Reviews

Robert Collins

CaveXrage I Believe in CaveXrage cassette

Raw and energetic, bare-bones, treble-heavy snot punk. Cut from the mold of ’10 NWI starlets and ‘70s working class punk…then they injected the mold with SXE hardcore. With lyrics like “We got boys and we got girls / Pittin’ hard and pittin’ fast / CAVEXRAGE feel the blast” and “If you don’t know who your friends are / You better find out who your friends are / Who’s true? Who betrays you?” (not to mention “Twisted in My Head” in its glorious entirety). You want to say this is ‘core delivered tongue-in-cheek, but…

Max Nordile Vying for the Dime cassette

Another month, another offering from Oakland improvisationalist MAX NORDILE. A true sonic outsider, NORDILE mixes (seemingly) random multi-instrumental experimentation with field recordings and found sounds, creating movements and moments rather than “writing” anything resembling “songs” in any traditional sense. Of the eight pieces that make up Vying For The Dime, “101” and “E EE Exit” probably exemplify this Dadaist approach to music the best, but (as with many of NORDILE’s releases) they are best experienced as parts of a whole. While I often teeter on the knife edge of hyperbole, there is a genuine greatness in the simplicity, in the honesty, and the evolution is ongoing. As always, I recommend.

Self-Immolation Music Demo 2020 cassette

Can you imagine a ’90s college dream pop band ingesting a heavy diet of PHARAOH OVERLORD? You get the white line fever 3 am highway monotony treated with a time-damaged MERCURY REV tinged with later KYLESA and it’s like you’re gazing at your shoes but through a thick-ass drug-induced fog. As a(nother) new generation of kids and bands and kids in bands draw influence from the music of my young adulthood, I look forward to bands like SELF-IMMOLATION MUSIC who are using discarded markers to guide them on their own path. Absolutely recommended.

Dropdead Dropdead 1998 LP reissue

The essential second full-length remixed and remastered for a 2020 reissue. A little less blasting than the “early” stuff, this record knocked all of us on our asses when it came out. This 1998 offering was more in line with destroyed, amped-up Swedish crust…and then they dropped tracks like “Part Two” that are just ferocity embodied. It was different, it was more…and it still is. DROPDDEAD’s approach and uncompromising politics shouldn’t need to be covered in these (digital) pages, but suffice to say that their knife edge has not dulled in their 30 year existence…and I don’t expect that to change. Remastering, regurgitating, and reissuing records that are readily available might seem like an unnecessary ploy in this modern era, but fuck these songs have never sounded this heavy, this fast, or this relevant. Still essential.

 

Step to Freedom 2014–2019 Discography cassette

Churning, metallic Russian metalcrust. Like a blast from the early 2000s, STEP TO FREEDOM bulldozes their way through seventeen pieces of pure guttural filth, combining two earlier releases. 2017’s Cemetery For The Humankind is a ripping speed metal dervish with MISERY lurches throughout, while 2014’s Social Zombies opts for a more streamlined AXEGRINDER approach. To have all of this mania on one tape is nothing short of a gift.

Unit X War on Self, War on Everything cassette

UNIT X gets straight to the point and continues reinforcing that point (forcefully) for ten minutes. Then you can breathe. Gnarly SXE hardcore from London, Ontario—killer breakdowns and no tracks over 90 seconds, but the lyrics go way deeper than the traditional ‘core fare. This is the kind of “posi” I’m after these days—realistic, honest, and not always positive: “All that I am, all that I said / The years pass by, but still I feel it’s a lifetime of regret / All that I’ve seen, all that I’ve done / I keep pushing forward, past the memories of when I was wrong.”

Caltrops Do We Have a Future? cassette

Fiery Colorado crust with near-constant vocals in line with Japanese greats and almost too many leads. Two solid D-beat bangers and one stoner/grind ripper, but the breakneck “Bastards Will Pay” steals the show here, noteworthy because it’s the track where they seem to burst out of their comfort zone and really unleash. Recording is appropriately raw, and CALTROPS fall in line with late ’90s US political crust, which is a compliment.

Fleur du Louve Sparkwood cassette

This Northwest duo creates rudimentary witchy goth with repetitive programmed drums and melodies carried by single-note guitars, while both members float in the top of the mix with airy, oft-spoken vocals. Their target is in plain sight, and the fact that they land just off the mark in some places only serves to make FLEUR DU LOUVE feel more honest, more real. I’m wondering what a sophomore effort might conjure.

Ellen Ripley Body Pact cassette

Sonically advanced, self-described “anarchist space pop” from Sweden. A synth-heavy Krautrock excursion with commanding vocals that listen like activist poetry while driving guitars meander casually though the five tracks on Body Pact. Sometimes you listen to a band and it’s clear they are telling you something, but I hear ELLEN RIPLEY and I’m compelled to listen because I feel like they are saying something…and that’s a different thing altogether. “We are made smaller / Our voices become harder / We cry more than we sing but say nothing more than anything.”

Gazorpazorp Od Vazduha i Sunca CD

Really nice dose of dark indie from Belgrade, mingling with guitar-heavy late ’80s “college alt” sounds on a foundation of early East European punk and wave. Guitars dominate, but take a casual backseat when horns or vocals (or theremin) come into focus on a release that shows a band more than capable of charming the critics while winning over the hyper-critical (punk) naysayers. Only five songs on their first physical release—advanced, mature, cold, and infectious.

Shitload / XBrackishX Da Parish X Westbank Unity split cassette

Uncompromising noisecore from two New Orleans powerhouses. XBRACKISHX is truly, and by design, all over the map—samples, interludes, shit-fi grind, Casio pop, hardline vegan black metal guitars driving a one-person drum machine assault. SHITLOAD opens up with a damaged bass blasting “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” while a who’s-who of New Orleans notables rep The West Bank for 68 seconds before the sonic shit-machine blasts through eight doses of noisecore, brutalizing mainstream heavy metal melodies as an interlude between blasts (HALEN, MAIDEN, ‘LICA all get the business). This is the kind of tape where you exhale after each side…and you take a deep careful breath before you hit play.

V/A Cat Cerebrations cassette

Serious statement: I don’t know if you can take it. Eleven bands delivering some of the most distorted, blown-out, freaked-out punk jams in recent memory. I’m talking “jams” as in a bag of weed and your singer is late to practice “jams.” And I’m talking blown-out like everything sounds like it’s breaking down the wall of the studio next door and you can’t even hear yourself think. Cuts from SIBERIAN ASS TORTURE, BASTARD NOIDS, RACCOON COMPLEX CONTAGION, CLANDESTINE BRONTOSAURUS, TLCWATERFALLS, CRUST KAPPA RAMPAGE….jams from NO COMADRE!, DIABLO CON CARNE, OXYGEN DESTROYER, and GEORGE CRUSTANZA that all cram themselves into one shell to morph into smoke and vibrations and volume like PHARAOH OVERLORD and KALMEX having a session. If noise punks could jam, then….well, Cat Cerebrations says they can. Now: can you take it?

Boozewa First Contact cassette

Howling grunge/punk with a healthy serving of grit. I hear similarities to early ’90s mid-paced psych basement punk…before stoner rock was a thing and when the DIY bands who played grunge were still “punk” bands. Clean, powerful vocals contrast the raw four-track production, and readers of these pages who still dig on bands like WEEDEATER and ACID KING will want to look to Coatesville, Pennsylvania for some new sludge.

Cosme D# demo cassette

Four injections of ultra-simple punk from Mexico. A serious MISFITS hair up their ass, thrift store synths polluting the damn joint, and gruff bedroom vocals half singing/half barking…my knuckles are sore and I’m down about 40 brain cells…but I’ll be damned if “G” isn’t a top song.

Robotrip Live cassette

Completely off-the-rails Midwest hardcore punk—an eight-minute live set from 2020 on one side and the studio demo (which honestly isn’t much more cohesive) from 2018 on the flip. Remember last decade when Indiana bands like OOZE and BIG ZIT took the world by storm? This is like that, but way more of a mess. Good luck finding a copy.

Crutch / Pavel Chekov split cassette

This one is a couple of years old at this point, but damn if both bands don’t still hit with maximum force. Six bursts of filthy, old school grind/PV from Dallas veterans PAVEL CHEKOV, backed with Oklahoma’s CRUTCH delivering some of their most powerful (and brutal) lightspeed hardcore punk tracks. Each band approaches the game a little differently, each arriving at a four-way intersection of hardcore, fastcore, powerviolence, and grind…then deciding to roll blindly into each other. There’s still copies of this floating around, I would recommend you not snooze.

Dry Wedding The Long Erode LP

As the modern dissection of ’80s underground goth continues, it should come as no surprise to hear sounds like the ones that fill the grooves of The Long Erode. Portland’s DRY WEDDING sifts through lesser castings to expose gold—remnants of CRIME + THE CITY SOLUTION, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, and later Wayne Hussey shine through their reincarnated musings while entire experiment is treated to a diet of hallucinatory deprivation. The title track is a disorienting dirge with melting guitars and a rhythm section sinking while the vocalist (formerly of Long Beach outfit SWAMPLAND, which is an indicator to those who recognize the name) moans his way through five minutes of slow motion Western psychedelia. If desert goth psych isn’t a genre….well, maybe it is now.

Scraps Wrapped Up in This Society LP reissue

After one of the first WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? rehearsals, we were all talking about bands we liked and Max (625, SPAZZ, etc.) noticed that my background knowledge of fast, raw, European hardcore, a subgenre that was key to our stated mission, was deficient. The next time we met, he gave me some study material in the form of the first HEIBEL 12” and this SCRAPS LP….and I studied. SCRAPS were so gloriously unhinged, you got the sense that they decided they were going to play fast before they decided if they could play fast. While they had surely honed their skills and focused their sights by 1990’s Wrapped Up in This Society, the blasts are still completely fucking off the rails while the youth crew moshes (and backing vocals) were in full effect, and it’s what makes this record sound so good. Because it’s kinda all over the place, and it mostly hits just off target, and because they go so hard in spite of it all. Or because of it all. If the anthemic end of “Win Together” were perfectly in tune (or in time) it would just be another hardcore song, but to hear SCRAPS wrap up the first side of this LP, it’s as if you’re ready to join the band before you even flip the wax. Lyrics blast inequality, imperialism, and military oppression, idealism leaping from the pages of the booklet just as it jumps out of the grooves. I have a vague memory of WHN? covering “I Was Blind” in rehearsal…though we may have just ripped it off and not told anyone.  A faithful and overdue (and gorgeous) reissue.

Splitting Heads A Short Vision demo cassette

This came out a few months ago. You need it. SPLITTING HEADS sound like they went back to 1981 and then they decided not to come back, and then recorded a demo in 1982 after they kicked everyone’s ass and now it’s 2021 and we’re listening to it just going “ddaaaaaaaaamn.” Fuck y’all, this tape is so ungodly good.

TV Drugs FFO: Everything Terrible cassette

A nice solid blast of modern American hardcore punk. Guitars have a nice solid blast of catchy ’90s basement punk (“How Far?” and “Livin’ The Dream,” in particular) and there are some good creepy vibes—but it’s kinda funny because it sounds like TV DRUGS are going for the tough chain punk vibe and the fact that they land slightly off that mark is precisely what makes them feel right.

Cult Mind Connected cassette

The new pandemic joint from San Jose screamers CULT MIND kicks off with a groove that almost makes the listener think they’ve gone and gotten too stoned…then they fukkn unload. Nine cuts of rough-edged North American hardcore punk—think a ramshackle CAUSTIC CHRIST, and that rock’n’roll guitar from the intro makes a few more (welcome) appearances. Decidedly looser than their full length from a couple of years back, and the regression suits them.

Decide It Yourself Decide It Yourself cassette

Erratic thrash with solid metal breaks and plenty of blasts. Heavy on the high end, but maybe there’s no bass (at all?) and the kick drum disappears when they grind, so it makes me feel all anxious when I listen at volume (which is, after all, the best way to listen). Vocals are throaty and clean, sitting on top of the mix and extra in-your-face. Not a pretty-sounding release in any imaginable way, which is the intent.

 

The Haskels Taking the City By Storm LP

Just to be clear, the first four songs on this record are an essential and mandatory dose of Midwestern US punk history. “Taking The City By Storm” is 134 seconds of hyper-speed power punk perfection that every punk should know inside out, and the rest of the single is…well, it’s perfect, too. So do you need an entire LP rounded out by six previously unreleased demo recordings from 1980 and three cuts from a 1981 live set? Simple answer: definitely. The demo cuts show a band settling into their own just a few short months after forming—just one would-be single after another, from the JAM-tinged mellow number “In Between Girls,” to the pub rock stomp “You Got to Be Kidding.” And the three live tracks show a band that was so undeniably huge…more nuanced than the simple burners that dominated their only vinyl release, more advanced than the KBD comps that cemented their status as an important fixture in the world of trailblazing North American punk rock. Maybe they would have become something else had the band survived—tracks from the demo session hint at a band geared to stand alongside the JAM, COSTELLO, etc.—and maybe they would have reformed and rehashed an adult version of their genius had the members survived. But the band didn’t, the members didn’t, and instead we have these songs. And, as stated earlier: they are perfect.

Oxygen Destroyer November Brain 10”

A wildly limited 10” lathe compiling unreleased cuts and outtakes from OXYGEN DESTROYER, who started the early 2010s in Japan and finished out the decade in San Francisco. The title track is a wildly melodic (almost emotional?) opener that sets false expectations for ten noisy hardcore bursts that follow. OXYGEN DESTROYER would have fit in nicely in the 1990s Bay Area, with tracks like “Slowride” and “School Jacket” landing them somewhere between Mission District fuck-ups and West Bay Koalition sonic violence, and then there are straight raw punk crushers like “Manhunt.” As a swan song, November Brain has it all; from the nine-plus minute raw punk opus “Evolution Of Man” to a slew of sub-60 second blasts of chaos. Sure, there are only 25 physical copies, but I suspect that the intent was to make it clear that OXYGEN DESTROYER existed, and these eleven tracks make that abundantly clear. The punk world needs fewer sonic constraints and more of this.

Billy & the Bad Peach Demo 2019 cassette

The murky guitar that opens “I Don’t Feel So Good” might make you think you’re in for some regurgitated goth, but that only lasts about fifteen seconds, and these New Jersey mutants offer so much more than that. The opening cut is a squirmy punk done damaged, raw shit just disassembled and tortured to the point where they (almost) sound scary. They do return to those dark undertones (guitar leads in “It’s A Trap,” for example), but the filthy stomp of “Kool” seems to personify the band: “I found out the truth, the truth about you / The truth is you don’t know you.” Only four songs here—all simple and nasty—but fortunately there’s a second tape lurking somewhere back in 2020.

Slugs Human Warmth cassette

Slimy garage shits from Göteborg that strip so many layers that I could be listening to EASY CURE demos as easily as leather-clad THUNDERS outtakes. Mid-paced stompers heavy on single-note guitars…the beauty in simplicity cannot be overstated.

Videodrome 2020 cassette

Nasty, nihilistic Middle America hardcore punk. Howling and affected vocals, the way the kids like(d) to do it in the ’10s, and plenty of sonic tweaks in the mix and between songs to remind you that you’re listening to something genuinely damaged. The drums that drag “Meade St.” out of that feedback and into the pit are….well, that little bit seals the fukkn deal. Bare-knuckle hardcore punk. Sold.

Dropdead Demos 1991 LP

If you don’t know, DROPDEAD is one of the greatest fast hardcore bands of all time. They are also one of the fastest fast hardcore bands of all time. As the title suggests, the tracks here are culled from demos recorded in 1991—and I swear that “Protest” and “At The Cost Of An Animal” sound more unhinged here than on any of the subsequent vinyl releases, and everything here hits just as hard as it did when I first heard (most of) them on a third-generation cassette 27 years ago, but it all hits even harder today because these songs (and more importantly, these words) are still relevant, they are still urgent, and they are still fucking furious. And then if you’re still standing, the sound and the delivery on the second session are simply unparalleled…this is the band who are still on top of the mountain, and they just released some recordings to remind us all who built it.

Kohti Tuhoa Elä Totuudesta EP

The Finnish band who dropped one of my favorite records in 2019 released this record in 2020 that’s fast becoming my favorite EP of 2021. Finland’s KOHTI TUHOA has progressed with each release, and Elä Totuudesta is no different—vocals have developed a pronounced NAUSEA-meets-POST REGIMENT bark here, driving the songs themselves with force. Even the title track that opens with such a furious downstroke guitar doesn’t really start until the vocals kick in. The Scandi-beat charge is definitely present, even dominating at times, but the leads are classic punk and the vibe is determined and not dark, reflected in the lyrics and delivered by the sound. You’ll never find anyone categorizing this by saying it “sounds like…,” well, anything. A future classic slab to devour in the present—highly recommended.

Beyond Description Calm Loving Life / Live in Germany CD

There was a time when you just had to see the name BEYOND DESCRIPTION and you knew that uncompromising Japanese crust was in your near future. And you were pumped. These recordings are more than 20 years old at this point…and I’m (still) pumped. Tokyo’s BEYOND DESCRIPTION delivers brutally fast political HC/crust, and time has done nothing to make 1997’s Calm Loving Life session sound any less intense. The three cuts from the Live in Germany 5” however….holy shit, these dudes are absolutely insane live. Just pure speed and relentless hardcore, two things I could use a bit more of in my life.

City of Industry False Flowers LP

I confess that I don’t think I spent enough time with this record to really try to capture it with words—but in my defense, I think that False Flowers will keep maturing in its own grooves for many, many listens to come, a sonic fermentation process. It’s easy for bands who are all over the place to sound…well, all over the place. Disjointed. Lacking cohesion. But CITY OF INDUSTRY flows with purpose between monstrously powerful modern hardcore to emotionally introspective to blastbeats to an acoustic piece that closes things like a damn WEAKERTHANS track before exploding into fifteen seconds of raging crust—and it feels natural. This is a record realized; there’s no “why the fuck are they doing that?” but there is plenty of “holy shit, they are doing that!” and it all works. They could have settled for just melting faces, and they would have melted faces. They could have chosen to make their listeners cry, and we would have cried. They could have written a record where all of the kids would have clenched their fists and shouted along to every word while they listened, and we would have clenched and shouted. Instead, they did all of that, and they did a lot more. So I’m just going to leave this here, to be continued.

Sad Eyed Beatniks Places of Interest cassette

Dreamy DIY ’60s pop reimagined through an ’80s post-punk/indie lens. The influences are blatant, and they bleed out of the tape, which is part of SAD EYED BEATNIKS’ charm. Places of Interest is just as much Saturday afternoon record shop in-store as it is face paint and bubbles in the park filmed with a grainy 16mm thrift store camera. Guitars are supremely damaged and off, but they stay in the background while K Linn  (yeah, another one-person project) pushes things awkwardly forward with ramshackle drums and innocently-off vocals. A release that listens like a soundtrack to a short film that you desperately want to exist is a good release…I can see the shots that accompany the songs, because they’re already in my mind.

Kyle Carpenter Every Third Word cassette

Stripped-down four-track pop/folk from Austin, Texas. It’s like SHOP ASSISTANTS deconstructed, or maybe the mellow cut on a college rock record that never quite kicks in and lulls you into liking it. CARPENTER occasionally wanders too close to commercial coffee shop sounds, but those moments are (mostly) tempered by cuts like “Blatant Windows” that push the boundaries of lo-fi DIY pop…actually, that track and “Leech” are pretty much the only real burners, but there’s enough weirdness here to keep me interested (at least by keeping me guessing).

Final Dose Laid to Unrest demo cassette

Yet another one-person project, this time from the ’rona-ravaged depths of London. Knuckle-dragging hardcore punk nihilism tinted by bedroom black metal listening, FINAL DOSE creates an attack that is instantly recognizable and searing…there are only four blasts (for now), but perhaps with the new strain of the virus we can all look forward to more.

Ostseetraum Ostseetraum cassette

Gloriously minimal German synth-driven new wave. Stark, cold and mature, OSTSEETRAUM conjures sounds of homemade tapes recorded and duplicated in dark apartments to be distributed by hand in early ’80s Berlin, and they make those sounds feel relevant and unattainable. Stripped NDW bands like STRATIS clashing with Voice of America-era CABARET VOLTAIRE, sonic robotics delivered with a calculated and intentional calm. Nine cuts here, a stellar debut.

The Culprits The Culprits LP

Killer Portland punk from the early 2000s, unearthed and given the treatment in a criminally limited run of 100 pieces of splatter wax. Wildly catchy and raw hi-energy—think KRUPTED PEASANT FARMERZ and TOXIC REASONS, that kind of catchy energy, hooks that pierce skin. As a staunch advocate for documentation, I’m glad nuggets like this are given the attention they deserve—and I have a hunch that 2020 ears might give the CULPRITS more accolades than they received in that downtuned black-clad crust oasis fifteen years ago, because fast snappy punk never goes out of style.

Desastyr Danting Megazus CD

Twenty-seven tracks of one-man Casio D-beat. I keep listening, but I don’t know what to say…it’s unlistenable, and that’s the point. Noise is, in fact, not music…but at what point does nonsense become art? DESASTYR is like SOCKEYE deconstructing BEYOND DESCRIPTION. I’m gonna send this to Ear of Corn fanzine and see what Food Fortunata thinks (and if that means anything to you then you’ll likely be scrambling for a copy of this CD).

