Ken Sanderson

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!

Farmaco Hasta Que Valga La Pena Vivir 7″ flexi

This four-song demo flexi from FARMACO (“Drug”) from Argentina trawls mid-tempo hardcore, somewhere in between the fist-pumping of EXIT ORDER and classic Eastern Euro slow-burn marathon rampaging, with just enough tried ’n’ true crustcore metallic riffage and a pinch of moody Japanese-style guitar flair. Female vocals pierce over top with haunting efficiency; the lyrics are in Spanish but song titles translating to “Everything Dies,” “Failures,” “Future” stage a bleak enough picture. The final track is a more upbeat cover of the opening track of the Argentinan band SOBERANÁA PERSONAL’s 1988 cassette album Lider, which is more dialed in but maybe loses a little without its charming original sloppiness. Great debut!!! Limed to 110 copies.

Deletär Violence 12″

An even sharper blast of ten TOTALITÄR-inspired D-beatings than this St. Etienne band’s great debut 7″ EP. There’s enough flourish, stops ’n’ starts and innovation around the margins of the straight ahead that the sturdy pummel of DEATHREAT might also be a point of reference, but by the last track of side A they’re dropping an epic guitar intro reminiscent of JUDGEMENT, so a lot of things mix outside of the template of grade-A Svensk-style käng stomping this band has down. Compared to the 7″, there’s less room noise  and more focus in the recording to simmer up the strength of the actual songs—great to-the-point hardcore bursts with vocal chords stretching into depths of RIPCORD-ish growl, barking in French. There’s no translation (or sadly, even TOTALITÄR-esque explanations in English) but a quick scan through translation seems pretty basic resistance and struggle. The artwork, while cool, also checks that box of definably punk without a definably direct statement. A remarkably solid, blazing record at 45 RPM with memorable riffs and pointed impact! Killer!

Government Flu House Arrest EP

Warsaw’s GOVERNMENT FLU has been around long enough to still have a page limping on Myspace (!), and  a lengthy catalog of solid, straight-ahead, early-’80s US-influenced hardcore. This five-song EP (their ninth!) spins like one of the best early No Way Records releases (DIRECT CONTROL, GOVERNMENT WARNING, etc.) where there’s no bullshit, no metal or art trappings, just concise, direct hardcore that maybe trawls the FANG/”end-of-the-LP-side” ’80s punk sludge here and there to bookend the speeding attack. Energetic jolts of fast hardcore more precisely played than ’80s bands in a more defined recording, the No Way comparison is apt, and the EP’s artistic design, with a big fold-out poster/lyrics sheet harkens to that great spirit and style of  HC revival of the mid-’00s, but urgency and intensity overrides any retro nostalgia. Lyrics are shouted in English, confronting decisions of how to live life, self-definition, expectation and rules. Great EP, limited to 500 copies.

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!!!!

Zeměžluč Kolik A Komu? CD

Brno’s ZEMEZLUC (“Earthworm”) has played powerful straightforward hardcore and chorus-laden punk since 1986(!), and this new sixteen-song album (their first in almost five years) translates to “How Much, To Whom?” There’s so much joy to this record, as it’s just veterans who effortlessly know what they’re doing, throwing out really great riffs and innovative guitar parts and putting forth marching rhythms and strong anthemic choruses. Sung in twisting and scowling Czech, this centers on a mid-tempo pace and is a testament to the well-crafted songwriting that it holds in doing so, as opposed to relying on speed or brutality of impact. Everything is just really well placed; even if you don’t understand Czech, you still want to sing along by the time the songs round to the shout-along parts. The lyrics have that fascinating, deeply thought-out Eastern European existential resistance. A powerful LP for returning fans, and an easy starting point for new ones. Great record!

Motron Who’ll Stop the Rain LP

The second album from this Motörcharged metal punk band from Varese, Italy featuring various members from PIOGGA NERA, KONTATTO, DEVOID OF THOUGHT, and more. This sounds a lot like if you took the gruff-beyond-gruff vocals from CRUDE SS, distorted them even deeper on the EXTREME NOISE TERROR spectrum, and then set them atop a far more metallic and rock’n’rage-driven crustcore peak, with riffs galore and sharp quick solos all sewn together with tight playing. A little less raw and more polished than their first album Eternal Headache, both in terms of the recording and the songs themselves, the fourteen tracks speed, crush, and rock, culminating in their take on a classic NABAT song. The lyrics are blunt: attacking war, scene problems, cops and the ever-relatable punk needs of drugs and a hangover-killing next-day hair of the dog. All in fun, there’s a wild “if you’re only in it for the lyrics…fuck off” warning on the lyric sheet, which is a wild inversion of the ’80s and ’90s “if you’re only in it for the music, fuck off.” Sadly, it’s hard to fathom where punk has landed in the 21st century—anyone is drawn to it at this point by the lyrics, but perhaps there are still (and more power to them) ancient diehards keeping close monitor from their squat somewhere in Europe, whom modern late stage capitalism has yet to pry loose. It’s an odd warning, like “hey don’t judge us too closely,” but with a crust skeleton riding a motorcycle on the cover next to a beer bottle on a chain. I think the party was clearly stated from the outset, and it meets it in, ahem, (ace of) “spades.” It is a fun, raging, rocking listen.

