Reviews

Andrew Underwood

Abaddon Jarocin ’84 LP

With authoritarianism and fascism surging across the globe, we probably have more to learn from the Soviet Bloc-era punk bands now than at any point since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Captured live at the one state-sponsored rock festival of the year in the Polish People’s Republic, this recording captures the band in their nascent stage, nearly a year before their first cassette release and two before their definitive Wet Za Wet LP (many songs from that album appear here, including standouts like “Apartheid” and “Kukly”). The elements that made them great are all on clear display here: the charismatic vocals, the martial rhythms, the heady and diverse songwriting that careens from reggae/ska to fluid blues-rock solos to driving hardcore. As the recording is sourced from a nearly 40-year-old tape there is a bit of occasional warble and some very minor dropouts but given those circumstances the mastering job is really impressive and on the whole it sounds fucking great. As there’s no crowd noise at all, this could easily be passed off as a live in studio session, a plus for those who would usually avoid live recordings. All the text is presented in Polish, but the beautiful gatefold features tons of photos from the festival and even the typed lyrics that had to be submitted to the censors in order for the band to be able to perform (a chilling glimpse of a potential future to be?). Warsaw Pact are doing amazing work, this and all the label’s other reissues are well worth your time and support.

Fragment Serial Mass Destruction EP

I recall giving this band’s 2017 12″ a fairly lukewarm review, an action that won’t be repeated today. Been hearing quite a few mediocre to bad “crasher crust” records lately—this is definitely not one of those! The noize is there, alongside the de rigeur vocal reverb and B&W DISCHARGE/DISCLOSE graphic design scheme but the songwriting elevates this record well past its contemporaries. These five tracks fly by at 45 RPM, with impressive use of dynamics and tempo changes, memorable riffs and choruses that stick with you long after the needle has left the vinyl. The shuffling stench-core derived breakdown that closes the EP is just fantastic. This is a keeper!

F.U.P. Noise and Chaos LP

It is incredible just how many absolutely fucking fantastic bands existed on the periphery of the Japanese hardcore scene, and it is equally delightful that so many labels and archivists are taking the time to reveal these bands to the world and preserve their works and legacy.  F.U.P. were a fixture in the Sapporo scene whose entire discography appeared on demo and compilation tapes save two tracks on an MCR local compilation flexi (those are invaluable resources when it comes to finding “lost” and overlooked Japanese bands). Their sound is unusual for the late ’80s/early ’90s when they were active, very primitive and dark with a DISCHARGE-derived backbone and aggressive growled vocals à la Masami or Cherry.  Perhaps inevitably some of the recordings are a tad limp and can only be perked up so much by remastering, but plenty of these tracks hit hard as fuck and it’s plenty novel to hear a Japanese band that straddles the line between crust and aggressive hardcore at a time when ACID, MACROFARGE and NIGHTMARE were all active. The packaging is fairly bare-bones (would have loved to see the sleeves and inserts of all the demos and such) but that’s a minor complaint when the record is such a blazer.

Manic Ride Taking You Down With Me EP

Sick hardcore with metallic touches outta Sweden that blends several notable influences including the ACCUSED, AGNOSTIC FRONT and countrymen DS-13 into an agreeably violent whole. Cool mosh parts and divebombs abound with unusually insightful lyrics shouted over it all, occasionally backed up by righteous gang choruses. It’s not a revelation by any means but it’s a great debut from a band that’s probably killing it live (or would be under normal circumstances anyway).

Massakree Happy Statik Pogo Nightmare Noize EP

Hard LOL at that tryhard record title. The band compares themselves to CONFUSE and GAI, come the fuck on. Shit sounds like the CASUALTIES’ later works with slightly more reverb. Shite.

Program Dehumanized Progress LP

Man, Texas has produced more than it’s fair share of cool Japanese-style hardcore bands, and PROGRESS is another feather in that very odd cap. The riffage is frequently GAUZE-level frantic, and the tuning is very NIGHTMARE, had there been tons of killer stop-starts in the songwriting. The leads are more Scandi-style one-notes than full-on solos (though there are some blazers as well, viz. “Pleasure For Blood”), and the vocals have more than a trace of Tom G. Warrior in them, which adds a bit of character to separate PROGRESS from their contemporaries. The gorgeous clean and clear production is a huge asset for the band and their style—credit to both the studio and the mastering job. Lyrics are interesting, brushing up against some conspiracy theory stuff à la ATROCIOUS MADNESS, but also real world issues like the disappearances of Latinx and Indegenous women in border areas. Killer LP, don’t let this slip under your radar.

Novotny TV Das Volk Sind Wirr LP

There’s just an absolute smorgasbord of styles at work throughout this album, originally released in 1997 and made available again for new millennium punx courtesy of Phantom and Honhie Records. The basic sound is garage-y punk, but there are touches of hardcore crunch and speed, ska, and straight-up rock’n’roll as well. The singer has the kind of charismatic, Jello-esque squeal you’d kind of expect a band like this to feature. A farfisa-style organ comes and goes, not always aligning with the garage-y numbers. The covers, of the FLESHEATERS and “TV Party,” are very representative of the album’s sound as a whole. Personally, I found it exhausting around the halfway point but if this sounds like your jam, then hey, it’s easy to get again, and there are plenty available.

