Wednesday 16 March 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Mörkt Moln "The Culling of a Great Flame" tape, 2019

Good afternoon comrades, this is Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust, the crust equivalent of a lifestyle coaching session. Be warned that it will not make you look better, lose weight or get your ex back (but if it did do that, please let me know, it would look nice on my resume and get me a few extra punk points), but, not being one to palter with the truth, it will realistically make you spend more time sitting on your arse looking for rare crust recordings on the web and possibly buy an ugly shirt of an obscure stenchcore band that your mum will strictly forbid you to wear at your niece's birthday even though you're well into your forties. Living the life indeed. I guess you could call me a crust influencer bequeathing nuggets of wisdom for free.

It is that time of the year again: spring is coming. The major difference with the last couple of years is that instead of a worldwide pandemic, you get the lurking peril of the Third World War. An undeniably bloodcurdling prospect but with forty years worth of songs about nuclear wars, I think us punks are more than ready to face the apocalypse, we have the perfect soundtrack for it, although I must concede that it might not be judicious to point it out in public. But still, spring is coming, it's just around the corner, and men, women and children will soon be able to enjoy the suffocating heat, suffocating heat and the nuclear sunrise with equanimity for the last time in order to protest and survive. Being the season of rebirth, spring is often associated with revitalisation, with imbuing thing with new life and vitality. Twats usually interprets this time of the year as the start of the warm season which induces wearing shades at all time, showing off the tats and the muscles, wearing cheap perfume that makes you gag, whistling at girls and generally behaving like a bellend as much as they can, at least until early October. Tasteful punks, on the other hand, get the sleeveless jackets out of the closet, dust the crust pants a little, maybe buy a new toothbrush (to replace the one you lost in January) and piously consider rocking something different to celebrate the opening of the festival season. And I might have just the right thing for you: Mörkt Moln.

To be honest, I did not discover the band by myself but through a member of the band who kindly wrote me an email to introduce me to the music. So thanks Simon. Now, as we negotiated, I will be waiting for your payment and expect the agreed upon percentage on the sales of all your releases for the next five years. Or else I will launch a smear campaign of unprecedented proportions and Mörkt Moln will be accused of playing indie rock gigs under a false name. You have until the end of the month as I know how to be charitable. But character assassination notwithstanding, Martin was right to send me the link. MM are different to what I listen to on a daily basis. The typical day at Terminal Sound Nuisance's headquarters normally includes 80's UK stenchcore in the morning, then 90's "just like" d-beat for lunch, some cavemen crust in the afternoon and a short crasher crust session before going to sleep. MM are a three-piece from Göteborg, Sweden, and belong to that category of bands that are not technically crust but can still be thoroughly enjoyed by the people who are into crust, who live by the crust and die by the crust.

The Culling of a Great Flame was self-released in 2019, exemplifying the DIY spirit in action. I love the aesthetics of the tape with its purposefully primitive and almost naive artwork reminiscent of the early extreme-metal scene. This raw and primitive feel is also very much reflected in the band's music so that the careful listener understands that MM gave some thought to the relation between form and content. Emerging from the DIY punk scene, the band could probably be best described as punks having a proper go at the primal and primitive early black-metal sound while keeping a significant Amebix influence and incorporating some old-school doom-metal in the process. As any self-respecting lover of crust, I like Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Venom and MM build strongly on those bands not just in terms of actual songwriting but also of vibe and groove. The tape manages to recreate - on purpose I would presume - a sort of pagan atmosphere thanks to heavy and dark rocking riffs, trancy and epic metal-punk moments and moody synth-driven narrative transitions which I am a sucker for (it must be my long obsession with Greek crust) which really make it sound like a whole story, like an initiatory quest into the wasteland or something. 