The Wilderness The Wilderness III LP

A reissue of this Slovak band’s limited press ten-song 2016 LP that quickly evaporated to collector circles. This balances some real rock’n’roll-based punk (think HEARTBREAKERS, RICHARD HELL, the SAINTS, etc., with some grimy guitar slinging) but with sharp creative reinvestment/updating Á  la CIRCUS LUPUS, and the unpredictable edge of great Eastern European punk albums. The creative turn here also seems rooted in older rock sensibilities, with some of the late ’60s weird post-Sgt. Pepper’s musical adventurism. It’s a remarkably taut and full recording, launching it over the band’s previous outings. While sung entirely in Slovak with no translations provided, a cursory translation leads with “This city is overrun with black cats.” Sturdily packaged in a thick-cut cover, insert, and obi strip, The Wilderness III is an engagingly deft balance of a lot of eras of punk, confidently delivered, and crafted with enough creativity to warrant repeat listens. Cool!

Raamattu Anno Domini EP

Raging!!!!!!!!!!! RAAMATTU (“Holy Bible” or “Scriptures”) play ten super quick blasts of the UUTTUS-style intensified skew-on-the-jackhammering KANSAAN UUTISET branch of Finnish hardcore. This Turku band’s debut EP completely nails the style, with caustic shouts that burn into haunting scowls, riveting drumming, raw guitars, and then the slow rhythmic drum beats on the toms that punctuate this style. Less noisy than their 2018 demo and sharper in delivery, It’s perfectly recorded with the clarity this level of speed needs, and just the appropriate enough update to not sound particularly dated, nor particularly modern, but timeless. The tenth track is an UUTUUS cover. The lyrics apply the urgency of ’80s hardcore to modern problems of global warming, welfare for the rich, factory farming, and sexism with blunt crudity and abrupt power. Killer EP!

Cheap Perfume Nailed It LP

A remastered vinyl reissue of Colorado Springs’ CHEAP PERFUME’s 2016 debut CD, with fourteen tracks of strong, unapologetic, feminist punk powered by loose, occasionally sludgy and sturdy garage bashing. The lead vocals are pointed and direct, hurling political barbs and jarring take-downs reminiscent of the sharper moments of NAKED AGGRESSION. Echoed and backed by another set of volatile female backup vocals, sometimes shouted, sometimes sung, HEAVENS TO BETSY could be a reference point, but so could the jubilant chaos of ANTI-SCRUNTI FACTION. Like the music, it’s all kept inventive yet simple, recalling lots of different bands (at one song it took awhile for me to finally place what it sounded like—unexpectedly, it was EMPIRE!), but it’s personal in expression, with many different influences but no direct comparisons. The lyrics go between sassy and brutal, assailing sexism, Trump, male expectations of women, navigating relationships, defining consent, and their enunciated clarity pins with the music to make it all shout-along friendly. 300 pressed on red vinyl. The cover is basic but apropos, with a diagram of uterus forming the interior a punk skull!

Mutilated Tongue Fuel the Flame LP

Three fifths of Oakland’s LOOK BACK AND LAUGH reconfigure for a new three-piece. Brian from TALK IS POISON is on guitar and vocals here, and there are similar, sturdy ’80s hardcore song structures to TALK IS POISON, but with the more frantic overdrive and quick pace of LOOK BACK AND LAUGH, with rapid-fire drumming and his vocals stretching and slurring to more of an AGNOSTIC FRONT end. These veterans easily deliver ten boss songs of unrelenting speed and power. Terse lyrics of struggle and resistance lambaste oppression and bleak modern realities. A full-sounding recording courtesy of Atomic Garden, sick basslines, crushing breakdowns—this is a blaster that demands maximum volume!!!! Though most of the artwork here is really of a basic hardcore template, I do have misgivings about the cover art. The same photo of the dead Salvadorian woman with her face burned off with acid was originally used by MDC in their Multi-Death Corporations 7″ for horrific effect: a protest to the then-in-progress Reagan-backed right wing Contra assault on the people of El Salvador against the elected socialist Sandinista government. MDC used pages of a fold-out 7″ sleeve to underline their opposition to Reagan’s illegal war in Central America, and the two absolutely brutal centerpiece photos of corpses still are incredibly raw and disturbing, meant to hammer their point home. But here, without the direct political impetus, it seems like an overstep. MUTILATED TONGUE is currently one of the Bay Area’s most unrelenting live bands, both in terms of their intense shows and prolific gigging, and each time I’ve seen them they’ve jumped in intensity and power. I’m certain their next outing will take all the greatness here, and dial in the presentation for something even more sharp and focused. Excellent debut!

XDeloreanX / XDuhX Split 12″

Great Scott!! A one-sided 12″ of two powerviolence/grind bands from Tuscany’s XDELOREANX and Pisa’s XDUHX. With the X’s bookmarking the band name, XDELORIANX don’t seem to be emphasizing John Delorean’s actual cocaine trafficking charges, but continuing their extended over-the-top tribute to the Back to the Future trilogy. SPAZZ-style short blasts mix curt build-ups and quicker breakdowns with explosions of stop-start hardcore, speeding depth charges of gruff and gnarled vocal tradeoffs about Biff, Professor Emmett Brown, the Twin Pines Mall, Huey Lewis, and other “Pinhead Powerviolence” subjects. Fun, silly, and sharply played, these five tracks are a quick and deft enough jolt for the jokes to wear in and not thin. XDUHX pick up the speed with more of a throttling grindcore bend, with shattering blastbeats and vocal gurgle, punctuated with clearly-shouted Italian samples, oddball musical twists, and quick turns. Seven tracks shifting all over the hardcore spectrum, including defiant classic hardcore, powerviolence dirge and purge, and straight grind, then even tossing in a funk and grind throwdown. A fun “split” with a silk-screened B-side featuring Marty McFly in a punk battle vest with…Vin Diesel? Ray Cappo? Biff? Noise freaks and Michael J. Fox fans move fast: 300 pressed.

