Saturday 28 October 2023

An adventure in split Ep's! I have no gun but I can split: TOTUUS / HIASTUS "Sankari / S/t" split Ep, 1996

If you are looking for something clean, thought-provoking, challenging hardcore-punk that goes against the rules and regulations, codes and conventions, against "the norm" done by good-looking Instagram-friendly Americans who thrive on being "followed" by others and taking selfies, then this record is not for you. Or maybe it could be if you bother for a change, checking ugly bands playing ugly music to ugly people for a good price as I was able to find a copy of this split Ep for a mere 2€ which is about 15 times cheaper than a Turnstile record (checking this Zoomer band's website I realized that they sell grossly overpriced hats and fucking teddy bears but no physical records... what an odd choice for an ex punk band). Alright, let's stop with the boomer-flavoured rant, as we can hold hands, kiss and definitely enjoy Turntile and Hiastus, even though the latter were fortunately never nominated for any kind of awards, except a local beer drinking contest and a grizzli bear imitation one. 

Let's just get to the actual record in a swift fashion. This is not an excellent record to be perfectly honest. I like it a lot but that doesn't mean it is objectively that good and, in fact, even fans of the genres adopted by the bands could do without the Ep and live a perfectly normal, unhappy life. I am not, have never been and never will be, as you know full well, one deterred by average generic punk music. It is all a matter of love that is as blind as it is, in this case, deaf. This Totuus/Hiastus split Ep reminds me of the original noble goal that led me to create Terminal Sound Nuisance: "a blog promoting good (and not so good) genuine punk music". This record does fall into the "not so good" category but it doesn't mean it cannot be loved and rediscovered. There was something heart-breaking in seeing this battered copy in the 2€ record bin (my acute crust detector told it was only a matter of time before it got relegated to the 1€ one) and, being a soft bastard, I could not help but rescue this little angel from the dumpster, like a gran welcoming her seventh kitten because the little shit was hungry and homeless or something. 

I knew of Totuus before because I already owned the 1999 self-titled Ep released on Fight Records and I closely associate the band with this well-known and still active Finnish label based in Tampere that released or rereleased works from Kaaos, Tampere SS, Unkind, Positive Negative or Riistetyt. With such a list of culprits, one already logically imagines what Totuus - which translates as "truth" - will sound like: classic raw and direct Finnish hardcore. Clever but not completely true. The backbone of the band remains firmly rooted in 80's Finncore (think Terveet Kädet or Kantan Uutiset, even Riistetyt) and the production, or lack thereof, effortlessly reproduces the sound of that decade, but you can still tell Totuus was a 90's band. It would not be mistaken to compare them with bands like Rajoitus or Uutuus because, beside them all ending with the phoneme "-tus", they cook with the same old-school ingredients, but where the aforementioned bands almost exclusively rely on 80's Finnish hardcore (although Rajoitus were Swedes) Totuus also had a European hardcore influence and bands like BGK or Ripcord do come to mind. It would appear far-fetched to state that they were as good as all those canonized acts but their side of the split is still pretty solid and has that wild, furious, biting energy. 9 short songs in less than 7 minutes. The split Ep format fits the songwriting perfectly and makes Totuus and solid example of proper raw old-school hardcore done in the 90's and looking lovingly toward the previous decade. 

Do you remember that kid at school who was desperate to look like the coolest, most stylish, most popular cat and tried so hard to walk like him, dress like him, talk like him? That's pretty much the relationship between Hiastus and Hiatus. The former went as far as calling themselves Hiastus, which means - wait for it, wait for it - "hiatus" in Finnish. On the surface, this sounds adorable. A band trying to sound like their heroes, a band that openly wears its heart on the sleeve, a band that does not give a single shit about even trying to pretend to be original in any way. And really deep down, it is what most teenage bands are all about when they start. They just want to be The Clash or Black Flag or your older cousin's nu-metal band that for some reason seems to attract a lot of girls. 

D-beat, as a genre, works exactly like this, on worshipping and emulating the source material, referring to the signs and symboles. If one were to see it as a subgenre, 90's crust would be one that is defined strictly with a rather short time period - let's say from 1991 to 2005 and the rise of neocrust. D-beat also started as a 90's epiphenomenon but, contrary to the classic eurocrust sound, survived in one piece in spite of a certain drop in popularity in the late 00's, and then got even stronger and spread everywhere with time. Therefore "eurocrust" or more globally "90's crust" was not so much a subgenre as it was a wave, with a distinct sound that was used to build and lead the new generations of crust, as opposed to d-beat which by essence had to stay the same with some tone variations. Siblings of 90's crust, "cavemen crust" or "cavecrust" (as I like to call it) managed to stay alive, afloat and deliver proud examples of the Doom-loving crust traditions from times to times, especially in Japan - Doom-love was an essential trait of European crust in the 90's - and instances of classic ENT/Disrupt dual-vocal crustcore bands still occur but on too small a scale to state to states that there is a such a thing as genre-emulating or genre-referring 90's crust trend. Sob fucking sob.

