Saturday 1 June 2024

An adventure in split Ep's! I have no gun but I can split: HELLISHEAVEN / WEALD "S/t" split Ep, 2015

This review will be the last one of the I have no gun but I can split series (for the illiterates among you this was a trivia-worthy reference to the mighty Exit-Stance's "I have no gun but I can spit"). Because the 2010's are still fresh, it is difficult to think critically about what it spawned punk-wise and formulate what it will be remembered for, for better and for worse (I already have a pretty definitive opinion about the latter and it starts with an "o", ends with an "i" and often has an exclamation mark). Thinking in terms of decades is not always relevant but I do believe the 2010's marked a radical shift in the scene with the unstoppable rise of social media and streaming. I have already written about the topic at length and repeating myself again will make me sound like a basement-dwelling incel type (basically the least sexy thing you can think of) who dislikes bands that emerged thank to this epistemological earthquake. I should do a series about brilliant young contemporary bands that I love with members who have luxurious hair and never watched a VHS non-ironically. 

Stopping in 2015 seemed like a decent idea, especially with a classically executed stenchcore split Ep. I haven't really included a full-on, orthodox stenchcore record in this series so that it felt right to discuss one for the 25th and final part, to leave on a high note, to leave the reader with a desire to ride a grizzly bear in an apocalyptic wasteland or to join a horde of pagan zombies or scare your nan with some hastily done corpse paint. I remember well where and when I grabbed this Ep as it was at Doom's first Paris gig in 2016. I was, of course, as a master of the crust craft and because it is my job to keep crust punk elite, well familiar with the rather experienced Hellisheaven and was excited about their teaming up with Weald, a band I thought was no longer (for some reason). It was a well spent fiver and this Ep does exactly what you expect it to do.   

Hellisheaven were from Lublin and formed in 2008. Upon looking at their discography I realized they had been going for much longer than I thought they and in fact disbanded only last year. I must admit that I progressively lost touch with what the band was up to as the death-metal influence became a little overwhelming for me and I could never really get into their 2013 album Abyss of War. My first encounter with Hellisheaven (I always wondered if they meant Hell is Heaven or Hellish Heaven or both, such poets) was, however, magnificent. Their first record, the split Lp with Creeping Corrupt released in 2009, can be said to be one of the finest examples of a successful blend of old-school heavy crust and raw death-metal. The five songs - among which a class State of Fear cover - were recorded at the band's practice space and the result sounds urgent, filthy and aggressive and the style fits the genre perfectly. A bit like classic 90's Polish crust (think Homomilitia and Hostility) on a romantic date with Stormcrow and Bolt Thrower. You could sense that the people involved had been fucking around in bands before and indeed the members had nice resumes (three members were actually also playing in the now classic grindcore band Suffering Mind in 2009). A very underrated recording and I wish this had been a full length rather than a split album. 

Following this great start, I was clearly watching for Hellisheaven's followup but had to wait three years until the release of a split Ep with Dissent. By that time the band had clearly opted for a more metal-oriented Bolt Thrower-ish sound that did not totally win me over at the time. I was expecting, rightfully I might add, an epic stenchcore Lp and got served one song of gruff Bolt Thrower worship with a crust edge. A little underwhelmed I was. In retrospect, I suspect that the band probably used the gap in time to regroup and initiate a shift in terms of intent and songwriting toward bulldozing death metal with a fetish for double-bass drumming. To be fair, it is not a bad song (some of the heavy moments remind me of Lost) and Hellisheaven proudly took that path, or rather they crawled agonizingly and growled their way through it. The song on this 2015 split Ep - while still recorded in their practice space - is a focused, unstoppable and heavy, sludgy and punishing Crust Thrower monument with some Swedish death-metal's down-tuned gutturalness that ticks all the right boxes and somehow keeps that DIY hardcore punk feel as it never get too technical. While I would certainly enjoy a full set of the genre live, it must be like being punched to death by a gorilla into Warhammer 40000 cosplay, I don't think I could take a full Lp. But "Oponenci procederu" works like a charm on a split Ep.

On the other side you have one song of the sadly short-lived Weald from Connecticut, a band that managed to split shortly after the release of the Ep. It would be far-fetched to claim that Weald will remain in our glorious History (that of crust of course) as a sorely missed groundbreaking band. In fact, it would already be a good thing if people remember them at all, beside their mates and local punks who were around during the first part of the 2010's. And, well, c'est la vie. If you really think about it, punk could not exist without the myriads of short-lived small but genuine bands like Weald. If fact, punk is by and large made up of such bands, they are our bread and butter. Those who tour and release records that actually sell are a minority. So even though the likeliness of meeting someone wearing a Weald shirt on the street is about as high as your bigoted great-uncle Paul becoming a vegan, they played their part, mattered and have their place in the grand crust narrative and that's good enough for me. 

My research revealed that Weald seemed to have trouble securing a steady lineup with several changes of guitar player and the original singer leaving before the recording of this Ep. The band caught my attention when their 2011 demo was uploaded online. It was a raw affair, evidently, primitive, sloppy at times, but its roots were clear and I definitely related to them: total 00's stenchcore revival. Not reinventing the wheel but pushing the crust cart in the right direction with heart and filth. I was hearing some classic Hellshock and Stormcrow on the music and if the songwriting could be improved, I sensed potential. And then... fuck all. Nothing for years and the release of this Ep and, in our day and age when bands release a record every two years, I thought Weald had vanished and its members had all gone on to play in postpunk bands as this virus was very contagious back then. But I was wrong as the band was still active and even recorded a another demo in 2013 (incidentally it was uploaded to their bandcamp two weeks ago, talk about a coincidence) with two songs one of which, "Vengeance is mine", would be rerecorded for the split with Hellisheaven with Will on vocals and a new guitarist.

This 2015 recording is a massive improvement, undeniably, and it makes one wonder what Weald would have been capable of on a full album. The story told by the song is great, it is a perfect stenchcore number. It has that super heavy grinding bass sound with dirty guitar leads and dirty thrashing riffs and it all points to early Stormcrow of course, the dominant influence, to which you can add early 00's Hellshock and Cancer Spreading too as the Italians were one step ahead of everyone in that niche at the time. Such a shame that Weald did not get to build on the momentum. Kind of a one-hit wonder - or nightmare depending on your tolerance for grizzly crust - I suppose. Speaking of bears, the cover displays a pretty angry one and illustrates the ecological theme of the songs. I am not sure I like it but at least I remember it and there are a couple of skulls too so that I am not too disoriented. Shane would join bands like Mortal War, Neverending Mind War, Condemned or Oiltanker in Philadelphia but I am not sure about the other members.  

This Ep was the result of a collaboration between many labels such as Neanderthal Stench (an important crust label then), Grindfather Production and Anomie Records. If you are a crust metal fanatic like myself, this is a split Ep you would want to grab for sure and it can still be found easily. 




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