Reviews

Miguel Franco

Academy Order To Wilt Without Shame cassette

ACADEMY ORDER is a band from the Philadelphia area, formed in 2021. It features current and former members of DRILL SERGEANT, FIXATION, STUD COUNT, and FLUORIDE. This is their debut, six songs of deathrock with some prominent synth work. Think Southern California staples like 45 GRAVE or the mighty TSOL with a great dose of SKINNY PUPPY-esque synths. My fave track is “Slice of Life,” a song with just the right amount of darkness and abandonment to dance the night away. I think the tape is sold out, but you can buy the digital version or ask for another run of tapes directly to the band. It’s worth it.

Cyanide Cyanide cassette

This short EP comes directly from Tel Aviv. I have no clue about the Israeli punk scene, so it was really fun to listen to CYANIDE and their take on street punk. This is teenage angst in its purest form, nine songs played with earnest intensity by a bunch of teens with some kinship for BLITZ or the Killed By Death bands. It’s a blast. There is a short doc about the band, their life, and surroundings while they get ready for the release of this EP. You can easily watch online, it’s called “Dreaming Tel Aviv.” You can get the EP as a beautifully designed tape released by A World Divided, a collaborative non-profit label that promotes Mediterranean punk from places like Tunisia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, and more. You should check out their entire catalog.

Mundo Infernal Nunca Más cassette

Just listen to that trashy guitar riff intro and how the whole band comes pummeling through. “Aniquilación de Este Mundo Cruel” is just eight seconds in and it’s already one of the most powerful moments I’ve heard this year in heavy music. Just wait a little more and enjoy those epic guitar leads. “Sin Control” follows on Los Angeles band MUNDO INFERNAL’S Nunca Más cassette. A show of brute force and savagery en español. We’re talking about beautifully crafted hardcore: lyrics lamenting the current state of the world, heavy tone guitars, chokingly disgruntled screaming vocals, and a ceaseless rhythmic attack. The record it’s too damn short, just four songs, and it leaves the listener wanting more. Awesome feeling, by the way. Nunca Más was released as a cassette with a limited run, but I urge you to get it as a digital album and play it as loud as you can.

Alement Onward EP

ALEMENT is a crust band from Philly with a hideously dark guitar tone, trashy riffs, raspy vocals, fun solos, and furious tempos. Think AXEGRINDER, AMEBIX, and the like. Just three songs on this EP from last year, but you can expect a hell of a ride. “Sea of Consequence” starts with a full trash assault, reminiscent of ENGLISH DOGS in its most violently-induced slam riffery. “Dwell” develops with even more metal-sounding riffs, with some cool mid-tempo choruses and gigantic breakdown worthy of a wall of death. “Onward” ends the EP in a darker tone. It begins with a drone-y and doomy intro, followed by an amazing demonstration of killer after killer riff and epic solos, a real tour de force.

Declaration What is the Reason for Tomorrow? cassette

This is the sold-out cassette from Singapore’s DECLARATION. The city-state’s punk scene is rife with incredible bands, including this one, formed by members of SIAL, DAILY RITUAL, LUBRICANT, PAZAHORA, C.L.A.W., the SCUDS, FALLEN WORLD, and VAARALLINEN. The album was recorded during lockdown and it sure shows. The paranoia and profound disbelief of watching the whole world paralized delivered in eleven songs of pure and raw D-beat, executed with vigor and respect for the DISCHARGE legacy. The guitar tone reminds me of Swedish D-beat, plus there’s some really cool riffs in songs like “What Is The Reason for Tomorrow?,” “Always Restricted,” and “Lifelong Subscription.” I urge you to keep checking out the Singaporean/Malaysian punk scene, it is full of delight.

Pöls Agrieta el Asfalto LP

Love it when bands like Madrid’s PÖLS get me to listen to styles I haven’t been exposed to or cared about in decades, such as melodic hardcore. Along with Barcelona’s ACCIDENTE, this band has taken that suburban sound and infused it with themes of anarchism, animal rights, ecology, and self-empowerment. And they do it by mixing up youth crew energy, heavy breakdowns, lots of “wooaahs,” and even rap. The contrasting relationship between the girl and boy voices keeps you interested for the whole record. They also feel free to experiment with flamenco-ish ending in “Barcelona” and rap with the last song “Pöls.” Intense energy and creative songwriting. Get it on vinyl.