But in any case, Hiastus were 90's eurocrust to the bone. It was in their blood, they breathed eurocrust, they ate eurocrust, they drank eurocrust, their wildest dreams were made of fantasies of splits between Hiatus and Warcollapse, Silna Wola and Subcaos, Enola Gay and Social Genocide. For all I know the drummer named his first-born Way of Doom. It is actually not the first time that I write about Hiastus as they appeared on the Never Again compilation Ep that I reviewed 10 fucking years ago. That stings. Beside the mighty Hiatus, the Oulu-based band was without a doubt very influenced by the national crust heroes Amen who, with a first deliciously sloppy Ep in 1990, belonged to the first generation of eurocrust. They clearly must have played Feikki and Paranemia quite a bit. With the band relying on the traditional dual vocal crust attack, like Amen, to spread the message - recent discoveries revealed that the first instances of such an aural technique may date back to the neolithic era, when humans could not actually speak and grunted like apes - early Disrupt and Extreme Noise Terror must have been blasted to death as well. The sound is obviously pretty raw (the surface noise only providing extra crust points) but the music is more energetic than I remember with a good pummeling drumming. The vocals are too loud in the mix and a little overwhelming at times, especially because of the very dedicated fellow responsible for the low growling parts. Ironically the spoken parts are too low in the mix, as if the singers, after three songs of shouting like demented sea elephants, were too shy to speak normally all of a sudden. The flaw makes the music sound a bit ridiculous but even more enjoyable as well. This is 90's DIY crustcore, not technical metal. 

Hiastus remind me of the Polish band Money Drug who were equally raw and a bit sloppy with their dual vocal eurocrust recipe, and of their countrymen Rotten Sound who started as very similar Disrupt-ish act with their Ep Sick Bastards in 1995. I like the Hiastus side a lot but, let's get real, this is one is for the crust completists, for the archivists, for the obsessed, for those who consider prehistoric 90's crust as the sweetest serenade and mid-table Hiatus-like bands as adorable underdogs in a decade plagued by shoegaze. 

You already know if you need this split Ep, I know I do.   


TOTUUS + HIASTUS = argh          

Sunday 22 October 2023

An adventure in split Ep's! I have no gun but I can split: DISMACHINE / CUMBRAGE split Ep, 1995

I have to confess that I have been oblivious to both Dismachine and Cumbrage for a long time. I am a bit at a loss to understand why. These two bands worked in a field that was massively overpopulated in the 90's, namely Swedish hardcore, aka käng or scandicore, and, when yours truly miraculously crashed in the scene in the early 00's, it was very easy to get lost among all the Disfear, Diskonto or Dischange of a few years past. Overwhelming would be the exact word. The two Uppsala units we are dealing with today were always hanging in the background in my mind. I knew who and what they were - at least roughly - but could not be arsed to properly investigate, a bit like the familiar faces you have been seeing at gigs forever but never bothered really talking to beside the odd "You alright mate?" a rhetorical question to which the only possible answer is "I've been fine, you?" as an honest one like "Actually I have been very depressed since my dog's death and I really need to talk to someone. Do you like dogs?" would absolute mortify me and force me to pretend to care about the fartful Captain Doggo's untimely passing. That was pretty much my relationship with Dismachine and Cumbrage: glad they're here but not enough to bother. Of course, when I really paid attention I realize I was wrong, an unpleasant but sadly not a rare occurrence these days.

In my tiny mind Dismachine were "that band that did a split record with Totalitär at some point" which is technically true but tends to dismiss them, on paper, as a sparring partner if not a sidekick. Unfair, definitely, and the incredible popularity that Totalitär have been enjoying for the past 15 years - they have arguably never been as popular as they are today - does reinforce that feeling. How many Totalitär-like bands does the world need? And I know what I am talking about, I play in one. When the record came out in 1995 my favourite band was still probably Ace of Base so upon release Dismachine may have been popular too for all I know. And at least the split Lp ensures that the name Dismachine will not disappear. 

