Saturday, August 30, 2008

G&P review: Doom (Crust Punk Reissue Week Part 2)

Rush Hour of the Gods
Violent Change
Five cult fanatics released lethal sarin gas on the legendarily overcrowded Tokyo subway system at the height of rush hour on March 20, 1995, killing five and injuring fifty on the whim of a self-proclaimed prophet who sought to either hasten the apocalypse or overthrow the Japanese government.
Self-described “Sacred Emperor of Japan” Shoko Asahara’s brutal terror attack was part of Japan’s “rush hour of the gods,” a cultural malaise that birthed a host of competing religious cults, some benign quests for enlightenment and others truly malevolent.
A year after the attacks, British crust punkers Doom, back with yet another of their famed lineup overhauls, turned their own jaundiced eye on religions with their own Rush Hour of the Gods.
Expanding on Total Doom’s Discharge worship, Rush Hour of the Gods features longer songs, a second guitar and generally more polished production.
Rush Hour’s trebly guitar tones slices like a rusty hacksaw through the album’s 11 tracks before giving way to the better produced songs from the split with Cress. The simple, repetitive, sing-along chorus of “Death Trap” is an especially fine example of later Doom’s ability to pen a catchy tune.
Doom’s one attempt to break up the dun dun datting, though, was a bit of a misstep. The sampled voices and bleeping, blorping music of the title track, however, serves as a reminder 12 years later that plopping a bleeping, blorping song in the middle of a scathing punk assault is still usually a really, really bad idea.
Despite that faux pas, Violent Change did the crusties a favor by putting Rush Hour of the Gods back in circulation. But while there’s no denying Doom’s place in the crust punk pantheon, some PR flacky (wait, wait, a PR flacky for crust?!?!?!!? Wtf???) got a little over-excited while penning this hilariously hyperbolic ad copy spotted at Interpunk:
“Doom single-handedly created the Crust Punk genre that is currently enjoying a huge resurgence and their influence on the current scene is comparable to Slayer’s influence on the current thrash metal revival.”
Maybe if you ignore Amebix, Crass, Flux of Pink Indians, Disrupt and a host of others. Doom’s ripping assault already assures their place in punk Valhalla, so there’s no need for ridiculous exaggeration.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

G&P review: Amebix (Crust Punk Reissue Week Part 1)

No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings
Alternative Tentacles

“No Gods, No Masters” – amazing how that simple, iconic statement managed to sum up the collective outlook of not only Amebix but subsequent generations of crust punks and metal minions.
Hell, it’s such an anthemic idea Amebix recycled it a few years later on Monolith’s “Chain Reaction.”
Amebix dressed like the Cult and rocked like Venom gone punk and this remastered collection typifies pretty much everything that would define crust.
After a legal skirmish lasting a few years, Alternative Tentacles, which released Amebix’s stone fucking classic Arise!, has finally secure the rights to release the punkers’ earliest music. These larval tracks, while far more simplistic than those that would appear on later albums, are a significant trip through the WABAC machine to view the birth of what would become crust punk.
The outlook is suitably apocalyptic and the songs lack any subtlety and are generally declamatory – “No Gods, No Masters,” “The Church is For Sinners” and “Sanctuary” (as in there is no). Though Amebix’s swampy dynamics were already in play, but the later metallic influences were only in their nascent stages.
Though not as polished or as crucial as their later output, Amebix recorded these earliest songs with scrounged money while the band was living in Bristol squats with junkies and hookers. The songs’ production lags well behind later albums and that poor production often saps the music’s energy and immediacy. But “Curfew” is a short, fast and loud punk battering ram, “Sunshine Ward” is the kind of drug addled tour throw the psychoward Amebix would later perfect on “Largactyl” and the ferocious roar of “Winter” is a sign post to everything that would be realized on Arise!
Heavy Metal Records put kiss off record Monolith back in widespread circulation last year and now Alternative Tentacles is assuring the third wing of the Amebix triptych is readily available, allowing us to trace the progression of crust’s seminal auteurs from an ugly British squat straight through their metal inflected denouement.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Carcass Word of the Day Calendar: Aug. 23, 2008

