Daniel's Staff Pick: January 12, 2023

Neuroot: Right Is Might 7” (1986, Smuel Productions)

This week I’m writing about Right Is Might, the 1986 7” from Dutch hardcore band Neuroot. Neuroot has been on my radar for a long time—decades even—but I never had my “a-ha” moment with them until I picked up this 7” a few months ago. That happens to me often. I know many people who, if they hear something and it doesn’t speak to them immediately, decide they don’t like it and write the artist off forever. However, I tend to trust the wisdom of the crowd. If there are many people whom I respect who like a band or a record, I just assume it hasn’t hit me in the right way, that I haven’t heard the right record or listened to the band in the right context. I’m always circling back to artists like this, and many of my all-time favorite records and artists are ones I didn’t respond to on the first listen.

I’ve listened to various Neuroot reissues over the years, but this great-looking and great-sounding original pressing did my head in when I dropped the needle. Neuroot’s sound is big and powerful, as you always want your hardcore punk to be, but what strikes me here is the originality of their sound. While there are a couple of fast thrash passages on Right Is Might, most of the EP stomps along at a menacing, medium-fast tempo, like an army marching with purpose toward their intended target. By holding back from those cathartic passages of blistering speed or lumbering heaviness, Neuroot’s music builds tension, which they emphasize harmonically with dark and dissonant chords in the vein of Die Kreuzen or later-era Wretched. While many great hardcore records sound like explosions of energy, Right Is Might simmers like a pot at the edge of full-on boil. Perhaps that unique tone is what I had trouble locking into when I heard the band previously… it’s not what you come to an 80s hardcore record expecting.

Besides generating a unique brand of tension, Neuroot’s style also provides space for some noteworthy work from the band’s players (the vocalist is charismatic, but pretty straightforward in their execution). The guitarist bounces back and forth between the dense and dissonant chords I mentioned above and chunky palm-muting, emphasizing that relentless marching rhythm. The bass player often departs from the root notes, injecting wobbly, noisy fills into the songs’ many nooks and crannies. My favorite part of Right Is Might, though, is the drumming. It’s just so creative. Rarely relying on a straightforward punk beat, Neuroot’s drummer finds unique places for rhythmic accents. The drums never do what you expect them to, and while the drumming style is quite busy, the songs always have that powerful groove… it’s not like, say, Jerry’s Kids, where the drumming is so hyperactive you have trouble hearing the beat at the center. Neuroot’s songs are always rock solid. Perhaps that’s because they were a band for five years before they released Right Is Might, their debut record. Who knows when it emerged, but they exhibit a unique and powerful playing style here.

While Right Is Might has sparked a new appreciation of Neuroot’s music for me, that music sometimes gets overshadowed by this record’s relationship to a piece of hardcore punk record collecting lore. The insert for Right Is Might thanks Pushead for releasing the record in North America, but this never actually happened. The four tracks on Right Is Might, along with two others recorded at the same session, were supposed to come out on Pusmort Records as a split LP with the Canadian band Fratricide. It’s unsurprising that Pushead liked Neuroot… their metallic punk sound would have fit well with Pusmort artists like Final Conflict and Poison Idea. Unfortunately, though, the release never progressed past the test pressing stage. As you might expect, those original test pressings are highly collectible, though they change hands from time to time… there are though to be at least 25 copies in circulation. You can read a thorough analysis of the entire history of the aborted Neuroot / Fratricide split on the Negative Insight zine website, including scans of all of Pushead’s original correspondence with Neuroot from the 80s. So cool!

While Right Is Might isn’t rare or expensive, at least as far as 80s European hardcore 7”s go, a better (and certainly easier) option if you want to experience these tracks is Havoc Records’ 2020 reissue of the record, which expands to a 12” by adding the two additional tracks meant for the split 12” with Fratricide. (If you’re curious, the Fratricide material was also issued eventually on the Canadian label Schizophrenic Records). Even better, we have the Havoc LP in stock at Sorry State! Pick one up and get yer noggin crushed.

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