Reviews

La Vida Es Un Mus

Algara Absortos en el Tedio Eterno LP

I really half-assed one thing in my glowing review of Barcelona’s ALGARA’s previous EP. I didn’t bother to track down the actual quote I paraphrased which came from Emma Goldman—globally famous anarchist thinker and writer. The full quote was, “If I can’t dance…I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” It’s okay though, because the quote is even more apt for the band’s debut full-length, which takes anarchist theory and supercharges it for a generation that wants to shake their hips as capitalist society burns to ashes. This quartet does quite a few things really well, namely in terms of messaging and aesthetics, wherein each track feels like a bulletin from the HQ of a guerilla fighting force. More so than that, the group writes goddamn terrific songs that span a wide range of genres and tones. From impassioned drum machine coldwave stompers to agile shredders from the garage, this band is clearly well-read politically and musically. Even re-recorded material such as standout anthem “Expulsados” has only gotten harder and more ferocious. The results are AOTY-grade stuff and is the most perfect iteration of their vision to date. An actual shape of punk to come (one sincerely hopes).

Algara Enamorados Del Control Total EP

There’s something about the cold, distant, echoing vocals, the primitive, synthetic drums, and catchy guitar lines that combine to make this a striking debut. It doesn’t sound like garden variety post-punk and I’m at a loss to think of a band that sounds like this. Take a song like “Potestad Para Hablar”—these are going to sound like bonkers comparisons but hear me out —it combines the cold, antiseptic distance of FELT with the catchy new wave guitar of the B-52’S and it totally works! Speaking of idiosyncratic combinations, the cover features a mix of militant posturing, an autobiography of Catalan anarcho-syndicalist Juan GarcÁ­a Oliver, analog photography equipment, and what looks like a flamenco record. Maybe it’s this mix of the raw and cold with the colorful and alive that makes their particular sound click. Anarcho-punk you can dance to, with a drum machine that sometimes sounds like a taser. These tunes were re-recorded with a live band on a subsequent cassette and I can’t tell which I like better so dig them both.

Algara Una Cosa Más Sin Sentido Alguno Usada Para Hacer Rico Al Mismo de Siempre cassette

Barcelona’s leftist post-punks ALGARA expand their sound and personnel on this cassette. The band re-recorded their debut EP for the front half, using a full band to augment their initial cold, drum machine-based sound. The flip side consists of four cuts from their upcoming full-length. The material that hits hardest here is the first four tracks, which completely rebuilds the original songs from the ground up into something resembling the original WARSAW EP set to a vibrant garagey bop. Tight polyrhythmic drums lay the bedrock for moon-roving bass lines and piercing saturated guitar, all while leaving ample space for the protest crier vocals. This is a revolution you can dance to, which is often the only kind worth fighting. The second half of the tape splits the difference between this updated approach and the group’s original more stark and synthetic sound. The duality works, but the traditional rock instrumentation is more fun. This is overtly political, anti-establishment punk you can bounce to—but politics ain’t always fun and games! The cassette is sold out via the label (update—now back in stock), but you can buy digital and as of this writing the band has physical copies to buy directly.

Asid Pathetic Flesh LP

Pathetic Flesh is ASID’s first vinyl outing after a handful of tapes. From the UK, they play the kind of brutalizing, fest-friendly pogo that WARTHOG and S.H.I.T. do. It’s fine on record—it works better as a DISCLOSE-esque wall of noise than anything else—but I bet it rocks when you’re surrounded by 300 other people at a big gig.

Barcelona Residuos del Ultrasonido EP

Might be my emergency exit from burning out—anyway—I consider hardcore as a form of art. Even if it defines itself as noise not music, still it is a sonic expression of emotions and thoughts. A reaction to complex processes thundering in each of us. Hardcore is best when unadjusted, each layer of the music freely and indivisually explodes from the players but when added together becoming a bit more than several syncronised performances. Historically the cacophony of hardcore was written on the account of untrained musicians, who employed enthusiasm instead of education, although we must not forget how confusing the world is even when you seem to be able to function in its array of bullshit. It is much more hostile when you are young and reckless to start a punk band, where these kids were matching their songs to their experiences. Art could help to conserve these feelings reflecting on terror of surreal reality. BARCELONA had an artsy edge from the beginning, especially with their cover art, but with Residuos del Ultrasonido the suspicion shifted to hard facts: while they are a pure primitive force of destructive and radical hardcore, they are not only attacking year end top ten lists but the borders of hardcore. It is strange how internationally appreciated they are, yet almost no one is ripping off their sound. While it is not an insoluble formula, it is a continuation of beloved pioneers of radical hardcore and it carries the signature soundmarks of BARCELONA. The bass is a loud pulp, punching the space of the music with its extension despite with its power; the drums remind us to the visceral driver in mankind to beat the shit out of bang-able objects to create rhythms that match with our inner tempo; the vocals are towering over the music, setting a direction with raspy, ferocious screams which later go as far as imitating dog barks; finally the guitars are tying many knots with the strings when not blasting head-deforming riffs. It is a short 7″, but packed with so many layers it instantly becomes a classic. There is some discussion over the cover art, which even if improvised at last minute or meticulously planned, works as a great, funny fuck you. I love how it recalls the infamous What The… cover. It also reflects on that art is not necessary some academic, always high-brow happening, but it could be dumb and funny, yet meaningful; it could be anything. Probably a lot of people would be distracted by the cover if this would be BARCELONA’s debut EP, but if this was only the beginning it would be a fair price to pay. Amazing record.

Barrera Visiones Nocturnas 12″

At the first strike of the chords, one automatically expects a four-count followed by some D-beat destruction, but quickly you are met with another reality. BARRERA from Valencia almost sounds like post-punk, but soon you understand that it is just stripped-down, slow, primitive and suffocating punk. Hypnotic like BRAINBOMBS, noisy like FLIPPER, charismatic like the STOOGES, and dramatic like QLOAQA LETAL. Visiones Nocturnas offers seven gloomy tracks that, if you understand the lyrics, will shatter your emotions. This just proves that Spanish punk bands are at the top of their game.

