Archive for June, 2012

Review: Deathhammer

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on June 30, 2012 by Magadh

Deathhammer Onward to the Pits Hell’s Headbangers

Deathhammer is one of those bands that doesn’t get a huge amount of front line press, but who get name checked a lot by scenesters. This can be a good thing. After all, Von were pretty great even if only about sixteen people ever saw them and the only props they got while they were around were from Kristian “Varg” “Douchebag” Vikernes. On the other hand, one gets the feeling that a lot of times these name checks are all about illustrating one’s own connection to the obscure, rather than intrinsic qualities of the band in question.

I’d been vaguely aware of Deathhammer’s existence for a few years, but had never heard them until recently. Onward to the Pits, which was just released a couple of months ago, is one of those records that really takes me back. Now, you might think that I’m talking about being taken back to the lowball thrash era of the 1980s, when bands like Cryptic Slaughter and Wehrmacht stripped away all the inessential elements in the pursuit of thrashing purity. There is certainly an element of that here, but that’s not really where this disc takes me.

No, to really get to the essence of Into the Pits, I have to go back to my days in 7th grade of sketching pictures from the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual on the blank spaces of my peechee during social studies class. It starts with Deathhammer’s logo. I am all for rawness and simplicity, but their logo make’s Beherit’s look like an engraver’s masterwork. The cover of the record looks like the kind of thing you might have found doodled on a discarded program from Gen Con III.

Having seen that, I was really prepared not to like this record. My hackles were further raised by the first cut on the album which occupies a territory about halfway between Bloodthorn and Nifelheim. The riffs are good, but it’s like 80% blast beat, and I kept wondering when they were going to shift to a tempo that could actually keep my attention. This is not to say that it was bad; it was just a little on the boring. From that point, matters improved dramatically. Much of the rest of the album is 1980s style thrash metal, with deathish elements. Some of it kind of sounded like Dark Angel, while at other times they moved into slightly grungier territory, ala Infernö (the Norwegian one) or earlier Aura Noir.

This isn’t the kind of record that you get to the end of and think, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.” But it is aggressive and played with real intensity. It doesn’t try to be anything other than it is. It’s the sort of thing that demands to be turned up loud and consumed with large quantities of beer. They do what they do well, and if you like unapologetic black thrash, you will certainly dig this.

Magadh

Review: Crutches

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by Magadh

Crutches Demo 2012 self-released

I’ve never actually been to Sweden, but I’ve got to think it’s a pretty interesting place. For starters, they must have more anarcho-crust bands per capita than any place on the planet. Little did I know when I procured my first Crude S.S. 7”, back in the long forgotten days of the early 1980s, that it would be the start of such a fruitful relationship.

One problem that arises out of this for aspiring Swedish thrashers is that if you’re going to mine this vein now you’ve either got to be a bit ignorant or a bit arrogant. If it’s the former, it’s a matter of not recognizing that you will be judged against every band from Asocial to Wolfbrigade, with about a thousand points of reference in between. If it’s the latter, it’s a matter of knowing this and not caring, which is also a viable strategy. It’s often said that rock and roll should be played as if one had just discovered it five minutes ago, and this holds a fortiori for Scandinavian d-beat bands. This particular furrow has been so extensively plowed that the hope of finding some new twist within the format must be vain.

With that granted, I still believe that it is a thing worth doing. This is a powerful mode of expression; one that combines dissonance and dissidence, so to speak. It is a mode of counterhegemonic art and identity formation that still provides the opportunity to create a self outside the norm, and to forge connections with others similarly inclined to form identities outside of society’s norms.

