Monday 29 August 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Χαοτικό Τέλος "Υπόσχεση" Lp, 2017

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.  

Friday 19 August 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Versklaven "S/t" Lp, 2013

Versklaven are just like my friend Tom (the name has been changed as I do not want to upset anyone, especially since I am about as hard as a twig). I never think about Tom and until I came across him last month, I had completely forgotten about him and the crazy night we had in 2014 at some festival where I promised that I'd send him a brilliant mixtape full of obscure and tragically under-appreciated punk bands, maybe not in the coming month but definitely before winter. Of course, I never did make the mixtape and the drunken promise slowly (well not that slowly actually) escaped my mind and I never saw or heard of Tom again. Which was a little disappointing as I had had a jolly good time but then I - what with being busy lip-synching to Antisect before the bathroom mirror - did not make the effort to do it and he must have forgotten about the whole thing anyway. Which is not as bad as it sounds since I am pretty sure I owe him a tenner. 

Well, Versklaven are like Tom. I really enjoyed their outputs when they came out in the early/mid-10's, we had a good time, we bonded quite a bit but the constant flux of quality crust and the subsequent split of the band resulted in their music slowly fading from my memory, not utterly vanishing though, more like sharing a flat at the back of my skull with other worthy but half-forgotten crust bands like Dödsfälla, Massakro SS or Minds Continue. There are worse but also more glamorous roommates.  But doing some research about 10's crust bands for this ambitious series, the modern music equivalent of the the Homeric Odyssey, I came across Versklaven again and I remembered that they were quite good indeed even if I had not played the Lp for ages and upon spinning the thing I quickly realized that they were, in fact, much better than I remembered or can even be said to be, if I may be quite bold, the dog's bollocks.

Versklaven certainly do not pop up in many conversations these days and even yours truly has to plead guilty on that one which proves that I as outstandingly smart, sharp and witty as I may look to my readers, I still have not reached perfection yet. I'll probably be there next year though according to my astrologist. Fingers crossed. To get back to our Houston lot, that's in Texas I reckon, the fact that they are not part of the conversation when it comes to solid old-school crust from the 2010's is unfair. It may have to do with their German name - it means "to enslave" - but then when one considers how difficult it is to find a good name that is still available, the decision to pick the German translation was wise, especially since there was already a Japanese hardcore band called Enslave (and it worked for Aus-Rotten after all). Perhaps they should have picked a fancier punk language like Swedish, Finnish or French (just kidding for the last one unless you are a cheesy emocore band in which case you basically must pick a French name). 

I have already written about Sacrilege-loving bands in my review of Terminal Conquest's demo tape and a lot things I said about the practice of Sacrilege worship as epitomized by Portland's Terminal Conquest are also valid for Versklaven. Formed in 2011 and disbanded around 2013 (or 2014?) as prehistoric live videos on youtube suggest, the Texan group was short-lived but came before bands like Terminal Conquest or Lifeless Dark. The only example of total Sacrilegious metal-punk I can think of at the time was Death Evocation, who got a lot more attention and exposure than Versklaven probably because of the resumes combined with the experience of the persons involved (basically they played in cool Boston bands before, bands I have never heard but that my mates wearing Van's or New Balance trainers and shirts with live shots of angry people jumping around seem to love). DE were more on the metal-side of Sacrilege though, somewhere between Behind the Realms of Madness and Within the Prophecy while Versklaven are decidedly on the first album, so much so that they had no scruples borrowing, more than just a couple of times, Sacrilege riffs and transitions for their own songs.

I suppose you could claim that this self-titled Lp is the perfect rawer, punkier (and overall faster) version of the first Sacrilege Lp. Some anarchopunk-styled spoken parts reminds me of Nausea or Potential Threat and bring an additional vibe to the songs by connecting to the genre's anarcho roots. Otherwise, the riffs are crunchy examples of 80's metal-punk worship and Sacrilege cosplay, thrashing and dynamic without falling in technical wankery. Similarly the songwriting does not mess about and goes for the throat with moshing crust power. I personally have no issue with respectfully borrowing from classic bands but, since some do, be warned that there is a lot of Sacrilege in Versklaven. The vocals are different, raspier, growled rather than shouted - more Nausea's Amy than Detestation's Saira a bit hoarser than After the Bombs' Janick - and I think they work great as they give some supplementary aggression and anger to the music.  