Chain Cult Shallow Grave LP

Athens’ CHAIN CULT wastes no time, opening the first track with a catchy chorus-laden guitar riff that would sound just as much at home on a new-wave record as on a dark melodic punk record. The raspy vocals sound a little like the singer from OXYMORON, which is refreshingly different. Anthemic songwriting and adventurous drumming tie the sound together. Definitely something to check out for fans of Scandinavian melodic punk and melodic dark punk.

Chain Cult We’re Not Alone / Always a Mess 7″

Athens, Greece-based CHAIN CULT gives us a take on the pandemic through their post-punk lens with lines like “We always know / We’re not alone,” and “Now I pretend to be normal / When life used to be normal.” For a threesome, the sound is full in body, and Dino’s picked-apart guitar lines are maybe the most notable aspect of “We’re Not Alone” and “Always A Mess,” running parallel with many of Jason’s sung melodies and punchy bass lines. The production lends itself to a very clean and polished sound—no crust here—but it’s dark, driving, and leaves you in that gray space between defeat and hope. Take a listen and see where you land.

Cry Out More Echoes of a Question Never Answered… Why? 12″

An anarcho-punk solo project from Montreal/Halifax with obvious nods to CRASS’s Penis Envy that remarkably manages not to sound like a retread. The reverb leaves an eerie vibe rather than simply compensating for lack of substance, the synth creeps in but doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the drum machine is teased with cowbell and noisemakers. During a pandemic that could spawn scores of dreary solo projects, this sounds so deliberate and vital, and uneasy—think The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks by FLUX OF PINK INDIANS. These four songs go in and out of a lot of sonic directions but hold together like a true, no-bullshit statement. The horrible news overshadowing this righteously indignant EP is that its sole creator, Rosie Davis, passed away this past summer before it could come out. Memorable, original, and fitting of these grotesque times; if this were to be a first salvo, it’s impossible not to wonder where this project was going to go. Great to see La Vida Es Un Mus give this the vinyl treatment and that proceeds go to Rosie’s family. What can you say? Cop this. RIP.

Disclose Nightmare or Reality 12″

To be honest, the typically blunt and honest liner notes by Kawakami are pretty much the best review of this record available, but I’ll do my best to give a preview. Everyone knows (or should know) that DISCLOSE is that Japanese band that wrote songs in the style of DISCHARGE, but beneath the surface the story of DISCLOSE is an intriguing one, featuring constant evolution and innovation spanning dozens of releases. While early DISCLOSE was very much in the service of DISCHARGE, there were obvious influences from a range of post-DISCHARGE hardcore bands, most notably Scandinavian masters like DISCARD and SHITLICKERS. The early and mid-’90s material is often blown-out to the point of being challenging to listen to (viz. the first EP, or the tracks on the Meaningful Consolidation compilation). As time progressed, the band moved away from that more chaotic approach in favor of a more stripped-down and coherent sound, with the The Aspects of War and 4 Track EPs serving as trial runs for this, DISCLOSE’s attempt at producing their answer to Why?. The years and years of obsessive listening, study, research, practice, and attention to detail paid off in spades here, producing ten tracks (of course, guess which other record had 10) of pure DISCHARGE-fueled D-beat insanity, albeit with soloing that skews a little more towards ’CIMEX than Bones. It’s foolish to offer up apologies or explanations for Kawakami and DISCLOSE, either for the concept or the execution when it’s easy enough to say that there’s nothing one fucking amazing band taking inspiration from another fucking amazing band. True connoisseurs can argue for hours about which period of DISCLOSE was the best, but I don’t think any would handwave this record or its importance as a turning point in their body of work. As usual, La Vida Es Un Mus has given this reissue deluxe treatment, with the art fully reproduced in a heavy duty glossy jacket and inner sleeve, and a great sounding mastering job on thick vinyl.

El Aviador Dro Nuclear, Sí EP

40th anniversary reissue of this seminal Spanish synth-punk EP, available again for the first time this century. Closest relative in sound and spirit would be SOLID SPACE, though AVIADOR DRO are a bit brighter and more playful, even with nuclear concerns and a looming Godzilla attack as lyrical woes. Really into this, especially during this crisp and desperate time of year. Recommended for bleepers and dorks.

Enzyme Howling Mind 12″

You know what’s up here—manic non-music hitting you like a hammer. Rapid-fire drums only seem to stop between songs, firecrackers exploding through the mix erratically while everything else is either distorted or flanged to oblivion. It’s a complete assault that will exhaust even a casual listener (try seeing it live), but the thing that sets Australia’s ENZYME apart is the fukkn tracks. The title track is an insanely catchy pogo banger, followed by “Decadent Hogs,” one of the most relentless scorchers of the last decade that’s still catchy as fuck. The bass is the regulator, holding everything in place and directing the chaos…not an easy task when the chaos you’re a part of just hoists the banner of noise punk higher and higher. CONFUSE? Sure. DISORDER? Naturally. But ENZYME has evolved.

Exotica Musique Exotique #03 EP

Blown-out, fuzzed, wall-of-hardcore sound from New York with sinister riffs and punchy, scathing vocals delivered in bursts. Cool sound effects and creepy feedback add some variety, and the pace doesn’t let up. The drumming is creative and unorthodox in a way that really sets the sound apart from everyone else old or new. Lyrics in Spanish and English, with band members from Mexico, Argentina and the US. This is their third 7″ release, and has all the energy of their first record with more attention to songwriting. Another excellent hardcore EP!

Foc La Fera Ferotge LP

This first album from an intriguing band direct from Barcelona, featuring frenetic drums, a noise guitar with small melodies and the intensity and unevenness of spoken Catalan vocals. This band sounds like a manifesto, an urgent and necessary call. As if CONFLICT heard noise in 2020.

Forra Mostrame Lo Peor EP

If I didn’t know this band before, just by listening to it, I wouldn’t know if it was recorded recently or in the ’80s anywhere in South America, like MARIA T.TA Y EL EMPUJON BRUTAL’s missing record. But in reality it was recorded in 2018, and more importantly, by Latina immigrant women living in London and supporting The Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), a London-based feminist organization. A primitive punk, raw guitar, aggressive vocals and a muffled recording effect.

