Χαοτικό Τέλος's Υπόσχεση Lp is the best crust album of the 2010's. Well, along with Swordwielder's System Overlord Lp. I don't think I can decide, they are both equally brilliant and outstanding in their own unique way, the one difference being that I will not be writing about Swordwielder's masterpiece in Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (but on a side note do try to focus on living by it) because I already tackled the Swedes and their 2014 demo tape five years ago. Maybe one day I will write about System Overlord as, make no mistake about it, this is by far the band's best work and a crust milestone.
Χαοτικό Τέλος (Chaotic End in English) are from Athens and belong to the category of "legendary bands". You could argue all day over the actual requirements and characteristics that define a legendary band. It is not an easy question especially since the hegemony of youtube and music streaming and the subsequent decontextualization of punk bands from the past which turned pretty much all 80's hardcore bands into "legends", even when they only played seven drunken gigs and recorded two demos in 1982. But I personally agree with the statement that Χαοτικό Τέλος is a legendary band, as epic and hyperbolic as the term might be, it is difficult not to. If you need some background about the band and its story, I recommend you read the great interview that DIY Conspiracy did with them especially as it saves me the hassle (#lazy).
So then why should they be seen as a legend? I think that the phrase "genre-defining classic" might be more accurate when it comes to the band since Χαοτικό Τέλος basically pioneered a style: Greek crust. Now when I say "Greek crust" I don't just mean that they played crust music and were from Greece, although they were obviously. Greek crust is a genuine subgenre that only grows locally - even if its influence can be felt here and there outside of the country - and can be defined by specific traits like OC crust, Swedish crust or Japanese crasher crust for example. Or horrible French oi if you have poor tastes. I have already written about it several times in the past because I am an obsessive geezer but, to put it simply, what I call Greek crust, as a theorized subgenre, is the reworking of the founding mid/late 80's UK stenchcore crust wave of Amebix, Axegrinder, Antisect with an emphasis on heavy atmospherics and synth-driven part, a heavy apocalyptic sound, some relentless pummeling crustcore phases and a dark and hopeless but still angry vibe. It is definitely old-school metallic crust but with its specific characteristics and lyrics in Greek which, because of the scansion, accentuation and general flow of this peculiar language, clearly helped shape and cement Greek crust as a genre (a similar process took place with Greek dark punk).
Χαοτικό Τέλος were not the only purveyors of gruff apocalyptic hardcore crust in the very early 90's (the wave was still very much brewing in the late 80's although some bands, like Χαοτικό Τέλος, were already active with a different style) and fantastic bands like Ξεχασμένη Προφητεία/Forgotten Prophecy, Βιομηχανική Αυτοκτονία/Industrial Suicide, Ρήγμα/Rift or Πανικός/Panic among others were also active and delivered quality. All those bands, at that particular time and place contributed to the creation of what is now know as Greek crust. Not unlike OC crust, it cannot be said to be a very widely known style (although it does have its hardcore fans) and many crust lovers might be largely unaware of most Greek crust bands - or even that it is a distinct style of crust music for that matter - in spite of my passionate personal quest to promote it at all cost. But if you had to know just one typical Greek crust band - I don't know why you would but let's you had to for the sake of the argument - it would be Χαοτικό Τέλος as they truly are the basic definition of this sound. But if you are not a lazy bum or, worse, a poser, you can also listen to that brilliant Greek crust compilation I did. It is basically a crash course in the art of Ελληνική κρούστα's apocalyptic crust epics.
However, they were not the first Greek crust band I heard, as it was, of course, Χειμερία Νάρκη/Hibernation when I got the cd Στη Σιωπή Της Αιώνιας Θλίψης when it came out in 2003 or 2004 because, being released by Skuld Releases and Power-It-Up, it was well distributed and because I read somewhere that it sounded a bit like Nausea (which it does I suppose). Fortunately for me - and by extension for you since this work of Greek crust made a massive impression on younger me and arguably drove me years later to start writing and teaching about it with my usual arrogance - the first Χειμερία Νάρκη album (reviewed with my usual biting wit here) might be the best crust albums of the 00's so I clearly was lucky on that one. As I mentioned in the review of Στη Σιωπή Της Αιώνιας Θλίψης I had no idea that Χειμερία Νάρκη belonged to the grand Greek crust dynasty and were but the next logical step of the glorious genre. I was clueless that there were others proud specimens of that sound or indeed that it was even a specific sound to begin with. It took a few years for me to formulate the idea that there might be a Greek crust school and it was through Χαοτικό Τέλος's first album Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια.
I used to order often from Hardcore Holocaust in the mid/late 00's as it was a great resource in d-beat/crust and I really enjoyed the selection and there was a small second-hand section that I droolingly checked sometimes. One day Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια was added, I had never heard of it and yet, to my disbelief, it was described as "probably the best crust album of all time" or something along these lines. It is often said that people change with time but I haven't really, I was as pretentious and smug as I am today only I feel, wrongly I presume, it is now a somewhat sensible way of life. But then that I somewhat did not know and had never heard of an album that the Hardcore Holocaust guy - who clearly looked like he knew his shit - called "probably the best crust album of all time" felt like a slap in the face and was a little humiliating. I would not go as far as saying that it taught me some humility but it was close enough. I was in disarray. Determined to check if it was indeed what he said it might be (it was before music streaming, blogs and high internet speed at home), I bought the record, a bit pricy to be honest but nowhere near what it is worth now, and was in awe. Hardcore Holocaust was not wrong as you could very well make the case that Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια is the best crust album of the 90's. I realize there are a lot of "best album of the decade" claims in this writeup and that my passion for Greek crust may somewhat distort my sharp ability to think critically but there is enough quality in this 1993 album to back such a claim.