Asocial Aldrig Som Er 12″

ASOCIAL’s history begins in the early ’80s in the Swedish hardcore scene. They pushed the envelope with great EPs of crust and D-beat, and an album, How Could Hardcore Be Any Worse, an absolute beast of noise that had a great and lasting influence on extreme music worldwide. The band has been writing new music since 2017, and this EP finds the band revisiting four of its classics and presenting four new songs. I have to admit I’m not really into bands re-recording their old songs, but in this context, they sound as raw and chaotic as the originals, and the new songs are pure mayhem. The EP starts with “Religion Still Sucks,” one of the best openers I’ve heard so far this year. “Krossa Nazismen,” “Mïlitardiktatur,” and “Samhällets Offer” are all incredibly intense. A must-have.

Mausoleo Absolución LP

MAUSOLEO it’s a post-punk band from Valencia. They call their sound “devotional punk” and certainly there’s a spiritual quest quality to their music: super melodic and dark arpeggiated riffs, deep and throbbing bass lines, and pounding drums. It’s Andrés Sanabria’s voice that gives the band an almost ethereal idiosyncrasy. Sonically, they thrive in the space created by their hometown’s ANTIGUO RÉGIMEN and the legacy of Spanish bands like DÉCIMA VÍCTIMA, or, at least in vocals and lyrics, GOLPES BAJOS. The record is great. “Mausoleo” is a hell of an album opener, somber and beautiful, “Paredón” quickly takes us to a sort of celebration of personal dismay. My favorites: “Sodomizado” with that irresistible SISTERS OF MERCY type of guitar riff and “Dogma,” with a crystalline guitar tone and a fast and interesting riff, like KILLING JOKE without the metal leanings. They also have a pretty cool cover of Valladolid’s punk band QLOACA LETAL. Get the vinyl, the artwork is awesome. You won’t regret it.

SS/BLOCK Mob Violence EP

Amazing D-beat straight from Malaysia. This EP is the debut release of this band from Mentakab Pahang, and they’ve got a pretty cool demo that you should check out, too. Oh man, the sound. So raw, so furious, it makes my brain pogo against my skull. This EP is full of energy blasts, and with production values that accentuate their sonic attack, it feels like you’re listening to the constant and overwhelming noise made by some river rapids. The lyrics are highly political, as you might expect, being a punk in Malaysia ain’t easy at all. This band clearly likes DISCHARGE and delivers six songs within that frame, but their primal rage provides a distinctive sound. I really like the sing-along and shouty chorus of the track “Anti77-Fascist Society.” You should have this band on your radar, I hope they make an LP soon.

Ansiedad Cerebral Terapia Cognitivo-Conductual cassette

When it comes to no-frills punk, it’s always best to go the lo-fi way, allowing your chops (or lack thereof) to become an integral part of the message you’re delivering. Malaga’s ANSIEDAD CEREBRAL shares this piece of wisdom and offers nine songs full of sloppy and splendorous p-u-n-k. These guys have already made some racket with other bands (RATAS DE SUMATRA, LIMASSA, and MASS VOLUMEN), so they know how to write a hook or two. They’re actually so good at it, “Punkis de Gimnasio” or “Vive Rápido y Aterriza en el Geriátrico” could be hits in the next Matado Por La Muerte comp of Spanish-speaking punk. Their lyrics are usually extremely ironic, as they say, “designed to offend and undermine morale.” Quite a commendable enterprise in my book. The one that I replay all the time is “Rosalía,” with that raw and almost atonal guitar riff, a sardonic little hymn in honor of the Spanish pop singer. Short, sweet, sweaty, and to the point, get it on cassette for more lo-fi pleasure.

