Friday 21 October 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Ruinas "S/t" Lp, 2017

French people have been famous worldwide for their arrogance for centuries. While other arrogant dicks from abroad don't fully realize how arrogant they can look (let's get real, we're not the only ones afflicted here, a fearful prospect actually), we, on the other hand, genuinely embrace this objectively embarrassing cultural trait. We, collectively, are very proud of being cocky wankers and actually believe that we are meant to be the Earth's smartest, the cream of the crop, the genuine dog's bollocks, a guiding Light in the world's darkness. Even my postie thinks he is some sort of unacknowledged philosopher and, for propriety's sake, I will not even get into the grandeur of my great-auntie's thought system, which focuses solely on the country's supposed decadence largely caused by so-called "zoomers", when she's had one drink too many. This self-proclaimed intellectual superiority goes along with a distinct tendency to never admit that we are wrong. If we don't know something, there are only three possible options: claim that it is just not worth knowing, outrageously lie and pretend we do know better than you or make up a blend of both (that requires a very large amount of pretense and is for elite French people only, usually politicians, TV experts or other professions where being full of oneself is a compulsory requirement). So if you ask my father about Argentina, he will almost certainly assert that the only good thing about it is that one alright movie with Madonna in it - be careful as he might try to sing the song too - and Roman Riquelme (Maradona did too much drugs and is therefore not a good role model). Would that keep him from thinking he knows it all? Of course it would not. 

When you think of typical Argentinian punk music, you may think about bands like 2 Minutos, Boom Boom Kid or Argies (a band that I have seen at least twice for some reason), you think about tunes, 1977-styled punk-rock, unreasonable awkward Ramones worship and contagious energy. And that's assuming you can think about anything at all since Argentina is not exactly a scene that is well-known outside of Latin America. I have already touched upon the subject when writing about Claustrophobia's 2013 demo a few years ago (well, five years ago, fuck me, doesn't time fly), a glorious review that - beside making me the recipient of the much-coveted 2017 Crust Ballon d'Or - allowed me to take a closer look at the more aggressive hardcore side of Argentinian punk and made me realize that I was somewhat familiar with quite a few hard-hitting anarcho or crusty or hardcore punk from that part of the world like Terror y Miseria, Migra Violenta, Disvastacion or Axion//Protesta. And reading the review again made me realize it once again which is quite worrying in terms of memory loss but still a decent ego boost I suppose. Perhaps that's what Alzheimer will look like for me, a constant rediscovery of bands I already know. It could be worse although my partner might disagree and will certainly get a little annoyed with me asking her on an hourly basis if she knew about Ruinas and how great the band was (or is, I will probably think we're still in 2017 and I still have all my hair). 

As you must have guessed now, this writeup will be about Ruinas from Buenos Aires. I started the Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust series with the firm, not to mention quixotic, determination to promote and reflect upon 2010's crust music, to take a critical look at it from my ever comfy pedestal located on the last floor of the Terminal Sound Nuisance twin towers. I just had to write something about Ruinas. Not just because I put on two gigs for them in Paris and they are lovely people, but because the band, formed in 2013, can be considered as both the first old-school metallic crust bands from Latin America and the first stenchcore band with lyrics in Spanish (along with the aforementioned Claustrophobia who were already around in 2013). Which is no mean feat. This is not to say that they have not been class crust bands on the continent before, it goes without saying, as Mexico and Brazil have had a long rich history of furious crust with bands like Discordia, Dischord, Under Threat or Desobediencia Civil (and those are just examples from the 1990's) but those were more of the classic crustcore or anarcho varieties and not of the Peaceville stenchcore school like Ruinas. The exact same could be said about Spain which produced a number of good crustcore (and, excruciatingly, neocrust of course) throughout the years but nothing of the old-school crust sort. This is rather odd considering the huge number of mean hardcore music displaying a pronounced love for metal and thrash but that is how it appears to be. But if it is relevant to approach Ruinas as the pioneers of stenchcrust "en español", which in itself does bring something new to the table, it makes just as much sense to see them as one of the best bands from the second generation of the stenchcore revival, their origins notwithstanding. Taking these two elements into account makes Ruinas' position rather unique. 

The story of the band actually starts in the mid/late-00's with a band called Horror Humano that originally had two - I believe - future members of Ruinas. The band released a brilliant cdr in 2011 although the eleven songs were recorded in 2007 (talk about the cultural habit of being late to the party). This recording comes highly recommended if you are into pissed raw, almost grinding, political crustcore with extreme vocals (think the Seattle school meets the Tijuana one). In 2011 Horror Humano recorded an Ep for their Chile tour with more of a modern crust touch although we are still in the gruff department, not bad but not as furious as their early shit if you ask me. In 2012 they disbanded and Seba, Pato and David formed Ruinas the next year with a much darker and heavier agenda in mind. Their 2013 demo perfectly illustrated the new path: doom-laden slow-paced apocalyptic stenchcore with anguished vocals and a filthy sound. The demo was strong indeed - so much so that it would be reissued on a split Lp with Russia's Chaosbringer in 2017 - and clearly showed that they knew exactly what they wanted to do and where they intended to move in the grand Crust Evolution Gallery, somewhere between Stormcrow, Axegrinder and Lost with a doomy Bolt Thrower touch just to be on the safe side of heaviness. Followed a split tape in 2014 with Avitacion 101 from Montevideo with a much better production and the first recording with Rocio on vocals, her angry very harsh and gruff vocals becoming one of the band's distinctive traits. This change of personnel might come very handy too during family dinners whenever your great-uncle Bob, an elite twat, claims that women, when it comes to music, are only good at singing tunes about heartbreaks. Just play a Ruinas song to the wanker and that will shut him up immediately without you losing any of your precious energy. You can also kick his arse before proceeding to put him into bed but that's up to you.