Therapy Omen EP

Fucking huge sounding, super energetic D-beat-based hardcore, what the fuck is not to like here? Hard to decide what to highlight first, the sick vocals or the crazed drumming or the raw riffage. While there’s a bit more of an experimental spirit in the margins here compared to their earlier releases, confined to some trippy song intros and breaks, please rest assured that the backbone of pure fucking hardcore remains firmly intact. San Diego’s THERAPY are exemplary of the DIY spirit in 2020: performing a ton, putting on gigs, and always hustling for both their band and their scene. It is a tremendous comfort to me that while over-hyped mediocre trend bands will come and go, there will always be bands like THERAPY keeping it real where it counts. Mandatory for fans of the style and for hardcore lifers in general.

Les Vandales Power EP

I gather that this French band was active in the mid ’80s and reformed recently. This new record features the singer from those days and a gang of new members. To start with a compliment, I love that the minimal text on the packaging features strong political stances against common societal ills including capitalism, sexism, and homophobia. Sadly, there comes a time when one must put needle to vinyl. The vocals are pretty cool I guess, well-articulated and strongly delivered, but the music is that kind of identity-free, slightly metallic hardcore that so many re-formed and/or older bands end up writing. At least, unlike many in a similar position, their hearts are in the right place.

Protocol Bloodsport 12″

Ugly, blown-out primitive hardcore played with knuckles bloodied from both punching and being dragged on the ground. Hints of contemporaries like WARTHOG (the punchy, driving attack, the super-mean vocals) and URCHIN (the occasional massive, vicious breakdown) appear, though this is more raw than either band’s output recording-wise and it includes interesting ambient-ish electronica elements courtesy of the brilliantly-named INTERNET GF. The fadeout ending of the record-closing “Divinity” has a genuine creep factor that dovetails nicely with the opening synth drone, demonstrating the band’s adept incorporation of the electronic elements. Witty, nihilistic lyrics only amplify the band’s bleak presentation, as does the crude, thematically perfect artwork. Only 300 copies available on appropriately blood-colored vinyl, definitely recommended.

Altar De Fey The Insatiable Desire… For More LP

Flawless deathrock that so closely mirrors the premier bands of the early ’80s, you’d think that this was a DISCLOSE-like tribune to CHRISTIAN DEATH. While that would be awesome, the truth is even better: they’re actually original gangsters! While their first recordings didn’t emerge until the 21st century, the original lineup of the band gigged around San Francisco between ’83 and ’85, and even this, their second album contains songs written during that period. While there are touches of gothic influence present in the aesthetic, the instrumentation, eschews the synth ’n’ sax overkill of full-blown goth in favor of a leaner, more punk-oriented style. Founding guitarist Kent Cates is the centerpiece of the band, with the songs being built around his elaborate, often oddly-tuned compositions, supplemented by vocalist Jake Hout whose singing echos Rozz Williams’ sleazy charm. A couple tracks linger for a hair or two too long, but to be fair that kind of comes with the style. In pretty much every other aspect, this is as good as it gets when it comes to deathrock, past or present. Hell, even the cover art is so vintage that just looking at it makes you smell like cloves and patchouli for days.

Antimob II LP

First off, this is one of the most beautiful long-playing records I have ever seen in my life. Housed in a case-bound hardcover book-style sleeve, the cover and interior art consists of breathtaking, evocative photos taken by the band and a photographer comrade during a trip to the island of Gyaros, a traditional place of exile which most recently housed a prison for leftists and other opponents of a series of right-wing governments, culminating in the Junta (or “Regime of the Colonels”) between 1948 and 1974. These images are centered on the now-abandoned prison, starting with sweeping vistas of the structure and its bleak surroundings and becoming increasingly more granular as they focus on the interior, ending on images of individual details, haunting shots of the now-impotent rubble and rusted barbed wire that once caged human beings. Packaging also includes a gorgeous booklet, postcards, and huge poster, all printed with the highest quality materials. The amount of care and thought that went in to the presentation of this album is absolutely staggering and that’s just the impression the record makes before you put it on the turntable! The album itself, several years in the making, shows an equal amount of care and craftsmanship. Their 2012 self-titled LP was a blinder, a sweeping album that flirted with epi-crust without falling into the cliches and patterns that label suggests. The core of that sound remains, but there are many more spices in the stew this time around. The low-end is very MOTÖRHEAD, with a filthy bass tone and hard-hitting, understated, and precise drumming worthy of the Philthy Animal himself. Japanese-style massive group choruses collide with raw NYHC breakdowns that bleed into rousing melodic solos that never become self-indulgent. Listening to this album very much recalls listening to the first TRAGEDY LP in 2000, it is so impactful and so tight and fully realized. I have never wanted to be able to read Greek more than I do looking at the lyrics and longing to grasp the full meaning behind these songs, but the passion and intensity are very clearly communicated, and I completely understand that this is a record by and for Greeks about a time and a place that shaped their modern lives. While this album was technically released very late last year, I have no hesitation in saying this is the first truly great punk record of the 2020s.

