Mendeku Diskak

Aŕesi Aŕesi cassette

I’m not sure what’s in the water of the Bay of Biscay, but Bermeo has once again produced another belter of a band in AŔESI. If you like you like their fellow compatriots STA. CRUZ or REVERTT, you’ll be on board with this—good ol’ fashioned skinhead rock’n’roll and catchy as fuck. Excited for more from this mob.

Brux One for You EP

Coming across like a slightly rougher, hairier-arsed SYNDROME 81, the Badalona Boot Boys of BRUX firmly take up shop in between the first and second BLITZ albums for this, their first release proper. Frontman Juanma uses his vocals less like an instrument and more like a siege weapon, and the post-punk meets Oi! (pOi!st-punk?) stylings add a sense of creeping dread to accompany the aggro. Owners of the tape can probably skip this one, but highly recommended nonetheless.

Castillo Pleasure and Pain LP

Los Angeles guitarist Alex Zambrano (COMBAT FORCE, CRIMINAL OUTFIT, REPEAT OFFENDER) started CASTILLO during the lockdown of Spring 2020. Enlisting a buddy on drums, he assumed all other duties (including songwriting and vocals) on the initial self-titled EP, creating some of the strongest Oi! the world has heard in decades in the process. Fleshed out as a five-man band on Pleasure and Pain, the unit delivers traditional street style with a clean and rugged sound, pinning seven solid tracks to a 45 RPM 12”. After kicking down the door with the savage stomp of the title track, songs like the wistful “Endless Days” and “I’ve Learnt Today” recall O.G. acts like the BUSINESS at their anthemic and inspiring best, adding in their own rough charms to toe the line between tough and melodic in brilliant fashion. Even when they go full lovey-dovey on the bright and saccharine “Call Lane,” they still come off as impeccably cool. With this potent platter, CASTILLO maintains their flawless track record—the outfit has yet to release anything less than pure class.

Castillo Promo Tape cassette

Of the incredibly rich and fulsome Mendeku Diskak back catalogue, CASTILLO is certainly one of my favourites. First formed as a lockdown project, the now fully-formed band follow off the back of their debut with a promo tape that acts as an amuse-bouche for the future, and if this is anything to go by, what a tasty treat we have in store. Chiming, anthemic guitars, barked furious vocals à la NEW YORK HOUNDS, and even a riff on the second half that sounds like nos amis en RIXE produced it, and there’s very little higher praise for the contemporary crophead.

Castillo Faded Memories 12″

I greet each new Mendeku Diskak with a fervour matched only by a kid knowing they’ve got a pair of Copa Mundials wrapped neath the auld tannenbaum on Crimbo morn; they simply do not miss. This 12″ from CASTILLO is another in a long list of belters. Another sensational project from Alex Zambrano, the mastermind behind COMBAT FORCE and REPEAT OFFENDER, dancing merrily between sheer lumpen heft and melodic riffs you can imagine a binman whistling. It’s got hints of the ROYAL HOUNDS, the vocals especially sounded like you’ve spilled their pint, as well as RIXE and MESS, too; it’s a stomper from start to finish. Please sir, I want some more.

Collaps Bully the Bully EP

Another co-sign from the veritable hit factory that is Mendeku Diskak—this reissue of the Berlin-based COLLAPS is perhaps not quite their bread and butter, but is an interesting prospect. Comprised of a variety of Berlin scene vets, this is an intoxicating mix of D-beat, hardcore, Oi!, and good old-fashioned P-U-N-K punk. Snotty, cerebral, abrasive, it’s good stuff, baby. Give it a go.

Contempt Contempt LP

Do bootboys get the blues? A question that has eluded cropheaded philosophers for millennia, and CONTEMPT is here to offer some evidence in favour. Eschewing traditional Oi! fare of good-time lager-soaked bonhomie or explicit threats of steel-toecap-to-skull interfacing, it’s a more nuanced, cerebral take on the genre. This is also reflected in the tunes, soaring guitars, and dare I even suggest it, metal influences, showing a broader horizon than your usual Oi! records. That being said, it does retain the sort of grit and menace you’d associate, and a decent sprinkling of actual “Oi!”s to placate old farts like myself.

