Violent Apathy: 11/29/81 7” (Radio Raheem Records) Radio Raheem delivers another slice of early 80s hardcore arcana with all of their usual panache. You might know Violent Apathy from the numerous Detroit-area flyers they appeared on, their contribution to the Process of Elimination compilation, or their 1984 7” EP, their sole stand-alone release. 11/29/81 captures a moment where Violent Apathy has moved beyond the very primitive sound of their Process of Elimination track, but they’re still a long way from the more self-assured and melodic 1984 EP. The members of Violent Apathy first bonded because they were all fans of the Fix, and you can hear that band’s influence all over these tracks as well as an awareness of the DC scene (“Vice Grip” sounds heavily inspired by S.O.A., for instance). However, you can also hear Violent Apathy’s penchant for melody creeping in around the edges… these more melodic tracks remind me of Artificial Peace, who also displayed a whiff of melody even before they mutated into Marginal Man. As usual, Radio Raheem’s packaging contains a wealth of archival material plus liner notes by Tony Rettman, all brought together in elegant, high-quality design and packaging. This ticks all the early 80s USHC nerd boxes.
Disclone: Harsh Raw Affront cassette (Doomed to Extinction Records) Harsh Raw Affront collects four previously released EPs by this Austrian band. If you think you know what you’re getting into with a band called Disclone, Harsh Raw Affront is precisely what you expect it to be. Disclone sounds pretty much exactly like Disclose (in particular, the earlier era of the band). You might ask, why should I pay attention to a new band that sounds exactly like Disclose? I don’t have a good answer for you, other than to say people said the same thing about Disclose when they were around. Everything on Harsh Raw Affront fucking goes… it’s fucked up and nasty, the riffs are good, the performances are powerful… what more do you want? Originality? Overrated, if you ask me.
Riot .303: S/T 12” (Supreme Echo Records) Supreme Echo Records reissues the recorded works by this punk band from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Despite being, from what I can tell, a small and isolated city on the Canadian prairie, the city was an unlikely hardcore hotbed. Any rabid consumer of punk books and documentaries will recognize the name of the Calgarian, a hotel dive bar in the city that hosted a ton of great hardcore and punk shows in the 80s. Riot .303 played there often (as the flyers in the booklet attest), but they weren’t exactly a hardcore band. Riot .303 was one of those North American bands who took a lot of influence from 70s UK punk. The Canadian Subhumans come up again and again in the liner notes, and with good reason… Riot .303 is a dead ringer for them at points, but even if you aren’t that familiar with the Canadian Subhumans, Riot .303 will be up your alley if you like bands like Toxic Reasons, the Suicide Commandos, or D.O.A. This LP contains the band’s highly collectible 4-track 1982 EP, Crowd Control (probably their best stuff), their four tracks from the Thrasher Skate Rock cassette, and a bunch of rehearsal recordings. According to the liner notes, a contributing factor to Riot .303’s breakup was some members’ disinterest in conforming to hardcore’s ever-faster tempos, but the irony is that it’s the most hardcore moments that stick with me here. Riot .303 was great at writing sing-along choruses, and tracks like “Drugs” and “Organized Religion” that have a memorable chorus hook and a fiery delivery are top-notch. The energy level is highest on the rehearsal tracks, but the fidelity isn’t the best. I get the impression that if the stars had aligned differently, Riot .303 could have produced something as powerful as Subhumans classics like “Fuck You” or “Death to the Sickoids,” but even if they don’t reach that (rather high) bar, I’m still very glad to hear these tracks, particularly when Supreme Echo’s excellent packaging gives the kind of context that deepens one’s appreciation.
Instruct: Death Instructions cassette (Ciabatta Brain Tapes) Usman covered this tape from Seattle’s Instruct in his staff pick a while back, but this is a ripper that I think is worth re-emphasizing. Without sounding like a worship band, Instruct nails the early Cimex sound with a d-beat groove that is simultaneously fast and punishing. While it’s pretty straightforward Cimex style d-beat, there are some wrinkles like the haunting lead guitars in “Isolation” and the crushing breakdown that ends “I.N.D.,” the last song on the tape. The recording sounds raw without being self-consciously so, with the early 80s vibe I love to hear. These four tracks are over so quickly that you hardly know what hit you at first, but Instruct both stands up to and benefits from repeat listens. Highly recommended if you follow labels like Desolate and Roach Leg.
No Future: Death 7” flexi (Iron Lung Records) Death is the 3rd EP by this hardcore punk band from Western Australia, following EPs on two excellent Australian labels, Hardcore Victim and Televised Suicide. On the surface, No Future sounds like a noise-punk band in the Gai / Disorder / Lebenden Toten mold, with bass at the front of the mix and guitar so distorted you can barely tell what’s going on. My favorite moment on the record is when, toward the end of the first track, “Pig Fiend,” you’re thinking to yourself, “man, that’s a pretty fucked up guitar sound,” and then they smash a pedal and it gets even even more fucked up than that. While No Future’s guitar sound and mix are in that noise-punk mold, the riffs are darker and more complex, closer to the contemporary mangel-influenced sound where everyone wants to sound like Herätys. There’s also some of that manic pogo thing going on, but everything sounds seamless and is executed with a high level of power and precision. The way No Future blends a lot of subtle influences into a sound that’s contemporary and not too on the nose also reminds me of Slant and Torso. Another worthwhile listen from Iron Lung Records.
Power Flower: Electric Drug Fuckup 7” (Under the Gun Records) This band from Budapest, Hungary delivers a perfect dose of sweet and sour flavored punk. Power Flower’s general aesthetic resembles bands like the Spits and the Mummies in that they’re a keyboard-driven garage-punk style band that isn’t afraid of a raw and fucked up-sounding recording. It’s not all style no substance, though, because Power Flower writes hooky, well-constructed songs that flow and build and move. The first time I listened to Electric Drug Fuckup I struggled to wrap my head around the completely shredded recording. On the second listen I thought to myself, “that keyboard player is pretty good… they really have a way with a melody.” Then on the third listen I realize it’s not just the keyboard player… if you strain to hear what’s going on through the wall of fuzz, you notice these are well-arranged and memorable songs. It might only be those with a predisposition for the style who give Electric Drug Fuckup the attention to get to that point, but those who put in the effort are rewarded with a joyous cacophony.
Soft Torture: Soft Torture cassette (World Gone Mad Records) This new Philadelphia hardcore band features some impressive players, including Chuck Meehan of YDI’s classic A Place in the Sun EP on bass and Aaron from Haldol and Blank Spell on drums (apologies to the other members, whose resumes I don’t know as well). I knew going in that the playing here would be excellent, but I was stoked to hear that Soft Torture’s stock in trade is the rhythmically knotty hardcore that I love. The crazy rhythms are the star of the show here, reminding me of virtuosic yet fringe groups such as the early versions of the Tar Babies, Die Kreuzen, and Meat Puppets, all of whom took a vast knowledge of and capability with music and crammed it into 90-second chunks delivered at a dead sprint. As with those bands, Soft Torture is exhilarating, making the listener feel like a pinball slammed around the board quicker than your eye can follow. Jess Nicho’s paranoid vocals are an added treat, particularly if you enjoy more recent purveyors of this high-speed spazz attack like Warm Bodies and Das Drip. Oh yeah, and “2021” is a cover / update of YDI’s “1983.” Totally scorching.
So Cal’s Parishioners: self-titled cassette (No Solution) This new California band (I assume their from No Solution’s neck of the woods in Orange County) dials in the sound of classic SoCal and OC punk on this self-titled cassette. The rough production, breezy rhythms, and (most importantly) the thick surfer-dude drawl on the vocals all evoke the OC punk classics, not so much the Adolescents, but bands like Social Distortion, Channel 3, and the Crowd, whose styles were rooted more firmly in song-oriented 70s punk. If you like the White Stains EP that was our Record of the Week last week, this draws on similar influences, but removes any hardcore influence from the equation and zeroes in on a fully retro sound. Five catchy tracks, the standout being “P.N.B.,” whose lyrics seem to be about a journeyman NBA player with punk connections. It’s a unique topic for a song, but perhaps that’s what makes it stand out. I’m stoked this is arriving during springtime on the east coast, which means I can blast it with the windows down and pretend I’m cruising down one of the California highways they list in the first song.
Clear History: Bad Advice Good People 12” (Upset the Rhythm) The UK’s Upset the Rhythm brings us the debut record by this new post-punk-style band from Berlin. Right off the bat, Clear History reminds me of Sorry State bands like Fitness Womxn and Cochonne and other favorites like Portland’s Lithics. Like those bands, Clear History’s sound is rooted in the bass-oriented post-punk of Delta 5, Gang of Four, and Kleenex, the playing anchored in a great rhythm section that favors upbeat, danceable drums and heavy yet bubbly, dub-informed bass lines. The guitarist tends toward plucked single notes that form into earworm melodies, while multiple vocalists engage in spirited and dynamic trade-offs. Everything has its place in the sound until things bubble over, as they do on the standout track “Presents,” whose contrast between the cool rhythm section and the nervous breakdown vocal performance reminds me of my favorite moments from the Stranglers’ early years. Catchy tunes, spirited delivery… what’s not to like?
