Tuesday 26 April 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Horrendous 3D "The Gov. and Corps. are using Psycho​-​electronic Weaponry to Manipulate you and me​..." Ep, 2021

Contrary to the latest entries of Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust, this Ep actually got some publicity when it came out last year. A part of me would malevolently enjoy suggesting that this - necessarily undeserved - attention has to do with the town of origin of Horrendous 3D, Portland, but that would just be embarrassingly envious ravings as the band's Ep is objectively one of the best crust Ep's of the 2020's, which is not that much of a feat considering we are only in 2022 but it is nonetheless still something I would take any day with my band. I remember being rather jealous of PDX bands in the early/mid 00's and would often claim that, had they not been from this glorious hardcore punk town that had been consistently delivering quality bands since the 1980's, people would not care as much for them and maybe, instead, would give some attention to my own band, which was itself a rather poor attempt at sounding like a PDX band that was not fooling anyone really, apart from our own selves. Our high point as a band was to empty three venues in a row. And effortlessly too. Here's talent for you.

So H3D - the acronym looks like the name of a Star Wars robot droid - did get some attention and even got reviewed. I noticed at least three proper reviews of the geezer from people who do not exactly seem to be your crasher crust deviants. I suppose that the record being released on Frank's (from the brilliant Lebenden Toten and my beloved Atrocious Madness) excellent label Whisper in Darkness did help H3D getting noticed but it is also, and primarily in fact, a strong Ep in its own right so that the attention is not unwarranted (like I feel it is sometimes for bands boasting long "ex-member lists"). What really surprised me is that even people who would not be caught dead holding a Sore Throat did buy the record. Don't get me wrong, these people are not prejudiced against crust punks. They will insist that they had a crust punk friend at school (that one of their cousins inexplicably ran out with one night never to be heard of again) and own a copy of Police Bastard although they just can't find it right now. Unexpected but nonetheless pleasant as it did briefly validate my tastes. Needless to say that they probably played H3D once and fucked off listening to trendy postpunk right away.

At first, the moniker perplexed me a little, especially since I am pretty big on Sweden's "just like" d-beat band Horrendous. I suppose the addition of "3D" does reinforce the atmosphere of paranoia, mind manipulation and lsd that is also conveyed by the astonishing artwork so I got used to it in the end, and, at least, they did not go for a Disclose song and it makes the name easy to remember. H3D are fresh blood as well and judging from a video, none of them seems to have a bad back, so they may even be relatively young by 2020's punk standards. The band released a demo in 2019 that I genuinely enjoyed and, while it would a bit of an overstatement to say that I was anxiously waiting for a piece of vinyl, I was still sufficiently impressed to keep a close eye on the situation in PDX, like a majestic friendly but still awe-inspiring (vegan) eagle hovering over the world crustness. Or something. What I particularly related to was the band's ability to blend the classic and emphatic Kyushu noiziness with the insane song structures and drumming of 90's Japanese crasher crust and the traditional old-school UK cavemen crust sound, while still keeping with a local tradition represented by the aforementioned Lebenden Toten and Atrocious Madness. Too many bands spend hours fiddling with their pedals and their textures and tend to forget to actually write actual songs. If you listen closely to Gloom or Collapse Society, you will notice that there is some genuine songwriting taking place and I feel that H3D (and bands like Fragment or Avvikelsse to name a few other) manage to balance a deliciously distorted, madness-inducing sound with actual songwriting.