Disclose Nightmare or Reality 12”

To be honest, the typically blunt and honest liner notes by Kawakami are pretty much the best review of this record available, but I’ll do my best to give a preview. Everyone knows (or should know) that DISCLOSE is that Japanese band that wrote songs in the style of DISCHARGE, but beneath the surface the story of DISCLOSE is an intriguing one, featuring constant evolution and innovation spanning dozens of releases. While early DISCLOSE was very much in the service of DISCHARGE, there were obvious influences from a range of post-DISCHARGE hardcore bands, most notably Scandinavian masters like DISCARD and SHITLICKERS. The early and mid-’90s material is often blown-out to the point of being challenging to listen to (viz. the first EP, or the tracks on the Meaningful Consolidation compilation). As time progressed, the band moved away from that more chaotic approach in favor of a more stripped-down and coherent sound, with the The Aspects of War and 4 Track EPs serving as trial runs for this, DISCLOSE’s attempt at producing their answer to Why?. The years and years of obsessive listening, study, research, practice, and attention to detail paid off in spades here, producing ten tracks (of course, guess which other record had 10) of pure DISCHARGE-fueled D-beat insanity, albeit with soloing that skews a little more towards ’CIMEX than Bones. It’s foolish to offer up apologies or explanations for Kawakami and DISCLOSE, either for the concept or the execution when it’s easy enough to say that there’s nothing one fucking amazing band taking inspiration from another fucking amazing band. True connoisseurs can argue for hours about which period of DISCLOSE was the best, but I don’t think any would handwave this record or its importance as a turning point in their body of work. As usual, La Vida Es Un Mus has given this reissue deluxe treatment, with the art fully reproduced in a heavy duty glossy jacket and inner sleeve, and a great sounding mastering job on thick vinyl.

Mock Execution Reality Attack EP

Pissed off raw punk from the streets of Chicago by way, at least in part, of Singapore! Anchored by Thalib (of such Singapore luminaries as VAARALLINEN, SNÄGGLETOOTH, CHARGED C.B.H. and DAILY RITUAL), MOCK EXECUTION are another excellent addition to his already brilliant resume. The heart of the sound is early Finnish hardcore with all the quirks of tempo and delivery that entails, but there isn’t a slavish devotion to one particular band or even the style as a whole. Short, frantic solos are scattered throughout, a particular highlight being the one that ends “Protest Is A Way of Life” while mostly-barked vocals are augmented by group choruses. The recording is just right, a little boom-y and raw—perfect ’80s vintage sound that is especially appropriate for the closing KAAOS cover. Silk-screened covers and a very cut-and-paste aesthetic complete the package. Killer.

Kontakta Life in a Cage EP

Oh my fucking god I love this!! Total ’90s East Coast political anarcho-crustcore with super sincere animal-rights-themed lyrics, talk/sung vocals, simple riffs, gnarly down-tuned bass and cool breakdowns! I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me the person who dropped this off at the PO Box arrived there in a fucking time machine! Frankly, I’m more surprised to find out they’re from the UK. Think BROKEN, the PIST, BRUTALLY FAMILIAR, REACT (basically and all of Bill Chamberlain’s bands) and you know exactly what’s up. It’s almost depressing how happy it makes me to see a sincerely and straightforward political record in this day and age. Please buy this record and support this band!

Frequencia de Muerte Death Frequency 12″

FDEM are a gang of Portland lifers (with enough pull to get Jerry A. to do backing vocals on a track!) who offer up a lively and interesting hybrid style of hardcore on this huge-sounding, well-produced 12”. With Brad Boatright of FROM ASHES RISE on guitar, you know there will be epic riffs for days, but those driving riffs are joined to the swagger and rock’n’roll of Spanish punk thanks to the tastefully subdued drumming, rocked-out bass riffs, and Spanish language vocals courtesy of TEROKAL’s Eduardo Agostocrates. There are a few moments where the band could stand to pick up a little steam (things seems to trend toward the mid-tempo in general these days), but overall this is a rock-solid release for fans of either style. The cover art is not great, but the blue and black swirled vinyl is very pretty, and mine had a different pattern on each side.

Hard to Swallow Hard to Swallow LP

HARD TO SWALLOW were a very, very ’90s UK hardcore band, born of a scene muddling through the dramatic collapse of the ’80s UK punk boom and a general cultural abandonment of punk sounds and ideals in favor of electronic music and rave culture. This collection of mid-’90s demo, comp, and split EP tracks showcases a band that is disgusted by everything and everyone around them, fueled by rage and a wild experimental spirit. The fact that several members were splitting their time between HTS and IRON MONKEY is readily apparent: there’s a ton of sludge in the sound, and more than a touch of SABBATH-y blues alongside the vicious dual-vocalist hardcore attack. The band’s inclusion of some harsh noise and power electronics demonstrate their musical kinship to peers STALINGRAD, another exemplar of the eclectic, experimental ’90s UKHC scene. This collection won’t appeal to just anyone, but there are many (especially fans of ’90s German metalcore à la SYSTRAL and ACHEBORN) who will be blown away by this reissue. Great sound and sinister packaging included—mine came on a very appropriately off-putting lunchmeat kind of colored vinyl.