Fried E.M. Modern World LP

It’s cool how unpretentious this record is. The band’s got no pedals or gimmicks to hide behind and no fake street politics or ideology to promote aside from a seething distaste for society and life. The vacant mindset is represented by the bare jacket art resulting in an extremely snotty record but the music isn’t as barebones as it may seem as FRIED E.M. operate in an interesting fits-and-stops manner. Some songs are rumbling blasts while others are more janky stop-go mutations with groaning bass, Ginn-esque guitar squeals and pummeling drums. It’s like they’ve scraped the grime and desperation from BLACK FLAG’s Damaged and thrown it onto a cleaner modern interpretation of MAD SOCIETY, the CIRCLE JERKS, the OVERKILL 7″and other random L.A. punk bands. The A-side kinda lacks but the B really takes off. If you were into SCHOOL JERKS ten years ago, you can feel young again with this.

Hekátē Μέρες Οργής / Days of Wrath LP

Synth-punk with a deathly pallor from Athens, a take-no-shit attitude nevertheless prevails in what appears to be HEKÁTĒ’s debut release. Ping-ponging between Greek and English for their lyrics, an organ sounds like it’s set to overheat on “Καλοκαίρι 2018,” while “Soapbox” is—in sentiment more than music—as dead-on as first-wave Riot Grrrl’s finest (“You get in my way and fuck up my day / You push me aside then ask me to smile / Ugh!”). A bumpin’ goth-punk bassline and psych-flecked keyboard swirl backs up Lydia’s reverbed-up vox on “Cul-De-Sac,” which along with “Ψυχαναγκασμός” comes off like ES trying out a WARSAW / STRANGLERS gene-splice, unlikely an occurrence as that might in reality be.”Αθήνα,” which closes the album, is billed as a collection of field recordings from Athens, and encompasses some sort of (possibly) tavern-bound balladry, smashing glass, thunder (or are those bombs?) and police sirens. Pretty skillfully assembled, actually, and doesn’t jar with an otherwise rocking set of post-punk.

Home Front Think of the Lie 12″

Hammering out a dance beat from the cold plains of central Canada, HOME FRONT breaks frozen ground with their debut EP. Think of the Lie offers all the trappings of new wave sheen—rambling synth and bass, drum-machined angst, and vox and guitar drowning in reverb. The angst comes through with clarity on “Seagulls,” but is well balanced by softer tracks around it. The first track “Flaw in the Design” and the last track “Kill the Time” make nice social commentary bookends, grounding the fun overtones of the album.

Irreal 2020 EP

Barcelona has been a growing staple for European punk and IRREAL is the perfect example of the Spanish strength, featuring members of BARCELONA, UNA BESTIA INCONTROLABLE, and NUEVA FUERZA just to name a few. These calloused musicians quickly continue where DESTINO FINAL (whose members were in) left off but angrier and faster. Five tracks of defiant hardcore that owes as much to Finnish hardcore as it does to DISCHARGE, and by no means do they forget their Spanish punk classics. You get the feeling that the more bands write in their own language the angrier it feels, and this is the perfect example of the anti-establishment sentiment. Without a doubt one of the best EPs that saw the light of day during the COVID-era “new normalcy.” Muerte al sistema!

Irreal Fi Del Mon 12″

With a start that makes even the most casual listener take note and wonder if they are about to be washed away by a tsunami of ’82 Italian hardcore, IRREAL set their scene before they even make it through one riff…and then they get better. Relentless, pounding drums that dance (like, literally you will want to dance), as the band crashes into and through an array of Southern European punk influences and art-damaged DISCHARGE reinterpretations. So tormented are these guitars, it’s as if the person playing them is attacking with frustration, trying simply to make them sound like they are supposed to—and when you deliver breakneck D-beat (“Ruines”) with that kind of fury, the results are terrifying. IRREAL is the product of several stalwarts of the Barcelona scene, so it comes as no surprise that Fi Del Mon is good—and still when “Maisons” closes the show, there’s nothing I want to do except start from the beginning. Highest recommendation.

Kaleidoscope After the Futures… LP

This one dropped last year and justifiably popped onto more than a few folks’ 2019 “best of” lists. New York’s KALEIDOSCOPE has taken the screws to modern hardcore, not so much reinterpreting or combining elements from various crucial points in the historical procession of fads and subgenres, but reinventing them altogether. What if Pick Your King had been born of the Crass Records scene, for example? After The Futures… is nothing if not a complete album as opposed to a collection of tracks. “Feeling Machine” closes the first side with a perfect dose of driving desperation. It’s the kind of track that is supposed to end a side—after listening to Shiva (guitar/vox) spit fire for two minutes and then drop into an “Indecision Time” caliber micro-lead, you fucking need the break that flipping the wax mandates. They are more than capable of dropping a killer hardcore record, but there are only shades of that on this full-length, enough to make sure that you know that they know, but KALEIDOSCOPE are bigger than that. Experimentation and freedom; existence within the construct while altering the expectations of same. You’re gonna hear people talk about jazz, about psychedelic free-form nonsense when they talk about this record…but make no mistake: this one is Punk. With any luck, this one is The New Punk that will spawn a new generation of imitators who also get tired of doing what they are supposed to do, just like KALEIDOSCOPE did.

Khiis Bezoar LP

KHIIS is a four-piece hardcore punk band hailing from Oakland, CA; their latest release, Bezoar, is sung in Farsi and English. Good riffs, catchy yet well-crafted songwriting, and simply a brutal, raging hardcore punk record that raises your fist up in the air. Reminds me of a modern DIY punk version of mid-tempo driven UK82 bands like GBH and the EXPLOITED. It’s not necessary UK82 revival pogo/street punk (but somehow sounds much more UK82 than most street punk bands out there), and whether intended or not, there are similarities with contemporary Bay Area hardcore such as NO STATIK, TORSO, REPLICA, and others. The Earhammer recording production is clear and dynamic sounding, reminding me more of the TOTALITÄR material or ’90s Japanese hardcore production (something recorded at Our House or from the Selfish Records or Bloodsucker Records catalog) than some basement demo recording. No bullshit, great hardcore punk, not just for punks, but also hardcore fans of all. Great cover artwork done by Ji Hwan Ryu of SCUMRAID.