Codigo Neurotico Totus Tous EP reissue

When a record starts with some Gregorian chants, you know it’s gonna turn out to be something else. Barcelona’s CÓDIGO NEURÓTICO makes exemplary first-wave punk rock: snotty, fun, with buzzsaw guitars, great basslines, and conceited vocals. The overall sound reminds me of Killed by Death bands in style and content, with very tongue-in-cheek lyrics and a healthy dose of adolescent humor, reminiscent of Spanish bands like SINIESTRO TOTAL or M.C.D. “Totus Totus” sounds like a WEIRDOS song played by KAKA DE LUXE, with a chorus that’s a real earworm. “Pega a tu Mama” has the ANGRY SAMOANS’ shock value energy. It’s dumb and it’s fun. “Quema Tanques” is a pure adrenaline rush with lyrics concerning WWII while “Las Malvinas” continues with the rush and war themes with an irresistible sing-along that you will have stuck in your head for weeks. “Cotolengo” is yet another manifestation of their incredible ability to create a gem of beautiful trash. You can get the 7” on red vinyl. Les sugiero que lo hagan.

Stagger Abuse of Power cassette

The Philadelphia scene is full of talent and STAGGER is just one example of it. This is their first LP, and their first proper release since Thermobaeric Blues EP from 2018 (you should check that one too, it’s got a SUN RA cover!). What do we get here? A very cool cassette with nine songs, volume, distortion, and feedback all the way up to red; it reminds me of the raw energy of Mexican or Colombian hardcore from the ’90s. This is just eighteen or so minutes of pure D-beat mayhem sometimes verging on noise punk. That guitar tone is pure filth. I can’t really understand the lyrics but vocalist Mike’s tone is all you need to really get it. We’re talking about pissed-off commentary on the current state of the American empire. You can also tell Mike has an incredible ability to generate a pit in a split second just with an “uggg!” Their violent cover of “You Tear Me Up” by the BUZZCOCKS is just awesome.

Auxiliö Mi Piel cassette

The moment the riff in “Mi Piel” starts playing, you know you’re gonna be bulldozed by the raw power of it. This is an extremely pissed-at-the-world work of art. Four songs, four punches straight to your face. AUXILIÖ works the line between D-beat, thrash, and pure hardcore mayhem, and they do so by way of some great songwriting: violent riffs, driving bass lines, pummeling drums, and some truly great guttural vocals. Thematically, the band lashes out against the usual sources of oppression: religion, misogyny, the trappings of a decaying capitalist world, only with a unique point of view, switching between Spanish and English. “Religión Hipócrita” is great trash with some vicious riffing,  “Ciclo Vicioso” has some cool ’90s Mexican hardcore vibes, and “Death Trophy” is an instant moshpit-inducer classic. AUXILIÖ is a hardcore band from L.A. They’ve been doing their noisy thing since 2016 and have played in Perú (they’ve got a split with PODRIDO on Unsainted Records, if you want to check it out). You can get this furious EP as a CD or cassette. Do hurry ‘cause they’re running out.

Los Saicos El Mercenario / Un Poquito de Pena 7”

Oh, LOS SAICOS, great representatives of Peruvian sonic teenage terrorism. This pair of songs came after “Demolición” and “Entierro de los Gatos” and all those great classics that led them to be retroactively read as the originators of punk rock. We’ve almost got a new band here, as there’s only two original members left, Erwin Flores and César “Papi” Castrillón, who recorded these songs together with other musicians for a local Peruvian label in the distant year of 1969. The Spanish label Munster Records is in charge of the reissue and it has everything we came to love about the Los Saicos sound. “El Mercenario” is a mind-blowing tale of a mercenary, who embarks to Africa in order to commit atrocities as a soldier for hire only to realize the futility and damage he caused, leading him to commit suicide; the story is narrated by a voice somewhere between a ballad singer and a young amphetamine user with euphoric screams marking “1, 2, 3, 4” as a kind of cool vocal hook, plus guitars with dark surfer vibes. On the other side, “Un Poquito de Pena” is a love ballad with intense singing, arpeggiated and extremely melodic guitar riffs, a true gem that could’ve been included in one of those Back From The Grave comps. Great single that deserves to be on par with the rest of LOS SAICOS’ work.

