Reviews

Phobia

Chörnobyl / Deny split EP

A double-trouble split from two Swedish bands that immerse themselves in the Swedish hardcore sound. First up is the veterans DENY, whom you might recognize from their Dystopia LP, mangeling since 1995 and delivering three solid, classic Swedish hardcore tracks in the good tradition of WOLFPACK. Then the newcomers CHÖRNOBYL, who share members with MYTERI, bring three more songs to the table with a darker DISFEAR approach. At the end of the day we have two bands, old and new, that celebrate one of the most recognizable sounds in hardcore history and further the Swedish D-beat tradition.

Excrement of War Cathode Ray Coma LP reissue

This was definitely an exciting 1994 reissue to be assigned. It starts off with a ripping, bombarding soloed instrumental, as most crust bands did in the ’90s. Fueled-up punk, raw and powerful, E.N.T./HELLCRUSHER-style intro, right into “Exist Enslaved” (which I believe I’ve heard covered several times before being introduced to this record). So if you like DOOM or STATE OF FEAR with a bit more range between vocalists, this reissue is for a lucky you. Mags has one of the most ferocious, vitriolic, raspiest vocal tones ever. Ripping. The EXCREMENT OF WAR split with DEFORMED CONSCIENCE might be my favorite of their material—this was earlier and looser—but to that point, it’s raw crust and punk as fuck. The UK/US match-up complements each other so well on the split, so if you can get a hand on this, or either for that matter, you will not be disappointed. Essential ’90s European crushing, ripping, hardcore crust. “Encased in their military cocoon; the outside appearances [are just] blips on [a] screen. Enemy tank. Enemy child. Enemy plane. Enemy tree…”

Exploatör Avgrundens Brant LP

I’m going to say a few things, outing my lameness, before I even get started on the listening. One, I have heard of this band, and I am familiar with their insane punk pedigree of band members (INSTITUTION, SLUTET, WARCOLLAPSE, KRIGSHOT, TOTALITÄR, NO SECURITY—yes, I’m still going—ÄÄRITILA, DISFEAR, MEANWHILE…etc.!), but I regret to say I don’t know that I’ve heard them yet since their 2017 debut. Sad face. Two, the umlaut and aforementioned resume lets me know I’ll probably be into this. So let’s see. Okay, I absolutely love the raspy vocals that gasp out to the very last breath. This is quite heavy metal-charged Scandi Dis-beat hardcore. There is a unique level of vibration to the classic riffs. That is to say, the traditional Swedish hardcore chords are almost sung from the guitars. Outstanding. Like literally, the guitars are a standout, fucking awesome. This must be Kenko, who I met at a wedding in NY once, and his unassuming kind poise brings total fire through his instrument. Simultaneously catchy and abrasive, this is certainly recommended. Some parts double-time D-beat käng (à la MOB 47), other moments knuckle-dragging stomping breaks, but never for too long. I was just listening to INSTITUTION yesterday and I believe they share the vocalist. Or perhaps the TOTALITÄR vocalist, actually. I could check but let’s leave it at that, the old-fashioned way. Just like EXPLOATÖR plays hardcore punk. I am not sure who’s doing what here, but I am sure I love this.

Genöme Young, Beautiful & Free LP

Debut album from GENÖME of Malmö, Sweden. Great production D-beat/kängpunk with echoed vocals. Many bands in this style tend to take a low-fidelity DIY approach to recording but GENÖME does it in the modern, non-retro-sounding style of ’90s Japanese meets Swedish-style hardcore production. Reminds me of a bit of DETESTATION or some of the crustcore bands coming out of the Minneapolis area in the ’90s. Artwork by Petter from GLORIOUS?