Public Acid Condemnation EP

This one’s gonna be on a lot of fukkn year-end lists, and for good reason. You think that Condemnation is shaping up real nice when the trudge of “Nuclear Child” really settles in, and you think that they just dropped a ruthlessly dark and heavy beast. And then the music stops, and that buzzsaw kicks in and they are just fucking gone…you won’t know what even happened until “Flag Fetish” fades out and your ears are ringing and you’re wondering what the fuck kind of guitar solo you just heard. Rarely has the descriptor “urgent” felt more applicable, even (especially) as these freaks gear down for determined BATHORY-tinged stomps like “Electric Plague.” It’s a record that is wholly demanding from start to finish. And the demand is punishment. If you only have 90 seconds available to listen to hardcore punk music, I recommend the title track.

The By-Products Praying Mantüs LP

Thirteen bursts of snappy punk from Southern California. I’ve tossed around ways to describe the BY-PRODUCTS, but ultimately I think they sound like adult punk. That’s not a knock (far from it), it means that they seem to have harnessed a generation of influences and used them to frame their approach instead of using them as a template. The start of “Self Diagnostic” sounds like BIG BOYS, “God Phone” hits me like some solid ’90s DIY punk, “Earthquake” is a straight Orange County hardcore ripper, “Aftershock” comes off as a dose of RADIOACTIVITY-caliber sharp brilliance…I could go on, but the more I listen the more things I hear. And I don’t want to bore you. The BY-PRODUCTS are avoiding all of the trappings and don’t seem suited for any of the molds—this is a hearty endorsement.

Condemned / Ernia Strike to Kill split LP

Somewhere in this batch of reviews I think I say that a dose of catchy, uplifting punk might be just what I need…this record definitively disproved that assertion, because this record is what I fucking need. CONDEMNED blasts straight out of 2004 with hard-charging crust fury, continuing a proud and storied legacy of bands from Connecticut like REACT, TORRINGTON, and DIALLO. On the flipside, Basque Country’s ERNIA matches the intensity and drops in fearsome blasts seemingly at will. Brilliant early ’00s European squat crust sounds hyped up on relentless fastcore and grind—I find myself exhaling after every song without even realizing that I was holding my breath. Lyrics presented in Basque, English, French, and Spanish, everything about this one hit the fucking spot.

DZTN 1980 Don’t Give Up cassette

Isolation hardcore continues, this time with the fourth release (that I know of) from Portland’s DZTN 1980. Cold, howling anarcho-tinged freak sounds with song structures that can (perhaps) only be signed off on by bands with no dissenting members (or no other members at all), bands that typically exist in one person’s mind. Distinct Blinko tendencies set to a steady, driving drum (machine), Don’t Give Up seems gone in an instant, and leaves me wondering if I’ve been through something. When the act’s sole member reflects on the past year by sneering “Does it have to be this way? / Does it have to be a struggle? / We wanna believe in something / Why not each other?” on the final track, I feel like someone just pulled out the splinter, so maybe I have.

Eva Ras Kada Odlaziš cassette

This is an exceptionally harsh collection of sounds from Serbia’s EVA RAS. Emo-violence (still) gets thrown around a lot as a subgenre descriptor, but this tape is unquestionably violent in the way that early Scandi-BM was just unmusically and seemingly unnecessarily harsh. Chaotic screamo with no bass and sub-60 second bursts of complete fucking chaos—you have to look back to MOHINDER to find anything approximating this kind of desperate brutality. Apparently there are only twelve physical copies (?!?!), so best hit the link below…

Möwer Grand Punk EP

Fist-banging metalpunk from Pittsburgh—fans of INEPSY, SKITKIDS and the like need to get in line for MÖWER fucking pronto. I know they are several releases into their career but Grand Punk feels like a band realized, and they sound like a machine…and few things sound better to me right now than being half in the bag in a sweaty-ass basement listening to “Burn It Down” burning so hard it makes my ears bleed. Also, I just used the word “career” in a review.

Nulla Osta / Warfare split LP

Fist-banging, mid-paced rock’n’roll-tinged punk from Italy’s WARFARE—nice forceful gravel to the vocals, and the leads are appropriately (never overly) anthemic. On the flip, Croatia’s NULLA OSTA are gruffer, rougher, heavier, and drop killer bass runs when they pick up the pace on tracks like ”Jebeš Sve Od Reda.” Listening to both bands, I feel like it’s 1997 and I’m in a Southern European squat at 3:00 AM…I’m wasted, so is everyone else, there are four more bands left to play, and I don’t have a ride back to the sleeping spot anyway. It’s that kind of “fuck it,” and that’s a good kind of “fuck it.”

Panic Bodies Lost Weekend demo cassette

If nothing else, 2020 is surely going to be the year of the solo recording projects. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to shows, so I’m also not complaining. PANIC BODIES are snappy garage punk, little hints of classic punk melody (remember how OBSERVERS dropped the hooks in but still sounded punk as shit? Yeah…like that), super bright and guitar-driven power punk. Choice cut “After Hours” starts to veer into hard and steady dark punk territory, which I fully endorse. Sounds timeless…because, well, I suppose many of us have the time these days.

Paracetamøl Behave LP

Blatantly brilliant LP from The Netherlands, I just keep listening and then I remember that I’m supposed to write about it. Which is hard, because PARACETAMØL hits a lot of nerves but are doing their thing. There’s a garage tinge, but Behave is well produced and sonically advanced, full bodied and accessible punk that you can easily see appealing to a wider “audience.” Like, draw a line between DREAMDECAY and the BLIND SHAKE…and walk that line very very carefully until you fall.

The Touch Heads Try to Get Some Sleep cassette

The physical manifestation of these three tunes is now more than a full year old, but I feel like I’m going to be carrying this creation well into the next decade. The TOUCH HEADS sound like they are playing elements of a lost (and brilliant) garage hardcore recording, picking and choosing the best bits and looping them—remixing and deconstructing the music in real time. If you can imagine listening to part of a punk band….but like, just the good part. Clean guitars, complete emphasis on repetition, take the WIPERS, BIG BOYS, and DICKS school of punk and filter it through the Dance of Death 45 and take out the bits you don’t like. Stark, blunt, confident music for an uncertain future.

Trashdog Sittin On My Head cassette

Take a deep breath, kids, this one is a true fucker. Sittin On My Head sounds like five bands sitting on my damn head at the same time. Snappy high-speed garage punk, jangly college alt, sample-laden freak sounds, and T. REX worship all mashed up like a drug cocktail for my earholes.

Aluminum Knot Eye / Shithole split EP

Hell yeah, punks! Who the fukk says old people can’t out-weird the kids? Not Wisconsin, that’s for damn sure. SHITHOLE drops complete sonic damage on their two songs; the borderline unlistenable “Last Nerve” will take you back to late ’70s no rules madness with that one piercing, relentless four-note guitar lead, then launches into a pure No Wave freakout called “Sanctuary.” I am all in! Milwaukee’s ALUMINUM KNOT EYE makes it clear on “Homicidal Lubricant” that the two decades (and then some) they have spent in the trenches (er…bars?) have done nothing to mellow their freakout psych-punk. Ruthless sonic damage masquerading as digestible noise punk—takes your ears back to when the ’80s hardcore punks made the switch to writing songs and took the effort to spell out their nihilism plain and simple…in some ways it was scarier. This 2019 split is one of the best records I’ve heard in 2020, I feel like I need a break after one listen—to that I say “Another beer, please.”

The Deadbeat Club Vital Earnings cassette

The folks at Digital Hotdogs are freaks, let’s just get that straight right away. You never know what you’re going to get, which is why I always enjoy reaching into their folds to see what kind of sweaty goods come out. And just when I brace myself for some erratic drug-addled mania, I get the DEADBEAT CLUB, who play it straight and just kill the hordes of ethereal pop hacks on Vital Earnings. The whole tape seems like it just materialized from the mist still lingering from 1989, blatant and brilliant VALENTINE, TWINS, OCEAN BLUE lifts and a positively dreamy vibe on cuts like “Lucy Should Start a Band” and “Raceless Case.” They branch out here and there, veering towards more minimal sounds comprised of the same base elements…just a few cautious steps removed. And this is why I keep looking towards this damn label—because I like to be surprised and I like to be forced out of my comfort zone, even if I’m just being pushed into the arms of comforts past. Excellent recording across the board.

French Werewolves Earsores and Eye-Aches CD-R

As normality seems determined to remain hopelessly out of reach for the forseeable future, leave it to the folks from Wheelchair Full of Old Men to remind us that the entire fucking world is stupid. “Electric Urine Experimentation,” Mommy, Am I Alive?” “Greasy Possum,” and “Flying Donkey Couch” barely scratch the surface of the brilliance hidden in this little slipcase. Complete nonsense spat out over incompetent sounds coaxed out of noncompliant instruments of dubious character. Earsores and Eye-Aches offers 35 minutes of emotionally immature brilliance, a shitstain on music itself, a beacon of hope. “Got a coyote paw in a box, just for good luck and shit / Squid and Neptune, dogs and Jupiter, gazing up at the Moon / Libraries and their newspapers, all of it is gone soon.”

Outsiders These Streets LP

On the one hand, OUTSIDERS are Orange County street punk with gruff crew backing vox and every song’s an anthem and we’re all gonna stick together and stuff except when you’re wrong and then you better look out and watch your mouth. On the other hand, it’s kinda RANCID-lite and there’s a song talking about giving “all the meat you can fucken eat” to a girl who is “out on the prowl like a dog in heat” (the author can “tell by the way she’s looking at me” that she wants it, too). Just five tattooed bros who look like they should be old enough to know better. Hard pass.

Radar Mess cassette

Four doses of classic and excellent melodic punk from NYC’s RADAR. Draw a line between SOVIETTES, BUZZCOCKS, and THIS IS MY FIST…you’ll find the seeds of these sounds sown along the way. While I think that the brutality of this year manifested in the form of brutal sounds is what I want, it’s entirely possible that RADAR is exactly what I needed tonight.

Undermine Lost Funerals LP

UNDERMINE comes fast and filthy out of the gate—garage punk with a guitar straight out of early ’80s South American raw punk recordings (I’m sure this is an accident, but damn if it didn’t get my attention)…but that was just the first track and there are thirteen more to go. Then there’s this acoustic and/or mellow grunge bit, and then “Lost Funerals” drops in with some JAWBREAKER-esque emotive ’90s sounds…still with that guitar sound…and there’s more acoustic shit, I think there’s a violin and my brain seriously hurts listening to this. I haven’t even flipped the record yet, but I will. And I do. And it’s the same, but more. I don’t even know what’s happening. I want to think that every reference is an accident, but there’s just too much. I guess it’s a retro grunge record that goes all over the place, recorded in a vacuum with no filter. For sure there are a couple of spots that are good, but damn this one is tough.

Joni Ekman Totaalinen Ekman cassette

A collection of essential cuts from the Finnish pop rock savant JONI EKMAN. Late-’70s power and swagger (and style) and an ear for the right hook that is rarely this true, Totaalinen Ekman is a perfect introduction for the uninitiated. EKMAN blasts out of another dimension, a master at heavy proto-psych noodling and a true power pop songsmith of the highest order, with the ability to squeeze Bolan/Bowie-caliber swing effortlessly in between acid burners. The discography is already as long as my arm and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight, which is great news—the twelve cuts here are taken from LPs released in the mid-’00s. There truly aren’t enough accolades—the motherfucker is brilliant.

V/A Whole World vol. 1 cassette

Tasty little collection of five lo-fi garage freaksters from Berlin. Some nice No Wave eccentricities, some raw stomps, some drugged-out, wild-ass sweaty punk, even a coupla doses of shaky melancholic pop—NUNOFYRBEESWAX, FREAK GENES, TOP DOWN, the BUGS, and the DO NOTHINGS offer up a varied and feisty sampler of Berlin (circa 2019).

Highway Stacy Highway Stacy cassette

More pandemic projects are gonna roll in over the next months, and I welcome the experimentation. HIGHWAY STACY is the brainchild of Tyler Shults (COLLICK, OCCULT DETECTIVE CLUB) and is a seriously superb departure from previous projects. Angry, noisy, frustrated, pissed, dark…it’s as if HIGHWAY STACY trudges their way through these five pieces of No Wave no-punk as an act of morose defiance without joy or purpose, just to make a point. To close with the desecration of the GIZMOS track “Pay” is a move that closes this release appropriately: with the listener feeling dirty. Inside. Physical copies are criminally limited with handmade/decorated covers, but now I have glitter all over my hands from taking it out of the case so maybe you’re better off.

Murder Generation Murder Generation LP

Relentless 1-2-1-2 stomp driving short bursts of hardcore punk that lands between Riot City and NAKED AGGRESSION. Male and femme vocals bark back and forth while this trio plays music like a snotty teenage kid on a skateboard plowing through a sidewalk filled with stooges trudging to the office. Guitars are more advanced that the record implies (check “Descent of Dissent” in particular), which gives the band a bit of the Midwest basement gnarl that I love—eleven tracks in all, and they wrap things up so fast that they just repeat ’em on the flip side.

Street Magic Nightvision Breath demo cassette

Pure, dreary lo-fi pop injected with a(n over)dose of damaged freak trash. STREET MAGIC wants you to love them, but keep making you question your own taste. I can only imagine a live manifestation fraught with confusion, but captured on tape this Seattle outfit is like a gift from the space gods. Choice cut “Communion” is worth the price of admission on its own, especially coming after the moonless desert excursion “TOYL” that opens the second side. Sounds for a (the) next generation to enjoy today.

Bitter Branches This May Hurt a Bit 12″

Band of Philadelphia veterans (KISS IT GOODBYE, CAVALRY, the CURSE, loads more) team up for a supergroup of sorts, and drop a debut that sounds like a band made up of…well, a band of seasoned veterans. Emotional intensity reminiscent of MOSS ICON or NAVIO FORGE, delivered with a gritty, heavy guitar-driven attack that actually feels like an attack—guitars right up front and fighting through the speakers for the chance fight you, while Singer (DEADGUY, KISS IT GOODBYE) fucking writhes his way through the words. It’s an astonishingly mature initial release, even considering the members’ collective pedigree.

Guns n’ Rosa Parks No More Unity EP

More than a decade after the band’s demise, the second EP from GUNS N’ ROSA PARKS has materialized. I saw GN’RP in 2011, and they took the roof completely off the joint (“joint” in this case was a sports and/or dive bar)—just a ball of energy looking for somewhere to blow. This EP captures that—ten bursts of bare-bones and no-nonsense hardcore punk that give casual nods to their influences (to hear Police-era FUCKED UP and Break Down The Walls sneak out of back-to-back tracks is to feel yourself get stoked), but ultimately presents as nothing more than what they were: a hardcore punk band from Denver, Colorado. As something of a delayed and/or retrospective release, No More Unity fukkn nails it—top-tier hardcore packaged in a gorgeous twelve-page booklet packed with lyrics, photos, and flyers spanning the band’s existence. On the one hand, to see an underappreciated outfit get given the deluxe treatment like this just feels right. On the other hand, give me the breakdown to “No More Unity II” over most of the hardcore I’ve heard this year.

Kiviranta Antipsykootti cassette

Some magical electr(on)ic space freak punk that you can dance to. That you will dance to. Ghosts of the FAINT, MARTIN REV, and FAD GADGET crash headfirst into cold ’70s Scandipunk and if you have a heartbeat then you’re just helpless…until the beats drop and then even the dead will hit the floor. I hadn’t heard from this Finnish duo since 2018’s Dolce Vita, but suffice to say that they’ve grown into their own sonic skin in those short years, and Antipsykootti is the complete package. Highest recommendation.

Personal Style Demo 2019 cassette

Pure and simple: this Buffalo band cranks out infectious and addictive music. There are worlds where people will call it indie, post-punk, college rock…but goddamn if it doesn’t just hit exactly right regardless of genre descriptor. Vocals are kinda like the first INTERPOL record (that’s a good thing, fight me), their approach is chill and confident at all times, and the guitars just burn the whole time, even when (especially when) they are delivering hooks that will stick with you for days. And then they drop the bridge in “Brain Flu” and it’s clear that these fellows are well versed in American Hardcore Classics and I’m like “yeah, I get it…y’all are just really good.” I can leave the schmaltzier cuts like “Bubble Yum” behind, but I can’t deny that they are absolutely on point. This tape came out last year, there’s a single that they dropped a few months ago (I peeked—read the lyrics—trust me), and all I’m waiting for is a full-length platter to spin on repeat for days.

Bent Blue Between Your and You’re cassette

Fast, emotive, melodic punk with elements of crew and a heavy ’90s drive. An excellent mash of DC and SoCal hardcore with a solid ’90s > ’80s influence ratio—it’s great when they unleash in the middle of “Influence Me,” but the fleshy part of the song owes more to Revolution Summer than TEEN IDLES, if you know what I mean. And then there’s “Rungless Ladder,” which is just a top-notch, hook-laden Y2K burner…in-your-face guitars and a classically thin bass punch, while you can practically see the singer clutching his shirt in earnest while he screams. Presentations are on-point with doses like “We live a life of misinformation / They call us the lost generation”—these dudes know exactly what they are doing.

Druj Druj cassette

If you don’t already know, Oklahoma City is a hotbed for hardcore punk. Wild, inventive, no rules—when no one cares, then you have the freedom to do what you want…and then people start to care. DRUJ dropped this (their third) tape earlier this year and I had listened countless times before it entered my “review assignments” email, so why am I at a loss for words? The guitar intro over the drum roll that starts “Die In Flames” sounds as shit-hot as it did the first time I blasted it, and the vocals are somehow even more disorienting, and I still sit slack-jawed at full volume, just blasting…and seething. DRUJ needs this, and you can feel it when vocalist آزيتا unleashes howls in “Jesus Wept,” setting the tone for four pieces of sonic nihilism. I could dissect each track, but an academic examination would cheapen the experience and this band deserves better than that. Give it to them.

Scholastic Deth Bookstore Core 2000-2002 LP

Essential listening for fans of fast hardcore, but you likely already know that. SCHOLASTIC DETH were kings of the Bay Area fastcore world—we knew that immediately after that show in the 924 Gilman Stoar. This band was such a complete machine—Josh looked like he was doing battle with his guitar while Chris laid down thunder with a casual confidence that was in conflict with the cloud of dust the band was kicking up, B’s ever so slightly off drum fills that roll into the breakdowns (and his blast beats, obviously). Max’s voice injected this adolescent honesty while so many were trying to growl out their anger, and his signature jerky/ladder riffs (yeah he’s the singer—but he played drums in the band I was in with him and I recognize those fucking riffs) are pure gold. They were smart, snarky…they were fucking fast. Everything is here—all the records, all the comps, and two unreleased cuts. Sometimes everyone loves the same band, and there’s a damn good reason why. So happy that this thing is finally out, even though you probably already have your copy.

Blinding Glow U.X.O. cassette

Wildly powerful debut from San Diego’s BLINDING GLOW. They make their point in four short D-beat-tinged bursts—furious hardcore wound up supertight with piercing femme vocals, drums pounding underneath a wash of distorted cymbals, and a recording that blows everything out even before it reaches your ears. They get straight to business with the no-bullshit “Apologist,” and then before you know it….it’s over.

Humant Blod Flykten Från Verkligheten EP

Pedigrees don’t make bands, but they’ll sure as hell make you pay attention, and when Poffen (TOTALITÄR, MAKABERT FYND, DISSEKERAD, etc.) and Mattis (MAKABERT FYND, DISSEKERAD, etc.) hooked up with a trio of Americans from QUESTION, SAD BOYS, MERCENARY, POX, ZERO, CONDOMINIUM, SUBVERSIVE RITE (and others), people fucking paid attention. We all assumed it was going to be good, but HUMANT BLOD is better. Complete and total rage from start to finish—relentless, fist-banging kång. I feel like if anything, the students here might have inspired the masters, and the result is an absolutely classic piece of wax. The internet has already melted over Flykten Från Verkligheten, so I might be preaching to the choir, but holy shit, this is a great record. Choice cut, “Ingen Kontroll,” if only for the solo.

Pilau Nowhere to Hide EP

On their first release, DC’s PILAU takes notes from the massive hardcore and modern crust of the ’00s, but aim their needle more towards DESPISE YOU than DISCHARGE. PILAU churns and blasts their way through eight colossally heavy (and pissed) numbers. Grinding when they need to and completely comfortable settling into a casual light speed obliteration, though I think it’s the slow parts that truly put my stomach in knots. Folks from ASSHOLE PARADE and MAGRUDERGRIND, if you’re keeping track…you should be.

Attaktix Contra Order cassette

Absolutely massive release from Lithuania!! Everything you love about ’00s Swedish kång with gratuitous doses of blast brutality and an ear for churning sludge. ATTAKTIX have harnessed all of this and created a fucking monster—unabashed devastation from the Baltics, hell yeah.

No One Knows Who Did This No One Knows Who Did This cassette

A novelty recording featuring a seven-year-old vocalist is not exactly the thing that gets me fired up, but for every rule, there’s an exception. The tracks are smart, sharp, garage punk ditties, and our featured singer is full of fire and vinegar on tracks like and “B.U.T.T.T.S.” and “Shocker Docker Ocker”—and if I wasn’t already onboard, my old ass can full identify with “I Gotta Pee.” Novelty? Perhaps. But punks who like to have fun might want to dig on this one.