With a title that is longer that an early Proust sentence and is basically a paraphrase of big data, The Gov. does more than just offer a better recorded version of the H3D style, since the Ep tells you a whole story thanks to the change of paces (the band jumps from sludge-like stenchcore to relentless crasher käng moments and late Confuse noize), the versatile drumming, unexpected brilliant transitions, demented solos and psychedelic noisepunk bits. It's more than just four random songs assembled together, it is a seven-minute long crust story that is being told and that is exactly what makes the Ep memorable. There is a hidden level of referentiality in H3D's music as well. Beside the obvious influences, some Easter Eggs are included in some songs that you can only notice if you majored in Doom Studies. At some point in "Option?" the relentlessly pummeling music stops and then a über-distorted noize crust version of Doom's opening to their cover of Sabbath's "Symptoms of the universe", only present of a Peel Session, kicks in before the singer growls a couple of words and the battering continues. Similarly, the closing song of their demo "A claw reaches out from the abyss" uses a techno sample that was also used by Doom on The Greatest Invention Lp as an introduction to their opening song "Happy pill". Of course, you do not need to get the references encoded into the music to enjoy H3D's relentless noise crust bollocking but I like to think that these hidden nods are multilayered: first, a way to profess their love for classic Doom, their connection with Doom-loving bands who also use such references (the previously reviewed Napalm Raid's Lp comes to mind, especially they worked on the same bit of Doom legacy), and their love for people who live for that type of nerdy Doom references. That's a lot of love for the initiated. 

It is an ace Ep and it sounds massive and crushing, blown out but absolutely relentless. Imagine D-Clone and Defector getting wankered on the shrooms provided by Total Noise Accord at a Doom conference organized by Sarcasm and taking place at the PDX headquarters of Crust War Records and chatting about dementia and mass manipulation at the age of big data. This love for crust psychedelia is also reflected in the paranoia-inducing lyrics and the short text (probably an extract or a summary from a longer one) about big data and algorithmic control. The artwork of The Gov. Ep is a bit of a Marmite deal. You either love it or hate it. I have read people comparing it to the mid/late 80's Bluurg records visuals (he probably had Open Mind Surgery and some Culture Shock and AOS3 tapes in mind) and it was not done as a compliment. I personally do not dislike it, it does have a messy, teeming retro look (a bit Oi Polloi-ish I feel), not unlike a lot of 90's crust records (the circled A and E as well as the celtic knots, poorly drawn skulls and an oddly proportioned dove are here to remind you of that legacy) generally unhindered by good taste. I suppose the cover is also meant to illustrate the dementia and chaos inherent in modern postindustrial societies. There is a poster included too, another great initiative reminiscent of the heyday of generic yet lovable anarcho-crust, that is equally as brimming with punk as fuck cartoons and clearer in term of symbolism. A man with the lower part of the body missing (pulled apart we're led to believe) is surrounded by chaos, death and overall nastiness but he does not realize it since he has some sort of virtual reality helmet on that makes him see an idealized peaceful city instead of the grim reality. Dystopian stuff. Although if such a technological device would allow me to watch an 1986 Antisect gig as if I were actually there, would I take it? Would you? 

This is one of the best Ep's in the distorted crasher crust department of the past few years so if you can get a copy, do not hesitate. 


War is Horrendous 3D                  

Monday 11 April 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: NIS / Warpath "Origini D'Odio / Nel Dilagare Della Follia" split Ep, 2011

The series is supposed to be a grandiose show of force for the ages, a fearless masterclass of resilience, wit and crushing expertise that will assert my absolute domination over the crust game. I have recently been told, to my disbelief, that I was pretty much the only wanker around even willing to play the game anyway. But rest assured that such pathetic displays of envy do not affect my quest and leave my unbreakable faith unimpaired (I still resolved to call my trustful bludgeon-men and had the libellous bastard sent to the indie-rock gulag, that'll teach him). The only thing that does bother me is the subject of my heritage. To whom should I bequeath this well of crust wisdom? I am certainly not going to procreate (I shiver at the thought of what a baby would be capable to do to my Macrofarge flexi?) and although I do have a nephew, for now he seems to be solely interested in running after pigeons so I cannot say he is completely ready yet. If you know someone pious enough in your circle of friends or enemies, I have been thinking of taking apprentices to train in the arcane arts of crust. Resumes can be sent through the email address above. Ta.