Klonns: Crow 7” (Iron Lung Records) Crow is the latest EP from Japanese hardcore band Klonns, who have racked up an impressive discography full of EPs without a US release until now (though back in 2019, Sorry State imported some copies of a tape collecting their releases up to that point). I notice that Klonns often describe themselves as “blackened crust,” while Iron Lung’s description compares them to classic Japanese hardcore bands like Bastard and Lip Cream. While Klonns have the power and the grandiosity of those classic Japanese bands, their chaotic and noisy sound takes just as much from grittier crust and noise-punk bands from Confuse to D-Clone and Zyanose and beyond. The fuzziness of the production and the sinister vibes have an underground cult metal feel as well. These elements smashed together ends up sounding like Public Acid, another hardcore band who finds a delicate balance between their chaotic and bruising sides. All four tracks are rippers, but I’m taken with “Ghoul,” which finds a Warthog-style groove heavy enough to take down a cinderblock wall. Crow makes a nice pairing with the crushing Erupt 7” that also landed this week.
Gasmiasma: At War with Punk cassette (Vibes Through Guts Recordings) This New Orleans band released a full length way back in 2014 on Sweden’s Skrammel Records that I enjoyed. I assumed the band was long defunct, but eight years later we have a new release and it fucking RIPS! On At War with Punk, Gasmiasma plays an ultra-fast d-beat style that reminds me of LA’s Tortür… we’re talking Mob 47-style tempos… even faster sometimes, as on the blistering title track that opens the tape, which accelerates nearly to grindcore speeds. Gasmiasma is so fast that when they get to “Machine Gun Jargon of the Stunted Factoid,” a ripper by pretty much any other band’s standards, it almost feels like a break. Gasmiasma’s sound is a little more metallic than your typical mangel, with a growly / screamy vocal dynamic that reminds me of Extreme Noise Terror. All this adds up to a tape with a fresh and distinctive sound and a level of intensity that is off the charts.
Bombardement: La Futur Est La 12” (Symphony of Destruction) Bombardement’s previous record, their self-titled 7”, was one of my favorite records of 2020, and now they’re back with a new full-length. All of their records so far follow the same black, white, and yellow color scheme, and Bombardement’s sound has, like their layouts, remained consistent. At their core, Bombardement is a Discharge-inspired d-beat band with a lot of flashy guitar leads, but there are finer distinctions to be made here. One reason I like Bombardement is that they lean into aspects of the classic Discharge sound that few other d-beat bands focus on. One of my favorite things to do is smoke a ton of weed, put on my original Japanese pressing of Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing at an ear-splitting volume, and let its hurricane of multi-tracked guitars envelop me. In the right mood and with the right substances, HNSNSN is essentially a psychedelic record. As with HNSNSN-era Discharge, Bombardement’s riffs are kind of long and they play them more times than most bands; many of their songs have a structure where they play the verse riff four times without vocals, then four times with them before moving onto the next part. With all this room to settle into the groove, the musicians lean into bits, stretch beats out, inject improvisations, and do the kinds of things you’d expect of a band like Can, albeit perhaps on a more limited scale. Occasionally, like on the standout track “Dyssomnie,” Bombardement erupts into a full-on lead guitar orgy, and these moments are glorious. Song structures that might sound leaden and repetitive when played by another band come alive in Bombardement’s hands. This ain’t jazz, though! It’s hardcore punk, and Bombardement will keep your fist pumping for all 20 glorious minutes of La Futur Es La.
Televised: Human Condition 7” (Convulse Records) Convulse Records brings us the debut (I believe) by this band from their neck of woods in Colorado. Televised’s songs feature elements of different styles, the most prominent being an oi!-inflected take on fast US hardcore, but I also hear some fast power violence-type parts and some riffs have a street punk-ish sense of melody. The singer has a John Brannon-esque bark, but can carry a tune as well, sort of like Choke in his post-Negative FX bands. And the production is very rough and analog-sounding, the drum sound reminding me of the Neos. I’m more partial to the bits that are full on United Blood style, but other people might gravitate toward the more complex and melodic elements.
Brain Tourniquet: Brain Tourniquet 7” (Iron Lung Records) Washington, DC’s Brain Tourniquet returns with their second 7” for Iron Lung Records, offering another dose of blistering hardcore with an aesthetic grounded in early power violence classics by bands like Crossed Out and No Comment. While you’ll hear plenty of familiar power violence tropes on this EP, they don’t comprise the entirety of Brain Tourniquet’s playbook. For instance, I love the winding, COC-esque intro to “Machine Gun,” and the psychedelic twists and turns in “Darkness.” The playing on this EP is also breathtaking, with the rhythm section generating moments that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The fast parts aren’t just inchoate blasting; you can often hear the bass and drums lock together on these intricate little rhythmic runs they perform with jaw-dropping speed and tightness. And that Brain Tourniquet can pull that off while sounding like a band playing together in a room and not like a Protools Frankenstein creation is even more impressive.
CPU Rave: Mood Fucker cassette (self-released) The artwork on this one threw me a little. If CPU Rave’s tape had been dressed up in stark black with distorted and scrawled text like a classic Confuse layout, I’d have been a little more prepared for the music contained therein. That being said, while CPU Rave’s pogo rhythms, noisy guitar textures, and echo-drenched vocals (a lot like Lebenden Toten) are pretty on the nose, the actual songs are a little more unique. To me, there have always been two distinct songwriting approaches in noise punk: one based on dissonant chords and one based on bright and poppy chords. CPU gets around this distinction with more complex riffing that’s dark and aggressive, but with an ominous sense of melody. Remarkably, CPU Rave pulls these songs in that unique direction without losing that sense of off the rails craziness that is such an essential part of any good noise punk record. Excellent stuff.
Peace Decay: Death Is Only... 12” (Beach Impediment Records) Beach Impediment brings us the debut release from this Texas hardcore band featuring veterans from bands like Criaturas, Severed Head of State, Guerra Final, and many more I’m sure. If you’ve listened to much Japanese hardcore, you’ll see where Peace Decay is coming from right off the bat. Their galloping rhythms, gruff vocals, and melodic lead guitar place them in the tradition of bands who take inspiration from Death Side. Peace Decay’s ace in the hole is their shredding lead guitarist, whose style I’d describe as neoclassical thanks to the way it combines melodic complexity with rhythmic density, all of it executed with crispness and precision. You have to be on board with the shredding to appreciate Peace Decay, as anyone who finds the guitar leads too melodic will have a hard time ignoring them. However, if you’re into the more melodic end of the Burning Spirits continuum, you’ll agree Peace Decay can stand toe to toe with the bands who inspired them.
Deodorant: Aluminum Free cassette (Open Palm Tapes) We last heard from Chicago’s Deodorant when they released their excellent 12” on Not Normal back in 2018, and they remain a gripping and unique band. While Deodorant’s technical intricacy, the lack of self-seriousness in their presentation, and their flirtation with straight-up hardcore remind me of Warm Bodies, I think they’re digging a little deeper for inspiration. The first track, “Bunta Groovin’ / Boast Mk. II” sounds like the Big Boys’ punk-funk with rap vocals, while “Top” reminds me of the Minutemen’s tenderest moments, and “Vs. Son of Baconator” channels the prog-ism of the later SST Records catalog, albeit at several times the tempo. Then they end with a straight up hardcore ripper, “Guitar Hero World Tour,” that sounds like YDI or something. It’s eclectic, but Deodorant is adept enough to nail all of it. A must for those of you who value both originality and intensity in your punk.
Inyeccion: Porqueria 12” (Discos Enfermos) Well, this kicks ass. Inyeccion’s debut full-length, Porqueria, reminds me of one of my favorite records in recent memory, Morbo’s ¿A Quién Le Echamos La Culpa?, another record from a South American band whose music is as raw as it is infectious. As the label’s blurb notes, Inyeccion’s style combines elements of Japanese noise punk, UK82 street punk, and raw and crude vintage Latin American punk. While Inyeccion has hit upon an identifiable style, what keeps me coming back to Porqueria is how exciting it sounds. The band plays like they fucking mean it. The energy level is through the roof and the songs sound like classics… when Inyeccion launches into one of their chanted choruses, you have to sing along, and when they dive into one of their frantic noisy parts, you gotta thrash. The intensity and the vividness of expression also carry over into the packaging design. Porqueria is covered in killer, punk as fuck cartoon illustrations, and besides the full color cover you also get a two-color poster and an illustrated lyric booklet following the same aesthetic. I love everything about this record… essential 2022 punk.