Mortalis Enemigos EP

This is a really cool record. On the surface Tijuana’s MORTALIS (“Mortal”) play straightforward, chorus-laden Oi!-ish punk with simple mid-tempo rock riffing, but these four tracks have a really strong yet odd recording quality, with slightly buried and distorted vocals, and an off-kilter noisiness that leaves everything slightly off balance. Early hardcore and punk always had these kind of happy accident recordings, where the learn-and-make-up-as-you-go nature of things led to unique recordings that defined the band as much as their music. People seem to copy and mimic them with abundance now, but this somehow feels more organic. There’s also something remarkably just laid back, and mid-gear-throttling-about-the-songs-themselves that gives the record a unique quality. The lyrics are entirely in Spanish with no translation, so it’s a mystery to me, but the artwork of Enemigos (enemies) has Indigenous people disemboweling Conquistadors on the back, so at least some of the message is clear.

The Divided World You’re Living In LP

Containing ex-members of BONECRUSHER, Orange County’s the DIVIDED debut plants firmly in anthemic punk, landing somewhere between the rowdy singalongs of classic street punk, and the guitar-driven Loggerheads-era DOA, with rock influences similarly strongly affixed atop a sturdy frame of straightforward punk blasting. Ten tracks that hurl gravel-tinted vocals hollering and crooning over melodic riffs, an anchoring sturdy drum beat, and occasional flourishes—a searing guitar lead and solo, a drop out for some bass soloing, and other small touches that echo the great ’80s/’90s OC sounds of yore. BONECRUSHER’s early recordings remind me a lot of PERSONALITY CRISIS, and the same swagger and unique vocal quirks surface here at points, though this is much more bright and upbeat, and just a really strong punk record with catchy songs that stick with you after the needle lifts. Lyrics are stories told of love and loss, snippets on hard work, toil, and surviving. Legendary punk photographer Ed Colver supplies stage-setting cover photos of chain link fences, empty beer cans, abandoned buildings, and spray painted walls. A great balanced recording makes this a good bet for punks who clamor for songs, melody, and singalong mixed with a little gristle, but the songs are strong enough that there’s a pretty good chance that after a pint or three at their show, anyone would leave with a copy under their arm. Solid!

Total Massacre The System Works… LP

Somewhere after the release of Rock Against Bush Vol. 2 and American Idiot on Broadway getting nominated for a Tony Award, punk seemed to completely deflate as a political entity. Even as punks expanded their personal politics, outward messages of defiance towards the government and society were often totally dropped in favor of heavy metal-style “cvlt” imagery (just replace Satan and demons with a crude line drawing of a spider crawling out of a skull’s eye socket wrapped in barber wire), and the dressings of hardcore style lost much of the meaning that often gave it much of it’s bite, importance, and impact. Of course, this news never reached these old diehards in Van Nuys. TOTAL MASSACRE’s second album is good ’n’ punchy, tried-and-true old school hardcore punk (a la DEHUMANIZERS or DETONATORS) with gnarled vocals like the more raw ARTISTIC DECLINE tracks, or a less extreme CAPITOL PUNISHMENT, spitting diatribes ripped out of the headlines. Fuck their border wall! If you see a fucking Nazi, you’re gonna knock his fucking block off! Fuck Trump! I’m gonna make damn sure my liver fails before our institutions do!! (a funny line, but one that shows how fucking bizarro world 2019 actually is). The band makes good use of their indignation, but I do at times feel these laundry lists of outrage would benefit from just a bit more over the top irony and the kinds of acidic dark humor that made some of the original 1980s political hardcore bands such fun jaunts. The music bolts straight ahead, with melodic underpinnings anchored by a steady upfront drumbeat, captured in a solid recording, with catchy enough songs to hoist the lyrical musings and maybe inspire a few fist pumps in tandem with the beat. Maybe the lyrics are not ones that will change the world, but punk’s power was always music as meeting point for people who felt the same way, and it’s why the political and personal lyrics are still important, because yeah I feel that way too. I’m an anti-fascist and we’re all anti-fascists too! TOTAL MASSACRE maybe wallow lyrically in the challenges and disappointments that come with age a few too many times here, yeah…maybe we feel all that way too sometimes, but one of punk’s strength is also the empowerment it can bring to both the performer and the listener. This comes in a gatefold sleeve with full lyrics.

Ξέρα (Ksera) ΝžΝ­ρα EP

This six-song EP from Thessaloniki, Greece combines noise rock guitar bashing over charging hardcore, with screamed ’n’ scraped vocals and a crunchy drum pounding in a live-bled noisy recording. The total effect is somewhat like if you steered a raw demo of GUZZARD or HAMMERHEAD onto a basic hardcore template, left room for the guitars to be repetitively smashed into a hammering wall of noise, and then had Poffen from TOTALITÄR do the vocals. An interpretive enough style that breaks for a freakout of soloing guitar squiggles or a drum-driven breakdown. There’s no lyrics or even song titles on this record, with the cover looking like either runes or the pattern on a mid-century formica coffee table. Not a bad listen, but either a wilder leap into unfamiliar territory, a far more brutal push, or a latch to some sort of meaning might seal the deal. 200 made.

