Archive for punk

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

Punk as Absence

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , on October 22, 2016 by Magadh

blackflagI discovered punk rock when I was in eighth grade (which would have been in 1982 or so). My buddy Chris introduced me to it. In seventh grade he’d turned me on to Iron Maiden. At that point I thought Number of the Beast was the most transgressive thing ever recorded (and so I was fascinated by it). One day, toward the end of eighth grade, Chris said to me, “Iron Maiden is ok, I guess, but Black Flag is way better.” Our mutual friend Brian (who we all called Chauncy for reasons I never quite understood) hooked me up with a tape that had Damaged on one side and the Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables on the other. I was hooked.

dksThe music spoke to me in a way that metal never did. I always thought of metal as kind of thuggish, and that was never me. Strangely, punk didn’t seem that way to me at all. I got hassled at school all the time and I was pretty much a social pariah. Punk gave those experiences a meaningful narrative. The jocks and the rednecks and the cool kids and cute girls who made my life unpleasant were all scum. I and the few friends I had who’d tumbled on to this thing were privy to a sort of secret knowledge, of bands and scenes and signs and movements and languages. There’s a line from an old song by the German punk band Die Ärzte that goes something like, “Wir haben erlebt was andere nicht mal ahnen [We experienced what others don’t suspect].” That summed it up quite nicely, although I only heard it later.

It was only later too, once I’d learned a bit of the history of the cultural formation with which I had aligned myself, that I started to wonder what it was really all about (i.e. was it about what I thought it was about or something different). It was in the course of this that I worked out that talking about “the” punk scene was really a misnomer. The punk scene, like the underground scene more generally (and probably most cultural formations) is not a cohesive organization but a set of overlapping micro- and macro-scenes. There is no central unifying text or positive content, only a set of more or less overlapping networks.

Once I realized this, the culture of punk seemed to me to involve a paradox. People spent a lot of time and spilled a lot of ink in the 1980s trying to figure out what punk was and (what often seemed more important) what and who it wasn’t. If you read the letters section of Maximum Rock n Roll in those days you would see at least one or two, and more often significantly more, assertions that someone was a poser, or that some band was bunch of posers, etc. Even when I was 14 that stuff seemed like a stupid, sterile thing to argue about. In any case, this grated harshly against the ideals of freedom and the varieties of aesthetic expression that were fundamental to my attraction to punk at the most general level. On the one hand, authenticity was key. On the other, there was no such thing.

lydonI remember in this context reading an interview with John Lydon in which he asserted that anyone calling themselves punk at that point was being fundamentally inauthentic. There was a certain sense in which he had a point. From his perspective, he and a few dozen people in and around London in the mid-1970s had created a thing, which had then died (on an electrically tense night in the Cow Palace in San Francisco if not before), and they had moved on. Of course, it wasn’t quite that simple.

The London punk scene of the mid- to late 1970s was influenced by the sort of glam/art rock scene in New York, radiating outward from the New York Dolls, which was itself heavily influenced by bands like the MC5 and the Stooges. The more you dig into it, the more you find that each of these scenes was connected (sometimes by personnel, sometimes by style) to bands and scenes that had gone before. In Lipstick Traces, Greil Marcus makes the point quite effectively (pace Stewart Home’s rather nasty critique in Cranked Up Really High) that there is a line of cultural connection that can be drawn connecting Dadaism, Lettrism, Situationism, and a bunch of even less well known movements for the revolutionization of art and civilization, with the various punk-related scenes of the 1970s.

yotIn the early 1980s, I and my friends took part in inscribing the hardcore punk scene into the culture of small town eastern Washington. By that point the denizens of the “original” scene of Lydon and his compatriots had mostly moved off to serious musical careers, straight suburban lives, or spiralling drug addiction (or some combination thereof). By then too, the original impetus had fragmented, leading to the formation of complexes of microscenes in Los Angeles, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and dozens of other cities (and hundreds of small towns) in the U.S. and around the world.

7secsGiven this process of fragmentary diffusion, it is not surprising that the question of what it all meant seemed so crucial. But, of course, there was no there there, at least in the sense of a coherent cultural something binding it all together. Even within the subgroups there was immense variation. Looking at straight edge, just as a for instance, the scene that grew up in D.C. around Minor Threat was much different than that in New York around bands like Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits, and both were different than the scene in California (Stalag 13, Uniform Choice, and others), and from the one in Reno centering on 7 Seconds. [NB. If you’re reading this and thinking that different bands might be more representative do bear in mind that I’m just tossing this stuff off the top of my head. If you know better (or think you know better) feel free to write your own blog post.]

stalag13This didn’t stop people from arguing about it, often quite nastily. A lot of it was social. The scenes that existed were often projects or projections of groups of friends, mostly high school or college age. These sets are fractious at the best of times, so it’s not at all surprising that charges of apostasy of various kinds might be made, especially when there was the possibility of amplifying them by having them printed in MRR, or Flipside, or whatever. These social dynamics synergized, once again, with the fact that the culture being appropriated was diffuse and acephalus. And so the grousing and griping spun on and on without ever really bottoming out or discovering very much that was fundamental.