Warchild: A Question for Today… Not Tomorrow 12” (Black Water Records) A Question for Today… Not Tomorrow is the fifth record overall and second full-length from Umeå, Sweden’s Warchild. Given the band’s name and imagery, you might guess they play d-beat hardcore, and you wouldn’t be wrong. When I dropped the needle on A Question for Today…, the first comparison that came to mind was Totalitär. Like Totalitär, Warchild’s take on d-beat isn’t particularly heavy or noisy. The sound is powerful and clear, but the production doesn’t call attention to itself, instead asking you to focus on the riffs and songs. And they are killer! Again, like Totalitär, Warchild isn’t just banging out the gnarliest sounding chords they can find; their riffs feel well constructed, a sense of melody lurking just enough in the background to give the songs shape and character without distracting from their grittiness and power. The songs have a subtle cycle of building and releasing tension, several of them erupting in climactic guitar solos that, like the riffs, have the texture of Disclose-esque gestalt, but with that trademark sense of melody just outside the frame. A Question for Today... is an infectious record that’s almost too well done for its own good. If you’re into this particular Swedish hardcore sound, this isn’t one to miss.
Urban Sprawl: Demo 2018 7” (Convulse Records) You may know Oakland’s Urban Sprawl from their 7” last year on Revelation Records, but Denver’s Convulse Records digs into the archives to bring us their 2018 demo tape on vinyl. It’s no surprise Urban Sprawl is running with the big dogs now, because this demo is killer. How Urban Sprawl combines Negative Approach-influenced gruffness with the fist-pumping swing of War All the Time-era Poison Idea made me think of Wasted Time, and then when I pull up Urban Sprawl’s Bandcamp page the singer is wearing a Wasted Time shirt in their profile photo… so I guess that’s not a coincidence! Urban Sprawl features members of veteran bands like Torso and Wound Man, and the playing is as powerful as you might expect, though the recording here is raw and nasty. The songs are total crowd pleasers, swinging between those fist-pumping fast parts and huge breakdowns. If that sounds like your cup of tea, check this out… it’s as perfectly executed as you get.
Ex-Dom: Demo 2021 cassette (Open Palm Tapes) Ex-Dom is a multi-national band based in Bremen, Germany, with vocals alternate between German and Spanish. Those are two languages I don’t know, so I found the track listing confusing before I realized what was going on. No matter how many of the lyrics you understand, though, it’s hard to deny this is an explosive demo tape. Ex-Dom’s rhythms have an energetic pogo bounce, but the production is noisy and nasty, with the tightly wound intensity of fast, Discharge-influenced hardcore. The stylistic mix is a bit like Blazing Eye, but faster and noisier. Rather than the particular mix of styles, though, what stands out about this tape is the crazy high energy level. An excellent demo.
Gaoled: Bestial Hardcore Demo cassette (Iron Lung Records) Iron Lung Records brings us the demo tape by this hardcore band from Perth, Australia. The medieval illustration on the tape’s artwork and the term “bestial” in the title both make me think of black metal, and indeed Gaoled sounds a bit like they could be on Youth Attack Records, a label known for releases that blur the lines between underground hardcore and black metal. I don’t hear black metal influences in Gaoled’s music per se, but the emphasis on primitive execution and the grim and hopeless atmosphere are consonant with that sound. If I had to choose a band that Gaoled reminds me of musically it would be Infest. While they don’t lean on blast beats as hard as Infest (there are a few, but not a lot), Gaoled’s music has a similar power and heaviness, and it’s also dripping with eerie vibes. While a lot of hardcore can sound like it’s most at home in suburban basements and garages, Gaoled’s music seems to come from somewhere else… somewhere deeper and more frightening. Five rippers and one nightmare dirge make up this demo, which is distinctive, powerful, and well worth your time.
The Sex: The Sex Tape 2020 cassette (self-released) Scorching demo tape from this Montreal hardcore band. The sound is tightly wound hardcore with bright and punchy production that leaps out of the speakers. The Sex is great with dynamics, crafting songs packed with exciting moments where things back off for just a second in tempo or volume only to explode in your face with even more power just a few seconds later. When I listen to this tape, I think of being half-drunk at a house show where an unfamiliar band is tearing it up, each song’s whiplash change-ups connecting like well timed sucker punches. Four songs in 6 minutes, all hardcore, and just straight up ripping. Top shelf shit.
Crispy Newspaper: Судургу Тыллар (Sudurgu Tellar) 12” (World Gone Mad Records) Philadelphia’s World Gone Mad Records just brought out two full-lengths by Crispy Newspaper, a contemporary punk band from Yakutsk in Eastern Siberia. There is a small punk scene in the Sakha Republic, and when World Gone Mad learned about it they offered to release vinyl by their favorite band from the scene. While I enjoyed both full-lengths, I’ve listened more closely to Судургу Тыллар and it’s excellent. One great thing about listening to punk from far-flung reaches of the globe is that those bands often have a different relationship to the styles and trends that shape the music from parts of the world we’re more connected to. Indeed, Crispy Newspaper doesn’t sound in step with the latest punk trends. Their music is eclectic; I’d call it post-hardcore because it’s grounded in hardcore’s loud, fast, and underground aesthetic, but Crispy Newspaper isn’t afraid of melody. The scrappiness of the music and the melding of hardcore and pop aesthetics makes me think of the early Lookout! Records scene, but without the cutesiness that some of those bands had. There are also moments that remind me of post-Leatherface bands like Dillinger Four, Japan’s the Urchin, or maybe even Pinhead Gunpowder… bands who combine heaviness, dense and sophisticated musicality, and strong, memorable songwriting. While Crispy Newspaper’s style is eclectic, their playing and songwriting are strong. Those with a particular interest in punk from small, relatively isolated scenes will be stoked to hear something from a scene like that who legit rules, and even if you don’t care about where the band is from, you may find Crispy Newspaper’s music both refreshing and interesting.
Star Party: Meadow Flower 12” (Feel It Records) In 2020, Seattle’s Star Party released a cool noisy pop cassette on Feel It Records that took a lot of influence from the Shop Assistants (whom they also covered on that tape). Now they’re back with their debut vinyl, also on Feel It, and while it treads similar ground to the cassette, it goes in some other directions too. In fact, Meadow Flower starts with two tracks that fuse their jangly, fuzz-drenched pop with a more hardcore approach; they even cite legendary Japanese hardcore band Confuse as one of the key influences on the record. While the vocals still carry a lot of melody, “You and Me” has a blistering and chaotic guitar solo and the second track, “Living a Lie,” sounds like something that, with a few twists of the appropriate knobs on the mixing console, might fit on a label like Roach Leg. From there, the chord progressions get a little brighter and the vocals even more melodic, leaning back into that “Ramones drenched in fuzz” sound that fans of their earlier cassette will be looking for more of. With eight songs in 18 minutes, Star Party keeps things tight and snappy, every track zipping by with a rush of melodic energy. With great, memorable tunes and a sound that feels familiar yet original, Meadow Flower is another excellent pickup from the always reliable Feel It Records.
Träumer: self-titled cassette (1753 Records) Demo cassette from this crusty hardcore band who (I assume) is from 1753 Records’ home base of Los Angeles. Träumer’s sound, for me, lies somewhere in the ground between gnarly, Discharge-inspired hardcore and more song-oriented UK82 punk. They have Discharge’s driving rhythms, shredded vocals, and big guitar sound, but the guitar riffs and bass lines have just a little more conventional sense of melody to them than most modern d-beat bands I hear. It’s a bit like Varukers, but a little gnarlier and with vocals drowned in echo and reverb and, thus, not as anthemic. If you’re a fan of both catchy UK82 punk and ripping d-beat, give this a try… it may scratch two itches at once.
Foil: Full Band demo cassette (Dirtbag Distro) Three-song demo from this snarling hardcore band from Kansas City. Foil sounds like a band that would be insane to see live, as their manic pogo rhythms and shredded but memorable vocals sound like a perfect fit for a sweaty and wild basement gig. The noisy guitar and in the pocket pogo rhythms might remind you of S.H.I.T. or Blazing Eye, but Foil’s vocalist spits out their lines with a snot-drenched growl that reminds me of Nicki Sicki from Verbal Abuse and Sick Pleasure. With only three short punk tracks, this tape feels like it’s over practically before it starts, but the energy level is through the roof and the songs are memorable. Excellent stuff.
Fumes: self-titled cassette (Earth Girl Tapes) Fumes is yet another band from the unlikely punk hotbed of Hattiesburg, Mississippi… home also to Judy & the Jerks, Bad Anxiety, Dumspell, and many more. Like the first two of those bands, Fumes plays 80s-inspired hardcore punk, but their sound is darker and more sinister than some of the other Hattiesburg bands. The first six tracks might remind you of any number of fast and snotty early 80s hardcore bands… some that spring to mind for me are the Worst, Attitude Adjustment, Gang Green, and Adrenalin OD. After six rippers, Fumes end things “Inherited Consequences,” a hardcore dirge that sounds just as classic as their fast stuff. While a lot of contemporary USHC-inspired bands aim for the tougher end of that sound, I love how Fumes focuses on speed, energy, and memorable songwriting. If you like the bands I referenced above, give this a shot… it’s a ripper.