Kohti Tuhoa Väkivaltaa EP

Since their inception, KOHTI TUHOA managed to make a dent on the punk scene and they never disappoint. They are where they belong: at the top of the game as the true carriers of the Finnish punk torch. Väkivaltaa is a less chaotic and abrasive EP, a more controlled and mature experimentation with different routes to their sound. There are still pogo moments like DISORDER in songs like “Juokse Kovempaa” that point back to their earlier stuff but with a more garage feel to it, while songs like “Häpeä” invoke the early AMEBIX spirit, a step in a different direction for KOHTI TUHOA. The best quality of this EP is the dark feeling it conveys, perhaps a mirror of current times and the era it was crafted in. Towards destruction there is only violence!

Kohti Tuhoa Elä Totuudesta EP

The Finnish band who dropped one of my favorite records in 2019 released this record in 2020 that’s fast becoming my favorite EP of 2021. Finland’s KOHTI TUHOA has progressed with each release, and Elä Totuudesta is no different—vocals have developed a pronounced NAUSEA-meets-POST REGIMENT bark here, driving the songs themselves with force. Even the title track that opens with such a furious downstroke guitar doesn’t really start until the vocals kick in. The Scandi-beat charge is definitely present, even dominating at times, but the leads are classic punk and the vibe is determined and not dark, reflected in the lyrics and delivered by the sound. You’ll never find anyone categorizing this by saying it “sounds like…,” well, anything. A future classic slab to devour in the present—highly recommended.

Kohti Tuhoa Ihmisen Kasvot LP

There are a few things you can do to distinguish your band from the sea of hardcore punk releases coming out these days: hooks, strong vocals or instrumentation, production, or delivery. Everything about this LP is so fucking awesome and exudes the spirit of intense classic Finnish hardcore to an uncalculabe degree. Varied pace of attack and degrees of burn make it impossible to choose standout tracks. Flailing drum fills, pick slides, short guitar licks and sweet vocal cues are distributed proficiently for maximum excitement. It’s just all deep cuts, edited tightly together to be taken in all at once. A record for all punk and hardcore fans to live and die for!

Koma Internment Failure LP

Take a breath before facing the brutal decadence of modern life. Prepare yourself to receive a blast of pestilence and moral rot. You still go forward and face it head on, because it’s the only thing you can do, right? You are alive. You resist. That’s how it feels to listen to these twelve tracks from the debut album of KOMA, a band from London/Leeds. This is noisy hardcore, the kind that can generate tinnitus, very much in the vein of Swedish hardcore and the more static-filled Japanese styles. The effect is brutal, claustrophobic, and frenetic, an assault on the senses without pause. Absolutely desperate, like these times.

Kriegshög Paint It Black / White Out 7″

Latest release by Tokyo’s hardcore veterans, with almost fifteen years under their belt. As with their previous release, their sound has changed a bit from the raging Mangel thrash-esque “Magma Beat Hell” approach. Perhaps due to the lineup change, the approach has shifted from blown-out noisy hardcore to mid-paced hardcore with a cleaner guitar tone, reminesent of DISCHARGE’s non D-beat mid-tempo songs such as “Decontrol” or “State Violence State Control” more than something you will hear from the kangpunk approach like “Victims of a Bomb Raid” or “Nitad.” Still, seeing that they’re a raging hardcore band based out of Tokyo, it’s hard to say they’ve toned down a bit; the sound has matured in its unique manner. It’s not overtly noisy or intense sounding like their earlier releases, but focused more on subtle intensity that is quietly building up. Perhaps it’s their long career or maybe it’s the cultural influences that it has, seems like it’s an output of aggression that is rather unique to an environment like Tokyo. The B-side still carries on with their no-bullshit, raging hardcore punk.

Lux New Day EP

I’ve always meant to pay more attention to this band so I don’t have a ton to compare this to. Surprising for me since I’m generally a big fan of Barcelona punk. Definitely my loss, for this is a sheeringly ripping slice of buzzsaw Riot City punk. Kills from start to finish. The guitar sound is a brilliant little headache and you’ll hear SUBVERSIVE RITE, VICE SQUAD’s first EP and SACRILEGE demos if you squint just right. All this while sounding like fresh music for the future revolutions and marches in the street. Death to Fascist Pigs! or something like that.

Maladia Sacred Fires 12″

When I saw MALADIA play, close on eighteen months ago, they were billed second to PERMISSION, and while those two groups diverge somewhat from a baseline sound—one more weird, the other more ferocious—together they’re top of the line in modern London hardcore. Sacred Fires is MALADIA’s first vinyl release after a 2019 demo, and they have upped the (already intense) intensity for twelve minutes and five slippery rippers. John Weston sounds extra anarcho-aggro on the mic and the VOID via post-Pope Adrian RUDIMENTARY PENI blown-out deathrock vibe gets rolled up in a comparably more psychedelic carpet on the B-side. This is feeling like a sleeper hit of 2021 DIY punk.

Mystic Inane Natural Beauty EP

MYSTIC INANE give us a posthumous collection of four songs that were recorded prior to them disbanding a few years ago. If you are late to this group of New Orleans weirdos, they sound like RUDIMENTARY PENI meets SACCHARINE TRUST in a dumpster. Their essential EP’s of M/I collection is always in rotation around these parts. This EP fits in perfectly with their three previous 7″ releases of off-kilter outsider hardcore. The basement spy riffs are here, as are the deranged, always slightly off-beat vocals that make this band so recognizable and endearing. “Death of Disco Spiv” starts off slowly with a beginner’s level guitar line that is met about 30 seconds later with full-band hardcore stomp. “My Life as a Fish” reminds me of their previous trash anthem “I Believe in UFOs” with a similar vocal delivery in the chorus of “I’m a fish, and I want sleep” (at least, I think that’s what he says). “Mystic Ignorance” is as good an introduction to the band as it gets, and we even get a brief guitar solo! Generous! “Peckerwood Nero” has such a catchy repeated vocal line and bouncy bass melody that it could be a new wave hit in a freakier universe. The final track fades out and then slowly comes back in, creating a fitting parting gift from a great punk band. My expectations were exceeded, and I was bummed when it ended.

