Archive for d-beat

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: Röntgen

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2019 by Magadh

Röntgen, Inhale Death (Blown Out Media)

Quite a cool 7″ released by one of the very few bands from New Mexico that I’ve ever heard. Straight ahead hardcore thrash with little in the way of frills. These guys have some d-beat elements, but they don’t sound like the 8 million Dissober clones out there. Let me just say that I like bands tuned down to C as much as the next guy (maybe more depending on who the next guy is), but I have to admit that it is kind of refreshing to hear this music being rocked in standard tuning. It shows a kind of faith in one’s ability to create rocking punk with artificially punching up the heaviness.

Inhale Death features seven cuts of mostly in a kind of middling tempo. They have some nice changes and lots of feedback, and they don’t commit the cardinal sin of bands in the kängpunk world of making their tunes longer than the underlying ideas will bear. The recording is crisp, especially the guitar sound which has quite pleasing buzzsaw quality to it. The guitarist uses heel damping rather more often than is common in d-beat releases but in that kind of scratchy punk rock way that makes the music sound more intense but not more metallic.

The vocals are not in that super low, unintelligible register that characterizes so many bands like this. The singer sounds like he just came home to find a beloved family pet dismembered on the front lawn.  I still can’t tell what the fuck he’s saying (or really even if it’s a he although the names on the lineup suggest that it is), but he sounds desperate and angry and not so much like a wounded Yeti, which is a plus.

D-beat should always leave you wanting more not less. When I hit the end of this disc after the first listening I immediately queued it up again…because I wanted to hear more. This is punk the way that is should be done: raw and angry. If I could give this band one piece of advice it would be: do not change a fucking thing.

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: 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: Livstid

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

Livstid, s/t Fysisk Format

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

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

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

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

Magadh

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

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