ÖPNV ÖPNV cassette

Primitive bass/drum/keys proto-darkwave that sounds (and is) undeniably German. Everything here is cold; even the forceful tracks like “Trabantenstadt,” with its sharp, barked vocals, sound drunk and trepidatious. Throw a Cosey-caliber damaged trumpet into “Rasthof” to top off an excellent offering that demands more listens and deeper exploration.

Primal Brain It’s All a Game cassette

Oklahoma City does it again. Furious, damaged hardcore punk made by freaks (made for freaks). Check the hiccup in the chorus of the eponymous opening track and feel yourself get swallowed by all those damn guitars. Aside from “Real Bad Dream” where PRIMAL BRAIN just fucking unleash, these kids are taking the craft out of early ’00s punk proficiency and cramming it into the 2015 maggot stomp mold…the result is fucking glorious.

All Beat Up Quarantape 2020 cassette

San Diego’s ALL BEAT UP were fine tuned and ready for tour when COVID shutdowns shit all over their planned excursion, so they did the punk thing and went to their practice space and bashed a set out to an audience of microphones. Fierce and heavy apocalypse hardcore, as powerful when they slowly pummel as they are when they unleash—only critique I can make is that I usually wish the fast parts lasted longer, but there always seems to be another one around the corner, which lessens the sting somewhat. Erratic start/stop vs. fast/slow sonic assembly nods to ’90s SF bands like BLESSING THE HOGS, or CUTTHROATS 9 with an extra dose of speed, but it’s clear when they put their foot in it that ALL BEAT UP are harnessing pure D-beat hardcore fury. We do what we can—and we can do a lot. Maximum volume and wear a fucking mask.

Dispo Rauchen Macht Heroinabhängig cassette

After a killer trash-punk opener, DISPO switches gears and drops a track that comes off like Cows and Beer-era KREUZEN bashing out modern garage punk. It’s a great combination of sub-genre influences—hardcore, darker ’80s Deutsch punk, wild garage hooks, and snotty ’70s NYC art are all represented in a release that doesn’t sound like it owes anything to anyone.

Totally Cracked Bala Boi Bíblia EP

This single sounds like a live show—not like a recording of a live show, but like an actual show taking place in your apartment. Guitar dominates the mix, a high end buzzsaw cutting through everything like…well, like a damn buzzsaw. The hardcore is fast (real fast) and never lets up over the course of ten tracks…in ten minutes. Perhaps a one-off project, TOTALLY CRACKED apparently cranked this thing out in an evening about 50 miles outside of São Paulo. The result is hot and raw, and I certainly hope they do it again someday.

Abortti 13 Abortti 13mg CD

A decade-plus back in the game after a fifteen-year stint with no releases, Finland’s ABORTTI 13 keeps delivering the goods. Cold, driving mid-paced hardcore punk with an ’80s Polish crunch on the the guitars, and a Finnish-language DISCHARGE cover to cap things off. Just one track kisses the two-minute mark…apparently there’s a certain amount of wisdom that comes with extensive experience.

Babies in the Bardo Babies in the Bardo cassette

The hype sheet references 4AD, CABARET VOLTAIRE, Factory Records, SAVAGE REPUBLIC, and you’re damn right I’m paying attention. Decade (plus) old solo recordings the bassist from EARLY DAY MINERS (it’s cool, I had never heard of them either) unearthed and packaged for eager consumption by a new generation of gloom-obsessed, dreary-faced goth revivalists. BABIES IN THE BARDO are (were?) seizing a time, and they are making it theirs in the process. Minimal synths remain chaotic while ominous bass and loops dominate thirteen cuts driven by painfully deliberate (and casually absent) primitive drums. It’s good, y’all…it’s really good—maybe we all should dust off the recordings in our closets, just in case.

Icarus Phoenix Icarus Phoenix cassette

Adult evening listening here, a brilliant and advanced collection of shoegazing indie folk. Carefully orchestrated composition and instrumentation, crooning vocals with a wispy-haired hip country twang, Icarus Phoenix is absolutely a professional and visionary release. Your punk friends will fucking hate you for liking it.

偏執症者 (Paranoid) Out Raising Hell LP

Sweden’s reigning D-takt kings are back with a monster (and a 12″ of outtakes as a companion release, because they are geniuses). The erratic fukkd up mania of 2015’s Satyagraha are all but gone, and a blackened mötorkång behemoth has risen in its place. Track after track of blistering, raw VENOM-meets-Kill ’Em All reimagined by veterans weaned on ANTI-CIMEX and ENTOMBED. I confess that the mid-tempo bangers like “光の館 (Hikari no Yakata)” are an adjustment for me, but this is a record to be listened to front-to-back (and repeatedly), and when “墓場の目 (Hakaba no Me)” comes lumbering, and then raging, in to close out the first side, I am hooked. I expected this record to be good—it’s better.

Pawns Monuments of Faith EP

Modern deathrock firmly rooted in anarcho-punk. The flangers are spot on, the SPECTRES-esque barks are on point, the lyrics are bleak, and everything is perfect. But “Broken” is a fucking anthem. Open-chord guitar stutters through “You cannot fix what can’t be broken / With open arms you’ll take me there,” into a chorus that’s nothing more than an anguished howl. Dismiss PAWNS as a(nother) goth rehash at your own peril—these are the folks doing it right.

Varoitus Helvetin Hardcore LP

Blistering Swedish mangel. AGONI/SVART SNÖ-caliber riffs and a brilliantly awkward lurching pace that is only accentuated by speed…and there’s a lot of speed. Four bangers each from 2017 and 2019 sessions—the former decidedly more raw and desperate, while the recent session has a fierce metallic delivery. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this offering, and my ears like the punishment just fine.

Much Band Literally Too Pleasurable cassette

Outsider pop from upstate New York. Doses of innocent twee, quirky proto/post-punk blurts, Nuggets-era pop, freeform experimental and some weird indie-by-way-of-yacht-rock bits (“Cut The Cake”) that I simply don’t understand. When I think of those bits as interludes between the freak stuff, MUCH BAND is a much better band. Somewhat curious that this cassette is on the Zazen imprint—a newer label who popped onto my radar for their noisecore and harsh electronic releases…it’s good to keep your fans guessing.

Norms Háború És Fű 12”

I mean, as soon as the cowbell drops, you know this is going to take some work. You know you’re going to have to put the time in to make it work. And the guitar that follows is straight off of Nine Patriotic Hymns… which is when you really need to start paying attention. On their second proper 12″, Budapest veterans NORMS push out eight tracks of thinking person’s hardcore. Sure, they are fast and extremely chaotic, but check the single-note speed picking on “Lassú Emberek.” Pay attention to the frantic vocal delivery (aside from the earlier guitar reference, the only other comparison I will lean on is that the vocals remind me of Ernesto from LIFES HALT), and the damage they inject into the chaos of tracks like “Háború És Fü” demands extensive examination. The underbelly here is manic, post-’90s USHC, but by digging for the influences of their influences while maintaining their identity as a new century hardcore band, NORMS manifest as something completely different than from either past or present. The record is great, and I like that it demands careful attention before it will let you let loose. And that cowbell…..? Oh, it comes back.

Shitload Mowerviolence cassette

Pandemic-born solo noisecore from New Orleans. Emphasis on the noise. Oppressive, distorted and violent. Someone sowed seeds of powerviolence and then got locked in their bedroom…shit got pollinated by stench and filth and noise. Choice cut: “Just Shut Up snd Wear Your Fucking Mask.”

Toadskin Toadskin cassette

There’s a hint of late-’80s Dutch East India college alt, raw outsider pre-grunge and/or post-punk, and there’s a nice gruff Picciotto tail clinging onto the end of many of the verses. You could just say that Milwaukee’s TOADSKIN is rehashing a past sound, but it rings true—perhaps in part because the sounds are from an entirely different past.

Coachwhips Devil Uptown cassette

Girlsville really digging deep with the COACHWHIPS nuggets over the last few years, and I thank them for it. Four cuts here—a synth-drenched swamp dirge outtake from 2002’s Hands on the Controls and three rough and tumble demo tracks (“Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine” and two others). Fidelity out the window, these early COACHWHIPS excursions are confident and raunchy garage punk protein; vocals demented beyond words and music stripped down to the roots all bluesy and full of not a care in the world. And loud—it needs to be loud.

Escapism Equivocation cassette

I encourage putting things like this into as many hands and ears as possible, so the Moon Decay reissue is more than welcome. Impassioned screamo from Poland—I’m pretty sure that the sound is old enough to be considered retro at this point—but ESCAPISM reaches into the chaotic world of ’90s European monsters like AKEPHAL and when I hear that shit I am like mush…I want to absorb everything. Chaotic, erratic, intense, genuine…emotional hardcore embodied. You can feel the room full of kids clutching themselves and screaming You have to realize” at the start of “Teenage Anarchist Observations,” and you want to be in that room. With those kids. One of those kids. Realizing.

Long Knife Night of the Hunter / Rough Liver 7″

An absolute monster from Portland’s answer to Portland’s Kings of Punk. As on previous releases, LONG KNIFE wear their influences on their sleeve—POISON IDEA, heavy metal, Japanese hardcore—and they own every fucking note. These two tracks lean heavily on burning metal leads, which rocks (of course) and makes the record feel more honest. And on the subject of honesty, the lyrics read like Bukowski nihilism, taking heady stock of the reality you’ve made while keeping a cautious eye over your shoulder as a reminder of how real things can get. Living fast is fun, dying young is glamorous, but finding your place in the next chapter is the real challenge. LONG KNIFE isn’t dwelling on it, but you can feel the struggle fighting in the grooves. Great band, and this two song slammer might be their best release.

DZTN 1980 Ode to a Dead Earth cassette

I can’t even imagine how many solo recording projects have popped up in Thee Time Of COVID—but I think it’s a lot. DTZN 1980 is the work of Dustin Herron from long-running Portland band ABOLITIONIST, and has cranked out four full releases in 2020. A self-described post-punk project, DTZN 1980 manifests as a brooding, subdued proto-anarcho/goth by way of art school—and then tracks like “Cut & Run” pop up like a gopher…before fading back into the earth. There’s a lot going on stylistically, but the presentation is minimal and the bass tends to take the lead. Overtly and unabashedly political, yet another (likely) aspect of the time (and place) of creation. I admit that I support Ode to a Dead Earth more than I actually like it, though tracks like “Bad Mentality” sounds like they come from another place in/and time, hitting a nerve that encourages me to go back and spend some dedicated time with the entire release (again).

Escare Infinity Crime cassette

Advanced lifeform creates neanderthal and/or ethereal punk sounds. BEEFHEART meets ERASE ERRATA, and there’s this comforting lilt to the (main) vocals that I can’t shake. When they get caught in a jam (the end of “Brain Island” into the start of “Infinity Crime,” for example) this outfit is like a fukkn drug. If this is the New Sound Ov Punk then I am completely on board. Short, sharp bursts of creativity—and when they drop a hook (“Long Letters”) it’s one that doesn’t let go.

Kay Odyssey Knock Out! cassette

Like an unearthed ’80s college rock reject, Texas mutant/s KAY ODYSSEY are to CONCRETE BLONDE what GIRLS AT OUR BEST are to R.E.M. Instantly familiar and totally weird—and you think the tweak is in the vocals, but there’s a thing that they do with late ’80s late night radio rock that hits just fucking right. If you’re still reading this and you can sing the chorus to LONE JUSTICE’s “Ways to Be Wicked” then KAY ODYSSEY is right up your alley. And if you don’t know that song…well, there’s an internet for a reason.

Protein The Things I Cannot Hide EP

I listened three times before I typed a single word. PROTEIN took me back to a time and place that I wanted to hang out in for a while…so much that I kinda didn’t want to leave. That place still exists, it’s still vibrant, and the hardcore there is still enthusiastic and supportive. That place is not just where Poland’s PROTEIN comes from, it’s where they live, and that comes out in every one of the six tracks on their second EP. Modern youth crew, early ’00s posicore and classic ’80s SXE all come together on this release, and when I hear Rob shout “I try…I fucking try” after you drop the needle on the second side, I believe him…and I’m all in. The short blast of “For Us” was the winner for these old ass ears, but then the record closes with “Growing Distance” that conjures the very best modern HC comparisons. A fucking excellent hardcore record, but they make a point by ending with the track that makes it clear that there is definitely more to come.

Subdued Over the Hills and Far Away LP

The hype is completely justified on this one. Classic UK anarcho stylings injected with a fury and menace fueled by the new reality. “No More” is a perfectly sinister, cranked-up punk banger; “Wander In The Park” is a dark pogo masterpiece showered in descending guitars; it seems like every song stakes its own individual claim on the wax. Dark and brilliant, you’ll turn new stones with each listen…but the root of everything here is furious intensity.

Variation Four EP

Gloriously ignorant East Coast noisecore. VARIATION bounces between start/stop fastcore blasts and a low-end North American WANKYS irreverence. “No Way Out” is doubtless the choice cut, and shows that if they wanted to shed the noisecore tag and just be a force of intensity then they would be terrifying. Sixteen bangers in total, with exactly one song on each side over 60 seconds.

Heavy Harvest Iron Lung CD

I appreciate a new band that conducts a sonic examination of a thing that I experienced, as it allows me to hear it all again but through different ears. Switzerland’s HEAVY HARVEST are instantly familiar, and when they do things like the bass break into the added drums and then back into the punishing simplicity of the chorus to “Scream,” I’m like “oooh yeah, that’s the right thing to do there!” The sound is filthy and massive, UNSANE comparisons are inevitable on tracks like “Candy” just like you can’t not think of TORCHE when the hard driving hooks of “Oven” stop by in the middle of the disc. At the same time, Iron Lung is definitely their own, and vocalist O’Neal lays a distorted urgency on top of everything. This is their second release, and I do not see this band mellowing. Quite the opposite.

Grave New World The Last Sanctuary LP

All praise to New York’s Bitter Lake Recordings for bringing this masterpiece to the masses (though it sold out immediately and is already impossible to find). This 1991 recording is the sole output of Japan’s GRAVE NEW WORLD, which featured members of CROW, ASBESTOS and LAST BOMB. Churning, noise-drenched industrial metalcrust; every song sounds like an absolute apocalypse, and Crow’s vocals come off like era-appropriate Al Jourgensen stepping into the studio with The End…-era Crow. The assault of psychedelia is easy to focus on, and the externals surely help the record stand out, but it’s the way they tweak and torture the AMEBIX crust model and contort it into something completely their own that is what makes the record special. And essential release (and reissue)…now I just have to get my hands on a copy.

Science Man Tiny Tower EP

I first heard about these/this freak(s) recently from their Covid Collaboration with NERVOUS TICK and was planning to dig in anyway, so the Assignment Gods be kind this month. It’s like I hoped, and yet more reined in than I expected. Pop sensibilities crammed into bedroom punk recordings, like fuzzed out ’60s Nuggets amped up on all of the drugs (which is an ironic comparison, when you really think about it). Kinda hardcore, kinda garage punk, the drum machine (and tracks like “Changeling”) makes me think of late ’80s industrial/punk hybrids…imagine a collision of KARP and CHROME and SPITS and NOMEANSNO. Hail Freaks, Hail!

Cool Jerks England LP

After a couple of (excellent) cassette releases, the first full-length from COOL JERKS does not disappoint. The record is rigid, and as if someone went through and starched up some wild retro dark punk revivalists and made them feel like Warsaw in 1982. Lots of clean monotonous single-note guitars, Peter Hook (pre-1981) bass lines and wet, barked vocals ripped from the throats of your favorite sharply dressed anarcho punks. The hooks are here, and in great supply—the closer “Tigers and Birds” is a would-be (will-be?) hit worthy of TOTAL CONTROL comparisons, but the band’s vibe overall is decidedly darker and it suits them brilliantly. Stellar release, and I can’t imagine that this Leeds, England outfit doesn’t have even more up their collective sleeve.

Fyrkantsandning Andas i en Påse CD EP

Taking shit-fi to astonishing new heights, Sweden’s FYRKANTSANDNING offers three utterly unlistenable adaptations of hardcore classics from RAPT, DOOM, and SHITLICKERS, and one original criticizing Salman Rushdie’s sexual behavior. I think that the Rushdie track is the only one with drums or vocals, and perhaps only the RAPT and SHITLICKERS tracks have bass, but honestly it’s pretty hard to tell and I’m sure that’s the point. You have likely never heard “Warsystem” sound as fucked up (read: indecipherable) as it does here, and that is most certainly an endorsement.

Mir Express Pass Auf Mein Schatz / Tu Menti 7″

Instantly addictive hard-driving analog synth from Berlin. The label calls it “industrial boogie” and I’m pretty much helpless here because that nails their minimal dance aggression. The synths are dirty and dark, the clanging of early CABARET VOLTAIRE reinvented as dancefloor smashers, it’s a near perfect adaption of the sound—clearly drawing from (and emulating) the past but still sounding urgent and…present. Can’t gush enough about this one, except to say that two songs is not enough, and that the ridiculously limited “4 Track Mind” singles series from Tomatenplatten (this is Vol.02) are going to be the death of me. Superb.

Offside Reidars Offside Reidars LP

Back-to-basics, hard-hitting punk rock ’n’ roll. Even though the music is totally different, the vocals are the clear focal point in the same way that the first SENSUURI (or BAD RELIGION?) records are vocals/melody first, and riffs second. Then the riffs sink in and these Laplanders (that’s way up north-north) take a step forward… also, all of the songs are about hockey.

Mt. Vengeance Machines LP/CD

So often in these annals you can sum up a review in one short blurt. Indeed, take a look at the first few dozen issues and you’ll see reviews of stone classics that are two sentences long. Tops. So is the point of a Maximum Rocknroll review in 2020 to simply tell you what “it” sounds like and whether or not the reviewer thinks “it” is good……? Good question—and I clearly don’t know the answer or I would already be done here. Theoretically, it would go like this: “Philadelphia’s MT. VENGEANCE plays catchy indie rock that successfully conjures ghosts of late ’80s college radio alt.” Bass player was in ELECTRIC LOVE MUFFIN, which might mean something to a clique of nerds and/or middle aged people from Philadelphia (I fall into one of those two categories). Machines doesn’t sound like it’s emulating another era, it sounds like it was plucked out of one—and that’s a sincere compliment. “Noisy guitars, good left-field jerks in tempo and timing, a tension in the vocals that accentuates melody instead of eschewing it” would be the second sentence. “Super good record from a trio who know exactly what they are were doing,” that would be my closing salvo….theoretically.

Pig Sweat Pig Sweat LP

Imagine Berkeley’s CRIMINALS with metallic leads and an aggressive snarl replacing Jesse’s terminally adolescent sneer. Energy level cranked to ten at all times, this Swiss hardcore punk outfit delivers consistent power with lines like “Will never find peace with the way this world turns / Will never shut up, not till the day it burns” sinking in… riffs sinking in deeper.

Atomic Energy Commission Post Fax Nation 12″

What am I listening to? FLIPPER reincarnated the right way? My War through a Midwestern art/punk filter? I seriously don’t know, but the caterwaul of “Waldorf Hysteria” and the erratic madness of “Garbage, Garbage USA” keep me asking why? Asking what? What if 1983 MDC tried to do a Confusion Is Sex act for a Halloween gig? Seriously punks, ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION is creating a sound for whatever this reality is. Maybe not the sound…but definitely a sound. Because this reality is definitely not right in the head.

DN0 Inflation Now! cassette

As if Max Nordile (VIOLENCE CREEPS, PREENING, in addition to his solo efforts) didn’t make enough of racket on his own, he’s joined forces with folks from YOGURT BRAIN, TRASHIES, UZI RASH and a host of others to create….well, more racket. Mania captured as improvisation—free jazz as garage punk “drumming,” a mess of guitar dischordances and a bass that mumbles more than drives. It’s the confident unsuredness, the comfort in being (and creating) the uncomfortable that makes DN0 work. Captured live in October of last year, before the shroud was removed and we were all exposed, Inflation Now! could either serve as premonition of, escape from, experience of, or soundtrack to the current madness. I mean…if this is what punks do now then I guess I’m fine with the new normal.

Starving Wolves True Fire LP

It’s a shame that STARVING WOLVES seemed to take a bit of a back seat when the singer took over the microphone for CASUALTIES a couple of years back—thankfully this full-length should help put them back behind the wheel. We’re talking top-tier anthemic metallic punk; you can’t deny the hooks, the leads scream Sweden-by-way-of-Portland, and there are a few all-out rippers like “Get Bit” to satisfy folks who get turned off by a sing-along chorus. Certainly these are sounds that are most associated with the club scene/s, and True Fire makes a clear effort to open the door for starter punks…but in doing so they’ve made a record with the kind of energy that old fuckers might be craving.

