Saturday, 31 December 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Step to Freedom "The Rotten Era" tape Ep, 2019

This is going to be the last writeup of a pretty hectic year for Terminal Sound Nuisance. Initially, I intended to complete the Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust series by 2022 but I clearly overestimated my capacities - the malevolent would say it is not unusual - since, beside this one, there remain (at least) eight recordings I would like to tackle. And I actually had to trim off the overambitious original list which included even more records than I could chew (the files are ready so that they will be used at some point, like in 2027 or something). 

From the start, I considered this gargantuan series as a bold experiment that social scientists around the world were too scared and cowardly to undertake: how much crust can the human body take? For a year, I only wrote, thought and dreamt about crust music. Even for a music genius like myself, I have to admit that it has been a challenging experience and there have been times when I was only able to speak crust gibberish (basically a blend of band names and neanderthal exclamations) because I almost overdosed on the thing. But survive I did and I came out stronger, as I became a crustcore übermensch, the Captain America of stenchcore, the Goku of crasher crust, the hero you must call if a crust record has to be analyzed urgently because the future of the world is at stake - to facilitate the process I've had a crust signal installed on the roof of the building (I'll grant that, if you ignore that one time when a pigeon accidentally sat on it, it has never been used yet ). So yes, it has been a busy crust year for Terminal Sound Nuisance. 

The last of these smug homilies will be about Step to Freedom from Nizhny Novgorod (or Нижний Новгород if you want to impress your mates with some linguistic skills), a town East of Moscow. Let's be real: it makes sense to end the year with a Russian punk band. I am not going to get into the war that has been raging in Ukraine this year, as complete media saturation was quickly achieved. It seemed every punter suddenly became pub-level geopolitics experts even though they probably could not place Kharkiv on a map in February. A lot of them (and us sometimes) should probably stick to discussing football, spitting death threats to referees, grumbling about the new government reforms or, if that's your thing, the price of Japanese flexis. The current war(s) aside, Russia has been further turning into a war-mongering conservative authoritarian state that shits on human rights, LGBTQ rights, workers rights and protesters and I believe it is not always easy to be a punk band with something to say over there (to be fair, there are many other areas in the world where it is not either). And now young poor bastards are being sent off to war to fight for a political fiction - the Nation, God, Honour, Glory - as it always has been the case. Generals and ministers die in bed. So yes, not the cheeriest year over there and being called Step to Freedom in this context of stepping away from freedom and to tyranny is beautiful. Solidarity with punks in Ukraine, Russia and wherever life is hard because of delusional lunatics with military might and unlimited funds. I realize it is rather insignificant to say this on a music blog but the feeling is really there. 

Alright then, let's get started. I am not sure when STF exactly started but their first recording, entitled Social Zombies, was self-released on tape in 2014. The musicianship being quite decent, I would venture that the band had already been playing for a couple of years or that the members had already been involved in bands before. Or just that I am not used to people being actually able to play their instruments. I have written about Russian crust bands on several occasions (FatumKärzer or Repression Attack) and I have grown to be very fond of their crust style since the start of the past decade. While I would not claim that Russian crust - perhaps a more relevant terminology would be "crust in Russian" because of the bands located in Belarus or Kazakhstan - is as specific-sounding as the very particular Greek crust school (although it has to be pointed out that they both work with a unique language), even a half-witted listener will have noticed that their national style has developed several significant idiosyncrasies and has steadily become quite recognizable. As a result there are several elements (visual, sonic, thematic, the effective use of the language) expected of and associated with Russian crust, which points to a genrification process to some extent. Time will tell if it sticks but I am betting my Antisect bottle opener that it will.  

Social Zombies was a promising first effort and has a couple of solid crusty metal-punk songs (a bit like Sanctum meets late Cimex or something at times) but some modern hardcore moments do lose me. Their next effort, a tape entitled Cemetery for the Humankind released on Makima Records, only came out in 2017 so the band clearly took its time and to be honest, it was well worth the wait as it is a much more convincing powerful work. These songs revolve around a decidedly thrash metal-inspired stenchcore formula enhanced through that typically aggressive howling Russian delivery. Basically a balance of a Cimex-influenced gruff crust sound and the moshiest, thrashiest end of the crust metal spectrum, not unlike Nuclear Death Terror on a date with Limb From Limb at a thrash-themed restaurant run by the second stenchcore revival's legions (Fatum is an obvious ship captain). I love when STF go all old-school crust through crushing mid-paced apocalyptic crust but not being a thrash/speed metal fanatic, they lose me again when they rock too much the bandanas out of their back pockets. An enjoyable effort but not one I would necessarily play regularly. The Rotten Era tape Ep on the other hand is another story.

