Archive for anti-cimex

Review: Adrestia

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 8, 2019 by Magadh

Adrestia, The Wrath of Euphrates (Phobia Records) 2019

I meant to review Adrestia’s supremely hard-rocking The Wrath of Euphrates months ago when it first came out. But at that point, I was absolutely up to my ears in other projects and it passed out of my sight for a time. What follows take a little while to get where it’s going. If you want the Cliff’s Notes version, this is a really shattering piece of metallic crust, that has the added benefit of having sound political consciousness and an important message. If this is enough for you, feel free to move on down the line. For the rest…

*****

I can remember a lifetime ago standing around at the Mermaid in Birmingham seeing Napalm Death for the first time. In time this would get to be kind of old hat. They opened a lot of shows in Birmingham in those days and I ended up seeing them a bunch of times in the months that I lived in the U.K. in the spring and summer of 1986, but I recall the first time clearly. I recall it because I’d seen Mick Harris, a weedy little guy (not as weedy as myself of course) with the brim of his baseball cap flipped up and Lärm scrawled across it, hanging around the bar for an hour before the show. But this thing I most remember is that they must have done 30 songs in a fifteen minute set.

If I’m remembering correctly, they were a three-piece then and their bassist was singing. Before each of the manic blasts he would bark out whatever the subject of the song was: “This one’s about…destruction of the environment!” But, for all I knew, it might have been about the scoreline of the Aston Villa versus Nottingham Forest football match. It was just completely impenetrable.

I don’t know about those guys, but I do know that a lot of the punks that I met around Notts were pretty politically engaged: going to demos, playing benefits, doing a little light hunt saboteuring here and there. This was a big change for me from the U.S. (or at least my part of it). Politics for us were a bit more abstract. I think we mostly hated Ronald Reagan, but the general run of punks in the U.S. was pretty unpolitical (and sometimes kind of right-wing). I remember one of the Notts punks saying to me, “The only band from the U.S. that I take seriously is Crucifix.”

As I got more toward adulthood (and moved to an actual city as opposed to the backwater town I grew up in), I found more punks being actively engaged, doing non-profit stuff, running Food Not Bombs, etc. But toward the end of the 1980s I felt like that fell off a bit. Punk in the U.S. always had a pretty strong element of personal rather than political focus, and the rise to prominence of the East Bay pop punk bands kind of validated this. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit here, but only a bit. There were always overtly political bands (especially in Portland where the crust thing was almost cult-like), but as I got older a really began to miss the more political end of things.

The upshot of all of this is that nowadays I have an especially soft spot my heart for bands with serious political commitment. Having followed developments in Rojava for a few years, I was really gratified when Martyrdöd (which reads of this blog will who I have a real thing for) put out a release in support of the cause there.

The struggle of the Kurds for an autonomous homeland perhaps did not receive the support from the community of the left that it might because the fight against groups like ISIL attracts so many from the nutball right. People are justifiably hesitant to take positions that might line them up alongside a bunch of neofascists, and the opposition to ISIL from that end of the spectrum is, more often than not, freighted with a lot of racist and cultural chauvinist baggage.

As Mr. Trump’s recent dealings with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demonstrate, the right has a hard time not simply categorizing non-whites as terrorists to one degree or another (thus Mr. Trump and his supporters were pretty much ok with Erdoğan’s project of ethnically cleansing northern Syria). Support for Rojava, and the YPJ and YPG units fighting to defend their autonomous zone and to root ISIL out of the region, is something decent people can unreservedly get behind.

Martyrdöd took an important step along this path with their video for “Harmageddon” in 2016. The use of actual footage of YPJ fighters in battle was intense and compelling. They then reprised this cut on the In Solidarity with Rojava split EP with Adrestia that came out the following year.

Adrestia’s previous full length, The Art of Modern Warfare (2017) also had Rojava as an important theme. I remember listening to it at the time, but never really connecting to it, although it holds up well now in retrospect. It’s got the kind of crusty aggression that you’d expect, plus the cover has actual colors other than black and white, which is a refreshing change.

