Reviews

Daiki Kusuhara

Punitive Damage We Don’t Forget EP

We Don’t Forget is PUNITIVE DAMAGE from Vancouver, BC’s latest output. Plenty of breakdowns and moshier grooves with punchy parts, and a more modern-sounding hardcore approach. Urgent political lyrics relevant to current times, PUNITIVE DAMAGE’s output is coming from a more personal place, yet it’s something many of us across the board in different scenes can relate to. In the DIY punk scene where it looks like there’s a political consensus for certain topics, oftentimes it still tends to lack critical analysis of what the slogans actually mean, which PUNITIVE DAMAGE brings to the table. They push back with honest, real-life-based output that isn’t just a reiteration of slogans without critical thought. For fans of PUNCH, LIFE’S BLOOD, NO JUSTICE, CARRY ON, and LIMP WRIST.

Destruct Echoes of Life LP

Hailing from Richmond, VA, DESTRUCT sounds like an unfuckable great mix of BASTARD, DEATH SIDE, JUDGEMENT, and FRAMTID. Imagine the aforementioned bands, blend and mold it back together, trim all the fat, and that’s Echoes of Life. DESTRUCT makes the international hardcore enthusiast dream a reality: if BASTARD was a currently active band, still in their prime and releasing another great record in 2020. DESTRUCT accompolishes something DEATHREAT tried to accomplish 20 years ago with Consider It War, but perhaps an even better articulated version of the ’90s Japanese hardcore approach. Sounds like something that was recorded at Our House in Tokyo in the mid-’90s but was actually mastered at Enormous Door by Jack Control of WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, who is way too familiar with that type of production and nails it beyond perfection. This is no-frills, straight up devestating dark hardcore punk without having any gimmicks, macho-ness, or cosplay-ness, which is something many of us are looking for in the current punk scene that seems to have its head stuck up its ass or is way too concerned about what the next leading hip trend will be. One might criticize how much they can just listen to BASTARD instead, but this perhaps is a great example of learning something from the past and creating something even better with it. Highly recommended.

Kürøishi Sound the Alarm LP

This LP was released in 2019 by KÜRØISHI (Japanese name translates to “Black Death”) from Oulu, Finland. At first glance, with Akihito Sugimoto’s artwork, people will assume it’s something along the lines of ’80s/’90s-era Japanese hardcore worship like SELFISH, but KÜRØISHI has an early-’00s melodic crust approach along the lines of WOLFPACK/WOLFBRIGADE and TRAGEDY. Quite often dismissed but perhaps this sound was pioneered by Absolut Country of Sweden-era ANTI-CIMEX in 1990, later progressing to WOLFPACK/WOLFBRIGADE or HIS HERO IS GONE touring Japan in the ’90s and getting influenced by bands like JUDGEMENT with some melodic harmonic elements—yielding a “Japanese HC influenced” style a.k.a. TRAGEDY. In reality, the sounds are influenced by not only the aforementioned bands but also Sweden’s and Norway’s extreme metal scenes from the mid- ’90s… So, with many people already having knowledge and a sense of what Japanese hardcore sounds like, this might not cater to punks with a preference for that approach, but those who’ve seen the “Japanese hardcore” references thrown around at crust shows in 2002 will definitely be able to identify. It’s easy to talk trash on a release for how inaccurately it represents the ’90s Japanese hardcore approach, but it’s also something that we might need more in this age of easy replication and overload of resources. Sound the Alarm sounds like it’s an honest output from what they grew up with but still having an appreciation of something they truly love. They’re from Scandnavia and the influences of that region’s hardcore and metal makes more sense than sounding like they’re from Tokyo in the late ’80s. The record also contains this great sense of imagination (perhaps it can be taken as a misinterpretation?) whether intentionally or not, creating something unique with wide possibilities. Guest appearances by members of PARANOID, VIVISEKTO, SYSTEMATIC DEATH, THINK AGAIN and others.

Rocky and the Sweden City Baby Attacked by Buds LP

Latest release from ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN from Tokyo—Japanese hardcore scene veterans that have been around for quite some time with ex-members of BASTARD, SYSTEMATIC DEATH, and VIVISICK. With song titles like “Green Riot,” “Mary-Go-Round,” and “Weed Weed Weed,” ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN really show their  appreciation for weed. It’s still not quite legal in Japan but glad to see they’ve yet to get in trouble for constant dedication to the ganja for the past 20 years. ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN also impresses us with how fast and aggressive they sound despite consuming such a mellow substance. 420 hardcore bands with a similar approach include REAL REGGAE, another counterpart from Japan that sung about smoking weed. From the title of this record, you might imagine something in the stoner rock realm (along with some G.B.H. reference) but turns out to be a great Japanese hardcore punk record. In terms of sketchiness, their chosen expression is reminiscent of older MRR articles about how it was illegal to be a punk band in certain countries. Most people typically would want to play in a jam band or stoner rock but these guys remind us to not judge anything by its cover. This shows us a new possibility of smoking weed where not only you can play slow and groovy but you can also play aggressively and fast. City Baby Attacked by Buds sounds more like they’re on speed or methamphetamine than smoking weed—basically the DEATH SIDE style Japanese approach with epic, dramatic riffage and NWOBHM-influenced guitar leads. ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN continue to fight for their freedom of smoking weed not only by “burning spirits” approach but by “burning buds” with the same spirit. Great colorful artwork done by Masato Okano of NYC.