Jad Strach LP

This ten-song debut 12″ from Warsaw’s JAD leans heavy on the mechanical patterns of early Polish hardcore (the distinctive robotic pulsing of ARMIA or even SIEKIERA), but even heavier on the crude, primitive hardcore deconstruction of HOAX, where 1-2 midtempo charge is sustained, then slowed, then sustained for crushing effect, and leads in to even more crushing breakdowns. Basic yet effective repetitive pounding, with meaty “at the door of the haunted hallway” (i.e. slightly distorted) vocals scowling over the top, and a thick yet slightly grated raw guitar sound. This is not as sludgy as HOAX, but a more energetic, incredibly dialed-in, and surprisingly great record. There’s some inventiveness with this formula, but it’s so seamless, with tight musicianship and delivery on a set pattern, though without understanding the lyrics, it does skirt on the border of predictability. The lyrics (all in Polish) come on the accompanying poster, and the artwork is “cvlt”-style line-drawings of people hanging off the band logo, barbed wire, a dissected head, and vultures, all made to look distressed—like it was found on the floor of a copy center in 1981, so who knows. These are killer jams.

Kina Irreale Realtà LP reissue

Hailing from the far northwestern corner of Italy, Aosta’s KINA formed in 1982 inside the blast radius of the first Italian hardcore wave, but began releasing records close enough to the mid-’80s HÜSKER DÜ/SST/ARTICLES OF FAITH/RITES OF SPRING-styled bending of the confines of strict hardcore rules that the raw energy and unpredictable creativity of Italian hardcore combines with a wide, untamed flange guitar sound and complex musical arrangements that here only hint at the expansive incorporation of influences of folk music and unexpected instrumentation that would later mark their fifteen year career. Irreale Realtà (“Unreal Reality”), this three-piece’s fifteen-song debut LP, was originally self-released in 1985, and hung around a melodic core, but was and is very much a savage hardcore record with pummeling, speedy thrash that sparks and rages like the best moments of early Italian hardcore. Caustic vocals shouted in Italian hurl angry missives towards authority and power, but the lyrics are also inwardly reflective, personal, and thoughtful. This reissue reprints the original Italian inserts, but sadly not the English translations from the original export editions. It also comes in a much thicker (and less ringwear ready!) cover compared to the original, with clearer, slightly larger reproductions of the artwork, and has a more balanced remastering where the music levels out with the vocals and has a bit more depth and clarity. This makes it sound “better” overall, but also a little less sloppy and unhinged, as the extreme vocals less forcefully dominate the recording, but everything balances a bit more. It’s a good place to start if you’ve either never heard the band, or a refreshing enough update that it’s worth a visit even if you already own the original. The last two tracks on each side are live in Berlin in 1984, and shed some of the sheen that the flange guitar gives the studio recording for wild effluence of melody, shouted vocals, and high energy blasting. Though the replacement of Kina’s Blu Bus label’s classic slogan, “self-production and self-management as tools for communication and antagonistic experiences” (an idea that I think KINA tried to live by as much as promote other people to do) by a barcode underlines a reality of late 2010’s punk rock. But an otherwise well-done and great reissue!

.Gram. / …Is Dodelijk Ballern EP

The first recording since 2015 by Germany’s …IS DODELIJK! (“…Is Deadly”) features four new tracks of grimy hardcore that wallow in the proto-HC primitivism of simplistic fast punk songs with brutal shouted vocals. Sung in German and English, thoughtful lyrics decry the rise of racism, musing on the unyielding influence of time and challenge of life, and dehumanization of refugees and the homeless. Slowing slightly from previous recordings, these tracks have more control and direct impact, loose a with a stripped-down feel reminiscent of a less codified era of hardcore, as well as the current wave of blunt, Oi!-inspired anthems. On the flip, Munich’s .GRAM.’s four tracks have a considerably more 1990s feel, in a classic mix of plunging sludge bookending throttling, blast beat and tempo-driven thrash with a few mechanically searing guitar parts. Also sung in German, the lyrics fixate on personal frustration via scathing throaty screams. With their delivery sharpened from previous releases, these four songs are concise enough not wear out their welcome in reliance on snare and shout for impact. Good split EP!

Dead Already On a Hook LP

This Australian band’s fourteen-song debut LP is chock full of good, simmering punk edging on hardcore, but is completely killed by basically monotone, yelped vocals which work within this same repetitive delivery. Song to song, it doesn’t matter the lyrics, the lead vocals largely find a pattern within a song: working low to ending on a high sharp note, and repeating it regardless of the lyrical content within the same continued vocal range across the entire record. Lyrics are punk’s greatest strength: being able to hear what someone is singing about, being able to understand why they are yelling, relate to it, and sing along is all power, and it’s power that people seem to largely have set aside for either lack of lyrics they actually believe in or to make the music sound more brutal by having the vocals be unrecognizably gnarly. Here the band seems to actually have relatable, relevant lyrics delivered in a stream of consciousness about climate change, Silicon Valley cyber-snooping, and fighting fascism, but the vocals aren’t gnarly. They’re shrilly, barked repetitively, nulling any impact over this long of a recording. Backing vocals break it up a little, and the music is solid crunchy punkers with bullish leads and sturdy drumming, but the vocals are pretty much a dealbreaker. The cover is a spiral line drawing of decapitated chicken heads, with the back cover of a decapitated chicken getting a drop of liquid dropped inside from an eyedropper.