This album is rather short, about 16 minutes, which is not actually a bad thing as a longer work would have probably pointed at its main flaw, the lack of narrativity and storytelling. A 30 minute Lp necessitates more work on transitions, climaxes, atmospheres, plot which the relatively short length of Versklaven's work does not really. Released in 2013, the recording was actually done in 2012 and was made up of seven songs in total as two songs were used for a split Ep with Abduktion (it also comes recommended if you want more Sacrilege-flavoured metal-punk). The album was put out by Torture Garden Company, a local Houston-based label but whose catalogue I am vastly unfamiliar with. I am not sure what the Versklaven members have been up to since the split. Guitar player Tom was also involved in the metallic crust band Dissent and the excellent Bolt Thrower-inflenced War Master before he moved to Portland and took part in Iskall Regn and more recently in Decomp (the new album is ace, check it out), while bass player Mark now plays in Lace. 

Enjoy this piece of crust history. 



Sunday 14 August 2022

At Ease with the Dis: an Interview with Alex from Disease

Today, let's take a break from crust music. Summer is hitting us hard in Europe what with the end of the world and all that, and even though I have been able to work on my tan, I still feel a little bad about it. I do feel like I did my bit by wearing shirts from apocalyptic bands for more than twenty years but still. But let's take a break from the doom and gloom, and talk about something completely different and decidedly joyful: d-beat. Yeah right. And in fact, let's have a whole interview about it with a special guest, Alex guitar player and grand distorter of the d-beater-than-thou band Disease and the d-beat raw punk-themed fanzine Just a Nightmare (to be fair, he also does crust in there so maybe I did not wander that far off in the end) and he even plays in the noizepunk affair Angza. 

In case you have never heard of Disease, which I very much doubt since they have been going since 2012 and have been very prolific, they hail from Skopje - that's in Macedonia in case if you need to know because you went through the American school system - and can be said to be the ultimate Disclose-loving, distorted d-beat unit. Not many bands can claim to do it as well as they do in a subgenre that has weirdly become quite busy in the past ten years. Check out their latest offerings if you need any convincing. They will stud your face. 

Beside the sonic projects of Alex and the detailed eventful story of Disease, crucial aspects of the mighty D-war are tackled in this interview as you will see, from the d-beat phenomenon, the worship of Disclose, to the journey into Discharge and the 10 year long personal involvement with this very peculiar genre in the world of extreme music. 

A massive thank you to Alex for taking the time to answer these questions. Bupp-u-dupp-u-du let's go.   

TSN: Let’s get straight to the point. Do you remember the first time you heard Discharge? Did you know about them beforehand or was it a total discovery? What record was it? What did you think? What were you originally into as a spotty teenage punk?

A: Hey Romain, that’s a sharp start indeed ha!
I remember the first time of course, I didn’t knew them from before, I got this tape from a friend with printed diy cover, which would I later discover it was the The Nightmare Continues live LP. It stricken me hard cause it was different then everything I’ve heard before. I remember the song that stuck in my head was "Drunk with power". Then I found a bootleg CD in a local record store The Final Bloodbath.
As a kid discovering new punk music and bands was hard but enjoyable. We would’ve most of the time taking suggestions from the older local punks about bands. Ramones, The Clash, were a must, a lot of oi music cause punks & skins around that time were hanging out together, Sex Pistols, Exploited, Dead Kennedys, also EX-Yu bands like KBO, Hladno pivo, Goblini, S.M.F etc, which these days I’m not into most of these bands. I was heavy into Casualties, then I discovered Disorder which I fell in deep love with, then Discharge and things were never the same. 

TSN: And what about Disclose? How and when did you first listen to them? What did you think? Some people absolute hate Disclose at first and then learn to enjoy the music like an acquired taste, was it your case?