The name they picked did not help. I don't really mind it as the practice to apply the "dis" prefix to a random name was still fresh in the 90's. It was not the smartest lexical choice but in 1995 it made sense. Not so much in the 2020's as I see the practice as very passé if not a little distasteful (lol right?) in some cases. We actually had a bass player put down when we started looking for a name with my band and he offered, smiling innocently like a bellend, "Dispocalypse". May Bob rest in Dis. Being called Dismachine in the 90's was both an advantage and a downside. On the one hand it allowed and still allows the band to be immediately identified and associated with the 90's Swedish käng/d-beat/crust wave which is like a dog whistle for stud-wearing Discharge nuts and crusters. On the other hand it limited and still limits the band to be immediately identified and associated with the 90's Swedish käng/d-beat/crust wave which is like a repellent and a source of prejudices for people who are not inclined to wear studs and have a decent dental hygiene and no lice. Before seriously diving into Dismachine, seeing they were from Uppsala and I am familiar with what the punks were up to there and then, I was expecting a Diskonto-like hardcore band with a more orthodox Discharge vibe. Yeah wrong again.

Dismachine managed to pull out a genuine tour de force: the blend of angry raw käng with furious blasting grinding fastcore. In theory it should not really work or at least not as fluidly, as effortlessly and as dynamically but they nailed it. When one thinks (by which I mean me) about the mating of käng and fastcore, one fears that it would produce something disparate and not cohesive, a bit like a kid with a faded Anti-Cimex shirt and a bullet belt but also a bandana and an American cap. What a dreadful sight. But in Dismachine's case, it sounds perfect. The split Ep format fits them to a T (well to a D) because the fast grindy vibe can be exhausting on a full length and of course the d-takt käng style is tailor-made for Ep's. On their side you will be exposed to proper raw energetic classic Swedish hardcore like Cimex, Asocial or early Totalitär and over-the-top punk-as-fuck blasting mean fast hardcore not unlike G-Anx or Dropdead. I love how they keep it serious and yet fun (the three-second songs clearly point out at the cheeky side of grindcore). If you bump into a record bin with a Dismachine record (that's where I found my copy as I remember it), you know what to do. The band members were busy bees and the Uppsala scene's seeming dynamism in the 90's has a lot to do with the fact that each one of them being involved in other projects: D-Takt master Jan Jutila also played in Times Square Preachers, Dishonest and Disjah (a studio project with Kawakami!) among others, Jonas was in Diskonto, Aparat and Nojsbojs (Noise Boys?), Linus also in Diskonto, Nojsbojs, Arsedestroyer and Masturbatorium (yes) and Masta in Aparat. The classic case of ten people equals ten bands. 

Cumbrage emerged from the exact same scene. In fact Jan Jutila this time is credited as doing some vocals (he was on the guitar in Dismachine and on drums with TSP, what a man), while Kjelle played in Zionide and Times Square Preachers. There is a strange indication on the Ep's cover that says "Featuring Times Square Preachers and C.U.M." which is little unsettling. If C.U.M. was Cumbrage's first name and it may have made sense to point out that it was the same band under a different albeit equally bad name (alright, Cumbrage is a little better, because it is at least incomprehensible), but Times Square Preachers was a different band altogether. It did share members with Dismachine (and Cumbrage) though, so that the purpose may have been to signal that people from TSP were involved and since they were one of the bands that kickstarted the 90's käng thing in Uppsala (along with Diskonto) it sounded reasonable. Or perhaps Dismachine was basically the sequel of TSP with a different lineup and songwriting style but then that would not make much sense given the propensity of this crew to start new bands all the time. Or would it? Please let me know. 

Cumbrage is more classical than Dismachine and in fact sound exactly like I once expected Dismachine to sound like: right on the border between raw old-school käng and orthodox d-beat. It you want to be a terminological smart-arse you could argue that Cumbrage are "discore". Or maybe just describe their crude hardcore tornado as an orgy between Totalitär, Dischange, Asocial and No Security. What really works here - and the same could be said about Dismachine - is the production as the music has that organic rawness, that spontaneous hardcore furiousness, the songs sound very dynamic and retain the Discharge-loving spirit of the classic 80's bands without trying too hard. The riffs are rigorously käng-oriented and the vocal flow and the prosody demonstrate that the singers know exactly how the genre is supposed to sound like and the drumming is a crash course in d-beat. 