Reaktio Minimum Rocka&Billy CD

Soooo… REAKTIO were a Finnish punk band that lasted all of five glorious months in 1979, before changing their name to STALIN and issuing one of the greatest early Finnish hardcore punk EPs, then changing their name again to NUKKETEATTERI in ’81, and then putting out a couple more bangers before fading away. In the interim, STALIN got a swank reissue, as did the first (and best) NUKKETEATTERI EP, but REAKTIO, having only produced a handful of homemade cassettes, remained unheard. Now, 40 years after the band’s brief existence, the members have reconvened and recorded fifteen tracks of vintage Finnish punk. The thing is, it’s fuckin’ amazing! Like, I was shocked to find out this is a recent recording. Stylistically, it’s just what you’d want, just as much influenced by the SEEDS and BLACK MONKS as the PISTOLS or CLASH, and unafraid to deploy harmonica, kazoo, cowbell, and even a flute! That being said, the core of the band centers around two guitars, one pretty clean and one equipped with some Pebbles-style garage fuzz (the fuzzbox enables some nasty solos later along the disc) and the snotty vocals (how is this not the work of a teenager?!). Does it end with a ten plus minute psychedelic jam with tons of solos and a flute riff for a chorus? You better believe it does! Too good, this record is punk as fuck.

Bootlicker Nuclear Family EP

Sick Canadian hardcore with a D-beat backbone, but a fair dollop of GBH and UK82 in the mix alongside the obligatory nods to DISCHARGE. The recording is very well done, and appropriately blown-out and live sounding, but very well-mixed and bright as well. The band’s energy levels are extremely high throughout, driven by the enthusiastically menacing vocalist and the ripping attack of the bassist. The whole record is consistently good, but it all comes together just so for the record-closing “Slasher”: an unrelenting assault with an immaculate break and one of those two-note Scandi-style solos that work so very well when they work at all. Extra kudos for the lovely silkscreened sleeve and lovingly cut ’n’ pasted artwork.

Disjawn Loud Kush Assault EP

Even I have to admit that noize punk/crasher crust/etc. is pretty ripe material for parody, DISJAWN definitely lean in to those openings hard. Not that they’re taking the piss entirely, just that they’re a band with a sense of humor about what they’re doing and how they’re presenting themselves. Or maybe they just got the giggles from all that weed they’ve been smoking, I dunno. Either way, this is a fun enough noizy crasher record, with the obligatory reverb on the vocals, coupla suspiciously familiar sounding riffs, mostly fast but one slower number, etc. You know the drill. It’s all good.

Panico / Psicosis split CD

This is an amazing time capsule from mid-’80s Peru, joining the demos (and some live material) from two of Peru’s finest early hardcore bands. PANICO were a very short-lived band with a surprisingly sizeable legacy, as their 1985 demo tape inspired a great deal of bands to follow. Musically, it’s an alchemical soup of ur-hardcore, influenced by the likes of DISCHARGE, R.I.P., and IV REICH, played with a great deal more passion than technical ability, though the live tracks show that the band progressed a good deal in that regard in a short amount of time. Still, the demo recordings are all the better for the beginner’s mistakes that are left on tape. Unlike PANICO, PSICOSIS are in fact still around today, though they’ve matured a great deal since these first primitive recordings. Indeed, their stuff makes PANICO sound practically over-rehearsed, with a drummer who can just barely keep up (there’s a great moment where one track ends and he gives the crash cymbal a big hit, seemingly because he just realized he hadn’t touched it once through the actual song), but it is remarkable regardless, with the kind of manic, feral energy that you find in the early Italian stuff. The yelping, frantic vocals in particular are reminiscent of Zazzo/NEGAZIONE. The tunes are super short and simple, but delivered with remarkable intensity. The packaging is fairly sparse, but does feature an interview with the guitarist of PANICO and a brief history of PSICOSIS in Spanish. No matter how much or how little punk may speak to you in 2019, there is such a wealth of amazing reissues that one always has something fantastic to be introduced to. I am thankful for that.

Old City Sunny Days 12″

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this Portland punk trio evidence a definite WIPERS influence, though that influence seems to be filtered through the same modern hardcore lens that bands like MASSHYSTERI and NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS applied. Most of these songs are driven by rock-solid basslines, sub-jangly guitars, and pissed vocals delivering bleak lyrics, with the early TRAGEDY-ish “Sword of Justice” standing out for its decidedly more hardcore approach. Very good modern hardcore punk with significant songwriting range and a distinct personality. This record was originally released on cassette in 2013, and I’m curious to see how the band had progressed in the last six years.

The Restarts / Subhumans split 7″

Holy fuck, man, I bet the RESTARTS were listening to a lot of SUBHUMANS when they were young punx just starting up their band in the mid ’90s. Flash forward damn near 25 years and they’re sharing a split together, both bands relative elder statesmen to their peers. Time is a funny thing, innit? Both offer up excellent tracks, with a clever 99% vs the 1% shared theme. The RESTARTS offer up “The One Percent,” a classic ripper in their metallic but anthemic punk style with a gloriously over-the-top guitar solo and super-catchy vocal hook. SUBHUMANS are a bit more subdued on their “99%,” nodding to their anarcho roots, but the poignant chorus is instantly memorable.

Death Ridge Boys Fooled Again / Situation 7″

Two years after their debut album, Portland’s best Oi!/punk combo return with a strong new single. The A-side is of course the hit, a mid-tempo burner with a PARTISANS meets COCK SPARRER vibe, a huge catchy chorus, and brilliant lyrics regarding the intersection of fascist appeals and the working class. “Situation” is a blunt look at the climate crisis, with a bit more of a hardcore edge that reminds me quite a bit of the early work of DC’s SUSPECTS (one of the best, if most under the radar, American Oi!/punk bands ever). The material is great, and in these fence-sitting times with authoritarianism on the rise, the politics are even better.

