Reviews

Eric Anderson

The Annihilated Submission to Annihilation LP

2022 was certainly a memorable year for punk albums, with a number of releases I would consider to be new instant classics. Coming in at the final hour, the ANNIHILATED unleashed Submission to Annihilation, one of the year’s latest and greatest. Full-throated and raw, the ANNIHILATED play a similar strain of D-beat hardcore to BOOTLICKER, with a vocal delivery that has been correctly compared to Damaged-era Rollins. Lyrically, topics cover class warfare (“Divide and Conquer,” “Bootstraps”), widespread apathy (“Normality”), and the hell of substance abuse (“Vice Grip”), themes that are all uniquely modern and unfortunately timeless. Add to that the artwork from drummer Nicky Rat and mixing by Jonah Falco (whose seal of approval is always a sign of quality) and that it’s self-released(!), and it simply cannot be understated: the ANNIHILATED have ticked every box and delivered their own instant classic.

Conservative Military Image Skinhead cassette

A couple of months ago, I began to notice a buff dude popping up in pictures with some of my favorite bands like the CHISEL and VIOLENT WAY along with the letters “CMI,” and I couldn’t help but wonder “who is this guy, and what the fuck is ‘CMI’?” Well, it didn’t take long for me to find out. “CMI” is CONSERVATIVE MILITARY IMAGE, a Chicago-based band making waves with their one-two punch of EPs, Summer Skinhead and this, their debut Skinhead. Playing a catchy mix of Oi!, hardcore, and street punk, CONSERVATIVE MILITARY IMAGE has cited inspiration from bands as diverse as WARZONE, ROSE TATTOO, and NEW YORK HOUNDS. Lead singer and lyricist Adam is the glue holding this crew together, and while I love his classic tough-guy punk sneer (almost going into Stiv Bators/DEAD BOYS territory at times), the real gold is his lyrics. Clever and direct, proud and loud, Adam is extremely economical with his writing yet leaves plenty to unpack. “Generation Kill” is a great example; a sub-two-minute stomper that tells you everything you need to know about this band’s mentality and manages to slip in an easter egg of a lyric from Boston’s the TROUBLE. It’s a tasteful homage and something CONSERVATIVE MILITARY IMAGE is so good at: respectfully mining inspiration and making something fresh of their own. I’m fortunate enough to be a Chicago native and look forward to catching these guys this year. Fuckin’ Oi! is right!

Bootlicker Lick the Boot, Lose Your Teeth: The EPs LP

The first BOOTLICKER material I heard was their fourth EP, 2020’s How to Love Life. As soon as the opening track “It’s Beautiful” started I knew one thing for sure: this was some of the gnarliest drumming I’d heard in a minute. Crunchy, brutal, and unrelenting, like a machine gun ripping through clips of ammunition. That’s all I needed to become a believer. BOOTLICKER is putting out some of the best D-beat hardcore punk at the moment, and this collection of their first four EPs (from 2017–2020) showcases the band’s ascent from their first 6 Track EP towards the aforementioned How to Love Life. To get the full scope of the band’s output, listen to all 37(!) minutes, but as I mentioned, I highly recommend the track “It’s Beautiful” to hear the band at full power. 

Faul Techniczny Dalej Pójdę Sam LP

Here’s a band I’d never heard before, FAUL TECHNICZNY (or “technical foul” for you non-Polish speakers) from Poland. They’ve been kicking around since 2017 and have compiled and released their first three LPs here as Dalej Pójdę Sam. NYHC-inspired fare with gruff vocals, frequent breakdowns, and absolutely no frills. In fact, there’s really no fat anywhere here—every song is very direct with little to no deviance from the formula that they’ve obviously found works for them. Unfortunately, this makes the songs blend together a little from time to time. Overall it’s not for me, but I know a few punks back in my hometown who could get down to this.

T.S. Warspite Stop the Rot LP

Leading us by the hand into a grim vision of the not-too-distant-future is the excellently named T.S. WARSPITE with their first LP Stop the Rot on Quality Control HQ. Following a stellar demo from 2020, the Manchester-based outfit plays a supercharged take on early DC melodic hardcore and modern UKHC; think BAD RELIGION and DAG NASTY but also BIG CHEESE and the FLEX. Singer Marco Abbatiello’s rumbling voice serves as the narrator, taking us through the struggles of getting through the hellscape that is modern society including politics, housing issues, and impending environmental destruction. Both incredibly urgent and scathingly intelligent, we’d be wise to listen to what these guys have to say. Standouts include “Scampia,” “Redemption Arc,” and “Slum Landlord.”

