Monday, 20 June 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Deviated Instinct / Summon the Crows "S/t" split Ep, 2012

Earlier this month, Deviated Instinct's Terminal Filth Stenchcore demo was reissued on vinyl. 35 years after its original tape release, back when no one had a bad back in the band yet and receding hairlines were but a distant if dreadful prospect associated with adulthood and mortgages, this absolute classic, genre-defining recording of raw and gruff metallic anarcho hardcore punk is available once again. This formidable event can be said to be the crust equivalent of the Queen's jubilee if you need a scale of importance. The vinyl was renamed Terminal Filth Stench-Core for the occasion, a hyphenated discrepancy that I feel the need to underline metaphorically and literally. I haven't been able to consult my usual crust oracles about this one (they have been busy evaluating the potential crustness of Hellshock's coming record for weeks now) so I cannot state with certitude that this change in spelling will change our perspective on the whole crust movement but it might. Still, don't hold your guttural breath.

Needless to say I have been one merry lad since I learnt about the materialisation of this reissue (a rather long process actually) released on Terminal Filth (the band's own label, that's DIY for you) and Italy's Agipunk who, after reissuing Hellbastard's Ripper Crust 2009, made another crucial signing on the crust mercato. In order to win the crust Grand Slam, they just need to deal with Axegrinder's Grind the Enemy by 2035.

As you must know, the band reformed in 2007 for a couple of gigs only but ended up putting out three new records, this split Ep with Olso's Summon the Crows and Liberty Crawls... to the Sanctuary of Slaves in 2012 and Husk in 2018 and are still very much going. I remember, fondly, rushing to see them at their second, and advertised as the last one ever I believe, gig in 2008 at the 1in12 Club in Bradford because I did not want to miss the unique opportunity to see one of my favourite bands live. In the end I saw the band several times afterwards but am still waiting for the full refund of my 2008 trip to Bradford because of the fake advertising (and the shite weather). I also rushed to buy this split Ep when it came out and I remember that genuine excitement and the usual circumspection were the two major feelings among the "punk community". On the one hand, so many reformed 80's punk bands had put out, objectively and subjectively, horrendous and disappointing records that it was quite reasonable to be at least a little suspicious. But on the other hand our collective conservativeness sometimes prevents us from enjoying a band's progression and desire to try something new or just understanding the fact that, 20 years after, they don't want to sound just like it's still the mid-80's and haven't changed, listened to anything new or even bathed since their legendary 1984 demo tape. I remember people being disappointed that the members of DI did not look the exact same. But who still wore wellies in 2012?

I don't want to name anyone because I am the ultimate positive punk, and I cannot afford to have yet another punk band sue me, but it is undeniable that some old reformed bands often have offered embarrassing new works. But DI do not belong to the category of disappointing-and-tragically-disconnected-old-farts-trying-to-relive-their-youth. They were brilliant live when I saw them and their newer records are all solid and make sense. They sound like DI but also offer a logical evolution. Something different and familiar if you will. It does not mean that one has to love the new material as much as the old one as we all are sentimental with such things and if you lost your virginity to Welcome to the Orgy it is perfectly understandable that no record will be able to top that one. I think that DI's return was successful because they were not a parody of their old selves and some members had still been active in the extreme music world long after the original demise of the band so that when they played their old material it sounded like a very natural and fluid reworking (arguably some of the old songs have never sounded better), rather than a painful re-enactment or a crust cosplay. 

"End times" definitely sounds like a DI song - like, well, dark heavy crust - or rather like a relevant update of the classic DI sound. Some transitions are reminiscent of more modern metallic sludgecore (I am reminded of bands like Damad or 13 actually) but the backbone is still gruff Frost-influenced groovy cavemen old-school crust with that classic slimy metallic guitar sound, maybe not unlike 90's Genital Deformities or a grimmer, bleaker version of Coitus, or even some Stormcrow which shows that they kept in touch with their own stenchcrow legacy. Leggo's hoarse vocals are absolutely ferocious and threatening, like what he did with Filthkick, and they are undeniably one of the band's strongest points. Finally, and this might be the band's wisest choice, they did not go for too clean a production. Often, reformed bands tend to be overproduced mistakenly thinking that an updated version of their material is synonymous with a clean, modern production, while what people really liked in their old songs is precisely the raw and aggressive sound. Therefore the choice to record those 6 songs in 2012 at the 1in12 Club with Bri Doom at the wheel was the best possible one for a returning DI as it couldn't alienate the anticipating anxious fans soundwise. 