God Plutonium: demo cassette (Kill Enemy Records) Pittsburgh’s Kill Enemy Records gives us another dose of nasty 80s-inspired hardcore from that city’s fertile scene. Like their labelmates in Necro Heads, Speed Plans, and Illiterates, God Plutonium sounds like a band that could have been plucked from the Flex Your Head or Process of Elmination compilations. They build their songs out of simple but catchy riffs played at warp speed, their singer is yelling themselves hoarse, and the drummer sounds like they’re hanging on for dear life. It’s on the looser and wilder end of the spectrum, so those of you who think the Untouchables or Artificial Peace are just as exciting as Minor Threat or SOA will get the most mileage out of this one. Six short and to the point hardcore punk tracks, like the good lord intended.
Church Clothes: Sacred Illusion 7” (Artifact Audio) New York’s Church Clothes has released a couple of cassettes and I’ve noticed them gigging heavily, so it’s great to see some vinyl. As befitting their enigmatic yet evocative band name and cover artwork, Church Clothes has an original style that draws from across hardcore’s history. The music is fast and riffy, which grounds it in the tradition of early 80s-inspired hardcore, but you’ll hear lots of little stylistic choices that draw from other areas… pogo beats, dive bombs, breakdowns, and even a couple of brief blast beats. Thanks to Church Clothes’ ultra tight playing and the bright, heavy, and punchy production (courtesy Artifact Audio, who has recorded a lot of your favorite punk records of the past several years), they don’t sound unfocused all, but like a band who can confidently draw from a wide range of influences. I think fans of Torso would dig Church Clothes… while Church Clothes doesn’t lean on the same d-beat and straight edge influences as Torso, the production style and the eclecticism of the approach are similar, and both bands have a roaring sound that grabs your attention and won’t let go. I love records like this that sound vital and powerful, yet determined to engage with what hardcore is today rather than leaning so heavily on older sounds and styles.
Nabat: 1982 cassette (Foreign Legion Records) Foreign Legion Records presents a reissue of the 1982 demo by the Italian oi! band Nabat, originally released as a split cassette with Rip Off. Foreign Legion notes there were a lot of crummy bootlegs of this recording floating around (including crummy YouTube rips), so they released this edition of pro-printed cassettes with great sound so people could hear these tracks with all their original impact. I’ve seen a lot of Nabat merch around the punk scene over the past several years, so I think they’re not as obscure as they once were, but I’m sure many people aren’t familiar with this excellent band. While taking inspiration from the British oi! scene, Nabat had their own take on the sound, with stripped-down riffs and arrangements and a raw, biting sound that’s miles away from more polished and melodic oi! groups. I get the impression the members of Nabat used records like Blitz’s All Out Attack EP as a template for their sound, accentuating the gruffness and toughness. The recording’s raw guitar sound and punchy drums make Nabat sound a bit like S.O.A. or Negative Approach here, albeit with slower tempos. Not being in such a rush helps these songs pop, with the terrace-chant choruses planting themselves in your head after just a listen or two. While Nabat’s debut 7” (also released in 1982) is an Italian punk classic, I must admit I hadn’t given these earlier tracks their proper hearing, and I’m very pleased Foreign Legion Records has righted that wrong.
Cenobite: demo cassette (Foreign Legion Records) Foreign Legion Records brings us the very limited (50 copies!) demo cassette from this Chicago hardcore band. While Cenobite’s style is hardcore punk, I hear elements of different sounds bouncing around in their mix. The desperate-sounding vocals (with lyrics in Portuguese) make me think of early 80s Brazilian hardcore, and a song like “Ondas de Rádio Perdidas” switches back and forth between a straightforward hardcore sound and a bouncy mosh riff that sounds like it could have come from a late 80s crossover record. “Deixando a Terra,” on the other hand, has some cool chiming guitars ringing out over the hardcore barrage, reminding me of Indigesti’s sound on their first album, Osservati Dall’Inganno. This is some raw, original, and vital-sounding hardcore punk.
Smirk / Zhoop: split cassette (Loopy Scoop Tapes) Loopy Scoop Tapes brings us a well-matched split cassette featuring three songs each from these two punk rock solo projects. Smirk you’ll remember from their debut LP on Feel It Records and their recent EP on Total Punk / Iron Lung, both of which got a lot of play around Sorry State. Their three tracks aren’t as poppy as some of my favorite songs on the EP, showcasing the more punk rock side of the band. No complaints about that! While Smirk is a solo project (at least on their recordings), their songs have the dynamism of a full band, with a lot of interesting push and pull between the songs’ rhythms and the vocal and lead guitar melodies. It’s a cut above your typical egg punk-y solo project, and even these three raw tracks have that certain something special about them. As for Zhoop, we’ve carried a ton of this prolific band’s releases, but I haven’t dug into them yet… they have so many limited cassette releases I didn’t know where to start. Perhaps it’s because I’m hearing them next to Smirk’s more measured and composed songs, but Zhoop here sounds to me like a snotty, catchy hardcore band in the vein of Boogada Boogada Boogada-era Screeching Weasel, but filtered through the sound of contemporary post-Coneheads punk. Each of their three tracks gets faster and tougher-sounding than the previous one, with the opener “Fighting for Control” running at a similar clip to Smirk’s tracks, “I Don’t Care” getting angrier, and then “Breathe” erupting to a full-on hardcore sprint.
The Slickee Boys: Here to Stay 7” (Vinyl Conflict Records) The Slickee Boys were a band from Washington, DC that started in the mid-70s and continued until the late 80s. They first came on my radar around twenty-five years ago when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about the early 80s DC hardcore scene. That well-documented scene always gave the Slickee Boys props, noting that they were an early punky band on the scene and that guitarist Kim Kane was interested in and supportive of the younger hardcore bands. Growing up in Virginia, I’d see Slickee Boys records in the used bins from time to time and I’d always pick them up, but they never grabbed me when I was young and spinning out on hormones. They may have been an important predecessor of the original harDCore scene, but the Slickee Boys always struck me as a 60s revival band that was allied with the punk scene more than a proper punk band themselves. That said, I plucked their 1983 album Cybernetic Dreams of Pi out of Sorry State’s used bin a few months ago and it’s gotten many spins, my ear being a little more open than it was when I first encountered the Slickee Boys. I never came across the original pressing of their 1981 single Here to Stay, reissued here by Vinyl Conflict Records, and if I had, it might have been the record to push me into full-blown fandom. The a-side is a total punk scorcher, with the energy, drive, and hooks of classic UK punk. While it’s still built on a 60s garage foundation of lead guitar and vocal hooks, the Slickee Boys play the song with the speed and power of the Buzzcocks, and the track stands up next to any 77-era UK a-side you can throw at it. The b-side is similarly upbeat and built around an excellent lead guitar hook, making this single an essential 2-sider. Here to Stay may be an anomaly in the Slickee Boys’ catalog, but anyone with a taste for poppy ’77 punk should be glad to add these two bangers to their collection.
SSRI: Nice Life 7” (Filthkick Records) Sydney, Australia’s SSRI brings us this limited 5-song cult banger. Like a lot of bands from Australia, I hear a lot of 90s Cleveland in SSRI’s sound, particularly the desperate and nihilistic sounds of the H100s. Like the H100s, SSRI can sound unhinged, the soundtrack to a complete abandonment of control, but there are other elements to their sound too. Most prominent is a United Mutation-esque psychedelic guitar style that peeks around the edges of the first four faster songs, then comes to the fore for the title track, the extended, warped, No Trend-esque dirge that closes the record. Rather than the band’s style, though, the first thing you’ll notice when you drop the need on Nice Life is the crazy vocal sound. It sounds like the singer is overloading the mic, to where it almost drowns out the other instruments. That idiosyncratic production choice gives Nice Life a cult feel, scaring away the poseurs and serving as a clarion call to the true heads who like their hardcore fucked up and dirty. Said true heads should note Nice Life is pressed in a minuscule edition of 150 copies, which appears to be sold out pretty much everywhere else.
Sekaannus: Kutsu 12” (Finnish Hardcore Records) Usman wrote about this reissue from Finland’s Sekaannus in his staff pick a while back, so refer to that for the perspective of the true scholar of Finnish hardcore. I’ll try to give you the “light” version here. Sekaannus is perhaps best known in Finnish hardcore collector circles for their 1984 split 7” with Massacre. On that record, Sekaannus is right in line with the classic early 80s Finnish hardcore bands you know and love, vicious Discharge-inspired hardcore that, while sloppier than some of their peers, has all the feral power that you want from that sound. By the time Sekaannus recorded their first stand-alone record, 1985’s Kutsu 7”, they had gotten much tighter and had discovered anarcho punk, which (according to the liner notes for this reissue) changed the band’s sound. The tempos on Kutsu aren’t as maniacal as the earlier split tracks, but what Sekaannus loses in speed they make up for with the newfound complexity in their arrangements, stronger playing, and the clear and powerful recording. As with a lot of UK anarcho bands, I suspect Killing Joke had a big influence on this era of Sekaannus, and if you like KJ-influenced UK anarcho like early era Amebix, this will be right up your alley. Still, Sekaannus still sounds distinctly Finnish, their mid-paced tracks sounding less like a copy of UK anarcho bands and more like the mid-paced tracks that punctuated LPs by fast Finnish hardcore bands like Kaaos and Riistetyt. As for this reissue, it expands the original 7”s three tracks to six, restoring three songs that were recorded at the same session but cut do to length restrictions. These extras show no dip in quality from the tracks that made the 7” and one of them, “Huuto” is a fast, Discharge-influenced song more like their earlier split tracks. This edition includes a big insert booklet featuring liner notes, lyrics, vintage zine interviews, and other ephemera. A top-notch reissue of this obscure but worthwhile gem.
