Archive for July, 2012

Burning Love: Rotten Thing To Say

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 31, 2012 by Magadh

Burning Love Rotten Thing to Say Southern Lord

I’ve always had an affinity for Canadian hardcore. Yannick’s  label, Great American Steak Religion (now Feral Ward) played a  significant part. The mid 90s was a great time for Canadian hardcore and bands like Shotmaker, Chokehold, One Eyed God Prophecy and the mind blowing Union of Uranus all released material via Yannick’s label. Cursed seemed like the heirs apparent to this proud tradition; they seem an appropriate place to start a discussion of Burning Love.

When people talk about Cursed they talk about how it all ended. I’m often struck by Hunter S Thompson when I think of that night in Germany. In Fear and Loathingin Las Vegas Thompson wrote:

Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant…
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of ‘history’ it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened….
And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill ….. and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

Hardcore, for me at least, has always engendered a sort of esprit de corps. Perhaps that’s why Chris Colohan’s announcement, via Cursed’s blog, all of the band’s passports and money were stolen from a supposedly secure room in a German squad resonated with me. Colohan later described the action as, “a bullet in the head for the band,” and he was right. Cursed died that day, betrayed by a community that purported to be so much more. The wave broke in Mulhiem and the band was pulled under.

Endings create beginnings, and so it is with Colohan and Burning Love. Rotten Thing to Say is the band’s second LP but the first to find vocalist Colohan well and truly out from Cursed’s shadow. The record itself is more Tubronegro than Totalitär but the increased emphasis on rock’n  roll riffs serves the band well. That isn’t to say it is devoid of darker hardcore elements. Tracks like “Tremors” and the instrumental “12:31” bear a bit more than a passing resemblance to some of Cursed’s fare. This may owe something to the record having been culled from 2 years worth of material. The band’s real strength lies in tracks like “Karla”, “Made Out of Apes and “Pig City II”. Here, Burning Love effectively fuse hardcore sensibility with rock’n roll riffs and more developed song structure. It also never hurts to have Kurt Ballou and his God City magic in your corner.

Rotten Thing to Say  is an excellent sophomore effort and I encourage folks to head down to their nearest independent record store and pick it up. If you can’t find it in your area the fine folks at Southern Lord are always happy to help. Burning Love have just wrapped up a US/Canadian summer tour with a variety of Southern Lord colleagues. October/November should see them out on the US East coast and South so keep an eye out.

– Captain of Games

Review: Amebix

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

Amebix, Sonic Mass Easy Action and Amebix Records

I feel like I spend a lot of time in reviews that I write explaining why I haven’t heard things. Usually it’s because whatever band I’m talking about is from some place that I’d probably know more about if I still read the right magazines. There was a time when I read MRR, Terrorizer, Metal Maniacs, et cetera, with religious fervor. Now I just don’t have the time.

But there is another reason (over and above the fact that I am just slightly dense) that I have missed a lot of things over the years: the wish not to see bands that I love decay. Very often, bands will follow up an excellent record with one that is simply not up to snuff. Sometimes this is unavoidable. Whatever Black Flag released after Damaged was going to be something of a letdown. Likewise, Slayer had no chance of outdoing, or even equaling, the achievement that was Reign in Blood. This is not to say that My War or South of Heaven were bad records, only that there was no way to listen to them (at least from my perspective) without a certain degree of disappointment.

There is, however, another class of records defined by a band’s failure to live up to an achievable standard set by their previous trajectory. The classic example of this can be seen in the reviews and commentary surrounding the release of SS Decontrol’s How We Rock in 1984. This was back in the days when people still took seriously the idea that there could (and should) be a rigorous separation between punk and metal. I remember someone writing in to MRR and saying basically that there ought to be some kind of warning label applied to the record to prevent unsuspecting hardcore fans from accidentally buying a metal record. Sadly, the problem with How We Rock was not simply that it was heavily laden with metallic tinges, but rather that it was just not very good. As became clear in the course of the later 1980s, metal had a lot to add to hardcore in terms of tempo and intensity. How We Rock was plodding and self indulgent, not just metal damaged.

There are plenty of other examples to which one could allude. I suspect that I was not the only fan of the Crumbsuckers Life of Dreams to be sorely disappointed by the extended guitar wank that was Beast on My Back. Raw Power fans might have had a bit of warning from listening to the Wop Hour 7” that changes were afoot, but that hardly served to soften blow dealt by the mediocrity of After Your Brain in comparison to their mindblowing Screams from the Gutter. The list of candidates for most disappointing release could go on and on (Bad Religion Into the Unknown, 7 Seconds New Wind, Hüsker Dü Candy Apple Grey, Sacrilege Within the Prophecy, anything released by Entombed after Left Hand Path, etc., etc.) but my point is simply that I have a very low tolerance for disappointment.