Totally Fucking Gay Swallow Sperm CD

Once again, I don’t know how how to describe TFG. Pro-fucking, pro-gay, anti-normal electro drum-machine nonsense. You can’t not mention SOCKEYE as a potential sonic influence, and you can’t not mention the number of times that dicks and ass and seminal fluids are addressed. At length. Extensive Mike Diana artwork creates a diversion from the monotony of big dick monologues, just as on 2018’s Gag On Penis disc, but you keep coming back to lines like “cock cock cock cock cock cock, suck it suck it suck it, dick dick dick dick dick dick, swallow sperm swallow sperm” on the embarrassingly addictive title track…it’s a bedroom electro freak show clashing with sixth grade dick humor. You don’t know if it’s a joke—and even if you do know it’s a joke, you don’t know who is the butt end. So look at the cartoon dicks and butts and boobs and sing along with: “The president keeps his mouth shut / That’s OK I can give him a pass / We both know that behind closed doors / He loves big dick and man ass.” The disc is packaged brilliantly with six EP-sized risograph prints and a foldout of all of the artwork, which is (along with the videos) integral to the entire presentation. If nothing else, TOTALLY FUCKING GAY is, and continues to be, a thing.

V/A Damaged by Dez EP

Six track compilation of Dez-era BLACK FLAG covers. MANIACAL DEVICE’s “Six Pack” is solid but unremarkable. JESSE BLANKENSHIP BAND turning “Jealous Again” into a country-western twanger is…well, it’s fine as a concept. “Rise Above” gets a modern metal treatment from Puerto Rico’s VIEJA ESTRIPE. “Gimme Gimme Gimme” turns into a schlock rockabilly lounge turd when MUMMULA gets their hands on it. Someone has to do “Damaged I,” and PURE HEEL basically regurgitate it as it was, which is fine because it’s a pretty regurgitatable song. BETTY MACHETE AND THE ANGRY COUGARS breath life into “American Waste,” easily the best rendition on the comp. I still kinda can’t believe this is happening though.

Mass Arrest Power LP

The Tunes: No bullshit. East Coast hardcore and D-beat punk crashing headlong into the early FUCKED UP 45s. I’m talking “Police” production tweaks on Swedish hardcore, and Oakland’s MASS ARREST do it all with style. It’s an addictive record full of hooks, and those hooks are on fucking fire. “Liberation” is clearly the cut, with the organ dropping in just as you drop the needle on the B-side and hear Boo Boo yell “I’m living for liberation / I’m living with my fist in the sky,”  but don’t dismiss the record for the single. There’s a joy in the very songs on Power that is hard to describe, and perhaps it’s the intensity and the determination that makes that joy hit so much harder—like the fucking DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS bridge in “Black Identity Extremist” and the ’80s alt/pop melodies that permeate tracks like “New Town Drag” even through its distinctively tough hardcore chorus. The Band: You’re going to hear people talk about this time in our society for literal (as opposed to punk) generations. And of course the messages of Black Liberation on this record resonate particularly in this moment…but the determination is timeless, even if this particular record is a document of a time. Read the words, but don’t stop thinking when you put the record back on the shelf.

Permanent Collection Nothing Good Is Normal LP

Technological advances have made “solo studio projects” a thing of relative ease, taking the one-person band far, far from the traditional realm of one-person bands. Obviously there’s the purity of vision aspect, and on records like Nothing Good Is Normal I swear that you can hear it without even knowing the source—but there’s also something to be said for the process of trading ideas and approaches and influences that sets the group experience apart from a “recording project.” How does that relate to Oakland’s PERMANENT COLLECTION, started as a side-solo project of YOUNG PRISMS’ Jason Hendardy in the early ’10s and then evolved into a full band before deconstructing back into a solo project for Nothing Good Is Normal? Well, it helps and it hurts. The streamlined melodic punk by way of hard driving high energy grunge is killer, like the best early Sub Pop tracks all fuzzed out and with no boring rock bits—it’s great, like Yerself Is Steam, but on speed (that’s a MERCURY REV record from like 1990ish—it’s really good). The vocals, however, are ever-present and serve as a distraction more often than not—overly treated and laid over the entire mix like a blanket that suffocates more than it comforts. I’m being overly critical, perhaps, because the songs and the approach are familiar and everything is very well executed. Ultimately, if the ’rona-reality is that we are going to have a lot more “solo studio projects” in our music listening lives, then I could settle into this pretty nicely.

An Uneasy Peace Speaking in Tongues EP

I’ve heard whispers about this project, and was very excited to let it sink into my ears. A recording project featuring Lance Hahn (J CHURCH) and Stan Wright (SIGNAL LOST, DEATHREAT, ARCTIC FLOWERS), Dave Wuttke (DRUNKEN BOAT, LIVING UNDER LIES) and Mike Warm (DEFECT DEFECT, OBSERVERS), this was a collection of hardcore songs that Lance wrote, songs that presumably didn’t fit his vision for J CHURCH. The man was a master, a punk historian, aficionado and mostly a fan, and I can only imagine that the other players were more than happy to help him realize his vision. It’s great. It’s like Lance from J CHURCH writing hardcore songs. “Fighting Sleep” is the choicest cut, harnessing a TALK IS POISON-esque energy right from the opening breakdown, but ultimately AN UNEASY PEACE is ‘80s USHC steeped in anarcho-punk and ‘90s DIY…which is exactly what it sounds like.

Forbidden Wizards Reheated Cabbage 10″

Now we’re talking, freaks. Some snappy, jerky Dutch punk for your earholes. You’ve got East Bay Ray guitars, you’ve got FLESHIES attitude, you’ve got a fast, inventive attack that’ll drag fans of URANIUM CLUB and the like to the edge of their collective seat/s and dare them not to dance. FORBIDDEN WIZARDS don’t sound like they are trying to ape anyone or anything, they sound like they evolved on their own sonic island—an island where weirdness rules and flamboyance is celebrated…in other words: my kind of island.

Frisk Extinction 12″ EP

Sonic abominations FRISK spend most of this record relentlessly drilling wailing monotony into the grooves—closer to ’90s college nihilism than anything classified as hardcore, they manifest their manipulations on the six-plus-minute “Attachment,” a track that owes more to psychedelia than punk. It’s just that the wailing sounds so desperate that it can hardly being anything but punk. It’s a very intentional mess, with power electronics creating the foundation for some sections as much as the pummeling rhythm section does on others. While the short, disorienting bombast of “Extinction” is probably my favorite track, it’s the contrast between that and the long-form destruction that closes the side that makes everything work. It’s a taste…it’s not the meal. And I’m gonna go ahead and make the “WALLS do JESUS LIZARD” comparison that popped into my head, because after three listens it’s still there.

The Wound The Way of Death EP

Another killer from West Yorkshire’s Donor Records, born of the same cloth as the FRISK 12” reviewed earlier in this issue. The WOUND are fucking filthy and they manage to harness the greatest BASTARDization of a “Misery” chorus I’ve ever encountered. This is hardcore punk, but condensed and broken down to its most disgusting bedrock elements. Damaged (the record and the descriptor) guitars dominate, the bass rumble is magnificent, and the subtlety is akin to getting repeated (unwarranted) jabs to the face while in restraints. You know that low crouch creepy crawl mosh that you just know is going to turn into a brawl when the asshole fucks up the flow in the pit…? This is that, but pressed on wax. Repeated listens only increase the intensity.

Pionier Seriös Berlin cassette

This document is new to me, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have it in hand. Purportedly released as a promo only in 1981, the Berlin cassette by Germany’s PIONIER SERIÖS is an amalgamation of avant-NDW, repetitive beats and damaged synthesizers providing the background for a constant stream of spoken/chanted vocals (or manic howls, and always in German), the whole thing giving way to soft industrial dirges and no wave madness over the course of half an hour. True and genuine experimentation, not at all contrived, an exploration through and of sound, thankfully unearthed and repackaged by ZZK Tapes. Killer!

Dissekerad / Earth Crust Displacement Split EP

Two tracks of whirlwind Swedish kång from DISSEKERAD. The pedigree here is formidable (I’ll just mention AVSKUM and TOTALITÄR, because that should be more than enough), and the goods are worthy. A classic mid-paced cruiser starts off their side, and then they open it up with “Mardömmen Startar,” a pure fist-banging rager that leaves me reaching for 2015’s Mörkret Tilltar LP for more action. Germany’s EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT takes a little of the nuance out of the mix, opting instead for a relentless high-speed D-beat crust assault. Noisier guitars, and they don’t even take the time to warm up your ears with an intro—they just fucking unload. I like the combination of the two bands—different but equally effective approaches to a tried-and-true genre. The split EP is a much-maligned format (and perhaps rightly so), but this one is worth its weight in wax. I expected nothing less from either band, and they both delivered.

Last Agony Systematic Murder EP

Wow. The first vinyl offering from Toronto’s LAST AGONY drops like a thundercloud, three off-the-rails crash bombs on one side and a metal crust epic on the flip. A complete wall of sound, howling guitars and oppressive vocals masked by natural distortion delivered by intensity and not an EQ knob. This is what happens when D-beat is pushed to its absolute limit, and the result is incredible. Highest recommendation for fans of that great span between EXTREME NOISE TERROR and KREIGSHÖG.

Riot Cop The Violence CD

Cold, insistent anti-cop, anti-fascist punk from Portland. RIOT COP’s catchy, almost pop songs are the main selling point here (aside from the message). Seventeen tracks filled with hooks and a constant galloping pace, these are dark anthems for a new age. Guitars have an early Posh Boy vibe, but sound like they’re played through a 20-watt Gorilla amp (that’s a compliment) and the vocals are like (early) NAKED AGGRESSION’s repetitive call to action. A timely release, if nothing else.

V/A Th’ Gunk Stunk cassette

Experimental dirges, shit-fi noise and general sonic fuckery abound on this tape. Starting with a dose of formidable monotony from BONELIST, Th’ Gunk Stunk only gets weirder. Nine tracks in total, mostly enough outside the typical fray that it takes serious processing to even decide where to file them in your brain. One track is BRAINBOMBS through a Wheelchair Full Of Old Men filter, then before you know it you’re listening to no-fi no-wave DIY synth damage. As a sonic journey, this is exactly what you want out of a compilation tape.

Cyanide Tooth Midnight Climax Operation cassette

If I were to create the Cold War-era industrial subgenre, then New York’s CYANIDE TOOTH would be the flagship act. Dark, disorienting sounds treated with newsreel voice-overs, aural assemblages that predate the world of laptop-push-a-button “noise” in both approach and execution. And ultimately, it’s the execution here that sets Midnight Climax Operation apart. The climax (wordplay intended) of the tape is the churning repetition of the absolutely filthy burner “Techno Animus,” and the entire B side is taken up by a 25-minute disorienting collection of sounds and samples that leaves you exhausted as it whirrs to a halt. I wrote years ago that CYANIDE TOOTH would become a force when their vision was fully realized, and that time has come.

Didaktische Einheit Dosis 6 cassette reissue

More seminal avant-Euro sounds unearthed by the folks at ZZK, Germany’s DIDAKTISCHE EINHEIT lands somewhere between early ABWÄRTS and a damaged no wave/Krautrock experiment. Furiously cold and abrasive sounds, deceptive in their sheer subtlety, all recorded live in Holland and originally self-released in 1982. DIDAKTISCHE EINHEIT was short lived, but their output was formidable (at least six cassettes in 1982, before their lone LP the following year), and their ability to manipulate the act of experimentation should not be ignored. Highly recommended reissue.

Inkwizycja XXX 12″

One of Poland’s longest-running DIY hardcore bands, INKWIZYCJA has been active since the late 1980s and have only gotten heavier over time. The sound is decidedly commercial—sometimes resembling SYSTEM OF A DOWN (or HELMET?) more than anything from the North American “punk” scene/s, but the approach and delivery are nonetheless rooted in early Polish punk, and that influence is evident on tracks like “Pogrom” that closes the first side. Flip it over though, and “Wilk XXX” is a crushing modern hardcore number with a swarm of guitars that demands attention. Even though there are elements that I don’t necessarily dig, I appreciate the ability to veer in and out of easily definable genres, and the last song on the record could easily make me a commercial heavy/alt-rock apologist. Let there be no doubt that XXX is good—it’s very good—you just have to decide if your mind is open wide enough to let it all in.

Massgrav / Proteststorm Alter Schwede! / Din Tid Kommer Inte split EP

Six more blasts from Swedish grind mangel legends MASSGRAV—20+ years in the game and no signs of slowing down. There’s something special about the low-end Swedish DM guitar attacking the breakdowns like a buzzsaw, and when they tease your ears with a straight D-beat for the start of “Årets Rövhal 2018” and “Gasen i Botten” before exploding into machine gun blasts…just: ugh. On the flip, two-man recording project PROTESTSTORM features LIVET SOM INSATS and KRIGSHOT/NASUM members. Should come as no surprise when I say that the five songs on their side are a brutally stripped-down dose of unhinged Scandicrust. RAPED TEENAGERS cover to wrap up their portion of the assault—all of these dudes are just really good at this shit.

Antibodies LP 2019 cassette

This tape (along with the LP 2018 cassette) are getting the very warranted vinyl treatment from Drunken Sailor soon, and I look forward to dropping a needle on these shit hot grooves when that happens. Hailing from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, these mutants do a lot to cement my feeling that the Atlantic Provinces are producing some of the most engaging hardcore punk music in the fucking world (certainly per capita, but I digress…). Raw, high energy, blown-out hardcore punk rock in the most classic sense of the term, with just enough of the modern weirdness to make sure you know this isn’t just generic ’80s worship. It’s manic, it’s full of fire, and these jammers stick to you like glue. Certified banger.

Chat Pile This Dungeon Earth cassette

A sonic trash compactor squeezing the life out of all of their predecessors, CHAT PILE takes HELMET’s ability to riff and churn and BIG BLACK’s harsh industrial punk bent and manages to make it simultaneously inaccessible and infectious. I’m talking about a goth PAILHEAD or a black metal drum machine NIRVANA here, and it’s dragging me back to a completely different place and melting my mind. Both of the band’s 2019 cassette releases are to be put to wax by Reptilian soon, and I think the large scale format will suit them extremely well. And for the record, “chat” is a mining byproduct that has rendered parts of Northeastern Oklahoma toxic that belong to Native tribes and were destroyed by white capitalists. So a “chat pile” is a very repugnant thing…and that kinda sums up their sound.

Kalou The Sculpture Garden cassette

This is a compelling project—a collection of dreamy home recordings spanning five years and two continents—moments worthy of commercial stardom woven into ten indie/pop tracks. There’s a JESUS AND MARY CHAIN lilt to the vocals (especially on cuts like “The Thin Line”), and then a few songs (“Santa Rosa Transit Mall” particularly) descend into straight electronica. The seamless movement between twee, pop punk, and lo-fi DIY synth underscores how thin the genre lines that separate us really are…so perhaps KALOU is all of us? Or maybe I’m overreaching…probably not, but maybe. Almost every track here could be a “single” in the most traditional sense—just a cassette packed with hits.

Rinse Extended Play cassette

I love a release that’s tough to nail down. LA’s RINSE play spaced-out psych/punk, but I use both of those descriptors in the broadest sense. There’s a Doc Dart irreverence to the snarls, the off-kilter hooks drip with ’80s SoCal sensibilities, and the overall drive is sweaty and relentless, like if the BRIEFS played weird music instead of garage pop. Then they fukkn drop “Mall of America” in the middle of the damn tape, a 5+ minute slog that’s like SWELL MAPS meets ADOLESCENTS and I am at full attention. Slick and intentional punk, but supremely and superbly damaged. Good stuff.

Basic Dicks Dick Tape

There’s a lot to uncover here, and all of it good. Rock-solid drums and a forceful bass maintain the necessary foundation so the other three can unleash. The guitar downstrokes are like a machine, with single-note melodies and a lead that takes up most of “Slap,” and are likely the sonic focus of the release for the casual listener. For the front of the band, I don’t know whether to concentrate on the power of the dual femme vocals or the visceral wit of the content, but they are part and parcel—fury sometimes hits the hardest when it’s demeaning and tongue in cheek, and this is where BASIC DICKS excel. The attack is smart and spot on, assailing the male narrative as it relates to (or defines) assault, objectification, and the narrative itself.

Holehog Radiation Blues cassette

Nothing less than exactly what you expect from just one quick look at the cover, Sacramento’s HOLEHOG offers up nine bursts of street punk with studs ’n’ snarls. UK (like GBH) collides with US (like DEATHREAT) with zero bullshit and riffs for days and the only thing sharper than the sonic delivery is the honest intensity in the vocals. Members of SSYNDROM, MONSTER SQUAD and others for those keeping track, but HOLEHOG are making a pedigree all their own.

Low Card De La Muerte El Paris Savage Video Violence CD

Nagoya’s LOW CARD DE LA MUERTE have been raging outside of the North American consciousness for years now, but hopefully this monstrous full-length will put an end to that and place them firmly on our radar. It’s hard to describe how much energy there is crammed into this little piece of encoded plastic, but the songs explode off of the disc and never (ever) let up. Their blazing hardcore has elements of early ’00s thrash, delivered with an ear toward their Japanese forebears and tongue firmly planted in cheek. Songs like “Massgomi Operations” leave you breathless after a sub-30 strafing and “VxAxCx” shows their mastery over weirdness, making the sheer bizarre insanity of the construction sound like it belongs. Fifteen tracks (in fourteen minutes) followed by a ten-song rehearsal recording that could easily stand as its own separate (and equally killer) release. The rehearsal takes are raw, even faster, more straightforward and pack just as much energy, which gives the entire full-length a feel like you’re listening to a band splitting a set with…themselves. I am seriously blown away. 2018’s El Paris Radio Massacre Sessions disc was great, but this is one of the best releases I have heard all year.

Man-Eaters Carbona Guerilla demo cassette

Hard to call this a mere demo since it’s already been given the pro-tape treatment by Pissed Off! in Malaysia, but here’s the latest from the TARANTÜLA/CÜLO family tree (technically the “latest” would be the Gentle Ballads… LP on Feel It, but I’m referring to the band itself). These kids have now doused themselves completely with rock’n’roll fluid, and perhaps this band is the match. Comparisons to ANNIHILATION TIME are inevitable, though our Windy City friends lean more heavily on a straight-ahead, four-on-the-floor lifestyle led by a relentlessly reverbed lead guitar. Punk disappearing in the rearview mirror, drugs and volume abound…this is primo gutter rock.

The Uncivil Society Spectral Semiotic Sound CD

Extremely fucking confusing full score one-person production that “strives to recreate Phil Spector’s wall of sound” while acknowledging in the accompanying zine that Spector himself was a complete prick. Oh…and somehow the artist (“GORILLA X”) approaches the project through the lens of MINUTEMEN’s Double Nickels On The Dime. Spoken lyrics as astral poetry makes the release sound simultaneously advanced and amateurish…but mostly confusing. It’s a psychedelic space journey version of all of the above, with extensive notes, lyrics and images to help guide you.

Crush Crusher I Wish Punk Was Dead cassette

A much delayed review for this 2019 piece of Bible Belt brilliance. Oklahoma City’s CRUSH CRUSHER sounds like a product of their environment, the result of their collective pasts. Frustrated and manic hardcore punk played with the conniving mystery that comes from needing to find alternate ways home sneaking through alleys, and the ferocity that is learned when you get caught. The songs (and delivery) are chaotic, with distant vocals as if shouted from a different room—the result is a primitive but massive sound that “bigger” bands struggle to replicate. Twelve tracks, clocking in around thirteen minutes with an indescribably weird CRASS cover as a closer. Recommended.

Disable …Slamming in the Depths of Hell EP

Damn—a solid decade of disbeat noise from Atlanta’s DISABLE? I welcome it just like I welcome these six bursts of manic distortion into my life. It would be easy to keep cranking out amped-up, mindless D-beat distortion (and I wouldn’t mind), but DISABLE pays attention to the little things: the bit of weird chaotic melody before the stop in the title track, the start/stop that opens “False Flag,” turning “Death’s Head” into slow-motion robotic repetition instead of making it the mandatory mid-tempo stomp that every D-beat record seems to have. The closer, “Whistling Death,” is interrupted by noise, but it sounds like it was actually interrupted instead of some calculated electronics-not-music exercise to prove they aren’t just a run of the mill D-beat band. All of this is to say that DISABLE are, in fact, another D-beat band, but that they’ve used their ten years (and counting) in the game to create something different (and dare I say “interesting”) within the confines of the genre. Killer slab.

Fist Fight on Ecstacy The Next Batch EP

Drug-fueled SoCal metallic punk. The majority of the songs are fast, but they are most interesting when they slow down (“Being the Elite”). Vocals are just slightly off time some of the time, which gives them a realistic feel. Like a weird doll facsimile of a thing that you thought you liked until you saw the fake version. Maybe you work with some squares who know about commercial punk, like, just enough to know the difference between radio “punk” and BLACK FLAG and stuff. Well, this is what they think you’re into when you tell them you’re a punk.

Yambag Posthumous Pounce! LP

This is this shit that my jaded-ass reviewer ears are looking for: relentless fastcore. Guitars are clean and super fukkd up sounding, drums have a HELLNATION-meets-teenage-blastbeat awkwardness (and they are kinda recorded like shit in the most endearing way), and just 25% of the tracks top the 60 second mark. Put me in a space machine and send me back to 2001, but with all of the anger I feel in a 2020 reality, and boom I’m ready for some fucking YAMBAG. Choice track: “(O)Possum,” but there are seriously no clunkers to be found here. Thank you!