Released in 2019 on the excellent Blown Out Media from New Mexico, this four-song jewel comes close to being a perfect Russian stenchcore gem. It still has that extreme old-school thrash metal influence but mean crust is clearly the dominant force on that one (the punk side of the Limb From Limb spectrum if you will) which suits me better. It also looks crustier visually with an abundance of crust signifiers (yes I am taling about the Antisect celtic frame). This tape is a proper scorcher. The mid-2010's Fatum filthy work plan can be said to be very much in use here but I am distinctly hearing some tasteful nods to UK classics like early Bolt Thrower, Genital Deformities and Antisect and the 00's stenchcore revival is also just around the corner (some sweet Effigy and Sanctum's touches here and there). The production is direct and very energetic, it highlights the angry vibe of the songs and these punks are very angry indeed at the bleak capitalist wasteland they live in and the specific phonetics are useful tools here. At the end of the day, The Rotten Era is over-the-top pissed off metallic crust punk with a bite at its best, a concept that I have come to link with Russian crust music. This definitely deserves a vinyl version. Maybe in 2038 for the fifth stenchcore revival?

Step to Freedom



Wednesday, 28 December 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Neverending Mind War "S/t" one-sided Lp, 2020

I will try to keep this one short and sweet in accordance with the bloody racket that this ill-humoured three-piece is bent to unleash on our tragic world. With everyday life sometimes feeling about as exciting as a dad dancing contest or a a mobility scooter race, bands like Neverending Mind War sound strangely fresh and invigorating. They remind you that, if there may be no light at the end of the tunnel, there is always the slight hope of getting battered by shock waves of noisy grinding stenchcore from times to times.

I have already written enthusiastically about Philadelphia's brilliant bursts of crust/mangel/d-beat in the 2010's on three occasions in Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust (for a Pollen Ep, the Mortal War demo and an Alement tape) so there is little point in showering everyone with praises once again. Just know that NMW was (I don't know if that one survived the pandemics) made up of members of the aforementioned Pollen and Mortal War, but also Arseholes, Weald and possibly others that I have not even heard of. It is a common phenomenon but you will notice that, if the number of good band has been solid in the past decade, they were often created by the same limited group of people so that the impression that Philadelphia is overrun with tasteful punks might be misleading. I mean, it's not like their mayor wears crust pants or anything. But you could say that the said bunch of punks was motivated and keen on getting up their arse to play good music, which certainly contrasts with some local scenes that are made up of admirably lazy and morose bastards whose sole purpose seems to get a discount on the entrance fee because "the bands only play short sets so it's not value for money" (true story that).

I first became aware of NMW's existence because of an internet rumour. Words of a new American hardcore punk band replicating the raw sound of Scum-era Napalm Death were circulating among the most prestigious and elite crust circles. Not that the open worship of Scum or the 1986 demo is original in itself, far from it, as there are probably tons of grindcore bands trying to do exactly that, but NMW was said to be significantly different as the band did not sound like a grindcore act and instead focused and built on the 80's UK hardcore aspect of Napalm Death. That immediately caught my attention since I am a sucker for the '86-'87 period of the band. I cannot claim that early grindcore is my forte but to me the pioneering Brummies were originally a thrashing noisy crust hardcore band, an approach that is relevant if you do not take into consideration what they did from 1988 on. If they had not grown to be this legendary and well-respected extreme metal band, I am convinced that ND would mostly be talked about as a proto-grind noisecrust hardcore band in the same breath as Sore Throat or Electro Hippies and would be thought to be a perfect illustration of the early Peaceville/Earache sound. And this vision centred on hardcore instead of metal of the early ND sound is the specific foundation of NMW since they don't go beyond 1988 and stick to the pre-grindification of the band.

But anyway, once I got the confirmation of the name (which sounds like the title of a Prophecy of Doom song or perhaps a nod to the little-known Psychotic Mind Battle?) and understood that the workforce was made up of people from Pollen and Mortal War, the aforementioned approach made sense and I knew I was going for a treat. The two demo tapes (from 2017 and 2018 respectively) were very limited pressings and therefore I was unable to get the physical versions and had to make do with the bandcamp streams. So when Regurgitated Semen Records (I think I will never get used to that name which is really not a bad thing) reissued the two demos on one Lp, I was quick to act and jumped on it like a hungry vegan spotting a generous discount on some overpriced and usually unaffordable soy-made cheese, only without the disappointing outcome. 

