Archive for Inferno

Thrashmetal: It Lives!

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on September 11, 2012 by Magadh

The whole baggy jeans thing was never going to work for me. No disrespect to people who like that style (of whom there are apparently quite a lot) or for whom it is a good look (of whom there are rather fewer), but baggy pants simply make me look like a garden gnome. The mid-1990s were a bad time for me in this respect. It was just difficult to find reasonably narrow jeans off the rack, and for some reason I just didn’t know enough people with sewing machines. For years, my wife assured me that skinny jeans would come back in. I was dubious. I must admit that she was right. Now I can buy jeans off the rack that are decently narrow. I still look like a slob, just not a dumpy slob.

I mention this because it is one of the persistent joys of my music listening life that the musical styles of my youth keep making comebacks long years after the cultural moments in which they were incubated. I was always sort of afraid that punk rock would die, and occasionally it did go into remission. It always seems to come back strong. I remember around 1990 feeling that there was just not much interesting going on in the hardcore scene. Of course, in those days I had a real fascination in the nascent Swedish death metal scene, so my attention was more focused on Entombed and Carnage that on anything that was going on in punk. Then within the space of about a month I got Citizens Arrest A Light in the Darkness, Asbestosdeath Dejection, and, most compellingly of all, Rorschach Remain Sedate. I can still remember the feeling, exhilaration mixed with relief, and a sense that something that was very right with the world still remained.

This same sense of relief recurs in miniature whenever I discover that the thrashmetal of the 1980s is still alive and kicking in the stylistic repertoire of the underground. In the 1990s, bands like Infernö, Gehennah, and Swordmaster flew the banner high. Nowadays you have to look a little more closely to get your fix, but I have found a couple of things that really made ears perk up.

Exhibit A in today’s testimony is the Contra Iglesia y Estado 12” by Chile’s Dekapited. Released late last year, this disc serves up six helpings of totally unapologetic, mosh-heavy thrashmetal. There are probably a hundred bands to whom they could justly be compared. To my ear (and others might disagree) they sound a lot like the earliest incarnation of Death Angel, with adjustments made for the fact they sing in Spanish and that Dekapited’s singer doesn’t employ the high pitched screams that were a trademark of Mark Osegueda’s style circa 1986. Anyway, these guys really have it all: tight, brutal musicianship, aggressively anarchist/anti-christian values, and cover are that looks like it was drawn on the inside of someone’s high school social studies notebook. The production is clean and gives full presence to the chugging guitars and the precision drumming. I know they put a couple of demos out before Contra Iglesia, and if anyone has electronic copies I would be much obliged if you could make one available. This goes double for the band themselves, about whom I would love to write more.

Switching continents (but not formats), Reflexor’s Revenge of the Mycosis is a record with a lot going for it. Reflexor are a bunch of hessians. No, really, they are. They are from Gießen in the German state of Hesse. They probably are the kind of hessians you’re thinking of too, but I really only have their music to go on. Revenge of the Mycosis is mostly mid-tempo with a serious commitment to the whole grind/mosh concept, but they do manage to kick it up a gear on many occasions. They kind of sound like a cross between Bonded by Blood era Exodus and some of the east coast metal bands that came out on Combat in the late 1980s. Could it merely be a coincidence that their singer sounds this much like Paul Baloff? I seriously doubt it, but if it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then I have to respect these guys for showing the love. In addition to all this, the production is really pro, with the guitars rendered in an authentically thick speed metal mode. And then of course there is the name of their record, which makes no fucking sense at all. For me, this is a major plus.

Finally, I have to say that I was wandering around in the ruins of a record store in these parts and found a serviceable copy of Witchburner’s self-titled first LP. This really takes me back. Is this the best thing that ever came out of Germany? Well, it’s no Sentence of Death or In the Sign of Evil, nor is it quite as good as some of its contemporaries such as Infernö’s Downtown Hades or Gehennah’s King of the Sidewalk. But it’s still quite an enjoyable record to mosh to. It has a much different melodic sense than the other bands mentioned here, although they partook of the full measure of the same springs of aesthetic inspiration. Anyway, I’ve been headbanging away to it for the last couple of days and I recommend that you find it if you can.