Ultimately, the work of defining what punk was and wasn’t was left unfinished because the moment of its realization was missed. Green Day came along, and grunge, and the powers of the recording industry once again became convinced that there was some coin to be made. What it all meant became a matter of supreme indifference to any but the most neurotic purists and zine writers. Just what was punk? “Let’s make lots of money, and worry about it later.” So it has continued, although renewed corporate interest has not, in fact, managed to kill off the residual fragments of the punk scenes of what you might call the “intercommercial” era (i.e. the period between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s during which records types didn’t care very much about underground music). And still the devotees of crust and other abiding punk forms know what they are doing and with whom they share common ground without having to have an overarching theory to explain it.

And so, perhaps, it has come to this: punk was (and is), at its heart, an absence. If punk ever meant anything, if it was ever worth anything, it was because it created a space in which identities to could be created and explored (mostly) outside the hegemony of the dominant cultural forms. This did not mean that these identities were created sui generis. Nor did it mean that coercion was entirely absent. Some of the identities that people created were racist, sexist, homophobic, or chauvinist, the persistent influence of these tendencies distorted and constrained the cultural space of the underground. But still the space endured, not unique and certainly imperfect, but still a place where kids who were weird, or gay, or feminist, or otherwise marginal could take a hand in making themselves rather than merely reproducing images of what they were supposed to be.

Review: War on Women

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on August 4, 2016 by Magadh

War on Women s/t Bridge 9 Records

wowI always like seeing women break into the rock and roll boys club. I’ve heard about as many songs about man pain as I can stand at this point. Truth to tell, the thing I always liked about the underground scene was the space that it set up for women to express themselves outside the framework of dude-centered culture. And thus I was so often disappointed when the same old dude-centric tropes seemed always to be reproduced, whatever the rhetoric of inclusion might have suggested.

It’s been my privilege to see a lot of women with powerful souls getting their rock on. I wish everyone could have seen Tam Simpson fronting Sacrilege in their heyday, inscribing the poetry of the apocalypse across their blistering metal swirl. That was brilliant, but it was one woman in a four piece, and if it’s not quite fair to say that that doesn’t count, still it doesn’t seem to quite get to the cultural place of bands like Bikini Kill or Sleater-Kinney in which women were the entire creative force.

Baltimore’s War on Women is a hybrid between these two conditions. Three out of the five members are women, including singer Shawna Potter, guitarist Nancy Hornburg, and bassist Suzanne Werner. But War on Women’s feminism is not so much a matter of having women at the skill positions (although that’s important too) but in their unabashed and unapologetic political stance. From their name, to the cover of their most recent eponymous release (which gets my vote for best of the decade), to their forthright discussions of topics like rape, abortion, and dude culture on the internet, this is a band whose values are front and center, and whose way of expressing them takes no prisoners.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that their message is delivered in a musical voice that would make you sit up and listen even if they didn’t have something important to say. There’s a lot of this disc that sounds like Swiz without the metallic overtones, or a slightly less melodic take on early Dag Nasty. But then there are also plenty of passages that are simple, fist-to-the-jaw punk, and the mixture makes for very interesting listening.

War on Women ticks all the boxes. They’re a punk band that actually has something to say, which is, frankly, all too rare (and not just these days). This is something that underground music (to say nothing of American culture generally) needs more of. War on Women demand to be taken on their own terms and to have their commitments heard and taken seriously. And they rock, which doesn’t hurt at all. They’re on tour in Europe now, and if you live over there, go see them. Yes, you.

For more on War on Women

https://bitchmedia.org/post/meet-baltimore-feminist-hardcore-band-war-on-women

https://waronwomen.bandcamp.com/music

https://www.reverbnation.com/waronwomen

http://www.bridge9.com/waronwomen

Straight Edge Playlist

Posted in Playlists with tags , , , , , on July 5, 2013 by Magadh

Few would term Mags and me as overly temperate. That said, we both have great love and respect for our straight edge brothers and sisters. This respect lead me to proposition walking musical encyclopedia and all around solid dude Rob Moran for 20 of the best straight edge songs of all time. His introduction and playlist are below.

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Here is the list of what I think are the best songs by various SxE bands. Now granted, I think about 5% of the people associated with these songs are probably still SxE, but who gives a shit…these are great fucking songs, they meant something to me then and they still do now. By no means is this any sort of definitive list, but rather a list of songs that stuck with me over the years.

Rob Moran

In no particular order:
  1. Inside OutNo Spiritual Surrender
  2. Minor Threat – Minor Threat
  3. Side by SideBackfire
  4. UndertowCutting Away
  5. Turning PointBroken
  6. 7 SecondsThis is the Angry
  7. Drift AgainDrag
  8. Uniform ChoiceNo Thanks
  9. JudgeFed Up
  10. Gorilla BiscuitsNew Direction
  11. SS DecontrolGet it Away
  12. SlapshotFire Walker
  13. UnityStraight on View
  14. Chain of StrengthJust How Much
  15. JudgeWarriors (Blitz Cover)
  16. Four Walls FallingHappy Face
  17. BrotherhoodThe Deal
  18. IntegrityHarder They Fall
  19. BaneCan We Start Again
  20. Dag NastyValues Here

Since Rob included Judge twice (not that we are complaining) and is such a modest chap this is my nominee for #20.