Korkkivika Idylli On Rikki LP

KORKKIVIKA translates to “cork taint,” when the cork of bottled wine spoils the flavor. This Finnish band’s ten-song follow-up to last year’s debut EP ages a bit more unspoiled, with classic Finnish melodic punk somewhere between the loose ramble of LAMA and the retro rejuvenation of the BRIEFS, with the angular vocals pricking melody-driven punk and the occasional boot-storming punker anthem. Miikka Järvinen, the drummer of WASTED and vocalist of PAX AMERICANA, sings here. While the music is not as guitar-layered as WASTED or hardcore-leaning as PAX AMERICANA, it sits firmly in its ’77 lean, and is probably an easy template for grabbing a bottle and a couple friends for a drunken singalong if Finnish flows naturally. Lack of fluency might require a bit more reach (our copy omitted the enclosed lyric sheet), with the lyrics and song titles almost entirely in Finnish. The album title roughly translating to “idyll is broken” over a cover photo of an idyllic lake, matched with raw melodic guitar riffs, charging drumming, and warty shouts—at least I get the gist. Solid!

Lvger You Wanna Rvn? 12″

New York’s LVGER’s six-song debut 12″ takes a step back to the mid-’80s/early-’90s nexus where punk, metal, and rock hadn’t really formalized off, and clear, song-driven rock’n’roll tracks punched with the heavy riffage of metal and the blunt crudity of punk. There are whiffs of MOTÖRHEAD’s swagger, but the songs largely have the measured musical restraint of AT WAR or early DANZIG with their methodical soloing or traces of the bands Oi! roots (this band includes members of the TEMPLARSs and 45 ADAPTERS), with paced choruses and gruffly sung-shouted vocals. Well-played, solidly recorded, proficient, and sturdy, this holds up to repeat listens, and is catchy enough to stick with you, but also recalls that earlier, interesting time of music where direction was uncertainly murky, and could kick harder in heaviness, melody, and/or overdrive to leave a deeper footprint. The LP cover is a diagram of a Luger pistol, there is no lyric sheet, and song titles include “Evil Eye,” “Dumb Love,”and “Drop the Ace.” Limited to 280 copies—a great listen leaves you ready for the next.

Ona Snop Geezer LP

Tight and taut, delivered at neck-breaking speed, and detonated with a great recording that front and centers the drums without expense to the rest of the music. Leeds’ ONA SNOP’s debut LP follows several split EPs with a blistering eighteen tracks of chaotically controlled thrash. A blender on pulse of INTENSE DEGREE-styled quick spurts of rabid hardcore, SPAZZ-esque vocal trade offs, stop-start with brute grind style pummeling, and quick rockin’ to weird passages bending on sharp turns before hammering back within seconds into more unrelenting throttle. Songs are short, sharp, but shock with their complexity, played expertly to navigate their quick and oddball turns. Maybe it’s a lack of cross-cultural literacy, maybe it’s a lack of cross-generational literacy, but the LP cover has a cartoonish full-color collage of pastel drawings of celebrities’ heads: Amy Winehouse, Mr. T, Geezer Butler, Sporty Spice…and then a lot of people who I have no fucking clue who they are or why they are important. Dr. Who? Someone from EAST ENDERS? The guy at their local pub? Rudy Guiliani? No clue, no reference. Maybe that inanity is the point, and since PLUTOCRACY and later SPAZZ (or, I guess even before, with SNFU or the STUPIDS), it’s not out of line to have the artwork and lyrics be weird cultural mash-ups and pop culture piss-takes, but this eyesore makes me actually miss the days when the artwork and vision for this kind of music was just raw black ’n’ white brutality of decapitated heads and bifurcated dicks. Sgt. Pepper’s influence aside, that onus for more brute visuals might be out of place for a band that sings stream-of-consciousness musings about BLACK SABBATH disintegrating into zombies, their love of mustard, watching football, hating CDs, and other kookiness. Luckily, the music here is so completely raging that it rises above any visual and lyrical misgivings, and this thick platter is a refreshing blast of fastcore mayhem. Speed freaks take note.

Asocial Död Åt Kapitalismen CD

Perfect. Absolutely perfect ten songs, sixteen minutes, and twenty-nine seconds of Swedish hardcore. Perfect. I mean perfect. An out-of-the-park, kicks-the-shit-out-of-everything, perfect hardcore record. By the time this record first surfaced on vinyl in 2017 on the F.O.A.D. label, I had forgotten people could even make records this good. ASOCIAL’s early ’80s origins were more lo-fi and raw—the last time they surfaced was on an uneven metal outing in the ’90s—but this incarnation (75% of the original ’80s band, 25% the long-standing drummer of UNCURBED) takes cues from Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, where adept musicianship completely nails really basic pummeling D-beat without standing in its way, weaving inventive song structures and curt solos to absolutely perfect D-beat hardcore. Unrelenting powerful drumming, with the overdrive of the best UNCURBED moments. Tommy Berggren sounds less like the haunting ghost of his last outing in UTANFÖRSKAPET, but is still one of the consistently greatest Swedish hardcore screamers. The recording is perfect, similar to Hear Nothing where it’s not raw but in no way over-produced, with just the slightest metallic tinges. It’s long enough, just short enough. Only points off: the lyrics are entirely in Swedish, but with no translation or explanation, and the cover, while well-drawn and poignant to the meaning of the record, maybe falls short of the sheer perfection of the music. This totally fucking rocks—it’s perfect.