Next up for me is some more d-beat, but that might have to wait until the weekend.


Review: Deathhammer

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

Deathhammer Onward to the Pits Hell’s Headbangers

Deathhammer is one of those bands that doesn’t get a huge amount of front line press, but who get name checked a lot by scenesters. This can be a good thing. After all, Von were pretty great even if only about sixteen people ever saw them and the only props they got while they were around were from Kristian “Varg” “Douchebag” Vikernes. On the other hand, one gets the feeling that a lot of times these name checks are all about illustrating one’s own connection to the obscure, rather than intrinsic qualities of the band in question.

I’d been vaguely aware of Deathhammer’s existence for a few years, but had never heard them until recently. Onward to the Pits, which was just released a couple of months ago, is one of those records that really takes me back. Now, you might think that I’m talking about being taken back to the lowball thrash era of the 1980s, when bands like Cryptic Slaughter and Wehrmacht stripped away all the inessential elements in the pursuit of thrashing purity. There is certainly an element of that here, but that’s not really where this disc takes me.

No, to really get to the essence of Into the Pits, I have to go back to my days in 7th grade of sketching pictures from the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual on the blank spaces of my peechee during social studies class. It starts with Deathhammer’s logo. I am all for rawness and simplicity, but their logo make’s Beherit’s look like an engraver’s masterwork. The cover of the record looks like the kind of thing you might have found doodled on a discarded program from Gen Con III.

Having seen that, I was really prepared not to like this record. My hackles were further raised by the first cut on the album which occupies a territory about halfway between Bloodthorn and Nifelheim. The riffs are good, but it’s like 80% blast beat, and I kept wondering when they were going to shift to a tempo that could actually keep my attention. This is not to say that it was bad; it was just a little on the boring. From that point, matters improved dramatically. Much of the rest of the album is 1980s style thrash metal, with deathish elements. Some of it kind of sounded like Dark Angel, while at other times they moved into slightly grungier territory, ala Infernö (the Norwegian one) or earlier Aura Noir.

This isn’t the kind of record that you get to the end of and think, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.” But it is aggressive and played with real intensity. It doesn’t try to be anything other than it is. It’s the sort of thing that demands to be turned up loud and consumed with large quantities of beer. They do what they do well, and if you like unapologetic black thrash, you will certainly dig this.


Review: Terrorgruppe

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

Disclaimer: I know a lot of the things I write start out with permanent reminiscences. That’s just how it is. Actually, I’m interested to hear your stories too. These are mine.

As a lad, I was fascinated by German punk. In part this was a reaction my mother’s insistence, much against my own wishes, that I should learn German. When she discovered that my junior high school didn’t offer German, she set up a private course for me and several other students. The fact that we were all compelled by our parents to do this, and that the class met for an hour before the normal school day, did nothing for my (already very limited) popularity.

It was around this time too (1982-3) that I discovered punk rock. In an effort to pay my mother back for all of the irritation she caused me, I decided that I would use my language skills to get into German punk. How could she object? In any case, my opportunities to do this were somewhat limited, living in Walla Walla, Washington. I set about scanning the pages of Maximum Rock n Roll, looking for anything that I could order with the meager funds available to me. Soon I had a small but very satisfying collection, including such gems as Razzia Tage ohne Schatten, Normahl Der Adler ist gelandet, Chaos Z Ohne Gnade, and the Porno Patrol Jump Back 7”.

Of all the German bands that I heard, my favorite by a long way was Inferno. I happened to pick up a copy of their Sohn Gottes 7” and something about their gruff, noisy thrash really piqued my interest. Plus they came from Neusäss, just outside of Augsburg, so I figured they must be small town guys like myself.

It took me a lot of doing, but I finally acquired a copy of their Tod und Wahnsinn LP, which had been released in 1983, and from then on I was on the lookout for their stuff. I can still remember making a special trip downtown to pick up a copy of their split LP with the Japanese band The Execute (to this day one of my very favorite records from the 1980s).

