you. I know it is for me.   

                                                                    DIY or fucking die