Matt Casteel

Claimed Choice Conséquences / La Part des Choses 7″

Following up their killer mini-album from last year, CLAIMED CHOICE return with two bruising cuts of stripped-down French Oi! The top-side track, “Conséquences,” eschews the Bovver glam of their previous effort for a dour mid-tempo stomper replete with straightforward, effective guitar leads and gang vocals. While this should make fans of RIXE begin to salivate, the flipside contains the real gem. “La Part des Choses,” is a bonafide earworm with catchy guitar lines and anthemic choruses, picking up right where We Won’t Give In left off. Gritty, melodic, and tougher than steel-toes, this song epitomizes the appeal of French Oi! in the 2020s. I love a proper 45, and this one does not disappoint!  

Crown Court / The Enforcers split 7″

Courtesy of Crossbar Records, we have a premium slab of close-shave rock’n’roll, featuring one track each by two of the best in the game. CROWN COURT lands a heavy blow with “Rich Boy,” which exhibits a particularly gnarly bass line. The guitar leads are tastefully employed, unlike the subject of the song’s derisive lyrics. Grab a mop ‘cause this is dripping with attitude. Speaking of attitude, the ENFORCERS sound genuinely pissed! From the moment the vocals kick in, “Collision Course” is full-bore street rock designed to pound your sorry ass into the pavement. Burly as hell and exquisitely executed, this song is that perfect blend of toughness and tunefulness. Great split!

Science Man Mince’s Cane LP

It’s a rare feat when an album can transport the listener to a place beyond the confines of quotidian cognition. Enter SCIENCE MAN. The brainchild of John Toohill, SCIENCE MAN embodies more than a band or project in that it is an amorphous entity that continually expands, contracts, and creates. Mince’s Cane is an ambitious undertaking that has spawned the seven utterly ripping songs found on this LP, along with a seven-part accompanying short film produced by Toohill and Lindsay Tripp which is available on a professionally duplicated VHS. The videos and the music are truly of a piece, however, they are crafted with such deftness that each can stand on their own. Listening to the album decoupled from the video component is interesting because the music is both imaginative and evocative in its own right. More explosive than a lab experiment gone awry, Mince’s Cane pushes the boundaries of hardcore punk in an unrelenting aural attack. Frenetic drumming undergirds blasting bass and guitar riffs that create a haunting atmosphere for the mutated wailing vocals. The lead guitar parts are forward in the mix, and provide the extent of what one could consider harmony. These leads are juicy, though! As a whole, the album is so ripe with character and perverse charm that it just oozes mystique. That’s where the sense of being transported to another realm comes into play. The songs feel bigger than their constituents, hinting at otherworldly psychotropic visions. Drop the needle and strap in, SCIENCE MAN will strip you of your mortal coil. 

V/A Mendeku Diskak Promo Kasetea, Vol. 3 cassette

This ten-song sampler gives a tantalizing peek at what Basque Country’s preeminent punk/Oi! label Mendeku Diskak has in store for our undeserving ears. For those familiar with the label’s previous output, what lies herein may not surprise, but it certainly will not disappoint. If you dig gruff punk, Bovver rock, and Oi!, then you’re in the right place. Tracks by COLLAPS and RÉSILIENCE stand out, but there are really no duds in the bunch. Mendeku Diskak expands out into blackened hardcore as well with the inclusion of PURO ODIO, and caps things off with an excellent garage-y number by LOST LEGION. All signs point to more great punk from a label that doesn’t really miss. Now, prepare your wallets for the impending onslaught.

Knickers Collection cassette

Well, this is a treat! I first heard KNICKERS shortly after the release of their excellent 2019 tape Bored. Collection compiles the eleven songs from Bored, plus a whole slew of new material as a complete discography. Strap in for an hour of top-notch, art-damaged punk. Graduates of the Mark E. Smith school of post-punk, KNICKERS pack in enough surprises into their tunes that an hour of music doesn’t drag or become repetitive—except for when they want it to be. There are some definite krautrock undertones, along with nods to GANG OF FOUR and SUBURBAN LAWNS. Despite all the references to bands of yesteryear, KNICKERS have a thoroughly contemporary sound. Crisp guitar tones, synth for atmosphere and texture, fantastic vocals…these cats really struck gold. Quirky punk with loads of character! I assume the release of a discography indicates they’re no longer an active band, and that’s unfortunate, but leaving behind a solid collection like this is nothing to balk at.