Thatcher’s Snatch: S/T 7” (Hardcore Victim Records) Australia’s Hardcore Victim brings us the debut by this Melbourne band. Despite the band’s name, the Exploited-referencing artwork, and the members’ impeccable fashion sense on their Discogs profile image, I wouldn’t classify Thatcher’s Snatch as total UK82 retro / worship, but rather as a fusion of modern hardcore punk sensibilities with important aspects of the UK82 sound. The main thing is that Thatcher’s Snatch is just so much more technically proficient than most of the UK82 bands, their playing faster, tighter, and more technical, and the production fuller. So many of those UK82 bands were young people with only a rudimentary command of their instruments, but Thatcher’s Snatch is a band full of shredders. That being said, they model their songs on the UK82 style, particularly the driving drumbeats (though, as I mentioned, their tempos tend to be faster), catchy, sing-songy choruses (see “We’re Going to Hell”), and (my favorite) the bubbly, memorable bass lines that sit right at the front of the mix. If you’re into the modern UK82-inspired punk of bands like Porvenir Oscuro and Vaxine, this is gonna be right up your alley.
Börn: Drottningar Dauoans 12” (Iron Lung Records) Bless Iron Lung Records for continuing to document the small but creatively fertile Icelandic punk scene. Their latest missive from the island is this new 12” from post-punkers Börn, whose previous LP came out way back in 2014. While Börn has released that previous LP and a handful of singles and EPs, it doesn’t appear they got much attention here in the US, so this new album is the first time I’m hearing them. Unsurprisingly for a band that’s been around for so long, they sound seasoned and confident here, with a big sound that augments a post-punk brood with hardcore’s desperate anger. The rhythm section is tough and punky, the driving beats and propulsive bass lines reminding me of Rudimentary Peni, while the guitarist alternates between fluid and ethereal death rock melodic lines and cascading sheets of chorus-drenched chords. While I can’t understand a word the singer says (the lyrics are in Icelandic), their impassioned howl makes me think of a growlier version of Rozz Williams from Christian Death. Stylistically, this fits in with modern death rock-influenced punk bands like Slimy Member and Anasazi, but with that certain inarticulable element that makes everything I hear from Iceland sound so distinctive. As such, you’ll enjoy this whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool death rocker or someone who is interested in the music of that magical island.
N.A.T.: demo cassette (self-released) The demo tape from Norfolk, Virginia’s N.A.T. sounds like it should bear a sticker reading “Warning: contents under pressure.” While they seem to have both contemporary and early 80s influences, their tape’s compressed, claustrophobic reminds me of the way Black Flag’s Damaged seems to carry more music and more emotion than it can hold, giving it an explosive sound that appears to be coming apart at the seams. Riffs bleed into fuzz and noise, while the hoarse and distorted vocals often collapse into the other instruments’ quagmire. That production combined with N.A.T.’s loose and wild playing style makes this sound unhinged in all the right ways. If you like your hardcore nasty and feral, give N.A.T. a look.
SOH: Life on Edge cassette (No Norms Records) Jeff wrote about SOH’s cassette for his staff pick a few weeks ago and he did a great job, so I’m just reiterating here. While the (totally awesome) artwork might lead you to expect ripping thrash, SOH is a straight up punk band with little metallic influence in their sound. Their songs barrel forward with a UK82-inspired stomp that reminds me of the Exploited or the Partisans. As with the Thatcher’s Snatch record I also wrote about this week, the bass is forward in the mix and has a catchy, bubbly sound that strikes the perfect balance between rhythm and melody. And, as Jeff also emphasized, the vocals here are great, a banshee howl that’s similar in approach to the singer from Axe Rash, harsh and aggressive but with memorable rhythmic and melodic lines.
Ultras: S/T cassette (Convulse Records) Denver’s Convulse Records steps outside their home turf to bring us this four-song tape from Oakland, California’s Ultras. Ultras has a unique and powerful sound, starting with a base of pogo-beat hardcore that reminds me of S.H.I.T. or Bib, but with a noise-drenched, blown-to-shit production style. The production style reminds me of New York’s Uniform in that it’s so noisy and harsh that it blurs the line between hardcore and harsh noise / power electronics, but it doesn’t seem like Ultras is trying to cross over into the noise table world… they’re just ramping up their sound to the maximum level of aggro. Despite all the noise, Ultras’ catchy riffing style still feels front and center, and their knack for writing memorable, seasick-sounding circular riffs reminds me of those killer early recordings by Texas’s Glue. It all adds up to a distinctive and powerful four-song release.
Snooper: Music for Spies 7” (Computer Human Records) Music for Spies is the second 7” by Nashville’s Snooper (their first came out on Italy’s Goodbye Boozy Records), a duo whose drumming half you might already know as Spodee Boy. I know many bands resent being called Egg Punk, but I’d be surprised if that was the case with Snooper because their sound seems like it’s modeled so closely on the Coneheads; their robotic vocals, scratchy guitar riffs, and direct-in bass sound all remind me of the Coneheads, though the overall execution is looser and rougher around the edges. Also, while the Coneheads built many of their songs around big vocal hooks, Snooper’s vocals tend not to take center stage. Thus, while the songs are catchy and interesting, my favorite track is “Running,” whose repetitive groove has a krautrock feel. While I don’t know if this will win over any die-hard anti-egg people, if you like bands like Research Reactor Corp and Prison Affair, this scratches a similar itch. If you’re interested, don’t sleep, though, because this Australian import is limited to only 200 copies.
La Milagrosa: Panico 12” (Iron Lung Records) Panico is the debut full-length from this band of Puerto Rican punks from New York. We wrote about their demo tape back in 2019, so it seems as if these songs have been in the oven for a minute, and they sound like it… Panico is a remarkable record with top-notch songwriting. It’s easy to miss that on the first listen, though, because La Milagrosa sounds so gnarly here… the production is gritty and ugly (yet still powerful), more like contemporary d-beat hardcore with the throat-shredding, echo-drenched vocals, pounding drums right up front, and a mix that’s intense and in your face. Combining hardcore-ish performance and production with catchier songwriting gives La Milagrosa a UK82-ish feel on tracks like “Bastardos,” but their songs are much subtler than what you might hear from your typical mohawks-and-leather band. While this might not occur to anyone else, there’s something way in the background of La Milagrosa’s songwriting that reminds me of Bad Religion (when they were good)… many of the riffs have a slightly mournful quality (check out the cool minor chord on “Asesinos”), and the songs have a kernel of pop in them that makes them both more propulsive and more satisfying than your typical punk tracks. I’m probably splitting hairs and most people will just throw this on and say “it rips,” but I think there’s something more to Panico than just ripping.
Imploders: EXD cassette (Neon Taste Records) Toronto’s Imploders caught our attention with their debut 7” on Neon Taste Records, and now they’re back with this 10-song tape recorded live on the long-running Equalizing Distort radio show. By my count only three of the songs here appear on that 7”, so there’s a wealth of new material, some or all of which we can expect to be re-recorded for the band’s upcoming LP. There’s nothing wrong with these versions, though, as the sound is crisp and full. There’s a bit of room noise so it feels “live,” but I can’t imagine anyone complaining about the fidelity here… these tracks sound great. Stylistically, Imploders haven’t evolved much since the 7”, and that’s a good thing! They still rest on that line between hardcore and catchier punk, playing with the speed and precision of a hardcore band, but with the catchy tunes of a punk band. The drums here are particularly killer. It’s not uncommon to see Imploders compared to the Circle Jerks, but there’s some catchy-ass Lucky Lehrer shit going on here that you don’t want to miss. Don’t let the “live” thing scare you off… if you’re a fan of bands like the Circle Jerks, the Carbonas, and Career Suicide, you’re gonna want to hear EXD.