The Wrath of Euphrates is a real step forward. This gets my vote for the best record to come out in 2019, and I really don’t think there’s been anything else even close (ok maybe Hellknife, Dusk of Doom which coincidentally is also out on Phobia Records). The Wrath of Euphrates comprises thirteen cuts of hyperaggressive d-beat crust. There is a very significant metal dimension to this disc, with a lot of single-string techniques, overlying melodies that would not have been out of place on an early Dimmu Borgir record. There are also more straight-ahead metal touches (a fair amount of heel damping, pick harmonics, and solos more complicated than the standard d-beat fare). But it all works together.

Their sound bounces around between early Wolfpack and a more Skit System-esque direction. Like a lot of crust bands, they tend to play a lot of melodies over underlying d-beat progressions. But unlike bands like Martyrdöd or Burning Bright, Adrestia’s melodies are more depressing and uglier.

The result is a disc that absolutely blazes with anger and aggression. It’s hard to single out particular cuts as excellent, but if you twist my arm I’d say my favorites are “See You in Hell” and “Afrin.” The former fields a pretty complex lick that then resolves into a skull-crushing d-beat pounder. This one had me headbanging to the point that I nearly wrecked my (thanks guys). “Afrin” features an opening in a sort of eastern sounding progression that is very much outside the norm for this style of music and which helps it develop real atmosphere.

For added awesome, check out the video they did for “The Message” with vocals by former Anti-Cimex singer Tomas Jonsson. I will just sya that I had very good reason to believe that nothing like this would ever happen, so it was nice to hear Jonsson’s voice gracing another record.

The Wrath of Euphrates is about as perfect of a synthesis of metal chops and hardcore aggro that you’re ever going to find. They play their music like the world was coming down around their ears and they’d been invited to play the afterparty with Motörhead. I really can’t imagine what they could do to top this, but I am eager to hear them try.

Review: Martyrdöd

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2019 by Magadh

Martyrdöd, Hexhammeren (Southern fuckin’ Lord)

I wrote somewhere, maybe here, that I always get kind of nervous when I hear that Martyrdöd are about to release a record. I can still remember when I first heard their classic In Extremis (2005), a record which rocked me as hard as anything crust record ever had. Ever since then I’ve been sort of waiting for them to drop off in quality. Sekt, released four years later, was good, but kind of didn’t live up to the earlier release. Paranoia was better but suffered from a bit of indistinctness that often happens to band that is tuned way down. Still, “Tragisk Zeitgeist” was a cut whose rage and power would not have been out of place on In Extremis. Eldop was great. List was better, especially the video for “Harmageddon,” with its footage of heroic women YPG fighters. Long story short, the bar for this band, at least in my estimation, could hardly be higher.

Hexhammeren opens with the title cut, a chugging, heal-damped jackhammer that gallops headlong into the darkness. The slightly more metallic picking style gives the music a different texture, swirling darkly underneath Martyrdöd’s signature melodic overlays. The second track, “Rännilar” (which I think means “rivulets” or something like that) gets back to the more mainline version of the band’s sound. But it is a pummelling track nonetheless, featuring yet another spiraling melodic line.

Since In Extremis, Martyrdöd have made their stock in trade the expression of the anger and sorrow of the world. That record was a barely contained explosion of rage and pain that seemed at all points ready to break the bounds of the recorded medium and to become manifest in the world, anguished and self-aware. Over successive releases, they have polished and refined their sound, but have never lost the edge of furious urgency of their early discs.

Something they’ve added to their repertoire since the release of List three years ago has been video accompaniment. The video for “Harmageddon” mentioned above was an excellent opening shot, juxtaposing footage of the band playing with clips of female YPG fighters doing the business against ISIS. This was particularly effective, not only demonstrating an interest in, and commitment to, actual struggles for actual justice, but also emphasizing the role of women in the ongoing struggle. The band themselves looked on the edge of desperation. Jens Bäckelin attacks his drum kit like a guy administering a beatdown to someone he hates from the old neighborhood.

The new disc is accompanied by videos for “Helveteslarm” and “Pharmacepticon”. The former is good, and has a slightly lighter tone than some of their other material. The latter gets back on model, showing dark and unsettling images over a chunky, mid-tempo cut with a melancholic melody, the sum total of which is quite unsettling.