All of which brings us to Amebix’s Sonic Mass. I have to admit that, before a couple of weeks ago, I had never even heard Amebix’s previous record, Monolith, which came out in 1987. Living in the U.K. in the mid-80s, I gobbled up all of Amebix’s early releases, from Who’s the Enemy, to Winter, to No Sanctuary. Arise, released in 1985, was one of my absolute favorite records in those days. Amebix’s stock in trade was dark atmosphere, conveyed partly through churning guitars, partly through keyboards. This was a pretty novel thing in those days, when stylistic purity was still seen as an issue. One of the guys in Disorder once described them to me as living in the same squat that they did, but listening to Killing Joke all the time. From the perspective of the anarcho-hardcore scene in that period, this was kind of uncool. Nonetheless, people could really get with their music. It communicated a bleak, hopelessness redolent of destroyed cities and civilization in collapse.

Arise was one of those records that I loved perhaps too much. As a consequence, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy Monolith when it came out. That may or may not have been an error on my part. Monolith is not quite as good as Arise. It doesn’t transmit the feeling of a gathering storm in quite the same way that its predecessor did, and it’s possible that I wouldn’t have gotten it back then. Now, of course, I really dig it. It features a lot more variation in tempo and texture that their earlier releases did, sacrificing some of their more atmospheric quality for more clearly defined guitar aggression.

With my mind opened somewhat to the idea that Amebix might have something to offer beyond “Axeman” and “Largactyl,” I acquired a copy of their most recent release, Sonic Mass, which came out last year. Even with the preparation mentioned above, I was still prepared to be disappointed. The field of bands that got back together after decades apart is littered with depressing failures. My fears were not much allayed by the opening track, “Days,” which features clean vocals and a bass line that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Bloc Party record. As it continues, “Days” builds in power and intensity, and with repeated spins it really grew on me. It helped, of course, that leads directly into “Shield Wall,” in whose pounding tempos and low register vocals fans of earlier Amebix discs will find comfort. Clearly, this is an updated version of their sound. The recording is much cleaner than that which characterized their releases in the 1980s. The somewhat more prominent role of metal structures evident on Monolith continues here, but they don’t go overboard and allowed heal damping and downtuning to replace creative writing.

As I continued to listen, I felt myself slipping into a sort of comfort zone. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that the licks that make up these songs reflect a stylistic continuity with the band’s classic era. Sometimes this effect is quite pronounced, as in the case of “God of the Grain,” in which the main lick sounds extremely similar to that from the title cut of the Winter 7”. One major improvement over the previous incarnation of the band is the drumming. Meaning no disrespect to Virus, his drumming style was a lot better suited to Disorder than it was to Amebix, although he certainly did a creditable job on their early recordings. With former Soulfly and Nausea drummer Roy Mayorga now handling the drumming (and keyboard) duties, Amebix are able to add a much greater variety of tempos, and this in turn allows for the Stig to work in more complex elements into the guitar work.

All in all, Sonic Mass is an excellent record. It has enough classic Amebix elements to satisfy the purists, but also enough subtlety and all around quality to hold the interest of those unfamiliar with the band’s old days. Maybe too this is an indication that I might do well to be a bit more open minded in terms of where bands go. Perhaps a little disappointment now and then is a small price to pay for a new found gem.

Magadh

No Sympathy for the Fascists

Posted in Heads Up with tags , on July 29, 2012 by Magadh

[This post was put up on the FB pages of both Masakari and Alpinist. We thought it was worth reposting here. Both Magadh and the Captain have been attending hardcore shows for decades and have too often seen bands and organizers overlook fascist iconography at gigs. Much respect to the bands for taking a principled stand and sticking to it.]

Yesterday, 28.7.12, Masakari and Alpinist decided to defer playing the ONT Grind’u Festival in Lithuania and we feel that it is important to provide an explanation for those that may have came to see us. When we arrived we noticed that a person was admitted into the festival with visible nazi tattoos: a white power celtic cross, hitler, and a swaztika. We confronted this and through our discussion we found that in the past this person was a leader of a nazi skinhead gang but had since left this mindset. It was explained to us how this person was living with this past attempting be active by engaging with people to discuss why the changes occured. The explanation was that the tattoos were not covered up because it engages people in conversation and the person is able to explain the story. From this we spent a lot of time discussing if we still wanted to take part in this festival. We did not feel that the decision to keep the tattoos visible was acceptable because of its explicit violent symbolism but at the same time this person was intent in our understanding of these life changes. In the end of this discussion we decided that we still wanted to play the show with the hopes to try to engage others in this dialogue. Immediately upon returning to the festival we witnessed another person admitted into the festival with a Reichsadler patch sewn on a shirt; we feel that its important to highlight that this wasn`t hidden it was clearly visible and shouldn`t have been missed or overlooked by the people at the door. At this point we decided that we could not be apart of this event. When we talked with the people who were affiliated with this festival we were asked to stay if these people were expelled from the event. However this was not because of any type of antifascists action but just because we were refusing to play. We feel this way because during our conversations with the people involved there were things said to justify these people when we explained our problems with the tolerance of these kinds of symbols:

„it is a pagan symbol“ + „these symbols mean different things in our culture“: we understand that these symbols were reappropriated by the nazis but these were directly affiliated with the nazi history

„it is just a style“: in no way can this be a justification, a style is an expression of distinctive attributes that characterize a person, which to us characterizes a person as a nazi no matter how someone tries to separate the use of the symbol and the hatred that it represents.

