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


  1. Hi, nice post. Just to let you know SSK split in 2019, before we could complete the last recording. Our drummer moved back to Italy and the band crumbled. We got new members in until I was the only survivor. We named the band Ashes Of Death - although we don't really sound like a Disclose clone (unfortunately). our demo came out yesterday although was on Bandcamp in rough mix format for a while. If you wanna check it
    you may recognise some of the songs from the SSK recording

    1. Hello Gianluca. Sad to head that SSK is no more, I would have loved to hear a proper Lp. Thanks for the intel on Ashes of Death, I was not familiar with this new project. Not as crust-oriented I think but interesting nonetheless.

  2. Thanks for the post, I lost my tape of this so it's good to find it