Sunday 31 March 2024

An adventure in split Ep's! I have no gun but I can split: PISSCHRÏST / FRAMTID "Hardcore Detonation Attack" split Ep, 2009

This will be the last Ep from the 00's to be included in this series which you hopefully enjoy, at least enough to warrant a decent read while on the toilet. Since I haven't decided on the - certainly smaller - selection for the following decade (the dreaded 10's) there will be some wait before the next installment, especially since I am fucking off on tour in April. Yes, I am THAT cool a punk.

Let's end the transitional era of the 00's with something of a classic record from 2009: the Hardcore Detonation Attack split Ep between Melbourne's Pisschrïst and Osaka's Framtid, two rather well-known and respected bands that I haven't covered yet (beside a short paragraph about the latter for their inclusion on the Chaos of Destruction 2 compilation). How long do you have to wait to be officially crowned as a "classic hardcore record" by the Higher Punk Council? It is difficult to say and it really depends on what you mean with "classic". Timelessness is very often narrowly construed and distorted in order to make a work of art somehow fit in and yet transcend at the same time a mythical and mystical post-chronological "time". The notion of a "timeless classic" is therefore meaningless and, more dangerous, it can deprive a work of its meaning (I suppose "time-free" would be more correct albeit as pointless). What we need to think about are classics that are inherently rooted in proper time and space not in an abstract dimension. Does such intellectual brilliance on my part keep people from claiming online that their favourite record of the month is a "classic"? No but it should. Wankers.

Because of its relevance in terms of what used to be before, what was at the time and what would come after, I think this record is indeed a 00's Swedish-styled hardcore classic. Is 15 years a long enough period to be able to look back peacefully at a punk record? Probably and for the sake of this review, let's at least pretend it is. It's certainly been a long enough for me to lose a decent part of my once chivalrous hair.

This Ep was Pisschrïst's last record. The band was a pretty big deal at the time and if I unfortunately never got to see them live (despite two European tours), the reports were unanimous: they were an absolute powerhouse. But I have to admit their records did not totally win me over back then, even though they were getting some airplay and, on a strictly philosophical level, I understood the band's appeal. I mean, they played intense and hard-hitting käng with gruff vocals and a rocking side and their prolificacy reflected their staunch determination: one demo, two albums and five Ep's (three of them splits with Appäratus, Kvoteringen and of course Framtid) between 2004 and 2010. Talking with my wonderful partner about the band's legacy and the reasons why they were so beloved then she pointed out that, at the time, few bands outside Sweden, or to a lesser extent to a then more obscure Japan, played that kind of relentless high-energy riff-driven epic Swedish hardcore with crazy tempos changes. You had of course quite a few bands doing the Wolfpack/Wolfbrigade heavy metallic hardcore thing (like Guided Cradle for instance) but Pisschrïst were different and relied more on the great riff tradition of Totalitär and the relentlessness of Framtid and there just wasn't many bands around at the time that were influenced by those schools of käng. You have to look at Pisschrïst from the 00's perspective to understand their appeal. Nowadays, there are many bands working with the same main ingredients, namely Totalitär-like hardcore and Framtid's take on käng, but not at the time. 

And let's not forget that they were from Melbourne and we did not (or at least I didn't) know that many Australian bands (beside Schifosi, The Collapse and ABC Weapons, a band that had Tim and Yeap from Pisschrïst) but you could sense that something was happening and the band quickly became the embodiment of that new Distort Melbourne scene whose legacy is still going strong today. Talk about a significant band. In addition, Yeap had lyrics in English but also in Malay which was something of a novelty and a breath of fresh air as well. He used to play in Mass Separation back in Malaysia and they did have lyrics in Malay but their popularity was mostly circumscribed to the grindcore scene (I could be wrong though, they did have a split with Kontrovers after all, so it could be relative). The status of Pisschrïst was bigger, they had records on Yellow Dog, then an important label. They also allowed people to discover Appäratus through a split Ep - these days a fairly established scandicore band but back then an unknown Kuala Lumpur act - and by extension it made me curious and drove me to investigate further the great noize that was being made in places like Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore in the 00's. So on the whole, I think that is what makes Pisschrïst a "classic band". It was not just the music. 

