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 (Fatum, Kärzer 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?