Monday 26 September 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Wojna / Social Crisis "S/t" split Ep, 2018

Poland: its beautiful forrest inhabited by easily irritable bears, its delicious - albeit treacherous - Soplica orzech laskowy vodka, its grandiose punk history and its bloody unpronounceable nouns. Seriously, just try to utter such words as "źdźbło" or "bezwzględny" and you might twist your tongue so hard that you should check where is the closest hospital before even trying. Or just "żółć", meaning "bile", a culturally relevant word that could actually come handy and also proves that the Polish language can kill the game in just four letters that are unsurprisingly exclusive to the language. And of course "szczęście" means "happiness", an incongruity that poetically and metaphorically suggests that such a metaphysical state and mindframe is hard to attain indeed. Or even pronounce for that matter.

But enough linguistic silliness, you are probably not here to actually educate yourself about the richness of the world's languages but about scruffy-looking people with a dodgy hygiene screaming in a microphone and playing as fast as they can in front of an audience made up of mostly scruffy-looking people with a dodgy hygiene expecting to be seriously bollocked. That is how the fragile crust ecosystem works. 

I have consistently written about Polish crust in the past, especially the 90's wave, since Poland was without a doubt one of crust's hotspots during that portentous decade and has produced a significant number of classic bands, some of which have enjoyed class reissues in later years like Enough!, Hostility and Disable, a largely underrated band outside of their home turf (alright, this lot mostly played in the early 00's but they were clearly rooted in the 90's). Therefore, briefly stated, the Polish DIY punk scene has a strong history of good, solid crust music. This implies that the genre is well established and popular there, that there is a large body of work to rely on and be inspired with, more so than in many European countries. Not that crust exists in a vacuum over there, there are many outside influences (from the UK, Sweden, Belgium...) that have helped shape Polish crust - like any other scene, it goes without saying it is a global circular process - but it can relevantly be said there is such a thing as a classic Polish crust style, not necessarily radically different to others, but different enough to be distinctive, like Japanese noizecrust or Swedish käng. Like French oi music too but without the endless embarrassment. 

This is not without consequence. If you are a local punk kid, the amount of quality material in terms of Polish crust (and hardcore and anarchopunk) is a powerful enough legacy to be deeply inspired by it and be able to build on it easily and seamlessly, through emulation, without being self-aware. This strong historical basis ensures that the genre persisted tenaciously. To be very bold, I'd rather have had bands like Homomilitia, Post-Regiment, Infekcja or Sanctus Iuda to be inspired with as a youth (and I am only mentioning 90's bands because of my own age and because 80's punk looked too far away when I was a wee lad) than most of the painful French bands that unsurprisingly never inspired the already demanding punk aesthete that I was, let alone inspiring anyone else outside of the country. Thank fuck punk is an international movement.

It is thus not unnatural for a Polish band to play heavy crust, whichever flavour one craves to give it, because there were dozens of such bands before and there probably will be dozens more after. Simple math that indicates that the 2010's were also rich in crustness. I would not have time, energy and coffee enough to thoroughly examine what went on crust-wise in this part of Europe - in spite of very reliable informers - because of the scope of the task and because many bands remain rather local acts, a situation that the current relative unpopularity of the crust subgenre, generally speaking, only exacerbates. Basically, since the scene and the genre are not exactly hyped and fashionable, one often has to actually look for the information instead of being passively reached by the information. This is so 2009. But as self-sustainable as one might argue the Polish DIY punk scene is, it remains important to try to take a closer look at it in a series called Live by The Crust, Die by the Crust aiming at providing subjectively some sort of global picture about where crust music bloomed in the past decade. 

So here are a couple of recommendations I can offer for those who cannot be arsed to do their own research or suffer from an early Alzheimer syndrome (or both): Huff Raid from Warsaw (solid, groovy Swedish crust-styled), Hellisheaven and Ceaseless Desolation from Lublin (nasty stenchy metal crust and thrashing blackened crust respectively), Holy Extermination from Nowy Sącz (evil stench-thrash crust), Death Crusade from Gdansk (classic heavy dark crustcore), Chorygen from Łódź (angry crusty hardcore)... There are many more, it is by no means exhaustive, and feel free to add other bands in the comment section, but those are the bands that actually bribed me financially to appear in this post and with the rise of the cost of living and my champagne life style, choices have to be made (I do accept Western Union transfers for those interested). If anything it might provide the uninitiated listener with some sort of starting kit.   