Direct Action Tomorrow Is Too Late LP

Aside from its vital late ’70s and early ’80s originators, 1980s Canadian hardcore post-’83 often suffered from really difficult recording and production, while being released at or past the point where the floodgates of hardcore records had flung open worldwide, and distinction became harder to glean. A lot of the records are cool and probably resonate deeper with local fans, but the original DIRECT ACTION Trapped in a World LP from 1985 is a mixed bag of solidly good hardcore fighting with really uneven recording and mixing, mired with strange production choices tempering its delivery. By 1988, it seemed already apparent that something was lost in translation between this Toronto band’s 1984 Tomorrow Is Too Late demo and the aforementioned LP, and a nicely-mastered German collection on Bitzcore delivered a mix of recordings from both. European bootleggers served up the demo on LP, minus a track, half a decade ago, but here it is finally released, legitimately and in its entirety. Charmingly chaotic rapid-fire volleys of blistering hardcore singed with a DISCHARGE/VARUKERS/ENGLISH DOGS-style heavier guitar sound, with biting quick vocals spitting over the top. As the title suggests, there’s a real beautiful immediacy to the demo like the best of ’80s hardcore: put together a band with some friends, cop a band name off the headlines (the Squamish/Vancouver Five had just taken “Direct Action” to the actual streets in Canada in 1982), and blast out sixteen hardcore bombardments with lyrics volleying defiance against the government, the cops, and your own impending nuclear annihilation. That might make it sound simultaneous wonderful and generic, but it sheds comparison to its contemporary deluge of thrash with how unrelenting energetic it is, and how the mix floods everything into powerful blasts of mayhem. The presentation is nice with brief liner notes, but a bit sterile in organization compared to the organic explosion of the music or the included replication of the original chaotic hand drawn and cut ’n’ paste collage lyric sheet poster. Fun record.

Scraps Dismantle the Machine One Cog at a Time LP

This French band’s final twelve-song album was originally released with a different cover in 1994 on Germany’s X-MIST. I’ve always found SCRAPS’ catalog, which dates back to the early 1980s, a challenging listen: the monotonous high-pitched yelped vocals are almost painful, the mixture of thrash and ’90s stop-start-change-start off-kilter experimentation, with some somber peace punk or DCHC “I’m leveling with you now” voiceover moments thrown in—it’s not something where I can usually make it through even one side of a record, though at this point, they had seamlessly dialed in their style and delivery. The lyrics are poignant and meaningful and quite thoughtful, and the thrash sharply delivered, but I generally have found this band completely unlistenable; and I’ve tried. I own almost all of their records. This album, remastered and repackaged, is no different. I want to like it, as the regard SCRAPS is held, the fact that this record was so lovingly reissued, point to there being is probably something I am missing that other people see, but each time I revisit their records, I still don’t get it. The sloppy delivery and randomness of the previous Wrapped Up in This Society makes it more bearable, and I find parts of all the things I love here, but I can only take so much, Je suis vraiment désolé.

V/A Fast Beats In A Slow Town Volume II: The CCHC Demos Edition (1987-1991) LP

A sequel of sorts to the first volume: the S.U.S. / ONE TRICK COBRA split EP, also released by the long-running TFC Records in 2009; this is a seventeen-track collection of largely raw demos, practice recordings, and a few live tracks from mostly unknown and unheralded late ’80s Corpus Christi, TX hardcore bands. DEMORALIZED, SUBVERSION, BRUTAL POVERTY, PURE HATE, JOYWAN, the KRAYONS, KILLJOY, the HERSHEY SQUIRTS, BIG MOUTH, and POETIC NOISE contribute one to three lower-fi songs apiece. In a way, it could almost be a snapshot of anywhere in the US at that time, though the speedy turns of ultra-quick thrash—a Texas hallmark cemented by the likes of DRI, DRESDEN 45, and MANCHURIAN CANDIDATES—do both date and location stamp the recordings. There’s a wonderful nascent energy here, with SST / CRUZ records-style quirkiness, deigns to ’80s singalong hardcore, thrash, and melody all being stirred in self-expression without any pretension beyond playing a vets hall as an opener for NO FRAUD or DESPERATE MINDS. And that rules. It’s like a paean to a simpler time where people didn’t really do bands with much ambition beyond having fun and entertaining their friends, because the overarching larger hardcore scene had collapsed and a smaller, stronger DIY culture hadn’t splintered and solidified to a point to give you many more options beyond that. So these tracks ring pretty earnest and fun. You might not find your new favorite band here, but you’ll hear a lot of bands that remind you of that friend’s band that was pretty good but just did a demo you totally wish you still had a copy of. Pressed on mottled transparent brown vinyl, and includes a brief insert with short band descriptions and photos. Fun listen.

