Chain Reaction

Clusterfux The 7″s cassette

Compilation cassette compiling all recorded CLUSTERFUX tracks from 2004—2007. Two recording sessions that became sides of three split 7″s with some leftover tracks all included here. CLUSTERFUX seem mostly like a thrashcore band, but some of the unexpected genres I hear when I listen to this makes it feel as if the band is somewhat living up to their name. There’s some crossover metal riffs, some rip-roaring thrash metal solos, vocals going back and forth from sounding akin to DRI to sounding like they’re recorded for a crust punk band, and even sounding oddly screamo-inspired at times. Unexpectedly, I think some of the songs on the “You” side of this cassette rip harder than everything contained on the “Fuck” side, which is surprising since that side is all the tracks that didn’t make the cut on the band’s vinyl releases. A few of those songs sound more straightforward crossover thrash, which seems to suit the band the strongest.

Clusterfux Blood cassette

I previously received a cassette collection by CLUSTERFUX which compiled the band’s 7”s and tons of unreleased songs—I remember at the time feeling like it was a bit lackluster and somewhat all over the place. If I were a more pompous individual, I might suggest that my review pointing out the gripes I had with the previous cassette inspired CLUSTERFUX to focus on the genre they really wanted to be playing on Blood, their newest release. This cassette couldn’t be more different from how the earlier tape came across. We’re talking straightforward, no-bullshit, crossover/thrash metal. A short and sweet six-song cassette, which I think works well for a band of this genre, rather than the overwhelming nature of a collection cassette. Hell, even listening to a record like Crossover by D.R.I. feels like a bit of a marathon if you ask me—by the end of it, I’m always left wondering why they didn’t cut the album off with the stomper “No Religion.” Anyway, you get none of that with this cassette. If you’re into later-era crossover D.R.I. albums, CLUSTERFUX now sounds like a mixture of that and any ’80s classic thrash-metal band who were not memorable enough to make it into any iteration of the Big Four.

Buff / Cress Government Monster / Choose Your War split LP

Apparently CRESS is a functional project again, and they have picked up right where they left off from Monuments and the DOOM split in the late 1990s. Their brand of spaced-out anarcho-punk fills a modern void, and I feel like the songs on their side are simultaneously present and timeless…a sound that is simultaneously familiar and inspirational (or maybe one because of the other). I listened to the CRESS side three times in a row, I confess that I was prepared to be disappointed by the flip and didn’t even want to turn the record over (but I have a job to do)…BUFF blew me away. Epic UK space-crust along the lines of IOWASKA or MUCKSPREADER, blatant HAWKWIND homages driven by electronic manipulations, later SUBHUMANS drawn-out reggae/dub interludes…and they have no problem delivering chaotic crust detonations. Far from a scattershot collection of sounds, Manchester’s BUFF treats their side of the split like a journey, and the listener is invited to join. I feel like I reacquainted with an old friend and I made a new one—absolutely brilliant split release.

End of Hope Cease & Destroy LP

Heavy rock’n’roll-tinged stoner jams, pulled through time from the mid-1990s “noise rock played by old punks” brand of heavy alt. The difference is that END OF HOPE still opens it up from time to time, and maybe it’s the variation that sets them apart. Massive guitar tonnage and killer riffs, Cease & Destroy hits hard and swings hard, like a thinking person’s grunge/stoner hybrid. Distinct piercing growls from former KRAUT frontman Gunner ensure that this record doesn’t sound like anything else on your shelf. Self-released on CD in 2019, slapped onto shiny green wax by Chain Reaction.

Motherfucker Teresa Old News is Still New News cassette

Erratic song structures and a recording that leans heavily on the high end amp the intensity of this dual-vocal Denver outfit. MOTHERFUCKER TERESA would have fit in nicely on a mid-’90s Gilman bill with BLACK FORK; jumpy lurches turn into nasty, guitar-driven political punk—and with tracks like “Me and Mitch McConnell in a Dark Alley,” I think you can pick up where they’re coming from pretty quickly.

Open Veins Open Veins LP

I have recently read that, and I quote, “unforgettable 2000s fashion trends are making a comeback,’’ which got me excited instantly, not just because it would remind me of a time when I still had all my hair, but also because ’00s DIY hardcore punk was really formative for me and I could not wait to see current pop stars rocking BEHIND ENEMY LINES or KONTROVERS shirts and talking about vivisection between songs. Of course, I was wrong, as I usually am about such things, and what people generally mean with the ’00s has more to do with BRITNEY SPEARS and thongs, but OPEN VEINS did somehow alleviate this harsh disillusion. Now, this is an album that takes me back. Not that it is a reissue, it is a brand new recording, but OPEN VEINS sounds just like a US crust band from the ’00s (it does have former members of PONTIUS PILATE or DOOMSDAY HOUR) with their female-fronted, hard-hitting epic political crust punk attack with some crunchy metallic parts thrown in. In terms of songwriting, you find transitions and a diversity of structures reminiscent of that decade, and even the direct production—free from our epoch’s overbearing reliance on effects-based tricks and textures—would not sound out of place on a Profane Existence or Skuld Releases compilation. I am reminded of US bands like PROVOKED, SCORNED, and APPALACHIAN TERROR UNIT, or European ones like DETRITUS or PCP. You can tell that the band’s music is sincere even if some songs do not work perfectly to my ears. The vocalist’s hoarse, intensely angry style is impressive, and you can tell she is pissed-off—which we all should be—and it is without a doubt one of OPEN VEINS’ strongest points. This first album for the band was released on Chain Reaction, a label run by CLUSTERFUX punks.