If anything, the crust genre can be described as rather humble and unpresumptuous. Crust band do not strive to reinvent the wheel or pretend to redefine, challenge or question conventional notions of what hardcore is supposed to sound like (which is what every fancy punk labels claim to be doing). They just aim at sore-throating you into the ground or axegrinding you into submission. Noble endeavours indeed that rarely need to be disguised as something else than what they are already noisily professing to be. In the last review, I wrote about ancient crust traditions and about the need to protect and care for them. Silly naive Bristol-styled punk sketches, ripping off Antisect and Amebix, not tuning properly your instrument, dual vocals sounding like a mean argument between irate cavemen, having too many pints of cider just before getting on stage... All traditional crust rituals that must be safeguarded in the face of aggression by oi music, pricy pedal boards, high-waist jeans and indie-rock: the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 


The piece of Unesco-validated Intangible World Heritage of crust I am referring to today is the modest split Ep released by a dozen or more of tiny DIY punk labels. The NIS/Warpath split Ep was released by no less than twenty labels and while it's not exactly a world record (a mate of mine was recently involved in a release that saw one hundred labels join forces) it's still pretty impressive. The basic reason for this abundance has to do with finances. Hardcore punk labels - and I am not even talking about grind or crust-oriented ones - are often short on cash so that such collaborations tend to minimize risks. No one wants to sell his or her Doom collection because he or she was crazy enough to put out 300 copies of a full album of a mate's solo grindcore project and badly needs money after selling only 5 copies, to the mates of the aforementioned mate. It is after all a fragile economy and even though some established labels often put out records on their own, many "smaller bands" - the euphemism traditionally used to refer to bands that are not fashionable (and also, although not necessarily, just not very good) - rely on small structures that can contribute modest sums of money. Some of the labels involved in the split - like Droit des Animaux or Alma Mater - were short-lived and probably not actual labels, but rather a band member or a loyal friend willing to spend a bit of money, 50 euros maybe, on the release which, in such cases, challenges the notion of "label" I guess. Others however have consistent discography and are (or were) active on that level, like Tanker Records or the sadly defunct Undislessed from France and Death Crush from Italy. Since NIS and Warpath are DIY Italian punk bands, it is little wonder that there are many DIY Italian punk labels involved in the project and browsing through the discography of these labels proves to be a great way to discover local bands that you have probably not heard of and, in the end, that's what it's all about.

Let's start with NIS (Nevrosi Irresistible del Sistema). The band was from the Foggia region in the South of Italy and was around in the late 00's and early 10's. I first listened to the band through a 2008 cdr demo (these were not frowned upon and deemed uncool at that time) of theirs, Presagi di un'Insulsa Rovina, and enjoyed their rough grinding cavemen crustcore sound seasoned with filthy stenchcore, like Embittered meeting Berserk at a 90's eurocrust night or something. Pretty good shit indeed. A much better recorded split Ep with the manic fast hardcore unit Humus followed the year after seeing NIS taking more of a metal-punk inspired approach to their gruff crust rather than a filthy old-school crust one if you know what I mean and I did not relate to the recording as much. Their side of the split with Warpath was recorded in July, 2010 in Bari and sounds more convincing than their previous work. For some reason, I get an unintentional (I can only presume) rocking and gruff Mexican crust vibe, like Coaccion, Massakro or Antimaster. As mentioned, it is not completely my cup of tea but I do believe the three raw songs work well in the style and I enjoy them enough. As I said, not unlike Latino American rocking crustcore, with some Cop On Fire grooviness and late Giuda's metallic epics. Still, the real nuggets on this Ep can be found on the Warpath side.

Before buying this record, I was completely unaware of Warpath as I had only grabbed it on a small Italian distro because I liked NIS' demo well enough. I have already talked about how amazing it feels to buy a record from an unknown band and realize it is the dog's bollocks and how rare such incomparable experiences have become because of music streaming. We just no longer like to be surprised. The unoriginally named Warpath were from Milan in the North of the Country (the two songs they contributed were recorded in Alessandria though) and listening to their two numbers for the first time was an elating experience. In order to convey a sense of my enthusiasm I will be rather bluntly plebeian and unusually plain: Warpath ticked all my boxes and were right up my alley. They had that heavy, nasty, organic crust sound, they played filthy stenchcore with the adequate variety of paces (from the crushing mid-tempo, the charging Dis beat to the punishingly fast) and they still practiced the ancient crust tradition of gruff male and female dual vocals. What more can one ask from an unknown band? If you are into stenchcore, and I suspect you are if you have made it this far into the review, this Warpath recording is for you. I am heavily reminded of '09/'11 era Cancer Spreading which is an excellent thing and makes sense in the Italian crust context but also noticeably of the ace 90's Polish metallic crust bands like Enough! or Silna Wola and some cavemen US stenchcrust hordes like Hellbound and Man the Conveyor, all top references among the Terminal Sound Nuisance staff. The vocals are brilliant and I love how the atmosphere of polyphonic inferno, the injured bear engaging furiously with the hellish witch and the more classic shouting anarcho singer. Fury unleashed. 