Nekra Royal Disruptor EP

Dripping with sarcasm and venom, NEKRA spit out five tracks of vicious HC, easily switching between fast-as-fuck aggression and stomping mid-paced choruses. These tempo changes and snotty vocals manage to yield some of the catchiest punk I’ve heard from London in some time, while not losing an ounce of that raw energy that made their 2017 demo such a fuckin’ rager. Recommended.

Obsessió Gracies 12″

With members from Greece and Catalonia, OBSESSIÁ”’s self-titled 12″ is a pan-European hardcore melange, over faster than it takes to steam a cauliflower. Angela from ’00s Barcelona greats FIRMEZA 10 yells forcefully over straightforward, propulsive hardcore with some surprising Swedish-style rocking guitar licks. It’s kind of like HERÄTYS locked in a sun-bleached squat where the power cuts out every few minutes. The closing track “Atac” is a standout, with some particularly aggrieved grunted vocals. If you have ten records from the past fifteen years, you’re probably covered stylistically, but this is a fine outing and a great debut.

Ohyda Koszmar 12″

OHYDA’s songwriting is more experimental than most D-beat bands. The rumbling bass, heavily reverbed vocals, guitars shrouded in distortion, pace changes and a thick drum sound switching between D-beat and plodding, KILLING TIME-like primitivism strays far from the typical DISCHARGE worship. The blown out sound rings in my head like Finnish classics but the style is undoubtedly Polish with a driving attack that’s not afraid to sway into varying directions. The album includes two covers, one by an old Polish band called ABADDON and the other by PESD but if you hadn’t read the liner notes you wouldn’t have guessed these tracks weren’t originals, as both songs complement OHYDA’s style. Overall it’s a cool album that pushes things into an interesting direction and showcases the quality and ingenuity that these Polish bands retain.

Muro / Orden Mundial Sonia de la NegaciÁ³n split LP

Splits are strange records. This one goes even beyond, as it is to honor the memory of ORDEN MUNDIAL’s bass player, who passed away, but also helped out and recorded with MURO during one of their EU tours. The greatest splits are more than just two groups’ recordings. Their contrast either evokes debates between those who are obsessed with always picking sides, or are an exhibition game of an outstanding pair. Sonida de la NegaciÁ³n is closer to the second because even though the two bands differ sound-wise, they rather overlap and complete than contradict each other. It’s hard to write about MURO when most of my information channels propagate them as the best band in today’s hardcore. Therefore I have to work around these proclamations, because I care about their music instead of their perception. They operate with an unimpeachable energy that mixes urgency of Latin American hardcore heritage and Burning Spirits epic anthemism. The later feature holds back my devotion towards them because it offers too much for my taste, and makes me realize how they are able to repeatedly build truly great records from generic elements. Still, they keep progressing, since what was good on Ataque Hardcore Punk has become great here. The drums carry most of their music; it is a solid base for the exceptional energy of the band that is luckily translate-able to records, too. I am glad they introduce parts where guitars break away from extended, strummed-out riffs to more abstract territories. There is no They Live situation regarding MURO—what the whole world loves is actually real. ORDEN MUNDIAL was always my dark horse from the wave of Spanish hardcore marked by UNA BESTIA INCONTROLABLE and BARCELONA. I liked how they reminded me of a fucked up, glue-huffed-to-pass-out version of the most confusing parts of primitive USHC such as SSD. Just take the second song from their side, a crazy mid-tempo stomper, drowned into distortion and echo, an almost no-wave-dancy mind-melter. Lead up by a headkicker opening track, so dense it entangles into itself. The mid-tempo pace continues within another number, that reminisces both exploring, desperate on drugs and dizzy by recently acquired new musical abilities, at the doorstep of later-era hardcore, which also feels as cut out and looped to a full track version of tension-builder bridge part. Still ORDEN MUNDIAL annexes all their influences that expand their sound. Yes, it will be up there with WRETCHED / INDIGESTI, COWARD / GASMASK or—fuck it—FAITH / VOID.

Permission Organized People Suffer LP

I think more of PERMISSION than I listen to. While they are one of the most reliable current bands in case of ripping hardcore, they also project outsider energy, not mysterious or edgy but very different from their contemporaries. Their music is pure hardcore; this purity carries a lonesome determination that puts PERMISSION’s music into a frame—one that could contain their cover art, too—that separates them from whatever goes on in today’s punk. I already liked NO, their previous bands, and just as the incredibly heightened speed of their music, neither did my attraction ever stop. I dig their consistent aesthetics, it does not feel alienating due to their art-lean, although makes me think that hardcore could connect to other sources than to its own historical self-references. Thus, whenever I hear PERMISSION, they sound as the fastest band alive. Which they are not, but they let me forget about the world outside their music, and while their speed could refer to HERSEY, RIPCORD or NEOS, PERMISSION does more than rebuild their idea from known elements. They practice discipline with never slowing down for mid-tempo stomps or bridges; no, they exist on a hyper-level and whatever idea they have, it must be solved within their self-created physics. While this discipline avoids a cheap show-off of some meticulous precision, even if the songs feel thought-through they are able to disintegrate even when performed in a recording area, which is the biggest achievement when someone is this fast and mostly plays linear riffs, instead of free-form guitar juggling. Each song connects and slips into each other, therefore the whole record makes up one chaotic organization, as their record covers are different caught moments from another single alien world. If the Bruegel-crowd had a soundtrack it would be PERMISSION. Buy their whole discography!  