So why choose this humble split Ep between Wojna and Social Crisis? After all, it cannot really be said to be the top Polish crust record of the decade, although I personally rate it quite high. But I like this split Ep because, first, in the long DIY hardcore punk tradition, they have always been a meaningful collaborative way to discover new bands, and second both bands are quite young, very energetic and intense and offer a dynamic, authentic, powerful image of the genre which felt quite refreshing for some reason. Let's start with Wojna (it means "war" in case you want to write a d-beat haiku in Polish one day). They come from Poznan and started playing in 2015 with members also playing in Deszcz (blackened neocrust), Fight Them All (old-school Us hardcore) or Fausto Coppi among others I presume. The four songs they contribute to this split were recorded in 2018 and followed a first recording from 2016 entitled Pod Gruzami, first released as a tape and then as a proper Ep.


Although the band did not change direction between both, we are still in dark and heavy crustcore territory indeed, the sound on the present Ep is more intense and hard-hitting and I particularly love how thick and punishing the drums sound. Wojna's music sounds fucking unstoppable, like a freight train drunk on the strongest, beefiest brew of käng crust and high on that hard-hitting brand of stenchcore-loving eurocrust or like a triple threat match between Enough!, Nuclear Death Terror and Man the Conveyors with Warcollapse as a special referee. The very gruff harsh vocals, reminiscent of an angry living dead, certainly point in the third wave of stenchcore direction, but in spite of some obvious metal riffs, some typical metalhead transitions, the dark and heavy production and the fact that the Wojna guys probably have Hellshock and Filth of Mankind Lp's hidden under the bed, it would be far-fetched to impose that tag upon the band. Let's settle for "straight-forward-charging-buffalo type of metallic crustcore band that packs a serious punch". The prosody, scansion and tonalities specific to the Polish language give the music that peculiar vibe and rhythm that characterize the idiosyncratic version of the crust genre there and root Wojna in a specific soundscape. Four songs in less than six minute of solid crustcore, modern but heavily influenced by 90's and 00's metallic crust.     

On the other side are Social Crisis (which means, wait for it, "social crisis") from Biała Podlaska, close to the Belarus border, a band that you are more likely to have heard of than Wojna since Social Crisis have released one full album, three split Lp's and three split Ep's since 2014 and whose records you are therefore more likely to bump into on a distro table, the place where all great minds meet, or even see them pop up online if the records don't physically reach you. Simple math again. They even played in France! This creative prolificacy does show that SC really mean business but it also entails that some recordings - be it for matters of songwriting or production - are, subjectively or objectively, better than others. I would like to thank my old pal Captain Obvious for that brilliant theory. I have always liked the idea of SC a lot, fast käng-crust with dual female vocals, but sometimes felt that some of the earlier records lacked the necessary intensity to really pull it out - a criticism that can logically be made about many bands of course. The cultural practice of dual vocal crust is one that finds its roots in the late 80's and, almost 30 years later, it is not so easy to find, let alone offer, a convincing version of that well-established if rarefying punk tradition. It is not unlike replicating your grandmother's soup. As cognizant of recipe you might be, will you be able to do it properly or will your mates pretend it is good not to hurt your feelings while it is merely "alright" and would painfully get two stars on Trip Advisor? The world can be a cruel place.

But those five SC songs - in less than six minutes - can clearly be described as a tasty traditional crust soup. Not many bands use two female singers to unleash the fury (you had the Swedish pioneers Society Gang Rape in the 90's or Scousers After the Massacre in the 00's) and I am a massive sucker for female-fronted crust punk so the band was bound to have a comfortable place in my mental crust database. This side of the split Ep is pretty much an ideal example of dual-vocal crustcore. Compared to Wojna's crushing power, SC's production here is much rawer and punkier, which fits their style well as it gives the songs a direct angry edge. The primitive unpolished sound of the drums (they are very up front in the mix) reminds me quite a bit of Frigöra's and - unintentionally? - confers a raw 80's käng feel to the music. In terms of style, SC's influences are evident and to the point given the subgenre's template. All-time classic bands like State of Fear and 3-Way Cum are the obvious points of references and along the 90's Polish crust powerhouse Silna Wola, notably in the way the Polish language's scansion and flow are concerned. The vocals are brilliant, coarse and raspy on one side and gruff and deep on the other, and both very aggressive, following the traditional "lower-pitched having a massive fight with higher-pitched". The singers can clearly be said to belong to that long tradition of strong and mean punk female vocalists that is a characteristic of Polish crust and hardcore. The disposition of the vocals, their placement, is exactly as it should be. If you were to start with SC, this split Ep would be the perfect starting point. 