It is from such a perspective that I had the pleasure of discovering the recent demo from Sweden’s Crutches. This is some angry, aggressive d-beat hardcore in the tradition of Anti-Cimex, Avskum, Diskonto, yeah, you get the idea. The recording quality is quite good, with guitars rendered in that razors through flesh sort of sharpness that the bands of the early waves of d-beat could only dream of. The most common failing of bands like this is to dwell to long on song structures that are too simple. Crutches avoid this pitfall, concocting short, angry blasts that leave the listener wanting more, rather than wondering when the song is going to end. You have to love a band that manages five repetitions of the f word in the first ten seconds of their first cut. They also get added points for most evil rendering of a squid in their logo.

They’ve released this demo via bandcamp and on their website. Head over there and get it. Yes, you! Do it now.

Magadh

Inherit the Wasteland: Sweden’s Misantropic

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on June 28, 2012 by Magadh

Nausea Extinction Profane Existence Records/Selfless (re-issue)
Misantropic Insomnia Southern Lord

My first real musical exposure to Nausea (the band’s patches have always been ubiquitous) was in the fall of 1993.  I had bunked off a day of school to start my Thanksgiving break early and joined two friends on a road trip to San Francisco. Our plan, such as it was, consisted of couch surfing at various punk houses. These houses also served as a base of operations to catch some shows, visit friends, see the city and buy some records.

Having exhausted the stacks at Amoeba and Rasputin’s, I found myself at the legendary Epicenter Zone collective diligently dissecting their selection. In the course of my search I came across the Selfless reissue of Nausea’s Extinction Lp. The Selfless album was actually called Extinction The Second Coming and featured not only the classic LP but also the Cybergod 7” and various other tracks. Something compelled me to take a chance on it and I figured the re-issue gave me the best bang for my meager student buck. As longtime fans of the band will tell you, the reissue contains most of the post Neil Robinson catalog and the bulk of their strongest material. In my case I was hooked from the first bleak notes of “Tech-no-logic-kill”.

Nausea effectively fused the dark lyrics and soundscapes of Amebix, burly Discharge riffs and d-beats, and Motorhead inspired guitar licks with the potent 1-2 vocal punch of Amy Miret and Al Long. They also practiced what they preached with band members active in Food Not Bombs, ABC No Rio, the New York squatting movement and as participants in the Tompkins Park Riot. I found the whole combination compelling and, while it took me awhile to warm to their contemporaries in the crust scene, Extinction became a frequently played masterpiece in my growing collection of punk.

My love of late period Nausea drew me to Sweden’s Misantropic and I hurriedly snatched up the US release of their LP Insomnia on Southern Lord. One of the primary factors was Gerda’s vocal style and its striking similarity to that of Amy Miret. Matte’s vocals, when combined with Gerda, also conjure memories of Al Long. However, a fixation on this really does the band a disservice.  Nausea drew upon the likes of Amebix, Discharge and Motorhead, Misantropic invoke the might of Antisect, Doom, Wolfbrigade and Disfear. Their style has of less of the building bleakness of Nausea. Instead, they pummel the listener into submission with punishing riffs and rolling thunder for drums.

Their lyrics are standard fare for the genre but suit the music quite well. “Born to Die” focuses on the bloody images of the slaughter house, “Raise the Gallows” is class warfare set to a d-beat and “Lords of War” laments the millions lost in religious wars. In the case of “Lords of War”, Mistantropic’s discussion of the lyrics is refreshing. While so many bands focus solely on Christianity’s bloody history the band, via their website, remind the listener, “Too many people have died in vain under the sign of a cross or a moon crescent.” No Gods, No Masters indeed!

For fans of the genre, Mistantropic’s Insomnia is required listening. I wholehearted recommend you purchase the album from your local record shop or from the fine people at Southern Lord. The band is coming off a hiatus resulting from the birth of Gerda and Matte’s first child. I, for one, can’t bloody wait to hear what comes next.

– Captain of Games

Demo Haven

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , , , on June 27, 2012 by Magadh

People who follow this blog will know that we are committed to the d.i.y. ethic and the acquisition of free stuff. I’ve recently been turned on to this site calling itself Crust-Demos. They are not kidding. The people who do this (I really can’t imagine that it’s just one person) have compiled and incredible amount of listings for demos and records from over 40 countries. For those of you who used to love spending time perusing the demo listings in the back of MRR, this site will really be a treat.