UnbrokenYou Won’t be Back

– Captain of Games

Nomads/Treacherouskin Split “Violent Fucking World”

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on March 10, 2013 by Magadh

Nomads/Treacherouskin

Violent Fucking World

Melotov Records

The Nomads demo got a lot of play in the bunker and we’ve been more than a little curious to hear the 7″. We’re proud to report Violent Fucking World finds both bands at their best.

Nomads

Nomads offer up 4 tracks of blistering d-beat with a generous helping of power violence. By way of a reference I hear plenty of WolfbrigadeNails and Totalitär without the band veering into overt tribute territory. The opening track, “Swine Flu” tackles the topic of police oppression (something near and dear to Mike’s heart; check out Wartime Collective or the ACAB tattoo over his left eye) over a punishing d-beat onslaught and some righteous guitar work. “Viking Funeral” and “Thank God” are both heavily influenced by Dis-bands. “Bullshit Propaganda” is a ripper which conjurers up images of the best of Swedish crust. Nomads continue to impress and I hope to hear more from them in the future.

Treacherouskin are a more straight forward hardcore band. Think Sick of It AllNegative Approach,Mouthpiece and Champion with some Helmet, Prong and Pantera tossed in for good measure. “Father of Lies” is a punishing metal core anthem with some tasty breakdowns. “Oblitus” is the standout track from Treacherouskin, sludgey riffs give way to some Meantime era Helmet.

All and all this is a solid release. We’ll be listening to this one for some time.

-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

Inherit the Wasteland: Sweden’s Misantropic

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on June 28, 2012 by Magadh

Nausea Extinction Profane Existence Records/Selfless (re-issue)
Misantropic Insomnia Southern Lord

My first real musical exposure to Nausea (the band’s patches have always been ubiquitous) was in the fall of 1993.  I had bunked off a day of school to start my Thanksgiving break early and joined two friends on a road trip to San Francisco. Our plan, such as it was, consisted of couch surfing at various punk houses. These houses also served as a base of operations to catch some shows, visit friends, see the city and buy some records.

Having exhausted the stacks at Amoeba and Rasputin’s, I found myself at the legendary Epicenter Zone collective diligently dissecting their selection. In the course of my search I came across the Selfless reissue of Nausea’s Extinction Lp. The Selfless album was actually called Extinction The Second Coming and featured not only the classic LP but also the Cybergod 7” and various other tracks. Something compelled me to take a chance on it and I figured the re-issue gave me the best bang for my meager student buck. As longtime fans of the band will tell you, the reissue contains most of the post Neil Robinson catalog and the bulk of their strongest material. In my case I was hooked from the first bleak notes of “Tech-no-logic-kill”.

Nausea effectively fused the dark lyrics and soundscapes of Amebix, burly Discharge riffs and d-beats, and Motorhead inspired guitar licks with the potent 1-2 vocal punch of Amy Miret and Al Long. They also practiced what they preached with band members active in Food Not Bombs, ABC No Rio, the New York squatting movement and as participants in the Tompkins Park Riot. I found the whole combination compelling and, while it took me awhile to warm to their contemporaries in the crust scene, Extinction became a frequently played masterpiece in my growing collection of punk.

My love of late period Nausea drew me to Sweden’s Misantropic and I hurriedly snatched up the US release of their LP Insomnia on Southern Lord. One of the primary factors was Gerda’s vocal style and its striking similarity to that of Amy Miret. Matte’s vocals, when combined with Gerda, also conjure memories of Al Long. However, a fixation on this really does the band a disservice.  Nausea drew upon the likes of Amebix, Discharge and Motorhead, Misantropic invoke the might of Antisect, Doom, Wolfbrigade and Disfear. Their style has of less of the building bleakness of Nausea. Instead, they pummel the listener into submission with punishing riffs and rolling thunder for drums.

Their lyrics are standard fare for the genre but suit the music quite well. “Born to Die” focuses on the bloody images of the slaughter house, “Raise the Gallows” is class warfare set to a d-beat and “Lords of War” laments the millions lost in religious wars. In the case of “Lords of War”, Mistantropic’s discussion of the lyrics is refreshing. While so many bands focus solely on Christianity’s bloody history the band, via their website, remind the listener, “Too many people have died in vain under the sign of a cross or a moon crescent.” No Gods, No Masters indeed!

For fans of the genre, Mistantropic’s Insomnia is required listening. I wholehearted recommend you purchase the album from your local record shop or from the fine people at Southern Lord. The band is coming off a hiatus resulting from the birth of Gerda and Matte’s first child. I, for one, can’t bloody wait to hear what comes next.

– Captain of Games