División Autista Hijo Marginal 87​–88 LP

Credited for their role in introducing straightedge to Latin America, DIVISIÓN AUTISTA were major players in the Argentinian punk scene of the late ’80s. The two songs they contributed to the extraordinary Invasion 88 compilation are among the very best, and stand out as being contemporaneous rather than peddling in nostalgia. Hijo Marginal 87–88 contains the two aforementioned tracks, an additional song from the same studio session, demo recordings, and eight live cuts. While the band was short-lived, they had an outsized impact on the scene in Buenos Aires and beyond. DIVISIÓN AUTISTA’s brand of fast, melodic hardcore punk is fully realized on songs like “Straight Edge” and “Hijo Marginal,” where the vocals are propulsive and the guitar work feels particularly innovative. The sound quality on some of the live songs is unsurprisingly on the low side, but the energy they exude makes up for the drop in fidelity. This has loads of charm, excellent vocals, and some wicked guitar lines. Absolutely worth checking out.

Chorus Pedal Typo Landscape cassette

Noisy, angular, effects-laden art rock. This falls on the indie side of post-punk, with jangly guitars and overdriven vocals layered between blankets of swirling phasers, tape loop echoes, and (I presume) emissions from the eponymous chorus pedal. This is the sound of knobs being turned. There is an undercurrent of no wave influence, so if you don’t find a band like DNA annoying, then CHORUS PEDAL will almost certainly pique your interest. The songs are fairly repetitive by design and contain sensible hooks and enough charisma to prevent them from being totally inaccessible. Not dissimilar to the INTELLIGENCE or the COOL GREENHOUSE.

Klint Klint cassette

Here’s something worth sinking your teeth into! Driving electro/synth punk utilizing a drum machine with tons of attitude. LOST SOUNDS pops into mind as a stylistic reference, but KLINT isn’t as guitar-forward, nor are they flirting with new wave in quite the same way. The vocals are overdriven and at times end up sounding robotic. In fact, it’s all vaguely robotic and suitably low-fidelity. The song “Noiseless” sounds like the SPITS if they were more obsessed with DEVO than the RAMONES. Fans of the PRODIGY or ATARI TEENAGE RIOT may find this appealing.

Polansky Y El Ardor Ataque Preventivo De La URSS EP reissue

Originally released in 1982 as a 12” EP, Snap!! Records has done a great service by reissuing Ataque Preventivo De La URSS as part of their ongoing Revival series. Although POLANSKY Y EL ARDOR was part of the second wave of punk to emerge from Madrid’s bustling scene, their sound is firmly rooted in 1977. The title track is an infectious ditty with a distinctive double-picked guitar line and sing-along chorus. Not far afield from the VIBRATORS or BUZZCOCKS, I’m reminded most of the utterly fantastic Finnish band 013. “​​Y No Usa Laca” is a killer tune as well and exhibits POLANSKY Y EL ARDOR’s use of a saxophone, which comes to prominence on the somewhat dour B-side cut, “Chantaje Emocional.” Beyond being a fascinating document illuminating a corner of Spanish punk history, this reissue also provides an excellent opportunity to get your hands on an underappreciated gem.

Heavy Mother Comical Uncertainty cassette

On the heels of their debut album from last year, HEAVY MOTHER drops a hefty slab of scuzzy rock’n’roll that just oozes with mojo. Three originals and three covers spread across twenty-six minutes of rowdy, raunchy garage punk featuring a bona fide all-star cast. Their lead vocalist, Eddie Flowers, was in the GIZMOS, for fuck’s sake! There’s a guest appearance by Craig Bell of ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS! We’re talking a Midwestern proto-punk hall of fame here, not to mention that half the members were in the COWBOYS. I’m often disappointed by these groups that sound so good on paper, yet HEAVY MOTHER exceeds expectations by exacting the sonic punishment their pedigree dictates: perfectly trashy, obnoxious, loud rock’n’roll. From the brilliantly depraved opening track “Friday Night (Blackout!),” to the phenomenal rendition of the VELVET UNDERGROUND’s “Foggy Notion,” HEAVY MOTHER is firing on all cylinders. An indefectibly stripped-down production gives Comical Uncertainty a ’60s-inspired haze, fueled by reverb. Toss DEAD MOON and ELECTRIC EELS into the cauldron along with the aforementioned bands and you’ll get a whiff of what HEAVY MOTHER is cooking up. Spicy!