Polo Pepo y Sociedad Corrupta San Felipe Es Punk / Es Delito Ser Punk 7″

By some standards, Polo Pepo’s two-song 1988 7″ is little more than a historical oddity. It barely made an impression on the global punk and hardcore scenes on its release, and its crude mid-tempo songs don’t fit in particularly well with the vicious political thrash of most Mexican hardcore of its era. Yet to me, this record—not to mention this loving reissue—is a minor miracle. The A-side track, “San Felipe Es Punk” is a truly magical (and utterly raw) ode to the modest and evidently punk as fuck Mexican neighborhood that Polo Pepo called home. It’s a rudimentary song with a simple message but it’s one I’ve listened to hundreds of times (and put on almost as many mix tapes) since I first heard it. It’s hard to find a more honest tribute to underground culture or to punk rock anywhere. There might be those who listen to this and just don’t get it, but to me this record captures the essence of what I love about DIY punk.

Porvenir Oscuro Asquerosa Humanidad LP

The future is certainly dark, as foretold by the band’s name. After a demo and 7″, worldwide hardcore maniax were thirsty for some more noise from NYC-based powerhouse PORVENIR OSCURO. Featuring members of such diverse bands as POBREZA MENTAL, PAWNS, and VAXINE, Asquerosa Humanidad proves to be a raw mixture of the very best of Latin punk with hints of UK82 via CHAOS UK. Everything from the beautiful cover to the thirteen pogo-drenched tracks reeks of disdain and restlessness. The cherry on top of this crusty cake is the vocal delivery by Colombian-born singer Sara. A punk gem released at the right time; as Colombia burns, the voices of disdain rise!

Quarantine Agony LP

This might quite possibly be the best USHC release of the year! Heck, maybe the best in the last five or ten years. The record begins with an eerie intro followed by a huge, belching “agony” that quickly erupts into the finest mash-up of USHC aggression. The weirdness of UNITED MUTATION and WHITE PIGS moshing with the anger of NEGATIVE APPROACH and NECROS. A relentless yet catchy record filled with some of the strangest electronic segments heard on a hardcore record that sometimes come close to something DEVO would do. Their 2020 demo was killer but this record just elevates the bar for every other hardcore band out there. The quality of this LP comes as no surprise because it has members of IMPALERS and CHAIN RANK and you know they rage as hard as they can. Shoutout to Chris Ulsh slaying it on the drums and showing what he’s made of. After the quarantine, QUARANTINE will have everyone in the pit screaming “will to kill“—and remember, “Life is a one long-ass quarantine.”

Nervous SS / Rat Cage Skopje vs Sheffield split LP

A battle between two hardcore bands that are a match made in hell. In the left corner is NERVOUS SS from Macedonia, a vicious TOTALITÄR-esque hardcore killing machine keeping the Scandinavian sound alive. In the right corner is RAT CAGE from the UK, same core as the above but with a more USHC influence from bands like POISON IDEA. Sometimes punk splits seem like a dumping ground for unreleased material. Not in this case—you get the sense that you are listening to a full album. So, who has won in this battle of Skopje vs Sheffield? The fucking punk scene!

Rat Cage Screams from the Cage LP

This band has two great 7″s, and this LP does not disappoint at all. It features none of the impurities that mar many hardcore bands these days such as weird artsy stuff, metal, grind or garage influences. It is pure straight unadulterated uncut hardcore in the Pick Your King/Is This My World? tradition. The songs are well-crafted, catchy, memorable, and delivered with fire and fury. Musically I like how it is fast and furious, yet a little wild and loose. I hear a lot of JERRY’S KIDS in the general structure, and something about this record structurally reminds me of post Y2K thrash bands like DIRECT CONTROL. But the overall vibe is more wild and chaotic, like classic Italian or Finnish hardcore, even if the pacing and structure is based on the American form. The artwork is crazed like the music, a rat with a chainsaw holds up a severed head on the front. On the flip his eerie rat eyes peer at us from inside “the cage.” Lyrically we get a lot of dead-end desperation here, written from the perspective of the outsider who always gets the short end of the stick. And a refreshingly retro anti-nuclear jam.  I’m told this is a one-person project, and if so, hats off to that person for their vision, because this is the complete package right here. When I was a teenager, me and my friends got into tagging for a while, mostly throwing up anarchistic slogans off our MDC and Crass records. One night I was tagging a bridge piling, when flashing police lights appeared behind me. I ran like hell up the embankment with the cops in pursuit. At the top the hill was an impossibly tall fence with barbed wire on top. Somehow I scampered up and over that fence, but caught my jacket on the barbed wire. I was hanging upside down, spray cans falling from my pockets looking at the cops coming up the hill after me. Then my jacket ripped and I fell to the ground. I got up and ran, from further away I could see in the distance the stymied cop looking through the fence and the other shaking his head looking at my piece on the bridge. That feeling of triumph, danger and excitement is how I feel when I spin a sick new hardcore record like this RAT CAGE.

Rata Negra Una Vida Vulgar LP

Finally, the highly anticipated new album of Madrid’s RATA NEGRA is here, and it’s a treat. It is a pleasure to realize that this ability for melody has become their main weapon. Each of the songs on Una Vida Vulgar (“A Vulgar Life”) have memorable choruses; you can imagine yourself singing them at the top of your lungs as soon as you hear them for the first time. We are facing direct and fresh songs, perfectly structured to generate the greatest emotional impact on the listener, the desperation and boredom of life in 2021 are reflected in the lyrics and in a hint of generational sadness that contrasts and makes more powerful the vital energy of the music: amphetamine pills for people who no longer have anything to lose, all with a sound that is already absolutely personal; dark melodic punk, desolate power pop. A new classic.

Rata Negra La Hija del Sepulturero EP

A tasty little two-song platter of gothic indie pop from your new favorite Spanish trio. The first song comes over like a propulsive combination of the WIPERS and early WE’VE GOT A FUZZBOX AND WE’RE GONNA USE IT; the flip is a sing-along post-punk cover of a catchy early ’80s synth-pop hit from Madrid. The playing on both is concise and sharp—no mess no fuss. Another top-notch addition to the timeless LVEUM roster.