This is nazi sympathizing and we want no part in that.

We are sorry for those we may have came to see us, we hope to book shows in Lithuania the next time we are touring in the area, hopefully we can make it up to you.

Masakari // Alpinist

PDX Compilation Volume 2: Black Water Records

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

V/A PDX Compilation Volume 2 Black Water Records

Mags and I have both spent significant time in the Rose City down the years. Portland has always been something of a focal point for the American crust and peace punk scenes. Black Water Records’ PDX Compilation Volume 2 certainly affirms that the current crop are keeping the spirit alive.

The second installment of the series is a uniformly solid affair featuring Arctic Flowers, Moral Hex, Bellicose Minds and Funeral Parade. Arctic Flowers’ Reveries was an instant classic, blazing through its first 2 pressings in no  time at all. Their contribution, “Crusaders + Banshees” starts off the A-side and confirms why Reveries was so acclaimed. The track is an amalgam of peace punk with, perhaps, a bit of Weirdos and Avengers thrown in for good measure.

Moral Hex finish off the A-side with “Mortality”. The tracks gloomy intro gives way to a surging Joy  Division bass line and some angular guitar work.  Tanya’s vocals invoke memories Siouxsie or perhaps Rubella Ballet and the result is a delicious serving of death rock influenced peace punk.

Bellicose Minds kick off the B-side with my favorite track of the compilation “Tension Building”.  A martial drum beat is coupled with an early Cure bass line. The surging rhythm section are welded to angular guitar work and the result is a dark punk gem. Funeral Parade cap off the the affair with “For You” also found on their 2010 demo of the same name. This is pure dark punk invoking memories of giants like The Dark, early TSOL, and just a hint of Revelations era Killing Joke.

Black Water Records get things right with the 2nd volume of their PDX series. I’ll be looking forward to volume 3 and encourage readers to explore the 4 excellent bands featured on the comp.

– Captain of Games

Review: Livstid

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on July 26, 2012 by Magadh

Livstid, s/t Fysisk Format

We hear a lot of d-beat here in the bunker. Which is not to say that we don’t listen to lots of other stuff. But if you were to open the top hatch and climb down into the darkness, your journey would most likely be accompanied by raging guitars and gruff lyrics about the apocalypse. That’s just how it is. It can be a little numbing, especially these days when there seems to be something of a d-beat renaissance going on. Not a day passes that we don’t get some new demo or other, some of which are super, others, not so much.

A colleague of mine who spends a lot of time in Scandinavia sent me a copy of the demo by the Bergen band Livstid that they apparently put out last year. Well, it rocked quite hard. Come to find out, it actually made it in a full release as of October or so of last year. I’ll be honest, when I think of Bergen, I think of guys in corpse paint wandering through the streets swilling vodka and blowing fireballs everywhere. Ok, I know rationally that this isn’t how things are (or ever were) up there, but I think if you queried most fans of underground music they could probably name half a dozen black metal bands hailing from that neck of the woods. And, truth to tell, I’ve always sort of thought of Norway as the poorer cousin in terms of Scandinavian HC. With no disrespect intended, I think it’s fair to say that the history of hard thrashing bands from both Sweden and Finland pretty clearly outstrips that of Norway. Denmark gave us bands from Enola Gay and the Electric Deads up through Amdi Petersens Armé. Aside from Akutt Innleggelse, I can’t really name any Norwegian hardcore bands off the top of my head.

Well, that’s on me, I suppose. I shouldn’t blame the Norwegians for my own obliviousness. In any case, it’s something that I intend to pay a bit more attention to on the basis of this Livstid record. This disc features thrash of a really skull-crushing variety. They sound like a little bit less downtuned, slightly more metallic version of Skit System. From the opening cut, this record is right up in your grill with aggressive guitars and more thudding double bass action that you find on a lot of d-beat records. The recording quality is very good, the sound is full, but retains a pleasing level of dirtiness that is sometimes lacking in bands with the kind of metal overtones such as this. They keep the songs short, thus avoiding one of the more common failings of this genre: excessive repetition of an idea that wasn’t that great in the first place. Livstid assaults the listener with short, direct bursts that keep the attention and cause the head of even the most jaded d-beat reviewer to bang. This is a wonderfully intense record from start to finish.

I see from their site that they’re playing a few festival shows these days. This is the sort of band that needs to be encouraged to make it over to the states

Magadh

Beyond the Sun: A Review of the Alaric/Atriarch Split EP

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on July 21, 2012 by Magadh

Alaric/Atriarch Split EP 20 Buck Spin

Alaric’s 2011 debut was released with much fanfare. One reviewer went so far as to comment that it sounded like the album Amebix  should have made. The favorable comparison to the lords of peace punk soon had the dark strains of Alaric’s debut echoing through the bunker and me scrambling to pick up this split.