The material on Hexhammeren constitutes a powerful reaffirmation of the validity of Martyrdöd’s approach. Songs like “Bait and Switch,” “Cashless Society,” and “Den Sista Striden” emerge like explosions of black flame, dripping with overdrive and raw emotion. Martyrdöd’s music is, in a sense, an aphotic apotheosis of crust as a genre, standing as a challenge to every other band to find new ways of fusing darkness and melody. Hexhammeren simply restates this challenge with the accustomed power and clarity.

Since their last record, they’ve had a bit of a lineup change, with Pontus Redig leaving and Tim Rosenqvist moving from bass to guitar. Filling his spot on bass is Daniel Ekeroth, formerly of Dellamorte and a bunch of other bands (and author of the definitive book on the early years of the Swedish death metal scene). So no worries there. If there’s anyone who knows how this music is supposed to sound, or how the bass fits into a band tuned down to somewhere around the key of C, it’s Ekeroth. If I hadn’t known this in advance, I wouldn’t have noticed the difference.

Maybe it’s something in the water. Or maybe they’re just all really depressed. For whatever reason, Sweden seems capable of producing a seemingly endless stream of devastating crust acts, and has been since the early 1980s. One can easily name a dozen such bands without thinking too hard, from Anti-Cimex and Crudes S.S., to Wolfpack and Skit System, and on to Myteri and Misantropic and myriad other groups churning out music that reflects the dark structures of life. Among these, Martyrdöd leads the charge, consistently delivering dark and punishing evidence of the world’s decay.

The world is going down the shitter. That is not news. But it is at least some comfort to be found in the capacity of bands like this to translate the sorrows of the world into forceful mixtures of light and darkness that have the power to block out the anguish of the lived crisis, at least for a moment.  

John from the Eastside

Review: Agnosy

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2019 by Magadh

Agnosy When Daylight Reveals the Torture Scream Records

Every few years the London crust band Agnosy drops another record. They seem to take a little longer between releases than some other bands, but it always seems like it’s worth the wait. When Daylight Reveals the Torture is no exception. As with their first two LPs (Past the Point of No Return and Traits of the Past), this new release is redolent with dark atmosphere. With each recording, Agnosy have managed increasingly complex song structures. They’re not the most melodic of crust bands. They don’t have the spiraling riffs of bands like Martyrdöd or Burning Bright, but they find their way to a happy medium between melody and hard-charging crust that works every time.

I like crust as a musical format, but I don’t find myself reviewing a lot of crust records, and it’s mostly because I don’t have a huge amount to say about them. It’s not hard to sound like Anti-Cimex, but that was then and this is now. So why is it that I find Agnosy so compelling? There are several reasons, but the most important is song structure. If you listen to In Extremis, Martyrdöd’s second record (and the one on which they really found their voice) what you hear is riffs that are longer and more complicated than those of Crude SS and their legion of imitators. This, by the way, is no slam on Crude SS, who were pioneers of crust in the same way as bands like (the aforementioned) Anti-Cimex, or Asocial, or Mob 47, or…well, you get the picture. Crust needed to develop stylistically and In Extremis was a step forward that moved the whole genre ahead.

Since then there have been a lot of very good crust records released, records that have picked up the gauntlet that Martyrdöd threw down. Some of you out there might be reading this and this that I’m getting the periodization wrong, forgetting bands like His Hero is Gone or From Ashes Rise or Tragedy. That’s a fair point, but I think that Martyrdöd’s riff structure is more complicated than any of those bands, much as they are all world-crushingly awesome. To my ears, Wretched of the Earth or Dark Circles are bands that have taken the idea of more complex riffs and song structures forward.

In any case, Agnosy have produced another absolutely raging disc, their best one yet by a ways, and that is really saying something. The guitar sound is crisp and clear, which is always a big question when you’re dealing with down-tuning. It tells you a lot that this disc was mastered at Audiosiege by Brad Boatright. Boatright has made himself into the pre-eminent figure is this line of work by making bands sound awesome without necessarily making them sound like From Ashes Rise. Not that it would necessarily be a bad thing if they did, but his products manage to be both dark and clear in ways that manage to sound original rather than just being copies of what his band sounds like.