The sonorities of the Polish language, especially applied to punk music, convey a feeling of anger, outrage and threat and obviously crust music need such elements to flourish. The lyrics of both Wojna and Social Crisis are serious and political. The bands tackle the rise of fascism and homophobia, the electoral farce, the rape culture, modern alienation and social media. There are definitely enough to be angry about these days. The split Ep was the result of a collaboration between several labels: Dingleberry from Germany, Up the Punx and NIC from Poland, the Berlin-based DIY Koło, In My Heart Empire from Spain and Svoboda from fucking France. 

Direct, sincere and hard-hitting crustcore, the way it should sound.   

Social Wojna                

Monday 5 September 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Zyanose "Putrid Sick Society" cd, 2014

Let's refocus and balance our chakras a bit. Even if the present series was always meant to be an exploit in crust marathon, I have to confess it sometimes feels as if Terminal Sound Nuisance has now turned into a "crust-only" beast and I sometimes crave to be able to write about 80's poppy anarchopunk again. I'll just have to light a candle at the local crust ossuary to gather some strength.  As a reminder, Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust is not really about the top 100 crust works of the 2010's (though that'd be pretty fun to do) but about recordings and bands from the crust punk multiverse that I find relevant, meaningful and therefore worth investigating as they provide an interesting, albeit partial for exhaustiveness is impossible, picture about what happened crust-wise during that decade. And it has to be fun of course. They have to be fun to write about. Or at the very least fun enough to keep me from sobbing before Razor Ramon or Mister Perfect tribute videos on youtube. 

And Zyanose are really fun. Very serious and passionate about what they did, but also cheeky and brash and really quite delightful and entertaining to write and think about. Although they were already active in the second part of the noughties (Toyo said in an interview with the iconic Warning fanzine that the band played their first gig in 2003 but the "official" version often says 2004) and released three Ep's and a split cdr between 2005 and 2008, they were certainly more productive afterwards with four Ep's and three Lp's being released between 2012 and 2019. People who favour their earlier endeavours into love-4-noize will probably associate Zyanose with the mid-late 00's but I personally enjoy their later - and crustier - material better, hence their inclusion here in the series about the 10's. In the end, it is always pretty random to reason rigidly when it comes to decades anyway, especially with such a boundary-pushing act. What really matters is that this Osaka noise crust monster progressively grew to be an objectively crucial and even popular band from the early to the late 10's. It would not be irrelevant to venture that the band has known three periods with Toyo, Sakana and Illie as the three constant members: the first one from 2004 to 2008 as a four-piece with a distinct guitar player and Toyo only on vocals; the second from 2012 to 2014 when Zyanose were a three-piece with two bass players and Toyo switching to the second bass guitar; and the last one with the band back as a four-piece, Toyo back on vocals only and an actual guitar player. 

My own genuine appreciation for Zyanose did not start in the 00's (go on, take some hard-earned punk points away from me). I don't even remember reading that Warning interview (which you can read here) although I remember having that zine at home. At that time, this school of noise-loving Japanese crust did not really appeal to me at that time that much and I was satisfied with my Gloom and Atrocious Madness records and so did not really bother with Zyanose. I definitely missed the first bus, and even the Loveless Ep released on Crust War Records, a label I followed as closely as a French pigeon behind a messy sandwich eater, did not really catch my attention, but then, at that time a lot of the highly distorted and chaotic end of hardcore bands escaped me as I was more looking to the sound of Japanese stenchcrust bands like Acrostix, AGE or Revölt. Even upon first hearing them a few years later, I was not particularly impressed, which sounds a little strange because I was well into Death Dust Extractor or D-Clone for example, also rather demanding listens to say the least, but I did not bother exploring Zyanose. It may have to do with the fact that it is after all a German word (meaning "cyanosis", a "blueness lividness of the skin" which sounds pretty nasty and therefore did not look up on google) and learning the language for years at school scarred me for life and leaves me unable to make a proper sentence in German, although I can vaguely sing along to a Chaos Z or Slime song. Or give a convincing impression when pissed anyway.