Unsurprisingly both bands recorded their songs in D-Takt studio with Jan Jutila at the helm which is the hardcore equivalent of having David Beckham as your personal beauty coach: the man knows what he is talking about. This split Ep cannot be said to be a 90's classic but classically 90's. It is very solid and much better than what passes as Swedish hardcore sometimes and I see it as a käng candy, something predictably heart-warming with a by-the-book performance of raw pummeling dis-flavoured-käng by Cumbrage and something a little original with Dismachine's blend of furious blasting fastcore and classic 80's käng. The record just flows because of the very similar punchy raw production on both side, for all I know the two bands recorded on the same day which gives extra cohesiveness and conveys a real local Uppsala vibe. Did I mention that it was released on Jan Jutila's label Your Own Jailer Records?

A sweet little Ep that is better than you probably remember.  

Dismachine + Cumbrage = <3


Saturday 14 October 2023

An adventure in split Ep's! I have no gun but I can split: SOCIAL GENOCIDE / AGATHOCLES "Systemphobic" split Ep, 1995

Alright then, let's finally get back to work. I wish I could tell you that Terminal Sound Nuisance was dormant because I was busy pursuing my dream of becoming a referee in professional wrestling but the reality is, as it always is, much more prosaic and unexceptional. Our luxurious 22m2 mansion was broken into and my computer (with all the blog's files stored on it for extra pain) got nicked. It could have been worse as none of the records has been stolen, as far as I can see. I can't help but imagine the face of the burglars when they entered our tiny two room flat and witnessed the ridiculous quantity of dodgy-looking vinyls not to mention the massive Antisect flag hanging above our bed. If they were young lads, which is likely, there is a chance they had never even seen an actual record before. They must have thought that some olympic level losers live here. Thank fuck they did not find my shark costume. In any case, to their credit, they did not wreck up the place at all and just grabbed the two computers. And my electric razor for some reason. That actually really pissed me off. And how disgusting, for all they know I could use it to shave my arse with it. Not to mention that they did not even take the charger. 

But enough whining, there are worse things in life like surviving in a war-torn country, crying your eyes out because you can't feed your kid or losing a mint copy of Deviated Instinct's Welcome to the Orgy. As I pointed out in a previous post, the focus of this next series will be more around medium and less around content. For that reason a split Ep's special felt like the perfect choice. I have often ranted about how great and specifically DIY punk this format has been but I have never actually taken the thing to the next level, embrace the concept and embark in an epic split Ep series. Not only is the witty choice convenient, comfortable even, since I have a lot of them, but it also felt relevant because this traditional medium doesn't seem to be as popular nowadays than it once was. So buckle up, or don't if you are not a proper punk and a mere shoegaze poser.

To open such a series, I just had to pick an Agathocles record. It would have been deeply insulting not to as the Belgians have released an insane amount of splits with bands from all around the world since 1988. They epitomise, excessively perhaps, the essence of the DIY punk split Ep based around cooperation, togetherness and mutual support. It is also much cheaper to do as costs are, well, split. Because of this overproduction Agathocles have become a legendary gimmick band, one that is known as much if not more for their music, the content, as for the form, the record-as-medium. I mean, even my aunt Sylvie did a split Ep with them for all I know. Although I understand people who are, I am myself not a massive fan of Agathocles. The Lp records I own are great because a mate who's also a grindcore freak (and not illogically an eternal bachelor) recommended them, like the split Lp with Unholy Grave or Razor Sharp Daggers. The rest of the Agathocles records in my collection, I bought for the other side, for the band they shared the split with. Like Drudge, Depressor or indeed Social Genocide. And let's start with this cruelly underrated Austrian crust band.

First, I must get on my knees and apologize to all of you. As I endlessly exhibit my knowledge and love for 90's crust, a genre that, inexplicably according to my jazz-loving twat of a shrink, I adore, I completely forgot, to my greatest shame, to include Social Genocide on my Crustmas compilation a few years back. The band just slipped my mind and there is really no excuse for that. Criminal. Truth be told, they do have a pretty shit name that sadly prevents me to ever wear a Social Genocide shirt (Genital Deformities' at least is merely gross) and hasn't aged too well, especially since the Covid pandemics which saw the emergence of legions of idiotic conspiracy "theorists" who thought that the virus and/or the vaccine were an attempt from "the rich elite" to exterminate "the poor", which is extremely stupid and shows how little-educated people are when it comes to basic knowledge of class antagonism. The capitalist class needs the working class to work for them in order to extract value and benefits and they need unemployement to impose low wages and blackmail workers to accept shite jobs in order to raise even larger profits. If you eradicate large segments of the lower classes, who's going to do the dirty work? Exactly, not millionaires' children. They need us so the idea that they would think to wipe us out on a grand scale is idiotic (at best). Digression over. Let's go back to Social Genocide.