Warpath did record a full album released in 2016 after a change of personnel, Martina replacing Manu on vocals - thus with two women on dual vocals - and Ale replacing Simo on guitar. Oblio is not as stenchcore-oriented and does not have that super heavy disgusting down-tuned sound of decay to it, which at first was something of a minor disappointment to me. However looking back, it is still a solid album of fast and heavy dual-vocal 00's-styled crustcore and with the current shortage of such bands, one cannot afford to be a vain perfectionist (to be honest, something of a challenge for me).    

A humble and strong split Ep overall that illustrates what the Italian crust scene was producing in the early 10's and can be said to be a minor stenchcore classic because of the Warpath songs. You would be a fool to dismiss it.           

NIS vs Warpath              

Thursday 7 April 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Scum System Kill "Scandinavian Tour" tape, 2018

I recently had a rather heated argument with a mate about punk's conservativeness. Here's why. He alleged that punk music was inherently conservative, not just because it does not really bring anything new artistically to the table, but because it does not really try to and everyone seemed quite content with reviving past trends and resigned to this state of stagnation. According to him, this swampiness does not really entice potential young punks (aka "the kids") to join the force and conceive the warmest passion about a Disclose tribute band. I don't completely disagree with the statement, to be honest, and to my great dismay, the desertion of certain styles or subscenes by younger punk-rockers cannot be reasonably deemed as beyond comprehension. It can be difficult to relate to a hardcore band if the tacit prerequisite is to be conversant in Boston hardcore and being over 40. A lot of the spontaneity has indeed deserted our bands and when you are a teenager, energy and sincerity are what matter, not the accuracy of your nods to 80's bands or your laborious Anti-Cimex worship. Basically, a lot of the kids crave for something new and not middle-aged twats debating the relevance of flexis in the earl 2010's or the GISM reunion shows. But there are young punk bands out there, a lot of them sounding juvenile and unrefined with a suspect lack of expensive pedal boards that apparently disconcert older show-goers. So in the end, the hypothetical stagnation has probably more to do with our vision of the punk scene than the punk scene itself.  

On the other hand, this so-called stagnation can also be seen as a re-assertion of creative traditions and aesthetical practices that have structured punk music since - about - the Mesozoic. When I was "a kid" this particular cultural aspect was one of the things that drew me into the music and the philosophy. It was not just "noise", there was a web of intertextual references, a history of trends, of radical changes, of antagonism, splits, arguments and so on that, in my innocent eyes, turned punk into a valid and legitimate culture that I wanted to be a part of and identify with. Of course, I loved to drink myself into a stupor and pogo the night away before whoever was playing as long as it was fast and loud and I did not give a shit whether the singer was wearing a Judgement shirt and had previously done backing vocals in a "classic band". 20 years later and I am able to notice such things and this knowledge partly conditions how I am going to approach and listen to the band, like for any form of art. But it should not keep "the kids" from enjoying a hardcore band for what it intrinsically is: a rock'n'roll band with a contagious energy like no other genres. Does my belief in the validity of and the necessary care for punk's traditions makes me a conservative? Do you need novelty to attract newcomers? Or do you just need to build a performative discourse about novelty to do so? The shit is deep.  