Kina Cercando… LP reissue

This is quite the deluxe reissue of a very interesting, sometimes challenging record by one of Italian hardcore’s most long-lived and musically adventurous bands. By the time this, their second album, was recorded in 1986, the band had toured quite a bit through Europe, adding both the emerging crossover sound and the distinctive sounds of continental bands like BGK to their growing sonic palette. The resulting album includes vicious thrash metal, moments of distinctly Greek-sounding post-punk bark, Revolution Summer-style vocal harmonies over proto-emo jangle, and even some good old hardcore punk stuff. More than any other record I’ve heard, this encapsulates the mindset of the Italian hardcore scene going into 1987, a pivotal year that saw many of the key bands either break up or dramatically change their sound. This isn’t just a historical curiosity though, it’s a complicated record that fans of punk’s more historically out there bands (think SNFU) would absolutely adore. The packaging includes complete reproductions of the original sleeve and insert, an extra insert with English translations, and a CD of the album.

Rules …Was It Six or Five Shots? EP

Taking their debut EP title from Dirty Harry’s legendary “Do ya feel lucky, punk?” speech, Zagreb’s RULES offers up six tracks of appropriately misanthropic, beefy mid-tempo hardcore in a post-Feel the Darkness vein. Shades of heavy hitters like CAUSTIC CHRIST and LONG KNIFE appear throughout, especially in the world-weary, angry vocals and the hard work the bassist does driving the band. There are some interesting melodic guitar flourishes along the way, with “Empty Minds, Talking Mouths” having a particularly interesting, nearly jazzy finish, emphasized but the drummer’s backbeat swing. The super generic, indie rock-style packaging does this record no favors in a crowded marketplace but this is worth tracking down if you dig the aforementioned bands for sure.

Sow Threat Hate & Love LP

SOW THREAT are not a mystery to be puzzled over, they do one thing and they do it better than pretty much any other band on the planet. That one thing? Paying vicious, unrelenting, grinding tribute to the great SORE THROAT. Between the high/low dual vocals, the blown-out, red-lined instrumental attack, the songwriting that switches from dirge to blur in a trice, and the punk-rooted drumming performed at near grindcore speed; this captures everything that made SORE THROAT great. I can’t vouch for their sense of humor, since the lyrics are almost entirely in Japanese, but the adorable cover art certainly indicates that the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Previous releases have been bloody good, but this is the greatest so far by a comfortable margin. Best band in the style since the early DEATH DUST EXTRACTOR material, which is damn hard to stand up to. Extra credit for the excellent intro that features a killer and chaotic remix courtesy of EXIT HIPPIES. Tokyo Sound System lives!

Tied Down Don’t Care EP

Ex-members of VOORHEES, BREAK IT UP and MY RULES doing what they damn well do best: bringing old school USHC worship to the punters over in the UK! There are some pretty great Boston/Detroit-styled straightforward thrashers here but my heart’s with the gang chorus and breakdown-laden NYHC-style stuff like “Aim to Please” and “Divide and Conquer” (the latter featuring an absolute monster of a circle-pit part, goddamn!). Hardcore for the hardcore faithful, expertly performed by a gang of lifers. Shoutout to the absolutely killer production courtesy of Rockinhorse studio, this is a fucking great sounding record!

Moskwa 1984 Demo LP

Goodness, this is an absolute treasure! MOSKWA should a familiar name to most punks, if only for their much-compiled track “Stan I Walcz,” one of the greatest hardcore punk songs ever written. Alongside peers like ABADDON and DEZERTER, MOSKWA was one of the strongest bands in the extremely dynamic ’80s punk scene in Soviet-occupied Poland. Recorded live straight-to-tape in a garage with zero overdubs or other studio tomfoolery, this recording captures the essence of what makes MOSKWA one of the all-time greats, even more so than their ’86 cassette album. These fifteen tracks are blasts of pure fury, tempered by subtle guitar melodies, driven by the frantic drumming and passionate vocals. Tracks like “15 Sekund” and “Na Wasz Kolorwy…” are nearly as extreme in tempo and delivery as your MOB 47s or NEOS. DEZERTER are definitely an influence, but unlike many of their peers, MOSKWA did little experimentation with song structures or genres, sticking almost entirely to straightforward, impactful hardcore punk. The included GBH cover (“Hell On Earth”) gives a pretty good indication of what the band were going for style-wise. Given the circumstances, the recording is shockingly good, a little bit biased toward the high-end (you can feel those vicious crash cymbal hits in your gut), but everything is pretty clear and dynamic. The quality packaging from Warsaw Pact includes some great photos of early concerts, lyrics for all the tracks in both Polish and English, and a short history of the band’s early days and the recording of the demo. One of the most essential reissues of the year!

Born Shit Stirrers Pure Shite CD

When I picked up a 62-song CD with unrelentingly negative (but really funny!) song titles, I thought for sure this was going to be some kind of RUPTURE clone. The BORN SHIT STIRRERS are definitely not that—they are something much stranger and much more interesting. The songs are mostly very, very short to be sure, but the band’s sound joins the speed and song structures of early DRI to the drunken chaos of UK82, especially DISORDER and CHAOS UK, and the acerbic wit and melodic sensibilities of SCREECHING WEASEL, with female vocals that sound very much like Stacey of MANKIND? and CALLOUSED. VILENTLY ILL are probably the most similar contemporary band I can compare them to, though the SHIT STIRRERS are a full band and are much less influenced by early USHC. The band is based out of Fukuoka, but is composed primarily of expats from the US and UK, which is an interesting dynamic that is primarily played out in the lyrics, which excoriate the punk scene, elements of Japanese society (especially bureaucracy), work culture, expat life. This disc collects all three of their studio recordings and a live set (“At Budokan,” heh) in one handy package, with art and lyrics included. If you want to know more, there’s a fucking hilarious mockumentary about the band called Born to Stir Shit floating around that’s definitely worth a watch.

