Dropdead Discography Vol. 2 1995–2013 LP

Active since 1991, DROPDEAD seems to be one of the most hard-working and militant bands in punk, raising the flag for the DIY ethos and living by what they preach. Having borrowed their name from the most important proto-grindcore demo ever (from the mighty SIEGE), they sound just like a freight train of hardcore aggression running over every politician, fascist, sexist, and animal abuser in their way. This is the second installment of their discography compilations and has 42 tracks that span through the years 1995 to 2013. It includes a remixed Hostile EP, the Arms Race EP, and the splits with TOTALITÄR (the standout tracks in my opinion), UNHOLY GRAVE, LOOK BACK AND LAUGH, CONVERGE, SYSTEMATIC DEATH, RUIDOSA INMUNDICIA, and BRAINOIL, as well as other compilation tracks. A must-have for fans of unhinged fast hardcore.

Dropdead Demos 1991 LP

If you don’t know, DROPDEAD is one of the greatest fast hardcore bands of all time. They are also one of the fastest fast hardcore bands of all time. As the title suggests, the tracks here are culled from demos recorded in 1991—and I swear that “Protest” and “At The Cost Of An Animal” sound more unhinged here than on any of the subsequent vinyl releases, and everything here hits just as hard as it did when I first heard (most of) them on a third-generation cassette 27 years ago, but it all hits even harder today because these songs (and more importantly, these words) are still relevant, they are still urgent, and they are still fucking furious. And then if you’re still standing, the sound and the delivery on the second session are simply unparalleled…this is the band who are still on top of the mountain, and they just released some recordings to remind us all who built it.

Dropdead Dropdead 2020 LP

I’m a DROPDEAD fan, but I’ll admit they’re a band with a far too big catalogue and that I have quite gladly picked and chosen the specific few records and comps I think they excel on. When I sat down to listen to Dropdead 2020, I ended up digging out and relistening to 落とす死 (which is still an absolutely stellar HC record), and I guess that was a mistake. Revealing a band in its adolescence at the cusp of their prime no doubt colours what I imagine crossover fans would call an alright crossover thrash record, if you’re into that sort of thing. Included in a write-up for this record was a statement about how they have (vocally) moved away from the “raw screaming” of previous releases, and with that I guess I’m out. Mind you, there are some catchy tracks on this and some really good drumming, it just doesn’t hold a candle to their earlier records.

Dropdead Dropdead 1998 LP reissue

The essential second full-length remixed and remastered for a 2020 reissue. A little less blasting than the “early” stuff, this record knocked all of us on our asses when it came out. This 1998 offering was more in line with destroyed, amped-up Swedish crust…and then they dropped tracks like “Part Two” that are just ferocity embodied. It was different, it was more…and it still is. DROPDDEAD’s approach and uncompromising politics shouldn’t need to be covered in these (digital) pages, but suffice to say that their knife edge has not dulled in their 30 year existence…and I don’t expect that to change. Remastering, regurgitating, and reissuing records that are readily available might seem like an unnecessary ploy in this modern era, but fuck these songs have never sounded this heavy, this fast, or this relevant. Still essential.


Dropdead Dropdead 1993 LP reissue

Holy unruliness. DROPDEAD sounds more ferocious than ever on this remastered reissue of their 1993 self-titled release. Bob Otis’s vocals are ripping through the speakers, the bass is a gruesome gritty meld of bounce and rhythm. The drums are absolutely pulverizing and the cymbals glimmer. I had a cassette of this around 1996 and I used to blast it driving around New Haven, around the first time I saw DROPDEAD at The Tune Inn, and their sincerity and raw power completely floored me. No mercy for my ears, only for all animals. It brings back very fond memories hearing this again. Compared only at the time to locals BOILING MAN, I found DROPDEAD so overwhelmingly passionate when I first heard them. Messages you could not ignore or not admit were real. If “Unjustified Murder” into “The Circle Complete” to “Clone” doesn’t move you to live responsibly, and you claim to exist in a scene that cares, I don’t know what will. Thirty-four tracks of ruthless, grinding hardcore assault. If you never had this, this is the version you need right now, for a time right now. Remastered by Brad Boatright, this is a total pummel-fest that has never sounded so full and heavy while retaining the unmistakable DROPDEAD savagery and intensity, if that is even possible.

Dropdead Live AS220 11/3/20 cassette

Lots of comedians, podcasters, and rock and/or roll musicians did live streams during the height of the pandemic, but this is the closest to feeling like a steamy hardcore show that came out of the suddenly inflated genre of live audience-less performances. In this case, if you didn’t know, you’d probably never guess this wasn’t in front of a crowd. The energy is there. The aggression is there. DROPDEAD is doing what they do best: fast, angry hardcore with a liberal sprinkling of animal rights. The first half of the set is made up of almost half of their newest album from 2020, Dropdead 2020. The rest of the set is made of a mix from the rest of their previous 30 years of existence. If you’re a newcomer, this is a perfect introduction. If you’re an old fan from way back, then you already know that you need to check this out. It’s easily in the running for best “live” release of 2021. “The Cost of an Animal,” one of their longer songs by clocking in at one minute and twelve seconds, is one of the standouts of the set. You can feel Bob Otis strangling the microphone while the rest of the band takes their instruments to their physical limits.

Escuela Grind Indoctrination LP

Escuela“ (at least via my shithouse translation methods) means “school,” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I got was seventeen tracks of punishingly heavy grind-violence that achieves what should probably be the goal for people seeking to write a grind LP, making something that careens by with all the gusto of a 7″. The riffs in this remind me of more modern grind, admittedly, but the sheer aggression on display and abrupt time signature switches and that utterly relentless blasting make this a band I’d love to see fucking destroy a basement show. If the labels on the back of this LP didn’t make it a blind buy for you then take this recommendation to heart and blow out your eardrums.