This EP finds both bands in a transitional phase. Alaric are coming off their previously mentioned 2011 debut and Atriarch find themselves in similar territory following their 2011 release of Forever the End on Seventh Rule. Veterans of several tours together (both bands dedicate their side of the split to the other), this EP seems a logical extension of their relationship and the material contained herein find both bands at their peak.

The Alaric side begins with “Memory Assault”, a powerful combination of Only Theatre of Pain era Christian Death and the dark punk majesty of Amebix and Rudimentary Peni. Shane’s bleak lyrics are enhanced by his vocal style that sounds something like Jaz Coleman projected through a medium.  “So Far Down” sees the band infusing deliberate droning bleakness with elements of Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall era Pink Floyd. Alaric end their side with “Weep”, a tune that begins with a bass part which sounds like it is reverberating through water. The drumming slowly builds over Rick’s bass line to merge with Russ’s guitar; all the while Shane’s distorted vocals lament the fate of a friend who has given up.

Atriarch have an undeniable affinity for Christian Death that is evident on the track “Oblivion”. Lenny’s vocals do invoke the late Rozz Williams as he sneers, “but God is speaking to you. They call it instincts and sin.” The death rock vibe eventually gives way to outrage and anger as the track crashes to its end with Lenny screaming “Lies! Lies! Lies!” as his voice fades out. “Offerings” sees the band moving in a different sonic direction.  The track begins with a bleak guitar part that seems to struggle up from the murk to be heard. It is eventually combined with clipped drumming and a droned vocal. Lenny’s vocals slowly build until the listener is suddenly treated to a full black metal assault before the track is eventually pulled under by the gathering gloom.

The Alaric/Atriarch receives an unreserved recommendation from the bunker. Alaric will be on hiatus until 2013 but do try and catch Atriarch if you have the chance. 2013 promises new material from both bands and I’m very excited to hear what they get up to.

– Captain of Games

Barcelona D-Beat

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 2012 by Magadh

I’ve finally managed to procure a copy of the self-titled 12” by Barcelona’s d-beat warriors Instinto and it was definitely worth the wait. A friend of mine from over that way recommended them, but it took me a while to get around to locating an actual copy of it, and of course then I found out that it was available on Bandcamp for free.

The first thing that should be said about this record is that it rocks with supreme fury. It has a sound that is quite distinctive, differing in many important respects from the take on this musical format that one tends to hear from bands originating in more northerly climes. Although by my calculations they are tuned down to D, There is much less of a reliance on downtuning to generate musical force. Instinto’s music is lighter in terms of tone and atmosphere than bands like Martyrdöd or Disfear. This is not to say that the music lacks power. Quite the contrary, actually. There is an aggression and melodicism here that gives the music real guts. They sing in Spanish, their lyrics hitting on a lot of the sort of anti-capitalist themes that make this music important

Perhaps this might be the time to note that there is a sense in which Instinto’s take on the d-beat form harkens back to the origins of this particular variety of hardcore. In the days of Crude SS and Anti-Cimex, there wasn’t the fixation on using low tunings to create heaviness. Rather, the force of the music was created through belligerence and passion. Instinto is very much an updated form or this approach and they use it to great effect.

This more light and airy take on d-beat made me a bit curious about other bands in that region. There seems, at least looking from the outside, to be a pretty active d-beat scene going on in Barcelona. Going through Instinto’s material, I found a couple of other bands that will definitely appeal to fans of aggressive, politically conscious hardcore.

A good place to start is the Kremón Records comp Barcelona Käos that came out in 2009. From start to finish this is an excellent release. It features cuts from 20 bands, none of which I had heard before, but all of which merit further study. High points include Avoid Notes “Tambores de Guerra,” Atxanta “Virus” (which bears a resemblance to early Ratos de Porão), and No Conforme “Nightmare,” but the thing that really impresses about this comp is the overall quality of the cuts.

Infäme, who apparently share at least one member with Instinto, have a sound that is similar in a lot of respects to Instinto, but with slightly simply song structures and a somewhat cleaner sound. They put out an LP in 2008 (self titled) which rocks most excellently. But for the fact that they are sung in Spanish, these songs wouldn’t have seemed out of place on that Varning För Punk collection of early Swedish hardcore that Distortion issued in 1994. Well, except for the fact that the production values here are much better than those found in the early Swedish hc recordings.

Since their LP came out, Infäme have put out a couple of ep’s. They seem to just title their records in the order that they came out, so that their most recent release (which came out in May of last year) is simply called III. It does reflect a certain amount of stylistic development, but it’s pretty much in line in terms of content and approach with their earlier release: d-beat in a standard tuning played with precision and enthusiasm.

Last, but not least (at least in terms of this all too brief exposition) is Totälickers. These guys have a ton of releases out (they’ve been around since 2005 or 2006 as far as I can tell), and everything that I’ve heard so far rocks like a hurricane. Clean and aggressive hc with a little less focus on melody that Instinto and a bit more directness in terms of song structure as well. Their El Poder Absoluto Aniquila La Vida, released in 2010, features ten cuts of catchy, angry, anarcho-hardcore. The vocals are clearer than a lot of music in this genre, which is a good thing if one is trying to understand lines sung in one’s third language. Earlier this year they released live album recorded in Prague, and the bits that I’ve heard of that are really first rate. This is definitely a band from whom I want to hear more.