The occasion for this long back story is that, while shifting around some boxes that I hadn’t opened since coming back from Berlin in 2008, I discovered my long lost copy of Terrorgruppe’s Nonstop Aggropop CD. I had originally bought it without knowing that former Inferno singer and guitarist Archi Pfister was in Terrorgruppe as well.

In truth, I really loved Terrorgruppe long before I knew this. Their music will not be familiar to most Americans because, unlike so many European bands, they by and large resisted the temptation to sing in English. I really respect this, but it does mean that their music is a bit inaccessible for the large majority of Americans who don’t speak any foreign language, much less German. This is too bad, because in addition to writing some excellent melodic punk tunes, they have a really endearing goofball sense of humor.

Unlike more commercialized and stylistically diffuse bands such as Die Toten Hosen and Die Ärzte, Terrorgruppe’s music retained its rough edge. They hit a lot of standard punk themes: skateboarding (“Mein Skateboard ist wichtiger als Deutschland”/“My Skateboard is More Important than Germany”), annoying the neighbors (“Wir müssen raus”/“We Have to Go”), drinking your problems away (“Tresenlied”/“Bar Song”), and the always popular punk rock road trip (“Wochenendticket”/“Weekend Ticket”). But along with the humor they included a lot more actual political commentary that your average American goofball band would. “Keine Airbags für die CSU” (“No Airbags for the CSU”) expressed their (quite justified) loathing of politicians. “Gewerbepark Nord” (“Business Park North”) effectively described the alienation of meaningless, dead end jobs. “Nazis im Haus” (“Nazis in the House”) mocked losers who still hold out some love for the brown old days. Still, they never took themselves too seriously. On their website they described themselves as “10% politically correct, 90% politically incompetent.”

Strangely enough, my favorite song on this disc is their cover of Die Ärzte’s “Kopfüber in die Hölle” (“Head over Heels in Hell”). In it, they sing about the ideals of the 1980s:

Revolution stand auf unseren Fahnen,
Revolution stand uns im Gesicht,
Wir haben erlebt was andere nicht mal ahnen,
Revolution – weniger wollten wir nicht…

Revolution was on our banners,
Revolution stood before us,
We lived through things that others never understood,
Revolution – we wanted nothing less…

They finish with a bitter critique of people of have abandoned those ideals and the excuses that they make for sinking into normal, passive lives:

Heute stehst du
Bei Hertie an der Kasse
Und da ist keine Sehnsucht mehr in deinem Blick.
Du sagst man tut halt, was man kann
Und dir gehts gut – Du kotzt mich an…

Today you stand
Behind the checkout at K-Mart
And there is no longing in your expression anymore
You say one does what one can,
And it’s going good for you.
You make me puke…

It is one of the ironies of this record, and of the modern punk scene in general, that Terrorgruppe’s version of this song is considerably better than the original. Die Ärtze have been around forever, and they have written some great songs, but they have traded in their authenticity for stadium shows and slick studio production. Terrorgruppe showed that the thing is really still worth saying, and that’s worth a lot from where I’m sitting.

Although they played in the United States, most notably with NOFX in the late 1990s, the fact that about 99% of their material was in a language no one understood limited their appeal. (They did actually record an album in English called Rust in Pieces. It was released posthumously in 2006. It’s ok, but not as good as their German language material. It kind of sounds more like No Fun at All than Terrorgruppe’s other material.) They stopped touring in 2004, in part, at least according to their website, because their shows in Germany were getting so big and so out of hand that they had real trouble doing them on a d.i.y. basis and they were kind of afraid that someone would get badly hurt. That is worthy of respect. They were also just tired of it, and one can hardly blame them. The next year, Archi left the band, which effectively ended the operation.

Nonstop Aggropop and their other releases take a bit of finding, but it is well worth the effort. They write awesome foot-tapping punk songs. And as for the language problem…lern ma Deutsch.