Disavow Disavow LP

Total collision of preconceptions and aesthetics here, and the dust is still settling. Sweden’s DISAVOW are nothing if not impactful, which is to say that I bolted up straight as soon as the intro was over—the demand was instant and undeniable. Modern straightedge hardcore, with roots that reach for MODERN LIFE IS WAR instead of the first (or secod, or third?) waves of ’core, and with a serious fire lit under their ass, and DISAVOW sound real, which is what makes them feel special. I think the term “post-hardcore” probably applies here as well, but this is just an altogether massive slab: intense, honest, emotional, powerful music that needs to be listened to from start to finish, and repeatedly.

E.A.T.E.R. A Momentary Relapse For No Reason CD

There’s some serious latitude given here, since ERNST AND THE EDSHOLM REBELS were responsible for a couple of crucial ’80s Scandinavian slabs, but this disc is utterly forgettable. The guitar leads are interesting, and are mostly enough to hold my interest, but the majority of this is artificially overproduced slog that actually sounds like a record made by some dudes who recorded a killer EP in 1984 (fun fact: they did), and then developed a taste for commercial stoner rock as adults. I like a couple of the modern releases, most notably 2013’s Abort the System EP, but this one just doesn’t do it, and that’s before I even get to the twelve-plus minute “Dirty Waters” that closes the CD.

On the Might of Princes Where You Are and Where You Want to Be LP

Monumental in some circles, 2001’s Where You Are And Where You Want To Be has been reissued with a few alternate takes and one previously unreleased track. On the one hand, I think this music is exactly why Tim Yo drew the line at STILL LIFE years ago—an emotionally and inwardly-driven band whose songwriting lent as much to melodic/indie/pop sensibilities as anything found lurking under any “punk” umbrella. On the other hand…who’s to say how big that umbrella should be (cue endless debate in 3, 2, 1…)? Not trying to peel away the importance (or quality) of the release, however. ON THE MIGHT OF PRINCES made ’90s screamo their own, “their own” enough that it holds up and sounds fresh and relevant twenty years later. The melody dominates, and songs flow between anguish and romance and harmless metallic riggage so smoothly that the entire record could almost be one opus (to be sure, this is the case for many devotees). The bonus material falls into the “fans only” category: the alternate versions are essentially just less-produced demo takes, and the unreleased cut “Hell or High Water” is good, but pales when compared to the rest of the record. Suffice to say, that this is not a release for me, but I openly acknowledge the importance, the impact, the intensity, and the void left by the loss of frontman Jason Rosenthal in 2013.

Cock Pliers Sex Traffic Rush Hour LP

Blasting grind insanity that asks more questions than it answers. The keyboards are understated, but give this Minneapolis outfit an occasional mainstream black metal sound that is a sharp contrast to the abrasive atonal machine-gun blast attack that dominates most of the tracks. Like PG.99 and SOCKEYE combining forces to cover KVIST…a truly weird collection of instrument/alists (eight of them…? Maybe?)…or maybe a one-person bedroom project. Songs include “Meat Fukkr,” Man Bun in the Oven” and “Circle of Sodomy,” which should get you headed in the right direction. I made it to the last track, “Dick Chisel,” and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m listening to…which is absolutely a compliment.

Sam Egan and the Perineal Excoriations Junior Police Academy Fundraiser LP

The assignment gods are punishing me for being late with my reviews I suppose, because I can’t even tell what I’m listening to. Wildly addictive pop sensibilities, wildly nonsensical synth freakouts, drug-addled construction, capture and (especially) presentation—equal parts JONA LEWIE and AN ALBATROSS? Does that even make sense? Add DJ LEBOWITZ and a shitpile of meth, maybe. Of course they’re from Binghamton, New York…where else can this exist? Chickasha, Oklahoma? Yeah…a couple of tracks sound kinda like DEBRIS cast-offs, so I just went there. You do me, I do you. Also, apparently this LP is “three-sided,” so throw that on the weird pile and get fukkd up.

Body Farm / Slut Bombs split EP

There’s no shit going on here but the realest fucking shit. Insanely fast, high-energy hardcore punk that starts full speed out of the gate with BODY FARM’s “Mass” and seriously does not let up—if anything they get more intense when they slow down for the middle of their their side. The kind of slab that leaves you trying to catch your breath, and I’m struggling to inhale the rest of this band’s output all at once. On the flip, SLUT BOMB are great—very ’90s DIY political HC vibe, all over the map with femme/male trade-off vocals and wild wanks that crash recklessly into raging blasts. No genres for either band—no sonic constructs, either.

Kaleidoscope After the Futures… LP

This one dropped last year and justifiably popped onto more than a few folks’ 2019 “best of” lists. New York’s KALEIDOSCOPE has taken the screws to modern hardcore, not so much reinterpreting or combining elements from various crucial points in the historical procession of fads and subgenres, but reinventing them altogether. What if Pick Your King had been born of the Crass Records scene, for example? After The Futures… is nothing if not a complete album as opposed to a collection of tracks. “Feeling Machine” closes the first side with a perfect dose of driving desperation. It’s the kind of track that is supposed to end a side—after listening to Shiva (guitar/vox) spit fire for two minutes and then drop into an “Indecision Time” caliber micro-lead, you fucking need the break that flipping the wax mandates. They are more than capable of dropping a killer hardcore record, but there are only shades of that on this full-length, enough to make sure that you know that they know, but KALEIDOSCOPE are bigger than that. Experimentation and freedom; existence within the construct while altering the expectations of same. You’re gonna hear people talk about jazz, about psychedelic free-form nonsense when they talk about this record…but make no mistake: this one is Punk. With any luck, this one is The New Punk that will spawn a new generation of imitators who also get tired of doing what they are supposed to do, just like KALEIDOSCOPE did.

Sadie & the Wives Unique? EP

This….this is where I want it to go. You’ve got the modern fury—the weird kind. The stomps that lurch into unintentional D-beats and the vocals that are so treated they sound like a Sun Studio reverb room in a horror flick. But there’s also Los Angeles 1979 nihilism and effort crammed in here—and I mean “effort” like they are determined to head full-fukkn-speed straight into that wall of nihilism that is absolutely going to destroy them. Bands like this don’t typically last for more than a couple of singles, and I suggest getting on this train before it implodes. Listening to SADIE & THE WIVES sounds like you’re in on a secret, like you’re hearing something special, something dangerous. They’ve taken hardcore and made it sound like it was alive.

Chiller Dread Creeps In EP

These kids get more fierce with each release. Fast, nasty hardcore punk from Pittsburgh, CHILLER kills it with the breakdowns, drop the leads in where they belong, front everything with ’80s Midwest HC vocal intensity, and they barely pass the 60-second mark in the process. “Whistler” is my choice cut with its disjointed riff and disorienting beat, but there are no bad choices here.

Nervous Assistant Bitter Pills LP

Imagine a collision of ’80s SoCal and ’80s Berlin, not quite one or the other enough to not stay on the bridge. The hooks are there, but so is the stark darkness that creeps through even the upbeat numbers. NERVOUS ASSISTANT keeps it fast and keeps to the shit-hot guitar-based hooks instead of leaning on tonnage or production—not to say that Bitter Pills doesn’t sound great, because it does, but the focus remains on the songs. Makes me even more bummed that I walked into Eli’s as they were wrapping the last song of their set a couple of years back…

Red Star Ranny Pacierz Towarzysza: Live 1985-1986 LP

It still blows my mind how many artifacts remain to be re-discovered from the Communist-era Soviet Bloc countries. Two live sets here from RED STAR (who I had never heard of before this release), screaming Polish hardcore punk with melodic undertones that draw equally (if accidentally) from Minneapolis and London, but the meat here is pure fury. “Bohater” is SIEKIERA-level hardcore power, and the quirky bits of other tracks owe to ŚMIERĆ KILINCZNA. Give “This Is Poland” a proper studio recording and its anthemic simplicity would easily resonate for 35 more years, and I continue to thank Warsaw Pact Records for making these recordings available.

Slutavverkning Arbetets Sorgemusik Del III EP

Freak times call for freak music, and Stockholm’s SLUTAVVERKNING delivers exactly that. What if essential Swedish catchy punks like MASSHYSTERI were really just band geeks who loved ZAPPA? And saxophones? Because this shit is hopelessly addictive, crazy catchy, and the bizarrodust is sprinkled over every aspect of the mix. “Kollegor” encapsulates the whole approach—wild, driving ScandiPowerPunk verse right into a sax-driven art punk/hard bop chorus, with a TRAGIC MULATTO-worthy crescendo to finish. The record comes with a handful of inserts and a mini poster, personal touches that remind me of the things that used to make me excited about punk…and still do. Get wild, young punks; get real, real wild.

Vlack Wake Up / Worm 7″

Strangely infectious and undeniably powerful platter on my turntable right now. Massive guitar-driven stomps with a hardcore bent—I’m thinking early ’00s not-quite-commercial not-quite-kickboxing-bro-core, maybe even a touch of emo. “Worm” is the dark brooder, while “Wake Up” hits hard and keeps hitting. For scope of appeal, VLACK lands somewhere between MODERN LIFE IS WAR and UNSANE, and carves out their own sound  and approach in the process. Criminally small pressing of just over 111 because…the internet.

Asocial Föralltid Underground LP

Holy shit this is a beast. Sweden’s ASOCIAL left a criminally limited discography in their wake when they disbanded in the mid ’80s, but their return a few years back with Död Åt Kapitalismen was a welcome kick in the ass…this one, however, is light-speed kång. Föralltid Underground is so damn fast, and the riffs are just deadly in their simplicity and execution—this is literally a perfect record. Only two tracks top the two-minute mark, Berggren’s vocals are fueled by a fire akin to early DISFEAR, and the transition from primal ’80s ScanD-beat fury to 21st century power has only made the guitars more deadly. The drums in the title track alone are worth the price of admission—a veritable clinic on hooks and raw power joining forces…much like the entire LP. Raise your collective fist.

Июльские Дни (July Days) Китеж cassette

Present-day reinterpretations of ’80s dark wave/synth rarely sound as perfect as Июльские Дни. Synths are heavy and omnipresent but never overbearing, vocal delivery is stark and cold, demanding and earning attention, while guitar melodies ripped from Top of the Pops soar the band to new heights. Everything is held together with a rock-solid rhythm section, creating a feel that’s suited to the darkest corner of the dancefloor as to an ’80s movie montage. They are reaching confidently for a sound…and they succeed.

Ooloi From the Dust, A New World Emerged, Barren and Awaiting Our Sorrows digital LP

Experimental and/or improvisational free jazz (?) steeped in punk ethos and sonics. A vast expanse of sound, feedback and electronics shrouding erratic drums while guitar and wind trade compete for melodies. The middle of “Jonah” approaches PAINKILLER-level heaviness and ominousity before departing on another leg of their journey through sound—a journey that ends with a raucous, almost six-minute stomp titled “Funeral Rite.” That track (and the release) descends more than it ends, a surprisingly gentle landing that reminds you just how far off the ground OOLOI took you.

Ricky Hell and the Voidboys Ricky Hell & the Voidboys LP

Drug-induced garage and/or bedroom rock brilliance from Ohio’s VOIDBOYS, fronted alternately by Ricky Hell and/or Ricky Hamilton (who are most assuredly not the same people…unless they are). Why is the lead instrument in “I Luv It” a clarinet? This is just one of the (many) questions that you will have after listening to this banger—but mostly you’ll be asking “where can I get more?” Several of these tracks are from the Killed By Ricky tape that most of us will never own, an indescribable collision of dream pop and infectious two-chord punk and a laser-sharp focus on a good hook. CHROME meets ROKY ERICKSON meets the SPITS. There, I said it.

Rivers Edge The Runaround cassette

The e-blurb from the label pretty much sums it up: “Region rock is alive and well in 2019.” Chattanooga supergroup drops their third full-ength cassette in as many years—infectious rough/melodic vocals, ultra produced and perfectly dirty wall of guitars, and more hooks than any self-respecting punk would know what to do with. If you know where they come from, then you likely already know the band. And if you like where they come from (SEXY, ADD/C, THIS BIKE IS A PIPE BOMB, FUTURE VIRGINS) then it shouldn’t surprise you when I recommend this release. I know their legacy is formidable already, but their craft is becoming dangerously refined…which is bad news for exactly no one.

Veils Wellwisher’s Tongue EP

Colossal hardcore from Manila—their debut EP was an absolute killer, but last year’s follow-up will leave you on the damn floor. VEILS hold weapons in their arsenal to level listeners with speed and power, but it’s the restraint that make them stand out—like a more nuanced INTEGRITY, they offer their tonnage with an inward intensity before unloading. “Svvarm” is the perfect example, an intro followed by a drum roll that only hints at the blasts, breakouts and breakdowns that are going to fill the next three minutes. Dangie’s vocals are gruff and dripping with fury, pushed to their absolute limit like the band themselves while the guitars fill every bit of space on the record, dominating in their very presence. Intentional and honest brutality that sounds (and feels) very very fucking real—an excellent record.

Brain Toilet Painmaker cassette

This North Carolina outfit pops up sporadically, but they seem to leave a pretty nasty mark when they do. Oppressive old school grind brutality that imposes itself upon the ears. Seven cuts, and not a relaxing moment to be found. Choice cut: “Underbelly.”

Dateless Extreme Brewed Crash Cooled cassette

Hard-driving NZ rock with serious and generous (or seriously generous?) Aussie overtones. After a long drive down a dusty road, when you walk into the only bar you can find just as the sun is setting…this is the band playing. This is walking out of solitude and into a wall of beer and humanity. DATELESS are raw, primal….DATELESS sound like rock’n’roll.

Észlelés Középtempó Radikále EP

Art/noise manifested as hardcore punk. I feel like Budapest’s ÉSZLELÉS are taking modern-day squirmy punk and giving it a KILLDOZER/FUGS makeover…with horns, and with lots of drugs. A swinging good time, to be sure, and these kids are making punk sound very fukkn weird again.

Kids Born Wrong Giallo cassette

Raunchy garage punk giving a nod to slasher flicks on this five-songer released last year. I can’t place the warbly tenor in the vocals, but there’s a rockabilly reference that I couldn’t shake (or identify) throughout my listen. A different tweak on the recording and some serious songwriting chops would start to shine, but I appreciate that KIDS BORN WRONG seem content (or determined) to stick to a horror punk delivery.

Pink Grip Hedera Helix EP

As good as this whole thing is, the mid-paced sinister trudge of “Spithead” is pure gold. Vocal snarls hold the spotlight throughout, while erratic beats challenge your ability to squirm and discordant guitars only increase the tension. Only four cuts here, but there are enough feels to last a couple of full-length platters—demanding and destructive hardcore punk from Scotland. And seriously…“Spithead” is unbelievable.

Terra Soror Revenge cassette

This one is reeeaaalll good, y’all. UK femme punk trio with an inimitable but instantly familiarly awkward stomp with roots reaching for sharp anarcho/post punk and early Polish hardcore (seriously, “Shapeshifter” after the intro could be a lost track from the Fala comp). A swarm of downstroke guitars are the focus, even as vocals stab through the mix with sharp, urgent bursts. TERRA SOROR might land in the sonic void between dark DIY rehashes and early-’80s UK independence, but what they are really doing is creating their own space, and I hope they continue to fill that space with more sound, because this is absolutely fantastic.

Urin Incydent EP

The embodiment of bombast, Berlin’s URIN drops hard and never let up. Blown-out, manipulated, affected, tortured, ferocious, noisy hardcore peaking constantly. The kind of record that makes you gasp when it’s over…because you realize that you’ve been holding your breath.

2 Lazy Boys The Recline of Western Civilization LP

East Bay label Deimos nails it in their promo blurb: “Calling back to the Geek Fest era of the Oakland punk scene!” And boom!—2 LAZY BOYS go instantly from a bizarrely compelling alt/indie/art twee trio to fukkn visionaries. It’s all about context….like when you sink your teeth into tracks like “Suck a Day’s Dick” and the true-crime story “Juggalos vs. Nazis.” Unquestionably flawless songwriters, with an air for irony and lyrical irreverence that pairs nicely with hit after would-be hit. This is not the record I would expect to even like, much less gush about, but this soft pop with a country/folk tinge (and one burst of chaotic hardcore on each side) has me hooked. “The day’s a selfish lover / The sun never shines under the covers / Then you wake up feeling sad.”

Circle Pit Pushed to Revenge CD

Ripping beer-soaked Texas thrash metal. CIRCLE PIT is from Austin, and what do they sound like? They sound like a thrash metal band from fucking Texas. Real heavy on the Four of a Kind-era DRI, creeping into Thrash Zone even, these rippers go easy on the solos and only slow down for the occasional pit-activating chorus (I’m talking “Killdozer” here). Vocals reach back a couple of decades for influence, skipping modern screams and landing in the late-’80s thrash department—it suits them well. Get fucked up, go hard, wreck shit, this sounds and feels real.

Cross Control Outrage Culture EP

This thing starts so dark and ominous that I checked the RPM indicator on the label twice before CROSS CONTROL dropped in with a wall of ’core that brought me to my knees. This is straight-up, no-bullshit mosh-heavy hardcore à la early Bridge Nine (and, before that, New Age Records) with a commendably inward lyrical insight. The crew vocals are in full force, and even though this LA outfit is pure devastation when they take the reins off and let it out, I think it’s the fast parts justified with the unreal low end that makes CROSS CONTROL stand out. Extremely fukkn solid debut release.

Enzyme Howling Mind 12″

You know what’s up here—manic non-music hitting you like a hammer. Rapid-fire drums only seem to stop between songs, firecrackers exploding through the mix erratically while everything else is either distorted or flanged to oblivion. It’s a complete assault that will exhaust even a casual listener (try seeing it live), but the thing that sets Australia’s ENZYME apart is the fukkn tracks. The title track is an insanely catchy pogo banger, followed by “Decadent Hogs,” one of the most relentless scorchers of the last decade that’s still catchy as fuck. The bass is the regulator, holding everything in place and directing the chaos…not an easy task when the chaos you’re a part of just hoists the banner of noise punk higher and higher. CONFUSE? Sure. DISORDER? Naturally. But ENZYME has evolved.

Gipsy SS Intergalaktikus Fajtalálkozó EP

Remember what AMDI PETERSENS ARME did to stadium crust somewhere around 2000? Well, perhaps distortion-drenched noise punk D-beaters are about to take a back seat if this Hungarian band has the same impact…and if people will simply listen, then I’m sure they will. Smart, chaotic, catchy, freaky, erratic and damaged post and/or art punk injected with an absolutely unreal energy that leaps out of the grooves. Dirty (not distorted) guitars struggle to follow drums that are determined to steer clear of anything close to a “normal” beat while the bass often takes the lead—and all that madness makes it hit even harder when they all miraculously fall into the same groove (it doesn’t happen often, which just makes it more special). GIPSY SS sound like no other band, which just a small part of their appeal—they grab you and swing you around your own damn head…this is the energy that punk needs.

Heavy Breather Worser LP

Can you imagine a convergence of PINS OF LIGHT, CRIMINAL CODE and Hidden World-era FUCKED UP? Massive guitar-driven rock, gruff earnest vocals sharing space with ever-present guitar leads and I’m gonna call myself crazy here, but every so often that fool sounds like Rollins. I basically kept this one spinning off and on for a few hours, and I think my only complaint is that HEAVY BREATHER is essentially mono-tempo…but it’s a good-ass tempo. “Same Blood” is the go-to track, except that it ends just when I want it to drive that damn chorus into my brain for an hour. So I listen again.

Nowaves Good for Health Bad for Education LP

This is darkness in the right way. What I mean to say is that NOWAVES sound like they exist in a shroud and/or shrouded by smoke—sounds composed in the physical and metaphorical recesses, presentation that struggles to harness a primitive determination. NOWAVES will certainly appeal to goth revivalists with cuts like “Empty Sorrows” that focus on the synth and that ’80s dancefloor swing, but it’s all in the context of a record that mostly lands somewhere between EA80/GRAUZONE and WIPERS. Although the record is not overly layered, I notice something new every time I listen (WARREN ZEVON meets the CURE vibe on the title track, for example), which only encourages me to listen more.

Shotwell Dead Bats CD

I challenge you to find a San Francisco DIY institution more honest, more real, than SHOTWELL. Jimmy Shotwell has been a fixture and a presence for what feels like forever, and in SHOTWELL’s 25-year existence they have gone through countless iterations and incarnations while he somehow makes me feel like it’s 1996 every time I run into him. Musically, this is perhaps the strongest SHOTWELL release since the MIAMI split (which is—gulp—almost 20 years old). The ska parts are aggressive, the hooks are scraped off the streets, and the lyrical bite is as on-point as it’s ever been, weaving social, personal and political into one suffocating blanket. “Mystery Trip” is the choice cut, a painfully dark number that will be the most lighthearted number on the disc if you don’t look deeper. Rhythm section (currently Steve/GITS on drums and Fucko/STRYCHNINE, NAKED AGGRESSION on bass) is perfect, laying the foundation for a sonic journey through the sometimes filthy streets and often uncomfortable history of San Francisco.

Staflos Corporation Occupation CD

Weirdest release since the DREADEYE LP. Damaged drum machine hardcore clashing violently with computer chaos, tortured trap beats and made-in-the-closet four-track punk. There are a lot of things going on here, and then they drop a perfect no-fi freak punk banger like “Suddenly! Utterly! Crumbling!” and it puts all the other weirdness into a different context…even though I’m still not entirely sure what context—so I listen again.