Crutches / Kontrasosial Chaos Riders Freedom Fighters split LP

CRUTCHES spit out nine tracks of clean-sounding Swedish D-beat in the vein of all your favourite umlaut-adorned and mispronounced backpatches, but with all the modern advancements of clean recording. It’s fine, I guess. Vocals could sound less shrieked, but I’m old now so what the fuck do I know; it’s just hard for me to get sucked into something so polished-sounding, especially when sonically, they just don’t manage to conjure that atmosphere of danger that I think is absolutely necessary in modern crust. I can hear all the shiny studs in this recording and none of the filth. KONTRASOSIAL gives this the kick that it needs with a slightly more metal approach and stomp that blows the other side outta the water, an unfair pairing really.

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.

M:40 Arvsynd LP

I do not know if the band name M:40 is in reference to a weapon or what, but M:40 of Sweden is weaponized with dooming folksy acoustic landscapes that remind me of ACURSED, GUTS PIE EARSHOT, and some tinges of blackened metal. My favorite thing about Arvsynd is the way all the musical levels are blended together. There is not much breathing room here, but it is not overwhelmingly aggressive either. It’s like a dense Scandinavian fog of heavy turmoil. This is the kind of hardcore that can usually get exhausting to me, but M:40 breaks it up with casual D-beat such as UNCURBED, sinister metal riffs such as NIHILIST, and fuzzed-out duo vocals. Favorite track: “Viskningar I Mörkret.” Melodic crustcore with finesse.

Osmantikos Survival LP

Crusty hardcore from Malaysia, with furious vocals and clean production. Survival features a dozen grandiose compositions that bring to mind TRAGEDY, the HOLY MOUNTAIN, and COP ON FIRE, as tracks ooze toward a more stenchcore sound. Anthemic passages from dual vocals; all-in-all a full sound from this three piece. Side B opens with some surprisingly upbeat riffs amidst slow gloomy hardcore, similar to GUILLOTINE TERROR or MOONSCAPE. A moody intro-as-intermission midway through the LP, then some more Motörcharged rhythms. With several styles of extreme punk going on, OSMANTIKOS have a lot to offer.

Overcharge Metal Punx LP

On their third full-length, these Italian D-beaters do just enough to keep things fresh. While they’ve drilled down on the typical MOTÖRHEAD-worship style of many other bullet-belted punks—in case the -CHARGE suffix didn’t clue you in—they do it competently with a few tweaks to the formula to keep things interesting. This band doesn’t require close analysis, though. It is the kind of music you throw on your leather and swig several tall cans for. Turn off that thinky bit in your skull and just go all in, because it’s fun as hell even if it earns few points for originality. Tracks like “Lords of Hysteria” even resemble the later crusty period of DARKTHRONE, which is always a good thing. This trio is going to keep doing what they’re doing and you can bang thy head or not, but you’ll have a better party if thou doth.

Plague Thirteen Plague Thirteen LP

It’s dark. It’s heavy. It’s oppressive. It induces moshing. It’s the debut album from PLAGUE THIRTEEN, a crust punk band from Czech Republic formed by ex-members of LINK and SORE in 2019. Inspired by last year’s COVID lockdown, the band presents six songs that achieve a really satisfying balance between expansive arrangements (like the brutal breakdowns of “Eyes Wide Open”), guitar epicness, D-beat fury, and full-on assaults and melodic richness.  If you wanna sample the intense power they can produce, I command you to listen to “Saturated Black,” which veers into extreme metal territory with some vicious riffing and death metal growls.

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.

