Archive for crust

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: Dödsrit

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 30, 2017 by Magadh

Dödsrit S/T Alerta Antifascista Records/Bloodsoaked Records

 

dodsrit1Moments of absolute perfection are rare. This is probably a good thing since they are indubitably subject to a sort of quantity theory. If we didn’t have things to gripe about, even in the context of things we like, the world would be a duller place. And if our hopes and desires were always being optimally satisfied, life would likewise be impoverished. Maybe the philosophers of dissatisfaction are correct when they say that the payoff that we get never rises to the intensity of the expectation. But there are moments when the joy of realization’s asymptotic approach to the ideal gives one something approximating the joy of real fulfillment.

 

My most recent brush with this region of experience was the first time I spun up Dödsrit’s self-titled mini-LP, available via Bandcamp from Germany’s Alerta Antifascista Records (and in Sweden by Bloodsoaked Records). This disc literally has it all. From the cover photo featuring hoary northern woods bathed in fog, to the skillful melding of crust and black metal styles contained within, Dödsrit is constantly demanding an answer to the question: How could this be done better? And, frankly, most of the time I am left concluding that it couldn’t.

 

The driving force behind this epic is former Totem Skin guitarist Christoffer Öster, already of worthy renown. Those who follow the crust/h.c. scene will know without needing to be told of the complex brilliance of that band. Over the course of two full albums and a number of other releases, Totem Skin bludgeoned listeners with an effective mix of dark styles: from crust, to black metal, to screamo, to passages that verged on the more esoteric realms of emo. Their collective talent for arrangement and composition left in its wake a collection of ripping h.c. cuts the quality of which holds up with the passage of time.

 

In Dödsrit, we have the quintessence of this stylistic mix. The songs are slimmed down (relatively), sacrificing complexity for epic power. Bombastic melodies spiral over cascading blast beats, before spilling vertiginously over broad expanses of battering double bass aggression. This release comprises only four songs, but they are longish, ranging from five to eleven minutes in duration. The question one always has to ask when h.c. and crust bands start crossing the 3 minute barrier with regularity is: Do these cuts really contain enough ideas to justify added length? I will say that, after repeated listening, Dödsrit always leaves me wanting more.

 

It is only a few years since blackened crust really started to be a thing. It’s not totally surprising that those on the darker end of the crust scene would want to try to integrate some of the power and atmosphere that lower fi black metal has often managed to achieve. But all too often this amounts to the excuse for the multiplication of blast beats without concomitant melodic or atmospheric overlays and it ends up just sounding lame. Dödsrit, on the other hand, are the real deal. The integration of crust and black metal elements is absolutely seamless, carrying the listening along on a flood tide of sonic aggression and dark ambiance.

 

Such is the perfection of this record that it’s a little difficult to know where Dödsrit could go from here. At least in my opinion, and you’re welcome to think what you want about what I have to say, they’ve set the bar incredibly high. But that’s a question for the future. For now, it is enough to ride along with them into battle among lonely graves and northern fogs.

–John from the East Side

Review: Destierro

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2013 by Magadh

Destierro Örlog Chaos666

destierro_covI’ve heard a lot of awesome music from Spain lately, as readers of this blog will know. One thing that has struck me is that specific take on the d-beat format that bands from Spain have evinced of late. Instinto is an obvious case of this. While playing fierce d-beat music they retain a sort of lightness that differentiates them from the mainline Scandinavian bands. Even bands like Totälickers, whose point of reference seems a lot closer to Totalitär than it does to Anti-Cimex, still have this quality of lightness that for me amounts to a distinctive Spanish sound. This is a good thing. It keeps the format varied and creates space for people who want to create within it while not merely aping sounds produced in other places.

