Archive for July, 2012

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

Review: Martyrdöd

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on July 12, 2012 by Magadh

Perhaps no event has been so eagerly awaited here in the bunker as the arrival of the Paranoia, the new disc from those masters of Swedish d-beat, Martyrdöd. Those in that microset of humanity who actually read this blog with regularity will know that there is an obsession with Martyrdöd among the editorial staff here that really borders on the pathological. Imagine, then, the paroxysms of joy that arose when this disc found its way through the mail slot.

Having said all that, there was also a sort of trepidation at its arrival. This stemmed from the fact that Sekt, the band’s previous outing, had not quite lived up to the standard set by its predecessor. This is, in a certain sense, hardly a very trenchant criticism. In Extremis (2005) was a watershed moment in the history of Swedish d-beat. A new standard had been set. It was almost inevitable that whatever followed it was going to be something of a letdown.

Perhaps the difference between the two discs can be described as follows. The brilliance of In Extremis was that the way that it combined melody with extremes of downtuning. By my calculations, the guitars on In Extremis were tuned down to B (either that or they were using some sort of drop tuning but you get my point). As numerous bands have heretofore discovered, tuning down that far runs the risk of turning the music into indecipherable mush. Although the guitars on In Extremis could be a bit indistinct, they created a dark maelstrom over which the second guitar then spiraled compelling minor key melodies. These seemed to emerge out of a churning fog of d-beat thrash. Added to this was the fact that the melodies themselves often comprised six measures, rather than four, and the extra time that they took to resolve added a compelling tension to the music.

On Sekt, released four years later, many of the same features were in evidence. It seemed, however, that they were trying to move forward stylistically. Part of my problem with Sekt, from a personal perspective, was that I just didn’t like the riffs as much. That is a purely subjective assessment. From a more objective perspective, there was it was clear that the song structures were somewhat different than they had been on In Extremis. “En Demon” is a good example of this. The first thing that one notices is that the beat is a straight thrash tempo rather than the sort of the bracketed beat typical of d-beat drumming. The dark guitars churn away in their accustomed fashion, and after a while one hears one of Martyrdöd’s typical dark melodies. However, it is a more typical four bar melody and it disintegrates relatively quickly into a more straight ahead rock lead.

This is just one example, and there are many others that could be adduced. The point is not that Sekt is a bad record. Rather, it had the misfortune of having been released after a great record. If it had followed Martyrdöd’s self-titled first album, it might have looked a bit better. But it wasn’t, and it is what it is (or it was what it was). In any case, how then does Paranoia stack up?

Quite well as a matter of fact. Martyrdöd has managed to advance stylistically, while still retaining the features that made them great in the first place. There is a much more pronounced metallic influence in terms of style and production on Paranoia than on previous releases, but not the extent that it effaces the underlying hardcore impulse. The guitars are still tuned way down, but there is a crispness to the production not in evidence on earlier releases. The melodic overlays on Paranoia are far superior to those found on its predecessor, and rather than swelling out of a dark cloud, they now sit majestically atop precise and crushing riffage. The other elements that lifted Martyrdöd above the run of d-beat acts are strongly represented; from the jackhammer drumming to the singer who sounds like he’s shouting last words before his execution.

Verily, this is a record whose strains will be echoing around the hallways of the bunker for many weeks to come. It’s always really nice to hear a great band explore something new within a style that they have mastered. Martyrdöd have (once again) thrown down the gage to the d-beat bands thrashing in the ruins of the world? Who, then, will take it up?

Magadh

Adventures in Punkland, Part 1

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , on July 10, 2012 by Magadh

In January of 1986, my family moved from Walla Walla, Washington to the little town of Long Eaton, outside of the city of Nottingham in the U.K. I was very excited about this. I hated my high school and I hated Walla Walla even more. I figured anything had to be better than that. I only had the vaguest idea what was happening with the punk scene in the U.K. Looking at human culture a place like Walla Walla in those days was sort of like astronomers looking at objects thousands of light years away. For me, the reality of punk in those days was the Punk and Disorderly compilations, plus a few Crass and Chaos U.K. records thrown in for good measure.