Nightstick Justice Complete Discography cassette

Well, here’s a rip-roaring blast from the past. If you weren’t lucky enough to catch them within the brief window of their existence from 2006–2008, treat yourself to this absolutely blistering collection of raging USHC from NIGHTSTICK JUSTICE. Goddamn, this one really holds up. Twenty-four tracks compiled from three EPs and one long-player; the frantic hardcore on this cassette is up there with some of the era’s best like DIRECT CONTROL, STREET TRASH, and TEAR IT UP. Straight-ahead, no-frills, angry fucking punk. Stellar drumming, rabid shouted vocals, fuzzed-out bass, and riffs on top of riffs, on top of riffs! Listen to songs like “Control” or “Desensitized” and try not to smash anything. My only gripe is that they didn’t make more than 50 of these tapes. Grip one if you can!

Eye For An Eye Teraz LP

Including their 2005 split with the HUNKIES, Teraz is the eighth full-length album by this Polish powerhouse. EYE FOR AN EYE fires off ten tracks of their signature metal-tinged punk, with scorching female vocals and hardcore breakdowns. It’s obvious that EYE FOR AN EYE has been honing their craft for many years, and Teraz finds them at the top of their game. Alternating between brutal and melodic, each song feels like the result of the kind of chemistry that is reserved for long-running bands. The lazy comparison is to POST REGIMENT, due to the vocals and being from Poland, but EYE FOR AN EYE veers far more into an aggressive, metallic territory with lots of tempo changes and even some blastbeats. The production value on this album is quite polished, which detracts from the energy, but suits the mosh parts well enough. Overall, a strong effort from a group of seasoned hardcore veterans. 

Stalingrad 42 Skins’N’Punks LP

When I threw this on, the first thing that came to mind was that the vocals were vaguely reminiscent of Fuaim Catha-era OI POLLOI. That’s about the best thing that I can say about STALINGRAD 42, because it really goes downhill from there. While there are a plethora of Oi! bands currently pushing the boundaries of the genre, STALINGRAD 42 is taking a far less innovative approach. Skins’N’Punks is replete with overproduced, under-inspired songs that are so phoned-in, they should be charged for collect calls. The guitar lines sound like they were lifted from your dad’s butt-rock cover band. Oh, and there’s a ska song. This gets a hard pass from me.

Ardillas Canciones de Amor, Locura y Muerte LP

Songs of love, madness, and death, brought to you by some of Puerto Rico’s most notorious rockers. ARDILLAS predate DAVILA 666, with whom they share members, by a solid decade. They’re far less prolific—but hey, you can’t rush genius! Whereas DAVILA 666 was born of the garage, ARDILLAS seem to have emerged from the dense haze of a smoke-filled pub. This is premium rock’n’roll with just the right amount of grit to keep the sing-along choruses from getting too syrupy. More infectious than the boogie-woogie flu! After a few spins, these songs will be kicking around in the damp corridors of your noggin for days. Unafraid to embrace their prowess, ARDILLAS dig into big rhythms and expand out past the confines of your typical greasy-haired, leather jacket punk’n’roll. These cats (or should I say squirrels!?) know how to pen some quality tunes. There are nods to the HEARTBREAKERS, and FLAMIN’ GROOVIES. What more can you ask for? Here’s to hoping we won’t have to wait another decade for their next release.

Ordinance Ordinance demo cassette

Crushing raw punk done right. Hailing from the thriving hotbed of hardcore that is Richmond, Virginia, ORDINANCE plows through four songs in under seven minutes. Buzzsaw guitars blanket the entire production in a cocoon of harsh static, while the drummer pounds out pulsing D-beats. The slight delay on the shouted vocals allows for a touch of depth, tying it all together. This fits right in with fellow Richmond rockers FUTURE TERROR  and SPORE, with an injection of Swedish influence for good measure. I imagine ORDINANCE being raised on a steady diet of the SHITLICKERS, CRUDE S.S., and MOB 47, with Scandinavian jawbreakers served as dessert. My favorite track, “Hatestrung,” disrupts the formula with a tempo change that gets mean and stompy, but make no mistake, this demo is an ax-swinging ripper. Noise > music!

