Featured Releases: October 14, 2022
Gurs: S/T 7” (Symphony of Destruction Records) Over the past few weeks I’ve written about all four new releases on France’s Symphony of Destruction Records, but I think I might have saved the best for last with this 4-song 7” from Bilbao, Spain’s Gurs. I’m not sure there’s a name for the style of punk Gurs plays, but it’s one I recognize: think of bands like the Estranged or Red Dons whose music is informed both by the Wipers’ melodic density and sophistication and the drama and energy of hardcore. It’s a style many bands attempt, but you have to get the mix just right. If you’re missing the grit or the fire, it can come off sounding like tepid pop-punk or just boring hardcore, but Gurs has no such problem. The performances on these four tracks are explosive, bristling with energy and built around dramatic peaks and valleys. Their guitar player is just brilliant, finding non-intuitive but catchy lines that are worthy of Greg Sage himself… check out “Tan Solo Unos Minutos” for a great example. There’s so much packed into these four tracks, but it all works, making for one of those rare records that’s gritty enough for the punks but memorable and likable enough to get the entire room singing along.
Dust Collector: S/T cassette (self-released) Dust Collector is a new band from Los Angeles, and if you’re well-versed in hardcore, the artwork already tipped you off they play full-bore noise-punk in the Disorder / Gai-influenced style of bands like Lebenden Toten and EEL. This was a trendy style a few years ago and there were a lot of bands attempting it in a pretty half-assed fashion. On the surface, the style is easy to replicate… play a fast pogo beat, run the guitar through multiple distortion pedals, and (the only semi-demanding part) make sure you have a halfway decent bass line to center the song around. Despite the strict template, there’s a lot of room for innovation in this style, as bands like Lebenden Toten and D-Clone have proven time and again. While Dust Collector doesn’t sound as self-consciously progressive as either of those bands, they’re not half-assing it, as their songs are complex and interesting. A couple of them even run for over two minutes, which is all but unheard of in this subgenre. Besides more complex songs with a lot of dynamics, Dust Collector also has a strong recording. Of course, the tones are fucked to hell, but everything sounds clear and powerful, and the mix leaves space for each instrument to do its thing. This is a cut above your average noise-punk tape, and I hope it’s not the last we hear from this promising band.
Raw Breed: Universal Paranoia 12” (Convulse Records) Universal Paranoia is the debut album from Denver’s Raw Breed, coming to us on their hometown label Convulse Records. I hadn’t heard Raw Breed’s earlier releases, but Universal Paranoia is an ambitious and powerful record with a distinctive sound. Raw Breed fuses elements of hardcore and underground death metal in a way that reminds me of Public Acid, but with Public Acid’s d-beat foundation exchanged for late 80s and 90s US hardcore. While the music is dirty and driving punk, tracks like “Damnation” and “Isolated Reality” have mosh parts that wouldn’t be out of place on an Only the Strong or Victory Style compilation. It’s an interesting vibe, taking those crowd-pleasing parts and making them sound dirtier and more dangerous. I like Raw Breed’s vocals too, which sound like the perfect mix of a hardcore bark and a death metal growl… like John Brannon trying to sing for Morbid Angel or something. Toward the end of the record, Raw Breed messes with the formula a bit, throwing in noisy and progressive passages on tracks like “Malignant Fantasy” and “Isolated Reality.” If they leaned into this part of their sound, I could imagine a future record that sounded like Uniform’s industrial-tinged hardcore, but in the meantime this is a cohesive and powerful record that doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve heard.
Soft Kill: Press Play b/w Concrete Fluid 7” (Convulse Records) When this single from Portland’s the Soft Kill came in the shop courtesy of Denver’s Convulse Records, I thought to myself, “I’ve heard that band’s name… I’ll give it a listen.” While Convulse is a hardcore label, Soft Kill’s sound is total early 80s style darkwave / post-punk with the anthemic sheen of 90s alternative rock. The driving rhythm section and the spooky, chiming guitars are straight out of the playbook of the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen, but everything is more locked in and polished than the typical underground bands we write about at Sorry State. That’s true of the vocals, which are rich and dynamic, separating Soft Kill from the legions of similar bands out there with unremarkable vocalists. It’s easy to imagine the Soft Kill on a big indie label or playing on giant festival stages. However, they’re connected to the underground that is so important to those of us who write and read this newsletter. I think I first heard Soft Kill’s name when TKO released a cover they did of Blitz’s New Age b/w Fatigue single with Jerry A from Poison Idea on guest vocals (check it out… they make “New Age” sound like Modern English), and they’ve also released records on the underground metal labels Profound Lore and Closed Casket Activities and a slew of other records on small labels and on their own. Discovering all that, I feel a bit like I walked into a party, expecting to find a small and intimate gathering, but it’s a packed-out rager. It’s clear Soft Kill is an entire universe, so if you’re familiar with that universe, here’s another chapter. If, like me, this is your introduction, then welcome to the party.
Hellbastard: Ripper Crust 12” (Agipunk Records) When I first heard Hellbastard’s legendary 1986 demo tape, Ripper Crust, in my early 20s, I totally hated it. I had no sense of what crust was or what to expect, but I thought the band name and album title were so badass that it had to be the most ripping and crushing thing ever… I suppose I thought it would sound like G.I.S.M. or something like that… or at least something super gnarly like Extreme Noise Terror. That’s not what Ripper Crust is about, though. It’s brooding and primitive, equal parts Amebix and Hellhammer. The rhythms are dirge-like and uncomfortable, rarely even reaching early Discharge tempos. Even the fastest parts don’t sound raging thanks to the drummer’s paddle thrash beats. The songwriting and arrangements lean into this, repeating riffs and motifs way more times than I would expect and stretching the songs to sometimes punishing lengths. The production is also very lo-fi, with muffled sounds on all the instruments and an awkward, uneven mix. All those sound like criticisms on the surface, but despite these purported flaws, Ripper Crust’s overall vibe is so dark and grimy and distinctive that I can’t help but love it. It just sounds so nasty, like the end of a party with too much cheap beer and bad speed and you want to go home but your ride got too fucked up and now you’re stuck. Ripper Crust puts me into some negative headspace, but sometime that’s what you want, you know? Many people will hear Ripper Crust and wonder why anyone would voluntary listen to something like this, but if you get it, you get it.