Todd Killings & the Contracts (I’ve) Got Your Contract EP

Thanks to TODD KILLINGS & THE CONTRACTS, I’m now aware of the proud Vancouver punk pastime of “fuck bands,” or bands with members swapping instruments and opening for themselves at shows, playing joke songs that were more than occasionally actually very good. You see, at the time, the scene was so small that there weren’t enough bands to play opening slots at shows. Thus, the “fuck band” was born. Inspired by this tradition, (I’ve) Got Your Contract was recorded by Josh and Pat of CHAIN WHIP during COVID lockdown with minimal takes to keep it raw, and it sounds great. You can clearly hear the pent-up energy of two punks having a good time without giving themselves many restraints. Fun and rowdy pogo-punk, for fans of Killed By Death comps and rare punk 45s, this will be a fun discovery for crate diggers in the future.

The Chisel / Mess split EP

The sound of the new wave of Oi!—the CHISEL and MESS are leaders of the pack, and this is a perfect snapshot of some of the best of what this genre has to offer. MESS fares excellently on their side with “Don’t Look Back” and “I Don’t Like You,” the former proper BLITZ-worship and the latter a catchy belter with some nice BUZZCOCKS-style guitars. The CHISEL’S contributions are fantastic as always with “Keep it Schtum,” a hard one that reminds me of something off their first EP Deconstructive Surgery, and “Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” their catchiest and most celebratory since “Not the Only One.” Don’t be a square, shave your head and listen to this!

Violent Way Bow to None LP

Earnestness isn’t an easy look to pull off, but VIOLENT WAY from Buffalo, NY wears it well. On Bow to None, lead singer Nick Terlecky and the boys encapsulate their world neatly and wrap it in a bow. Lyrically, it’s all about loyalty, respect, and not taking any shit. Sonically, these guys are the real deal and have clearly done their homework. On opener “We Don’t Need You,” VIOLENT WAY channels the spirit of ’82 flawlessly. If you’re into Oi! classics from the likes of COMBAT 84, the LAST RESORT, and TEMPLARS, you will find lots to be happy about here. Standouts include anthemic title track “Bow to None,” “Our Stand” (featuring a cameo from Cal of the CHISEL) ,and instrumental “VWS”. No frills, no fuss, just the good shit.

Watermelon Watermelon demo cassette

WATERMELON is a snappy three-piece from Chicago playing one-and-a-half-minute knuckle sandwiches on their 2021 demo cassette. Sonically, there’s a heavy RAMONES influence, but also a dash of EATER and MISFITS. What really stands out are the vocals, a girl-gang chant that reminds me of Holly Golightly and THEE HEADCOATEES. Standouts “Shithead” and “I’m So Happy” both sound like they’ll be on punk comps someday. Good stuff!

Snuffed Coping Human Waste LP

Chicago’s SNUFFED play crunchy and mean Midwestern hardcore on their LP Coping Human Waste, released earlier this year on Another City Records. With Andy Nelson of WEEKEND NACHOS and HARMS WAY on recording duties, SNUFFED delivers a nice mix of fast punk and riffy hardcore in the vein of URBAN WASTE and the FLEX, showcased best on tracks “Pesticide” and “Flock.” The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “If You Resent” is the shortest track here, a traditional one minute as opposed to the rest which clock in at about the two-and-a-half-minute mark. It’s unusual for this style, but it’s refreshing and makes repeated listens essential.

Mindforce New Lords LP

Upstate New York hardcore giants MINDFORCE return with their excellent second LP New Lords on Triple B Records. It’s been four years of heavy touring and headlining festivals since their debut Excalibur, and it shows—MINDFORCE is sharper than ever. The band is a well-oiled machine and frontman Jay Peta’s performance is worth the cost of admission alone. Opener and title track “New Lords” is a shout-along headbanger leading into “Survival is Vengeance,” a no-frills thrashing that showcases Peta’s strong vocals. At the album’s halfway point, the band shows (a little) mercy with epic standout “Thirteen and Mean,” the album’s longest track and what feels like the centerpiece. Awesome mid-tempo muted riffs and white-hot solos lead to a fake-out ending followed by a stomping final thirty seconds. A few rippers later, we arrive at closer “Rotten,” which sees MINDFORCE go out with a bang. Beginning the song with ominous metal-riffing, the band takes us through a whirlwind of different speeds and styles before inviting the listener back to the pit to get their ass kicked one last time. MINDFORCE are masters of high-energy live performances and they’ve successfully captured that same energy on New Lords.