Nohz Nohz demo cassette

Right out of the gate, NOHZ digs into a devastatingly tough riff that sets the table for what is to come—a flagrant disregard of the safety of your eardrums. This is an altogether brutal affair, with extremely well-crafted songs that feel both fresh and familiar at the same time. Tempos fluctuate from track to track in a way that makes every cut feel like a singular accomplishment, yet does not detract from the effectiveness of the broader sequence of the release. There is a brooding quality to the music that is heightened by the evil as fuck vocal delivery. In that regard, I’m reminded of RASPBERRY BULBS for their wedding of punk and black metal, though NOHZ certainly skews more punk. Song titles like “Brief Lights, Forever in Pain,” and “Sundial Impailers,” should be a pretty clear indication of what we’re working with lyrically. Musically, this release is brimming with hooks and discordantly catchy riffs. It’s an ugly, ugly world and this demo provides a fitting soundtrack for a waltz through the wastelands. NOHZ beckons you to join the blood party…will you accept the invitation?    

Gluer Gluer LP

Gritty, grubby, nasty, and mean. GLUER bashes through fifteen songs of misanthropic, mid-tempo punk rock’n’roll. I would’ve guessed this band was from San Francisco rather than Stockholm. This is oozing with bad vibes in the best way possible, not dissimilar to LIFE STINKS or CRIME. Dirgelike but never plodding, GLUER delivers plenty of tough, catchy hooks both vocally and through instrumentation. “Weird Boy,” in particular, is a choice cut with a killer picked-out guitar riff and the howling cadence of the line “Look at that weird boy!”. Few things brighten my day more than some menacing downer punk. Excellent.

V/A Between the Coasts cassette

Heck yeah, this tape shreds! As you might guess from the title, Between the Coasts is a compilation of bands from the Midwest area of the ol’ US of A. Just when it seems like the big-city bands get all the glory, a release like this pops up to remind us that hardcore punk is alive and thriving in less obvious places. Featuring twelve bands contributing a single track each, this comp is chock full of stone-cold rippers. Highlights include vital cuts from RABIES BB, BIG LAUGH, WEAK PULSE, and ZHOOP. There’s a smattering of more eclectic numbers to keep things fresh, but front to back, there ain’t a dull moment to be found. Do yourself a favor and check this one out. 

Bulbulators Nie Nie Nie LP

Long-running Polish label Enigmatic is back on the scene after a fourteen-year hiatus from 2005 to 2019. Curiously, they chose to resurrect the BULBULATORS’ second full-length album from 2002, and reissue it on vinyl. Free of any nostalgic ties to this release, I struggle to get my head around why this needed to be dredged back up. That said, after a few spins, I admit that some of the songs have started to grow on me. There is a certain charm to the way they blatantly ape first-wave punk like the VIBRATORS or RAMONES. And while the BULBULATORS don’t actually sound much like either of those bands, it is clear that they genuinely embraced the spirit of ’77. I have a feeling that this album may, for some, inspire a glue-sniffin’ trip down the gutter of memory lane. For my part, I’ll stick with my worn-out copy of Pure Mania.

Dead Low Not for Sale EP

Four blasts of mid-paced street rock’n’roll with a melodic undercurrent. Did this band time travel from the ’90s? It’s like they were drinking at a pub with the WRETCHED ONES and fell into a wormhole that dumped them out onto a grimy modern-day Massachusetts sidewalk. One thing’s for sure, DEAD LOW won’t be accused of breaking new ground. The guitarist’s flirtation with metal is a trifle unnerving and the production is overwrought, but they do pack a punch with solid musicianship and anthemic shout-along choruses. If you ever felt like the TEMPLARS were too stripped-down, this might be worth a spin.

Fruit Tones Pink Wafer Factory LP

FRUIT TONES have the ’60s-inspired garage revival sound completely nailed down. From the jangle and chime of their lo-fi guitars, to the Jagger-on-benzos vocal delivery, these Manchester (UK) freaks deliver just the right blend of charm and sleaze to make things interesting. There’s a touch of early BLACK LIPS and a hint of REIGNING SOUND lurking beneath the paisley-patterned façade, but FRUIT TONES stick mostly to their roots. This album fits into the Alien Snatch catalog like Lux Interior fit into a pair of sweaty leather pants…exquisitely. 