The Lp looks gorgeous with a red obi strip, pretty much the equivalent of honey for hardcore nerds. The two demos last about ten minutes in total and fit on one side, which is convenient, although I suppose the whole thing would have fit on an Ep. The first demo is a bit noisier and more blown-out, with more distortion, which makes me think that Zyanose could be an influence too, especially when the Osaka nutters go full speed, but it could also just mean that both bands worked on a similar materials (given the popularity of Japanese noisecrust in the States, I would personally vote for the first option especially with the typical crasher-styled introduction to the first recording, "Nightmare"). The second one is a little clearer but also rawer, but I am splitting hair here. Dare to face a relentless and vicious noisy proto-grind hardcore crust tornado. 

I love the harsh gruff vocals and the old-school stench-oriented mid-paced metallic breaks while the guitar sound is perfect, aggressive, thick but filthy and with just the right amount of distortion for the style, more would not work as well. The earlier era of fast Napalm Death (the From Enslavement to Obliteration '86 demo especially beside the legendary Scum Lp) is clearly the band's obvious basis, but the first punishingly savage steps of Heresy (the '85 demo) and the great Electro Hippies definitely have to be mentioned here and I am also thinking about other lesser-known vintage UK raw fast crust like Mortal Terror or Senile Decay, not an irrelevant comparison either but it has more to do with the creative context of UKHC with bands sharing similarities at the time than a probable influence on NMW's music. As mentioned before, the faster side of the Japanese crasher school is my final ingredient to the recipe but there could be also be elements that I don't recognize because of I'm lacking in crossover hardcore. In any case that should undoubtedly be a success at your colleague's leaving do. 

Given the chosen template, NMW were perfect, I would not change a thing to those recordings.   

Neverending Crust War


Monday, 19 December 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Genogeist "S/t" demo tape, 2018

And Portland does it again. 

I have been whining on many occasions like a proverbial sad bastard about how PDX (that's how punks who are not posers call the town) has, time after time again, given birth to brilliant hardcore punk bands. I am not sure why it is. Perhaps the younger generations basically emulate the good music and bands that preceded them, thus ensuring the continuity and survival of local quality punk. Does good music basically spawn further good music? Being able to watch Hellshock or Dog Soldier or Harum-Scarum or Autistic Youth or Tragedy (the list really is endless) is a considerable advantage in your formative years. As young punks we all used to look up to and admire older punks, sometimes just slightly older really, with starry eyes and a bit of envy because they all seemed to play in cool bands and were thus undeniably much more self-confident than your spotty self trapped in rampant insecurity. In that PDX context it would probably inspire you to sound as good, or even better than them, and basically to write good songs. Good music calls for and attracts good music, it is a magnet. It creates a dynamic that will lead people to move to this place in order to be part of this movement, immerse themselves in the energy and contribute further good music. From afar PDX is like going to Hollywood to make it as an actor or actress but for punks who are into Discharge cosplay. If you need another metaphor because you are under 25, it is like a massively popular motivational Instagram post that everyone strives to emulate.

On the other hand, maybe they also have shite bands in Portland, we just never hear about them. Maybe the town's best-kept secrets are actually its terrible bands that have to be contained in order to safeguard the good reputation of Portland. What would people think if they knew the town was overrun with skacore revival bands or Smash Mouth cover bands? I trust the local punk police with its unlimited trendsetting power will do its best to keep the city's name untarnished. And if they plan to hire at some point, they know where to find me. 

So Genogeist is yet another class PDX crust band if you have not already guessed. The love story between the city and crust music is famous and seemingly unbreakable. I mean, you could do an advent crust calendar with only PDX crust bands (seriously, I did). A few months ago in Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust I touched upon others bands from the area, namely crasher crusties Horrendous 3D and the Sacrilege-loving Terminal Conquest and because the scene is rather incestuous, a member of Genogeist played in the latter. In fact, the people involved in Genogeist also got their hands dirtier than they already were in Dödläge, GAASP, Vastation and Decomp - bands that I rate very highly indeed - so it is little wonder that a coalition of such craftpersons would result in something remarkable (well, there have been exceptions to that rule but common decency and basic cowardice force me to remain silent on the matter). And of course, Genogeist absolutely rips. In fact their 2019 Lp is one the strongest crust albums of the decade and it would probably make it to my personal top 10. It just sounds and looks stunning. But before this gem the band recorded a five track demo tape in 2018 which is what we are all religiously gathered for tonight.