Ok, that’s all of got on this, although I know that there is a lot that I’ve left unsaid. I am by no means an expert on what goes on in Barcelona. If there is anyone out there with more immediate knowledge of what the scene there is like and how these bands fit into it, we at A Thousand Trivs would certainly welcome your input. On the strength of what I’ve heard so far, there looks to be a lot of interesting stuff going on there.

Magadh

I’ve Been Called A Sinner: Brian Cook Muses on Time Spent With Daughters

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2012 by Magadh

[When Brian Cook offered us the chance to publish his musings on time spent on tour with Daughters (RIP) we jumped at the chance.  Cook is a real talent and it is our great pleasure to share this with you.]

In the summer of 2008, my band toured with the now-defunct noise-punk band Daughters. I had been a fan of the band since their first 7”, and my previous band had played a handful of shows with them over the years. I remember playing a show with them in Tokyo and winding up at a tiny bar in Shibuya at 4am, talking with their drummer Jon about the failings of modern punk music. “There’s no danger anymore. No one can do what The Stooges did or what Black Flag did in their time.” I understood his sentiment, though it seemed to me that Daughters were doing a pretty good job at capturing that kind of intensity. On that summer tour, I got a much closer look at the band, both as a unit and as individuals. By the end of those five weeks, I was convinced that Daughters were no ordinary run-of-the-mill empty-gesture arty hardcore band. They were legitimately fucked. They were good people—pleasant to be around, entertaining, humorous. But they were still damaged—angry, dysfunctional, perpetually plagued by bad luck. There was a book’s worth of stories just from that one tour. Talking about the band in the months after the tour, it seemed that everyone I knew who’d interacted with Daughters had their own tales of depravity and chaos. The idea of Daughters biography seemed more and more viable.

When Bloomsbury announced that they were taking pitches for new books in their 33 1/3 series, I saw an opportunity to tell Daughters’ story. I knew my chances of getting the green light on my proposal were virtually non-existent, but I figured it was worth a shot. I sent in the required proposal materials, including a 2000-word introductory chapter. Bloomsbury wound up receiving nearly 500 submissions. Mine didn’t make the cut. Perhaps one day I’ll get around to finishing the project and finding another avenue to publish it. In the time being, I figured I would put the introductory chapter online as a testament to an amazing band. Enjoy.

A draft introduction/opening chapter for the book, of around 2,000 words

Chapter 1: Daughters Spelled Wrong

“Yeah, I’ve been called a sinner…”

And so begins Daughter’s 2006 sophomore album Hell Songs–with a declaration of degradation. Vocalist Alexis S.F. Marshall, or Lex for short, wears the insult proudly, announcing it with the kind of defiant pride of Hester Prynne and her scarlet letter. And then a cascade of noise descends upon the final syllable. The song, “Daughters Spelled Wrong”, is one minute and 42 seconds of Lex’s self-flagellations delivered in a slurred Southern Baptist preacher’s drawl. In that short parcel of cacophony, Lex lists off every slanderous label he’s endured.

“…wrong-doer, evil-doer…”

As the front man for Daughters, Lex was the human element to the band. And while his performance on Hell Songs was unnerving enough in its own right, his tirades become exponentially more menacing live. With his stringy hair running down to his lower back, his tall and gangly frame, a wiry handle-bar mustache, hopelessly tattered black pants (apparently the only pair he owned), and an ill-fitting stained white dress shirt, he gave off an aura of someone who didn’t give a fuck about the pageantry of rock music. He wasn’t even fashionably unfashionable. Grooming, hygiene, and composure were neglected. He looked disheveled, poverty-stricken, strung out. Most Daughters sets found Lex in less attire, usually just a pair of briefs. Far from the industry-standard display of muscle and machismo seen in chiseled frontmen like Henry Rollins, Anthony Kiedis, and Chris Cornell, there was nothing erotic about near-nude Lex. Sexual? Certainly, but only in the most degrading, animalistic sense of the word. Lex’s stage presence only served to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible. He would claw red lines into his belly, cram his entire fist into his mouth, fellate the microphone, and drool on himself while fondling his genitals. In moments where audience members chose to interact with him on stage, the results were equally filthy. People vied for his phlegm. Women pulled at his briefs. Fans fondled and licked his exposed cock. A confessed “sex addict”, Lex would swap spit with both men and women mid-set and fuck fans in venue bathrooms. His tally of sexual conquests was startling, given his anti-social behavior. Claiming a bad acid trip as the root of his social anxiety, Lex was nearly bipolar in his daily interactions. He was relatively friendly and talkative one moment, withdrawn and angry the next. A ninth-grade drop out and former homeless teenager, his bleak world-view was legitimate.