L.O.T.I.O.N. World Wide W.E.B. LP

This is the one. This is the moment that L.O.T.I.O.N. evolved from an interesting concept into a fully-realized, impeccably executed cyber juggernaut. The base of early industrial is still there (they’ll never not owe a debt to SKINNY PUPPY) but that skeleton is fleshed out here with a range of new sounds and textures, including thrash riffing (“New Prosthetic Metal Arm”), industrial dance (the KMFDM-ish “Gabber Punks of Dabs/Downed Police Helicopter”), and even downtempo electronica (the wonderfully out of left field “I.C.B.M.” with its club-ready female vocals). If you’ve been a bit dubious of this band’s earlier output, put that aside because this is a new-model L.O.T.I.O.N., equally prepared to conquer fetid punk dives and velvet-roped VIP rooms. It probably goes without saying, but this packaging is fantastic as well, utilizing a Soldier of Fortune mag-styled sleeve and insert along with a fantastic poster featuring one of vocalist Alexander Heir’s best works yet.

V/A A Tribute to Punk 2xCD

On the face of it, there’s not a ton of appeal to a collection of 25 punk covers from bands that are punk-adjacent at best. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but this was actually a pretty easy listen. Mostly hailing from Europe, the bands included cover a wide range of styles that includes dub, cumbia, ska, tango, and the latest weird iteration of GUTS PIE EARSHOT. Highlights include DUBAMIX (anarcho-dub!) offering up a DJ SHADOW-esque mashup of CRASS, the CLASH, DEAD KENNEDYS and BERURIER NOIR, an impassioned take on “The Guns of Brixton” (“Armas de Barrio”) from Spain’s ESKORZO, Italian band ARPIONI proving that “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” is a much better ska song than it is a pop track, and KUMBIA QUEERS high-energy, tounge-in-cheek cover of LOS VIOLADORES’ “Una, Dos, Ultraviolenta.” As you can tell, most of the covers are of the CLASH and other big names, but there are some pretty cool curveballs as well. As a whole, this isn’t something that you’d play for your crustier acquaintances, but if you need a record to put on when you’ve got squares over, this is a pretty good choice.

V/A Chain of Karma CD

Break out your bandanna and knuckledusters, this CD is a cornucopia of metallic/NYHC-style hardcore bands from Japan. Six bands, each offering three tracks apiece, so you get a good dose of material from the bands you know, and a good sense of what the others are all about. The disc opens and closes with its strongest material, kicking off with the SUICIDAL-loving mosh masters CYCOSIS and closing with the Burning Spirits-meets-CRUMBSUCKERS crossover of SAIGAN TERROR (best known for their super-elusive EP on Bacteria Sour). In between you’ll find straightforward trebly hardcore from B SIDE APPROACH, some particularly weird joke-y black metal-style stuff from the reliably strange HARD CORE DUDE, some super-catchy riff-centered mosh from GAMY, and some very metallic and technical stuff from EEVEE. Not as great as some of the other Hardcore Kitchen samplers from the past (I highly recommend Destructive Decibel Domination and the N.E.K/ADA MAX split) but there’s plenty to like here, especially if you’re a fan of the heavier side of hardcore.

Frenzy Frenzy 12″

FRENZY is a band with many admirable qualities: they’re consistent, hardworking, and they’ve got a unique approach to graphic design, but their greatest quality is that they understand their genre and style much better than almost any other band going, and they express that understanding by having fun! Go back to the noisepunk godheads like DISORDER, CHAOS UK and CHAOTIC DISCHORD, and you don’t find a bunch of po-faced sad sacks talking earnestly about issues or (even worse) preening and styling and thinking themselves superior to their audience. You find a bunch of friends taking the piss, enjoying beer and noize. I have never seen FRENZY not enjoy themselves onstage, and I’ve never heard a FRENZY record that doesn’t bring a smile to my face. To be fair, their lyrics do touch on serious and important topics, but they always leave plenty of room to honor the essential ridiculousness of the style. This, their first 12” record, is easily the best of their output so far: stripped-down and proceeding at a pace somewhere between lurch and lope, with the wildest solos yet. One of the best of the year so far for sure!

Blowback Great Again EP

Unfortunately, this is not new material from this excellent rock’n’roll-tinged hardcore band from Japan. Instead, this is the DC-based band that’s been kicking around for a minute, offering up six tracks of punky political hardcore with spot-on lyrics. The songwriting is good, not great, and sticking mostly to moderate tempos and straightforward traditional song structures, though the closing track (“A Brief History of Genocide”) flirts with reggae in an interesting, CLASH-y way. The vocals are nice and clear, so one can understand the lyrics, all of which feature right-on takes on issues like internet-based political radicalization, environmentalism, and, of course, fuck Trump. Not a record that’ll set the world on fire, but a strong release with an excellent message to share.