Granted, the tape was pretty limited with only 100 copies being made which may account for its relative obscurity. I distinctly remember - and I am sure many others unfortunately also do in spite of themselves - rambling inarticulately about the Genogeist demo upon hearing it, even to people who are not into crust at all. Even to random strangers apparently. As if I were twatting innocents in the face with emphatic praises about the band. But what can you do? I am an enthusiast. I am not completely sure about the name "genogeist", the prefix "geno" meaning "race" or "family" and "geist" is the German word for "mind" ("ein gesunder Geist in einem gesunder Körper" as my brutally scary German teacher used to tell our class while specifically staring at me for some reason) so I suppose it suggests an idea of an overarching collective mind which would go well with the futuristic dystopian robotic imagery of the band and the anguished and unhinged vibe of the music, each reflecting the other. This cohesion and fluid link between form and content is meant to create a sense of crazed technological alienation for the self and the collective alike, an idea that was notably at the core of SDS's super intense Digital Evil in Your Mind (and Ameber although with a different songwriting), a brilliant and unique work on which Genogeist clearly built and developed the concept further. This is basically the definition of cybercrust: half-punk, half-machine, 100% crust. They could have gone for robocrust or mechacrust too but I am thankful they left crustmorpher out.  

The band has often been compared to later SDS, and rightly so, but AGE's Four Wings Lp must definitely be mentioned too as this rather underrated album of exploding and rocking metallic crust explored very similar themes to SDS's and Genogeist's visuals actually hint more to the Niigata's legends. Therefore, one would be right to argue that these PDX punks pay tribute to the aforementioned periods of those Japanese bands, not just in terms of music but also in terms of message and aesthetic stance. And clearly, the music absolutely smokes. Relentless Antisect-ish Japanese-styled metallic crust with a sense of atmospherics, ripping solos, angry gruff vocals, rocking mid-paced filthy metal moments and a relentless energy (let's throw a bit of Disturd). Japanese-inspired crust is often associated by the average singleton to the distorted blown-out crasher crust school of Gloom, Collapse Society, Zyanose and the likes but the SDS way is just as meaningfully influential and part of this magnificent equation.

This is a very strong punishing recording with a heavy but still raw production, the sole minor issue being the level of the cymbals that sound a little distracting. Black Water would release a visually stunning full album the next year that further highlighted the band's furious referential take on the Japanese greats. A supernova cybercrust cracker and as I said, one of the best crust albums of the decade. The tape was released on Malaysia's very prolific Black Konflik Records and Sickhead Records. 

Praise the cybercrust                    

Monday, 5 December 2022

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Vitriolic Response / System Shit "Dark Wings Spread / Your Life is Fucked" split Ep, 2014

Books. Yes, books. More often than not, you can read alarming reports claiming that "the youth of today" no longer read, that the whole book industry and its physical outputs are therefore condemned to collapse and that tomorrow's teenagers won't be able to know Virginia Woolf from Billie Eilish (I have been told she's very famous on Instagram but am absolutely clueless as to what she actually does for a living) and will think Dickens is just a category of dick pic. It would also necessarily entail that the whole publishing industry might become useless which will send a significant portion of the middle-class to the job centre and may even force some of them into selling their second homes in Italy. A dire prospect indeed but let's pray that it won't come to such extremities. 

Nothing says "things were better in my days" quite like this sort of doomful predictions. I suppose such "kids these days" theories often formulated by pub oracles have always existed and I would not be surprised to read that Mozart in his time was blamed by the old guards (also known as professional twats) for betraying his roots and cater for a new generation that can't be arsed to love proper music. So while I believe that we should not be stupidly optimistic about the state of things and remain critical and alert about social evolutions, notably when alternative cultures are concerned, there is no point in moaning about how the youth of today supposedly do everything wrong and let's not forget that, in spite of our bad backs, poor eyesights and receding hairlines currently plaguing our daily lives, we all used to be them. Let's get real, this not a reason to pretend to enjoy Turnstile, even ironically. It won't make you 16 again and do you really want to spend a whole gig holding up your phone in the air? Fuck no, the proper way to enjoy a punk gig is to quietly nod and tap your feet to a random d-beat band and sing along to the Discharge covers.

But yes, books. I read that a thing called BookTok might be able to save the industry so I checked the wikipedia page (yes, it has one). It is pretty sad that it takes a ruthless capitalist company that promotes "online content consumption" (how sad is that concept) to get younger people to read and from what I gather the most popular genre is "young adult literature", whatever that is (is there an old adult literature? Or a middle-aged adult one?). But let's not be smug or feel aggrieved, after all reading Madeline Miller might lead some to get into real authors like Wayne Rooney or myself - by the way my autobiography, entitled In Smartness There is No Choice, will soon hit the shelves but sadly I am apparently too old to join the BookToker community. 