“…worker of iniquities…”

There’s no verse. No chorus. No rhyming scheme. No melody. It’s just one musical phrase repeating for the entire duration of the song. The instrumental accompaniment sounds like a broken machine filtered through the ears of someone simultaneously shuddering through a panic attack and immersed in vertigo. The sound underneath Lex’s litany is a study in all things wrong and counter-intuitive. The band–comprised of entirely capable and talented players—sounds like they’re deliberately unlearning their instruments. Cymbals crash without a kick drum to punctuate them. The bass guitar dives and climbs with little regard for actual notes. One guitar avoids the lower octaves completely and opts instead for atonal high-end screeching and skronky discord. The other guitar remains stuck on one warbled, seasick riff through the whole song, sounding off-balance and broken even when the whole band locks in around it. It’s confounding, ugly music.

“…transgressor, bad example, scoundrel, villain, knave…”

The annals of rock music have no shortage of bands showcasing the darker side of human nature. Ever since Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, ever since Jerry Lee Lewis set his piano on fire, ever since Iggy Pop rolled in broken glass, there has existed a certain sector of the rock community dedicated to exorcising it’s demons on stage. It’s the reason that concerned parents and church groups still argue that rock music is evil. This flagrant display of bad behavior, self-destruction, and reckless abandon is at the very root of rock music. And perpetuating rock’s legacy of danger requires raising the bar of rebellion. As rock music nears the age of retirement, it’s old tricks no longer impress young audiences. Chuck Berry and Little Richard carry none of the threat they did in their heyday. Black Sabbath, who’s very name suggested black mass and the occult, now seems downright Christian in comparison to the blasphemous content of black metal bands like Gorgoroth. So prevalent is the anti-social contingent of music in today’s market that it’s hardly noteworthy for a band to parade its malice for an audience. The harder edged realms of rock music–metal and punk, for example–depend on that kind of antagonism. Daughters looked for one of those last few buttons to push, one of those last few taboos to break, one the last few ways to make people cringe. Perry Farrell noted well over two decades ago “nothing’s shocking.” Daughters challenged that statement.

“…miscreant, viper, wretch, the devil incarnate…”

It takes a certain brand of individuals to make nihilism translate into music, and it requires their contempt to be believable. Words like “genuine”, “sincerity”, and “honesty” get thrown around by critics and fans as signifiers of good music. How do those qualities apply to antagonistic musicians? Do the artists have to be genuinely miserable people to make convincingly ugly music? The artists who are typically the most successful at this kind of dark art manage to convey that wrath and misery in both content and form. It’s not just a matter of singing about the pasty underbelly of the human psyche or throwing a few skulls on an album cover; it’s about the thoroughness of pessimism. It’s about creating a genuine sense of danger. And it requires a misanthropic honesty that carries itself both on and off-stage. It used to be that the image set forth by an artist on stage and on record comprised nearly the entire public perception of said artist. In the age of the internet, this is no longer the case. Even more so for a band of Daughter’s stature–a band that rarely had a backstage to slink off to, a band that still had to unload their own gear off stage, a band that still had to run back to the merch booth after their set to sling t-shirts for gas money, a band with no place to hide and sustain a fabricated mystique.

“…monster, demon, fallen angel, murderer, and thief…”

The Catch-22 is that being in a successful band–a band that can write music together, play shows, tour, record, maybe even make a little money—requires unity, solidarity, positivity, compromise, and sociability. In other words, a band that’s genuinely driven by angst and hostility is doomed for failure. Proof of the unsustainable nature of these kinds of acts is most evident in the dearth of popular nihilistic bands. Even the somewhat well-known misery peddlers tend to be tragically stunted. Notorious shock rock icon GG Allin made a career out of anti-social behavior and bilious lyrical themes. He was known to take the stage naked, ready to fight the audience and fling his feces at the crowd. He wrote songs with titles like “I Want To Rape You” and “Fuckin’ The Dog”. He famously promised to kill himself on stage, which would have been the ultimate display of the self-destructive nature of negative music, but a heroin overdose beat him to it. Glen Benton, the vocalist and bassist for seminal death metal band Deicide similarly promised to off himself at the age of 33 as a mockery of Jesus Christ’s year of death. Benton failed to live up to his word. And while he will always be remembered for the controversy he created in his early career by branding an inverted cross into his forehead and advocating animal sacrifice, he tempered out in his later years when he became a family man with a wife and kids. Not surprisingly, the quality of Deicide’s albums declined, as did their album sales. Allin went to close to the edge and fell into the abyss. Benton mellowed out. Neither managed to sustain the malice of their classic records over a protracted career. Daughter’s brand of ugliness had none of Allin’s overt misogyny and violence, none of Deicide’s Christian-baiting Satanism. Instead, they specialized in a kind of implied depravity. Lex wouldn’t attack the venue patrons or shove objects up his ass, but he’d do everything else in his power to make the audience take a squeamish step back. Even though their album title references Hell, there was no trumpeting of a contrarian religion in their lyrics, no acknowledgement of moral consequence. Instead, Lex sang about emotional voids. It somehow made Lex scarier than GG or Glen. He seemed smarter. Colder. Less confrontational, but also less vested in cheap stunts and outlandish behavior for the sake of winning over anyone’s approval. He wasn’t interested in violence. He was interested in degrading himself on stage, forcing the audience into an unnerving kind of voyeurism.