V/A Matado Por La Muerte Vol. 3 LP

I remember quite well the first time I listened to Matado Por La Muerte Vol. 1. I think it was 2008. It just felt like being hit in the face by a brick and just laughing about it while you bleed. It became an instant classic. This is the third volume (the second was released in 2015), with 21 exclusive tracks from eighteen Spanish-speaking bands. As always, the comp is full of gems and styles, all sharing the same iconoclast spirit. Here are some of the songs I enjoyed the best: CAMPAMENTO RUMANO’s PEGAMOIDES-meets-REZILLOS sound, the lo-fi fun of FINALE, the fury of Mexico’s CREMALLERAS, Peru’s MORBO’s street knowledge, Spanish SATÉLITE’s gothic notes on modern life, and the anthemic “España Me Pertenece” from TENDIDO CERO. This a really good introduction to current Spanish-speaking punk, hardcore, and post-punk if you’re interested in getting into it.

Burning Image The Final Conflict / Burning Image, Burning 7″ reissue

Bakersfield’s BURNING IMAGE was one of the original bands from the California deathrock scene and this is the official reissue of their classic single from 1984. The 7” has “The Final Conflict” and “Burning Image, Burning,” two songs produced by Chaz Ramirez, producer of SOCIAL DISTORTION’s Mommy’s Little Monster. Enough context. Side A starts all sinister and dark. “The Final Conflict” has an awesome guitar tone. I really enjoy the way the almost angular riff sets the unsettling space for the chorus, then those Spaghetti Western-style solos, and how it ends in almost full chaos. Amazing. Side B’s “Burning Image, Burning” riffing is pure Rikk Agnew beauty, both melodic and dissonant, always interesting and full of harmonics. The band really knows how to build tension and release within the song while making it catchy as hell.

Disappearances III cassette

This cassette got me immediately into a frenzy. Just the kind of harsh and vicious noise that’s so needed in times like these. This is the third release by Philadelphia’s DISAPPEARANCES, ten songs full of short, intense, and brutal spurts of vile. The powerviolence influence is there, but I would say that it’s just the template for more angular and dissonant leanings (think of ’90s bands like BORN AGAINST and RORSCHACH), with just the right amount of breakdowns to keep things dynamic and interesting. Lyrics can certainly be bleak, but that’s just how the world really is. They really know how to weave the personal and the private within the structural and systemic. There’s humor in there too, a self-deprecating and black one. “Blue” is my favorite of the bunch, it has a really cathartic feel to it. Would love to hear this in a live setting.

Satélite Otra Era LP

SATÉLITE is a Spanish band with a dark, melodic, and beautiful post-punk sound. Otra Era was released in February but it missed my radar. The album’s second song “Estado Hipnótico” condenses the themes and sounds of the whole LP: prominent bass lines, chorus pedal guitar, gorgeous melodies, and vigorous drumming with lyrics that paint paranoiac landscapes of capitalist desperation and the urge of getting the hell out it, into a new era, with new ways of living. There’s a sense in all of these songs of trying to escape the new systems of control. Some of my favorites are the pretty “Otra Era” and the disquieting “Nuevas Maneras.” If you’re into Spanish post-punk bands like DÉCIMA VÍCTIMA, or early CURE, this is for you. You can get it both digitally or on vinyl. Really cool cover design, too.

Antifaces Como Moscas LP

ANTIFACES is a three-piece band from Miami. Their language is Spanish and their weapon of choice is direct and sincere melodic hardcore punk. Six years of career, and several demos and LPs later, they have come up with a forceful sound: the angriest and sweatiest of melodic punk from Argentina and Spain with some sinister touches here and there. This is ANTIFACES’ bet: to unleash a storm of noise and create urgent songs dedicated to survivors of the system; men and women who live on the edge, who fight and resist the terror of modern life, violence, and corruption of the soul. Rather than wait to be devoured by the nothingness of it all, these songs demand us to spit, kick back, and dance in a mental pogo of catharsis. As they say, “I don’t want to die in the arms of a policeman.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s Latin America or the First World, there is a system in place that seeks our death, ANTIFACES sings to life. Choose life.