Reckoning Force In My Head EP

A completely ripping follow-up to this Virginia band’s 2017 release. While not particularly sounding like LIFE’S BLOOD, these six tracks charge with the same ’80s hardcore center, a savagely spit vocal assault, and quick guitar-driven breakdowns. The vocals give it a little bit of the spastic feel of YDI, as they struggle to fit all the rage in, while the music brings to mind a lot of well-played, turn-on-a-dime late ’80s Canadian hardcore such as YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH or FAIR WARNING, where musical chops both embellished and tempered the chaos. Anger simmers this one over to the right point though, with totally pissed lyrics and dark, stippled artwork of cages, mental and otherwise. The notebook-scrawl lyric sheet was a tough read, but otherwise, great EP!

Signal Crimes Perfidious Albion LP

A solid debut from old hands from VIOLENT ARREST, GERIATRIC UNIT, FOUR LETTER WORD and MEATFLY. Perfidious Albion (an 18th Century French term of “Treacherous Britain” ) essentially reunites three quarters of HERESY, with Welly from Artcore zine on vocals. The early brute and mechanical Boston hardcore is such, plus underlying influence of a large swath of mid-’80s UKHC, and while this doesn’t seize on the speed of SIEGE that was so influential to that generation, it does echo some of that The Kids Will Have Their Say-style blunt, fast straightforward hardcore, twisted around a melodic, chorus-driven core. The strife and shadow of Brexit looms hard in these eight tracks, reactive in the best way of early hardcore. The vocals snarl over the top with clear condemnation of current greed, the soullessness of the digital world, the rise of the right wing, and horrific government rulers, while also reflecting about personal achievement and growth. It’s a worthy outing, with careful attention to the sleeve, and a great recording that captures their interesting balance of biting hardcore and punchy melodic punk—but maybe a nudge harder in either direction would sink the teeth in deeper.

Wlochaty Wlochaty 2xLP

Poland’s WLOCHATY (“Hairy”) originally released this nineteen-song recording on cassette in 1994, sold an astounding 20,000 copies, and then re-released it on vinyl in 1995 as a condensed fifteen-song LP, with an added saxophone track (?) in the mixes of the songs. This deluxe, double-LP version presents the original recording—without sax—with strong remastering, deluxe presentation in a gatefold sleeve, and lyrics in English and Polish. As a debut record recorded 25 years ago, this long-standing veteran band was still defining their sound, but this classic is such a expansion on the genetic blueprints of the crucial elements of Polish hardcore: pogo-ready punk stormers, odd experimental avant-garde turns, unexpected reggae influences, melodic acoustic passages, brute cold wave harshness, and scathing hardcore as their vocalists ramble and shout poetic, thoughtful political lyrics. Tandem choruses by male and female backup screamers punctuate and stoke the chaos. Engaging, challenging, and ultimately rewarding—a fantastic re-release!

Sanctus Iuda Disco 2xLP

A 30-song semi-discography of Poland’s SANCTUS IUDA’s (“Saint Jude,” the patron saint of lost causes) recordings from 1995—1998. Their sound is grounded in thick, mid-tempo Euro-squat crust like HIATUS or FLEAS AND LICE, with oversaturated guitar distortion capped with caustic, berating vocals. The tempo occasionally quickens to speedy hardcore bursts, while their later recordings slow to a crushing churn, but the remastering here hammers a nice consistency to the variance. Sides A and B chronologically present their split EPs with the SARCASM, SHARPEVILLE, REGENERACION, and DOG ON A ROPE, along with the otherwise-unreleased material (mostly live songs and covers) from their 1996 ABC cassette. Side C has darker, sludgy unreleased demos for an aborted second LP, that treads the slower AMEBIX / NEUROSIS / GODFLESH gloom, twisting around the thrash blasting. These four tracks are pretty hot, as they edge on that late ’90s pocket of experimental, heavy bleakness, with caustic vocals raking over the top of everything. Side D is an unreleased 1996 semi-techno remix of songs from their first LP (the only recording not included here), by a member of SARCASM, that weaves in samples and deconstructs everything to interesting but only questionably essential results. While you could pick up the band’s original records for equivalent cost, this collection is packaged in a nice gatefold with tons of grainy band photos, record covers, and an extensive booklet with a Polish-language history of the band—but is oddly deficit of lyrics or other artwork that really signify to people unfamiliar with the band, or the Polish language, what they’re singing about. Polish labels have been impressively and wonderfully attentive to documenting their scene history, but sometimes as they upgrade everything from old cassettes or make an efficient package of old vinyl, they forget that not everyone has always been around to follow along, or how leaving the lyrics and meaning by the wayside works on the assumption that everyone still understands the impact of those lyrics, and subscribes to those ideas meaning—and the state of the world in 2019 underlines that the ideas still need to be hammered home.

The Pugilistics Another Round! EP

The PUGILISITICS from Arizona follow their 2005 debut EP with a new four-song bout of tenacious old-school hardcore threaded around a melodic core. The songs vary in attack from mid-tempo to fast singalong anthem to ELVIS or MISFITS-inspired howlers with solid, pro musicianship weathering the twists, but patchy vocal delivery never quite finding its footing between or sometimes even within the songs. “Reflections” pounds with harshly barked and yelped vocals; “The Scene,” with its sung choruses, comes the closest in feel to a classic old punk anthem calling for scene participation; “Red Flag” is a mid-tempo boiler that brings to mind HVY DRT in the quirky line-to-line changes in the singing; “Stalkin” is a horror-punk crooner akin to GHOUL SQUAD or CALABRESE. No lyrics are provided, Winston Smith-inspired type cover collage, numbered and limited to 100 on white vinyl. A fun listen, but a few more rounds tightening up the recording, delivery, and presentation might deliver an actual KO.