One of the punk traditions that, on principle although not always in practice (because, you know, indie-rock and all that) I celebrate a lot, is when a band takes the song title of another band as their own moniker. As I mentioned above, I don't feel you have to be aware of the reference in order to appreciate the sound, but I if you are, it does direct your attention in a different way and you can patronize people with this knowledge like a twat. There are several layers to the way we listen to music: physically and cerebrally. I have discovered many top bands thanks to such lexical connections: Doom's "Police bastard" with Policebastard or Discharge's "Decontrol" with about 236 different Decontrol, or the other way around Detestation leading me to GISM or Masskontroll to No Security. But let's cut the crap, Scum System Kill took their name from an SDS song, that was also the name of their 1996 Ep, so that should give you a pretty solid idea as to what the band is all about. Wild metallic crust.

Oddly enough, there used to be another crust band called Scum System Kill in the late 00's that was based in Sydney, had a members from Vae Victis and sounded like your typical early/mid 00's neocrust band and not in the least like SDS. Still, I guess that the system is a scum that does kill so why not. Our SSK are still active however (I think?) and are from London, although three members are originally from Italy, which is not surprising if you know the town, as the scene over there - I should probably say scenes as things appear to be very divided there, not unlike micro-scenes living in the same building but not bothering to speak with the next-door neighbours - has a lot of punks from all over the world which accounts for the diversity of the production and the audience. SSK is not the first Italian stenchcore band based in London either as the band Grind the Enemy (named after Axegrinder's classic number) active in the early 2010's and including a future SSK member can attest. Sonically, the band does not take too much liberty with the source material and that's precisely what you are entitled to expect from such an endeavour: a crust as fuck experience. 

The music is mostly fast and thrashing but the listener is also subjected to the traditional groovy mid-paced stenchcore moments. One thing that does set SSK apart are the epic guitar leads and arrangements, clearly reminiscent of late 90's SDS dementia or 00's AGE, and even Hellbastard's crunchiness, and although the production is very raw (it's a punk demo tape, let's keep that in mind) and does not totally do justice to the guitar sound, it still rips enough and you can tell that the riff provider, Gianluca, knows what he is doing and wants to achieve and emulate. Hellshock and Sanctum also come to mind for the overall 00's stenchcore revival vibe and the classic structures and the very gruff, almost grindcore or death-metal-oriented vocals also point in that direction. The singer used to growl in Nihildum in Italy, a death-crust band, which shows, and while I am not necessarily a sucker for such singing style (by which I mean the imitation of a grizzli bear in rut), I enjoy it a lot here as it conveys a from-beyond-the-grave vibe that balances with the more dynamic and epic Japanese metal crust style.    

As mentioned earlier, Gianluca played in Grind the Enemy previously, in Give Up All Hope and in the highly underrated Nailbiter. This tape was self-released for SSK's 2018 Scandinavian tour and there were only 50 copies made, which is a bit ironic since I have only been to Scandinavia once in the mid-00's for the K-Town festival and I still have a copy. Unfortunately, the artwork is a little pixelated and the lyrics are not included which, I feel, is always something of a missed opportunity. Still, I cannot disagree with the "Stay punk stay free" motto in the Discharge lettering and the circled A. I am a sentimental fool I guess. Prior to this tape in 2017, SSK released a first rawer demo tape and there is a better-sounding version - actually mixed and mastered that is - of the Scandinavian Tour tape on their bandcamp if you are interested. A more recent recording, instrumental, from 2020 I suppose, can also be found on the website, it includes ten songs that are meant to appear on a proper record at some point. These are rough mixes of the songs but they are strong, highlighting further their thrashing SDS-ish influence, and I really hope that the band will be able to complete the work as it could be a blinder.     


Crust System Kill

Friday 1 April 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Pollen "Fear of another war" Ep, 2017

"Fuck me, what a mean record, don't you think dearest?" I must have exclaimed, rather innocuously, after playing Pollen's Fear of Another War Ep for the first time. I don't remember getting a proper confirmation from the person I was addressing but then, I don't suppose I was really expecting to as the answer would have been highly redundant in any case, something like "yes indeed, it is a really mean record but then that's what we bought it for darling, you silly goose". We like to keep things as civil and genteel as possible at Terminal Sound Nuisance's headquarters. We are not fucking animals, right? 