La Rabbia In the Face of Atrocities LP

This is a good one. Get ready for 24 tracks of raw and in-your-face noise blasts from these London-based anarcho-punks. Formed by members of the GAGGERS, MISCALCULATIONS, and WARREN SCHOENBRIGHT, LA RABBIA (“The Rage”) contains the best bits of England’s punk; as they say in their Bandcamp bio, the classic ’77/’82 sounds. You have it all: hooligan sing-alongs, street punk defiance, classic razor-wired riffs, cool melodic sensibilities, and lyrics decrying the terrible state of the world in both English and Italian. “The Ends Don’t Justify the Means” has some really sick riffs, so vicious, almost atonal. The violent intro of “Professional Arrogance,” well, the whole damn song, gets me immediately into a frenzy. I also really like how they mix Italian and English in the song “In The Face of Atrocities,” they should do that more.  Keep an eye on LA RABBIA, they’re delivering the goods.

A Culture of Killing A Culture of Killing LP

This ain’t how you usually expect anarcho-punk to sound. This band from Italy goes epic: they take the icy guitars, melodic basslines, and baritone from early ’80s post-punk and mix it with anarcho themes and sensibilities. Think of short-haired the CURE, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, the CHURCH, and the MOB, the latter whom they cover (go straight to “Mirror Breaks”) on this LP. I couldn’t find that much information about these guys but it doesn’t matter, this record is full of hits. A CULTURE OF KILLING’s songwriting takes you places. Overall they sound dark but not bleak, dynamic yet really melodic, almost thrilling. “War” and “We Can Never Go Back” are two beautiful gems, a pair of chart hits from an alternative timeline in the ’80s. Perhaps what I’ve said so far might make you think these guys are fixated on the past, but they do have their own style and their lyrics are completely focused on the tribulations of these times. These eight songs were originally released on tape and now as vinyl. I hate to tell ya, though, the record is so good it actually sold out. Hope there’s a new edition we can get our hands on very soon.

Tentáculo Cansados de Esperar LP

Straight from Triana and Nice (Spain/France), TENTÁCULO is a punk band that treads a fine line between mid-tempo melodic punk and hard rock, or NWOBHM and post-punk, with the chops and attitude of those great working class heavy metal Spanish bands from the ’80s. Whatever, we don’t need to pinpoint TENTÁCULO down anywhere: these eight songs give no-frills rock’n’roll with existential dread-themed lyrics and hook after hook after hook. “Extrañas Luces” shines with an old-school hard rock riff in contrast with the bleak pessimism in the lyrics and the energetic singalong of the chorus. Have to highlight the guitar work on this record: simple at times, but extremely melodic in a HÜSKER DÜ kind of way. The three last songs on the B-side are some serious bangers: you can imagine yourself singing with your pals in a sweat-drenched embrace at a dark small club or spitting this street poetry into a hot and humid night after a really bad day at work. Beautiful cover and design work. 

Tumbas Dolor LP

It’s a shame that this is TUMBAS’ last album. The Bogotá, Colombia band embraces the gloom and doom of deathrock with the intensity of hardcore, and showers it with a sick guitar tone that paints a picture of a world in pain. TUMBAS make you think, make you scream, and most importantly, make you dance your misery away. There’s a sense of urgency in Marcelo and Fausto’s dark guitar riffs that works nicely with the driving pulse towards catharsis of Maria Paula’s bass and Ximena’s unrelenting drumming. On top of that, you have Luisa’s vocals, with the necessary anger and poise to expose the rotten corpse of Latin America’s social reality. These songs get better with each listen but if you make me pick one, “Destinados a Perder” has it all: it’s dark, it’s heavy, and the guitars sound like a swarm of furious bees. The album has a really cool cover and insert. It also includes four extra songs from their demo cassette.