A: I found out about Disclose sometime later after discovering Discharge. I think I got introduced with Kawakami and Disclose from Ergin (Black against night/ Dejector/Cimiterium) and his brother Dule but I can’t remember how and when. They were living in Struga and when there was a gig in Skopje a whole crew of crusties from Struga would come for the gig, we would hang out, drink, do some other stupid stuff and just have a good time.
I was hit hard from Disclose from since the first time I heard em and fell in love straight away. I always searched for something more extreme from what I knew at  the time and Disclose just filled the missing piece I searched for.

TSN: What was the original idea behind the formation Disease back in 2012? What were the main motivations? Did you play in other similar (or not) bands before? What about the others? Did you struggle to find a dis name? Did you have other possible names for the band? Were you aware of Mallorca’s Disease? 

A: The first band that I was a part of was called Defekt. It was an anarcho street punk band formed in 2001 by a few friends. As time was passing by, our ways went in different direction, so the first Defekt gig will be in 2007 with totally different members line up except me as the original member.
All the members were changing constantly, there’s been probably more than 15 people that played in Defekt. We recorded 2 full length albums and one EP. In 2012 I left the band, and after apparently it disbanded.
 I was playing with the idea in my head of making a ‘one man d-beat raw punk’ band for quite a few years. When I saw that the new Defekt’s guitar player knows to play drums, I asked if would like to make a new band in the Disclose direction and he agreed. The main motive and inspiration was very simple, just playing d-beat raw punk, Disclose punk, trying to keep the Disclose and Kawakami legacy alive and the rawpunk banner up high!
I don’t think we had big issues with the name, I remember I we chose Disease over Dispair (which also exists already). I was very aware of Mallorca’s Disease of course, although I didn’t really minded it. Same as with Dispair. About Mallorca’s Disease, I knew they were already disbanded by this time, and I knew I wanted the band to have a different sound to theirs. And of course, there’s already been a couple of bands sharing the same name, we would’ve not be the first. For example Dispose, but when I hear one of those bands I know exactly which Dispose I’m listening cause it’s such a big difference in the sound. Same with Disable etc.
The process of getting tight as a band was slow. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t really had anything from equipment. I lost my guitar and amp few years ago during the years when I was an addict. So at the start I was borrowing guitars for practice and gigs from friends, same with the pedals.
In 2013 I had to go to prison so Disease was on hiatus for half a year although we did one gig while I was out of it for a weekend. While serving prison time, I was wasting time working in the buffet. Since I wasn’t getting payment for the work I was doing for a few months (which was 20 euros per month) and the idiotic behavior of the prison guards, together with another fellow inmate that was also working in the buffet, we decided to start stealing the buffet money on daily basis, for which we are responsible for, for some weird reason.
Long story short, my served my time, got out and bought the guitar that I still play today from those prison money I stole. I am not a thief, but…
Bass players were constantly changing, and in 2015 Spagi joined the band. We did a European tour in the hell warm summer of 2015 and after, the drummer decided to quit. So, Marko joined the band as a drummer, and we did the Neverending war crimes LP. I look at Disease timeline as 2 different periods, the time till 2015 and after since Spagi and Marko joined the band. Their mark and input in the band made it what it is today. This is the formation that will make the band, make the sound and the noise of Disease that people know of today.
Meantime while sharping the sound, Per (Giftgasattack) and Nils (Dispose) were, and still are my mentors. They gave me countless advices on how to achieve the guitar sound I wanted, together with Toda with whom we are in a deep noise love affair haha!
Besides Defekt and Disease, all Disease members together with the vocalist of Born for slaughter/Stagnator are taking part in Angza. We formed Angza after the 2017 tour. We wanted to do something different and ugly, so we started rehearsing and we released Импулс на морбидно себе 7’’ on Black Against Night records. At the moment Angza is working on a new release, for whom we are almost near the end in the making of the songs process.
I’ve also played for a short period of time in New Police State but went to prison and had to leave the band, Crawling chaos was a one time lasting project we did with Nils (Dispose), Spagi (Disease) and Zhenya (Masspollution), latest is a project I did with Julio (Nukelickers) called World Bastard, and the upcoming project that is called Stalinstadt with Per (GGA), Toda (ECD) and Igor (Electric Masochist), and few other  bands that weren’t serious and never recorded anything in the early 00’s. Spagi is also a part of Transhunter and Голи Деца, he was playing in Irritatement till its disbanding. Marko is active with Стагнатор and Арлекин, through the years he’s also been a part of few other bands like Од Вратот Надолу, Bill Skins Fifth, Јаболко за даскалот, and few more. And we have all taken part in few other bands/projects more or less known. Fixa except Angza, was playing in Born for slaughter, Irritatement.