Butterfly White Night CD

Moments like this are exactly why it’s such a pleasure to review records for Maximum Rocknroll. BUTTERFLY are a long-running traditional Japanese hardcore band (first album released in 2005) that I’ve never heard or even heard of before, and they absolutely destroy! This is exactly what you want to hear when you’ve got an itch for burly, aggressive, and uniquely Japanese hardcore punk. The backbone is hard rocking hardcore à la TETSU ARREI plus touches of GASTUNK-style melodrama, with crazy over the top guitar solos, some of which are double-tracked in the style of DEATH SIDE. Singer Nora stands out as the female analogue of Tokurow of BASTARD, or Butaman of aforementioned TETSU ARREI: ultra-tough, but musical as well—super impressive! Really though, every member of the band gets to shine, especially drummer Tsukasa, whose playing has a creative jazzy feel that produces some unexpected and very catchy results. To top it all off, this self-produced CD includes excellent, if menacing, artwork by the rising multimedia artist Mega!

Ydinaseeton Pohjola / Ydintuho split 7″

First of all, let’s give it up for the Finnish language for giving us a split EP between two bands whose names start with the prefix “Ydin.” A split doomed to hang out in at the very back end of any properly alphabetized collection. All linguistic concerns aside, this should be pushed up to the front of the queue in terms of quality! YDINASEETON POHJOLA are a fucking stellar example of a modern Finnish band carrying the legacy left by ’80s heavy hitters like KAAOS, offering two quick tracks of nasty, treble-y hardcore with vocals so raw that they’re almost plaintive, and hooks that’ll stick with you long after the record has left the turntable. YDINTUHO are just as raw, but mining a completely different vein: dropping three tracks of very early DISCLOSE-style blown-out D-beat, complete with crazed solos and some truly epic, conquering riffs. Fuck y’all, this is an early seed for best split EP of the year, and I can imagine that later contenders will have a hard time knocking it off. Fucking great stuff—buy now or regret it later as there are only 300 copies to be had!

The Lungs / Total Massacre split 7″

The LUNGS are a new band to me, but I can absolutely dig what they’re laying down. Very BORN AGAINST-style, off-kilter hardcore with some weird tunings and tempo shifts and abstract lyrics, though a touch less heavy than the aforementioned band. TOTAL MASSACRE are a known commodity and they continue to be fucking great PIST / BRUTALLY FAMILIAR straightforward hardcore fucking punk with uncompromising, clever political lyrics and super catchy songwriting. Both sides are over a little quick, and I’m bummed that there’s no insert, but this is a super solid DIY split between two above-average punk bands.

Weiche Versprecher / Rückzieher 7″

Sludge with shoegaze-y tendencies. Shrieked vocals, and two or three riffs on the whole record. I liked the parts that emulated MY BLOODY VALENTINE a lot more than the parts that emulated EYEHATEGOD, but they were too few and far between. Kinda tedious overall.

Thetan Abysmal LP

Life ain’t easy for a two-piece band (I should know, I hung out with POPULATION REDUCTION for like a decade), but Nashville’s THETAN are absolutely making it work. This bass-and-drums duo offer up a grip of gnarly powerviolence-influenced tracks that alternately rage and sludge, highlighted by some remarkably nimble bass playing. The lyrics are super bleak, even for the genre—which is a plus in my book—and that desperation is conveyed very effectively by the frenzied vocals (Dino from DYSTOPIA-esque at times). It’s worth noting that this outer rim of this LP is etched, which is very cool indeed.

Old Firm Casuals Holger Danske LP

This band clearly understood what people would think about a Viking-themed record with runes all over the place, and song titles like “Motherland” and “Thunderbolt,” because they’ve got reassurances in the lyrics and lyrical annotations, and there’s a reiteration of their anti-racist stance in the liner notes. I suppose it’s an attempt to reclaim old Norse imagery from the fascists. While the record is mostly the kind of catchy street punk / lite Oi! that the OLD FIRM CASUALS are known for, I really fuckin’ enjoyed the first track, which has a killer mid-period POISON IDEA feel. There are also some pleasant acoustic interludes, and some Hammond organ layered into the sound on the more epic-sounding tracks that really works. The very straight-faced, near-ballad about a zombie apocalypse that closes the record is unbelievably corny, but on the whole (outside of the very questionable graphic design choices), this record is not terrible.

Witches Hammer Mortalas EP

This. Is. Awesome! I did a double-take when I saw this in my pile of records to review, as the only WITCHES HAMMER I knew of was the legendary Canadian thrash metal band, and sure enough this is a reissue of their debut release. Musically, it’s an absolute milestone in crossover history: raw and frantic, with an obvious punk influence bubbling below the surface (D-beats are present, for example). It was and is a great record, but the most appealing element of this package is the amazing, hefty booklet which includes band photos, flyers (WITCHES HAMMER performed plenty of DIY gigs with the likes of SNFU, the ACCÜSED, the BONELESS ONES, DOA, and VERBAL ABUSE), and a lengthy band history by guitarist Marco that makes it very clear that the band were more comfortable interacting with and performing for Vancouver’s punk scene than metalheads. Supreme Echo have put together a superlative package here: the remastered material sounds great, the pocket sleeve is sturdy and glossy, and the booklet is as good as anything you’d get from a reissue label like Radio Raheem or GTA. This’ll obviously mostly appeal to the crossover-curious, but anyone with an interest in Canadian punk history will enjoy the archival material included. This is a top-quality reissue and one that I am surprised and pleased to see included in the pages and archives of MRR.