I think we can all agree Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic on par with Citizen Kane (if you don’t, you’re in the wrong place). But some of Hooper’s later work, to be generous, has been a tragi-comic tour through the world of EPIC FAIL. Case in point, 1995’s The Mangler, an adapted Stephen King story about a laundry folding machine with a taste for erythrocytes, as Carcass would dub them.
The real problem, for me, was apparent from the outset with King’s story. Who of us regularly comes into contact with a laundry folding machine? It’s way too abstract to the average human existence. Maniacal cars that want you all to yourself, that’s something most of us can wrap our brains around.
So Stephen, if you’re reading, let me give you an idea ripped straight from
Reek of Putrefaction: There are few things more horrific than an office microwave, the poorly cleaned locus of most virulent strains of workplace pathogens. Just to up the queasy factor, taking your shmutz encrusted office microwave and try to use it to gestate a baby as Carcass suggested with “Mircrowaved Uterogestation.”
Unfortunately, some
retard in Ohio ignored the obligatory “do not try this at home” warning.

Fomentatious perflation hydrogenates your foetal cistern
Coagulating haemorrhage and your congenital hernia
Dehydrated soup – crumbling hygroma
sludge – dank, acrid aroma
Clotting uteral mucus, dissipating your foetus
Melting your uterus and evaporating your cyesis
Your foetus is reconstituted by warm, molten enzymes
Slowly digested in a microwaved slime
Your stomach is churning, heat effervescing your succus
Your innards running like hot, sticky mucus
Mangled uterogestation, your perimetrium clots
Your inside cooking, steaming and hot

Foment – v. to encourage rebellion or discord
Perflate – v. to blow through
Hydrogenate – v. to add hydrogen to a molecule
Coagulate – v. to congeal from a liquid into a thickened mass
Congenital – adj. inborn, a condition present a birth
Hernia – n. the protrusion of an organ through its surrounding tissues, particularly in the abdomen
Hyrgroma – n. a collection of cerebrospinal fluid without blood
Pectate – v. to turn tissues into a salt of pectic acid
Cyesis – n. pregnancy
Effervesce – v. to give off bubbles of gas
Succus – n. a fluid secreted by tissues
Perimetrium – n. the outer layer of the uterus

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

G&P review: Trash Talk

Trash Talk
Trash Talk
Trash Talk Collective
“It costs a lot to look this cheap,” busty balladeer Dolly Parton once mused, not inaccurately, I might add. The punk rock corollary would be it takes a lot of technical savvy to sound this perfectly raw.
Belying their punk as fuck packaging and assault, Trash Talk enlisted studio denizen to the stars Steve Albini to twiddle the knobs on their eponymous third album, a mired in muck assault of dirgy punk.
Though some of their songs step up to a quicktime march, Trash Talk are at their best when they’re drunkenly lumbering around the studio in a cough syrup overdose lurch.
Trash Talk actually manage to play the low, slow and simple card without managing to sound like fellow punk mopes Neurosis or Amebix, which ought to be hailed as an accomplishment at a time when imitation is the sincerest sign of a lack of imagination. Instead, Trash Talk’s ramblings can be best likened to Apartment 213 (right about the tempo of “Kill for Christ”) or Iron Lung at their slowest (e.g. the title track of Sexless//No Sex) with just a skootch of 16-ish stomp.
Combining self-released DIY ethics with the wisdom to actually enlist someone who knows a thing or two about production to helm the album, Trash Talk’s self-titled mini-album serves up 14 minutes of quality stomp even if they do the overplayed longest-song-at-the-end-of-the-album shtick like a metric butt-ton of bands before them.
My only quibble with the album, does Artificial Peace know Trash Talk swiped their inverted peace sign logo?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