My first proper encounter with Zyanose was when they did a European tour in 2013, promoting their Why There Grieve Lp on La Vida Es Un Mus if I remember correctly, and played in Paris. An unlikely lineup since they shared the stage with Traitre (the infamous autonomous oi band from Lille), Krigskade (our local käng unit at the time) and a streetpunk band from Czech called Climax, an unfortunate name considering they played along the very climactic Zyanose. So a decidedly diverse lineup and I remember most people came for the other bands so that when the Osaka misfits went on stage, people did not know what to expect exactly and were in awe, bewildered, disconcerted, flabbergasted even. The band played like there was no tomorrow, broke some of the gears they had been lent and one of the bass player forgot to plug his instrument for the first few songs which no one really noticed - even himself - because it was so intense and noisy and just different. In this specific environment, Zyanose looked and sounded like an alien species coming from a a world bent on deafening other civilizations through severe noisecore music. Sore-Throating the innocents to death as I call it. That was a very fun gig, one that taught me that I had definitely missed out on a good band.

At that point in time, Zyanose had switched to playing as a three-piece with two bass players - Toyo formerly of the mighty Defector and Sakana from Poverties - also sharing the "vocal duties", by which I mean reproducing the screams of a 19th century psychiatric ward, a rather daring configuration (the only other noisy/crusty band using it to my knowledge is Nulla Osta from Croatia). The transformation of the Zyanose lineup can be found easily on the internet so I won't be focusing on the pre-2012 period of the band, which is still well worth investigating. Putrid Sick Society is my favourite records of the two-bass-players era of the band, pretty much because it is the groovier, crustier-sounding of their works (but all of their 2012/2014 outputs comes recommended). I love how the layers of noise work energetically together on this one. Genuine "noise cruster hell" as they proudly claim on the backcover. If you have never paid close attention to Zyanose, you are in for quite a journey in noisiness. And in fact, it is not so unlikely that many people will have heard of the band (because of their European and American tours and because Japanese bands don't often play abroad) or even seen them live - a memorable experience no doubt - but are really not familiar with the genre they belong to, namely the Japanese crasher/noize crust tradition. This, as a result, has made Zyanose into either a common point of entry to said subgenre or even one of its only examples for some which confers them a special status. You will meet people who are familiar, to some extent, with them but have never heard of Defector or Gloom, although it also very much depends on where you live and on the local obsessions of your scene (needless to say that in Paris, practically no fuck is given about that brand of noizecrust). 

So what about Putrid Sick Society then? Well, as my crust sensei would say in his immense wisdom: "It's the dog's bollocks mate". If you were to get a Zyanose record that aptly stands for their two-bass players era, then that'd be this one. The decision to play without a guitar, whether it was by necessity or artistic choice, especially in a genre putting such a massive emphasis on distortion, was a rather daring move to say the least. If anything, it showed that you can sound as distorted, deafening and produce as much damaging feedback than with a proper guitar. The "hail noise" bass - as poetically referred to on the backcover - sounds like a transistor haunted by the bastard child of a fuzz pedal and a distortion one or maybe like a mean radio station broadcasting from Hell bent on punishing lovers of shoegaze music. Meanwhile the "bulldozer bass" unleashes Chaos UK/Confuse bass lines relentlessly. Zyanose is a band that is clearly aimed at noize fanatics, especially on records since their impressively convincing intense live performances can easily win punks of all creeds that are not particularly interested in the genre (and that's how you recognize genuinely great bands). 