MM certainly take their sweet time as the tape has eight songs and is about forty-minute long so that it stands as a recording you have to progressively get into. It would be an overstatement to claim that I instantly loved the tape (the band would have had to send a bigger bribe for me to claim that) but I have actually been regularly drawn to it. I love how deceptively raw and primitive it sounds as MM know what they're up to and manage to keep the simple, dark demonic heaviness of Hellhammer and Venom while adding some smart hooks and details that you do not necessarily notice at first. The epic Amebix and Axegrinder (and even Misery at times) influence is present enough to make the recording familiar (in some song structures and vocals especially) while the frequent doom-metal riffing makes it a little original to my untrained ears (my inability to grow a moustache meant I never could get into doom-metal sadly). If I were to make a bonfire in spring in order to sacrifice some hipsters for some random Crust Goddess I would probably do it to the tunes of MM. The production is quite raw but clear, with some sort of organic feel and I suppose you do not need a massive sound for that kind of primitive atavistic doom-y Frost-punk. The lyrics deal with ancient deities, Conan and "Corruptors of youth" tackles the nefarious influence of shoegaze on disaffected youths (the true evil of our time). 

The Culling of a Great Flame sounds like it looks. It is not a crust work although it is certainly dark, rocking and heavy, it also tells a genuinely epic and coherent story thanks to its changes of paces and eerie transitions and, after all, it does rely on bands that have been genuine influences on the old-school crust genre, like Venom or Celtic Frost, as well as on late (but not too late, thank fuck) Amebix and other classic Amebix-influenced bands. 

Now if the band would kindly drop the money at the spot we discussed, that'd be ace.                    

Mörkt Moln

Friday 11 March 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Napalm Raid "Wheel of war" Lp, 2017

To listen to, enjoy and truly engage with certain types of noizy hardcore punk, it could be argued that you need to be, at least, a little masochistic. I mean, in theory no sane person likes to be aurally punished by purposefully brutal, relentless and loud noisy music. I remember well the combination of utter dismay and genuine concern for my mental health on some of my (non-punk) friends' faces when I played them Extreme Noise Terror as a reply to the rather innocuous question "so what do you listen to these days? Still into punk-rock?". Of course, relativity is of the essence here. If you listen to a lot of that kind of punk like myself, some vintage ENT in the morning will sound like a reward, a gratification and not like an unfair punishment inflicted by a soap-dodging weirdo. Hence the parallel with masochism. Are subgenres like cavemen crust or crasher or stenchcore musical forms of masochism? Do we like or need the pain to get into these? And if so, where would goregrind be on the scale of masochism? Shagging someone who just ate four pounds of stale garlic sausages? Such questions do make one shiver. 

Another memory that immediately comes to mind in order to illustrate this theory is Sete Star Sept's gigs in Paris in 2014. It took place in a genuinely depressing and miserable-looking bar (that also served mediocre pizzas) located in a rather rough Parisian suburbs whose landlord, a friendly Sri Lankan man, once agreed to host a punk gig in order to attract some punters as his bar was almost always empty after 6pm. Following that fateful decision of his, he ended up having punk gigs regularly, sometimes several times a week, and bands like Destino Final, Fleas & Lice, Morne and even Dropdead and The Mob played there. I don't think the landlord ever got the appeal of punk music but, up to a certain point, he managed to bear the pain stoically. That Sete Start Sept gig stands out because of how emphatically chaotic and noisy and just incomprehensible the band sounded like (I mean, even I struggle to go through a SSS record). The look on that poor man's face was one of utter disbelief, composed incredulity and fatalistic pain as he witnessed the band's performance. What unlikely chain of events, he must have asked himself, led to me owning a cheap bar hosting what could be best defined as an impenetrable wall of nasty sound that some people inexplicably seem to enjoy? SSS is a rather extreme example, his worst night maybe, and fortunately for him, not every gig were that much of a sonic bollocking. But still, as I watched the grindcore freaks relishing in the savage noise and the landlord's resilient agony, the paradox was evident. Some loved the punishment while others endured it. 

Wheel of War can be said to be an absolute scandicrust bollocking, one that is unceasingly intense and furiously harsh, one that could easily repel meaningful sectors of the hardcore punk world, one that could even be considered as being "maybe a bit much" by fans of d-beat and raw punk. And I would not entirely  disagree with such a statement actually as Wheel of War can sound a little hard to bear. But it is still patently one of the best albums in the crust category of the 2010's and most likely the best in the scandicrust subcategory. For some reason, the MTV Music Award went for Ed fucking Sheeran as artist of the year in 2017 and Napalm Raid were not even nominated. In fact, the knobheads don't even have a Best Crust Artist category. Shameful really. 