I’ve already pounced on the few things from this site. You’ll be seeing some reviews of stuff soon, for instance of the Slovenian band Hellcrawler (imagine Slovenia’s answer to Moment Maniacs). But I just thought I’d provide a little flavor of what’s on offer.

On the front page just now is a demo from the Finnish crust band Squalor. Six cuts of crusty, ripping thrash that sound like they were recorded on a boombox, but hey, the price is certainly right. This is the kind of thing that really epitomizes the punk ethos of the 1980s. You have to really love this kind of music, but if you do this site is absolutely overflowing with cool stuff.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head back there now. I may never leave the bunker again.

Magadh

Scanning the Scene in the City Tonight: Shirts and Destroy

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2012 by Magadh

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1000 Trivialities is firmly committed to DIY culture. We send infernal hails to those who defy homogenization of culture and resist psychic death. It is in that spirit we introduce you to  the fine people at Shirts and Destroy.

Shirts and Destroy is an international art and music collective. A menagerie of tattoo artists  (Thomas Hooper, Chris Conn, King Avenue to name a few), bands (All Pigs Must Die, Nachmystium and Wolfbrigade among others), artists (David Cook, Arik Roper and Florian Bertmer and friends) and other misfits all contribute to keep the collective viable.

In their own words:

“Shirts & Destroy is an ever expanding and evolving team of artists, designers, tattooers, musicians, screen printers, giclee printers, illustrators and other creative minded contributors. We produce, publish, manufacture and offer to our customers fine art and high quality boutique style music merchandise.

Our mission is to support true underground artists and musicians before their ideas are inevitably co-opted, copied and watered down to be sold in shopping malls.

Contributors of Shirts & Destroy invest no money and recoup 80% of the profits from sales after production costs. Our customers directly support the artists and musicians on our roster and we work hand in hand to ensure the artistic integrity of our contributors endeavours is always intact.”

Check them out online here or, if you find yourself in Brooklyn, pop into their new bricks and mortor shop at  293 Manhattan ave Brooklyn, NY.

The world will forever owe them a debt of gratitude for (via their imprint label Nonbeliever) releasing the All Pigs Must Die Ep.

Tales of Old Walla Walla: The Punk Tapes, Vol. 1

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , on June 24, 2012 by Magadh

In the summer of 1982, I used to spend my weekends hanging out at the Eastgate Mall in Walla Walla, Washington. In those days, the mall had a long indoor concourse (it’s since been filled in). There was a crappy little restaurant with cheap sodas, a record store, a book store, and an area with a rotating selection of video games. It was a good place to get out of the blazing high desert sun. It was also a good place to see and be seen, and as an up and coming punk rocker, I felt it my duty to let the straights know that there were weirdos around, even at the price of getting beat up occasionally.

I was hanging out there one Saturday when I ran into my buddy Brian. We’d met the previous year when we’d both started junior high school. Along with my best friend from grade school, Chris, we were, so far as I knew, the only three punk rockers in town. Brian had acted as sort of a punk rock guru for me. He played me Clash and Sex Pistols records, but he was also into Bowie and Brian Eno. It never occurred to me to ask him how he’d discovered all that stuff. It was enough to know that there was a conduit to the outside world where people just as disaffected as I was were making music and living lives outside the stultifying, Christianized culture of the eastern Washington scablands.

We thumbed through records at the store in the mall for a few minutes, but found nothing there to pique our interest. We decided to head over to Hot Poop, the hippie record store/head shop over on Alder St. We headed off down Wilber Ave., but when we came to the place where it crossed Mill Creek, Brian said, “Come on, there’s someone you should meet,” and headed off into the nondescript, habitrail apartment complex on the south bank.