TSN: Macedonia is not exactly famous for its d-beat scene, how did people first react when Disease played locally? Any anecdotes about early gigs? Any pub landlord pulling the plug after two songs?

A: I think we were well accepted from the friends, since the scene here is very small, we know most of each other. But I’m pretty sure it was more of a friendly acceptance than it was cause they liked the noise haha! I think just a few people have understanding of what we do here.
All I remember from the early gigs is that I was always in a search to borrow someone’s guitar, but maybe nothing more than that. As I’m writing this, you made me go back in time and as I see now, I think I can say we have played all in all around 10 times in Macedonia in total. We’ve had barely any engagement with pub landlords cause there are no real places and venues for punk gigs here. So we did most of the gigs at the rehearsal place, that’s where we do gig for the touring bands that visit Skopje City. 

TSN: Are there many punks into d-beat or crust in Skopje? What does a typical Skopje punk listen to? Any good local bands you’d recommend? What’s the historical Macedonian band? I know and enjoy Brigade O.D. but there must be others.  

Oh no, not at all. I’m not sure what a typical Skopje punk is these days here, or if there is one at all. Tank Warning Net, New Police State, early Disclass, Fluks, Born For Slaughter, FxPxOx are some of the punk bands I really like and ones that left a mark on the scene I believe. Some of the historical early punk bands are, Badmingtons, Fol Jazik, Saraceni, Morbid Joker.

TSN: Disease celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2022. How does that make you feel? Did you consider the band as a serious project right from the start or was it something that just grew throughout the years? How do you feel looking back at all your productions? What more do you wish to achieve with Disease?

A: Yeah, that’s correct, 2022 marks the 10 years of existence of the band, it’s a reminder that time goes fast for sure, a lot of things happened since the start of the band, but as well with our personal lives, good and bad. I do looked on it very serious from the very start, although from the outside perspective it might not look like that since it’s quite chaotic. Looking back on it, there are releases I like, don’t like, and hate ha!
I do separate the bands era from 2015, before and after, the lineup is the same since 2015 so this is the Disease that people know. Definitely the sound of the band is a lot different than at the start. One  doesn’t need to pay too much attention to notice the difference before Marko and Spagi joined the band, and after. As I mentioned earlier, their input and mark in the band is extremely huge and changed everything, made the band a real band and the sound as we wanted it to sound like. 

TSN: The d-beat phenomenon has been going strong for decades now and has gone worldwide. I don’t think there is any equivalent in the music world of a style that is characterized by the intentional accurate imitation of one band. Why do you think the Dis style is so appealing to so many of all ages and nationalities? From an outside perspective, people often find it boring because it is always the same. So why why why but why? Can there even be an « original » d-beat band?

A: I can’t really talk for others or in general, but just for myself. It was sincere, true, raw and non-compromising, and still is. Staying to the primitive roots and no bullshit rockstars. It’s always been in the shadow and not for everyone, but I think that’s how it should be. Punk is sacred! I personally love when I hear orthodox D-beat raw punk bands but I also think that there should be some kind of creativity and innovation, at least in your own way,  we also try to do it, not my place to say if we have achieved that.
‘Original’ D-beat band? Not sure,  but who cares!?