And one can understand that a band craves for an elaborate production that they, maybe frustratingly, could not afford in the 80's back when they had a £30 recording budget with a sound engineer who was into prog-rock. So there is often a discrepancy of expectation here and this often results in reformed bands sounding like modern overproduced hardcore bands and often lose the intensity and urgency in the process. DI kept that heavy organic dirty production that fits their songs so well although it has to be said that they clearly sound like they are more comfortable and knowledgeable in the studio both in terms of playing and overall balance. I think that the very same song with a clean modern production would not have worked as well. "End times" was recorded in 2012 during the same sessions as Liberty Crawls... DI took their time afterwards since Husk was only release in late 2018.

On the other side are two songs from Oslo's Summon the Crows. I have been raving a lot about DI, as usual I guess, but the presence of STC on the Ep was a further sign that it may well become a classic. STC is a band I followed from the start when I bought their first eponymous Ep in 2004 just because I thought the cover looked brilliant. Ironically, I had no idea that the artist behind the artwork was Mid from Deviated Instinct but if I were superstitious or in any way spiritual I would say it was a premonition from Destiny knocking at my door. But seeing that I am not in the least let's just say I have impeccable tastes. STC is one of those bands that I know I mostly enjoy but do not play often enough probably because their second album, 2011's One More to the Gallows, was something of a let-down. Their earlier endeavours however were solid works of crusty dark hardcore thrash, not deprived of some of 00's crust's major flaws like the epic melodic guitar leads, but the songwriting was versatile and brutal enough, with distinct nods towards black-metal and thrash, to make STC sound quite original and genuinely anguished in a sea of often derivative neocrust. They are clearly metallic and crusty but cannot be described as a stenchcore revival band, although stenchcore fans are probably into STC and their music would not have been out of place on a 4-way split with Sanctum, Cancer Spreading and Warcollapse. 

When One More to the Gallows came out, I was surprised since the band had not released anything since 2006 and I basically thought they had split up. While the aforementioned Lp did not really win me over the two songs included on this split Ep - the last release of the band - were much better and more akin to what STC had achieved with their first records, an interesting blend of käng hardcore and old-school extreme metal. I read reviews describing STC as blackened crust and while it is not wrong from a literal perspective, I don't think it is relevant to associate their particular sound to what the term "blackened crust" has come to qualify. What makes STC stand out, beside their punishing black/thrash crust sound, is the unpredictability of the guitar riffs and the originality of the song structures. And in a subgenre that is more than crowded with average bands, and even though it would be far-fetched to claim they are reinventing hardcore or metal or whatever, to stand out even a little is not nothing. STC reminds me of bands like The Black Hand, Legion 666 or Order of the Vulture  - and early Martyrdöd of course, the most obvious name in that category - not because those bands sound alike - they share similarities but are not similar - but because they all, quite successfully so, blended hard-hitting raw hardcore punk with primitive extreme metal of the black, proto-death or thrash varieties. I guess that if you soak Warcollapse, Martyrdöd, early Sepultura and Sodom in a bathtub filled with 00's crust, you'd get something close to those two STC songs. Contrary to the previous clean-sounding Lp, the production on those works well, it sounds aggressive and powerful but keeps a certain rawness. 

This split Ep can be said to be a solid relevant pairing, not spectacular enough to be a crust classic but still something very much worth having in your collection, especially if you don't want to be suspected of being a poser. The artwork on the Ep was done by Mid, not exactly a surprise, with a gloomy drawing depicting crows - there had to be crows because of the Norwegians I guess - defending human skulls agains two tiny shagging flies nailed together and a massive one who appears to be sleeping. Of course I like it but would my mum hang it on her bedroom wall? Yes, exactly. On the backcover, there are more flies and bits of skulls with Mid's usual visual virtuosity. This split Ep was released on the Oslo-based label Nakkeskudd Platter, mostly active in the 00's. Kjetil from STC would later form the great Akrasia (who've already been included on this series) while Stig got to play in Knuste Ruter and Razorbats.    


Summon the stormcrows              

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