“…lost sheep, black sheep, black guard, loafer, and sneak…”

Even the millionaire “bad boys of rock”—KISS, Alice Cooper, Motley Crue—aren’t exempt from the perilous balance of nihilism and authenticity. For one thing, these cultural giants never tread so far into the blackness that you feared them as people. Their worst crimes were their hedonistic appetites. They still came across as people that would be fun to party with. Marilyn Manson managed to up the ante of anti-social behavior in the ‘90s, but the controversy was calculated. Manson always knew how to articulate his more vitriolic statements in a calm, well-spoken, intellectual manner. It was obviously theater. Daughters didn’t come across as the life of the party. They didn’t come across as having any sort of deeper, thoughtful meaning to their art. They came across as genuinely bitter, crass, resentful individuals.

“…good-for-nothing ass-fucking son of a bitch.”

Daughters were a band that tried to find that balance between thorough, real ugliness and some kind of self-sustaining functionality. They wanted to be successful; they wanted to tour the world and make money. But they also wanted to make something truly hideous and uncomfortable. Their debut album, Canada Songs, was an 11-minute surge of hyper-paced noise-driven hardcore. Occupying the kind of punk/metal hybrid territory instigated by bands like The Locust and Dillinger Escape Plan, Daughters found an immediate audience among fans of frenzied, technical music. It was well-received, but not entirely unconventional for that particular style. But Hell Songs was different. The band ditched their lightning-speed tempos, metal-steeped instrumentation, and shrieking, indecipherable vocals for disjointed mid-tempo lurches and Lex’s drunken oratory. They weeded their old material out of their performances. The fans felt betrayed. They had gone from sounding like the arty descendents of the powerviolence and grindcore scenes into a tightly wound meth-fed version of The Birthday Party. There was a much stronger adversarial vibe to their new approach. Their sound was less tethered to any particular scene. It alienated a fan base that was already built on embracing disenfranchisement and being at odds with everything.

But deservedly, the record found an audience, albeit a small one. For as caustic and abrasive of an album as it is, there’s a surprising catchiness to the material. The low end groans; the high end piercingly buzzes like a swarm of insects; the drums flit from spasms of hyperkinetic pulverizations to deconstructed thuds and clatter; and Lex moans and howls over all of it. Yet somehow, Hell Songs is rife with hooks. There was a discipline to what they did. It could’ve easily devolved into white noise, but there was always a clarity and separation to the instruments. They were a tight band. And for the three years that followed the release of Hell Songs before the group imploded, Daughters came about as close as any band can get to being a total train wreck without rattling apart at the seams. There was fighting, a rotating cast of guitar players, drugs, infidelities, van accidents, hospital trips, lost money, rivalries with tourmates, promoters pulling guns on the band, and tangles with the law. They were a fascinating, glorious mess, and they perfectly captured it over the course of ten songs.

“I’ve been called a sinner.”

– Brian Cook

Adventures in Punkland, Part 2: Things I Learned in Old Bars

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , on July 15, 2012 by Magadh

Why do we remember the things that we do? Obviously, it’s a question to which I don’t have an answer, but it’s been on my mind a lot since I started jotting down these memories. I can barely remember where I was last week, yet I can still remember the time in 1986 that I learned of the existence of that most British of comestibles, the chip butty. Why can I still remember buying a copy of the second BGK LP on a street corner in Nottingham from Dig Pearson (who would subsequently start Earache Records), or getting chased by skinheads down the High Road in Beeston? History is the enemy of memory, they say. There are people out there who lived these events, and perhaps remember them differently than I do. But these are the things that shaped me, and the fragments of memory are all I have left.

***

One thing that strikes an American about the U.K. is how startlingly old things are there. This was not a complete surprise to me when we moved there in 1986. My father was a Medieval English lit professor, so I was about as heavily immersed in British culture as it was possible to be as a 17 year old from the U.S. Still, it was a strange experience upon arriving in Long Eaton that the town had existed at the time of the Doomsday Book.

Precious little of that history was actually in evidence in the town, but there was more in Nottingham proper. Of course, as with practically every speaker of English, I associated Nottingham with the legends of Robin Hood. When I began hanging out in the city with the guys from Concrete Sox, I started to get a real feel for the way that the old and the new intermingled.

On Saturdays, the thing to do was to hang out at a bar called the Salutation (or the Sal for short). Nottingham, it might be worth mentioning at this point, is home to two of the oldest pubs in Europe. Ye Olde Salutation Inn is reputed to have been in operation since 1240. The Trip to Jerusalem, build into the cliff below Nottingham Castle, is supposed to have been going since 1189. How strange it is now to think that I spent so much time hanging out with arch modernist punk rockers in the these hoary establishments.