TSN: Your main influence is clearly Disclose and the raw distorted d-beat style they created. After 22 records and tapes (according to Discogs, correct me if I’m wrong) how can you still write new songs in that style? What is the typical songwriting process in Disease? How many songs have you written so far? How much time do you spend on your guitar sound? And why do you record so often and put out so many records? Why don’t you have a split with Agathocles yet?

A: I don’t really even know how many releases we have so far. We are an active band that does new songs very often. I find quite a bunch of layers in the style that keeps us fresh. The song making process with Disease is very simple. Usually I would bring some riffs at rehearsal, we jam it a bit, do some changes where it’s needed, feel the song flow and if it’s good then that’s it.
We love to do splits with friends and bands we like. It’s kind of a punk friendship between the bands. A split with Agathocles, one day maybe we will, who knows!?
I spent around 3 years gathering all the stuff I needed for the sound, pedals etc etc, with help from the friends.

TSN: I have noticed that throughout your discography, there are significant changes in d-beat styles, faster käng-influenced like on Never Ending War Crimes, primitive d-beat raw punk like on the earlier recordings and now so-called Dis-bones styled d-beat. Disclose also had those same distinctions (from Tragedy, to Nightmare of Reality and Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare). Was it an intentional move from your part? Do you choose the specific bits of Disclose legacy you want to work on? How do you imagine Disease’s sonic evolution?

A:Yeah, you noticed that well, not always, but I do usually have some specific bits of Disclose that we gonna work on for that one specific release. There isn’t an order or anything, it’s just how we feel at the moment. But yeah, more or less we stay in the primitive roots of the Disnoise. 

TSN: Since Kawakami’s passing, Disclose have become legendary, almost cult-like. What is your take on this? What made the band so special and unique considering that there were a lot of other d-beat/käng/crust bands in the 90’s?

A: Disclose made that chainsaw guitar, the sound on the side, Kawakami was honest d-beat raw punk warrior which can surely be noticed in the legacy he left behind. So that’s one of the key things for Disclose being the cult-like as you say, being honest, passionate and true towards what you doing. 

TSN: With the development of music streaming and a seemingly endless quantity of hardcore punk bands that we can instantly listen to, it can be difficult to follow newer bands and not feel lost. There are hundreds of d-beat bands in activity today, according to you what makes a good d-beat band? What are the traps that should be avoided in such a strictly defined genre? 

A: Yeah it’s definitely difficult to keep track on a lot of new bands. Times have changed but it is what it is. Streaming and quantity did its thing but doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. I guess being sincere towards your work is what really matters. There’s shouldn’t be rules about how it should sound but for me personally I like it as primitive as it can be. The Disclose way!

TSN: Disease also seem to tour quite a lot. The 2019 tour was quite eventful as I remember. Could you elaborate a bit? How did the whole covid mess affect you and the band? How difficult is it to be a Macedonian punk band touring?

A: It came in the same time as a joke but also serious. The tour from 2017 was 56 days so we decided to use all our available days in the EU for the next tour so we connected the dots for a full 3 months for the 2019 one. And that’s how we did it. We did tour a lot and for long.
The covid mess fucked everyone, we did postpone our Mexico tour twice. The 2nd time was a disaster cause we also lost all our money that we put into it, from visas to plain tickets, etc… We still can’t recover fully from it but, there’s been a lot of worse things that this happening in the world cause of the pandemic.

TSN: "Just a nightmare" is another side of your obsession with Dis music and raw hardcore punk. Could you tell us about the birth of this zine and why you felt the need to write about bands, their stories and creative process? What is the purpose of Just a nightmare and what do you hope to achieve? How do you pick the band you interview?

A: The zine happened very spontaneously, I decided to do kind of a friend interview with Per (Giftgasattack/Warre, etc) and it took around 2 years till we were done. When this issue came out I decided to do another one and see how things would go. Here we are 27 months later and it’s still running. I wanted to go with a bit of a different and another approach towards the interviewers and to get into the life of the persons that I talk with.
The purpose is to document the bands, process of creating the noise, timelines, and just everything about the persons life, work and deed. All stories are different, but punk. It’s punk life. I do interviews with people and bands I like and admire for some reason. 