G&P review: Deathcycle

Prelude to Tyranny
I think we can all agree no matter who takes the oath of office January 20, it will be a relief knowing the era when mindlessly slapping a black and white mug of Georgie W. on the cover of your album was an considered an adequate substitute for actually having to offer some original commentary inside. Not that I’m sticking up for the authoritarian fuck, I’m just saying I’ve seen his simian smile on the cover of way too many wannabe political albums over the last 7.5 years.
New York killing crew Deathcyle, featuring members of Kill Your Idols, Neglect and None More Black, take the artistically lazy way out on second album Prelude to Tyranny, a well played if slightly past-its-sell-by-date collection of rough throated hardcore antics. There’s nothing hear you haven’t heard a million times before, solid Motorhead-meets-Discharge-with-a-dab-of-New-Yawk-stomp punk antics that round up the usual political suspects and march them before the wall and fire shopworn declamations against state violence and state control at them ad nauseum.
But as much as I wanted to hate them album just based on the list of required reading web sites on the album sleeve (Save the Internet – Yay; ridiculous 9/11 tr00fer sites – Boo), I have to admit some of the the songs are deceptively catchy, mixing fulminating rock fretboard work and a driving rhythm section work.
Aside from the stridently pedestrian politics, my real deal-breaker complaint is frontman Ron’s vocals are as monochromatic as the artwork, a hoarse, generic hardcore bark that could easily be shopped to any NYC bro down band if this whole poli-punk thing falls apart.
His one trick pony delivery makes the tired tirades all the more grating. If you write a tune called “Another Song” that proclaims it is “another song that can’t be bought/ by corporations with no heart” you might wanna spend a little extra writing time to guarantee it doesn’t sound like just another damn hardcore song. In fact, I couldn’t imagine anything more assembly line produced than this collection of 11 well played but ultimately forgettable hardcore songs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

G&P review: Winters in Osaka

Winters in Osaka
Swarm of Witches
One Sock
Like a 3 a.m. televangelist, Winters in Osaka have the pow-AH. But touting collaborators from members of Spazz, Exit-13, Iron Lung and Fuck the Facts, I had kinda expected that power to be of the –violence variety not the –electronics strain.
Though I’ve flirted with a Merzbow album or two, power electronics just has never been my thing. I prefer my Masami Akita filtered through Discordance Axis’ recognizable song structure, thanks.
Despite my unfamiliarity with the terrain and general antipathy to white noise as a musical form, I actually found Swarm of Witches fairly enjoyable, thanks to periodic bursts of recognizable song structure. The occasional outburst of drums, in particular, help.
The whole album reeks of claustrophobia – like chipping nails on brick walls trying to escape the cellar before Leatherface comes back paranoia – and would serve as a much better soundtrack to your average torture-heavy horror flick better than the buttrock hit du jour. “Wolfpussy’s” slow chiming chords rattle over stoic drum beats before the song erodes into waves of soothing static that rot into FX box scrape. “Flowers in the Bodies” gives way to insectile swarms of noise as white noise army ants climb across the song and devour and despoil any sense of melody that may be percolating under the surface. From there most of the tracks are slowly morphing blasts of three or four minute bursts of suffocating noise.
Though power electronics is outside my normal field of interest and well beyond any expertise I may claim, Swarm of Witches was perhaps the least annoying half an hour of feedback I’ve ever intentionally subjected myself to. In fact, I’ve been sitting on this review for a couple months now trying to figure out what to say about it because it’s certainly not what I expected when I blindly ordered it based on the list of collaborators.
If you’ve ever been curious what some of your more adventurous musicians might do in a studio freed from the restraint of having to write actual songs, Winters in Osaka will fulfill your curiosity admirably. But I don’t expect this will be in heavy rotation for most grinders.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Agathocles Addendum: Condolences

So as I do with everyone who was gracious enough to submit themselves to my scattershot interviewing style, I let Agathocles mainstay Jan Frederickx know the story was out, only to get this response a few hours later:

"Last thursday, Tony, our bassplayer, got cremated. He committed suicide last weekend."

If you've got a second, head over to the AG web site and drop those guys a note of support.