Anyway, the Sal was the Saturday hangout spot. The first floor was, as I recall, more of restaurant, the kind of place where “normal” people hung out. The second floor was almost wholly given over the punks, metalheads, and bikers. There was some fellow (a biker as I recall) who would bring his turntables down on Saturdays and spin discs while we all kicked around shooting pool and drinking lager. This must have seemed like a perfectly everyday occurrence to the people I was with. For me, it was the height of cool.

I was four years away from being able to drink legally in the U.S. In fact, the drinking age in the U.K. was 18, but I never once saw it enforced. I’d never hung out in a bar before, nor had any of my friends back home. What was more, the whole place was loaded with punk rockers. Where I came from, we were a pretty rare breed, and it was not entirely safe for us to go out in public. Here, they were completely open about it and there were so many punks around that you could get a real feeling of security.

This was in the days of the old licensing laws left over from the era of the World Wars. As such, the pub had to close at 2:30 or so (not being allowed to open again until 6:30). I think that I read somewhere that this was originally meant to prevent workers in war industries from drinking away the afternoon, but it probably wasn’t a bad idea to keep it around because at least it got you out of the bar and walking. When the bar closed we would usually get some more beer from the off license, and then head off in search of more entertainment. The CS guys knew this fellow named Dean who had a VCR in his gaff, so often we would go over there and watch cheesy old movies or Bones Brigade videos.

This brings me to another odd things about the punk culture over there in those days: there was a lot of (though by no means universal) fascination with the North American skateboarding culture. I had brought my old Roskopp skateboard with me, which used more for transportation than anything else. This was particularly true after I got my first part of Doc Martens (black, ten eyelet) which made doing anything on a skateboard besides rolling straight ahead an invitation to a wipe out. In the end it served me well. I traded the wheels (a set of OJ II’s as I recall) to Les from CS for an obscure Chaos U.K. 12”. Later, I traded the deck for an old leather jacket (covered with studs and painted with a huge Amebix design no less). I felt like I had done pretty well out of both deals.

The thing that impressed me most in my time in the U.K. was the difference between the British and American punk cultures. I use these terms advisedly, at least in the case of the U.S. The scene in S.F. was much different than that in N.Y. or D.C. As anyone who remembers the This is Boston, Not L.A. comp, this was something that was clear to everyone involved. For those of us who grew up outside the major cities, punk took on myriad forms. For us in Walla Walla, it was a matter of compiling the fragments that filtered down, comprising the records we could get in town, stuff procured on our infrequent sojourns to Portland or Seattle (three and six hours drive away respectively), as well as what we could learn from issues of MRR, Flipside, and Thrasher.

We knew we were different, disaffected. We didn’t fit into the abhorrent Christian conservative culture so dominant during the Reagan era, but in terms of positive politics, or serious political criticism, we were pretty much at sea. Hanging around with Concrete Sox and their friends, I met people who were a lot more politically engaged. They were vegetarians or vegans. They were anarchists. They had very developed criticism of the government, of militarism, of apartheid. Talking to them, what it meant to be involved in the punk scene took on a very different dimension for me.

I remember having a conversation about the differences in the cultures of punk in the respective countries with a bunch of the Nottingham crust set, sitting on the grass outside of the Trip to Jerusalem, drinking lager in the late spring sunshine. I remember someone saying, “Aside from Crucifix and Final Conflict, there really aren’t any American bands that I take seriously.” This was a little unfair, but only a little.

My introduction to serious politics (and drinking in bars) changed me pretty radically. By the time I got back to Walla Walla, I felt even less like I fit in there than ever before. On the other hand, I had firsthand knowledge of some things in the real world. None of my hometown friends had hung out in squat (or council houses), known anyone who was on the dole , or been tear-gassed by the police. I felt like an outsider among the outsiders.

[In Part 3 of this series, our young hero travels the land in a van full of cider swilling anarchists, meets Anti-Cimex, and watches Concrete Sox run out of a burning pub. Stay tuned.]

Magadh

Middle Eastern Anti-Islamic Black Metal

Posted in Dispatches, Heads Up with tags , , , , , , on July 13, 2012 by Magadh

The anti-Christian message of metal, hardcore and punk has become trite. Lyrical themes and album images are continually rehashed until they become little more than white noise. Attacking Christianity, unless one veers into the Judeo category as bands like Arghoslent do, is safe and consequence free. What happens when black metal’s blasphemous lens is turned toward Islam?

Kim Kelly, in her excellent piece “When Black Metal’s Anti-Religious Message Gets Turned on Islam” profiles the rise of anti-Islamic black metal in the Middle East. Anahita, front woman of Iraqi black metal band Janaza whose provocative album Burn the Pages of Quran is typical of the subgenre, answers the question posed at the end of the last paragraph. When asked what would happen to her if religious authorities learned of her identity she responds, “They would kill me, and kill all of my friends, by cutting off our heads.” Mk-Ultra’s Let’s Feed the Christians to the Lions seems a little less threatening all of a sudden.

I’ll wrap things up as the thrust of this post was to alert our readership to Kelly’s excellent article which can and should be read here. Anahita and those like her are truly courageous, they are to be commended. Would that kindred spirits in the West displayed the same mettle.

-Captain of Games