Rip It Up Morbid Laws LP

Not sure how a record released in France this past summer so instantly reminds me of mid-‘80s Chicago punk…but it does. And not even in a way that I can quantify or really explain, it’s just something about how it hits me. It’s catchy, but the teeth bite you hard and sink in—vocals are gruff and urgent while the whole recording swings even while it rocks, like NAKED RAYGUN and LES THUGS collaborating. Good shit.

Sierpien Торжество (Triumph) cassette

Driving, mid-tempo dark punk recorded in 2015, almost like a missing link between ARMIA and the non-hardcore SIEKIERA record, but SIERPIEN are Russian and not Polish. The more you listen to this, the more their stripped down sound sinks in, and it’s nice to see that their recent material is even better.

Sonic Warhead Bleed Runner cassette

Demented raw punk stompers from Indonesia. SONIC WARHEAD embody that “everything is about to fucking die!” energy that so many bands try so desperately to conjure. The sound is honest, urgent, powerful, and the tracks are light years beyond sick. Everything sounds weird, sounds off; in other words, it all sounds perfect. This is the second offering from SONIC WARHEAD—guitarist Dovandri sadly passed away after these tracks were recorded, but there are more offerings in the future. Rest (and live on) in Power, and thanks for the riffs.

Swan Wash Swan Wash cassette

Brooding goth with an underlying ferocity that exposes punk roots—at least I hope that’s what I’m hearing. If you deconstruct, some of the tracks tweak components of outlying commercial genres and present them as Faith or Juju-derived darkness, and it totally works. If simple, stripped-down, murky dirges with Pearl Thompson guitar melodies floating in the aether are your cup of chamomile, then Indiana’s SWAN WASH have got you in their sights.

Tap Water Straight from the Tap cassette

I swear that before I looked at the internet, I thought “These freaks sound like they’re from Buffalo.” Turns out, these freaks are from Buffalo. Total tripped-out post-punk, but in the truest sense of the term, like “this is what happens after punk.” Like TRAGIC MULATTO with ska parts (and also with a trombone, like not just as an accent instrument, but like a full-time trombone), TAP WATER are the genuine article.

Adderall Big Pharma vs. Adderall EP

Seven and a half(-ish) minutes of North American squirmy millennial hardcore punk. Manic, down-picked riffs played to straight 4/4 on (pharmaceutical) speed and loads of echo on the short, filthy vokills. The riffs are tiiiiiight, and if you like your shit to land between LUMPY and NOSFERATU, then this one is your 2020 banger, kids.

Antimob Ένα Μίσος Γεννιέται / Πριν την Παράδοση 7”

Greece’s ANTIMOB just keep getting better. Last year’s LP was incredible, but I swear that these two songs released in December are even better. Absolutely epic and mesmerizing hardcore punk. Roots in dark European crust and galloping Japanese hardcore have grown into a fucking forest of riffs and chugs and guitar hooks and desperate vocals, and ANTIMOB just sound massive on this single. The A side starts strong and ends with a clenched fist, and the B side is even better, even if (especially) because the last 30 seconds are spent just letting the instruments ring out, and it feels like you are floating. A splendid release throughout, mandatory for fans of thee black-clad heavy.

Union Jack Violence 10”

The melodic, rough (and annoyingly catchy) vocals clash with the jangly forceful UK alt/indie guitars and fit right in with the anthemic drive of the rhythm section. Too many “whoa-oh”s of course (it doesn’t take many to be too many), and the weird quirks in tracks like “Poison Me” serve to make Paris’ UNION JACK even more perplexing—also it makes them more interesting. Weird how something that presents this professional and this vanilla can ultimately sound this, well, weird. Choice cut: “Vasectomy.”

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Crystal Violet Violet Night

Hard-driving late night psych, somewhere between HAWKWIND, PHARAOH OVERLORD, and the WIPERS. High praise for this solo project from New Jersey, but CRYSTAL VIOLET focus their (his) vision before they pull back so when they (he) lets loose there is nothing lost or left behind. Even interlude passages like “Mercy Of The Mountain” and “Flux” serve as important components of the overall presentation. Repeated listens reveal even more nuances and encourage deeper digging. Recommended.

Destinazione Finale In Bilico Nel Reale LP

Blistering Italian hardcore, tight as a drum and just catchy enough. These thirteen songs are gone in a flash (the final track is the only one that touches the two minute mark), and the amount of awesome they cram into that lightning fast package is simply staggering. TOTAL FURY’s 13 Songs is a partial comparison perhaps—clean, ripping and uncompromisingly catchy hardcore punk with a subtle sprinkling of ’80s thrash. This was my first exposure to the band, and now I’m on a serious hunt for the demo that came out last year. Anyone holding?

Fail Sons demo cassette

Serious question: are they intentionally speeding up the chorus of “Americans”? Because it sounds so weird and so totally awesome that I really want it to be intentional. Anyway, FAIL SONS are catchy and urgent punk, seemingly fine-tuned for the club circuit (in a good way, it means that they are on top of their shit), with dual guitars doing the dance while layers of vocals alternate gruff and sweet harmonies all over the damn place. It’s a really straightforward formula, and it totally works. Also, it turns out the drums speed up awkwardly and for no apparent reason on a few other tracks too (most notably “BP Oil Spill Of Human Misery”), and I love how it makes everything feel kinda uncomfortable.

Fever Dream Horror Scene Fever Dream Horror Scene cassette

More brooding goth from Indiana. See also: SWAN WASH in this section, who share a guitarist with FEVER DREAM HORROR SCENE, and I’m going to guess that said guitarist has a lot to do with the direction of both bands. Similar melodies circle around the tracks, but this one starts slower, gloomier, and is decidedly less danceable. Things pick up slightly after the two opening tracks, both in tempo and energy, and male/female vocals play off of each other more than at the start, but it’s almost like they are trying to comfort you after bringing you so far down. Distorted guitars and meandering ’90s college rock (MERCURY REV, Homestead Records fodder, MY DAD IS DEAD) play a greater role in tracks like “Relinquary” and “Nascar,” so much that the band feels like they are floating (or fighting) towards an unattainable crescendo. Spend some time here, it’s worth the investment.

Execution South East Asian Tour cassette

Furious distorted hardcore kneeling at the altar of ’80s Italian hardcore, but seemingly incapable of shaking their modern raw fastcore tendencies. The result is completely unhinged in all the best ways imaginable: guitars are chaotic (I mean, the riffs are chaotic, if they even exist at all) and the drums defy description—listening to this is like listening to a good hardcore band fall apart. On purpose. And they do it within the construct of the songs themselves instead of relying on distorting everything just for the sake of chaos. Australia’s EXECUTION create the chaos. A demo from 2017 demo and a 2018 EP, both from Hardcore Victim, all crammed into a plastic shell for EXECUTION’s Asian tour by the folks at Pissed Off Records. This is a beast, please don’t snooze.

Irreal Fi Del Mon 12”

With a start that makes even the most casual listener take note and wonder if they are about to be washed away by a tsunami of ’82 Italian hardcore, IRREAL set their scene before they even make it through one riff…and then they get better. Relentless, pounding drums that dance (like, literally you will want to dance), as the band crashes into and through an array of Southern European punk influences and art-damaged DISCHARGE reinterpretations. So tormented are these guitars, it’s as if the person playing them is attacking with frustration, trying simply to make them sound like they are supposed to—and when you deliver breakneck D-beat (“Ruines”) with that kind of fury, the results are terrifying. IRREAL is the product of several stalwarts of the Barcelona scene, so it comes as no surprise that Fi Del Mon is good—and still when “Maisons” closes the show, there’s nothing I want to do except start from the beginning. Highest recommendation.

Network76 Insanity cassette

It’s like late-’80s DC crashing full speed into late-’80s California. Like BEEFEATER and BL’AST. Heavy rock’n’roll vibes, but ferocious punk energy, and an enviably nasal vocal snarrrrrrl. Only four cuts here, but they close with “Tired,” which makes me anything but tired. No contact info on the tape, but these cats are from Amsterdam and are recommended!

SA90 Overkill EP

Three doses of California punk with spoken/shouted female vocals and a distinct cowpunk vibe driven by Billy Zoom-goes-hard rock guitar damage. The vocals are demanding, the band is loose in all the right ways, and I swear SA90 sound like NAKED AGGRESSION meets More Fun In The New World (sans vocal harmonies, of course). These are sounds made for being in the bar…and being drunk…and getting wild.

AninoKo Ugat LP

I’m just going to say that ANINOKO is the most important band in the Bay Area. Their shows are events: families, kids, activists, punks…their community is represented and their community is present at their shows, and that community is open, welcoming, and supportive. Their hardcore is full intensity, and they somehow managed to cram that energy into these tiny vinyl grooves so effectively that I get chills when I hear Jesse’s bass start “Buhay At Lupa” just like I do when they play live. A band made up of Filipino immigrants, singing in Tagalog and confronting issues that directly impact their community and the Filipino diaspora. They just do it a little faster than most activists. ANINOKO doesn’t just fill up space with their hardcore, they open up space for themselves and everyone around them to grow. These people are real, this music is real, and this music is fucking important.

BKS DIY TNT EP

Hi-energy fastcore with (occasional) melodic bits masked by sheer speed (It’s a proven and effective technique, and I support its implementation). A solid Cappo yeeoowll creeps in at times, just as they’re about to unleash, and they do a nice job of dropping catchy breakdown and intro riffs into the mix to keep things interesting. Eleven tracks here, and not a shred of bullshit to be found (the CRO-MAGS cover is completely unnecessary, but it’s still not bad).

Droids Blood Be Free LP

They want it to sound like a troupe of aliens giving some hard-driving garage punks a lap dance, and that’s pretty much where they landed. This thing has a frustration that almost conjures Revolution Summer (take “Half Sacrifice” as an example), and a driving force that dominates even the less chaotic songs. And speaking of those supposedly mellower moments, “Rotary Phone” is one of the slower tracks on Be Free, and it is an absolute stunner—a simply incredible track. Keyboards are subtle, intensity is constant, and even the moments that venture into indie territory are still just odd enough to keep them outside of any predetermined box. Closest modern comparison I get is DASHER, who were also in your face and in themselves at the same time. DROIDS BLOOD are worth way more listens, and I imagine I’m going to develop other opinions long after these words are public. For now, I’ll say that this is great; drop me a line in a few weeks and I’ll tell you the rest.

Flag of Democracy FODWorld LP

Just to be clear, we are talking about a band who the DEAD MILKMEN referenced on their first damn record…which came out in 1983. We’re talking about 37 years of essentially constant activity. I reviewed the No School No Core full-length last year and it was great, so I dropped the needle on FODWorld with high hopes. I was not let down. Fast, loose hardcore punk with a little more snot and melody that reaches back to their ’80s catalog. Nothing but respect from these ears, and I look forward to the next one.

Nukkehammer A Distant Hissing In Your Ear EP

It’s been an eternity since I’ve heard from these Ohio mongrels, and they haven’t gotten any nicer. Biting critiques masked as sarcasm, all delivered with a relentless noise punk fury. Guitars tortured more than distorted, drums like a hellish thunder, and multiple vocals that spend more time in conflict than in harmony. This is the leather clad raw pønk that dominated the blogosphere airwaves and basements ten years ago, but NUKKEHAMMER still offer their wares with isolated originality and a learned intensity. And I still love this shit.

Carlos Dunga / Eat You Alive Carlos Dunga vs. Eat You Alive split EP

Absolute ripper in the form of an Italian fastcore split. CARLOS DUNGA inserts weird chuggas, unnecessary but awesome solos (and they open with a straight classic rock guitar solo intro that had me scratching my head before the ’core started) but basically deliver face-melting fastcore of the highest order. EAT YOU ALIVE are more metallic and “pro,” they look more to MUNICIPAL WASTE than to ___, but ultimately both bands just want to rage. And so they both rage. Also, I think this came out a number of years ago…

Bad Jesus Experience Kaikki On Hyvin LP

A few weeks ago, I had to choose between a Hungarian band playing at a bar in Oakland and a Finnish band playing at a bar in San Francisco. Life is hard. I chose the Hungarians only because I was more familiar with them, and while I don’t think there was really a “wrong” choice to be made, listening to this BAD JESUS EXPERIENCE record really makes me wonder what I missed out on. Discordant intensity—stark, cold, erratic, desperate and unbelievably fukkn’ powerful. It’s like an otherworldly collision of ’00s European metalcore (ACME, AKEPHAL), chaotic ’90s California screamo (HEROIN, MOHINDER) and Scandinavian bands like BURNING KITCHEN and TO WHAT END?, and I just keep trying to figure out what in the world they are going to do next. Note to self: next time go see the Finns.

Black Egg Mind Control Losers cassette

Oh yeah, this one is the real. Space age desert drenched psychedelic garage madness. Just when you think you’re on board, you hear “I don’t know who the fuck I am / I wanna die / I think I’m losing control of my mind, I wanna die / Say / I wanna die!”, and then you strap yourself in, because the opening title track is only the start. Paranoia-drenched OBLIVIANS-type jams that just sound so damn alive that all I want is more. More mystery, more rock, more of that plodding repetition that sounds like a clear, cold sky seen through the honest filter that only reality-through-drugs can truly expose. And mystical feelings aside, the jams are gooooood punk, like really good. Like you-wish-you-wrote-it good. But you didn’t, so just listen and you take yourself to that place. It’s a glorious place, and there aren’t many of us here, but make yourself welcome.

Crush Crusher Q: Are We Not Muppets? A: We Are Maniacs! cassette

Some people like their punk high-end and frantic. If you are one of those people, then Oklahoma City’s CRUSH CRUSHER are your new favorite band. The CRUCIFUCKS cover fits right the fukk in, which might give you a nice starting point, and the primitive ’70s-style Midwest punk showered in jangling guitars dominates in the best way. This is music born in basements, this is music that is never meant to leave basements. Never mind the pink cartoons on the cover, and get to ripping.

Faultfinder Brother’s Milk LP

Looks killer—dark, brooding, mysterious…makes me think it’s gonna be pretty heavy. I like heavy. The lyrics set the tone before the needle even drops, as I peruse “Cum In Me, Bro” and “Moist Clue,” taking everything in before I succumb to the sounds, and then it starts. More pained, more frustrated, more overwhelmingly negative that I even thought. Awkward guitars like a drunk NEUROSIS outtake, layers of vocals that bluntly make me feel uncomfortable, and an uncanny ability to keep control of a pace that so desperately wants to let go, but mercy is nowhere to be found on Brother’s Milk—it’s all awkward. At its roots, this is simply a heavy rock record, but those roots have borne something so much more ominous. Crushing tonnage in word and execution, it’s an exhausting listen from start to finish.

Healthy Competition Vol. 1 cassette

Quirky überdorks retaliate, freek punks unite, true weirdos activate, challenging music bring to the fight. Imagine some Rough Trade talent scout meets D. Boon and/or Will Shatter at a TEENAGE JESUS gig in ’78 and says, “yo, check this fish-needs-a-bike single BLURT is gonna release in three years” and those California dudes just run with it. Weird, right? I don’t think Rough Trade employees said “yo” in 1978, but you get my point. Also, I’m guessing HEALTHY COMPETITION, being from Minneapolis, have seen URANIUM CLUB more than twice. Bloviating aside, this demo is really good, and sets a dangerous expectation for future success.

The Illiterates Demo cassette

Adolescent New York punk that properly uses a tried-and-true formula: simple box riffs, honesty, and energy. The cover of BAD RELIGION’s “Along the Way” helps to place which brand of punk they are going for, and while it’s easy to imagine these kids developing into a style that’s more “commercial” and less “punk,” in their current manifestation it sounds like some teenagers bashing shit out in the garage. The ILLITERATES (all fourteen and fifteen years old) are the first band on Poop Stick records, started by a nineteen-year-old to chronicle the young bands in his hometown (respect).

Inferna Demo cassette

Another killer band from Oklahoma City, makes me wonder when punks outside of the Bible and/or Grain Belts gonna start paying attention. Relentless bleak crust unhindered by fashion and trend, INFERNA make black metal guitar sound like they belong in a 1-2-1-2 hardcore stomp just as the chaotic structures sound completely at home breaking up the would-be-monotony of by-the-numbers nihilism. Check the fukkd bass that ushers in the brutal four plus minute reality of “Insurmountable Barrier,” and you are reminded what honesty sounds like—as in “this is what we are giving you, and we are giving you everything.” Raw and real, which is exactly how I like my punk.

Kina Troppo Lontano e Altre Storie LP

Matt, Ken, and Andrew put KINA into historical context last month while touching on three other LP reissues from one of Italy’s most often overlooked but arguably essential acts. This one is a reissue of a 1996 CD that was in turn a collection of the Troppo Lontano EP (1987) and splits with the ACT, HOETH CASTLE and the SPHERE recorded between ’87-’91. While the off-the-rails Italian rage is tempered slightly, and Billy Bragg and/or HÜSKER DÜ-styled acoustic numbers appear on both sides, this is still an essential blast that chronicles the birth and growth of a band who’s importance is probably more pronounced in hindsight than it ever was at the time. Perhaps it’s precisely the acoustic tracks and the temperance that make this one so good. Not every band warrants the reissue treatment, but KINA most certainly does.

Ξέρα (Ksera) / Noma Split EP

Filthy low-end grind from NOMA (the first track is titled “Mincing the Agony,” and they just go from there). Only slightly more nuance from Ξέρα (KSERA), with three (untitled) tracks of harsh start/stop hardcore that relies heavily on whirling guitars and loose, erratic construction. Both bands hail from Greece, and both sides of this split led me down rabbit holes to hear more (the NOMA split with Canada’s RAMPANCY is especially worth seeking out).

Rat Trap Demo 2019 cassette

It’s 2019. It says so right on your own tape. You can’t open your demo with a cover of “Wild Thing.” Like, I don’t know if there’s been actual legislation passed that has codified this cultural understanding into law, but…seriously? Just don’t do that. You set the zero bar so damn high that I don’t even know if the rest of your demo can possibly get me back to where I was when I pressed play. But I listen anyway…and grudgingly, I have to admit that despite your ill-advised opener, RAT TRAP, I am now on your team. Knuckle-dragging hardcore punk at its most primitive: loose, ugly—the kind of music you want people to hate. And I’m sure that some of them do…so you win (for what it’s worth though, I think y’all fukkd up the opening riff to “Wild Thing”).

Scum Guppies Total Release cassette

Hell yeah! Maximum energy and truly fukkd garage that wastes just a few minutes of my life before fucking back off to Cleveland. Damaged and full of shit-hot rock’n’roll, just the way Rust Belt punks are rumored to deliver their goods (the rumors are true). It’s like Carl Perkins got kidnapped by the NEOS and then spawned East Bay Ray in the middle of a time warp ’60s California desert acid experiment. The shit is wild, the shit is fast, the shit is out there, can you dig it?

Shaka-STD Shaka-STD cassette

Whooooooaaaaa kiddies, slow down and take a look at this shit hot fire from America’s Heartland. Another mandatory offering from Oklahoma, as SHAKA fukkn rage their way through breakneck off-the-rails thrashcore of the purest variety. I mean, the drummer changes beats in the first track simply because they can’t keep up—the shit is that fukkn fast and theymatch the speed with riffs and power and I’m just floored. Reminds me of CANKRO, but it’s faster, and that’s saying something. Can people stop talking about New York and L.A. and shit and start looking at the true freaks? Because I’m telling you, punk, the freaks are our only salvation.

Snakes 5 Song Demo cassette

Chaotic and aggressive hardcore is king. I mean, this is obvious. But when a band settles into melody, I want to hear HÜSKER DÜ and MOVING TARGETS, and that’s exactly where SNAKES land, with tinges of FUEL (and/or Dischord) in the mix to keep me guessing before they launch into more power. They maintain the balance well, and SNAKES spend five short tracks making their point and then exiting confidently.

Musclegoose No Country for Old Buffet cassette

I wish the name weren’t so dumb, because the band is damn good. Tinges of ’90s Sacto punk (LIZARDS, SEWER TROUT), but it also reminds me of the Middle America scenes where you can actually do whatever you want because none of you are cool anyway. So who fukkn cares if you are equal parts JESUS LIZARD and KRUNCHIES? You’re from Arkansas, and no one except some middle aged twerp in California is going to take you seriously anyway. But I do, MUSCLEGOOSE…I truly do.

Miami Death 2 Miami Death II cassette

Holy shit this is a monster. Washes of deadly noise interrupted by bursts of some of the most disgusting grind and powerviolence I have heard in years. Everything is presented in the context (not the confines) of a burly hardcore band, with intros and breakdowns that make me weak at the knees, and then they blast off (or implode?) the moment you start to feel comfortable. Germany’s MIAMI DEATH 2 are a complete assault on the senses.

Needle Shattering Retinal Matter cassette

Ripping grindviolence with obligatory metallic intros. File alongside Gulf Coast Power Violence fodder, and when things get a little too chaotic and disjointed? Well, that’s pretty much the point of extremity. Choice cut: “Inter-Dimensional Game of Suffering,” if only because that guitar break is so unbelievably sick.

Особые Условия (Usobye Uslovia) Страх Уйти Без Сожаления cassette

Brilliantly brooding Oi!/goth with equal parts BLITZ and MISSION waging a war for a place in your cold dark heart. North Americans who went googoonuts for SYNDROME 81 earlier this year take note, because as good as those French punks are, Russia’s ОСОБЫЕ УСЛОВИЯ (USOBYE USLOVIA) are absolutely the real fukkn deal. This release is from 2016, but somehow that makes me even more excited.