Cuero Todo Hierro 12″

Somehow CUERO’s crusade to the vinyl format has completely escaped my grasp, even though their 2019 demo, Black Metal Skinheads, was my go-to release last summer. Maybe the meaty title was the reason why it didn’t exactly catch people’s attention, even though all the elements of this generation of punk snobs was very present. Pumping, mid-tempo Oi! in simplistic, anthemic lyrics in Spanish, an in-character self-irony you rarely see matched and UK82 riffs played in a slightly more sinister key, similar to a lot of recent bands such as PMS 84 and SAVAGEHEADS, but a bit slower. The black metal thing seems to be more of an attitude thing than an actual musical presence, which doesn’t really bother me. Todo Hierro just sounds like an extension of that extremely tasty three-track tape. I wish there were more songs, because all six leave me longing for more. It never overstays its visit. All the tracks from the demo are also here. Released on the excellent label Mendeku Diskak, responsible for, among others, the CINDERBLOCK LP. You get what you sign up for.  I really hope we get to hear more from CUERO in the future.

Cuero Cabezabota 12″

More Basque brutality from the boys from Bilbao. Four tracks of blackened Oi! with bile-curdling vocals, as tough as the leather from which they take their name and hard as Bizkaian iron. Pounding drums and robust industrial riffs are a solid chassis on which to build this twelve minutes of fury. Will make you want to kick down buildings.

Enemic Interior II EP

Great fucking name. The band behind it  puts out some pretty standard fare, working dad Oi!  The influences are worn in, tried and true with all the comforts. “Les Ombres” shifts things slightly with a well-tied riff that summons as much of the COCKSPARRER gods as can fit into a minute and forty seconds. Wanted to like it.

Kolpeka Amorruz Beteta flexi EP

KOLPEKA’s debut tape is refreshingly bleak in all the right ways. Playing rugged and dark punk with ominous overtones, these teenagers from Spain offer a caustic, punchy take on early NYHC styles. There’s also a bit of devilishness to the melee that reminds me of G.I.S.M., and I like how the three songs on this tape become increasingly more deliberate and hostile as it progresses. The members were only between sixteen to nineteen years old at the time of this recording, so let’s hope they’ve got plenty of juice left in ‘em to keep pumping out cool and inventive music.

Lost Legion Autoproduktion EP

Nice catchy Oi! out of Chicago, featuring members of FUERZA BRUTA. This appears to be their second demo from pre-COVID times. It’s recorded really well for a demo tape, and the songwriting is top-tier, often reminding me of the 4 SKINS or some of the newer retro-sounding French bands. I listened to some of their recent material and they’re progressing quite well. “Lacquer And Veneer” is my personal favorite here, but I’m not one to dwell on past glories. I’m looking forward to seeing these lads live now.

Mess Intercity 12″

If you like BLITZ (which you fucking well better had like), you’ll like this, simple as, end of. No pissing about, it’s about as perfect a slice of UK82 skiiiiinhead rock’n’roll as you are likely to find. Anthemic, euphoric, and bleach-stained as they come, could have easily booted its way onto a No Future release. One that will be in heavy rotation chez yours truly for the foreseeable future.

The Chisel / Mess split EP

The sound of the new wave of Oi!—the CHISEL and MESS are leaders of the pack, and this is a perfect snapshot of some of the best of what this genre has to offer. MESS fares excellently on their side with “Don’t Look Back” and “I Don’t Like You,” the former proper BLITZ-worship and the latter a catchy belter with some nice BUZZCOCKS-style guitars. The CHISEL’S contributions are fantastic as always with “Keep it Schtum,” a hard one that reminds me of something off their first EP Deconstructive Surgery, and “Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” their catchiest and most celebratory since “Not the Only One.” Don’t be a square, shave your head and listen to this!

Mess Traidores / Excuses 7″

Here are two more crackers from MESS, one of the best to do it in the current crop of Oi! bands gaining popularity. Both sides of this 7” scratch the itch, with “Traidores” and “Excuses” straddling the line of first-wave ’70s punk and classic UK82 and Oi!, influenced by the usual suspects (BUSINESS, BLITZ, 4-SKINS). Throw this on with a beer or spliff for a solid Saturday night.

Mortalis Enemigos EP

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

Ogro Ogro cassette

First things first, check out the rad packaging from this Basque punk band: a cassette nestled inside a tiny burlap sack, like some kind of dungeon treasure. Love it. The songs are super raw hardcore with primitive, blackened vocals. This is filthy, knuckle-dragging, cave-dwelling orc-core of the finest kind. The band is tight, and the mix sounds perfect for this kind of savagery. I don’t know the words, but there are some subtle differences that keep things interesting, like a heavy, palm-muted bridge during “Primitivo,” some attention-grabbing time changes in “Venganza,” and gang vocals in “731.” Recommended for fans of RASPBERRY BULBS and BONE AWL.