Wheel of War is so good precisely because it sounds so punishing. Whenever I play it, I excitedly anticipate the coming kicks up the arse, I know what's coming and am looking forward to it. The Lp reminds me of D-Clone Creation and Destroy, or Framtid's Lp's, or Flyblown's, or Atrocious Madness', or 3-Way Cum's Ep's, or Hiatus' Way of Doom, or Doom's Peel Sessions, not because Napalm Raid sound just like them (although the Canadians are certainly not dissimilar to some of those works) but because their Lp possesses that level of madness-inducing sonic aggression, of uncontrolled anger, of unhinged power. The battering does leave the listener exhausted but happy. Or it can lead to him or her leaving punk-rock in order to live an existence of silence in a monastery somewhere in the arse-end of nowhere.

Napalm Raid (which we will call NR from now on) are from Halifax, Nova Scotia, a dynamic Canadian town that has produced a vast number of top crust and hardcore bands (and extreme bands in general from I gather) in the past fifteen years, some of which I rate very, very highly. There will be further opportunities to talk about those in the future of Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust. I first heard of a Halifax crust scene through Contagium in the late 00's but upon preparing that dantean series I realized that the seemingly immortal System Shit are also from there and, uncoincidentally NR did a split tape with them in their early years. NR caught my attention in 2012 when I bumped into their video of "Why" (where does that come from) on fucking youtube (I have to say I am generally not a big fan of music videos but this one is pretty basic, just the band playing in the studio, nothing cheesy). I was of course impressed with the band's solid, hard-hitting knowledgeable take on the 90's Anti-Cimex/Driller Killer sound but I was particularly fond of the deeply deranged echoing reverbed vocals. At the time, not every band and their mum used such effects (Destino Final obviously did, a lot) so that it sounded a little different. Because I was absolutely skint at the time, I could not buy the Mindless Nation Lp though. 

Two years after, I read about NR's new Ep Storm, a record that I instantly got into and promptly got hold of. While the band kept a significant Cimex käng backbone, they added a distorted Japanese crust sound to the music and, in an emphatically loving move, reinforced the early Doom influence especially on the vocals and the animalistic cavemen atmosphere. Thanks to a massive crashercrust-styled production, Storm was an absolute crusher of a record that indicated a strong crustification of NR's music. I love both Wheel of War and Storm but I would understand why one would rate the latter higher (I think I do, because I did not expect it to be that good). I literally could not wait for the followup and when Wheel of War came out I already knew that it was going to be a collection of intense scorchers but wondered if the album was going to sound like a meaning-enhancing cohesive whole as opposed to just like an assemblage of songs that sound good separately but do not really work together. Was it going to be a collection of short stories or a proper novel? I would have been fine with both but to pull out a genuine great crust album you do have to think about how your songs echo and relate with each other, how specific changes affect the overall narrative. Quite a challenge really as, in the world of crust, recording a great Ep is not the same as writing a great album, the stakes are just different. 

Thankfully NR managed to write a magnificent second album that does not relinquish any of the band's awe-inspiring crushing power and still tells a good story and has a solid plot with enough changes of paces and executions, enough introductions and transitions to make the album memorable. Don't get me wrong, it still sounds like a demented grizzli bear giving you a right bollocking and not like a boringly pretentious German post-hardcore project but I appreciate when records really tell me something (well, shout mercilessly something at me in this case). The sound is a little different to Storm's, maybe less distortion-oriented however the drums have never sounded so powerful, like an endless shower of crust pants-wearing meteors crashing on the listener. Heavy shit. Wheel of War opens with the eponymous song, a metallic filth-crust number - with those hyperbolic howling Doom-like anguished cries that personify the band - that sounds like a rabid row between Brum's finest, Driller Killer, Framtid and Disturd. The next two songs are faster and more direct distorted scandicrust songs that just pummels the shit out of you while "No law" is more has more of a mid-paced distorted 00's stenchcore with a thrashing groove, you know what I mean? The next two are more short sharp shocks of crasher-käng and the final number of the first side is a heavy and dark mid-paced Cimex-styled beefy conclusion. The second side does not let the pressure off at all and keeps assaulting your senses. The highlights include "Wounds" a massive distorted groovy tribute to Doom's cover of Black Sabbath - it really is a tribute to the tribute and multilayered referentiality for careful crusters - and "Untold reality", a kind of melancholy and long Wolfpack-inspired käng ballad. Who said d-beat could not reflect morosity?