Agonista Embusteros 10″

AGONISTA consists of San Diego and Tijuana scene veterans who in the past 25 years appeared in BUMBKLAATT, SWING KIDS, SOME GIRLS, RUN FOR YOUR FUCKING LIFE and SPANAKORZO, to name a few. In contrast to some of their previous outlets, AGONISTA plays what they themselves might consider a rather “traditional” brand of hardcore: a tight crustcore/’90s Swedish HC approach sung both Spanish and English, something along the lines of DISRUPT, STATE OF FEAR, SEVERED HEAD OF STATE, UNCURBED that was found in the Prank or Distortion Records catalogs a generation back. AGONISTA carries on the tradition particular to the Tijuanese crustcore style that centered around DISCORDIA (members of which went on to BUMBKLAATT and COÄCCION in the ’00s). Being a cross-border band between the US and Mexico, they directly feel and experience the complex reality between the two countries in their daily lives. Their output seems to be the direct friction from the socioeconomic differences spawned from the systematic oppression of people’s lives tangled by racism, drug abuse, financial instability, and violence. Embusteros sounds like a burst of the filthy remnants that have been forcefully hidden underneath the rug by the “America’s Finest City” and the feeling of anger and frustration in order to survive in “Sin City.”

Kriegshög Paint It Black / White Out 7″

Latest release by Tokyo’s hardcore veterans, with almost fifteen years under their belt. As with their previous release, their sound has changed a bit from the raging Mangel thrash-esque “Magma Beat Hell” approach. Perhaps due to the lineup change, the approach has shifted from blown-out noisy hardcore to mid-paced hardcore with a cleaner guitar tone, reminesent of DISCHARGE’s non D-beat mid-tempo songs such as “Decontrol” or “State Violence State Control” more than something you will hear from the kangpunk approach like “Victims of a Bomb Raid” or “Nitad.” Still, seeing that they’re a raging hardcore band based out of Tokyo, it’s hard to say they’ve toned down a bit; the sound has matured in its unique manner. It’s not overtly noisy or intense sounding like their earlier releases, but focused more on subtle intensity that is quietly building up. Perhaps it’s their long career or maybe it’s the cultural influences that it has, seems like it’s an output of aggression that is rather unique to an environment like Tokyo. The B-side still carries on with their no-bullshit, raging hardcore punk.

Lifelock 2018 EP

2018 EP is a vinyl version of their tape released on Brain Solvent Propaganda. Just by looking at their logo, it’s obvious that LIFELOCK from Singapore pays homage to late ’80s/early ’90s UKHC DISCHARGE worshippers DISASTER. Simply said, LIFELOCK does sound like DISASTER meets DISCLOSE. For the majority of the punks out there, it usually just starts and ends with “Oh, it sounds like DISCHARGE.” DISASTER indeed was an early-era DISCHARGE worshipping punk band (so was DISCLOSE). Yes, the beat, distortion, chords, song structure, and lyrics are all more or less the same as that one band we keep hearing about, but the specific atmosphere is executed quite well. LIFELOCK gets that very specific intense weight in the air that DISASTER had, but DISCLOSE or even DISCHARGE lacked. LIFELOCK continues to deliver their fear and anxiety driven anthem of the apocalypse. The final song is a DISASTER cover.

Khiis Bezoar LP

KHIIS is a four-piece hardcore punk band hailing from Oakland, CA; their latest release, Bezoar, is sung in Farsi and English. Good riffs, catchy yet well-crafted songwriting, and simply a brutal, raging hardcore punk record that raises your fist up in the air. Reminds me of a modern DIY punk version of mid-tempo driven UK82 bands like GBH and the EXPLOITED. It’s not necessary UK82 revival pogo/street punk (but somehow sounds much more UK82 than most street punk bands out there), and whether intended or not, there are similarities with contemporary Bay Area hardcore such as NO STATIK, TORSO, REPLICA, and others. The Earhammer recording production is clear and dynamic sounding, reminding me more of the TOTALITÄR material or ’90s Japanese hardcore production (something recorded at Our House or from the Selfish Records or Bloodsucker Records catalog) than some basement demo recording. No bullshit, great hardcore punk, not just for punks, but also hardcore fans of all. Great cover artwork done by Ji Hwan Ryu of SCUMRAID.

Rigorous Institution Penitent EP

As many of us already know, the influence of post-punk bands like KILLING JOKE, JOY DIVISION, and BAUHAUS was to shape the sounds of AMEBIX/AXEGRINDER (referring specifically to the ’80s era, and not their current incarnation). RIGOROUS INSTITUTION reminds me of those gritty, dark, gloomy aspects of the original anarcho/post-punk influenced crust punk bands that were coming out from the UK in the ’80s. They combine aspects of KILLING JOKE meets VENOM with the synth parts used in AXEGRINDER songs. It’s common to see people blindly ripping off anarcho/post-punk bands like EXIT STANCE, VEX or PART 1 this past decade, but RIGOROUS INSTITUTION doesn’t fall into that realm. It’s “crust” but not in the HIS HERO IS GONE-inspired neo-crust/’90s hardcore kind of way, nor another version of the mid-’00s “metallic crust.” It doesn’t comply with most people’s stereotypes of the genre (the ones who would be into that stuff would most likely be in the old school death metal scene right now). In this current day and age of easy access to an overwhelming amount of information to simply mock a certain style that’s considered cool or validated, I’m glad to hear a unique band like RIGOROUS INSTITUTION doing what they do. Highly recommended.