When Daylight Reveals the Torture is pretty close to an ideal crust record. It isn’t too long, clocking in around half an hour or so. It leaves the listener wanting more, not less. In a related vein, the song arrangements are good, reasonably complex without losing focus. One of the real failings of a lot of crust music is the need to rehash the same ideas over and over. If you’re going to do really simple riffs, the songs need to be short enough that the people listening aren’t looking at their watches by the end. It’s one thing when you’re playing live and can bludgeon the audience with sound. On record there is a lot to be said for shorter is better. The relatively more worked out structure of Agnosy’s riffs keeps interest quite nicely. The guitars are thick and guttural, but the retain enough tone to make the music sound bright, in a downtuned sort of way. Politically engaged lyrics are a plus, and the singer sounds kind of demented while still making identifiable words. Stylistically they sound a bit like slightly catchier version of Myteri (at least to my ear), or Instinto, or maybe a bit like Warcollapse, although the drumming is a little less far out. Anyway, this release is absolute quality and really stands head and shoulders above what is a very crowded crusty field just at the moment.

Crust/D-Beat Playlist

Posted in Playlists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2013 by Magadh

We’ve been brewing up some weird stuff down in the bunker, but through the fumes it occurred to us that people might have an interest in what we were spinning in our long nights over the soilent vats. We’re going to try to offer up playlists on a bi-monthly basis, each with a thematic base. The theme here (as the title indicates) is a combination of crust and d-beat.  Discerning listeners will note that there are a couple of things in this list that are a bit marginal in terms of these categories, but I think they fit in terms of atmosphere. In the end, it’s up to you to decide.


1. Skitsystem, “Apokalypsens Svarta Änglar
2. Martyrdöd, “Vägen Ur
3. From Ashes Rise, “The Final Goodbye
4. Hellcrawler, “Devastation
5. Infäme, “Adeu Amarg
6. After the Bombs, “Bloody Aftermath
7. Monastery, “Mutilating
8. Passiv Dödshjalp, “Virtuella Bojor
9. Viimeinen Kolonna, “Sinä Häviät
10. Livstid, “Permafrost
11. Misantropic, “Raise the Gallows
12. G-Anx, “Victims of Our Ignorance
13. Instinto, “Dominación
14. Crude S.S., “Destroy Capitalism
15. Anti-Cimex, “Braincell Battle
16. Final Warning, “The Bunker
17. Disfear, “Misanthropic Generation
18. Warcollapse, “Timebomb State
19. Mördare, “Rivers of Diesel
20. Masakari, “Rapid Dominance
21. Kvoteringen, “Sjuk Värld
22. Discharge, “Doomsday
23. Infernöh, “Länge Leve Mig
24. Wolfpack, “A Basic Urge to Kill
25. Sacrilege, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Magadh

Review: Infernöh

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 15, 2013 by Magadh

Infernöh War Tjard D-takt & Råpunk

infernohI know that I make a lot of comparisons between modern d-beat acts and the same set of early 80s acts, and now I have been shown the error of my ways. I’ve just heard War Tjard by the Swedish band Infernöh and I was really reminded of what the bands of the 1980-5 era really sounded like. Infernöh are deliciously lo-fi, without reducing their sound to a tinny rattle. I’ve heard them compared to Anti-Cimex and Totalitär, and this is not a totally inappropriate comparison. To my mind they sound more like the classic Finnish band Kaaos. Any way you slice it this is an absolutely savage release. Ten cuts of blistering Scandinavian thrash stripped down to the absolute basics: heavily distorted guitars and utter rage. They get extra points for having a record cover that looks like it was drawn by a stoned sixth grader on the back of his peechee. Was this the best d-beat release of 2012? To my mind it just jumped to the top of the list.

Their demo is pretty awesome as well and can be downloaded here.

Review: Crutches

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on January 9, 2013 by Magadh

Crutches D-Beat Tsunami Phobia Records

Crutches2Back in June we reviewed a demo by the young Swedish d-beat band Crutches. We thought, and continue to think, that it was quite promising. Well now some of that promise has come to fruition, as the band has released a three song 7” entitled D-Beat Tsunami. As you might expect if you’d heard their demo (and you really should) this is some thick and grimy Scandinavian d-beat. There are some differences between this and the demo. Most notably the recording quality is a rather better, with the drums in particular coming through with more force than on their previous effort. As with the demo, this new recording has a really angry quality and illustrates that passionate aggression that continues to make this format a vibrant mode of political expression. This EP is essential for those devotees of d-beat whose love affair with bands like Crude SS and (early) Anti-Cimex continues. Of course, I number myself among them.

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