IV Reich: S/T 2x7” (Esos Malditos Punks) This double 7” collects the two cassettes from this 80s Spanish hardcore band, originally released in 1984 and 1985. The vinyl for this release came out back in 2007, but Esos Malditos Punks was sitting on a bunch of sleeveless copies, so they printed up some new jackets for this edition and were generous enough to offer us some. Perhaps I had heard of IV Reich in passing, but I didn’t know them before this arrived, which is a shame because it shreds. While IV Reich has a little of the anthemic quality I associate with 80s Spanish punk (see the track “Sucio Policía,” for instance), they are a hardcore band through and through. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been listening to so much of it, but IV Reich reminds me of Finnish bands like Kaaos, Bastards, and Riistetyt. As with those bands, the music is mean, heavy, and (primarily) fast as fuck, but the riffs have a catchy bounciness a la UK82. And the vocals are great, shredded but still so catchy and memorable. If you’re a deep 80s hardcore head, don’t miss this… we only have a few, and it’s top shelf stuff.
Axe Rash: Contemporary Ass 7” (Not for the Weak Records) We last heard from Sweden’s Axe Rash when they released their self-titled 12” on Adult Crash Records back in 2019, and now they’re back with a new one, this time with a very fitting US home on Not for the Weak Records. Axe Rash is tailor-made to be labelmates with groups like Lethal Means, Reckoning Force, and Crucial Response, their sound splitting the difference between propulsive Swedish mangel and bruising US-style hardcore. It’s also wrapped up in some explosive, clear, and heavy production that’s on par with the other NFTW releases. While Axe Rash’s sound is straightforward, there are all kinds of wrinkles, like the blanket of subtle guitar leads draped over “Gig Life” and rocked-out mosh of “False Pictures.” Axe Rash’s vocalist is also a standout, their demon growl simultaneously catchy and scary, reminding me a little of Marissa from Mutant Strain. If you like your hardcore big, angry, and bursting with energy, don’t miss this one.
Comunione: s/t cassette (Iron Lung Records) Iron Lung Records brings us the debut release from this one-person anarcho punk project from Italy. Anarcho punk as a genre doesn’t tell the entire story, though, because Comunione’s propulsive hardcore punk sounds to me like it’s draped in the aesthetic trappings of black metal. The recording is tinny and distant like the Norwegian black metal classics, like the music is playing out of a small speaker in the middle of a big, empty cathedral. The atmosphere is dense and interesting, but as with 90s black metal, the standout moments are when a little melody creeps in, such the subtle octave chords on “Enclave” or (most memorably) the creepy organ line that closes out the tape at the end of “Salvati.” While the recording style might remind you of black metal, there’s little of that genre’s theatricality, as Comunione’s performance here sounds as powerful and earnest as you would expect from a strong hardcore band. It all adds up to a unique release, and one that finds an appropriate home on the always cutting-edge Iron Lung Records.
Spike in Vain: Jesus Was Born in a Mobile Home cassette (Scat Records) I listened to Spike in Vain’s Disease Is Relative—for me, one of the great unsung underground rock records of the 80s—for years before I realized that record was only about 1/3 of their discography. Fortunately, when Scat Records gave Disease Is Relative a much-needed reissue last year, they also gave us the unreleased follow-up album Death Drives a Cadillac, and now they’ve reissued Spike in Vain’s debut cassette, Jesus Was Born in a Mobile Home, on its original format. While Disease Is Relative is still Spike in Vain’s shining moment, like Death Drives a Cadillac, Jesus Was Born in a Mobile Home captures plenty of brilliance. The sound here isn’t as razor-sharp as Disease Is Relative, the looser playing and punkier delivery emphasized by the production, which compiles what sounds like multiple recording sessions and live tapes into a sonic hodge-podge. This punkier version of Spike in Vain reminds me of proto-hardcore like the Germs, the early Dangerhouse bands, or the Feederz (the latter feels like an apt reference for “Rejected by No. 12”). Along with bands like the Feederz and the Crucifucks, Spike in Vain were interested in the stranger and more subversive aspects of punk, their music toeing the line between evoking that strangeness and holding onto the anger and energy that make hardcore what it is. Pick up Disease Is Relative if you haven’t already, but once you digest the brilliance of that album, know the other two releases in Spike in Vain’s discography are worth exploring too.
Faze: Content 7” (11PM Records) We carried Faze’s demo cassette several years ago, and now they’re back with their debut vinyl on 11PM Records. I called the Montreal band’s sound “strikingly original” back then, and it’s still the case now. 11PM’s description says it all when they mention S.H.I.T. combined with Destruction Unit’s space-rock-meets-noise-rock… that hits the nail on the head. Faze has S.H.I.T.’s ability to create tense rhythms that sound like a coiled spring, but what makes them unique is their ability to pull out of that groove and slide into something different, like the repetitive, krautrock-y rhythms that open the record. Content is a hardcore record through and through, all about energy and power, but I would love to see Faze do something (maybe a full-length) where they give the psychedelic elements of their sound a bigger piece of the stage. Until then, Content earns its keep as a unique and exciting hardcore record.
Desorden Publico: Discografia 12” (Fuego a las Fronteras) Fuego a las Fronteras brings us another high-quality reissue of vintage Mexican punk, this time a studio recordings discography from Desorden Publico. I’d never heard of Desorden Publico before this release. They never released their own vinyl before now, but they put out the Fúnebre cassette full-length (recorded in 1991, but released in 1994) and appeared on the Rock Nacional Volumen II: Sólo Para Punks compilation LP in 1987, both of which are included on this LP collection. If you have a taste for the raw and wild 80s Mexican punk sound, you’ll love Desorden Publico, as they have a similarly frantic sound to better-known bands like Xenofobia and Massacre 68. The sound on their Fúnebre tape is a little more metallic than those bands; the booklet mentions that there were death and speed metal influences creeping into the band’s music by this time, and while you can hear this on a few tracks (like “Campos de Exterminio”), Desorden Publico’s focus was ripping fast hardcore that reminds me of faster Discharge-influenced bands like Shitlickers and Varukers. As with Fuego a las Fronteras’s Xenofobia reissue, you also get a big full-color booklet telling the band’s story in English and Spanish and presenting a wealth of archival material that gives us a much-needed window into Mexico’s unique punk scene. One of my favorite parts of the booklet is where they reproduce j-cards from the bootleg Desorden Publico tapes that circulated and kept the band’s name alive through the years.
Various: Oi! Across the World 1977-1985 cassette (No Solution) This DIY mix tape does what it says on the tin: gives you a selection of oi! music from across the world. You get one track per band, ranging from all-time classics that you probably already know if you’re interested in this tape (Cock Sparrer, Sham 69) to underrated scorchers (Menace, the Oppressed) to deep cuts whose artist names stumped me (Tolbiat’s Toads, the Baws). While the presentation and dub quality are no-frills, the track selection is excellent. This can live in your car stereo for months before you get bored with it, which is about the highest compliment one can pay a mix tape.
Sect Mark: Promo MMXXI cassette (Iron Lung Records) We last heard from Rome, Italy’s Sect Mark back in 2018, when Iron Lung released their Worship album. While several years have elapsed, Sect Mark’s take on dark, mysterious, and creepy hardcore hasn’t changed much. They still have those bulldozer rhythms that will remind you of S.H.I.T. or Warthog, with sprightly riffs and a guitar sound that alternates between a full bellow and a biting, mid-range-y tone a la G.I.S.M. As with everything Iron Lung releases, there’s nothing cheesy, obvious, or overwrought here; just go-for-the-throat hardcore performed with a great balance of precision and fury. It sounds like we’ll be hearing a new Sect Mark album soon, but in the meantime enjoy this limited tape with three brand new originals and a Nerorgasmo cover.
Argh!: El Silencio De Los Cromagnones 7” (Planeta Destrozado Records) New York’s Planeta Destrozado brings us the debut vinyl from this band from Temuco, Chile. Argh!’s four songs—the first of which starts, appropriately, with the singer yelling the band’s name—exhibit a nimble hardcore punk style with dense arrangements. Even that first track, “Manipulación Socio / Digital” starts with a catchy SoCal punk groove, segues into manic pogo-hardcore, and then finishes with a crushing half-time part, all in well under two minutes. While all the changes in rhythm could make the songs sound disjointed (and the third track, “Más Allá De La Cúpula Del Trueno,” leans into the contrast), the singer’s raspy yet slightly tuneful voice (he reminds me a little of Jose from Peligro Social and Ruleta Rusa) holds everything together. Throw in some awesomely colorful fantasy-style cover artwork and you have a pretty sick record.
Guerra Final: S/T 7” (Desolate Records) Desolate Records brings us the debut EP from this new band from Texas. On first listen, Guerra Final made me think of their fellow Texans Vaaska. Like Vaaska, Guerra Final has a locked-in d-beat sound, hoarse and catchy vocals (Guerra Final’s vocalist sounds quite similar to Eddie from Vaaska in places), and occasional flare-ups of lead guitar. While I think anyone who loves Vaaska (i.e. people with good taste) will like Guerra Final, they don’t sound exactly the same. Guerra Final is a little heavier and crustier, as you might expect from a band on Desolate, and their lead guitar parts tend more toward big, memorable melodies than flashy explosions of hammer-ons. I love that there are seven tracks here, making this weighty EP feel like a full helping rather than just a taste. While Guerra Final’s passion and power are undeniable, the real selling point for me is how infectious the riffs and songs are. Guerra Final strikes me as a band who knows what they’re trying to do and they nail it here.