Poison Tribe State Sanctioned Violence cassette

Full-throated crust churn—another killer contribution from the folks at Chain Reaction. The vocals are exhausting, lyrics descending into a breathless “aaaarrrggghhhh“ instead of words, and trying to keep up with the all-go low-end attack. Five songs here—definitely looking forward to more in the future.

Poison Tribe Allie Sessions demo cassette

At least the band picked a good name, which is always a nice first impression. POISON TRIBE comes from Denver, and from what I can tell, they are a relatively new band, as Allie Sessions is their second demo tape. Let me warn you that the sound is definitely raw and primal on this recording, which certainly doesn’t bother me (quite the contrary). Let’s just say that it genuinely sounds like a demo, not those fancy demos that get reissued on vinyl—no, the real no-arsing-around kind, warts and all. I have no idea if the people in the band have been active for long in our glorious punk scene (a polite way to inquire about how ancient they are), but I detect a sensible early ’00s political punk feel on this demo, from back when George W. Bush was thought to be the biggest villain the US of A would ever have. I enjoy this tape, more than I thought I would. As mentioned, it conveys the vibe that was so prevalent in North American ’00s crusty political hardcore, not dissimilar to California bands like AGAINST//EMPIRE, DISSYSTEMA, HOLOKAUST, or the mighty ARMISTICE though they started in the ’90s (POISON TRIBE has similar crunchy metallic breaks). For some reason, I am also reminded of a less Eurocrust SILNA WOLA—clearly a compliment in this quarter—but that could be because of the vocals that take a bit of time to get used to. This recording, although cruder than the first one, is a clear improvement in my book, and I am curious to see what POISON TRIBE could achieve with a more cohesive story to tell on an EP.

Roäc 4 Song Mini LP 12″

Excellent combination of pure depressive power and the ability to unleash when necessary. MISERY and DEVIATED INSTINCT comparisons are easy, but they are also warranted here—the responsible personnel have been in the game for years, and it shows. Four doses of unassailable doom-laden crust, peaking with “The Path” that starts the second side with instantly familiar dark melodies, helping the listener realize that this trio bows to the same sonic idols that have brought more “recognized” bands something like underground “success”— somehow it hits just a little harder when you see a band churning it out in relative isolation. Even if you just casually dabble in the world of epic crust, ROÄC will straight up level you.

Life Once Flourished Here / Roäc split LP

ROÄC plays loose, grizzly crust reminiscent of MISERY, DEVIATED INSTINCT meets HIS HERO IS GONE, themes of desolation, despair, and a stark realization of darker days ahead. The pace remains gloomy and macabre almost throughout their side, harkening the ’90s finest metallic crust on the more composed and tight, less chaotic side; WINTER, the metric delivery of GODFLESH, the double bass pedal of BOLT THROWER…. but hotdamn, when they gallop off at a DEATH STRIKE pace, ROÄC rips. There’s a lot to offer on this side from the twelve-string acoustic guitar and tambourine to the pulverizing, more EFFIGY/AXEWIELD riff-driven tracks. You’re getting a lot for half of a split. LIFE ONCE FLOURISHED HERE delivers one track, “Land That God Forgot,” a sonic landscape of JACK ROSE-esque primitive guitar on the side of ALARIC or ATRIARCH. A melancholy and harmonic slightly prog or Krautrock escape under socio-political spoken word. Feeling a message and mood of AXIOM and BLACK KRONSTADT here as well, as the intro grows into a discordant hardcore attack. I think this is an important split LP for the eco-conscious free-spirit cruster—an ally to love and peace. Neither side disappoints.

Rotstrotter Rotstrotter LP

Monstrous non-stop D-beat with some motor-charged vibes. For fans of HELLKRUSHER, DISASTER, POLICE BASTARD, WARCOLLAPSE, and DISTRAUGHT. Vocals remind me of DEVOID OF FAITH, the music is as fast as DISGUST, E.N.T, and DISFEAR. ROTSTROTTER isn’t rewriting the book here, but their speed is definitely up there with the most insane of them. The transitions are smooth and the riffs melt together in excellent D-beat harmony. Some solos almost sound like computer gibberish and that’s fucking cool and different. ROTSTROTTER debuts with a powerful LP that grasps you right away. It’s simple, but it is real kängpunk turnt up a few notches in its truest form. You can tell the members of this band are no freshmen to this sound. 100% D-beat hardcore from Denver today that reeks forth like Europe thirty-something years ago.