The three songs on this Ep are, by far, my favourite. The band sounds absolutely unstoppable and relentless here and never has their dynamite blend of Totalitär and Framtid sounded so ferocious. The production is rawer, closer to what noizy Osaka bands thrived on, and really highlights the drummer's frantic style full of rolls and crazy changes and the raging vocals. This is close to perfection and one can only imagine how insane a full album of Pisschrïst with that particular production would have sounded like. After the band folded, Yeap would keep playing in solid noizy bands like Krömozom, Nuclear Sex Addict or the well-respected and very active Enzyme and started to run the very good label Hardcore Victim. A busy man. As for Tim he played in the Aussie version of Nuclear Death Terror, ExtinctExist and Jalang.

On the other side of the split, you've got three songs from the almighty supreme Framtid, a band that has, without a shadow of a doubt, earned its reputation as a "classic band" in every sense of the word. The band is rightly revered and their name almost always accompanied by such adjectives as "intense", "furious" and "deafening". To be able to witness Framtid perform live with their customary ferocity can be considered as one of the five Pillars of the Punk Religion, an obligatory acts of worship for proper believers. 

It is fair to say that the band's popularity and mystique grew with time because more and more people got access to their music and because of their impressive longevity given the genre they have been engaging in since 1997. I first came across them sometime around 2005 thanks to a mate of mine who burnt a cd including several bands I was looking for on it, among which he added Framtid's Under the Ashes (there was still space on the cdr and I suppose he just added the thing thinking it could do no wrong). For some reason, the band did not leave too much of an impression on me at that time, by no means did they sound unpleasing but I think I just liked the other bands on the cd better (as I remember there might have been Hellshock's Shadows of the Afterworld on it which, at the time, was unchallengeable anyway). Beside Framtid were at the very end of a cd that was already packed with hard-hitting stuff and the position does affect a first listen's appreciation. I should also point out that I was not really that much into Japanese hardcore bands in the 00's and mostly indulged in their brand of metal crust more than anything. I missed the first train on this one.

Basically it took a good few years for me to really get and more accurately feel what Framtid were trying to create through maximizing and magnifying the hardest brand of käng in order to turn it into a real native Osaka style: the crasher käng transformation. Yes I have just made it up. But still, it's precisely what Framtid achieved through the use of several elements: the - now iconic - insane and thunderous hectic drumming (curtesy of Takayama who also played in Zoe) in order to amplify the songs' savagery, the trademark Osaka crust guitar distortion of Jackie (from the fantastic Crust War label) and hyperbolic gruff but highly antagonistic vocals. When first confronted with the Framtid's sound, one is quick to think that this is a pummeling hardcore chaos (not a bad thing at all in itself) but it is deceptive because closer attention reveals how in control of this chaos the band is. Their real achievement may lie in this fruitful paradox: they are masters of chaos always on the brink of being overtaken, they occupy that liminal space that makes them so impressive .

Framtid have alway claimed that 80' Swedish bands like Bombanfall, Sound of Disaster, Crude SS and of course Svart Parad (they picked their moniker from a Svart Parad's song, although they did not that framtid means "future" in English, which is lucky, it could have meant "hangover" or something) and this primitive, if not primal, cave käng sound is the basis but as I said they infused it with the Gloom Osaka dementia to create a unique wild untamable beast. The three songs included on the split are classic Framtid, recognizable in a heartbeat. The production may not be as insanely heavy and devastating as on Under the Ashes but it confers a rawer edge which suits the genre and the Ep format. One of the best hardcore band of their generation, no question about it.

This is a great split released on HG Fact with brilliant artwork on both sides, just a great moment of punk music. The title Hardcore Detonation Attack is fitting indeed. 

Hardcore detonation attack!!!

Saturday 23 March 2024

An adventure in split Ep's! I have no gun but I can split: BESTHÖVEN / BETON "Different wars same victims" split Ep 2009

I did not realize how long Besthöven's discography was until I started writing this Pulitzer-level masterpiece. I was of course aware of the band's fecundity (it could more accurately be referred to as "a solo project", although Fofäo dislikes the term, or oxymoronically as "a one-man band" but then how do you even define what "a band" really is and what qualifies as one?) but not quite to that extent. I understood that I had not even listened to a lot of Besthöven's body of work. In general, I do check the band's new releases because I often like what I hear and because they are often split records a befitting format for the genre. But then, as you would, I get lost in that endless maze of new d-beat and käng bands that bandcamp and youtube have turned into and end up almost overdosing on war songs, cheap solos and studded jackets and basically quickly forget about what I have just heard, like a goldfish. But I suppose that's pretty much what modern kids have to deal with: fighting the desire to indulge in an infinite supply of cultural distractions in order to keep a shred of attention span. It is, like finding love without using cheesy filters for your profile picture, a losing a battle in 2024. 