I told my friends that I was going to live in the U.K. Some of them were jealous, wanting just as much to get out of Walla Walla as I did. Mostly they were pretty excited about the idea that I was going to be able to see what amounted to us to the Mecca of punk rock, as we understood it from repeated viewings of the UK DK video. My buddy Jerry, who was I think a little annoyed that this opportunity was being bestowed on someone so much less cool than him, said, “you’ll probably just get beat up.”

Old Market Square, Nottingham

Long Eaton was a little town with not much going on, but it was only about a half an hour’s bus ride from central Nottingham. On the first Saturday of our stay there, I rode the bus into town to see what was what. I made my way from the bus station under Broad Marsh shopping center up into the middle of town, all the while looking for some way to get my bearings. When I got to Old Market Square, I found an anti-apartheid march forming up. I think at the time I assumed this kind of thing happened every day. There were some young punk rock types in the crowd to whom I introduced myself. They were quite friendly and gave me some pointers about things to do and places to go.

Probably the best of these was the direction to visit a record store called Select-a-Disc that was just off the square. Finding Select-a-Disc was a real piece of good fortune. They had more punk records there than I had ever seen in one place before. [At that point it had been to Time Travellers in Seattle, as well as the old Tower Records by Seattle Center, but Select-a-Disc put them both in the shade. I wasn’t to see a better record store until I moved to Portland and discovered 2nd Avenue, but that’s a different story]. I looked around for a couple of hours like a kid in a candy store. Finally, I realized it was getting late and I was going to have to split. Aside from my bus fare, I only had a couple of pounds on me, so I quickly bought something that fitted into my price range and headed out the door.

What I bought, completely by serendipity, was the Anglican Scrape Attic flexi. Considering the it was done on the basis of about five seconds’ reflection, it was well done. I think I must have bought it because it had a song on it by Sacrilege, who I’d never heard at that point, but the cover of whose Behind the Realms of Madness I’d seen (and been intrigued by) in MRR. In addition, it included cuts by the Japanese bands The Execute and Lip Cream, another by Hirax, and, most crucially as it turned out, one song by Concrete Sox. I say crucially because I discovered when I got home that Concrete Sox were actually from Nottingham.

I should point out that in those days I was pretty innocent of the burgeoning crossover movement that was going on between the punk and underground metal scenes. Most of what I knew came from attacks on this trend in MRR. Listening to Anglican Scrape Attic was a seriously mind altering experience. Not only was the music different than most of the punk that I had heard up to that point, but it had an overtly political dimension that was, if not entirely new to me, at least more prominent than in most of the music that I had heard in the U.S. The Concrete Sox cut, “Eminent Scum (Parts 1+2)” was about animal rights and hunt saboteuring, neither of which were the kind of things that got much play in the North America, even from more political bands like the Dead Kennedys. Until that moment, I think I was blissfully unaware that fox hunting actually went on.

I was determined to learn more, so I wrote a letter to Concrete Sox explaining who I was and asking if I could meet them. I must have included my telephone number, because a few days later I got a call at my parents’ house from their drummer John. He asked me if I wanted to come down to their practice space, which was at a community center somewhere in Nottingham (I don’t remember where now). I was kind of shocked. As a small town kid, I sort of expected them to blow me off.

I didn’t take this picture, but I have one just like it somewhere. I can still remember Vic wearing that shirt. It was from the Bob Geldof Run the World thing (and was meant ironically in Vic’s case, of course)

As I recall, I met John in front of the tower where his council flat was, which was above the Victoria Center shopping mall (what a strange place for low income housing). He took me to where they practiced and introduced me to the rest of the band. I was kind of apprehensive, but it turned out that they were a really nice bunch of guys. When I walked in, their guitar player Victim (or Vic for short) was just plugging in. He cut loose with a burst of music that was faster and louder than anything I had ever heard in my life. Their singer, Sean, was a hulking fellow (or at least so I recall), but he was jovial and had a habit of saying, “Jolly, jolly good” in a peculiar imitation of a British upper crust accent.

Les and Sean from Concrete Sox

Their bass player Les walked in with a cassette that somebody had made for him of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. This kind of surprised me, since where I came from the people who were into punk didn’t really associate much with people who were into metal bands, even crazy ones like Metallica. It would have been different if I had been from some bigger city like SF or LA, but being from the hinterlands, I was kind of behind the times. Anyway, after chatting with the band briefly, they got down to the business at hand. I had only ever heard one of their songs, and that only on the little turntable in our living room. For the next hour or so, I was treated to their full set, played at blistering, cyclonic pace and at a volume that caused my eardrums to compress. It was the start of my real education in punk.