Mincing Words: Grind Lifers Agathocles Rule Splitsville

It’s an article of faith in the underground community that if you play in a crusty, punked out grind band, sooner or later you gotta do a split 7” with Agathocles. It’s in the friggen bylaws between black shirts (and the wearing thereof) and smiling (thou shalt not). I’ll wait while you go look it up.
For more than 20 years now the Belgian death squad has relentlessly beat out their own brand of lo-fi, stripped down grind, boasting more than 90 (!!!) split EPs and albums over their seemingly endless career with five more planned this month, according to band honcho Jan Frederickx, the sole fixed point in the ever shifting AG constellation.
Somewhere between King Leopold II’s depredation of the Congo (The horror! The horror!) and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s inexplicably ongoing career, Belgium chose to mitigate those crimes against humanity by birthing and nurturing Frederickx and his rotating band of merry men who have been kicking out killer grind (mince core in the band’s private nomenclature) for two decades.
“Doing split releases is a typical DIY punk thing. Split EP’s exists since the 70’s and some great split vinyl were made in the beginning of the 80’s such as Warfare/Upset Noise split 7”, Declino/Negazione split LP,” Frederickx said. “We like to keep that flame of cooperation alive. We like to share releases with everyone, except with those who promote macho-ism, sexism, snuff and bullshit like that. We shared vinyl with bands from all sorts of music like black metal, grind, ska punk, raw punk, anarcho folk, doom metal.”
Named for a Greek tyrant whose name became a byword for bloody conquest, AG have been banging out a bloody racket for 23 fricken years without the major label cash that has helped contemporaries such as Napalm Death pay the rent.. Instead, Agathocles have hopped from one miniscule label to another, sharing wax with a seemingly endless parade of punk, grind, metal and whatever else bands.
Despite my love of all things blast-beaty, I’ll go ahead and admit I was way late in getting to the Agathocles party simply because I was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of releases these lifers have under their belt. So big thanks to Self Made God for finally having the good sense to collect this band’s innumerable output on a series of Mincecore History discogs a few years ago.
At a time when metal seems to be determined to repeat the worst aspects of the hairspray/thrash bust of the early ’90s when big money flowed easy and bands got lazy, it’s impressive to someone steadfastly stick to a DIY ethic despite the pitfalls.
The term lifer often gets thrown out to describe someone like Lemmy Kilmister who never seems to age and has no intentions of retiring. But it’s pretty easy to be a lifer on a label’s dime.
“Grind is not about being on a big label! It’s totally the opposite,” Frederickx said. “Grind is punk and punk in its true form is DIY, autonomy, creating another way, opposing mainstream. And that’s the way we will always work. I don’t give a shit about big labels and the puppets that are signed to them. GRIND IS PROTEST!”
Which just happens to be the name of AG’s upcoming full length. When will it be out, I ask. “When it’s done,” Frederickx responds. This has been yet another instalment of obvious answers to stupid questions.
Given Agathocles’ fiercely DIY shtick, I ask Frederickx how the intertubes help or hinder a go-it-alone grind band’s attempts to connect with fans in a highly commercialized environment. In response, he sent me back the lyrics to “New (De)Generation” with its shades of Carcass circa “Polarized:”

“I don’t wanna see your face
I don’t wanna know your ‘MySpace’
I don’t wanna get your shirts
Just put all where it hurts”

Dude doesn’t mince words. But just to be safe, nobody show him this.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