Πυρ Κατα Βουληση Θ​υ​μ​α​τ​α Ε​ι​ρ​η​ν​η​ς LP

Hot damn! This smokes!! Absolutely raging raw punk from Athens, Greece. This album is packed to the gills with killer riffs. With the unrelenting pounding of an incessant D-beat and vicious buzzsaw bass, ΠΥΡ ΚΑΤΑ ΒΟΥΛΗΣH (“fire at will” in English) leaves a path of utter destruction in their wake. Not dissimilar to recent offerings from CHAINSAW or RAT CAGE, there are distinctive Scandinavian influences at play here—and like the aforementioned bands, ΠΥΡ ΚΑΤΑ ΒΟΥΛΗΣH wields those influences to great effect. From top to bottom, this just doesn’t let up. Robin Wiberg’s artwork perfectly encapsulates the paroxysms of outrage and anger found within. It’s undeniable; this is a top-shelf scorcher.  

Choke Cocoi Choke Cocoi LP

Releasing a full-length album is a significant moment in any band’s trajectory. For CHOKE COCOI, that moment was over twenty years in the making, and the results feel particularly noteworthy. Hailing from Lucena City, Philippines, CHOKE COCOI is one of the few all-women punk bands from their country. They have been a source of inspiration for legions of punks and metalheads across Southeast Asia and beyond. So, at long last we have their debut LP, and it’s a banger. Thirteen cuts of blistering, dark neo-crust with a prominent metallic bent. The band’s years of experience shine through in the precision and deliberateness with which the songs are constructed. I can only presume that these are the crème de la crème. There are lots of twists and turns to be found. Tempos change multiple times in each song—from moshy breakdowns to blastbeats—but this keeps things interesting and never seems gratuitous or contrived. There is a ferocity here that most bands only gesture at, with the vocals in particular delivering a pummeling, relentless aural assault. CHOKE COCOI is somewhat reminiscent of LUDICRA, if they were more punk than metal, or SCHIFOSI if they were more metal than punk. And while they bear resemblance to some of the finer bands of the mid-’00s wave of heavy melodic crust, CHOKE COCOI has clearly forged their own path. In a world where most bands actively imitate others, this is no small feat.  

Smirk Material LP

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, there was a certain subset of punks that, in a beleaguered search for a silver lining, would say “at least we’ll get some good bands out of this.” Along the same line of thinking, I suppose one could consider that Ronald Reagan was a bigger influence on hardcore than, say, John Lydon. In 2023, the impact of the (ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic on music is just beginning to come into focus. One aspect of this that has become clear is the proliferation of solo recording projects. Case in point: Nick Vicario’s SMIRK. What began as home-recorded “cassettes-de-quarantine” has become a fully realized entity. On the heels of 2021’s utterly fantastic seven-song EP on Total Punk, SMIRK has graced us with a proper full-length album. Material showcases Vicario’s songwriting brilliance on a whole new level. Everything here is so exquisitely dialed-in. The ten songs encompass a broad range of sounds. Flitting from the starkly angular, anxiety-ridden opener “Material World’s Unfair,” to the power-pop-inspired jangle of “Souvenir,” Vicario weaves it all together seamlessly. There are nods along the way to sonic pioneers like WIRE and MAGAZINE, but Material is largely free of anything approaching nostalgia. This is an album very much of its time. I’m not one to jump at a chance to call something classic, and certainly time will tell when it comes to how well pandemic-era projects hold up in the long term, but this record has been burning up many more turntables than my own, and sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. Nick Vicario is an alchemist and SMIRK is pure fucking gold.

Government Abuse Pigs in Pigs Clothing flexi EP

More lean than a ‘roid-raging gym rat, GOVERNMENT ABUSE tears through four songs in less than four minutes. Don’t be fooled by the ultra-generic band name—this flexi rules! It sounds as though these Swedish freaks immersed themselves in some classic USHC; URBAN WASTE springs immediately to mind. No breakdowns, elaborate intros, or other unnecessary bullshit to be found here, just full-bore hardcore with tasty riffs and pissed-off vocals. For reasons unspecified, this release took a while to see the light of day after being recorded back in 2014. I’m glad it has finally made its way onto a physical medium. Hopefully there will be more to follow.