Of course, things are different up in the Basque country, thus it is not surprising that their take on this format would be rather different as well. On their Örlog CD, Destierro offer a darker, more metallic take on this format than the above named acts. There is a definite influence of bands like From Ashes Rise and Wolf Brigade, but Destierro’s take on d-beat retains its own particular approach, depending more on straight aggression rather than the melodic overlays that are characteristic of bands like FAR, Sarabante, etc. Destierro are very direct in the way that they do things, using downtuned guitars to create a gloomy and chaotic atmosphere. Their lyrics are also less directly political than some of the other Spanish d-beat bands discussed in this space, running more to the destruction of the individual and the problems of existence than to directly political topics. Overall, this is a really savage release, and one that deserves your attention.

Watch them do their thing here.

Magadh

Review: Morne Asylum

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

Morne Asylum Profound Lore/Armageddon Records

I saw Neurosis at the tender age of 16 in a  Billings, Montana VFW. It was 1990 and they were on the road supporting The Word as Law. They represented something so primal and terrifying, the whole experience was burned into by adolescent brain. I can still see Scott Kelly’s Big Mountain Defense shirt depicting Native Americans staring out behind an American flag with the stripes made of barbed wire. The band appeared as an ominous wall of spectres in the dim light as they struck the first few chords. They blew the PA almost immediately, this occurred with unfortunate regularity on that tour, and were forced to play the majority of their set instrumentally. The tension bled into the performance. They were a maelstrom, pulling the audience deeper into their rage. I was hooked.

Souls at Zero and Through Silver in Blood would become two of my favorites from their catalog. They wed the best of bands like Amebix with crushing heaviness and apocalyptic soundscapes. The addition of potent, flowing, visual elements would further enhance the live experience. In fact, the power of the Through Silver in Blood era live set was such that my wife had a panic attack and has sworn off Neurosis ever since. What does any of this have to do with Morne? I’m coming to that.

Morne’s Asylum taps into the same primal power as those early Neurosis records. The album begins with the ominous majesty of the title track. Clocking in a 17 minutes, Milosz’s vocals bear more than a passing resemblance to those of Scott Kells and the track neatly fuses doomy crust with sparse piano. The listener is lulled ,via an excellent interlude, before they are finished off by more furious doom. “Edge of the Sky” and “My Return” invoke the the naked rage of Through Silver in Blood’s “Purify” as waves of metallic sludge build and then spill over the listener.

References to Neurosis aside, Morne is still very much their own band. Tracks like “Nothing to Remain” and “Killing Fields” evidence the band’s artful composition. They effectively fuse their brand of sludgy crust with the darker elements of a band like Isis to create brutal, soaring compositions. The final track, “Volition”, marries sparse piano and violin with whispered female vocals and muted guitar before building to a sonic expression of rage.

Asylum was released in 2011 but remains a criminally under recognized record. Do yourself a favor and pop over to their Bandcamp site here.  One hopes 2013 sees new material from this Boston juggernaut.

– Captain of Games

Demo Roundup 2

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

Back in the long long ago, before the utter collapse of civilization, before the world of interpersonal communication was colonized by the interweb, punk rock was about trading demos through the mail. Demos were artifacts. You had to find someone’s address, send off a dollar or two, and then wait for days or weeks, checking the mailbox with expectation every afternoon. Demos were kind of different than other recordings. There was an interesting back and forth in Maximum Rock n Roll, which was really the main aggregator of punk rock information for those of us who lived in the hinterland. The gold standard was to get something out on vinyl, and in the early days MRR was really reticent about reviewing demos. This doesn’t mean that it never happened, but I can remember so sort of explicit policy statement in the early 1980s in which they basically said: if you want to get reviewed here you have to send us some wax.