Fear of the Known: Cabal 7”+flexi (Phobia Records) Cabal is the first release from this international project featuring a bunch of old UK punk heads playing with some slightly younger Japanese punks. Kaos from Chaos UK is on vocals, and you’ll recognize his surprisingly tuneful growl if you followed Chaos UK’s recordings into the 90s, and the lyrics are as bile-filled as you might expect from someone who came up in and remained part of the punk scene for decades. While F.O.T.K. pulls members from Chaos UK and Disorder, don’t expect the bare-bones noise of those bands’ early records. These are songs with structures and catchy choruses, and a big sound that seems to pull as much from industrial music and black metal as punk. It’s not retro, but it has the energy and bite you want. Besides the 5-song 7”, this package also includes a flexi where the band does one track each from the members’ old bands Chaos UK and Disorder in F.O.T.K.’s harsher industrial-punk sound.
Last Affront: 10 Track EP 7” (11PM Records) 11PM Records brings us the debut EP from this London band who has (what strikes me, at least) as a very British approach to US hardcore. The label’s description mentions Socialcide, and Last Affront sounds a lot like them in places, but they also remind me of Heresy and Ripcord. You know how every Chinese restaurant’s General Tso’s tofu tastes a little different? They’re probably all using the same ingredients, but they put them together slightly differently. Take a lot of USHC, a touch of crusty UK metal, and play it fast as shit (though there are only a couple of moments on Last Affront’s EP that qualify as a blastbeat) and you’re gonna get something a bit like this. The vocals are throaty and desperate a la No or Permission, which adds to that gloomy British vibe I get from Last Affront. All the bands on 11PM approach US-style hardcore with their own unique sense of style, and Last Affront fits that mold to a T.
Fragment: Mind Convulsion 7” (Desolate Records) These Nova Scotian d-beaters return with a new EP on the world’s greatest current crust label, Minnesota’s Desolate Records. As on their last record, Serial Mass Destruction, the sound on Mind Convulsion is strikingly raw… it seems like most noisy bands nowadays get their sound by starting with a good recording and cranking every knob to oblivion, but Fragment’s thin and scratchy sound makes it seem like they threw up a cheap microphone in the corner and let it rip. And rip they do! Fragment’s sound here reminds me of Gloom… full-bore crasher crust blown out to oblivion. While the last EP had one slower, Amebix-y track, Mind Convulsion is a dead sprint, a jagged and jarring assault of non-stop riffs. Dilettantes stay away, because this is raw and ugly enough to scare away the poseurs.
Xenofobia: Discografia 12” (Fuego a las Fronteras) Xenofobia is one of the oldest and best-known punk bands to emerge from the 80s Mexican punk scene, and this LP on the new label Fuego a las Fronteras collects both of their studio recordings, 1987’s Muerte in America 7” and 1989’s Presionados LP, along with a thick full-color booklet featuring a band history (in Spanish and English) as well a ton of archival material. Xenofobia’s records have been reissued several times before (in fact, we carried a reissue of the Muerte in America 7” just a little while ago), but these recordings are crucial to the story of worldwide punk and should remain in print as long as possible. Xenofobia started in 1980 and coalesced around a group of three brothers—Jorge, David, and Raul Varela Aguilar—whose parents valued music and made musical education a priority for their children. However, despite being skilled musicians, Xenofobia remained dedicated to their rough and nasty hardcore sound. Though their 7” and 12” came out 7 and 9 years into the band’s history, both recordings keep the raw and wild character that draws comparisons to international bands like Disorder, Chaos UK, Wretched, and Negazione. Like those bands, there’s something very musical at the core of Xenofobia’s songs that elevates them above thrashing gestalt and gives them the power of classic hardcore songs. The music collected here is unimpeachable (and is reproduced with great sound quality), but the full-color booklet is just as exciting. It can be difficult just to hear recordings of a lot of the classic Mexican punk bands, but the archival material in this booklet gives me one of the clearest pictures I’ve found yet of Mexico’s fascinating and unique 80s punk scene. Kudos to Fuego a las Fronteras for giving these landmark recordings the top of the line reissue they deserve.
Aihotz: Matar Al Superhombre 7” (Discos Enfermos) The long-running Spanish label Discos Enfermos brings us the debut vinyl release from this new punk band from Bilbao, Spain. Aihotz has an interesting and unique sound, mixing hardcore and pogo punk with spacey synth elements that are an unexpected touch for either style. A track like “Humana Esperanza” might remind you of Exotica or La Misma at first, but halfway through the song Aihotz drops into a half-time part, turns the delay knobs up to 10, and by the end of the track the bass player has wandered off onto a solo odyssey. While Aihotz’s hardcore parts may not have the brute strength of bands who make that style their sole focus, I love that you never know what the next moment of Matar Al Superhombre will bring. I recommend you give this band a shot if you’re into the adventurous punk sounds on labels like Iron Lung and Toxic State.
Glaas: S/T cassette (Static Shock Records) Debut 3-song cassette from this Berlin group featuring members of, among many others, Clock of Time and Idiota Civilizzato. At first listen I thought Glaas sounded nothing like either of those bands, but after spending a little time with these three songs, I’ve concluded that they’re a smashing together of the two groups’ sensibilities, taking Clock of Time’s brooding post-punk and applying the dense, maximalist framework of Idiota Civilizzato to it. Density is the word I keep coming back to when I listen to Glaas, because these songs are crammed to overflowing with hooks and interesting parts. This must have been a nightmare to mix, because there are often three (or more!) interesting melodic or rhythmic things happening at once, all of them contending for your attention. Consequently, it can be hard to parse on your first listen, but once you immerse yourself in Glaas’s labyrinth there’s so much to explore. The menacing vibe will play well with people who love bands like Killing Joke and the Birthday Party, but Glaas doesn’t sound retro at all… this sounds like music that only 21st-century information overload could have birthed. There’s a full-length coming in spring 2022. I can’t wait to hear it, and I’ll plan to block out a big chunk of time to digest it.
Suspiria: demo cassette (No Solution) Demo cassette from this band out of LA on the No Solution label. Right off the bat, Suspiria reminded me of Public Acid. Like Public Acid, their guitar and vocal sounds have a death metal edge, but the songs themselves seem like they’re built on more of a d-beat hardcore framework, with fast riffing leading into big, crunchy hardcore breakdowns. It’s a cool demo, but the quality of the dub could be stronger… I’d like to hear Suspiria with a big, imposing sound rather than the underground metal blur you hear here, but many of you may well feel the opposite. Limited to only 50 copies and I don’t see this streaming anywhere online, so if it sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll have to lay down a few bucks to take a sip.
Crucial Response: Puppets 7” (Not for the Weak Records) Virginia’s Not for the Weak Records lays another ripper on us with the debut 7” from this Indonesian band. I remember when a ripping hardcore record from southeast Asia felt like an uncommon event, but the scenes there seem to have a lot more visibility in the west now… at least increasing globalization has a few bright spots. I can see why Crucial Response caught NFTW’s ear, because they play the kind of hardcore the label has developed a reputation for producing… tough, no-nonsense hardcore with great riffs, well-constructed songs, and booming (but far from slick) production. NFTW’s description notes that Crucial Response’s dense but catchy riffing style reminds them of their favorite d-beat bands even though the drumming is straight up 1-2-1-2 most of the time. I can hear that, but even more Crucial Response reminds me of Out Cold, particularly their later-era stuff. While the vocals are a little tougher sounding, Crucial Response reminds me of Out Cold’s way of combining bulldozer hardcore with a slight rock undercurrent to keep the songs zipping along. Four fast ones, then one mid-paced number to clear out the pit. A killer, classic-sounding hardcore record.
Hacker: Pick a Path 12” (Hardcore Victim Records) Hardcore Victim Records brings us the debut vinyl by this Australian hardcore band. Hacker released a well-received demo a couple of years ago, but that didn’t show up on my radar, so Pick a Path is my introduction. Here at Sorry State we listen to a lot of demos and 7”s from hardcore bands who are just learning to play and/or figuring out who they are, and sometimes bands sound so loose they’re about to fall apart (sometimes this is on purpose; other times not so much). Hacker is like the exact opposite of that. It’s like someone genetically engineered (or a more pertinent analogy might be hacked together) a hardcore band that will prompt crowds to go the fuck off. The sound is massive without being slick or overblown, and the songs see-saw between manic pogo beats and bruising mid-paced parts in a way that’s not so much predictable as inevitable… as Hacker builds to those climaxes you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up and you know the bodies are about to fly. The precision of the execution and the depth with which they realize these songs makes me think of Warthog, but Hacker has none of Warthog’s subtle rock-isms… this is full-bore meathead shit. If I go to a fest where Hacker is playing, I plan to stand in the back lest I lose any limbs in the melee.
