Reviews

Rock-O-Rama

Appendix Top of the Pops LP

APPENDIX’s new album seems to slip into that morass of genericness that many of today’s Finnish bands find themselves mired in. Occasional swipes of driving, well-written thrash (“A Man,” “I’m Scared,” and “An Ass Licker”) largely fail to enliven an LP that suffers from lackluster songwriting and a guitar sound bereft of real bite.

B. Trug Lieber Schwierig als Schmierig LP

As the band themselves say, “Never mind the SEX PISTOLS, here’s B. TRUG,” because this is a really superb punk LP with plenty of garagey raunch. Most of their material consists of short blasts of buzzing noise that evoke an oncoming locomotive; the rest has a pronounced rockabilly rhythm and sounds like early demos of the CRAMPS must have once sounded. The abrasive recording definitely captures the raw power that B. TRUG must generate live. My fave new German release.

Bastards Siberian Hardcore LP

More basic metallic thrash from Finland’s BASTARDS. They’ve slowed down a bit and added more metal-tinged guitar parts on this flatly produced album (which is only available on a German pressing at this time), but some melodies and stronger hooks would really help a lot.

Böhse Onkelz Der Nette Mann LP

This may appear to be a typical troglodyte Oi album, but it’s both more and less. On the plus side are the now-traditional gravelly vocals, an uncharacteristically rich guitar sound, and some surprisingly accomplished songwriting; on the debit side are overly long, metallic guitar solos (as in the title song), some bad reggae-influenced numbers, and a penchant for writing somewhat retarded lyrics (e.g., “Dr. Marten’s Beat” and “Fussball & Gewalt”). Entertaining.

Brutal Verschimmelt Brutal Verschimmelt LP

BRUTAL VERSCHIMMELT’s debut album reveals them to be a garagy band that specializes in playing fast punk (as in “6 Millionen”), but they’re also capable of playing thrash (“Hey Mann…”) and slower, driving numbers (“Kenein”). Most of the songs are catchy, the lyrics are both political and satirical, and the ultra-raw, trebly production accentuates all of their strong points and, in the process, makes them stand out. Look for this one.

Chaos Z Ohne Gnade LP

“Ultra Hardcore” is what it says on the cover, and that’s what it mostly is—straight ahead thrash, much like DISCHARGE, with little variation. The songs have anti-authoritarian, anti-war, and apocalyptic themes, except for “Stuttgart über Alles,” modeled after the DK’s classic.

Combat 84 Send in the Marines LP

One side of studio and another of live cuts can be found on this typical-sounding British Oi release. Some of the studio material has previously appeared on 7″ EPs, but aside from the intriguing “Violence,” most of their medium-speed compositions leave a lot to be desired. The live side is particularly poor, and the lyrics on a number of cuts are backward. Buy at your own risk.

Cotzbrocken Jeden das Seine… LP

A mediocre, very primitive punk album. In fact, the poor recording and amateur musicianship are COTZBROCKEN’s only real strong suit. Since most of the material plods along and lacks any hooks, good production would only make these guys sound like any run-of-the-mill English band. Aside from the hoarse vocals and an occasional song with spunk (“KZ” and “Hey, Punk”), this can’t be recommended.

Destrucktions Vox Populi LP

Like APPENDIX, the DESTRUCKTIONS combine diverse influences and come up with a varied and distinctive hardcore sound. From full-tilt thrash with hooks (like “A Tale of the End of the World”) to fast melodic punk (like “Suicide”) to tense metallic build-ups (like “What Does It Matter?”) to memorable amalgams of all of the above (like “Do Something”), this album kicks ass. Highly recommended for imaginative arrangements and great drumming.

Die Alliierten Ruhm und Ehre LP

An excellent release with varying punk styles and tempos, all the way up to thrash. It’s very tight and features good choruses, but the real strengths here are a great drummer and a guitarist who really cuts loose with some unusual licks and great, swooping chords.

Kansan Uutiset Beautiful Dreams LP

Finnish thrash in the RIISTETYT tradition. More specifically, KANSAN UUTISET produce the sort of incoherent thrash with poorly synchronized vocals that characterized the first RIISTETYT EP, which I found too tuneless and similar-sounding. There are some noteworthy blasts here (like “Army Cannot Make the Man” and “Economic Appraisal”), and the less compressed B-side has a better sound quality, but on the whole this album is overly derivative.

M.A.F. Hau ab… LP

Yeah! M.A.F. plays fast punk—not thrash. A fist-full of energy with good hooks and speedy beats makes me want to sing along, even though I don’t understand German. Like many German bands, they have that ’77 UK influence in some of their songs, but it’s very energetic, like the best from that era. “Gefangenschaft” and “Alkoholiker” are great blasts; they also do a spirited cover of “If the Kids Are United” and some mock drunken rousers. Recommended.

OHL Oktoberrevolution 12″

Having lambasted Nazis and neo-fascists on their first two albums, OHL now turn their venom against the Soviet Union. I have no objection whatsoever to anyone attacking documented Soviet repression, but they’ve adopted an extreme right-wing approach worthy of Bavarian minister Strauss by including a sleeve cartoon suggesting that independent peace demonstrators are under Russian control. The remixed punk and thrash songs here sound great, but such ignorance doesn’t deserve support.