Exil Warning LP

With a front cover that looks like it was ripped straight out of a 1987 Thrasher magazine and a sound to match, EXIL drops in with an old school thrash punk assault on their debut LP. This Swedish shredder is full speed ahead and sounds something like what DRI might have evolved into had they not decided to pioneer the crossover movement. Though to be fair, there are tinges of crossover to these songs and some classic SoCal punk influence as well, which all fits the bill. Pairs well with headphones, a board, and a bad attitude.

Frequencia de Muerte Death Frequency 12″

FDEM are a gang of Portland lifers (with enough pull to get Jerry A. to do backing vocals on a track!) who offer up a lively and interesting hybrid style of hardcore on this huge-sounding, well-produced 12″. With Brad Boatright of FROM ASHES RISE on guitar, you know there will be epic riffs for days, but those driving riffs are joined to the swagger and rock’n’roll of Spanish punk thanks to the tastefully subdued drumming, rocked-out bass riffs, and Spanish language vocals courtesy of TEROKAL’s Eduardo Agostocrates. There are a few moments where the band could stand to pick up a little steam (things seems to trend toward the mid-tempo in general these days), but overall this is a rock-solid release for fans of either style. The cover art is not great, but the blue and black swirled vinyl is very pretty, and mine had a different pattern on each side.

Hard to Swallow Hard to Swallow LP

HARD TO SWALLOW were a very, very ’90s UK hardcore band, born of a scene muddling through the dramatic collapse of the ’80s UK punk boom and a general cultural abandonment of punk sounds and ideals in favor of electronic music and rave culture. This collection of mid-’90s demo, comp, and split EP tracks showcases a band that is disgusted by everything and everyone around them, fueled by rage and a wild experimental spirit. The fact that several members were splitting their time between HTS and IRON MONKEY is readily apparent: there’s a ton of sludge in the sound, and more than a touch of SABBATH-y blues alongside the vicious dual-vocalist hardcore attack. The band’s inclusion of some harsh noise and power electronics demonstrate their musical kinship to peers STALINGRAD, another exemplar of the eclectic, experimental ’90s UKHC scene. This collection won’t appeal to just anyone, but there are many (especially fans of ’90s German metalcore Á  la SYSTRAL and ACHEBORN) who will be blown away by this reissue. Great sound and sinister packaging included—mine came on a very appropriately off-putting lunchmeat kind of colored vinyl.

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!

Disaffect / Sanctus Iuda Fuck All Borders split LP

To many punk veterans, this one will feel like a ’90s wet dream, like a time machine to a different—and yet not so different—DIY punk scene. I am a little too young for rose-tinted glasses since I got into anarcho-punk in the early ’00s and both DISAFFECT and SANCTUS IUDA had already split up, although I was aware of both band’s relevance and importance. DISAFFECT was quite popular in France and definitely a favourite of mine, and even though I don’t play them that often these days, I was a very happy (not to mention emotional) lad when they played in Paris this year and realized I still knew all of the words. If you have never heard the Scots, they epitomise all that was great about ’90s political punk, and if you were to illustrate what that sounds like, just introduce DISAFFECT: genre-defining fast, thrashing hardcore punk with anarchist lyrics and absolutely brilliant dual male/female vocals (Lynne’s voice is so unique). It also works with HOMOMILITIA, FLEAS AND LICE, or ANTI-PRODUCT. Of course, this new recording sounds cleaner than their old material, which makes sense as you cannot really expect people to stay exactly the same as they were 25 years earlier with the very same instruments and gear and even shirts and haircuts. DISAFFECT’s songwriting is pretty similar, maybe a little more tuneful and intricate which is a wise choice, and does not sound like a parody of itself. At times, the modern production is a bit too clean for my taste, but overall it still sounds aggressive and angry enough as the band has not lost any of their bite and politics. A solid first side. On the other side is SANCTUS IUDA, who belonged to the same generation of cracking Polish crust bands in the ’90s as the aforementioned HOMOMILITIA, SILNA WOLA, or HOSTILITY—a prolific scene and one of the genre’s major strongholds in Europe at the time. On this new recording, SANCTUS IUDA (who I incidentally also saw after they reformed) do not sound as openly anarcho-Eurocrust as in their glory days, as they lie more on the dark hardcore side of the spectrum with an ’00s epic vibe that is almost reminiscent of Spanish neocrust. You can sense the anger, but the band loses me a little with this change of direction. Don’t get me wrong, SANCTUS IUDA is still at home with the crust punk sound and aesthetics, and I enjoy the global moodiness, but I suppose I was expecting something different. Both bands have meaningful lyrics and the title of the LP, Fuck All Borders on both sides, could not be clearer. Fuck the borders indeed. Refugees welcome.

Wolfbrigade Anti-Tank Dogs EP

Arguably one of the most influential Swedish punk bands ever, starting out as WOLFPACK and steadily evolving into WOLFBRIGADE, with their trademark DISCHARGE meets ANTI-CIMEX meets DISSECTION sound. Many of the modern crust bands owe their careers to these Swedish crust-mongers. This new three-track EP shows a slight evolution into a more metallic and dirty territory, even more so than on their last record The Enemy: Reality. Every song is carefully crafted and sharpened into a weapon of crust destruction. WOLFBRIGADE is a central piece in the Swedish punk scene, whether you want them to be or not. So dig your paws in! The Lycanthro Punks will stop at nothing and trample everything in their path.