There is a - proudly stated - sense of uncontrolled dementia and chaotic insanity in the music even though the listener can tell that the Zyanose boys know what they are doing and are in control of their furious output. Self-aware chaos. While some crusty noizepunk acts can sound a little boring and uninspired after the first three songs, Zyanose have enough tricks in their bag to keep things interesting. There are many tempo changes in the music from the classic cavemen crust beat, to 80's hardcore blast beats, mid-paced Bristol-loving tribal stomps or Kyushu-styled breaks so that the aural punishment does not feel monotonous. Of course, Zyanose's foundation is found in Osaka's legendary manic crasher crust pioneers Gloom but, if they certainly build on their predecessors's versatile sense of songwriting, they put a much greater emphasis on the noize side of Gloom's legacy. They lean more on the Confuse school of distorted texture but crust bands like Collapse Society, late Truth of Arize, Death Dust Extractor or Mindsuck can be relevantly mentioned as parts of the equation as well, not necessarily as direct influences, they have different sonic intents, but more as a background of the creation of noise. Some loving references to Chaos UK and Disorder's threatening tribal numbers and bass lines can also be found while Sore Throat are also invited to the loudest of parties (the typical opening noise on the opening of "The total arse" is obvious) and classic cavemen crust influences of early Extreme Noise Terror, Sarcasm or early Disrupt also circulate throughout. That the noisecore style - or what we have progressively come to define as "noisecore" - is included in Zyanose's recipe can be said to be an uncommon move as noisecore is more often associated with the grindcore scene, but it could just be a European thing not relevant to Japan. The vocals sound absolutely insane and rabid, with high-pitched straitjacket screams often seasoned with thunderous cavecrust shouts delivering a rare assault on your hearing. It is like anti-yoga music. 

The cd version of Putrid Sick Society is deceptively long, 8 songs in 19 minutes, with the last song, "The total arse" being a nine minute slice of old-school noisecore stench madness and actually a Zyanosed cover of a classic Framtid anthem. A great initiative as it turns the song into something completely different but still compelling.   

Zyanose, the self-identified "noise philia crusters", have been known through many subgenre monikers, so many that it is more like a game than anything too serious: "ditch crust noisecore", "crust hardcore speed noise", "crasher crust violence", "noise cruster hell", "antisocial crusher noise crust militia" or "insane noise raid". Make up your own noizecrust subgenre. The aesthetics of the record harmoniously reflect the music. A chaotic collage with the members proudly exhibiting the crust look, cruster rags, crust pants and some studs and a variety of signifying elements like "ear damaging 8 tracks", "Osaka punk never dies!!!", "Noise chaos kill your brainswashed mind" and a variety of referential nods that I will let the reader look for. The cd comes with an obi that includes a biography of the band if you can read Japanese (mine is well rusty to be honest). Zyanose have always been adamant about their own creative noisiness and their unshakable true punk identity and songs like "Our noise not yours" or "Poser must die !!!" attest to that radical stance but more serious, or typical, topics are also tackled. Putrid Sick Society was recorded in late 2013 and released on L.A.R.V.A, a short-lived cd-only - cd's are not deemed as "uncool" in Japan - local record label that also reissued Poikkeus and Ferocious X. Brain Solvent Propaganda put out a vinyl version of the work - in case you have a fetish - but I am confident that the post-2011 Zyanose saga will be reissued at some point (D-Takt Råpunk Records already took care of the early material). 

Sadly Zyanose stopped in 2019 and I am not completely sure what the members are up to nowadays, but Toyo now plays in the mighty Framtid and Illie joined the magnificent Disturd. Informants are welcome to add on to this. Noise Philia Cruster never dies.

Poser must die !!

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Avvikelsse "S/t" Ep, 2016

Avvikelsse is one of the bands that I missed in Osaka in 2018 because I got too drunk the night before and did not wake up on time. Truth be told I was very jet-laged but, as much as I would love to blame this unforgivable failing on time zones, I just had far too much to drink because I was so happy to be in Japan for the first time and quickly realized that the off-licence just next to King Cobra was open all night. The classic trap that only juvenile punks fall into but I was too excited to think. I did manage to finish the first night and ended up at the Konton Bar blabbering like a twat to anyone in my immediate vicinity. Of course, I got lost on the way back to the hotel because all the streets looked the same, I did not have a smart phone and was properly hammered. My saviour was Framtid's drummer Aladdin who kindly took me back to my hotel which was just two blocks away. I remember, even in my drunken stupor, being very embarrassed to have to be rescued and the day after I humbly apologized to my saviour who, like a crust gentleman, asked me if I was feeling better and that it was alright. I guess I was not the first foreign punk to get smashed and unable to find his way back but still. Let's just deny it ever happened. The worse part of this modest adventure was that I did miss some bands I has specifically traveled to see. Too drunk to crust.