Overbite Awake EP

Fuck, this is gnarly. Blown-out and feeding back all over the place, Ireland’s OVERBITE offer up five tracks of fucked up disorientating hardcore with bestial vocals and some nasty riffs buried under the fuzz. The shitty looking pixelated packaging was initially off-putting, but after hearing the record, it makes perfect sense—one more element of this band’s presentation that is designed to confuse and obscure. The muffled, claustrophobic recording (which would be awful for almost any other band) is actually a plus, highlighting the ear-damaging shrieks and squalls of feedback while the drums and bass struggle in the background. This is a very challenging, very interesting record that I hope will find its way to those who would enjoy it most. Fans of PIG HEART TRANSPLANT and the like to the front, please!

Iron Bars Iron Bars LP

These St. Louis vets have crafted quite a ripping debut, with a gnarly ’80s USHC vibe and more than a touch of early punk’s crash-and-burn recklessness. CHRONIC SICK, RKL and NIHILISTICS are clear touchstones, but there’s a swagger and wildness in the mix here that’s very DEAD BOYS as well. The clear, venomous vocals are immediately distinctive, as are the wild, nearly over the top guitar leads and solos. The tempo is generally moderate, though the songwriting is so hectic that many songs feel faster than they actually are, and there are some slow burners thrown in as well. This doesn’t have the intentionally retro feel of the early ’00s USHC revival bands—it’s well-written hardcore that shares a timeless quality with bands from an earlier era.

Extended Hell Call of the Void EP

Play loud! Megaton hardcore punk outta New York with Scandi tendencies, highlighted by the tough vocals and intense but focused drum attack. TOTALITÄR are an obvious primary influence, but there are moments here that line up very well with early TRAGEDY in terms of the expansiveness of the sound and the riffing. Couple the quality tunes with a very well-designed sleeve (that cover art is downright haunting) and a huge, warm recording, and you’ve got a top-quality punk record.

War of Destruction Angst LP

This is a legitimate shock. WAR OF DESTRUCTION, of course, were one of the earliest and best Danish hardcore bands, solidifying their place in the pantheon of European hardcore with the release of their self-titled EP in 1983. This EP is all new material, recorded in 2017, and get this: it fucking rips! Seriously, this is so much better than almost any similar new recording from an ’80s hardcore band with original members that it’s mind blowing! One song passes the 2:30 mark, everything is fucking fast, pissed, and super energetic, the vocals are vicious, the riffs are just as good as they were back in the day, the drumming is better than it ever was and some of these songs are as good or better than their ’80s stuff! Fellow punx, I implore you: ignore the shit graphic design and skepticism that naturally follows when you see an old school band’s new material. This is legitimately one of the best new records of the year.

Tørsö Build and Break

Holy shit y’all, a good fucking record released by Revelation Records in the year 2018! TØRSÖ join fellow Bay Area punkers PRIMAL RITE as the only cool, interesting band released by the legendary label in a dog’s age. This is an excellent record: repping straightedge 2018 with a mix of classic mosh tendencies and a ton of driving Scandi-crust influence, made distinctive by both Mae’s commanding vocals (making her one of the very, very few women to appear on a Rev release) and extremely tight arrangements. “Grab A Shovel” might be the best of the bunch, with a massive outro that absolutely devastates. Thanks to a top-shelf recording job everything sounds fantastic and even the art is interesting and relevant to the band instead of being a slapped-together computerized mess.

Q Quiche EP

I suspect that if I’d paid more attention to the “mysterious guy hardcore” bands à la HOAX and them, I’d have a better frame of reference to review this record, as Q seem to share those bands’ self- destructive aggression and disinterest in sharing information. From my vantage point, Q are very much a band that fit in with the late ’90s Pessimiser / Theologian scene. There are occasional blastbeats, tons of mid-to-slow tempo stomping riffs, and shrieked, nearly metal styled vocals while the guitars are pure hardcore punk. They could easily be slotted in on one of the Cry Now, Cry Later comps alongside heavy hitters like MAN IS THE BASTARD, STAPLED SHUT, or especially CATTLEPRESS. This is an odd, unsettling record, I haven’t heard many like it. Worth checking out, especially for those with nostalgia for the powerviolence days.

No Idea / NOLLKOMPETENZ split LP

Bear with me y’all, this is one of those weird ones that came with very little info and required a bit of internet research that was mostly available in languages I don’t speak. So it seems like Sweden’s NO IDEA were around in the mid-’80s, only appearing on a relatively obscure cassette compilation during that time. This is brand new material, recorded some 32 years after their debut. It’s very much in line with what you’d expect from a bunch of dudes who haven’t been actively punk in three decades plus: awkward metal interludes, mediocre songs, and so forth. The vocals sound good at least. NOLLKOMPETENZ seem to be one of those admirable (but frustrating for an MRR reviewer) bands that don’t have any internet presence so I can’t tell you much about them but the tunes are pretty solid. They walk an interesting line, equal parts hardcore machismo, punk simplicity, and garage rock swagger, with some intentionally over the top guitar solos all held down by the super dirty bass and an extremely on-point drummer. NO IDEA are a write-off (though the ’86 material was recently reissued on an EP and may be worth looking up) but NOLLKOMPETENZ are intriguing and well worth a listen.