It seemed fair to include a Besthöven work in this series since Fofäo (the obsessive Doctor Frankenstein to this monstrous project) has been contributing his limitless enthusiasm - bordering on the maniacal - for primitive d-beat raw punk (aka the "DIS-CIMEX style") to many shared records. With bands like Disclose (an achievement in itself), Warvictims or Disease. Or indeed with Beton. The format fits the music to a tee. Besthöven's story is quite fascinating and inspiring. It started as your usual noisy punk band in the early 90's but turned into a very prolific one-man affair in 1994 (Agitate did an interview with the man in 2006 that you can read here) which is pretty impressive indeed given the rather strict template Besthöven works on. Depending on your philosophical stance on dis-music, you will see the task as either piss easy because you consider that it's always the same song anyway ("who cares if you already used the very same riff 27 times, it has always worked and it's not like you have a demanding audience") or as very challenging since it is difficult to do the same thing on an on again without losing the passion, dedication and a sense of inspiration. If anything, Besthöven and its longevity, whether you like and rate the music or not, is an undying testimony to the validity and relevance of d-beat and käng as genre and aesthetics and an affirmation that it can be an actual way of life. Still bollox but still here.

This is not to say that all Besthöven records are exactly alike but Fofäo's work ethics have not changed: the goal is to produce raw and unrefined hardcore punk. The influence of Anti-Cimex always prevails of course but most of the 80's Swedish hardcore bands are invited to the table and in recent years I sense that Disarm and Avskum were regular guests especially with Fofäo's very distinctive vocals. What I love about them is that they are shouted and angry, respect the obligatory flow and prosody but still maintain some rough-hewn tunefulness like in the two aforementioned käng classics (Avskum's Gunnar is the master of such a vocal style) adding some gruff melodies and, dare I say, emotions. It's not as brutal vocally as what you could expect but I always felt Besthöven's approach was the right one in this case and it makes the band easily recognizable. 

The three songs on this split Ep are typical of what Besthöven do on a good day which is exactly what you want. Straight-forward and raw galloping d-beat käng with a purity and an orthodoxy that is both admirable and a little scary. I get a 90's dis-vibe on this one, there is a lot of Disclose-meets-Diskonto-at-an-Avskum-karaoke-night here here more of an 80's. It's difficult to call yourself a fan of the D if you don't own at least a couple of Besthöven records and many are fairly to find.

On the other side, two songs of Beton (meaning "concrete" just like in French for once) from Bratislava await the listener. To be quite honest, I mostly grabbed this split Ep for Beton (although I am always up for some Besthöven) as I am a bit of a fan of heavy crust punk from Central Europe and they are certainly up there when it comes to delivering groovy Swedish-inspired hardcore heaviness. I would not say I really missed out on the band. When they first came to life in the mid 00's, I remember downloading their 2005 demo on a blog (from crust-demos probably) and being pleasantly surprised. Well, surprised might not be the most accurate term as even though I did not know current bands from Slovakia, there was no reason for the country to be deprived of smelly punks keen on making a crust racket when neighbouring Czech and Poland definitely had their fair share of this strange species that baffle anthropologists to this day. So when I first bumped into Beton, they basically made sense even before I listened to them and because their take on the genre was rather akin to that heavy dark vibe that characterized 90's and 00's crust bands from Central Europe, Beton felt very natural.

Prior to that 00's generations, the one Slovakian band I was significantly aware of was Nonconformist from the Eastern town of Košice. It would be a lie to claim that I am fully conversant with the band's discography - on other occasions it is a lie I would certainly embrace - but their Open Your Eyes Ep from 1994 is a cruelly underrated jewel that fans of female-fronted anarcho crust-punk should revere. Still, despite strong suspicions, I was pretty clueless as what had been and was happening there but the arrival of Beton, Deadissexy (I absolutely loved their demo of cavemen käng crust) and Roxor, whose 2006 demo was an equally convincing heavy crust effort, was pivotal. You had your Slovakian crust Big Three. But then things grew kinda quiet (Beton did release a split Ep with national grinders Čad in 2007 though) and it wasn't until the late 00's/early 10's that Beton and Roxor really started to record and release things. But as I said, caught in the constant flux of novelties, I did not pay enough attention to what they were up to until a few years ago when I took the time to.