Before making an ass of myself on another continent, I had studied all the bands that I was going to have the pleasure to see perform - or so I thought before fate struck - and Avvikelsse was one that I was particularly excited to see. The name means "deviation" or "anomaly" in Swedish, although it is technically spelt "avvikelse", which is, in itself, a very good choice for a punk name even more so if you happen to play hard-hitting crust punk with an eye on käng hardcore. For some unfathomable reason, this 2016 Ep, so far the only record from the band, has not yet been uploaded onto youtube. In 2022 that is just odd. I suppose this post will correct this discrepancy.

Avvikelsse are from Osaka, glorious place of birth of crasher crust and cradle of the legendary Final Noise Attack gigs (would have I get too stupidly drunk at one of those?), and it is little surprise that the Ep was released on the Osaka-based classic Crust War Records label run by Habi from the seminal Gloom and Jacky from the hardcore whirlwind Framtid and Revenge record store among other loud activities. It was CW's 53rd release and one of the last before the label went dormant. Hopefully it is just a nap and the beast will awake soon. Avvikelsse formed in 2014 but before that some members - I am not sure who - played in Abstrakt at the beginning of the decade, a short-lived, rather classic and raw noize scandicrust unit with that typically intense Japanese distorted sound and delivery, like a rough youthful cross between Framtid and Contrast Attitude. They have a mean primitive demo and contributed four stronger tracks to the Total Exposure compilation in 2013 which is where you need to start if you are interested (especially since Tilltro, a manic scandicore band are also on it).

If Abstrakt was a decent, enjoyable, good even, but generic example of Japanese crust, Avvikelsse is not the same animal, although it would not be irrelevant to claim that the new project built on the former one. I mean, it is not like they went ska, oi or anything atrocious like that. But there are enough new elements and diversity in the songwriting to make Avvikelsse's Ep a noticeable work that deserves to be explored. The band started out with a rough demo tape entitled Doomed that included three songs that would eventually make up the first side of the Ep so I am not going to discuss this particular recording as it must definitely be seen as a draft (you can listen to it on youtube though contrary to the Ep).


As the genre dictates, the band plays in the familiar blow-out noize crust category yet Avvikelsse's music is not generic. The opening number "Beginning of the end" starts out as a heavy, dark and slow-paced Antisect-ish song before unleashing the fucking dis-beat darkness fury. The next one opens as a straight-forward crasher dis-crust scorcher and then goes for some crunchy Effigy-styled stenchcore with epic guitar lead (it has to be pointed out that Avvikelsse love solos and epic leads). The third track "1945" is the ultimate peacecrust number with its melancholy stenchcrust introduction (reminiscent of Nausea) to an Antiauthorize-meet-Gloom at an antiwar protest. The other side is just as great, a balanced mix of relentless dark distorted Framtidian scandicrust and old-school crasher metallic crust with aggressive and gruff anguished vocals throughout. The Ep is long enough - a 12 minute long effort - for the band to really develop its own language and tell a good story and I think Avvikelsse have enough tricks in their crust bag to write an ace crust album.

The Japanese crust school being almost always very referential, the visual of the Ep scream "We are a dis-noize crasher peacecrust band" and even entry-level crust amateurs will be able to discern canonical visual elements associated with the practice: a massive dove, two Gloom-y Crass circles around said dove that says "Avvikelesse / Throes of lives" for the small one and "Why war / The unaccountable darkness" for the bigger, more Crass font on the back, a picture of the aftermath of a bombing, of a graveyard and even an additional dove inside the foldout cover. And of course, to reflect upon this customary referentiality I have used an excessive number of Japanese crust slang throughout the reviews, not just in order to exemplify the relation between form and content, but also because it is fun. And in these dire days it is important to find fun where you can.        

A solid Ep from "Osaka Chaos Crusher Crusties" as Revenge Records said that comes highly recommended if you are into Japanese crust and, for its Antisect vibe, one of my favourites of the genre in the 2010's.