Tuesday 14 February 2023

Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust: Morbid Scum / Ascidie "S/t" split tape, 2019

This writeup will be the last one of Live by the Crust, Die by the Crust. Not the last one ever, obviously, I will resurrect the concept at some point, I am as the saying goes "in it for life", which is both a blessing as it makes me feel more important than I probably am and a curse when I look at the space occupied by the hundreds of black shirts adorned with skulls, nuclear explosion or devastated cities I own, space that could be used to store much more important things like a collection of German philosophers' writing or vintage World Wrestling Federation figurines (my mum would rather have the first one but she was never much of a fan of my childhood hero and role model the Ultimate Warrior). After more than a year of reviewing recent crust recordings, inspiration is dwelling and while it would be an overstatement to claim that writing about new crust music is extinguishing my carefree enjoyment of living, I think we have seen too much of one another lately and need some personal space. I am not breaking up with new crust music I just need some "me time" whatever that ignominious barbarism actually entails. So the next series will definitely have tunes, harmonics, people who actually sings and may even understand, free from bestial growls and guitar wankery. Maybe.

But enough self-pitying bollocks and let's get into the last part of this glorious series, tedious too, to be sure, but one that opened doors as I wan this year's Grammy Award for Best Crust Reviewer last week with Beyoncé coming second (she did scare me for a second when I read her smashing review of the Realm of Terror's Accelerated Extinction Ep). I did prevail but I was a little bummed when I was told that it was off-air. Did that keep me from nicking the beers from Turnstile's gigantic fridge? Well, yes, actually it did as they are actually significantly bigger lads than me so I just ended up putting one of their Mars bars in my pocket before leaving the building. But there's no small victory. To wrap this one up I chose to write about a crust band from France called Morbid Scum with their split tape with another French band, Ascidie.  

As I regularly point it out, I am not exactly a fan of French punk music and that's putting it lightly. If you play some "classic" French bands to me, I will probably scratch myself like a zoo animal infested with lice before throwing excrements at the speakers. I mean, I am not sure I even like my own bands. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, significant ones, and with me putting on gigs regularly, I enjoy inviting local bands to play and supporting the scene and all that crap. When it comes to music, I do reserve my amorous glances to places where they play proper music like Sweden, Greece, Japan or the International Stenchcore Confederacy. However, when a genuinely good band miraculously emerges from the national chaos, I am always very excited and Morbid Scum was such a band. Lately, the French scene has been massively associated to so-called oi music (I have to say some reviewers were pretty lazy or opportunistic with the tag), a genre overrun with muscular instagram addicts looking well hard while wearing clothes that are about as expensive as the minimum wage or a mint copy of State Children's flexi. It's a giant prick volcano. Again, significant exceptions and all that, but still when a solid crust or d-beat band suddenly appears, my little heart beats faster.

We have seen that there were meaningful amounts of scum in crust during the 2010's. After the moribund and the nocturnal scums here come the morbid kind. The band was from Montpellier in the South of France, home to the legendary punk band Les Sheriff (if you have never heard them they are basically the least crust-sounding band in rock history), and they were around and very active for a couple of years between 2018 and 2020. I first came across they excellent demo from 2018 and was favourably impressed, first because their brand of old-school metallic crust is right up my street and second because I had no idea that such a specific subgenre - namely stenchcore - still had a contender at that point. Our national metal-crust heroes Lust For Death folded in late 2018 which was a real shame because at the end of their run they had become a powerhouse so that witnessing the birth of a new band working on a similar blueprint was marvelous. With three songs and a very sweet raw but powerful production, the demo was promising indeed and reminded me of a late night piss-up between late 00's Against//Empire, Anguish and early Effigy with a primitive old-school extreme metal feel and dual vocals. The prospect was exciting. A few years later, I was able to grab a copy of their subsequent release, the present split tape. The two songs were better, heavier with a groovy stenchcore influence more prevalent reminiscent of the mighty Cancer Spreading and of Instinct of Survival in some transitions. My one minor complaint is that there were only about seven minutes of music. I did not even realize that it was actually a live recording until I heard the audience cheer at the end. I mean, I did not notice any mistake during the gig which came as a bit of a shock. Morbid Scum were a tight unit. Needless to say that the potential was there but the band sadly folded before they could release a proper vinyl. 

On the flip side are six songs from Ascidie from Grenoble, close to the Alps where fancy wankers go skiing and take selfies. If you are not a massive science nerd, the word "ascidie" means "ascidian" which is the name of a marine invertebrate that eats its actual brain in order to survive. Now, that is fucking nasty if you ask me, Nature's equivalent to Tik Tok challenges (#betterinmydays). This tape was not Ascidie's first adventure into the world of physical release as they did a split tape with MatraK AttaKK from Belgium (truth be told this band tours so much that it feels a little pointless to mention their point of origin), a band Morbid Scum's guitar hero joined on the bass afterwards. The songs on this first tape were very rough and I was not quite sure what the band had in mind. This second effort was much stronger. Former Parisian and singer for Décombres was on the guitar and former singer from Lille's great notorious Traitre lent some of his growling shouts. Ascidie played dark and depressive hardcore punk with a very raw production that almost reminds me of black-metal, the harsh menacing vocals (like The Black Hand's or something?) and the very bleak lyrics reinforcing that vibe. In terms of intent and songwriting, the band played direct hardcore punk, mostly fast paced with a primitive d-beat and some slower, beefier moments as well. I am reminded me in parts of a gloomier primal version of early Discharge-influenced bands like Warwound, MG15, The Iconoclast or Subversion but with the addition of a genuine 1-2-1-2 stomper on the tape and US-styled mid-paced moments, calling Ascidie a dis-band would be inaccurate. And as mentioned, there is a feeling of bellicose despair and violent sadness pervading the music, not unlike Bombraid perhaps. Like Morbid Scum, Ascidie could not have a proper vinyl release, which, given what they were able to produce with these six songs, is a proper bummer as I do wonder what they would have come up with next.

The tape can probably be found on some French distros and you can always try getting in touch with some of the members as they are still busy making noise. 


Morbid Ascidie