TSN: In our modern digital age, you chose to do a paper fanzine whereas, sadly, the genre has practically gone extinct. Why? Do you think physical punk fanzines are still relevant and not just a piece of nostalgia?

A: Things are changing, the world has changed and this is where we are at now. There is a big piece of nostalgia for sure, but we can only accept things as they are.
I do think paper zines are still relevant yeah, it has proved to me with the one I do, there are people that really still appreciate and like the physical format. Why they have gone instinct? I guess with the years and the technology, things have found the easier and cheaper way to be done, which is still fine. If that means that some of us do it the hard way, then, we do suffer ha!

TSN: You obviously spend a lot of time on visuals and pay a great loving tribute to the classic d-beat/crust aesthetics. How much time do you typically spend on an issue of the zine? And like with Disease, you are incredibly prolific, one issue a month. What rhythm of publication do you intend to keep and how many copies do you print? Was there any inspiration behind your zine?

A: I don’t really remember how I decided to make it a monthly zine, but as you said, it’s pretty much the same with Disease, I guess it’s just a pattern of myself with some things, which is sometimes good, but sometimes very bad as well.
I spend  a lot of time preparing the interview for the zine. The technical part with designing the pages I can do it in a week or two. Mostly it depends on the mood if I am able to do it. So far it’s been 27 months and issues. I’m sure there will be 2 more at least. What will come after I can’t really say, but as it is what everything, all things comes to an end one day. 

TSN: The past few years have seen bands paying tribute (seriously like Decade and for fun like Thisclose) to the once taboo Grave New World era of Discharge. As a young punk, I just pretended Grave New World never happened. How do you explain the recent relative popularity of a rather mediocre album? Are Final Bombs great or just plain terrible?

A: I mean, everyone can do what they want, if someone wanna pay tribute to that part of Discharge history, go for it, let's hear how it will turn out. We talked with Gav from Decade about the influences and Shooting up the world record, so I know why they do it. So yeah, let it be haha!

TSN: Alright, time to chose now. You have to give at least a short explanation for each answer:

- Favourite Discharge song: "HNSNSN", song hard as a megaton explosion.

- Favourite Disclose song: Ugh, Fear of the nuclear age! The perfect D-beat raw punk song!

- If you did not have the choice would you rather listen to Massacre Divine or Shooting’ up the World? WHY! No explanation on this one!

- Disaster’s War Cry or Dischange’s Seeing Feeling Bleeding? Disaster’s War Cry.

- Antisect or Anti-System? Antisect

- Heresy or Ripcord? Heresy

- EU’s Arse or Underage? Eu’s arse

- MG15 or Subversion? Subversion, fuck it haha!

- Deadlock or Final Bloodbath? Final Bloodbath

- Wolfpack or Driller Killer? Driller Killer

- Chaos UK’s Short Sharp Shock or Disorder’s PerditionI’m beating myself over this, but I have to go with Short Sharp Shock just because of the impact it left on me the first time I heard it. Otherwise, the Chaotic Disordaaargh!

- Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne or Troops of Tomorrow? GBH!

- Avskum’s Crucified by the System or Disarm’s Dömd? Dömd

- Svart Parad or Bombanfall? Svart Parad

- Tragedy or Nightmare or Reality? Nightmare or Reality!!!!!

- SDS or Gloom? Gloom!

- Kaaos or Riistetyt? Kaaos!

- Hiatus or Disrupt? Hiatus

- Diatribe or The Iconoclast? Diatribe

- Dogs or cats? Both!

- Five bands from Macedonia, from any era, that you would recommend: New Police State, Tank Warning Net, Transhunter, Flux, early Disclass.

- Five hardcore bands from France that you actually like: Les Bloody Fuckers, Warning/Warning, Final Blast, Displode, Kial?

- Five favourite 80’s käng bands: Totalitar, Mob 47, Bombanfall, No Security, Crudity.

- Five favourite 90’s d-beat bands: Disclose, Besthoven, Decontrol, Disaster, Dischange.

- Five favourite 00’s d-beat bands: Dispose, Warvictims, Giftgasattack, D-Clone, No Fucker.