Strong Boys Homo EP

Gay hardcore punk heroes STRONG BOYS from Dublin are back after a six-year hiatus with their just-over-five-minute-long EP Homo on the always wonderful Static Shock label. There is a heavy influence from John Brannon and an early NEGATIVE APPROACH vibe, with barking tough guy vocals and lean/mean guitar and rhythm section. Lyrically, you can hear what STRONG BOYS have to say loud and clear: they are not here to take your shit. Not yours, not the church’s (“Pink Death”), not society’s (“UB2FU,” “Bad Blood”), and most definitely not some creepy shitstain trying to cop a feel at the bar (“Bad Bear”). Great hardcore that isn’t fucking around.

Foreseen Untamed Force LP

Finnish thrashers FORESEEN have unleashed their highly anticipated new LP Untamed Force. I’m going to get straight to the point: this record is fucking awesome. A truly wild ride that places FORESEEN comfortably next to thrash/crossover contemporaries MUNICIPAL WASTE and POWER TRIP (R.I.P. Riley, to whom the album is partially dedicated), while also bringing to mind the best of the NWOBHM: VENOM, DIAMOND HEAD, and MOTÖRHEAD. Opening track “Soldier’s Grave” sets the tone for the rest of the album with chugging guitars, double kicks, and righteous solos. Vocalist Murko Nummelin’s delivery matches the music almost too perfectly; at times he sounds like he’s foaming at the mouth. Lyrically, you can feel the urgency and fury in every track. By the halfway point, FORESEEN has aimed their sights on those entitled in society on “Birthright,” the pain endured to please the powers that be on “Tolerance of Abuse,” and the despair of drug addiction on “Suffocating Routine.” Then two minutes into “Fetish Oppression,” things take off into an unexpected soaring bridge complete with angelic (or demonic) backing vocals. It’s one of many moments that make this album such a fun listen. FORESEEN is masterful at adding touches throughout that take each song to the next level. Check the organs playing in “Cold Comfort,” the runaway train guitar and bass chug in “Serve Your Purpose,” and the dizzying drums and face-melting intro of “Desensitized.” Title track “Untamed Force” closes the album with the band declaring “Crashing the gate / No time to wait / For someone to do it for us / Storming onwards / A ferocious untamed force,” a firm affirmation that this is FORESEEN’s world and we’re just living in it. Expect this to be on every “best of” list at the end of the year.

Zikin Zementua Armosaten 12″

Basque Country band ZIKIN (Basque for “dirt”) has released their EP Zementua Armosaten on one of my new favorite labels Mendeku Diskak, and rightfully so, as ZIKIN fits right in alongside labelmates MESS, CASTILLO, and BRUX. Quick, sharp, angry bursts of street punk with a slight tint of deathrock. Standout track “Jodidu” (Basque for “iodize”) is a catchy fist-pumper with a DEAD KENNEDYS-inspired surf guitar lead that seems to appear out of nowhere. A rad EP that makes me look forward to hearing more from ZIKIN.

Buggin Brainfreeze / Gratitude flexi 7″

“Brainfreeze” is a two-minute pummeling from BUGGIN, one of the best hardcore bands from Chicago right now. Simply put, this is hardcore punk that is incredibly accessible. Very catchy, great breakdowns, great riffs. Also, it’s a love song, which is cool as fuck. The B-side is a cover of “Gratitude” from BEASTIE BOYS’ Check Your Head, handled wonderfully as the band flex their mid-tempo muscles.  Fresh off of the Darkside of the Moon 2 tour from Triple B and Flatspot Records, BUGGIN are ones to watch. Fingers crossed for a full-length soon.

Cuir Album LP

CUIR (French for “leather”) is a one-man band cruising through eleven two-minute cuts of neo/cyber/future Oi! on the superb Album. These strong (if slightly repetitive) traditional punk songs are elevated with flourishes of synth running through each track. Opening instrumental “Maniac” sets the pace, and standout “Luxure Objectif” sums things up perfectly: a propulsive two-and-a-half minute ode to kinky leather bondage. CUIR mastermind Doug Zilla even sounds a little bit like Tony from the RIFFS, what’s not to love? For fans of CAMERA SILENS and the movie Drive.

Vanilla Muffins The Drug is Football LP reissue

VANILLA MUFFINS refer to their brand of upbeat punk as “Sugar Oi!,” drawing from SHAM 69 and the RAMONES in equal measure. On Puke N Vomit’s reissue of their beloved 2003 LP The Drug is Football, you can nearly taste the sweetness. Opener “Brigade Loco” is a love letter to punks in Spain with a catchy sing-along chorus and guitars à la COCK SPARRER, “Pride of the North” is three minutes of perfect pop punk probably worth the price of admission alone, and “Viva El Fulham” is all BUZZCOCKS and the JAM riffs. By the time they reach their take on WALL OF VOODOO’s “Mexican Radio,” they have covered just about every ’70s punk benchmark I can think of. Great, catchy football-worship for anyone with a sweet tooth.