Suspex Suspex demo cassette

Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, SUSPEX belts out five tracks of UK82-influenced punk, including a PARTISANS cover. Despite the technically deficient drumming and a fairly annoying “always on” guitar effect, I can’t help but to be charmed by this demo. It’s clear from the jump that SUSPEX are really pouring themselves into these songs. The charismatic vocal delivery is the linchpin here, injecting both character and energy. “Dead City” is a prime example; the harrowing shouts soar above the din of the instruments, giving the entire affair a boost. It strikes me that SUSPEX sounds like they’re having a blast playing their songs. What a novel concept! This gets a (circled) A for effort from me.  

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Death to the Fuzz Family EP

Hans F. Ford and Patrick Delabie have been kicking around the Dutch punk scene for decades. Ford played guitar in WASTE, whose 1982 EP History Repeats is an undeniably killer record—due in no small part to the thick fuzztone that envelops the tunes. Forty-one years later, that same velcro buzz is blasting forth from FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO. Despite playing as a two-piece, FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO has a very full, layered sound with multiple tracks of harmonizing vocals and guitars. The name may lead you to believe that you’re in for some lo-fi garage punk revival, but that is not the case. On the contrary, the production value is rather slick. Stylistically, this bears far more resemblance to BETTY FORD CLINIC, Ford and Delabie’s eclectic ’90s endeavor. In fact, for as much as it is heralded as the quintessential element of the band, the fuzz often feels at odds with both the production and the songs themselves. Though clearly crafted by a deft hand, I have to wonder if a cut like “My Reality” would be more impactful if the instrumentation was more discernible. A heretical thought if there ever were one! Death to the Fuzz Family reminds me of a less sophisticated MARTHA’S VINEYARD FERRIES. I don’t mean that as a slight; sophistication is for the birds. My problem is that I’m still trying to determine exactly who FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO is for.  

The Necessary Evil Vida Desastre flexi EP

Three solid pogo punk boppers from a Chilean/Californian two-piece collaboration. Canabilina’s distinctive vocals are a natural complement to Eddie Spaghetti’s bouncing, guitar-driven blasts. The NECESSARY EVIL doesn’t attempt to tinker with the formula, but you can’t repair what ain’t busted. Vida Desastre is much more about attitude, and on that front, this EP delivers in spades. Featuring super vibrant art by Mister Sister and pressed on a flexi, this release fits right into the 1753 catalog. This is definitely worth a spin, but good luck tracking down a physical copy. It’s limited to an edition of 100, and will undoubtedly be sold out by the time you read this.   

Fuera De Sektor El Mundo Segue cassette

FUERA DE SEKTOR pulls off an impressive genre-bender with El Mundo Segue. The songs are bright and succinct, replete with catchy guitar riffs and superlative bass lines, but somehow they’ve cultivated a perceptible darkness as well. CHAIN CULT may be a good reference point, but FUERA DE SEKTOR is not nearly as dense or gloomy. Musically, I’m reminded of a bit of EASTER AND THE TOTEM, though here again FUERA DE SEKTOR eschews comparison by introducing subtle new wave influences and delivering vocals in a higher-than-expected register. Of the four songs on this tape, “En La Oscuridad” is the one that grabs me most, but they are all bangers. Barcelona has produced some extraordinarily fresh and innovative bands in recent years, and FUERA DE SEKTOR is clearly continuing that trend while adding to La Vida Es Un Mus’ ongoing hit streak. Recommended.  

Eteraz Villain LP

This album is absolutely punishing. ETERAZ rips through twelve tracks in a wild and noisy D-beat assault. The guitars have an extremely nasty, jagged tonal quality that is complemented by driving, buzzsaw bass. The crash-heavy drumming is top-notch, pushing everything deep into the red. Most notable are the vocals, which are shouted out in Persian. This really adds a lot of texture to the experience, and the higher-register delivery is an exquisite contrast to the rich bottom end of the production. “Terror” is a standout for me, but there’s not a single dud in the bunch. Gotta hand it to Iron Lung for consistently delivering the heat. Easily one of the top releases of 2022.