- Five favourite 10’s d-beat bands: Physique, Dropend, Honnor SS, Life Lock, ECD, Svaveldioxid.

- Five favourite Dis names: Disclose, Discharge, Discard, Disorder, Disappoint, Disbelief, Dispose.


Monday 8 August 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Repression Attack "Алтарь Разрушения / Altar of Destruction" cd, 2013

Lately, we have been talking a lot - it is a royal "we" obviously - about names and how they can convey an idea of what a punk band is about in terms of sound and influences. Sometimes a rather unusual moniker can work great for a given genre or on the contrary prove to be a very unfortunate choice, the quality of the band notwithstanding (see the Genital Deformities case). But generally, especially since the unstoppable and ungovernable rise of the internet, names are pretty straight-forward and transparent, unequivocal, although exceptions like Disface do force even the learned listeners to be careful, alert and humble. Otherwise you will end up with a (rather good) melodic punk-rock band instead of an unremarkable d-beat band. So even though the old saying "don't judge a book by its cover" remains true, if you bump into a band called Stenchkrusher exhibiting axes, disgruntled orcs and gutter crusties, the chance that they play indie-rock is virtually nil, unless it is your mate Gary trolling you again with his imaginary bands. Get a life Gary. 

The name Repression Attack does not really conjure up images of hyperbolic Russian stenchcore and yet that's exactly what they were in the 2010's. It has to be said that the band started as early as 2007 back when they were a punkier-sounding outfit, influenced mostly by Anti-Cimex, Extreme Noise Terror and Disclose (as revealed in a recent interview for the excellent and highly recommended Disastro Sonoro blog) and when the whole Russian d-beat/crust wave was still very much embryonic. And indeed, upon listening to their first proper recording in late 2009, a split tape with pan Zlobek, RA - based in Ryazan, South of Moscow - were still metal-free and a solid and savage example of ENT-styled dual-vocal crustcore. I had not played the songs for a while and I was pleasantly surprised at how good they are. So I suppose the name "Repression Attack" is not out of place if you originally settle for that kind of political crust punk vibe and I suppose it felt a little pointless to change name after they embarked on the 2010 stenchcore revival cruise. The one thing that definitely looks incongruous on that initial tape is the "Good night white pride" cover from Loikaemie, a rather tragic German oi band, even though I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. But then, I presume that the idea to cover that particular number had a lot to do with the strong presence of local far-right hooligans and skinheads in those years more than the actual music. And on that level the name Repression Attack also feels like a political comment in itself in relation with the repressive politics of the Russian government. Sometimes you do not chose the name, the name choses you. 

I have already written about my love story with Russian crust several times, notably very recently through my post about Kärzer, so I am not going to bother you one more time with how much I love Fatum or how I first came across Distress in 2006 when a roommate brought back their demo tape after a trip to Russia. My brain resembling more and more a giant crust gridlock - my doctor actually described it as the most severe instance of the Rush Hour of the Crust Syndrome she had ever come across but I am still struggling to know if it was a compliment - I do not remember how I became familiar with RA but I suspect it was through a blog back when the whole punk blog thing was at its peak and before people got addicted to selfies and their own image and I am quite sure it was with the early split tape because I do remember identifying RA as a stenchcore unit only afterwards. While the early incarnation of the band had dual male vocals, the Алтарь Разрушения cd have prominent female lead vocals, which I have to say surprised me even more, in a good way as I have always been a sucker for female-fronted crust music. That RA's music changed a lot between both recordings is an understatement, not just in terms of style and where they moved to on the crust spectrum but also in terms of musicianship. In 2009 they were enjoyably raw and in-your-face but in 2013 they were truly a tight unit and, had they changed their name, I don't think I would have been able to recognize them.