Scared Earth Poisoned World LP

What made DISCHARGE such a powerful band is that they were a reaction to the times. In the early 1980s, the world stood at the brink of any-moment potential nuclear annihilation between the two great superpowers, who played a continual chess game of proxy wars and military funding across the globe. The horror and senselessness of the Vietnam War was less than half a decade from the band’s inception. The power of their music spawned an entire genre, but its continued resonance also grinds in its meaning, what it represented and still represents: a stark rejection of how the powers that be run the world. Stockholm’s SCARED EARTH’s ten-song debut LP carries the torch of D-beat hardcore with members from SVART PARAD, DISSOBER, DOM DÄR. And honestly, despite the pedigree, I was pretty ready to dismiss this as “old guys checking off boxes,” but by side B, Poisoned World stops being perfunctory solid and strong D-beat hardcore, and gets more interpretive and interesting—which is what some of the best Swedish old-timers like AVSKUM and ASOCIAL have done in some of their more recent (and arguably best) records. Opening guitar leads and weird song patterns capture a lot of what was so special about the influence of DISCHARGE in Sweden: They ignited a nation of teenagers to try to figure out how to learn to play hardcore, and the happy, sometimes inept personal expression is a large part of what makes Svensk ’80s and ’90s D-beat records so engaging. This debut’s A-side seems stuck like a lot of senior class punk records: where the musical competency, access to a good solid recording, and desire to capture the spark of their original musical influences regulates some of that personal expression and distinctiveness. It’s more direct and straight-to-the-jugular-forward. But the B-side really does give hope that this band will continue to explore and expand the confines of the really simple formula. The lyrics, largely in English, are shouted in scouring, raw screams; echo and underline blanket rejection of war, and while stark and to the point, there’s not the same kind of defining mood to the early 21st century as the early 1980s. Sure, there are armed conflicts and tragedies happening right now, but the crisis of the time is more complex and basically a slow-motion destruction of the planet by kleptocrats and indifference, so I wish this took the spirit of DISCHARGE’s lyrical intent and, again, inventively applied it to current realities. But inarguably a mandatory purchase if I was at the gig, cranked up and played loud, all of this overthinking fades and this is a killer solid blast of just tried ’n’ true classic Swedish hardcore!!!!

Slutet Bortom Vansinnets Grepp LP

There’s some fucked up black metal project with the same name that I’ve low-key been meaning to check out, so it was a surprise when I got hit by some of the cleanest sounding Swedish D-beat I’ve heard (at least in recent years). SLUTET is members of WARCOLLAPSE and EXPLOATÖR doing the stadium crust thing. It’s fine; catchy, excruciatingly clean-sounding. Call me old fashioned here, but fuck me up good and proper and leave me miserable and filthy any day. I don’t think my TOTALITÄR records are going to go far from my turntable any time soon.

Skeleton / Svaveldioxid split EP

Oh, wow! I was very excited to be assigned this split as a fan of both bands, the genre in general, and holy fuck! SVAVELDIOXID rages forth with a railgun D-beat attack, the most grisly and monstrous vocal effect I’ve heard from the band yet, sizzling bass fills and scorching guitars. Seriously, this is one of the more ferocious raw käng recordings I’ve heard in a while, and I listen to a lot of them, but I keep coming back to this to hear the subtle levels that make it stand out. Compared to previous records, this side from Sweden’s contemporary hardcore kings sound more MOB 47/DISCARD in pace at first, then exceedingly drops tune and tone finishing up in the DISPENSE/BOMBANFALL zones…this is 100% bombarding “Vevarsle”! Love! SKELETON lowers the miserable vibes even further with echoing Dis-gruntled death-beat. This is burning more from the gut than the fists, if that makes sense. Thinking MARERIDT, INFERNÖH, BRAINCELL. Four tracks of gruesome paroxysm from Canada. Always with the most imaginative crusty-life existence drawings, Robin Wiberg (SVAVELDIOXID drums) graces the cover with his gnarly pen. In short, get this—both sides rule.

Parötid / Zudas Krust Split EP

ZUDAS KRUST’s filth-kicking things off with the wrath and gnashing vocals of, well FILTHKICK, ABADDON, and lots of European crust of the early to mid ’90s. This is grotesque, noisy, and blistering muffled D-beat sung in the meter of classic crust hardcore of that era. No-fucks-given aggression, in three passionate tracks. Think ENYZME and FRAMTID contemporarily, with bestial wild force. PARÖTID plays more in the rhythm of DISASTER, with very buoyant loose disruptive bass. Lots of echoing reverb and strange speed changes, sort of weird, but totally intentional and impressive, where one might expect straightforward D-beat the entire way. I really like the way these two play off each other. They are distinctly different, in tone, polish, and speed, but compliment each other. “Humanism” is catchy as fuck! Getting lost in this one. Both bands are recommended, as is the split as a whole.