Quaker Wedding Demo cassette

Backpack clutching, back-and-forth swaying, gruff vocal singing, melodic JAWBREAKER liking throwback punk rock that harkens to a time and place that I consciously chose not to participate in. There’s nothing bad about QUAKER WEDDING, and all opening sentence tongue in cheek jabs aside they are totally better than just fine at this thing, but…I keep waiting for something to grab me, and nothing does.

Total Losers (Do You Remember) Youth Energy? cassette

Talk about an appropriate title. (Do You Remember) Youth Energy? captures adolescent innocence and unabashed fury, and somehow in their homage they manage to harness the adrenaline as well. And the adrenaline is key. Think early BAD RELIGION or DOA, delivered with honesty and precision. This Finnish act does what they do shamelessly, and I love them for it.

Witch-Hunt Darkened Anthology 1992-2002 CD

The bio included with this disc tells me that WITCH-HUNT was founded by two brothers in 1992, but had zero original members by 1997—which is kinda weird, but I digress. The anthology offers fifteen cuts of ferocious and honest death metal that spans their recorded output from a raw two-piece demo in ’93 to a keyboard-heavy black metal offering from ’02 that sounds like HECATE ENTHRONED. The best era fell in the middle: more technical, yes, but that’s just to say that they eschew the knuckle-dragging style so common (and commonly revered) in the genre, and concentrate on shredding. I’ve seen the name tossed about over the years, but this was my first taste, and it was delicious.

Without Empathy Without Empathy cassette

Oh hello, grindcore. Thanks to the Heartland for breeding the discontent that created this ten-song cassette, because the grind is so filthy, I think most coastal elites won’t be able to handle it. I can, of course (barely). Duh. Because these are my roots, and I understand, but still… damn. Armed with a colossal low end, samples, and a ton of hatred, bassless Oklahoma duo WITHOUT EMPATHY waste no time getting straight to the brutality. The chugs alone should be enough to sell any purist (and/or punish any poser), but hold onto yer pantaloons when WITHOUT EMPATHY open up, because this one is an absolute motherfukkr.

V/A DGHD-50 cassette

Why not celebrate your 50th release with a 30 track compilation? From freakout synth jams to jerky garage punk to… well, there’s lots of jerky hi-energy garage punk, but that’s fine. There are also several tracks that scream early ’90s college/alternative rock (SAWA MELON, RIOT PUNCH), but they scream it really well, and there are legit hardcore slammers like LECHE in the mix, too. Packed entirely with bands I had never heard of, including MEAT SWEATS, WASTE MAN, COUNTY BOYS, LUVWEB, UNCLE JESUS, BETTY GOOP, PROM THREAT and waaaaaay more. DGHD-50 packs a shockingly favorable ratio of excellent : interesting : forgettable for a compilation with 30 new-to-me acts. “Commodity” from LATE and KNIFE HAND’s “Big Rig” are among the killerest cuts I’ve heard this month.

Cliterati Ugly Truths//Beautiful Lies LP

I feel like after a few releases, Portland’s CLITERATI has finally made the record that they were so close to delivering with Nuked At Birth and the VIOLATION WOUND split. Searing hardcore punk tinged with ’00s coliseum D-beat and fist-banging metal, all delivered with fire and with a positive fury that does more than talk about how fukkd everything in the world is. There’s beauty in the anger, and Ami’s vocals on tracks like “Trans is Beautiful,” “Unfuck the System,” and “Latinx Taken” are perfect examples of turning anger and frustration into power. Sonically, Ugly Truths/Beautiful Lies is a straight ripper. Period. But the full package (including Sugi’s cover art) is what really puts CLITERATI over the top. Full endorsement.

ISS Alles 3rd Gut LP

Sharp North Carolina damage that sounds like it’s coming from an entirely different dimension. Doses of CHROME, early Goner, ERASE ERRATA, FLIPPER, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN—ISS are all over the damn map, with slow nihilistic dirges, fast and snappy garage power jammers, and a tendency for dark pop in the face of super fukkd up sax solos. In a world of by-the-books, flavor-of-the-month bands (and genres) taking the DIY world by storm, it’s refreshing to hear a record that is just going where the sound takes it—also, this record is extremely fucking punk. And punk is still cool. Choice banger: “Outta My Gourd,” if only because it stands out as a neanderthal slammer in a field of weirdness.

Holy Shit! Not My Tempo EP

Almost twenty years on, and Milwaukee’s HOLY SHIT! only seem like they are getting faster on the eight-track Not My Tempo. Midwest hardcore sensibilities come out on “Learning How to Fight,” with Eric’s double snare taps dominating the verses. DIE KREUZEN comparisons are not out of line here (not just the geographical similarities), and they still can’t seem to write a simple track if their lives depended on it. ”Climbing Up Butter Wall” with the weird ass time changes, “Shut Up Matty” with the herk/jerk in the verse, the churn of “BBLLOOWW,” it all puts you on edge and refuses to let you just rock. HOLY SHIT! are about making you feel weird. Extra points for making every non-sonic aspect of all of their records seem like an adolescent attempt at “baby’s first punk seven inch,” with lyrics about stupid friends and doing stupid shit and high school-caliber cover art pretty much across the board. It’s all part of the charm…and also, Tony is so out of tune in “Narrow The Goal,” that it hurts my brain. See? Even after I talk about how great they are, HOLY SHIT! still leave me with a nice “fuck you,” and I appreciate that.

The Beekeepers Song Demos cassette

How do you describe something that’s just simply “dreamy”? I mean, can I just say that a band that plays upbeat and innocent sounding punk drenched in UK88 keyboards is “dreamy” and leave it at that? I’m talking the LA’S and/or HOUSEMARTINS meets Nuggets level swoon over here, and I am borderline in love with the BEEKEEPERS. Bonus points for covering “Frantic Romantic” (the SCIENTISTS), but these kids didn’t need any help winning my heart.

The Fog Reconsider EP

Euro straight edge on a seriously sinister bent, this seven-song slab (plus an intro) from Germany’s the FOG treats you about as nicely as a bag of bricks swinging around knee level in the pit. Thick, throaty vocals and a painfully mid-paced attack that seems steadfastly opposed to unleashing…which means that I basically spend the entire fucking record on edge. Waiting. Tense. In other words, the FOG cranks out traditional meaty hardcore without owing anything to anyone. This is what we like to call “success.”

In Dire Fucking Straits January’s Kids LP

What do you say about a record that reminds you of Sarah Kirsch and KING MISSILE and some commercial version of SHOTWELL-by-way-of-WEAKERTHANS? Yeah, I don’t know either, to be honest, but by the time I was finished trying to figure it out I realized I had listened to the whole damn first side twice….and I was kinda liking the weird sporadic tambourine. IDFS is truly endearing in their shameless honestly, and that honesty wins out even when I admit that I don’t exactly need the tracks in my life. Anthemic and sweet and tongue in cheek, but never shite or trite—let this one sink in and you’ll be rewarded.

The Throwups Male, Pale ‘n Stale LP

It’s like hard-hitting grown-up garage punk, but kinda without the hard. That just means that the THROWUPS toss the contrived “heavy” vibe that a lot of alcohol-soaked dirty-guitar-driven rock’n’roll bands rely on, and they substitute killer tracks and an earnest intensity that makes them feel more…real. On the way from MENSCLUB to FUEL, there’s a bridge between discordant powerful punk rock and filthy ass bars…the THROWUPS are playing their hearts out on that span. Plus the “Tuba Practice” track just makes believe that these are my kind of people.

Exithippies Stoned / Stoned Again 7″

Bizarro ’80s electronic dance music on the A-side (à la YELLO or AARON CARL). Blown out noise-not-music song-free shit-fi crasher crust on the flip. If you pay attention, then you should expect nothing less from Tokyo’s EXITHIPPIES. And if you are uninitiated…..? Well, then why not start here? At least you get both ends of the spectrum and you’ll never be surprised by another release from these maniacs again. It’s over as soon as it starts, and it’s pretty damn brilliant—boundaries of what we can music need to pushed, and these fukkrs just keep pushing.

Laxity / Torpur Split LP

Discordant and truly damaged sounds from LAXITY. Primitive, fukkd, minimal jerky shit, bordering on art/post-punk at times and leaning towards shit-fi Midwest basement hardcore at others…their side is a truly original sounding piece of madness and I find myself hesitant to flip—because what if the other side is a stinker?! Instead, TORPUR is more damaged, more fukkd, more aggressive. Not more awesome, mind you, because these two bands are carefully presented in compliment, not competition, but the intensity level ramps up notably here, and nuance is replaced with distorted stomps and terrifying demented vocals. Both bands are from Poland (and all of these tracks have appeared on tapes that I now desperately need) and successfully tweak—and, in the process, fully own—North America’s take on squirmy mysterious punk. Literally the only negative thing I can say is that this 12″ is limited to 100 copies.

Aluminum Knot Eye Neutered and Declawed / Pantherman 7″

These Milwaukee garage psych freaks are no closer to assimilating than they were when they started more than 20 years ago. It’s almost as if this slab is meant to draw a clear line between themselves and whatever you think is normal. Howling shrieking monotonous chaotic no rules roots punk owing as much to SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS as to MC5, and with a pretty damn straight screaming cover of the ’70s Dutch glam proto-bonzer “Pantherman” on the flip, make no mistake that ALUMINUM KNOT EYE are going to continue doing whatever the fuck they want for as long as they want. High-energy monotony of the highest order.

Hepcat Dilemma Art Imitates Life LP

Outsider sounds. This would have fit nicely on the Alternative Tentacles catalog circa 1989. Professional and/or professorial art/poetry with meandering guitars leading “compositions” instead of songs and/or tracks. This falls somewhere between TRAGIC MULATTO, ZAPPA, and VICTIMS FAMILY.

Retortion Terror / Worm split CD

Technical modern metallic hardcore from WORM, legit mainstream shorthair metal appeal in more than a few parts. Fierce technical grind from RETORTION TERROR, inhumanly fast during the hardcore parts, and then they grind, sometimes with spoken (almost rapping) vocals. A chaotic listen from start to finish—both bands are from Japan, and the whole thing clocks in just over fifteen minutes.

Ammo Nausea Nightmare cassette

I think I can probably list the song titles for a band called AMMO and you wouldn’t need any other encouragement. “Life Crime.” “Nazi Pope Nazi Pain.” “End It All.” See? Ultra-fast, relentless hardcore punk with desperate vocals (and lyrics) and eye-popping riffs. No bullshit, no pretense, this is hardcore that makes you stand up and go “wait, what the fuck is happening?” like DIRECT CONTROL did when they dropped out of heaven nearly 20 years ago. I have a feeling there’s more AMMO coming, and if they can set a bar like the breakdown in “Known Unknown” on this demo, then I can only imagine what kind of destruction we are in for next.

Chow Line Life of Extremes cassette

Clenched-fist destruction of the highest order. Somehow these freaks manage to inject mid ’00s heaviness into modern stomp hardcore,and they make everything real fukkn fast. CHOW LINE is really really good, like a bulldozer digging up fukkn buzzsaws-level good; the kind of demo that makes you tired just listening to it. Up there with the LIFES 12″ in the “I don’t want to listen to anything else” category this month. Don’t snooze.

Compressions Death Spiral cassette

High-energy US hardcore punk with a nice greater Bay Area vibe—I’m thinking somewhere between ECONOCHRIST and BL’AST. They never unleash, but the guitars sound like they are constantly fighting to get out of a cage, and the vocalist earns the mid-era FLAG comparisons likely heaped upon him from listeners and watchers. The more I listen, the more I like it.

DPBS Stairway to Community cassette

Ultra limited-run tour tape released last year. The power of The Internet can still connect you to these space indie sounds from Montreal. Dreamy and just a little bit noisy (sometimes) prog-punk with a decided groove, like a basement punk WOODEN SHJIPS or something. It’s good, man, I swear…and I would have enjoyed seeing this band on their summer 2018 tour.

Lifes Treading Water LP

Serious contender for my favorite hardcore record of the year over here. Milwaukee duo LIFES have been plugging away with EPs and splits for several years now, and they apparently had been waiting for this one until it was perfect. It is. Sonic destruction of the highest order, with discordant slows and blasts that are nothing short of punishment. Layers of bass tracks are at constant war with dual vocals and drums that struggle to maintain one beat long enough to get you hooked…so instead you just stay anxious. The doses of early ’00s influence come from the chaotic melodies in tracks like “A Four Year Old Contemplates Death,” while the shameless speed and power (and the crushing slows as in “Bitter Cold”) of LIFES that will likely get them lumped in with bands they sound nothing like…well, that’s when they truly sound like no one else. Brutally honest and unforgiving and often uncomfortable lyrically, the voice is delivered with arguably more fury here than the music, which is presented with a fucking massive recording, and any space left in the sound is perfectly filled with sound or samples à la MOTHERCOUNTRY MOTHERFUCKERS. A completely excellent and very intentional release that I cannot recommend enough. The title track, “Treading Water,” is on repeat all damn day.

Pisser Breaking Chains LP

Ferocious lowest-common-denominator crossover thrash. You’ve heard the riffs before, and you’ll love them this time too. You’ll also love flares like the half-time tempos in “Nightcrawler,” particularly the one leading into the ripping solo. The recording is cavernous and treble-heavy (think the first DESTRUCTOR 12″) and the vocal yowls land somewhere between ACID and BITCH, which is a very, very tough place to land. Choice cut: “Willing Victim.”

Positive Citizen Tension cassette

I thought I was in for more indie rock when the guitar intro started, instead I got distorted melodies and in-the-red youth frustration. POSITIVE CITIZEN sounds like a dozen bands I played with in the late ’90s: punk and raw and pissed and determined, but determined to write catchy as fuck punk songs instead of determined to level the place with volume or riffs or whatever. Just doing the damn thing and doing it with heart. These bands can tip the scale either way, but this one is a winner.

Trash Everything Is Trash cassette

Yup, this is hardcore. Nasty ’80s California meets destructive ’00s Ohio from this outfit made up of kids from, well, California and Ohio. Oxnard, meet Parma (in this case it’s Baltimore, Ohio, but let’s not split hairs here). It’s manly, it’s bombastic, it’s fast, it’s slow, it makes young men want to murder each other. There’s probably blood, and the vocals are real throaty and fukkd. It’s good.

Red Threads Out Of The Blue cassette

Soulful freak punk with a casual absence of pretense. Early no wave/damaged post-punk with some awkward funk thrown in, fronted by performance art freak vocals that move effortlessly between Lunch and Kekaula. I can see this in the context of 1990s indie just as easily as 1980s New York, and it sounds like it completely belongs in 2019.

Warsh Demo cassette

Forceful hardcore punk. Shouted female vocals, some excellently weird riffs and construction, and it’s generally tough as nails. WARSH hit that typical stomp just enough to lure in the flavor-of-the-month kids, but it’s just a trick they’re gonna use to smash your face with a deadly buzzsaw guitar and insanely good tracks. It’s like NO THANKS planted “Fuck Everything” on Prince Edward Island (that’s in Canadia, the way eastern part) 35 years ago, and WARSH just waited until it had fully matured. Highest recommendation.

Western Death Sick Century CD

The meaty chugs of mid-’80s NYHC clashes with melodic gruff vocals and wailing leads, while the heart of Sick Century is high energy catchy ’core along the lines of SNFU or BOUNCING SOULS. Worth noting that these kids hail from Medicine Hat, Alberta—a town the cops quite literally tried ran us out of on tour in ’96, but that was a different century. This century is a sick one. See what I did there?

V/A Kinda Sorta Music 2019 CD-R

20-band compilation CD-R—a format that I simultaneously curse and adore. The disc starts with garage punk, then raw hardcore, then blackened grind/crust…so you know you’re in for a wild ride. There’s weird industrial (FUTURE SCUM), pure noise (O.S. D’VIL, OLIGARCHY OF MEGALOMANIA), shit-fi garage (the GREAT SADDNESS), psychedelic drum machine party punk (HURT HAWKS), some lost BAUHAUS shit (UFO WHISPERER) and plenty of straight hardcore and/or punk burners (the RIGHT, DEAD BABIES). Literally something here for everyone, and I missed more than a few highlights in this review. Kinda Sorta Music is all over the place in the best way, and well worth the two or three emails to kindasortamusic@mail.com that it might take to get a copy into your own hands.

Obedience MMXIX LP

If you paid attention to the 2016 demo, then you pretty much know this 12″ platter is going to be good. Well, it’s better than that. A ten-track juggernaut, with Dave’s vocals cranking out frustration and wisdom at a pace and ferocity that rivals ’82 MDC. There’s an amped up Oi! undertone that sneaks into the mix here and there, which only serves to make their unhinged rage a little catchier than it probably should be…and makes bangers like “Wall Me In” hopelessly addictive. For reference, this Austin band features members of TEAR IT UP, CONCRETE, SEVERED HEAD OF STATE and BREAKOUT…you know, in case you needed any convincing.

Proletariat Punch Crapitalism cassette

If my first thought is “hmmm, kinda has a feisty Spiderleg Records vibe,” then things are going well, right? PROLETARIAT PUNCH is primarily (I think?) a recording project, and they’ve been cranking out offerings for almost a decade. This one sticks with me more than last year’s Intifada EP; they charge full-speed through every track (there are just four), and at their tightest moments manage to exude a touch of PENI lurking under a pounding early DISCHARGE beat. It’s a relatively simple formula, but it really works here. Recommended.

Pink Guitars Hand CD-R

At their height, this Buffalo, NY recording project reminds me of the atonal spacious presentation of ARMIA’s Legenda, while most of the time it’s some feisty bedroom four-track punk with goooood riffs (“Above It All”) and some questionable vocals (also “Above It All,” unfortunately) that sound like they are going for ‘82 DC on a recording that is light years from ’82 DC in almost every way. If nothing else, PINK GUITARS keep me listening so I can try to find a way to describe what I’m listening to…this is something, you see.

Salty Dry-Rub cassette

How do you describe hipster punk delivered by actual nerds? Not ironic nerds, but people who are nerds because they have no other choice in life. Dry-Rub is synth heavy, there’s the VERUCA SALT vibe that dominates (it’s really a WIRE / BUZZCOCKS vibe, but that’s a different decade and a different story), and there’s the overwhelming feeling that you’re own perception of cool is getting completely skewed by listening to SALTY. Decidedly un-hip hipster garage/psych music that should be for the masses.

Sendo Fogo Sobreviver a Lutar CD

Ripping fastcore, the way you want it and they way it should be delivered. São Paulo’s SENDO FOGO slow it down to a punishing pace when necessary, and it just makes the controlled insanity of bangers like “Abaixo Do Chão” come off even more face-melting. Blasts drop in a few times, but at its heart this is a no-bullshit fast hardcore record—carrying on the Brasilian tradition of bands like DISCARGA, MAYOMBE, MERDE, and the like. Eleven songs, twelve minutes. Killer.

The Sissies Milksop cassette

Beer and shitty bars and rock’n’roll…it all still tastes good together. We’re talking the BRIEFS and/or Surfer Rosa era-PIXIES by way of AMBOY DUKES and/or STOOGES, but with a NINE POUND HAMMER “yeeeaaaahhh” cranked way up in the front of house monitors. All of these ingredients are delicious, and the pained/strained vocals are the gravy. I kinda don’t want to like this, but I totally do.

Suck Lords True Lords Music EP

These Portland maniacs went and got really fukkn raw on their new EP. Blown-out garage hardcore mania fueled by speed and paranoia, these eight songs are onto the next fight before you even know you got your ass kicked. SUCK LORDS swing hard, and the riffs crawl under your skin, but everything just happens so damn fast. Like NEON CHRIST fast. Take NOSFERATU as a lazy modern comparison, but the shit here sounds like no other game in town. Yeah…it’s good-ass shit.

Speed Babes Tape:Pink cassette

Third dose this month of garage-esque punk from What’s For Breakfast? Records. Karoline says “it kinda sounds like that wave of commercial almost-punk that was popular fifteen years ago. Like, not the HIVES, and not quite FRANZ FERDINAND, and maybe REIGNING SOUND sometimes.” And you see, that’s why I ask Karoline’s opinion: because she fukkn nails it. Quirky jams from Chicago’s prolific SPEED BABES, every track is catchy (well, almost; see below) and the above non-descriptors should give you a pretty good idea of what they are slinging. A few breath-y slow/quiet tracks for good measure (the burners are way better though, “Start a War” is a clunker supreme).

USA/Mexico Matamoros LP

Actual noise rock royalty on this one, with King Coffey (BUTTHOLE SURFERS) behind the kit. Throw in a couple of dudes from SHIT & SHINE, and prepare yourself for a beating. Pure and purely demented Texas noise rock, emphasis on the “noise” descriptor. There are layers of magic lurking under the crumbling cacophony of destructed and distorted sound masquerading as “songs,” laying waste to boring genre adherence just as they lay waste to theories of repetition as music. Regurgitating the ghost of KILLDOZER as a psilocybin aficionado roaming Austin alleys at 4:00 A.M. Game over, kids…the grown-ups just won.