I bought the Ep from this Philadelphia lot upon its release in 2017 as the internet was telling me there was a new scandi-noizecrust band to be reckoned with in town called Pollen (for some reason). To be fair, since the end of the 00's, the arcane art of noizy hardcore punk and crust - a cultural practice once confined to Japan where it had been previously refined for two decades - like a good wine but stored in crust pants instead of a wooden barrel - had spread liberally in many corners of the world. The Japanese scene has produced bands blasting Bristol-by-way-of-Kyuchu-styled distorted hardcore majoring either in relentless cavemen crust or in orthodox dis-mangel for a long time. It can be said to be a timeless tradition now, something impervious to outside trends, like a local punk atavism. French punks do manly oi with constipated-sounding singers, Japanese punks do noizy hardcore. It comes naturally. I guess I was basically not born in the right country as I have been running from boots and braces, sometimes quite literally and not just aesthetically, pretty much forever. So let's briefly keep 00's Japanese crasher dis-noize bands (or any assemblage of relevant adjectives) out of the picture for now and focus on the contagion. 

The "noise not music" artistic mindset rapidly developed along with the spread of blogs in the late 00's, and a couple of years later, everyone and their mums had their own Japanese-styled d-beat/crust bands while, in parallel with what could be called a global trend of crasher dis noize music, excellent contemporary bands from Japan itself at that time like D-Clone, Contrast Attitude, Framtid or Zyanose became quite well-known and fed further this global trend, even outside of the usual pompously knowledgeable circles, thanks to the nascent music streaming explosion, online pictures (punk is #) and some intense international touring. 

In Pollen's case, the intent is unambiguous as they take the Japanese crusters' 90's and 00's savagely intense reworking of vintage raw brutal käng and mangel and infuse it with an emphatically blown-out sound heavily rooted in the crasher tradition. On a metatextual level, you could say that Pollen don't just love cavemen mangel, they also, and maybe primarily so, love how Japanese punks love cavemen mangel, that is to say through added distortion and absolute frenzy. If you need an example, they basically love Framtid as much as they love how Framtid love. Know what I mean? When the phrase "blown-out cave-mangel" is casually whispered during a reception given by a respected crust delegation, you would not be wrong to think of top Swedish bands like Giftgasattack (who can be said to the pioneers of distorted käng in Europe), Electric Funeral or Paranoid, but as mentioned Pollen are certainly more influenced by demented Japanese acts like Frigöra or Ferocious X that took the classic Stockholm hardcore sound of Mob 47, Crudity, Protes Bengt or Discard and drenched it in distortion and more madness. One of Pollen's other main inspirations is Framtid and their furious and unstoppable reinterpretation of 80's cave-käng heroes Bombanfall, Crude SS and Svart Parad, a mixture which is given the blown-out distorted treatment. Pollen can be located in the middle of all this hardcore fury. 

If many bands are just content with working on their earsplitting wall of dis-noize and forget to actually write catchy harcore songs, Pollen do not and the Ep is well-written and catchy in its own right and certainly one of the best of the genres in modern times. The riffs are solid, absolutely relentless and there are enough tempo changes and hooks to keep the listener interested. Given the template the production is great and you can hear every instruments without having to focus for the whole song and I love the gruff and direct vocals. As for the name, well I am undecided. Let's just say that Pollen apparently once shared the stage with Allergy. With Flowers also on the bill that would have made for a legendary gig. 

Fear of Another War was the band's second Ep after an eponymous Ep that was similarly-inspired but perhaps not as heavy production-wise. Both records were released on Boston's Brain Solvent Propaganda, a strong label that is no stranger to punishing and noizy dis-core with releases from Aspects of War, Life Lock, Paranoid and unsurprisingly Framtid and Ferocious X. The band dissolved sometime after 2017, unfortunate as I would have been curious to see how Pollen fared on a full album, but members kept busy with many other worthy punk projects like Mortal War, Neverending Mind War or Arseholes, some of which will be tackled at some point on Terminal Sound Nuisance. There was something in the water - or more likely the beer - in Philadelphia in the late 2010's.