Later on, of course, MRR added a demo review section, although I don’t know how long it persisted, or even whether it was a month to month segment. I think they sort of got hip to the degree to which tape trading was the communicative spine of punk rock. To make a record you had to engage with the money economy and the recording establishment. This wasn’t a bad thing for everybody. There were plenty of people in the punk rock scene who were not that interested in anarchist or autonomist values. On the other hand, for those who were, getting something mastered and laying out the cash up front to get it pressed was a hurdle. Making a cassette tape was a lot lower tech and didn’t necessarily involve negotiating with the man. That was cool, although one had to admit that there were a lot of really shit tapes floating around in the 1980s. On the other hand, I can still remember getting the Accused’s first demo tape which came, as I recall, on a Mariner High School AV Department cassette. I can still remember getting Verbal Assault’s demo in an envelope stapled between two pieces of cardboard, accompanied by a very nice letter from Chris Jones asking what it was like to be a punk rocker in Walla Walla, Washington. Yeah, there was an element of human contact that has been a little bit lost in this day of instant downloading.

Have I been nattering on for 400+ words already? Well, I guess I have. Now down to the real business of this post, which is the matter of a few demos that have arrived in the bunker in recent days.

I don’t remember exactly how I got turned on to the Wermland demo by the Swedish band Våldsamt Motstånd (whose name I think translates as Worldwide Nightmare). I think it may be on the crust demos site, but I’ve forgotten and I’m too out of it to take the time to find out. In any case, I have it now and that’s all the really matters. Wermland was actually released in 2011. Since then they have another release that I’ll get to in a minute. Wermland, like their previous releases, is just a little bit on the lo-fi side, with vocals that sound like the abominable snowman choking out it his last breath. Their music features slightly more heel-damped chugging than is typical of the average d-beat band, and the mix in elements of dissonance that work quite nicely in my opinion. They have a very thick sound that does a lot to create dark atmosphere and, although the comparison my night be entirely felicitous from a stylistic point of view, I was kind of reminded of really early Grave (like around the time of the Tremendous Pain EP).

Since Wermland, they’ve come out with a 12” entitled Förbannelse. The five songs included there reflect a bit of stylistic development, at least to a greater degree than there was between Wermland and their Lagen om alltings jävlighet demo from a few years ago. The production is much cleaner and the songs have a bit more pronounced metal edge, although their d-beat identity is still very much intact. The dissonant elements from their earlier recordings also remain and add a distinctive quality to their music.

New Hampshire’s Ramlord released a demo on cassette last year called Stench of Fallacy that has deliciously lo-fi quality. It has elements in common with bands like Fall of the Bastards, but with simpler song structures and slightly less developed drumming. Stench of Fallacy has a lot of cool single string passages and the melodies thus created often stray into more emo-ish sort of territory. Nonetheless, they managed to maintain a suitably aggressive approach that is entertaining without being overly complicated.

The split that they put out with Condensed Flesh late last year sees Ramlord developing, both in terms of better recording values (the drums no long have the sort of tubby sound that they had on Stench of Fallacy) but also in terms of musicianship. Their tunes are a bit longer and more developed. They still walk the line between black metal and hardcore, but they’ve added a bit more power/violence to the mix. Their songs have more thumping slow parts and they’ve pulled back a bit on the single string stuff. Most recently, they’ve done a split single with Dallas power/violence merchants Cara Neir. It’s pretty good and you can hear it on Bandcamp for free, but it’s not my favorite of their productions. My problem with it is this: if you are going to do a ten minute long song, you’ve got to have enough ideas to fill that time. It can be done well (as Moonsorrow have shown on many occasions) but it can also really drag if the content isn’t there. In any case, I salute their ambition.

Finally, I was turned on to the San Antonio band Headache by something that Joe from Masakari posted on Farcebook. I’ve never seen them, although according to him they are an absolutely blistering live act (and he would know). Their demo is power/violence to max with all of the majesty and wonder that that entails. They do a great job of working that fast/slow dynamic in ways that keep the listener engaged and generally rage all over the place. I will just say that I have a limited tolerance for this kind of music because it so often lacks creative drive. This demo has been in frequent rotation in the bunker ever since it arrived, which says a lot about how good it is.

Ok, you’ve probably had enough, and so have I. I’ve got some metal records lined up for review, but I’ll spare you any more nattering at least for a couple of days.

Magadh

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