I don't know much about the Austrian punk scene beside the fine 80's hardcore band Extrem, a couple of '77 style acts and more recent bands like Ruidosa Inmundicia (cracking band). Was the scene big in the 90's? Europe then was overrun with hardcore, grindcore and crust bands, the latter trying hard to sound like Doom, but as far as I can tell - which might not be that far at all and I am hoping to corrected - Austria was not exactly a hotspot for smelly crusty punks. And yet. And yet Social Genocide is the epitome, the best example I can think of of traditional 90's eurocrust, and my failing to include them on the aforementioned compilation hurts even more. Really. Conceptually, as masters and pioneers of the eurocrust style and wave, both in terms of quality and quantity, Hiatus occupied the unique spot of being the first quintessential eurocrust band, the epicentre of the crust pandemics, THE first band one will mention in the discussion. And yet, if you take eurocrust as style and wave, it necessarily implies that, while Hiatus were inspired and prompted into existence by Doom and more generally UK crust, Social Genocide and the likes were primarily influenced by Hiatus themselves. Therefore, what I mean with the term eurocrust in the frame of this review are the typical and characteristic post-Hiatus bands, those that Hiatus inspired (in addition to Doom or Extreme Noise Terror). 

Thus, in that light, along with Subcaos, Social Genocide are basically the most relevant example of a perfectly executed, generic and typical - in the positive sense of term - referential eurocrust band. They were around at the apex of the wave, between 1994 and 1996, not just in Europe but also in the States and Japan, and absolutely delivered. Hailing from Götzis, close to Switzerland, Social Genocide's two songs on this Ep stand as delightful, delicious slices of a cavemen eurocrust cake found in a bin. With the raw and aggressive primal and punchy production, Hiatus heavily come to mind, pleonastic of me to point it out, but there are also large spoonful of genuine early Doom and I sense a distinct Japanese crust influence, which was certainly unusual in European crust at the time, as Battle of Disarm - if not Abraham Cross - are points of reference as well. Paradoxically maybe, Social Genocide managed to be a eurocrust paragon and yet included a Doom-loving Japanese crust touch in their sound (on their Ep's especially, the Lp had more of Private Jesus Detector/Masskontroll feel to my ears). It is subtle but present, if heavy, primal, filthy bear-like pummeling cavecrust can be called "subtle". This tendency is confirmed visually with their side's cover depicting a representation of the band drawn with that sort of naive post Disorder/Chaos UK style that Japanese crusties used - and still use - heavily. Beside, if you look closely, on this crustier-than-though piece exhibiting elite cartoon crust pants, the guitar player has GISM and Swankys stickers on the instrument. And of course the band's On the Brink of Destruction Ep was released on the Japanese label Peace Punk Records so there might have been some trades going on. Clues? 

While we are still on the subject of referentiality, the first song opens with a sample that Anti-System also used on the No Laughing Matter Lp so that the learned listener immediately knows that Social Genocide also know. Wink wink. Utterly brilliant gruff crust songs and band. In our day and age that often celebrate minute worship and copies when it comes to crust or d-beat, the fantastic unoriginality of Social Genocide deserve to be acknowledged. On a side-note the drummer, before hitting things in Social Genocide, played in an obscure band called Dreaded Instinct, the name of which greatly excites my curiosity, further exacerbated by the Sore Throat-ian cover of the tape. Send it to me please. I'm begging ya.

On the other side, well, Agathocles and I have to say that I really like what they are doing here. They are not so much getting high on their traditional blasting 4-track sandpaper mincecore in this case, which I am able to enjoy from time to time, and more on a furious crusty cavegrind mood which appears to be the most relevant path they could have picked on such a split. The first song starts of with a spoken part that remind me heavily of the Belgian anarchopunk band Dona Nobis Pacem (probably the closest Antisect-worshipping band in Europe in the 90's) so that it might be a tribute of some sort, I hope. The vocals are guttural and the production is primitive and there are enough variations to appeal to the grindcore freaks but not so many as to repel the basic Doom-loving crust nuts. As the latter, I am reminded of a crude version of Terrorizer with some Embittered and Disrupt but I am sure grindcore experts would say otherwise. And at the end of the day, as undisputed pioneers Agathocles just sounded like themselves by 1995 but I am not an expect agathoclian so it would be impossible for me to really put this Ep in perspective with the rest of their immense discography. Social Genocide were close to the grindcore scene anyway since they also did a split with Cripple Bastards in 1994.

Unfortunately the insert of this split Ep is missing. Did I lose it or was it never there, I don't remember. It is on discogs if you care.

Eurocrust is dead, long live eurocrust.  


Eurocrust heaven