OHL 1000 Kreuze LP

The second LP from German punk veterans OHL is much hotter than their uneven debut. The production is crisper, the group has become a lot tighter, and the songs are much more memorable. Though not really a thrash band, OHL do produce some speedy slabs of guitar-heavy power that’ll strain your speakers at high volume (like “Schrei, Schrei” and “Warschauer Pakt”). I’ve heard rumors that these guys have right-wing proclivities, but they should lay the rumor-mongers to rest here with “Nie Wieder,” one of the most vitriolic anti-Nazi songs I’ve ever run across. Recommended.

OHL Verbrannte Erde LP

Put this band right up there in the European thrash-king sweepstakes. With this entry, Germany finds itself well represented. Awesomely powerful music that puts their earlier stuff to shame. Also, any doubts about O.H.L’s alleged “fascist” politics are again disclaimed here—one of the band members has the Jewish star of David on his leather jacket. Good news.

The Skeptix / OHL The Kids Are United EP

England’s SKEPTIX and one of Germany’s premier thrashers share this four-track EP. While SKEPTIX’s “Got No Choice” boasts a scorching delivery and good, trebly production, OHL’s “Spionage” ranks as the best song on the record, with its catchy guitar progressions and clever stop-and-go arrangements. The mid-to-fast-tempo hardcore on this release earns a strong recommendation.

Our Neighbors Suck Isolation LP

Most of the songs by the Arizona-based band are in the medium-paced punk vein, with a few slower or more rapid-fire. The production sound is thick here and, combined with their rock influences, makes for a lot of listening. Not awesome, but well done. Question remains though why they chose this label often accused by German punks of pro-Nazi connections.

Riistetyt Nightmares in Darkness LP

Another Rock-O-Rama bonus album with a side each of studio and live compositions. All of the studio material (some of which was previously released on their last Finnish 12″) exudes that trebly thrash feel that one associates with CHAOS UK, and special mention should be made of acidic rockers like “Brainless Violence” and “Skitzophrenia.” The live side varies in quality, with occasional vocal drop-outs, but it’s still entertaining. A fine release.

Siste Dagers Helvete The Hell LP

The first Norwegian band to appear on Rock-O-Rama’s “International” album series. They produce a brace of clean thrashers and an occasional slower, almost post-punky number (like “I Don’t Feel Anything”). There’s nothing radically different here, just a good amalgam of the tried and true. We’d have definitely wanted “1984” on our compilation if we’d known about SISTE DAGERS HELVETE earlier.

Stosstrupp Kein Schöner Land EP

The A-side here consists of crude straight-on thrash-and-bash, whereas the flip contains two raw Oi-influenced numbers. STOSSTRUPP have really improved since their appearance on the Die Deutschen Kommen compilation LP, and the screaming guitar mix on this record should be the envy of every hardcore band.

Stress* Stress* LP

Again, flat production and mundane material make for an unsatisfying German punk album. This record is positively laid back, the worst possible attribute for a hardcore release. Much of the problem here is no doubt due to the wimpy recording, but the songs themselves don’t show much promise, either. There are rare glimpses of potential, but they never develop into anything substantial.

Terveet Kädet Black God LP

Here it is, the craziness of TERVEET KÄDET with their speed-merchant approach and Läjä’s frenetic vocal ramblings. This album consists of material that was supposed to come out in Finland as two 12″ EPs and a live side of escalating cuts. It features the late Walde on drums, and his superb participation gives the “lightning” to the TK sound on this record. This licorice pizza continues the savage invasion of hectic seizures and spewed-out speed that makes TK so classic.

The Nikoteens Aloah-Oehh LP

Boy, what a turnabout! The NIKOTEENS used to have a slow Oi/punk approach, and now they’re out there thrashing with the best of them. The guitar tone here is extremely trebly and piercing, and the general sound quality is hot, so their stronger material (like “Frieden”, “Cowboy Song”, and “Geisterfahrer”) really blasts off the turntable into your gut. This album proves that musical changes can lead to major improvements.

V/A Die Deutschen Kommen LP

Five groups are featured here. FASAGA and COTZBROCKEN have a ’77 sound; Fluch have a CRAMPS feel; OHL are semi-thrash; and STOSSTUPP must stand 1″ tall and record in a matchbox. OHL rule this roost from a musical standpoint.

V/A Finnish Spunk / Hard Beat LP

A compilation of Finnish hardcore on Germany’s Rock-O-Rama label. The music is generally strong (though some is overly generic), but there is a problem raised by this album—the appearance of so many tracks that have already been released on earlier Finnish (or even German) records. Although it’s great to witness the “internationalization” of the punk scene on vinyl, I wish that the organizers of these projects would try harder to get only unreleased cuts or songs on records that are out-of-print or otherwise impossible to get ahold of. Here, the ratio of easily-available material is close to 50%, and that’s too much.

V/A Propaganda Live LP

A live release of ten Finnish hardcore groups with a major emphasis on the BASTARDS and POIKKEUSTILA. Good sound quality gives this the right edge, as it is gritting and raw, yet uncompromising in energy. Interesting listening from Rock-O-Rama.

Vaurio A Shout From the Night LP

Smooth, predictable melodic hardcore. The tunes are all tight and powerfully done, but lack a specialness or rawness to make them stand out. Titles are translated in English, but I’m sure understanding the lyrics would make this form of Finnish HC more exciting.