How strange it is to think of just showing up unannounced now in the world of the cellphone, but that’s what we did. We knocked on the door and were greeted by a tall, gaunt looking kid with short, spiky, auburn dyed hair. He ushered us into the living room and Brian told him who I was.

“Matt,” he said extending his hand. “I was just going to put on some music. I just got this in the mail.” He dropped the needle on the 12” on the record player. The stereo system erupted. It took me a couple of minutes go get my head around things, mostly because he had the volume turned up to an absolutely shocking level. I was afraid that the neighbors or the cops were going to show up at any minute.

“What is this?’ I finally ventured.

“Battalion of Saints,” Matt replied, but didn’t elaborate.

After a few more minutes I pungled up the courage to say, “Can you make me a copy of this?”

***

Battalion of Saints, Fighting Boys (1982)

The tape that Matt eventually made me was the first real punk music that I owned. I gave him a 60 minute cassette and told him to fill it up with whatever. Side one was the Battalion of Saints Fighting Boys 12” that I had heard in his living room, plus some songs from Public Image Ltd.’s First Issue, a pretty strange juxtaposition. Battalion of Saints made sense to me. It was straight ahead and angry. Half the songs were political, and half were basically about serial killers, which was a really fascinating topic for me in those days. Then came P.I.L., which was a little harder for me to digest. I recognized John Lydon’s voice, but I had no idea what he’d done after the Sex Pistols had broken up. I found it grating, but the iconoclasm was really appealing to me.

Public Image Ltd., First Issue (1978)

Crass, Penis Envy (1981)

Side two of the tape was really confusing; a frenetic, angular kind of music that I had never heard before. I later discover that it was Crass, Penis Envy. At that point I hadn’t the faintest idea who Crass were, or that there was an element of punk with that kind of overt, developed political content. It is difficult to convey the effect of hearing “Bata Motel”  on a small town teenager, freighted with all the ideas about girls and sex with which American media culture was (and is) so rich. It opened up a whole different way of thinking for me, although it took me a long time to figure out what it really meant. And of course that was only the beginning. Those songs were like political primer in early 1980s British anarchism, which for a kid in my position might as well have been Martian political theory. I was vaguely dissatisfied and angry about things, but I didn’t quite know what. These people knew what they were angry about. Even if I didn’t believe every word they said, they at least gave me some idea of what the issues really were.

***

Matt turned out to be a really seminal figure, both in my life and in the punk scene in Walla Walla, such as it was. He had moved from Detroit with his mother, I never found out why. She didn’t seem to be exerting a great deal of positive control over Matt, as evidenced by the fact that he had a grave stone stolen from a local cemetery serving as a table in his room and that never seemed to phase her. It also didn’t seem to bother her that their house on Cherokee St., where they moved from the apartment around the time I started high school, was a prime place for us to go to smoke weed when we were cutting school. It did seem to bother her when Matt poached too heavily from her stash, but that was about the only time I ever saw her impose any disciplinary pressure.

I didn’t see Matt all that much during the school year. He had gotten kicked out of the normal school system and was going to the alternative high school. Sometimes he and Brian and I would hang out on the weekends and I would get the benefit of his extensive record collection. I guess the most important fact about Matt was that he had been around a real live punk scene, so he knew what it was about in terms of look and attitude, as well as of music. He was never any sort of godfather figure, but as more punk rockers started to emerge in town, everyone knew that he was a leading face. To hang out with him was sort of like an unofficial initiation into the scene.

By 1984 or so, there started to be actual punk shows in Walla Walla. Bands like Black Flag, Beyond Possession, and the Necros played on their way between shows in Boise or Moscow and Seattle. There was a really great band from Tri-Cities called Diddlysquat who would come down to warm things up (their bass player Nate Mendel went on to be in Christ on a Crutch, Brotherhood, Sunny Day Real Estate, and the Foo Fighters).