Wheel of War is pretty much flawless. I have friends who cannot get past the hyperbolic version of Doom vocals but I definitely think they are an element that makes NR so good and recognizable, which is not so easy in the crowded Dis-crust genre. NR are also somewhat unique in that they occupy a liminal position, the boundary between beefy Anti-Cimex käng, neanderthal Doom-worship and manic crasher-styled Japanese crust. It's like chopping some 90's Cimex, early Reality Crisis, early Driller Killer and Disturd with a knife sharpened with classic Doom, then cook it in a Distortion Records pot, spice it up with some Framtid and Bombanfall, then serve it to a rabid Swedish bear and hear the fucker roar through a distorted microphone in your ear. This album sounds massive and unstoppable. You've been warned. 


Saturday 5 March 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (2012-2021): Ydintuho / Axebastard "Atomic Crust" split tape, 2012

We have been talking a lot about band names on Terminal Sound Nuisance and by that I mean that you have been reading, with faithful awe, what yours truly has to say about terminology. More often than not, I find myself caught in a maelstrom of semiological circumvolutions about dis-prefixed monikers and to be honest I really enjoy that. One of life's simple joys. The band that inspired me to write this short piece today is, rather expectedly if you have already bumped into the blog, even accidentally, because, as people say, shit happens and loneliness often induces longer hours spent before a screen, not that that implies you are lonely, but you might be in which case said piece will hopefully entertain you, Axebastard. If you know anything about crust, if you have at least some basic knowledge about this mighty wave, you will be bound to know why Axebastard are called Axebastard, the subjective (un)tastefulness of such a lexical choice not withstanding. The prefix "axe" for Axegrinder and the substantive "bastard" for Hellbastard. One may propound that they could have gone for Hellgrinder but I for one am of the opinion that Axebastard was the wisest, if you can call it that, option of the two since Hellgrinder, to my ears anyway, conjures up images of Metal Punk Death Squad action rather than stenchcore goodness. 

Atomic Crust is the title of this split tape just to remind you and make sure that you are well aware that, upon listening to the tape, you will very likely be exposed to crust music or affiliated. I actually hesitated before including the tape in Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust, not because it does not correspond aesthetically and artistically to the template of the series, quite the contrary, but because it was released physically in late 2012, the time limit of the selection, and both sides were recorded in 2010, which is outside of the limit. But I suppose rules are meant to be broken or as Abrasive Wheels used to sing "No rules is the first rule" so there you go: the 2012 split tape between two Finnish bands Axebastard and Ydintuho.

Before getting to the actual music, I have to admit that the choice to include this work had a lot to do with how the tape, the object looked, to be more accurate, it mostly had to do with how hyperbolically, emphatically and shamelessly CRUST it looked. It does not come with your usual cold jewel plastic case but with a foldout paper case enveloping the tape along with a separate lyric sheet. Like the vinyl or cd formats, it is not uncommon for DIY punk tapes to experiment with different sort of casing techniques, even if it makes the object more fragile and prone to tears, but still  in this case it looks absolutely brilliant. My detector measured significantly high levels of crustness just with the foldout paper and it almost exploded upon opening the thing. The artwork is saturated with crust signifying, naive and deliciously crude crasher-styled skulls with punk haircuts, war banners, empty bottles, more crusty skulls, some sort of orc, a Mad Max cosplayer with a dilapidated guitar, rows of sloppily drawn skulls, weapons from the Bronze Age, grim black and white pictures with slogans about the nuclear war and a crust skull with a circled A on the forehead. It is like a crust bingo or crust fan service and I, for one, actually really enjoy the band's intent to pay a tribute to the classic crust aesthetics while playing and having fun doing it. I mean, the tape is called Atomic Crust for a reason. Fucking lol, right?

