Reviews

Kathabuta Discography 1989-1997 3xCD

As the world seemingly races to unearth and re-release every scrap from the now vast history of Japanese hardcore, there’s a reason why this job is often best left to their local scene who knew the bands and were part of their evolution and history. This expansive and detailed collection of Hiroshima’s KATHABUTA features 20 songs from 1989-1991 on the first disc from the band’s best known releases: a whiplash-inducing speedy eight-track double flexi from 1990 and their crushing metallic tracks from 1991’s Starving Dog Eats Master compilation. Rounded out with demo and comp tape appearances, this first disc is full of classic call-and-response chorus-barked Japanese hardcore, which echoes (but doesn’t quite mimic) Hiroshima’s best known ’80s export GUDON. There’s a bit more dramatic staging, progressive metallic riffage and slathering vocal bark, batting strongly and with enough distinctive flair that deep-dive fans of Japanese hardcore should seek this one out immediately!  The second and third discs pick up with the band a few years and a couple member changes later, with largely studio demo and pre-recordings for unreleased projects from 1994 through 1997. While maintaining the same bold energy, spirit and savage vocals, the musical impetus shifts to crushing progressive hard rock, lumbering grunge and layers of psychedelic guitar, with even with a few songs that head in a funky RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS direction. It’s as deep of a change as DIE KREUZEN ventured after the first album, with the same underlining strong musicianship and moody threads, but outside a couple boiling riff monsters, not consistently relying on and growing beyond the standard structure of “hardcore” for impact… In Japan, community and friendship can be as large of a part of hardcore as music, fashion and lyrics, and ending the trappings of hardcore doesn’t necessarily exclude inclusion as part of that community when the spirit still remains. Hardcore might even have a broader meaning or inclusive idea itself than other countries, the same way late-’80s SST was rooted in punk, but not stuck with a strict definition of what that had to be artistically. This band’s interesting evolution might be skipped over for just the thrash tracks if released outside of Japan and might miss a more avant audience who would dig its later grungy SACCHARINE TRUST-meets-Japanese-hardcore freaky weirdness. These eighteen tracks showcase potential that might have never fully realized with instrumental (or unfinished) songs and some that hit a few sour notes; they are still definitely fun to chew on, especially since distance from when they were recorded gives them a unique fresh impact. A thick booklet exhaustively documents the band’s history with tons of flyers, liner notes, photos, ticket stubs and a timeline. Cool release!