Himnos / La Cruz split LP

Both of these bands appeared on Crossbar’s excellent Oi! The Antidote compilation from 2021. Although neither of their contributions were among my favorites, I was looking forward to hearing what each would deliver on this split long-player. Hailing from Mexico, HIMNOS belts out five cuts of mid-paced street rock’n’roll. All the elements are present—tough, raspy sing-alongs, bouncing bass, four-chord guitars—but I’m left with the feeling that something is missing. There were a few surprises along the way. I wasn’t expecting to hear the whine of a harmonica in “419” for example, but that’s not the type of surprise I would ever champion. On the flipside, we have Spain’s LA CRUZ. Listening to this left me with the same basic impression that I got from HIMNOS: nothing is technically missing, yet something is missing. Again, we have some competent Oi! that meets but does not exceed expectations. LA CRUZ’s curveball is the saxophone that turns up on the rocksteady-inspired “Recuerdos.” Sorry (not sorry), but wind instruments get you nowhere with me. Despite it all, I’ll be watching out for both of these bands in the future. There’s obvious potential, this just falls a bit short.

Konventio Konventio cassette

Eight songs of blazing, frenetic hardcore punk from Finland. KONVENTIO aren’t trying to blend genres or reinvent anything here. Rather, they lock in on a tried and true recipe passed down from forebearers like KAAOS and RIISTETYT and just rip. That’s not to say that KONVENTIO is unoriginal—their sound is quite distinct—but they are able to capture the spirit of what made the aforementioned bands so great. The guitars punch through with killer tone and some tasteful rock’n’roll solos. The drums seem as if they’re on the precipice of falling apart, like the drummer isn’t in full control of the chaos they are unleashing. This adds a nice touch of character. The raging vocals are a highlight and really keep things moving. This is a solid first release!

Earth Mother Fucker IVF CD

Live recordings are a tough sell in the best of circumstances. I tend to avoid them, even with bands that I love. I do not love EARTH MOTHER FUCKER. They’ve apparently been around since the late ’80s, though this was my first time hearing them. IVF is a seven-song live set of bog standard angular noise rock. The bulk of the songs appear to come from the band’s early era. Maybe they sounded more inspired then. Their signature track is titled “I Fuck Therefore I Am.” Cool. This is like hearing JESUS LIZARD overdose on Ambien and boredom. Snooze.

Äni(X)Väx Schock und Drama LP

I wanted so badly to like this. On paper, ÄNI(X)VÄX (which is apparently code for “animal vaccination”) are legendary. Birthed from the fertile mid-’80s German punk scene, stories abound of post-gig punks-versus-police street fights, and something referred to as the “Odeon Pizza Battle of 1988.” Sick! Despite appearances on a handful of comps, they were unable to release any records during their five-year lifespan. That gives them mystique. One of their guitar players is named Fast Gonzo! What’s not to like!? Cue the first song…of the thirteen tracks on Schock und Drama, six are studio recordings and seven are live takes from various shows. Obviously, the sound quality is not going to be the best on some of the live tunes. That’s not the issue. What it really boils down to is that the songs are just not that interesting. It’s your basic four-chord, mid-tempo boilerplate punk. Sloppy but lacking chaos, the tracks overstay their welcome by being too repetitive. The vocalist has an uninspired sing-the-riff delivery that doesn’t hold my attention the way that the pictures and stories of the band do. To be fair, nothing here is egregious or even bad, but the mediocrity makes the disappointment somehow worse. ÄNI(X)VÄX, as represented here, just doesn’t compare to the heavyweights of the era. If you are interested in Deutschpunk, check out VORKRIEGSJUGEND’s excellent 1983 EP Heute Spass, Morgen Tod, INFERNO’s The Son of God EP from ’85, or the Let’s Have More Fun compilation on which ÄNI(X)VÄX appears. As a historical document, Schock und Drama is quite fascinating. I’m glad that it exists. It’s just a shame that the music falls short.

Elevate Stab From the Front cassette

Tough-as-nails hardcore from Indonesia. There’s a lot to like here. Stripped-down, concise songwriting with no time for bullshit or solos. A UK82 influence rears its head on tracks like “Torture Dance” and “Scum.” They must really know how to pogo in West Borneo! Cliches be damned, you can judge this record by its cover; the artwork by Renaldy Armanda is sick. The slow, mosh-y dirge of “Fool” doesn’t appeal to me, but it is the shortest of the five songs at least. All around, this is a solid release. Well worth checking out.