Reaksi Esok Hari Kepunyaan Kita EP

Three immigrant punks from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore delivering an Asian punk blow in Melbourne, Australia. During the devastating COVID lockdown, these three seasoned fellows, from the likes of ENZYME, KROMOSOM, PISSCHRρST, and INTRUSION, locked themselves in the studio and came up with REAKSI. The result was five hard-hitting, Oi!-infused UK82 anthems that deal with the harsh realities of being an immigrant and especially being anti-authoritarian in countries that leave no room left for freedom. Singing in Bahasa only adds more fuel to the fire. For fans of both CHAOS UK and BLITZ. Tomorrow belongs to them!

Régimen de Terror Inherente del Poder EP

The first few DISCHARGE EPs seem to be the entire corpus of influences for RÉGIMEN DE TERROR. This could be dangerous—D-beat done poorly is almost always stale and limiting—but RÉGIMEN DE TERROR combines a sincere, explicitly anarchist approach and barebones production into a solid, enjoyable record. There’s nothing groundbreaking lyrically or musically here, but if you’re a sucker for OTAN or REALIDAD like I am, you’ll likely find this record charming and invigorating.

S.H.I.T. Hidden in Eternity / Eraser III 7″

The songs ain’t new, but now they’ve been properly fastened to a 7″ you can add to your disgusting S.H.I.T. collection. Featuring two tracks from these Toronto-based purveyors of jarring hardcore that were previously released in digital format only, this record showcases the style you expect with a slightly different feel. The vocals are laid much flatter than usual, and the band’s signature twisted stomp is produced with a clean, futuristic sheen that rings as borderline industrial at times, especially on the first track. The second one, “Eraser III,” is the third part of a song that dates back to their first cassette, affirming that though they’ve been in it for a minute now, they haven’t lost the plot.

Sial Zaman Edan 7″

SIAL is a great band from Singapore. Like, really, really, great. I don’t know what’s going on in the city-state, but Singaporean punks tend to be quite intense in their approach to music, something that my own intense self appreciates. The single is titled Zaman Edan, which means “mad times” in the language of Shakespeare. Both songs are cathartic in ways I couldn’t fathom if catharsis was possible before. Side A means “You Were Born To Fight” and it displays a really interesting sound, anarcho-punk with space rock elements: a really sick guitar riff, a dirty bass tone, and a synth bringing out of space and drone-y effects into the mix. Side B means “You Were Born To Die.” The song starts with a beat reminiscent of that part of the thumping bassline of “Land” where PATTI SMITH starts singing “Horses, horses, horses,” which leads to getting suckerpunched by a huge power chord ringing with a tinnitus-inducing guitar tone. There is some cowbell thrown in there just for fun and then you get this death disco beat with an ominous synth that maps a deathrock-y territory. Awesome. And then the song gets all this anarcho-punk in-your-face brashness that gets you exhilarated until it finishes with noise-induced psychedelia snippets Á  la HAWKWIND. Brilliant. Get it on vinyl.

Sial Tari Pemusnah Kuasa LP

This is the forth release from Singapore’s SIAL, remaining consistent, it picks up where Binasa—their previous 7″—ended. The same consistency solidified the sound of SIAL that is both their own and now is familiar to the listeners, though portioned on short records, it never gets boring. It tastefully combines rolling dynamics, occasional D-beat pump, echoed yet frantic vocals, guitars distorted enough to footnote noise, but held back as well to actually hear the sense of riffs, which balance between easy to interpret, direct attacks and more tense parts to bounce the whole room. This is a formula in modern hardcore, but SIAL took the effort to tailor it custom. The second half of the record takes careful turns to psychedelia; some songs are even chant-like, which is refreshing since it is constructed in an interesting way. All along we discuss here raging hardcore, still SIAL seems to be highly self-concious, what might control the chaos of their music, although they never sound artificial, but their inner angst is matched with certain relics of hardcore/punk and the creatively mixed substance is poured into a frame. Beyond the sonic facts, SIAL is able to make their music more than a case study of hardcore, as the record spins, their power takes over the atmosphere, which is tense enough to grab my focus on their energy. The record has an unnatural power, therefore what is best in SIAL, is what their record summons, not what is actually recorded. Could a band ask for more?

SOAKIE Nuke the Frats 12″

Super excited about this seven song LP from half Aussie-/half NY-based SOAKIE. For a band that only started in 2018 and managed to put out their demo within a couple of weeks of their first show, their sound is incredibly established and assertive. I love that they’ve revamped some of the songs from the demo, with cleaner guitar tones and more diverse vocal stylings. The new songs are absolutely killer and continue to criticize heteronormative clichés, shitty dudes and the stinking rich. The COMES spring to mind especially on faster tracks like “Or You Or You” and with the sprawling, melodic guitar and rapidly spat vocals of “Power Tools.” “Boys on Stage” is the obvious stand-out, an anthem that I’m sure all women in punk (and beyond) can relate to. Listening to it makes me want to puke, cry, and break everything in sight all at once. In other words, buy this record.

Stingray Feeding Time EP

It’s feeding time! Punishing metallic hardcore from the UK with some known characters in the New Wave of British Hardcore scene. This four-track EP leaves no unchecked boxes, as each song is a world of its own in the hardcore realm: there is ultra-metallic riffage, there is some D-beat, there are plenty of breakdowns, and the barked vocals glue everything together in this hardcore extravaganza of an EP. Plenty of memorable moments that will make a worthwhile band to see in a live setting. The artwork by Tin Savage/Nicky Rat is the cherry on top. La Vida Es Un Mus delivering the goods again.