Repeat Offender Summary Execution EP

Sharp stuff here as REPEAT OFFENDER continues to hone their unique, catchy raging on their second 7”. Bestial vocals and a thumping rhythm section make a fun pairing, and across these six songs they shift seamlessly between menacing hardcore, anthemic street stomping, and a blend of the two. A lot of the Oi! stuff that has come out in recent years has leaned in the direction of post-punk, so I appreciate that this band has opted for a demon singer and a raucous and pointed sound instead.

Repeat Offender Demo ’20 EP

Playing early U.S. hardcore that’s been spiked with a bit of the ol’ Oi! Oi! music, REPEAT OFFENDER terrorizes listeners with treble, distortion, and monstrous vocals on their first outing. Banging out raucous punk in the style of bands like NEGATIVE APPROACH and SSD, this new L.A. group packs equal parts melody and menace into their short and powerful songs. They really kick the shit out of you on a couple of these tracks, but I like this band best when they pull out numbers like the punky “Consequence.” Despite their ominous moniker, this 7″ demo shows promise, and I’m not offended at all.

Roughed Up King and Council EP

Clandestine, channel-straddling Oi! outfit ROUGHED UP announce themselves with a cracker of a release here. Terrace-friendly chants waging class war, all delivered in an accent that in another life would have been selling two pounds of pears in a brown paper bag at Bethnal Green market. Plenty of joyful guitar-led choruses replete with a little glammy flourish, not dissimilar to the CHISEL at their most anthemic, too. One to keep an eye on.

Scalpo È La Lotta L’Avvenire flexi EP

Right from the start of È La Lotta L’Avvenire, a metallic, suggestive, and defiant bass grabs you by the neck and it won’t let go. Then a simple but effective guitar lick comes into the scene and razes everything in its path. Next thing you know, you’ve listened to the EP fifteen times in a row. SCALPO has that dark and cold sound you’d expect from a band based in Sondrio, a little town in the north of Italy, almost caressing the Switzerland border. Also, their sound is in the vein of the Italian Oi!/hardcore bands forged on those northern lands. You can hear a bit of NABAT in the rawness, but also in the more catchy, commercial parts. Throw some WRETCHED in there, and I even hear some NEGAZIONE—the more straightforward tunes, not the psychedelic, unhinged ones. They sure have a taste for vintage sounds and sand-like guitar textures, but without losing a keen, sharp sound. The ideal soundtrack for long, bitter winters in boring border towns. When I listen to it, I feel transported to Italy in the ’80s: the Years of Lead, deindustrialized cities, strikes, picket lines, social conflict, depressed communities, and skinheads taking the streets. A must-listen.

Sta. Cruz Asedio Constante EP

Some good old-fashioned, hairy-arsed, short-haired rock’n’roll from the hit factory that is Mendeku Diskak. Bizkaian mob STA. CRUZ aren’t here to reinvent the wheel, but instead just to make a very fucking good wheel actually. Good time riffs by way of ROSE TATTOO or NO CLASS meet gravel-gargling vocals, but really what caught my attention were the surprisingly intricate bass lines and drumming, just enough to keep it interesting without being a flash bastard about it. All done in about ten minutes, keep em wanting more.

V/A Mendeku Diskak Promo Kasetea, Vol. 2 cassette

If I hear anything as good as the opening BRUX track this month, I might fukkn faint. But it’s good that I steeled myself, because this sampler is bursting at the seams with track after track of infectious gruff Oi! from MESS (Mexico), SELF INFLICT (USA), ZIKIN (Basque Country), and the CHISEL (UK), and while every single track is excellent, “Nagusikeri Faltsue” from KOLPEKA will make you stop and check to see if you’re still alive. The folks from Mendeku Diskak have set an extremely high bar with this collection of tracks from upcoming releases (some of which are already out) – and I am definitely paying attention. 

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.

Zikin Zementua Armosaten 12″

Basque Country band ZIKIN (Basque for “dirt”) has released their EP Zementua Armosaten on one of my new favorite labels Mendeku Diskak, and rightfully so, as ZIKIN fits right in alongside labelmates MESS, CASTILLO, and BRUX. Quick, sharp, angry bursts of street punk with a slight tint of deathrock. Standout track “Jodidu” (Basque for “iodize”) is a catchy fist-pumper with a DEAD KENNEDYS-inspired surf guitar lead that seems to appear out of nowhere. A rad EP that makes me look forward to hearing more from ZIKIN.