The first album of Ruinas was recorded in 2015 although it only came out on vinyl in 2017 (there was a tape version in 2016 though) and it was yet another improvement on the previous recording. Building on the same stenchcore template of doomy-axegrinding-Stormcrow, the new female vocalist made the comparison with 13 or indeed Lost very relevant (Bolt Lostcrow anyone?). The full album format also allowed the band to take its time and further focus on plot, storytelling, transitions and atmospherics, elements that are essential for an old-school album to be successful. As a sign of good taste, the Lp opens with that classic Amebix creepy synth sound, which is not unlike a dog whistle for crusties, before offering a proper old-school stenchdoom number that sounds darker and more miserable than a winter day in Dundee. The album oscillates between slow-paced sludgey, doomed metal-crust and mid-paced filthy stenchcore with a black heaviness always at the wheel, like a ghost ship angrily navigating on a sea of despair and rescuing the drowning punks in the process. I really enjoy the grim ambiance of the record and it is clearly one of my favourites of the era, one that will age well I reckon. And those hopeless vocals can probably raise the dead so it may not be safe to play Ruinas while visiting your gran's grave as she will certainly give you a bollocking from the Other World. If you are looking for the perfect blend of the doom-loving OC crust school of Stormcrow and Mindrot, the axemebixian stenchcore like Filth of Mankind, the female-fronted sludge crust of Lost and the unstoppable riffs of Bolt Thrower, then Ruinas will be your cuppa. And it also works if you are just looking for good, solid metal crust without nitpicking about comparisons and possible influences. 

Following this highlight, the band would record a split 12'' Ep with our national crust heroes Lust For Death before unfortunately stopping their activities. The album was released on Neanderthal Stench - a Belgium-based label without which the second stenchcore wave would not have taken off in Europe - and Angry Voice from Germany and I guess you should be able to come across it. The artwork is totally appropriate for the genre and you get a poster which is always a lovely gesture, even though you probably don't have enough space on your walls anyway.    



Saturday 1 October 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Alement "Disturbing Future Visions" tape, 2017

It is well known that punks like a drink. More like two, generally. And sometimes far larger numbers of drinks, oftentimes odd and objectively disgusting ones. When I was a teen, we would drink copious amounts of atrocious beverages, not because we were fond of the taste but because they proved to be cheap ways to get hammered and ensured that you completely forgot to check out the touring bands. I did miss From Ashes Rise in 2001 (I think?) getting pissed with my friends on cans of shitty lager right in front of the venue. Our tipsy selves just could not be arsed, but, to be fair, we were heavily into "streetpunk" at that time and so were not particularly impressed with the idea of seeing a "hardcore band" with a strange name so I suppose we would not have got much from the gig anyway. Abominable "cocktails" we would often gulp down included the popular calimucho, the cheapest red wine mixed with the cheapest cola, to be served lukewarm in a plastic bottle that you would pass around, and the not so popular (for good reasons) moloko, probably the king of shit drinks, a mix of the cheapest rum with milk and sugar. Needless to say that your bowels, not to mention your sanity, strongly disagreed with such unfair treatments. How many top bands did I miss because of such liquid horrors? I'd rather not know. 

Punks' enjoyment of booze is often reflected in the bands they play in. We all remember gigs where the guitar player was too pissed to remember how to tune the instrument (assuming he usually tuned it) or even stand or where the singer gracelessly fell on the drum kit in the middle of that good mosh part. But bands are also keen on paying tribute to the rather questionable habit of drinking too much in the very name of the band. Like Alement for example. Is "alement" a good name? It was certainly funny enough to make me giggle the first time I read it but then I actually also like "alehammer" as a name so I might not be the best judge. After all, I come from France and the best crust band we have had for a long time was called Disbeer so this tolerance for beer-related pun could just be a cultural thing (Beerzone did not cut it though). The number of bands with literal references to booze in their monikers over here is truthfully staggering, only terrible puns in "ska" can top off the trend, but to be honest they were seldom good bands so you should not bother. To get back to Alement, well that is really up to your sensa yuma I suppose and how cheeky you like your punk music (the band's members call themselves "axegrinding drunks" too). I know my mum does not like the name much so I suppose their mums don't either. 