Fast-forward to the mid-2010's. The growing success of Terminal Sound Nuisance is making me the undisputed king of crust (like a crust Kenny Omega if you like but with less injuries) and I am renowned, and even feared throughout the crustdom, for my incredible wealth of knowledge in the dark arts of Greek crust. It is an unpaid gig and no one at the job centre really understood what "Professor in Crust Studies" meant on my resume but it still is something although my mum would disagree. At that point in time, social media, some excellent music blogs and music streaming certainly made the concept of Greek crust more widely known and easier to explore, document and synthesize, but it still very much remained a genre for the crust initiates. And then I read that Χαοτικό Τέλος were playing again. Fuck me. I know many people tend to complain about old bands reforming and not being as good as they used to be and so on but just take a look at Deviated Instinct's recent live performances and releases and you will see that a reformed classic band can be as relevant and brilliant as they used to be. In the case of Χαοτικό Τέλος, it has to be said that Αλέκος, who also plays in Χειμερία Νάρκη, kept being active in the scene, that the bass player Στέφανος is an original member and that younger and supremely skillful drummer Βαγγέλης is the brain behind Παροξυσμός and tons of other bands and behind the label Extreme Earslaughter. So it was difficult to go wrong. And finally 24 years after their first album, Χαοτικό Τέλος self-released in true DIY fashion their second album: Υπόσχεση (Promise).
I am starting to realize that I haven't actually talked about the music: Υπόσχεση is a perfect crust album. Or rather, it is both a perfect Greek crust album and a perfect crust album. I would not change a single thing to Υπόσχεση which is not something I say very often. Or rather the only thing that could be improved is the artwork, not that it looks ugly or irrelevant - there are enough classic crust signifiers with a reaper, desolation and skulls and for the listener not to get lost - but such a brilliant work would have probably deserved something more original and evocative, something that would have made it stand out visually as much as it does sonically. The 2010's version of Χαοτικό Τέλος is as potent and genre-defining as the 1990's one. The band offer a new version of their original sound, not so much an improvement per se but more like a seamless continuation of similar roots. Χαοτικό Τέλος have not really changed and their Greek crust recipe is as effective as ever. Of course, the sound itself is different. While Μπροστά Στην Παράνοια had that typical 90's eurocrust production, Υπόσχεση sounds like a modern old-school crust album (amazingly they don't have the exact same instruments and amps than in the early 90's). However, while many bands tend to update their sound through overproduction and departure from what made them great and loved in the first place, Χαοτικό Τέλος just sound like their good old selves at the peak of their creativity in a contemporary studio with contemporary gears (not unlike Misery's From Where the Sun Never Shines, another serious contender for the best 2010's crust album). The main difference is that the drumming is more technical, precise and provides a wider range of possibilities.
Χαοτικό Τέλος lovingly grind heavy slow apocalyptic synth-driven UK crust like Amebix and Axegrinder as well as American crust heroes Misery, unleash fast dark and aggressive Doom/Hiatus-style freight train 90's eurocrust and demonstrate an incredible sense of narration and storytelling which is truly what has always characterized Χαοτικό Τέλος' - and by extension Greek crust's - peculiar greatness. Through smart and inspired eerie introductions, evocative parts, transitions, beautiful layered epic moments followed with intense thunderous climactic bits, changes of pace and beats, some of the angriest, most passionate and expressively anguished gruff vocals you are likely to hear, they manage to tell a whole story from the first to the last minute, from the introduction to the melancholy conclusion, no mean feat considering it is a 42 minute long album as the band take their time and rightly so and never let the listener even take a break to go to the bathroom. The magnificent first song, "Αγκάθια", an 8 minute epics exemplifies all the narrative crust tricks better than any word. Not many bands can do this as brilliantly (Counterblast's Balance of Pain comes to mind here even if they tell a different story, they tell it with a similar gusto). What does Υπόσχεση tell us then? What is the story? It is a journey of anger and passion, beauty and suffering, Υπόσχεση sounds like the wind blowing over the land and it could be the last day of mankind just as the first day of a new hope. Perhaps it is both. It is a shout in the dark, in darkness, it is a call to action, it is the pain of living in such a disgusting world and the possibility of making it a beautiful one. And it is a crushing crust punk album that will have you play air guitar in the bathroom (do close your windows though, it cannot be iterated enough).
Absolutely class album that is still available so support the band and get a copy. In fact if you were to buy just one crust album this year, go for that one (or for System Overlord). In pure DIY anarchopunk fashion the band self released this masterpiece and you even get a poster and a sticker with the vinyl.