When Beton reformed in 2008, they turned into a different animal, more powerful but still feeding on things of the D, more accurately the leaves that one can find on the Scandinus Crustus tree. By that time the band had absorbed three members of the aforementioned Deadissexy and their first endeavour in the studio with that team was devastating indeed. The two songs included on this Ep are perfectly executed examples of what heavy and dark metallic crust-käng should sound like. Use the mean metallic hardcore side of late Anti-Cimex (the song "Konvoj" is actually a tribute to them) and early Wolfbrigade as your dow and the dirty crust vibe of Warcollapse and Mass Genocide Process as your filling and serve warm with a can of lager. The two songs do exactly what they are supposed to do and I love the fact that the production manages to highlight the heaviness and the raw aggression as well. Of course the choice to sing in their mother language also adds to convey the dark anger permeating the songwriting. A really good job.

Both bands are still going, Besthöven doing what Besthöven do and Beton evolving into something more metal-oriented. This was as collaboration between several labels: the local Totalitarianism Still Continues, I Feel Good (from Britanny!), Rabia Contra el Sistema from Spain and Dist & Confuzed from Sweden.   

Friday 8 March 2024

An adventure in split Ep's! I have no gun but I can split: DEATHTRIBE / KRIEGSHÖG "3 Track EP Plus Support / 警告" split Ep, 2008

This split between Deathtribe and Kriegshög can be rightly considered, from a commoner's perspective, as the sonic equivalent of a bollocking of the highest magnitude on the official scientific scale (based on loudness of the riffs, aggression of the vocal delivery and sense of dread before the wall of noise), the kind of bollocking that will be remembered for generations to come. If you sold you mum's one good ring to a neighbour always rumoured to be "up to no good" in order to buy the last Fifa video game, you'd get a similarly massive bollocking. Long after you are dead, mothers will be likely to warn their kids about the mythical bollocking that their great granduncle Punky, since then referred to as "the Ungrateful One" once received when he betrayed his saint of a mother for a game that had Cristiano Ronaldo on the cover. You can imagine how intense and furious this one would be. This record can be said to possess very similar traits: it is an inherently punishing record. 

Not that it would work on me, I love that shit. I don't feel punished but blessed whenever I play a well-executed band of this style of noizy hardcore. If I have had a bad week and I am just trying to vent and let off steam, that's the kind of assault I shall unleash on my eardrums. From an outsider's perspective I suppose you could say that I love to be bollocked sonically so much that I basically no longer realize it and have grown fond of it like a masochist (distorted Japanese hardcore becoming just an example of the Stockholm Syndrome applied to music). On the contrary, mainstream music that is deemed unanimously good or "classic" (which almost always means it is utter garbage) will offend and sadden me. Make me seat through a Billie Eilish album or through my nephew's Tik Tok feed for more than 10 minutes and tears will be rolling down my face. It does make one shiver. What soothes some will torture others. I am a bit of a philosopher I guess.

Funnily enough - and tragically enough - I was late to the Kriegshög party and pretty much ignored the band's early records when they came out in the late 00's because, beside bands like Disclose or Atrocious Madness, I just did not really care that much for that sort of sound then and merely observed it from afar on message boards. Truth be told, the genre was not as popular as it seems to be nowadays (with music streaming and everything) and I often saw it as being the realms of "nerds" and "record collectors", two terms that I used pejoratively to express my disapproval of the commodification and elitism of punk. The irony is not lost on me today. You really cannot cheat karma, can you? Even after I started to seriously get into the whole Japanese noise hardcore crust aesthetics, Kriegshög were not a band I paid that much attention to until I could no longer stand listening to my friends rave over and over again about the band's live performance in London in 2016 and gave Kriegshög an educated listen. I understood that I had missed out on a good band and, obviously, a good gig. I managed to grab a copy of their Hardcore Hell Ep the following year and found this split with Deathtribe shortly afterwards, about ten years after its release. As I said, the ship had sailed for a while. 