Kicker Pure Drivel LP

Driven by totally lethal, near-perfect buzzsaw guitar leads, KICKER’s third LP narrows in a little sonically closer to some of its UK82 anarcho-punk inspiration—CRASS, SUBHUMANS, and just a pinch at times of RUDIMENTARY PENI weirdness—by thinning the recording in the right places, and drawing back to an apropos, basic sturdy drum sound while still giving their inventive bass lines space to meander. Pete the Roadie’s (now even more) gnarled vocals spew and swagger over the top, flopping comedic and ironic missives that retain a distinctly personal feel. While some are sarcastic disbelief about common punk topics like nuclear annihilation, the inanity of mass media, or killers in the news, most are red-card day-to-day things like not being able to sleep, wankers on the bus, and escaping the city. The charm of these ten sarcastic songs is that while they offer no solutions, they do provide relatable camaraderie in shaking your head, raising your fist, and singing along in mirth and outrage as you spill your beer. “Goodnight and Fuck Off,” the quasi-soul hallraker that ends the record, might tip the hand that a member of SCHLONG has joined the band (!). Packaged in a nice gatefold sleeve with colored vinyl, there are fewer catchy hits here than their previous outings, but the ten tracks trade off for far more settled consistency in one of their strongest footings.

Pisscharge Edën LP

FUCK YEAH!!! Get past the band name and doom metal-looking LP cover. There are so many reasons this Hanover band’s (made up of Brazilian, Chilean, and German band members) debut LP is awesome! First, this sounds so fucking urgent, not in a “we liked and wanted to sound like urgent hardcore from the ’80s” but actually like urgent hardcore from the ’80s, where the emotion, politics and passion of what the band is trying to express fuel the intensity. Second, it doesn’t sound like hardcore from the ’80s, nor is there any particular direct reference point except maybe the experimentation and intensity of later ’90s and ’00s Brazilian hardcore (this is way more aggressive but let’s say… MERDA?), where anything: melody, metal riffage, or simple boot-stomping punk can throw itself in to twist around the fourteen tracks of hardcore steamrolling. Third, it has absolutely wickedly scathing female vocals. Fourth, it is dedicated to the memory of Brazilian feminist and anti-police violence activist Marielle Franco, who was assassinated in 2018 in Rio de Janeiro. “Never forget / Organize without fear!” Fifth, the balance of chaotic looseness and musical competency is perfect, where sandpapery blasts of simple metal riffing charge simple and loose, but there’s still deft thrash. Sixth, songs are sung in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, with a fold out lyric sheet containing translations. Seventh, the punchy recording is mastered well, but also balanced with sounding really raw. Eighth: Q: And D-beat? A: And D-beat. Ninth, the band is self described as “Antifa punk, no grayzone.” I’m sold!

Nothington / Swingin’ Utters Split EP

A worthy song each from two SF Bay Area veterans. NOTHINGTON’s track is reminiscent of late ’80s big guitar alternative punk, where the roots might go down to STIFF LITTLE FINGERS but the aspect and melody hits more in the direction of Chad Price-era ALL. It’s a bittersweet, but sweet, catchy anthem track for the band to go out on. The SWINGIN’ UTTERS track was a surprise: drilling mid-tempo melody somewhere between the expected jangle of ’70s UK punk-pub originators, but cut with a more avant edge similar to a great EFFIGIES track, with lyrics dropping with clever missives. Lime green vinyl makes it a keeper.

Iron Guts Kelly Burnt EP

Lawrence, Kansas’ IRON GUTS KELLY take their name from a more ridiculous episode of M*A*S*H, set during the ’50s Korean War, where a general dies in the embrace of one of the camp’s nurses, and his death is then reconstructed to appear as being in the heat of battle. The band’s outlook seems rooted in the same sort of dark irony: the EP’s cover features a drawing of a punked-out ubiquitous Kansas sunflower flipping the bird, but the humor ends there, with four tracks of meat and potatoes angry hardcore that falls somewhere between the rock edge of STRYCHNINE and the blunt force of SLAPSHOT. This decade-and-a-half-old band’s earliest recordings had the feel of early, simplistic DR. KNOW, with sustained vowels and simple thrashings, but the singer growls a bit harder here, as the playing is more confident and ambitious within its economy. No lyric sheet, but the vocals are clear enough, and “Goodfellas” is a standout track with its chorus-driven affirmation of punk community and camaraderie, rung in with a “Salad Days”-style bell intro. Slightly better production would’ve shined that one up even further.

Dead Friends 46 Hardcore LP

This eleven-song debut LP from this hardcore band of OC veterans maybe has its DNA somewhere near Brats in Battalions, but punches for more straightforward DETONATORS-style rollicking retconned ’80s hardcore than guitar driven melody. The weight balance between everything that needs to come out in lyrical expression and spontaneous hardcore energy often gets tricky in the old school equation, but DEAD FRIENDS 46 are to be admired for their commitment to honoring fallen friends, a drug and alcohol free advocacy without judgment, and keeping things positive, though reading of the names of the dead friends of theirs at the end of the record is probably the most heavy and sobering thing I’ve heard on a hardcore record in some time. The covers of PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES (“Banned from the Pubs”) and SOCIAL DISTORTION (“Mass Hysteria”), while interpretive, keep things fun as the tried-and-true sturdy gravel throated hardcore otherwise mines dark places.