D7Y D7Y LP

This is how you fukkn do it—bombastic and relentless D-beat punk that sounds totally original. Iceland’s D7Y tweak the formula just enough and in just the right ways: integrating the noise and the chaos into the songs themselves instead of just adding chaos for the sake of chaos like many bands are wont to do. But the main thing here is just the constant pummeling that D7Y delivers…it simply doesn’t stop, and just listening to this slab is exhausting. Absolutely top notch record in construction, presentation and delivery.

Enemy 4 Songs cassette

Maximum brutality on this four-song banger. High speed, high energy, and devastatingly heavy Los Angeles hardcore that successfully harnesses California’s catchy early-’80s punk and dumps a colossal amount of tonnage on its collective back. Check the urgent stomp of “Glüm” (my choice track) and see if you’re still standing when it’s over. The EP from a while back was good, they were great when I saw them last year, but this shit? This thing is unreal.

Night Talkers Code 1079! LP

High-energy party-heavy punk rock’n’roll. Screaming guitars up front at all times, and you can practically feel beer cans whizzing by your head as their brand of amped-up club punk reaches to NASHVILLE PUSSY to inspiration. NIGHT TALKERS sound instantly familiar, probably because they have existed as different entities with different monikers in different cities practically since the dawn of punk. But hard-hitting burners like “Trapped” are timeless.

Faux Co. Radio Silence cassette

I mean, it’s not bad. But I feel like I’m listening to the 1971 California radio pop engine firing on all cylinders, and I don’t know why there’s this MAMAS & THE PAPAS rehash mixed in with my raging D-beat and my hardcore. Don’t get me wrong, Sweetheart of the Rodeo is an essential record (and it’s way more country than Radio Silence is), there’s just a time and a place.

Frustrerad Shadow of Life cassette

Clenched-fist kång fire from Belgium. They adhere to The Formula quite well: Euro D-beats, verse/chorus/verse with no funny stuff (maybe an occasional bridge), treble rebel recording, shouted earnest vocals…and a VARUKERS cover. I mean, it’s all here and they do it right.

Musclegoose 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Musclegoose Mountain cassette

High-energy golf-themed basement shit punk that is way too high-fidelity. This shit is supposed to be recorded with a toilet mic, and these Arkansas butt rockers spent the money on a studio for some reason. It’s weird, but it means that the legitimate chops on tracks like “Bad Boyz II: Men” shine through and the listener starts to think that MUSCLEGOOSE might actually be a real band (hint: they are). DWARVES chops with SPITS humor, and head and shoulders better than the throw away joke punk garbage persona that they present.

Pasha & the Kindred Spirits Demo 2019 cassette

Lo-fi indie pop and/or region rock, or perhaps this is like the PROMISE RING if they got signed by Plan-It-X in 1998. Plus there are layers of whoa-ohs and lots of guitar leads, but the recording kinda makes it all just sound like a mess. I’m still listening here, and with all due respect to the artist/s, I promise that I’m trying. But the truth is that PASHA & THE KINDRED SPIRITS are a swooning turd delivered with marginally out-of-tune pretension. If you want to hear the sound of a jilted lover that just won’t go away, then this is your jam…I find myself wondering if I know anyone in this band and am gonna feel bad about this review (edit: just listened again, and it’s very honest).

Born Shit Stirrers Depressed Father’s Club CD

Short blasts of attitude from a crew of Brits living on the north coast of Japan’s southern island. (I’m talking about the big islands. Okinawa and Ishigaki are important and beautiful, but they aren’t very big.) Songs mostly clock in under the one-minute mark, and come off like KICKER and PUSRAD in a blender. Vocals are barked with a rarely rivaled irreverence, and this crew of expats relentlessly assails foreigners with a vicious wit. Top notch release from a group that manages the “tongue in cheek” vs. “fun as fuck” balance brilliantly.

Chardonnay Do You Have the Maximum Intuition cassette

As an instantly addictive collection of references, the opening salvo from CHARDONNAY offers a journey far more advanced than a mere listening experience. You want high praise? I thought about HAWKWIND, WIPERS and COMPLICATIONS in the first track alone, and when they settled down into a barrage of gravel-voiced emotion, I found myself liking them even more. Self-described “LSD-beat” from New Orleans, this release is probably more rock and less fire than I would normally request, but damn the tunes are just gold throughout. It’s good to branch out from time to time…

The English Language Paranoid Imagination cassette

Early-’90s grunge/college/indie fully reborn and reincarnated. I mean, it’s been almost 30 years, so TAD is classic rock at this point (“Stairway to Heaven” was only eight years old when Pay to Cum dropped, so there’s that for perspective). Some surfy Laurel Canyon bits break up the distant guitars on what could essentially sit alongside EUGENIUS or any number of then-retro sounding bands. So yeah…here’s some kids from 2019 trying to sound like drugged out kids from 1990 who were trying to kick 1970 butt rock in the butt. Is it good? Yup, it totally is. They do exactly what they set out to do. Choice cut: “Misery.”

Trinity Test Trinity Test LP

These are the bands that LEFTÖVER CRACK has spawned. Abrasive but catchy “fukk you” attitude, but totally melodic, and the chorus of “Nothing Left” demands a singalong, just as the right channel guitar begs to be turned down in the mix because you can’t hear anything else. I don’t say this often in these pages, but Minneapolis’ TRINITY TEST are starter punk for newcomers. If you’ve been in the game for more than a few months, then you’ve likely already moved past these sounds. Not to say that they aren’t important and/or relevant, just to say that this old man isn’t moved by them.

Fealty Peace Is Our Problem 7″

I know this shit is almost a year old now, but uuuugggghhhh FEALTY are so good. The 2017 demo was beyond crucial, and 2018’s Peace Is Our Problem only tightened their grip on dominance. Uncomfortable and in-your-face bombastic anarcho punk, heavy on the low end and desperation, this New York trio sounds like you feel after a fight you didn’t know was coming. You’re confused, full of adrenaline…and ready for more.

Buffet All-American LP

For real: if this is what the crossroads of modern “noise rock” and throwback “emo” and “hardcore” sounds like, then I am fukkn sold. I’m reminded of WHITE TRASH SUPERMAN (high praise) as much as infectious and high-energy early ’90s college radio punk or classic Midwest hardcore—think early Homestead Records delivered with the ingredients that made ADOLESCENTS’ blue album. You recognize everything here, even though you’ve never quite heard it like this…and BUFFET are having fun. And it shows. Full endorsement.

Norms Hülye Hardcore 12″

File this one in the “must listen” column, and brace yourself. It sounds weird, it sounds like pure chaos, it sounds….well, just listen. All of the ramshackle fury of early ’80s Italy tempered with ’00s fastcore, and a thick, noisy delivery. I could listen to this a thousand times and not get bored…the guitar is weird, the vocals are weird, the guitar overdubs are ever weirder—it’s just…off. Which means it’s just…right. These Budapest kids have never let me down, but I wasn’t expecting to be this floored. Highest recommendation.

Bulbulators Aut Punk Aut Nihil LP

Starting your LP with a straight lift of HÜSKER DÜ’s “I Apologize” is a really good way to get my attention. After that hook, Poland’s BULBULATORS drop a baker’s dozen of catchy Eastern European punk, with a shameless ear for the addictive and anthemic. “Żywe Trupy” is perhaps the most extreme and/or perfect example, and my mono-linguistic self is singing along in a Polish language that I do not understand as soon as the first chorus drops. Recorded in 2007, but given the vinyl treatment for the first time by Combat Rock and perennial Polish punk historians Pasażer.

Six Sundays Belly Machine CD-R

Anthemic, self-professed dad-punk. Their mix of classic ’80s US punk and catchy ’77 UK works frighteningly well, and I dare say that this one is a fair mark above their debut effort. This isn’t what I would reach for unprovoked, but fukk me if it isn’t great.

Vortis This Machine Kills Fascists CD

How do you describe a thing that is technically proficient and theoretically good…but kinda goes in one ear and out the other? I will try: VORTIS is from Chicago, and they sound like it (that’s a positive). Open garage chords and snotty midwest punk with an ear towards a distant past. It’s catchy and there are tons of hooks (check “Frog In The Pan” specifically, because that song jams). See? I did it.

R.A.T.I.O.N.S.N.O.I.S.E. / Unknown River Driver split LP

UNKNOWN RIVER DRIVER are really reaching towards that ’90s alt / college / emo chalice—it’s moody and dark and kinda awesome, even though it fades into the background pretty quickly. Ironically, the drums in slow parts of the last song just remind me of “Everybody Wants Some” from Van Halen III (solid track, btw). An amalgamation of RATIONS dubbed R.A.T.I.O.N.S.N.O.I.S.E, on the flip, delivers manipulations of studio recordings, anti-drone war missives, and general tape loop fuckery. It’s an excellent way to get me hooked, and an excellent listen.

V/A Western KY Music Through the Years 2002-2017 CD-R

Five Kentucky bands, mostly on the early garage and/or proto-grunge end of the spectrum. VASELINES, EUGENIUS, a little bit of SCREAMING TREES maybe…that brand of laid back action. Not bad, and it definitely grew on me.

ZLURAD (ЗЛУРАД) Во благо Злу CD

Complete mindfuck intellectual noise-core. Fans of NOXAGT, BOREDOMS, or MELT BANANA will want to take note, and the uninitiated will want to strap in before diving into this Russian act. Chaotic pogo/blast drums, shrill screams, nonsensical construction, and manic horns throughout. It’s a fukkn mess to say the least, and it’s really, really great.

V/A Live Your Gimmick Vol. 1 CD

Four-band comp that goes like this: 1) The DRIVIN’ BEATS play early ’80s sounding late punk vs. early college radio rock and/or legit new wave rock ’n’ roll; 2) SOURPUSS sound like if the SPITS were trying to sound tough and/or offensive—also if the SPITS were actually a bad grunge band; 3) The DOWNSTROKES are classic ’80s Midwest punk; 4) The XILES are like the SEX PISTOLS if Johnny’s exaggerated accent kept falling out of line and / or any heartfelt, determined bar punk band in any town in North America—and “American Nightmare” is the best song on this comp. That is all.

Zero Gain Modern Blues: The First Five Years CD

Killer working class French punk rock. Hints of LEATHERFACE and EA80 peek through this 24-song collection (from releases spanning the last five years, as the title suggests), while ZERO GAIN settle into their own distinct style. The more I listen to these tracks, them more the band sinks into me, and there’s something wholly refreshing about hearing a band construct important sounding songs. Listen to “Runnin’ on Empty” (not a cover), and you’re taken back a decade or more, not in the sound, but in the feel of bands like BORN DEAD ICONS, J CHURCH or LA FRACTION—they punched you in the gut and they stuck with you. They were a new band to me before this disc, but I’m totally sold.

Vlack The Way of the Cross CD

This one is hard to nail down. VLACK are big and “rock” sounding, but there’s a dark vibe that reminds me of under the radar monsters like ANGST or MY DAD IS DEAD—even while they are playing what is basically ’80s college alt-rock. I spent the entire disc trying to figure out how to categorize it, and that says a lot on its own, right?

Vidro Allt Brinner 12″

This is the last piece of wax that I will review for the last regular print issue of MRR, and it is pure fukkn fire. Biting and fierce Swedish hardcore punk with terrifying female lead vocals, and an affected flanged guitar that borders on destruction for the entire recording—especially the leads. VIDRO are just pure ferocity: urgent, desperate hardcore punk that doesn’t really sound like anything except themselves, and there is an approach to the (de)construction and presentation of their songs that is enviable. To take a formula that is known and manipulate and manage it until it becomes your own is in itself an art form, but if you also create a total motherfukkr of a record in the process, then you have my respect. So I finish my last review just wanting more, as it should be.

This Means War Heart Strings LP

They look like skinheads. They sound like (early) FALLOUT BOY meets AVAIL, and then near the end of the first side, there’s one really exceptional track that sounds like the DARKNESS or JET (it’s called “Off With Their Heads” and I’m not gonna lie: I like it). Slick, polished, professional, radio-friendly alt-rock.

Mental Fix Bricolage CD

I guess it feels like I’ve heard them countless times before, even though this Montreal band was a new discovery. Gruff and melodic punk rooted in the greats, with massive sounding guitars and carefully crafted backing vocals—it just sounds like sweat and sing alongs. Early DILLINGER FOUR, AGAINST ME!…you get the drill, and so do MENTAL FIX.

Meinhof The Dying Light LP

Terrifying D-beat anarcho-crust with a formidable low end and a clear soft spot for thick hardcore. That they aren’t scared of an open E and a prolonged chug is not what makes MEINHOF so good; it’s that they avoid all of the trappings associated with heavy hardcore by making everything sound punk. The instrumental “The Anarchist” that opens the B-side is a perfect example—massive ringing stadium crust that sounds filthy and dark, and leads right into “No Hope No Change,” a relentless fist-in-the-air motorkång banger. Vocals are biting and desperate, with an urgency that defies the decade plus that MEINHOF have been in the game. Colossal production gives them an even bigger bootprint, and makes this a “stand up and pay attention” release from start to finish.

Homeless Cadaver Fat Skeleton / Art. Eat It. 7″

Each track has a different vibe, and each is an instant classic. “Art. Eat It.” is a two-riff dirge, punctuated by electronics, and the title repeated as a dreary one line chorus. “Fat Skeleton” is more upbeat, just as simple, and hopelessly catchy. Ohio vibes abound (DEVO and / or Wheelchair Full of Old Men), and I’m pretty sure these kids have heard the SPITS before. Beefy guitars and extra confidence in the “don’t give a fukk” department—I think I’m gonna enjoy this Systemic Surgery series from Iron Lung Records.

Genital Juggling / Jodie Faster Split LP

Don’t judge a book by its cover, lesson one: this fukkn record. The stupid cartoon claymation cover would turn most punks off before they even saw the band names, and I confess that I never would have given this slab a second thought if it were not my punk duty to do so. And holy shit did I eat my thoughts as soon as JODIE FASTER started cranking through five absolute rippers that sound like nothing at all except (apparently) JODIE FASTER. A raw drum attack that reminds me of RUDIMENTS, a penchant for don’t-give-a-fuck combined with serious chops à la SCHLONG, open chord clean guitars like JASPER THREAD, and an overall purity in their ferocity that I haven’t heard since I saw ROLEX last year. I didn’t want to turn the record over. But I did. And GENITAL JUGGLING delivered the same energy on the flip—just as much irreverence in their song construction, but with a SoCal hardcore tinge, and aggression replacing the quirk on the A-side. Listen to all of the records, punks—even the ones you think aren’t up to whatever your bullshit “standards” are—because chances are good that you are wrong. This record is definitely right.

Only the Lonely Dimming Lights EP

The band name pegs the band perfectly. Snappy punk tracks with one leg hopelessly caught in an American rock’n’roll bear trap. DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, ROY ORBISON, AVENGERS—you know, the classics—reinvented and re-envisioned and damn near reincarnated with screaming Swedish space leads and a vocal warble straight out of ’77 LA. If this was KBD, I’d be humping legs to get a piece of them bonzers. Bonus points for gluing each song title individually on the back cover.

No Blues Exploding Hearts / Miranda Rights 7″

Damaged and distorted power pop for no generation at all, and for every member of every generation ever. It’s simple, it’s raw, and the guitars are dominant and come at you from every direction. Two tracks. 100% punk gold.

Deviant Loading the Gun EP

Sharp, focused, distorted modern hardcore. Overbearing buzzsaw guitars, lightning fast with a sick snarl. Think about the SKEMÄTA school of attack, but way less nuanced. Ferocity in six movements.

Derrumbando Defensas Ruidos de Resistencia LP

Vinyl version of 2017’s Confrontar CD, retitled and repackaged for the 12″ format. Monstrous metallic hardcore with a production and presentation well suited for massive stages and furious sing alongs, breathing life and urgency into a subgenre often reserved for third-tier bro bands. Ruidos de Resistencia reminds me why I still have a soft spot for the heat chugs and for those melodic guitar leads, and they make everything feel important…because everything is. The only mistake here is the lack of a lyrics sheet, or even context for the words—because the words are important, especially the perspective of women in a hardcore band from Chile addressing institutional oppression and exploitation. “Cruelty Free” is the track to end all tracks, and the “every moment / every second” chorus will likely be stuck in my head for weeks. Quality fucking release from start to finish, full endorsement.

Bwak Dwagon Underground and Passed Around LP

Space-age sounds for punks who dig commercial rock radio but also love HAWKWIND. Ohio’s BWAK DWAGON lose me on tracks like “The Underworld” and “Demeter” (unfortunately, these two run back to back) when they stay slow and subdued, but the weirdness dominates even on ’80s alt radio/proto darkwave trax like “Evergreen.” This band would have opened for SCREAMING TREES in 1987.

Hetze Bedbugs LP

Blasting anxious hardcore from Belgium—there’s a total FLEAS AND LICE vibe, but with deadly blast beats (when appropriate!) and a ferocity from the vocalist that almost makes you squirm in your seat. Then again, if you’re still sitting after “Pile of Shit” is finished, then maybe Bedbugs ain’t for you after all. The rest of us though: we gonna rage ‘til we are fukkn dead, and HETZE is going to rage with us. Stripped Down Blistering EuroThrashCrust is officially a new subgenre.

Forward Apathy Kills People EP

Tokyo’s kings are still…well, they are still kings. Two more tracks of fierce, positive, life-affirming Japanese hardcore. A mid-tempo A-side with a chorus just begging for crowd participation (the songs are completely different, but I’m reminded of the times I’ve seen audiences competing with the PA during the chorus in “What’s The Meaning Of Love?”) gives way to an absolute burner in “Our World Our Own,” injecting raw JapanCrust fury into the anthemic hardcore that has become FORWARD’s signature over the last two decades. Ishiya’s vocals are gravel and fire, Souichi is still a fukkn animal, while You and Akiyama still manage to feel loose as fukk while remaining rock solid. FORWARD is very, very close to the perfect hardcore punk band, and this record (along with the full-length in the last issue) show that they have no intention of letting up.

Fancy Pick Up EP

Straight fire from Texas. Guitars tweaked just so, and the toughest kind of hate flowing through the microphone, FANCY gets straight to business and kicks out four on the floor hardcore in the fukkn teeth on their debut slab—it’s just timeless hardcore punk. The moment when “Bubble” slows down is absolute magic, and then that snarl ushers in the EP’s only down moment, and if you aren’t moshing then you’re maybe dead. This one is in league with the big dogs. SPAZM 151 and POISON IDEA-caliber hardcore offered with the highest recommendation. Killer.

Eke Buba Shut Up EP

Holy shit, this record. I mean…whoa. Like early Boston hardcore but tougher and faster and my face is fukkn melting. Like this is perfect early ’80s USHC but better and from 2018 and from Croatia, and this is also quite possible the single most crucial record in MRR this month. Been a long time since this old man has been this floored, highest recommendation for fans of punk (that means all readers).

Tortraffen Ism LP

An instant must-have: track after track of addictive mid-tempo Deutschpunk from a German expat punk in Western Australia. The dark tinges of EA80, SLIME-caliber vocals spewing fierce gravel, and there’s something to be said for the brilliant simplicity of a catchy fukkn track with piles of backing vocals. Presented with a painstakingly constructed recording that’s appropriately rough around the edges…this is great.

Spazz Dwarf Jester Rising CD reissue

Debut full-length from West Bay legends, Dwarf Jester Rising clocks in under 25 minutes and their irreverent stamp on ’90s hardcore is undeniable. Sample-laden guttural blasts, discordant dirges, this is what the kids call powerviolence, and it didn’t start here, but this is when people outside of California started paying attention. Dwarf Jester Rising is important, to be sure, but it’s also really fucking good. Favorite track: “Burning Tongue.”

Roht Iðnsamfélagið Og Framtíð þess LP

You should expect a monster, and you will receive a monster. Thunderous and monotonous and fully exposed, ROHT take punk and drag it into a dark dark place; like RUDIMENTARY PENI and PAILHEAD, they are playing the game but never playing by the rules. I suppose you can call this industrial hardcore or something like that, and they would fit as nicely (or poorly) on a bill with LARD as with DYS. I had every expectation that this record was going to be good as soon as it was announced. I didn’t think it would be this good.

Negative Vibes Broken Mind CD

Nothing fancy here, just eighteen bursts of utterly fantastic hardcore punk—and if Poland’s NEGATIVE VIBES are any indication, “fancy” is fukkn overrated. East Coast meets ACCÜSED vibe, these kids channel ’80s USHC brilliantly and their doses of unadulterated fury are a breath of fresh air.

Leftöver Crack Leftöver Leftöver Crack: The E-Sides and F-Sides CD

Unpopular opinion in 4, 3, 2, 1…LEFTÖVER CRACK are great. LEFTÖVER CRACK are important. LEFTÖVER CRACK still, in 2019, deserve so much more than the mall-meets-the-gutter status that the self-righteous punks bestow upon them, because context be damned, LEFTÖVER CRACK are fukkn great. A 30-track collection of EPs, splits and outtakes sequenced brilliantly—catchy punk, infectious ska-punk, anti-cop, anti-authority, anti-racist, pro-punk melodic punk. I don’t know what else think you want from this subculture we all claim, but MINOR THREAT is a starter band too, you dig? You don’t ditch your Pay To Cum EP just ’cause the suburban punk twerp rocks a BAD BRAINS shirt, do you? Just saying. Important punk is still important, and even though the kids like ’em, LEFTÖVER CRACK are still great.