What with one thing and another, the house on Cherokee became the preferred spot for after gig parties. Matt’s mom was usually somewhere else (I have no idea where) and although the house was small (it couldn’t have been more than 500 square feet or so) it wasn’t like there were that many of us to begin with.

One summer, I guess it must have been 1985, the New Jersey thrash band Adrenalin O.D. came through on tour. They played a blistering set, although they kept going on about Walla Walla, “the town so nice they named it twice!” Yeah guys, we live here and we’ve only heard that a couple of million times. Anyway, as usual with shows like this, it was a major event, with kids rolling in from as far away as Moses Lake and Yakima (which is a pretty long way). The show was held at the Washington Park Community Center, which was actually the gym from a disused grade school. When I showed up, I ran into Matt sitting on the steps of the school. He seemed distant and his eyes were glassy.

“I dropped acid,” he said, and then laughed in a really disconnected way. I didn’t see much of him during the show. I was in the pit (of course) during Adrenalin O.D.’s set, when I saw him pop up on stage. In true punk rock form, he launched himself in a graceful stage dive. Unfortunately, there were only about ten people in the pit and it became immediately obvious that he was going to clear it by several feet. In an attempt to spare him death or serious injury, another friend of ours tried to catch him as he flew over, but only managed to grab his ankles as he flew by. This had the effect of directing him immediately toward the floor. Hands out in an attempt to fend off the swiftly approaching concrete, Matt’s index finger was the first thing to hit, and it was driven back through the knuckle. The last I saw of him, he was being helped to the door looking dazed.

When the gig ended, I asked someone of the party was going to be at Matt’s place as planned. “Of course, why not?” came the answer. This seemed reasonable to me. When I got there, the place was packed. Matt was sitting on the couch with a blissed out look on his face, next to a pile of half racks of cheap beer. They had taken him to the hospital where they had set his finger and given him something for the pain, strangely enough since he was obviously higher than Georgia pine.

The party was percolating quite nicely until, all of a sudden, Matt’s mom walked in and flipped out. I have never seen a room clear so quickly. There were punk rockers emitting from every door and window of the place. Thinking quickly, I grabbed a half rack and concealed it under my leather jacket as I climbed out the living room window. My pal Derek was right behind me, and we finished off the evening drinking beer in the wooded area behind the Jehova’s Witness Hall in Southgate. The last thing I saw as I left the house was Matt standing dazed in the middle of the room with his mom screaming at him from a distance of about three inches. I remember thinking, “That can’t be pleasant.”

***

In 1986, I moved to Portland to go to college. I had sort of lost touch with Matt by that time, as I had been living in the UK for nearly a year before that. Sometime in the winter of 1986-87, I heard that Matt had committed suicide. In those days, I was too wrapped up in my own self involvement to process this properly, so I got really hammered for about a week and then did my best not to think about it. This piece is a long-winded part of a project of human archaeology, an attempt to dig back through the layers and figure out how I became what I am. And so it is that I think back to that summer day 30 years ago and a serendipitous meeting in a faceless apartment complex, and how easily things could have turned out otherwise.

Magadh

The Wasted Years

Posted in Articles, News and Notes with tags , , , , on June 21, 2012 by Magadh

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A Thousand Trivialities is committed to supporting DIY culture in all of its facets. We are constantly amazed at the creativity of those embracing independent media to bypass the pig system. We celebrate the authentic voices from our culture and would like to introduce you to Aaron Semer.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Aaron for over 10 years and find him to be both insightful and quite witty. His current project is a blog and podcast called The Wasted Years.  The blog is well written and profiles an array of working musicians who play some variety of heavy music. In the podcast, independent musicians sit with Aaron for an hour and discuss tales of the road. Brian Cook (Botch, These Arms are Snakes, Roy and Russian Circles) is featured in the first installment. Brian’s tales are both hilarious and compelling but it is Aaron’s skill as an interviewer that makes the podcast flow so well.

We wholeheartedly recommend you check out The Wasted Years here.

– Captain of Games