What Goes On #2 zine Music zines have never been known for their punctual publication schedules, so we can excuse this Raleigh-based zine for taking a couple of years between their first and second issues. As with that first issue, this new installment of What Goes On is given over almost entirely to two long interviews, both of which are with folks who are part of Sorry State’s extended family. Skylar talks with Rich and Josh (who have played together in Whatever Brains, Das Drip, and Bodykit, among other projects) and Seth and Elizabeth (from No Love and Crete). The interviews are long and probing, avoiding the usual band interview cliches and getting at the deeper reasons these people have dedicated so much of their lives to music. This issue also features layout help from Alex Swing of New Body Tapes / Floor Model, and it looks as fantastic as it reads. If you’ve followed Sorry State’s discography, then you know these musicians’ work, and no doubt you’ll enjoy these conversations. However, even if you aren’t familiar with their musical output, these deep and very human conversations are interesting in and of themselves, and situate you to get even more enjoyment out of a lot of great music.
Hellish View: Demo 21 cassette (Desolate Records) Minneapolis’s Hellish View has undergone some lineup changes since the last time we heard from them. Maybe that’s why they’ve demoted themselves to demo status, or maybe they just don’t want to deal with the insane wait times for vinyl these days. Either way, Hellish View’s sound hasn’t changed much since their last few records. They still unapologetically worship Disclose, to the point of sounding almost exactly like them. I’d like to think I know my d-beat, but I’m not sure I could distinguish Hellish View from Disclose on a blind listen. Of course, Hellish View’s allegiance to Disclose’s template will be a plus for some and a minus for others. If you already have enough records in your collection that look and sound pretty much exactly like this, I don’t see anything here convincing you to change your mind. On the other hand, I can’t help but rage out when I’m blasting this. It’s not some off-brand poseur shit… it gets me going just as much as any of my Disclose records. Like Disclose, Hellish View isn’t trying to be anything they aren’t, even adopting Disclose’s habit of leaning into their intertextuality by weaving bits from Discharge (and Disclose) songs into their own compositions. Post-modern conceptual art? Dumb punk? You can decide; I’ll just keep listening.
Various: Metallic Assault 12” (Urbain Grandier Records) A while back I wrote about Eve of Darkness, a treasure trove of a book documenting the history of metal in southern Ontario, Canada, in the 1980s. I loved the book and can’t say enough good things about it. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, as of right now we still have copies in stock.) Now Urbain Grandier Records brings us the companion album, a compilation featuring 10 of the bands covered in the book. While Urbain Grandier’s single-band releases (Malhavoc, Slaughter, Necromancy, and S.F.H.) all come from the grittier, more underground end of the metal scene, those bands taking influence from more extreme bands like Bathory, Venom, and Celtic Frost, Metallic Assault focuses on the more traditional heavy metal bands who leaned more toward the Judas Priest / Iron Maiden end of the spectrum. This isn’t mainstream metal, though; like your favorite compilations of under the radar N.W.O.B.H.M., the tracks on Metallic Assault all have a slapdash, DIY charm. With these tracks culled from rare singles, demos, and unreleased sessions, each band puts their best foot forward with one energetic, anthemic track, and while I imagine there are some duds spread across the sessions which yielded these tracks, they don’t appear here. Brief liner notes fill in the story for each track, but if you want an immersive, full picture of the scene that yielded these would-be hits, you gotta pick up Eve of Darkness.
Necromancy: In the Eyes of Death 12” (Urbain Grandier Records) Urbain Grandier Records brings us another slice of raw and nasty underground metal from 80s Canada, this time the five-song 1986 demo from Hamilton’s Necromancy. Necromancy is raw, kind of sloppy, and evil as fuck… everything you want from an underground metal obscurity like this. Necromancy pulls from a lot of different corners of the underground metal scene. One part might remind you of early Celtic Frost’s primitive grandiosity, but a split-second later they’re into some falling-apart blasting like early Sodom or Kreator at their most feral and unhinged. While songwriting this varied might come off as awkward in different hands, Necromancy seems so committed to their aim of manifesting pure evil that it comes off, making for a unique and powerful (albeit beautifully primitive) demo. As with Urbain Grandier’s other reissues, the packaging offers some cool artwork, archival material, and liner notes, but for the full story you’ll need to refer to the excellent Eve of Darkness tome.
Tempter: S/T 12” (Quality Control HQ) Tempter is a new band from Richmond, Virginia featuring members of Nosebleed, Candy, Division of Mind, and many others. While all of those bands sound pretty different from one another, Tempter’s style is rooted in the metal / hardcore crossover of mid-80s Europe. When I think of crossover, I imagine fast, precise riffing and nimble rhythms, but that isn’t Tempter’s sound at all. They’re much more atmospheric, a quality accentuated by the mix, which puts the drums pretty far back and lays a lot of distortion on the guitars and vocals, making the whole thing sound like a fuzzy wash. There’s also not a lot of fast thrashing parts, with Tempter spending most of these five tracks laying into catchy, mid-paced riffs that would be just as at home on Best Wishes as Within the Prophecy. The unexpected production gives Tempter a sinister sound, more like a tense and creepy thriller than a full on splatter movie. This atmospheric quality comes across most uniquely in “La Lluvia,” which features samples, synths, and spoken-word vocals drawn from a poem by Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. While that track pushes at the boundaries of Tempter’s sound, they follow it up with “Pestilence,” a riffy crowd-pleaser in the making. If you dug Game’s killer recent EP, Legerdemain, you should check this out, but Tempter’s unique take on this crossover sound stands on its own merits.
Factory City Children: S/T cassette (Burning Paradise Records) Factory City Children is a new solo project from Mateo of Warthog (and countless other New York bands over the past decade-plus), credited here as “Tormented Imp.” As you might expect from such a seasoned musician, Factory City Children comes out of the gate with a distinctive and exciting sound. While the tougher-sounding “Hell Man 88” might remind you of Warthog, most of the songs here are poppier, with “Perfect Utopia” borrowing the riff from the Misfits’ “Some Kind of Hate” and “F.U.M.E.S.” having a Ramones-ish propulsion. The riffs are generally straightforward, but occasional bursts of lead guitar and earworm basslines make these songs anything but simple. The most identifiable aspects of FCC’s sound are the drum machine (a robotic and synthetic sound, rather than trying to imitate acoustic drums) and Mateo’s wild vocals, which sound totally demented, yet with intelligible lyrics and enough subtle tunefulness to make them memorable. The lyrics are also excellent, with the aforementioned “Hell Man 88” being a highlight, the title’s pun part of the song’s extended conceit of comparing “white Amerikkka” to a “malevolent mayonnaise.” In case you weren’t already convinced this is several notches above your typical home-recorded, drum machine-powered demo, Toxic State have signed up to put out a vinyl version of this tape later this year. In the meantime, catch this cassette version while you can.
Cherry Cheeks: S/T 12” (Total Punk) Total Punk Records brings us the debut vinyl from this solo quarantine project. I wish my quarantine had been this productive! The drum machine that powers Cherry Cheeks is liable to make many listeners throw them in the egg punk basket, but this record is way too good to be relegated to also-ran status. A lot of the egg punk-type stuff I hear has a fuzzy, noisy sound, which can hide weaker elements in a project’s sound (often the vocals). Cherry Cheeks, on the other hand, sound razor sharp, which makes sense because you want to show off songs this great. Cherry Cheeks remind me of some of my favorite ’77 punk bands in that they deliver high energy pop songs one after another, achieving those goals of electric energy and great songwriting without repeating the same formula over and over. Songs like “Living Room” might lean toward the tougher and faster (though still dripping with hooks), while poppier moments like “Two Bugs” and “D.A.C.” have a sunnier and less manic vibe but are just as effective, if not more so. Cherry Cheeks is great at doling out hooks to the vocals, guitars, and synths without leaning too heavily on any of the three, but after listening to this record a bunch, I think the secret sauce is in the bass playing. It’s propulsive and melodic, and contributes a lot to that razor sharpness I mentioned above. A killer record.
Blinding Glow: Unconditional Surrender cassette (Open Palm Tapes) You might be tempted to pass over this demo cassette from San Diego’s Blinding Glow because their brand of d-beat doesn’t reinvent the wheel stylistically, but it’s gotten its hooks into me over the past few weeks and stood up to repeat listens. One thing I like about Blinding Glow is that the players—the drummer and the guitarist in particular—are obviously strong, but not flashy. The drummer spends most of their time pounding out a perfect d-beat, though the crazy fill that ends “The Cold of Night” proves they could do a lot more than that if they wanted to. Likewise, the guitarist’s riffs are straightforward but meaty in all the right ways, and the leads that pop up in nearly every song are like 25% rock and roll, 75% Kawakami-style “nuclear rain,” a perfect proportion in my book. The vocals have a howling style, drenched in reverb and sitting toward the back of the mix, not drawing a ton of attention until the super catchy last track, “Doomed Life (The Cycle).” Maybe the straightforwardness of the execution here puts this in a “d-beat fanatics only” category, but even if that’s the case, the execution is so strong that those d-beat fanatics are sure to love it.
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