Алтарь Разрушения came out in 2013 at a time when Russian crust was becoming a real thing and it is a work that clearly matters from that national perspective but even on an international level this album clearly held it own at that point in time and can be said to be a highlight of the early 2010's. The sound is pretty raw and unostentatious, a bit thin and sloppy sometimes (it was recorded live in late 2012), but still very powerful and it aptly conveys that sense of dirty anger pervading the band's music and a crust-as-fuck soundscape. It would be far-fetched to claim that RA is an openly referential band although they can't pretend to be reinventing crust pants on that one. The attentive listener will be able to spot a couple of literal Deviated Instinct riffs on some songs but they are not really used as nerdy nods, they just fit very well and serve the purpose of the songwriting. RA know and love the formula, you have heavy and filthy, stenchy metallic mid-paced moments as well as fast relentless thrashing d-beat with mean, hoarse and raspy female vocals supported by a second male vocalist dealing with the lower Antisect-grinder pitch. The interplay between the two guitars works very well and allows for the cracking hooks and the dirty bends that can take a modern stenchcore act from good to great. The variety of beats is important, at times too much so as a single song can have four distinct tempo changes and accompanying riffs which can be a little distracting narratively and overwhelming given the length of the album. But that's a minor criticism. The band gets extra points for their eerie synth driven introduction on "Холодная Смерть" and transition on "Мёртвая Тишина" (with the exact same tune as Effigy's "From Hell"). Brilliant old-school call. 

RA can be relevantly be seen as a second-generation stenchcore revivalist band and should be mentioned in the same breath as Cancer Spreading, Last Legion Alive and Fatum as they share common influences (the UK greats and the 00's stenchcore revival), aesthetics and intents and let's throw some AGE and Ναυτία in there too. Pila's vocals do set the band apart on Алтарь Разрушения, very aggressive and spiteful not unlike Agnes from Homomilitia/Lost and I like that she firmly keeps RA on punk grounds. The cd was actually self-released, which is pretty preposterous considering its quality, and goes on to show that sometimes class bands are unfairly ignored. In early 2014 the band recorded a proper Ep with a better sound (and a love for Deviated Instinct riffs again) that would only be released in 2016 thanks to a collaboration between seven labels among which Neanderthal Stench, Insane Society and Totalpunk. Return to Instincts was made up of two long old-school crust anthems and was an improvement, it saw the band further work on the narrative dimension of crust thanks to longer songs that allowed for a real story to develop and an atmosphere to settle. It's an excellent Ep. Tragically, one member, Dimashkin, passed away that year and it must have been a massive blow to RA and I did not hear anything from the band until earlier this year.

I was delighted to see that the band was still going but since they never were too keen to show off on the internet or social media, I guess I just did not do my homeworks - since youtube reveals that RA did play live in recent years - and thought they had split up. The 2022 version of RA is different as only the drummer Gleb and guitar player Kobra are still in the band and I must say, and I am not exaggerating for once, that never did RA sound as good as on their new album An Endless Landscape of Ugly Shapes. The band now claim to play "psychedelicrust" (it reminds me of Akrasia and their "cataclysmic space crust") and, while they are still rooted in the stenchcore world, this time with a greater emphasis on the apocalyptic groove of the Axegrinder branch of the family tree, they have infused their crust with psychedelic influences, danceable tribal beats and progressive elements. On paper, the idea of having a saxophone on a crust album is akin to blasphemy to me and would have you decapitated but it is, I have to admit, really good. Brilliant, excellent even. RA use these new sonorities and vibes to tell a different crust story that still makes sense. It is still definitely an old-school crust work but undeniably very original and unique, which is not something one is able to say often when it comes to crust. I am reminded of 90's bands like Bad Influence, Iowaska and Πανικός. It is like Swordwielder on shrooms or something. Cracking stuff. For the moment, a physical release is not planned but I really hope it will materialize at some point because An Endless Landscape of Ugly Shapes is bound to become a genuine crust classic and already one of the best of the 2020's. 

There is an interesting interview of the band on the Disastro Sonoro blog (here) where they talk about Russian crust, crust songwriting and the current situation in Russia with the war and Putin's iron fist. A good, albeit depressing, read. This is precisely the moment when Russian punk bands, especially those who have something to say and work in genuine DIY fashion, need support. Grind the enemy. 

Repression Attack