So what about the music then? Technically the first side is Ydintuho, a band from Kuusamo that I had, for some reason, never heard of although they did a split Ep with Kilmä Sota in 2012. Oh well. Ydintuho have been running since at least 2008 and are apparently still active which is a testament to resiliency in an age when the average life expectancy of a band is 18 months, 2 albums, 1 tour and 186 instagram posts. The band proudly claims to play "raw punk deathstrike" and sensibly so. The tracks were recorded in 2010 (I think) so that they aptly represent what Ydintuho were about in their early stage. It won't take anyone by surprise to learn that these Finns engage in raw and distorted d-beat punk. I can hear a distinct Japanese noize crust influence, not unlike Contrast Attitude or D-Clone with vocals reminiscent of Atrocious Madness and a healthy passion for Disclose which they cover lovingly. At that point in time, there were certainly not as many bands going for that classic Japanese crasher noize hardcore in Europe (Giftgasattack comes to mind and a bit later Electric Funeral) so while Ydintuho did not invent that particular wheel, they undeniably prefigured the rapid spread of that noize-not-music niche genre worldwide, a modest achievement perhaps but one that is meaningful if you closely consider the evolution of trends, and they remain a rare Finnish example of the style. I had not played the Ydintuho side for a long while and was very pleasantly surprised. Give the rest of their records a try, they are very much worth the attention.   

On the other side are Axebastard, the crustier element of the tape. You won't need much imagination to make a guess at what those dirty punks were up to: apocalyptic and rocking raw stenchcore. You could diachronically locate the band in that post 00's stenchcore revival wave that saw the rise of European bands like Cancer Spreading or Last Legion Alive. Sadly the band did not play for long (between 2008 and 2011 I think) and while the rawness of the four songs on Atomic Crust can be rightly appreciated for their cavemen quality, I nonetheless would have loved to see what Axebastard could have achieved with a better production and a proper vinyl release. If you are looking for dirty stenchcore with mean gruff bearish vocals, rocking cavecrust moments interspersed by heavy filthy thrashy metallic breaks, then Axebastard are tailor-made for you. They are not unlike a primitive, preliterate crust-and-proud version of Hellshock and Stormcrow and I cannot help thinking about early Cancer Spreading too, a good thing since they have stood for the Euro stenchcore sound for all of the 2010's. I like how the band tried to use several type of vocals on the opening track, the rendering is not perfect but the idea is sound, and that sort of mid-paced d-beat drumming fits well here. The second number is a groovy Extinction of Mankind-influenced song with ace double bass drumming and expert headbanging power while the third track is a faster, more traditionally pummeling 90's cavemen crust headbutt and the final one is basically a blend of these elements with a gloriously filthy mid-tempo moshing stenchcore conclusion. Nothing ground-breaking but it does leave the listener waiting for more. I am personally curious about what Axebastard would have been able to achieve with a longer format in terms of cohesion, narration and atmosphere because these four songs work very well together. 

The Axebastard side was also recorded in 2010 and there is a rough 2008 rehearsal tape that you can download on their bandcamp entitled Post-Apocalyptic Visions of Darkness (just in case you were hesitant about the genre) that included a song called "Hellgrinder". Cheeky fuckers. I also found a file from 2009 that is supposedly a cdr demo with different and rawer versions (unmixed maybe?) of three songs on the tape and some visuals for the band and even a picture. This recording is nowhere to be found on soulseek so I included it in the download file, for posterity. Atomic Crust, in the end, can be said to be one for the crustiest crusters that I warmly recommend, if only for the fact that Axebastard is one of the very few Finnish stenchcore bands. That's trivia gold.

So let's axe the fucking bastard, shall we?