To be continued…

Magadh

Scratch Your Name on My Arm With a Fountain Pen

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , , on July 9, 2012 by Magadh

Jacobus Van Dyn’s tattoos would make him an object of comment today; imagine their effect in 1930’s England. Van Dyn worked as a stevedore on the Southampton Dock while collecting work from some of the principle artists of his age, including the esteemed George Burchett. He was also known to pass the time regaling passers by at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park with tales from his life of sin.

Howard Grey, in 1959, documented Van Dyn’s tattoos in a series of portraits. Readers wishing to review the portraits, one of which is published below, may do so here.  Thankfully, Grey declined an opportunity to photograph Van Dyn’s heavily tattooed penis.

I first encountered this story via the good people at Sang Bleu who I heartily recommend you add to your daily reading list.

– Captain of Games

Sounds from the Bunker

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2012 by Magadh

For the last couple of days, I’ve been grooving on the Lost Tribe demo that I got from the Captain. For those who haven’t heard it, I heartily recommend it. I get the impression that it’s considered neo-goth or some such thing. In the days of my youth we would have just called that punk rock. It isn’t really quite as decadent as (what I consider to be) mainline goth acts like Christian Death or (taking the term a little more broadly) 45 Grave (to say nothing of such puffy shirt favorites as Spear of Destiny, Sisters of Mercy, etc.). If I’m not mistaken, the first time that I heard 45 Grave was on a compilation that also featured Social Distortion. [Subsequent research showed that this was the Hell Comes to Your House comp, originally released in 1981, which was kind of a watershed moment in terms of the early punk/goth crossover.] In any case, Lost Tribe rule and should be listened to by all civilized people.

In the name of trying to expand my musical horizons a little bit I’ve been digging into a bit of French music that was recommended to me: the Rigorisme EP released by Calvaiire. France is another one of those places in which my knowledge of the hardcore scene has really lagged. In the last ten years or so, there has been a real efflorescence of black metal bands in France, with groups such as Deathspell Omega, Glorior Belli, Merrimack, and Haemoth creating a dark and chaotic sound that seemed specific to the scene there (to the extent that such a work is descriptive in this case). Calvaiire is the first French hardcore band that I have heard in many a year and, on the strength of this four song release, they show massive promise. Their music occupies the border land between dark hardcore in the vein of Rorschach and more mainline screamo acts like Hoover (just to pick a name). More info is available from their site, which gives the impression of a real d.i.y approach. There is some (and perhaps complete) overlap between the band and the people who do Throatruiner Records. The latter have put out a whole bunch of cool stuff, about which more will be said in future posts. More power to them.

As it turns out, Calvaiire are related to another awesome French band: Birds in a Row. They too used to be on Throatruiner, although for the new record (which was released recently and which I haven’t heard yet) they have moved over to Deathwish Inc. Their Cottbus EP sounds a lot like Calvaiire, but the sound is more spare, a little like a less distorted MITB. They do thrash quite hard, throwing in plenty of pace and tempo changes that keep the listener interest. They are just not one of those bands that it’s very easy to tap your foot to (or bang your head if such is your inclination), but their music has a harsh, emotional quality that is quite distinctive.

Along more well-travelled lines, Münster’s Unrest have released a self-titled EP featuring four songs of intense, crust tinged d-beat on Germany’s Rising Riot Records. The music is tight and aggressive, sort of in the vein of Audio Collapse, but played with more precision. The song structures are pretty simple with slight melodic overtones, but relying more on heavily overdriven guitar and razor sharp drumming. This is definitely one of the better mixed releases that I have heard in this genre lately. The production is thick but still clear, giving the music a dark and brooding feel that that lifts it above the run of releases in this vein. Older listeners might notice a similarity to Crude SS or early Asocial, although the inclusion of blast beats certainly differentiates Unrest from those acts.

Ok, well that’s a little insight into what has been echoing around the Thousand Trivs bunker these days. We’ll be back tomorrow evening with more stuff, including a review of the much anticipated (at least by us) new Martyrdöd record.

Stay cool and don’t get eaten (because it seems like there are more zombies every day).

Magadh