Straw Man Army SOS LP

This is the second album by these members of the D4MT Labs family tree, and STRAW MAN ARMY’s branch has grown in considerable length and fruit since their 2020 LP. This is one of the first albums I’ve heard or reviewed recently that feels truly “post-pandemic.” Not in the sense of it being over (an obviously foolish way to think), but more so that it feels of its time, as a reflection and distillation of the feelings and varied collective traumas experienced since March 2020. The anxiety, isolation, unrest, grief, depression, and the front row center seat we’ve had for late capitalism’s corrosive and violent nature on local, national, and international levels. The songs on the record are surgically performed and spartanly recorded—there is nary a wild or unhinged moment, everything is carefully considered. The guitar, bass, drums, and vocals together sound like a tightly executed line drawing. Where the depth, dimension, and color of the album is revealed is in its details, especially the ambient moments that lead you between sides: the meditative synth washes, vibraphone sounds, and bird songs. They give a moment of breath and clarity, a palate cleanser between the grim realism of the songs. These moments and the pacing of the album creates an emotional build-up that follows anger, grief, despondency, and trying to stay empathetic and aware in a world that wants you to become callous and shut off. The songs embrace a mounting tension from the Escher staircase riffs of “Human Kind,” and the accelerating, decelerating train track rhythms of “State of the Art,” a criticism of modern progress and the myth of endless growth, sounding like a stock market bar graph as it rises and eventually falls. “Millenarian Man” is a brilliant merging of the the band and the musique concrète elements into a a truly NY state of mind, the vertigo of skyscrapers, the claustrophobia of crowds, the terror of police sirens. Then once all the confusion and anger of the world in the song becomes too much, they conclude the album with “Beware,” which begins melodic and vulnerable, but ends bitter and seething. STRAW MAN ARMY has created explicitly political music that isn’t phoned-in anti-everything anthems or simplistic catalogs of atrocities, but is a hard, analytical but deeply thoughtful and meditative look at this torrential time frame. SOS is an album that is about staring the nightmare in the mouth and realizing that we can’t just wake up from it or simply go back to sleep.

Subdued Over the Hills and Far Away LP

The hype is completely justified on this one. Classic UK anarcho stylings injected with a fury and menace fueled by the new reality. “No More” is a perfectly sinister, cranked-up punk banger; “Wander In The Park” is a dark pogo masterpiece showered in descending guitars; it seems like every song stakes its own individual claim on the wax. Dark and brilliant, you’ll turn new stones with each listen…but the root of everything here is furious intensity.

Taqbir Victory Belongs to Those Who Fight for a Right Cause EP

One might have a hard time grasping the fact that being a punk in a Third World country is the hardest challenge one could go through, especially if you are a female that is constantly being oppressed by deep-rooted sexism embedded in religion. Breaking free of those restraints and putting up the middle finger is an admirably hard thing to do, and that’s what Moroccan punk band TAQBIR did in an extraordinary fashion. They have all the elements needed to create a great punk band: a raw vicious sound and a political statement that deals with real issues. The frantic energy comes close to DISCOLOKOSST, while the Arabic lyrics are shouted in a COMES kind of way. A wrecking ball of a band that is in its essence a political statement, just the way that punk should be!

The Chisel Retaliation LP

It’s grim up north, and few articulate this better than the CHISEL’s seasider songsmith Cal Graham. Over a blistering 30-minute debut, ably backed by a motley crew of London punk luminaries, his stentorian vocals explore the crushing mundanity of working class life; from small-town bullies, post-Thatcherite social decay, and police brutality. However, despite sounding like he’s permanently just had his pint spilled, there’s a relentless defiance, and sense of solidarity that runs throughout Retaliation like a stick of Blackpool rock, twinned with the kind of soaring guitars and thunderous drums that would make BLITZ or the PARTISANS proud; it’s a joyous affair. An uneasy truce between the best bits of Oi!, UK82, even a dash of anarcho and hardcore too, the CHISEL’s debut occupies the same space as that moment after a last-minute winner hits the back of the net and the ecstatic embrace immediately following could quite easily become a headlock; vim and vigour, piss and vinegar. An instant classic.

The Chisel Come See Me EP

Fucking alright, yeah!  Your favorite yobbos from various UK bands unite for the best kind of good-time, feel-good classic Oi! You know…REJECTS, ABRASIVE WHEELS, 4 SKINS…ANDREW W.K.(?). Every song is the dog’s bollocks, even the cover of the original CRIMINAL DAMAGE’s “Criminal Crew.” Brilliant! It’s on Beach Impediment so, what the fuck, don’t be a wanker. I’m out of cliche British colloquialisms. Just buy it already.

The Chisel Deconstructive Surgery EP

Here we, Here we, Here we fucking go; the CHISEL boys are here to kick your head in and neck your pint while doing so. Lightning fast, convulsing with an anger that only growing up in Blackpool can give you, this blistering EP stomps from track to track with a palpable sense of malice and righteous fury. Class warfare, the sad decline of the seaside town and the great British tradition of a pint and a fight are all covered, and backed with thunderous drums, hefty bass and riotous guitars. One of the best of the year so far.

The Comes No Side 12″ reissue

It is utterly bonkers that this is the first official vinyl reissue of this all-time great Japanese hardcore punk ripper. Originally released in 1983 on Dogma Records—a City Rockers sublabel for hardcore that also released the first GISM 12″ among other Japanese classics—the COMES are breathtakingly ferocious. Their vocalist Chitose is truly one of the most savage ever recorded; she wails and screams over eleven unhinged and thrashing tracks, providing a blueprint and impossible-to-reach-bar for every one of us who has ever tried to match that intensity in her wake. Clocking in at just over sixteen minutes, this 12″ is perfectly lean and to the point. There aren’t many works of art in any genre this complete in their vision, and there aren’t many hardcore records this perfect from any era. This reissue is a loving one, featuring a heavy paste-on sleeve and a replica of the original insert. Mandatory for anyone even tangentially interested in international hardcore punk.

Unidad Ideologica Unidad Ideologica LP

Straight from the eye of the political storm of turmoil that is Colombia’s unrest, UNIDAD IDEOLOGICA delivers a sharp, venomous attack to the system that is causing havoc among their people. Intense-as-fuck hardcore that sounds as fresh as it sounds like it’s the ’80s again. A raging mixture of full-on hardcore à la KURO/EXECUTE/DISARM/SHITLICKERS, conceived at Bogotá’s Rat Trap by dudes from other Colombian punk bands that you should already know about like MURO, ALAMBRADA or TRAMPA. If not, you have wasted your time! Colombian punk is killing it and some of the best modern bands are coming from there, as they never seem to disappoint!