Force Majeure / Tchernobyl split EP

This split has me wondering if I should shave my head. Each band offers up two tracks of hard-charging, tough-as-nails Oi! sung in French. Montreal’s FORCE MAJEURE tread the more traditional path of the two. From the razor-sharp jangly guitars and prominent walking basslines, to the clenched hi-hat drumming—this just ticks all the right boxes. Expectedly, the vocals are gruff and forceful, with just a hint of tunefulness. These lads would fit nicely on a bill with SQUELETTE or REĆIDIVE. Hailing from Paris, TCHERNOBYL pounds the pavement with boots of a darker shade. Chorus-drenched guitars lend atmosphere to what might be described best as “Oi! for a rainy day.” Building on the legacy of CAMERA SILENS, TCHERNOBYL are dour and melancholic in the best possible way, à la SYNDROME 81. There’s not a dull moment on either side of this record. Time to lace up and call the barber.

Namen Namen Namen Namen CD

Modern-sounding garage rock with an indie twist from the Midwest. Swimming in the same stream as fellow Indianians APACHE DROPOUT and the COWBOYS, NAMEN NAMEN pulls from a broader stylistic range than the former, while being less imaginative than the latter. Fans of TY SEGALL and AUDACITY will find something here to sink their teeth into. The first cut, “The Horrors of Spider Island,” really shines, showcasing the group’s prowess with impressive guitar licks and layered vocal melodies. Unfortunately, the high production value is working against the band’s energy. Maybe record at a shittier studio next time? It’s a matter of taste, but I want music from a garage that’s grimy, dangerous, and on the verge of collapse. All the broken glass here has been too carefully swept up.

Old Death Dirty World LP

On their debut full-length album, Portland’s OLD DEATH serves up twelve cuts of messy, virulent punk rock. Dripping with more snot than an infected nasal cavity, Dirty World feels like an earnest ode to punk of yesteryear. OLD DEATH evokes the thrust and snarl of Back From the Pink Room-era PINK LINCOLNS in a serious way! The tunes are gritty yet melodic, with bitingly cynical lyrics with a political slant. There’s an unhinged quality to the music that keeps things from getting too stale, though the non-stop guitar wankery does quickly become grating. Most compelling are the sub-two-minute tracks where the drums are more propulsive and the vocal mucus is palpable. They start to lose me when they drift into the skronky breakdowns found in “21 Gun Salute” and “Sick City,” but if you have a soft spot for bands from the ’90s that played in the style of bands from the ’80s, then OLD DEATH just might be your thing.

Radiation Risks Welcome to Bad Boy City EP

There’s no speed limit in Bad Boy City. No stop signs, no traffic lights, and certainly no cops. Danger lies around every corner, but trust me, the trip is well worth the gamble. Spawned from the same primordial ooze that brought us SCIENCE MAN, BROWN SUGAR, SPIT KINK, and NERVOUS TICK AND THE ZIPPER LIPS, among many others, this posthumous EP may be the touchstone of RADIATION RISKS’ catalog. These stalwarts of Buffalo, New York’s enduring punk scene rip through seven tracks of innovative hardcore punk in under twelve minutes. Welcome to Bad Boy City delivers velvet-fisted gut punches through the use of clean guitar, not dissimilar to Japan’s MILK. This EP is chock-full of hooks and surprises. When least expected, RADIATION RISKS will flip the script and downshift from blazing thrash to inflective (dare I say jazzy) interludes, only to slam the pedal back down to the floor. The pervasive sense of wild abandon is not betrayed by these fleeting glimpses of musicality. Rather, it’s clear that RADIATION RISKS don’t take themselves too seriously. Why embark on such wild rides if not for fun? Featuring absolutely killer cover art by Tommyrot and limited to an edition of 100, these bad boys won’t be available for long. Snatch a copy before you can’t. RADIATION RISKS are coming for you!!!

People’s Temple 8 Track Demo cassette

Not to be confused with the Michigan psych rock band by the same name, Brooklyn’s PEOPLE’S TEMPLE pairs their acid with anarchy. This is a killer first outing. Here we find fast, dialed-in hardcore with riffs a-plenty. Featuring members of GLUE and GUNN, this calls to mind West Coast USHC like BATTALION OF SAINTS and CHRIST ON PARADE, with a touch of early POISON IDEA thrown in for good measure. Roachleg never fails to deliver the goods, and this cassette is certainly no exception. Pounding like a hangover headache, PEOPLE’S TEMPLE never really lets up, even as they modulate their tempo from track to track. These are well-constructed, memorable songs, with “Human Livestock” being a standout. Keep an eye on these freaks!