Why am I boring you with such tedious, cloying digressions. Well, I actually first heard of Vitriolic Response through Ian Glasper's The Scene that Would Not Die that was published two years ago. I have always loved his writing and I cannot stress enough how inspiring and educational his comprehensive books about 80's and 90's UK punk have been for me. Would have I shamelessly bought an Antisect blanket out of subcultural pride without him? Probably not. His latter book about British punk tackled the last two decades and, as he said in the introduction, it had to be a very tricky endeavour that was bound to generate undeservedly harsh criticism, cynicism, snobbishness and the usual negativity that has always been plaguing punk. I am surprised that the armchair critics did not coalesce into a mob to protest again the book. That's a lot of energy wasted they could, and should, have been put into, and this is just a random example, writing their own articles about the bands they feel have been left out instead of posting bitter comments. There are bands that I don't necessarily like or even care about in the book but the amount of work and heart put into it is, as always with the man, impressive and worthy.

If anything, I am actually grateful for The Scene that Would Not Die because it brought a good band to my attention, Vitriolic Response. I don't want to be discourteous but I had never heard of them before and the pleasure I felt when I read the article about them was genuine as it reminded of the time when punk fanzines or even former Glasper's books were a great source to get into new bands, a process that has been severely undermined by social media. On the other hand, I was a little upset too. How could an English band claiming to play old-school metallic crust slip under my radar? Maybe the mojo is gone and I should accept this position as a part-time reiki consultant that my stepsister told me about after all.

So what about the band then? The Manchester-based Vitriolic Response (admittedly a bit of a mouthful of a name) started out in 2012 and its early lineup was made up of people who had all been involved in quite a few bands before: drummer D-Fekt was in the great Kismet HC, guitar hero Rob in Raised by Drunks and briefly in Spite, vocalist Rob in Burn All Flags and Anxiety Attack (among others) and bass player Flek in Poundaflesh and Declaration of War. Not exactly rookies. A first recording session resulted in five songs landing on an Ep entitled Follow the Herd in 2013 and four on a split Ep with System Shit in 2014 which is the record I am interested on this sunny Monday.

To expect some sort of modern post-00's stenchcore sound would be a mistake asVR have a distinct UK 90's metallic hardcore punk feel on this record pervaded with strong old-school crust influences. I particularly enjoy the very direct punk-sounding production here which contrasts with the superheavy down-tuned sound of many contemporary bands in the crust game. Oddly - given the template - VR sound fresh. The vocals clearly point to 90's spiky hardcore and I would describe the crusty metal crusher mosh as punk-oriented (in an Extinction of Mankind-meet-Misery-in-1995 kind of way) rather than Bolt Thrower-worshipping. As hinted above, mid-90's Extinction of Mankind is the most relevant comparison in terms of apocalyptic metallic punk and VR's songwriting (especially their eery introduction and the nasty mid-paced moments) certainly owes a lot to the iconic local band. But as I pointed out, VR can also be seen as that hard-hitting political UK punk unit especially reminiscent of the mighty Substandard and Constant State of Terror and even bands like Fleas and Lice or Aus-Rotten can be brought to the table. This sounds effortlessly old-school and I am not saying that because the participants are old experienced. The one thing bugging me about the songs is the song title "Linge d'arret" which literally means "Laundry line" in French. Did they mean "Ligne d'arrêt" which translates as "Stop line"? I mean, what kind of punks even do the laundry anyway? 

VR then changed drummer with the arrival of Will from Warcoma and a second guitar player, Jay, also joined. Songs were recorded in 2015 for a split 10'' but the project unfortunately did not materialize. A further lineup change was needed and Keith and Beanhead replaced Will and Jay. The songs recorded for the aforementioned 10'' were finally released on a split cd with Chain of Dissent and let me tell you that they are brilliant, a bit more elaborate and well worth the attention of crust-lovers.

On the other side of the Ep are System Shit. This Halifax lot are like a school mate that you like and regularly bump into but don't actually know that much about and never really phone although he appears on quite a few pictures with you and it feels like he has always been around (but not on a creepy way). SS have been going since 1988 which is a respectable feat and if you are into crust or grindcore, you are more than likely to own a SS record or at least a compilation with them on it. A bit like an ugly jumper that an aunt got you at some point. It is definitely there. The songs that the band contributed to this split are absolutely crushing, old-school protest grinding crustcore or crusty grindcore (depending on your musical sensibilities) with a punk attitude at its best. Vintage Disrupt, Destroy! and Extreme Noise Error, or Massgrave for a more recent parallel, are useful tools if you need to build SS songs according to the instruction manual.

This cannot be said to be a classic record but one that fans of genuine and honest crust punk are bound to really enjoy. This was released on FCR, Rotting Head Records, Direct Hit Records and Positive Cacophony. Maybe I should try to CrustTok this shit.