G&P review: Fucked Up

Fucked Up
Year of the Pig
This is where the unrepentant hack that I am wants to type out something along the lines of “This Canadian collective’s latest outing, a fusion, of hardcore, stoner rock, jazz and whatever the fuck else, is truly fucked up.”
Seriously, ask any of the editors I’ve ever worked for and they’ll tell you I’m congenitally unable to let a bad pun go unwritten (Rob, feel free to drop a comment and testify). But I’m gonna rise above this time.
And rise above indeed, because like punk experimentalists Black Flag, Fucked Up aren’t content to paint hardcore black by the numbers, instead they insist on dragging an often stagnant and repetitive genre forward by sheer force of will by paradoxically channeling forward thinking greats Wire, Television and Gang of Four.
Year of the Pig, finally out on CD following last year’s vinyl only release, offers you just that, four different takes on the titular song and a handful of other tunes for good measure in a 44 minute outing that leaves no genre bridged uncrossed-over and burnt. The first stab at “Year of the Pig” may have you wondering if you popped in the latest 27 disc by mistake with whispery Maria Christopher vocals wafting through scintillating guitar lines before the more accustomed hardcore bark chews its way through for the remainder of the near-19 minute workout. That is until the completely raging midsection kicks in somewhere around the eight minute mark and decides to swirl rock rage and ringing Neurosis notes into a hellbroth of seething angst and pumping Flashdance bass. Those maniacs.
But you also get three other edits of the song, one that reduces the tune to its soft, whispery elements, another that bounces along with its jazzy bassline and gravelly vocals at the fore and the final leaning heavily on staccato piano lines and more of the dance floor worthy bass pumping.
The remaining, and by far shorter, songs more faithfully channel ’80s SoCal hardcore-via-Canada’s ill tempered (frost)bite for those looking for something a little more toe tapping and pedestrian. Hell, “Anorak City” is damn near surf rock poppy with its strident guitars and shuffling beat, marred only by the belted hardcore vocals.
But if you’ve got an open mind and eschew overrated the simplicity of Damaged in favor of In My Head’s wider tonal palette, skipping out on this boundary pushing bunch wouldn’t just be a mistake; it would be fucked up.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fear of Napalm(isms): Death Doesn't Become You

Oh Napalm Death, how do I love thee? Let me count the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent on your albums, shows and shirts over the last 16 years.
I’m not really a favorites kind of guy, but if I was pressed, I would say
Scum, Harmony Corruption and even Smear Campaign rate as serious contenders for the desert island album list.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally roll my eyes when I crack their lyric sheets. Cuz if we’re all honest here, their rhetorical exploits have occasionally wandered into the realms of bad Live Journal poetry.
And since I’m coming to the foreseeable end of the Carcass Word of the Day shtick, I thought I’d turn my sights on another of grind’s pantheon because, as Abbie Hoffman sagely observed, “Sacred cow makes the best hamburger.”
It’s with that satirical mission, I hereby unveil the latest recurring feature where I’ll poke some gentle fun at what we can call Napalmisms, those lyrical tics that began with
Scum and virally trailed through the band’s career before infecting their legion of imitators as well.

For our first lesson let’s all open the Gospel According to Beavis, turn with me to the chapter of Cornholio. Picture the seen with me if you will: a pretentious early ’90s coffee house as a Hank Rollins look alike belts out horrifically bad poetry, capped by the immortal line, “And then, my friend, YOU DIE!”
Kinda makes you wonder if some of Napalm Death’s earliest members ditched the whole grind hustle for cartoon scripting because the teen metalheads had similarly morbid sentiments and felt the need to emphasize that by slotting die/death at the end of their songs. On unfuckwithable classic Scum, they hit the trifecta, committing that sin in triplicate with two different line ups.
Exhibit A, one of my personal faves, “Instinct of Survival,” when ends on the rainbow and unicorn sentiment “Another product for you to buy/ You’ll keep paying until you die.”
Oh but death is a dish served reheated, so Napalm pulls the same sentiment outta the fridge and nukes it lukewarm just five tracks later on “Sacrifice.” Witness the lyrical go to move “The thoughts I had/ Are now denied/ And one day soon/ I hope you die.”
But lest you think the Steer/Dorian/Harris/Whiteley would eschew the same rhetorical flourish, “Divine Death” ends with, well, “divine death.”
And the boys were right back at it on the very next album, From Enslavement to Obliteration, with the single-word diatribe “Dead.” Luckily this particular Napalmism quickly petered out after that never to bge seen again to date.
So what should aspiring grind lyricists take away from this exercise? Ending songs on death/die/dead does not make you profound or ultra-morbid or edgy. It just makes me laugh at you, and then, my friend, YOU DIE!

Spot a likely Napalmism? Drop me a comment or shoot me an emai.