But let's get to the actual record and with the A side where you'll find three songs from Deathtribe. Even by nerd's standards, the band is rather obscure and did not exactly leave an eternal mark on the Japanese hardcore scene. Hailing from Tokyo like Kriegshög, Deathtribe were quite short-lived and beside this Ep, only released a tape Ep in 2007, Nothing Your Leader, which was the first release of the brilliant and still active label Hardcore Survives, and they also appeared on the good compilation Lp Hardcore Inferno in 2010 alongside bands like Disturd, Death Dust Extractor or Isterismo. The tape was a sweet affair with six songs of distorted hardcore crust done the traditional Japanese way, with intensity, conviction and distortion, not unlike Contrast Attitude but on a budget. The three songs on this split Ep enjoyed a much better production and I love how bass heavy it sounds and the gruff Makino-like vocals. 

"Sound of silence" and "Zouo" (a Kriegshög cover) are typical fast and groovy gruff Japanese crusty crasher hardcore that reminds me of a blend of Framtid - but not as Swedish influenced - and Contrast Attitude - but not as crasher crusty - with chorus reminiscent of traditional Japanese hardcore. The comparison is somewhat daring because Deathtribe don't quite reach the level of these two heavyweights but they still seriously deliver and who knows what they could have achieved given the chance to record more. The third song "In many nightmare" is something of an oddity and does not fit with the rest as it sounds nothing like the two others. It's basically a very well done '83 Discharge number à la Warning and The Price of Silence with an impressive Cal impersonation. Final Bloodbath also had a number like this and Final Bombs basically made a career playing the bad Discharge period so it would not have been an exception in Japan. I actually like the song, it is a brilliant Discharge-loving mid-paced moment but, like a skinhead at a Carcass show, I don't really understand what it's doing here.

On the other side, Kriegshög also delivered three songs, among which a cover from Deathtribe, "The end" (the original appeared on the tape). In their early days, back when they had their first guitar player Tera, more inclined toward distortion, Kriegshög sounded absolutely unstoppable, like the proverbial enormous door slamming in the depths of hell or the average American in the soda aisle. Their first Ep Hardcore Hell was quite the hit when it came out in 2008 and the reviews it got were, as they say, unanimous. It is a strong Ep, by any standards, but I am under the retrospective impression that it got more praises than you would generally expect for the genre especially for a record released on a new label like Hardcore Survives, or at least that it got more praises from sectors of the hardcore punk scene usually unresponsive to a perfectly fine pair of mummified crust pants than your usual crasher crust record. 

Kriegshög quickly became a rather well-known band (well, everything is relative, innit) thanks to the well-established label La Vida Es Un Mus that released three records for them and therefore gave them more exposition, notably their first album in 2010. Still, a lot of people who were crazy about them did not seem to care much for other 00's bands working on similar grounds like Defector or Deceiving Society or even Contrast Attitude indeed who were intrinsically associated with the pure crasher crust world of studs, biker boots and bad breath (aka the Crust War multiverse) while Kriegshög, through their connection to LVEUM, belonged to a more diverse hardcore punk world. Out of the crust ghetto, so to speak. An interesting case.

This Ep was the band's third recording after Hardcore Hell on Hardcore Survives and their split Ep with Dog Soldier (a band I have always liked) on HG Fact and as expected it saw Kriegshög at their most furious and relentless. They are close to crasher crust perfection here, this is a tornado of distorted hardcore with abrasive shouted angry almost painful vocals and plenty of gratuitous Japanese-style demented yells. The bass sounds absolutely massive and I am sure it would make the floor shake, the drumming is tight and relentless like a shower of vengeful meteorites and the guitar, well, distorted but the riffing is clear still discernible for maximum power. You probably already know what the subgenre is about, what the template usually is and what the audience is entitled to expect (or fear depending on your taste) and Kriegshög are at the level of bands like Contrast Attitude, Frigöra or Framtid here.

Kriegshög is probably the better band here but both sides are very good and hold up very well, not so easy when the style is so similar. Both sides were recorded by Shige at the noiseroom which accounts for the ideal "blown-out" vibe. A very enjoyable record if you like savage Japanese crust but a very tedious listen and just a plain bad time if you do not. After an album built on the same foundations, Kriegshög would release two more records with a different sound cruelly lacking in intensity and aggression, two essential ingredients for the genre. This split Ep was released on the poetically named label In Crust We Thrash that released Disaster's War Cry on cd (already reviewed here on this blog). I though the label was dead but it actually just Private Jesus Detector's rather good new album so who knows what the future holds.