V/A Screaming Death LP

I could bet my shirt that this LP will be featured on a lot of top ten lists this year. This album has everything. It looks absolutely brilliant with its Burning Spirits-inspired cover and a clear nod to some classic Japanese hardcore compilations; it has a great title; it has a cracking lineup with four popular hardcore bands. On paper this is a sure win, the kind of record that might become a classic, assuming the quality reaches the inevitably high expectations. When you buy a sixteen-song album with four songs each by DESTRUCT, SCARECROW, DISSEKERAD, and RAT CAGE, you are entitled, as a spoiled materialist, to expect the best of raw hardcore, a “special record.’’ Is it as good as it should be then? I suppose so. It is as good as I expected, but it is not better than I expected and, clearly, such a record can be expected to be better than expected. Do you know what I mean? Alright, let’s start with DESTRUCT, possibly one of the best bands in the US right now. This Richmond band has the craziest hardcore punk drummer around—the man is an octopus and punishes the listener with a pure and relentless D-beat attack seasoned with insane drum rolls, conferring the songs extra energy and a vibe of madness unleashed. I am sure they must tie the bastard to his bed at night so that he doesn’t hit things in his sleep. The music is close to what FRAMTID offers in terms of sheer intensity and anger (and drumming), which is no small compliment. The vocals and many anthemic choruses and riffs point to more traditional Japanese hardcore like BASTARD (the most obvious and redundant comparison), and the blend is brutal and compelling. DESTRUCT is a tough act to follow, and Raleigh’s SCARECROW does their best to keep the aggression level high. They are one of the most solid TOTALITÄR-influenced bands around (and there are many of those), and I like the fact that they don’t try to go for the rocking side of the genre but keep the käng raw, direct, and angry, like INFERNÖH used to do, but with a more blown-out tone (almost crasher hardcore), more so than on the previous EP and with the great pissed female vocals more to the front. On the other side, actual Swedish band DISSEKERAD shoots first and unsurprisingly sounds just like themselves. Classic käng done right with craftsmanship and (a lot of) experience. TOTALITÄR meets NO SECURITY. A walk in the park, not an adventurous one, but one you’d be ready to take every weekend. Finally, RAT CAGE from sunny Sheffield closes the show and offers four songs of…TOTALITÄR-inspired hardcore punk. Fuck me if I saw that coming. They are arguably the hottest band in the genre right now and, contrary to SCARECROW or DISSEKERAD, RAT CAGE goes right for the rocking side of the käng school with nods to SKITKIDS or UNCURBED. It’s a bit much for me at times, but in terms of energy and anthemic songwriting, they certainly deliver, and they do show a bit of variety in these four songs, the last one sounding almost like a pogo punk number, like the CASUALTIES suddenly converting to käng hardcore. It is a strong album, and I believe the format serves the songs well and displays cohesion and coherence between the bands. Let’s just say that it makes sense. Arguably too much TOTALITÄR worship going on, but then that’s what punks crave, I suppose.