Whether you would be ready to parade ostentatiously at work wearing an Alement shirt or whether you are a cowardly wimp does not matter, because what does is that Alement can rightfully be considered as one of the very best old-school metallic crust bands (aka stenchcore) of the decade. The relative low-profile of the band, from my crust-centered worldview, is rather difficult to understand. It might have to do with the fact that crust is about as popular as Hungarian avant-garde experimental films where I live. Only die-hard cosplayers are into it. In a perfect world, Alement - and experimental films - would be discussed at the family table during breakfast. But I am a dreamer as much as a dream weaver, ain't I? It is not like any crust band nowadays is likely to be endlessly raved about (apart from Hellshock maybe), but still, one would expect Alement to be acknowledged more often as one of the most remarkable crust experiences of the past five years. Perhaps it has to do with them only releasing two proper vinyl records since they started 10 years ago in 2012 (a very respectable lifespan for a contemporary band) in an age when the average hardcore bands tend to release two Ep's (one of which is actually a reissue of the demo) and one album in three years before promptly splitting up and occasionally playing the odd gig overseas. The band also self-released two tapes in that time period and a split tape with Toronto's IDNS but these were very limited pressing aimed at the local punk market. But at the end of the day, who really cares about popularity in our microcosm anyway? Quality must surpass quantity.

Alement are from Philadelphia, a town that I have talked about in Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust when dealing with Pollen and Mortal War. I have never been there, probably never will - let's get real - and before the 2010's the town was not exactly renowned for quality discore or crusty music, by which I mean that very few pairs of crust pants were spotted in town even by the most experienced ornithologists until then. And then, suddenly, top bands emerged and the emulation process and cell division inherent to the formation of punk scenes ensured that the bands reproduced giving birth to a seemingly stable scene. There are often as many projects as there are participants but it does give an impression of dynamism from afar. Alement are certainly my favourite band from Philadelphia as they are currently the cream of the crop and those self-proclaimed axegrinding drunks clearly progressed since their first 2012 demo entitled Alestorm (of course it was). You can hear that the band started out as a young crust punk band still trying to find its sound, which they did little by little as each recording saw them improve and refine their songwriting skills. 

I first paid attention to Alement through their solid 2014 demo tape Against the Howling of Chaos that sounded not unlike a meeting between Misery and Contagium at a 00's stenchcore revival fair with metal-era English Dogs as a DJ and some genuine heavy metal riffs and solos at the bar. Thrashing stench-crust to the max and it was at that point that a noticeable style started to appear. The punk vibe in the recording was also strong which made me closely watch the band. I'll fast-forward to the long-awaited marvelous Hunter Ep from 2017 on Ryvvolte Records, a record that got a lot of airplay at Terminal Sound Nuisance Towers. It was the perfect blend of Contagium's relentless stenchcore fury, Fatum's old-school metallic thrash-crust and Zoe's post-crust brew, with a thick organic, energetic production, shouted old-school crust vocals and great heavy Amebixian atmospheric ballads (with synth!). What made Alement stand out was how catchy the songs sounded in a subgenre that does not value tunes, hooks and choruses enough. Hunter managed, in about 13 minutes, to demonstrate a variety of crust tricks, from the fast rocking Sox-like thrash bits to the mid-paced apocalyptic crust, the eerie introductions or the stenchcore mosh parts (and yes, solos, they do enjoy solos), that turned the Ep into an instant modern classic. They are close to Instinct of Survival's post-stenchcore era in places. This record was ready for their European tour which was where I bought it as I moved my arse to Wien in fucking Austria to see them live with Swordwielder and Visions of War, a classic crust night and a very fond memory. At that top gig I also grabbed the Disturbing Future Visions tape.

From what the foldout indicated, the tape was a tour-only thing since Alement clearly refer to their coming European adventure in the foldout. The object itself is rather simple, a xeroxed cover with handmade visuals and writings (like the insert and cover of Hunter actually), it conveys the unpretentious spirit of old-school DIY punk even though some might argue that it all looks a little unpolished. Needless to say that I, as a non-posing person, personally love it. No recording date is provided but it was ready for the tour that took place during the summer of 2017. Songwriting-wise, the five original songs making up Disturbing Future Visions are exactly in the same vein and you will find the same old-school, super catchy stench-crust recipe with desperate vocals. In terms of production, however, there is a discrepancy between both sides. The first one must have been recorded during the same session as Hunter as it has that similar thick organic sound, while the other is rawer and dirtier, but on the other hand this other side has a cover of G-Anx which is a great idea (I remember them butchering that one in Wien though). It could have been a mastering or pressing issue for all I know. In spite of this technical issue - the DIY hardcore world is replete with such amateurish minor mishaps - Disturbing Future Visions remains a self-released tape that can't be described as anything but an absolute scorcher that is significantly better than a lot of the crust production of the past decade. If you enjoy Hunter, the songs on the tape as hidden tracks. That the band did not put it on their bandcamp is a crime against crustity but I suppose it was just out of procrustination. Thank fuck I'm here.  

Following this Alement recorded another top crust record, the 12'' Ep Onward in 2019 but I have been chatty enough. Will the band finally write a full album one day? 

Disturbing Crust Visions