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Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only releases to MRR, PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609, USA. Maximum Rocknroll wants to review everything that comes out in the world of underground punk rock, hardcore, garage, post-punk, thrash, etc.—no major labels or labels exclusively distributed by major-owned distributors, no releases outside our area of musical coverage, no reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from! All vinyl records received are added to our archive, which since 1977 has grown to become the largest collection of punk records in the world.

Raw Peace No Hope LP

With such a strong record, I can imagine a lot of people will get into RAW PEACE. I had seen the name before but never listened to this Belgian powerhouse, and with such a moniker, I was expecting unabated shitlicking DISCLOSE worship with too much reverb on the vocals. RAW PEACE is clearly a band of their time, as they play a blend of beefy American hardcore (the singer also growls in the long-running band REPROACH) infused with D-beat hardcore. It is an objectively mean-sounding album with a thick production, and it sounds about as ferocious and subtle as a charging boar—listening to the band reminds me of that one time when I was chased by a massive goose on a school trip in 1989. As powerful and effective as No Hope (the band’s second album) is, I don’t love the thing. I enjoy it, and its hardcore intensity and relentlessness makes it quite compelling, but I cannot really love it. RAW PEACE sounds like US hardcore vets trying to play heavy Swedish D-beat. Even if a lot of D-beat tricks are indeed present and executed well enough, it still does not have a proper dis-feel songwriting-wise. And to be honest, this is probably the sound these guys are going for, an American hardcore perspective on dis things and as I said, this will definitely appeal to a wider audience than your average DISCHARGE clone would. This is still very solid and packs a serious punch. If they were actually American (the country where gods are made), I am sure they would be more widely-known.

Rose Glass Demo 2022 cassette

Killer demo from ROSE GLASS, featuring various players from Santa Ana and New York. Three cuts of meat-and-potatoes hardcore punk with frantic drums, crunchy guitars, and snotty vocals that kind of remind me of the ANNIHILATED. This tape feels so lived-in, like something that’s been around much longer than a year. Closer “Cold War III” (and the rest of the tape for that matter) could easily be mistaken for an early SST release. Great stuff.

Silicon Heartbeat MT0001 cassette

Fantastic Great Lakes beach punk from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Real surfy vibes with a hint of horror punk, like a poppy MUMMIES or a rustic EPOXIES/SOVIETTES with deeper, growling vocals. The synth completely drives this band and it’s the immediate focal point of this whole EP. The guitar and bass have tones that mesh insanely well and are locked in sync throughout. Lovely slab here, and pretty solid autumn jams if I may say so myself.

Simbiose / Visions of War split EP

I’ve said it in a previous recent review, and I’d say it again: VISIONS OF WAR keep getting better. From my perspective, the band was on hiatus for some years around 2013, but when I actually look into it, they seem to just put out a quality recording every few years. It is not oversaturated, but this is another split within a year or so, and again, I’m impressed! They just get heavier, tighter, and faster each time. Three tracks, and what can I say, this perfect Euro-crust like it was 25 years ago, yet polished in all directions. SIMBIOSE plays a more technical percussion angle while ripping through with metallic fury. There is a more hypnotic thrash attack going on here and the editing is tight. This is hardcore punk played with experienced skill. Neither side is all-out raw—the overall flavor of the split is brutal crust punk with some harmony but more grinding displeasure. Well-balanced, but clearly differentiated sides. I love this washy ink illustration on the cover. Yes, I believe they are skulls, but not entirely human. Come to think of it, both logos look really well-crafted here, too. Excellent stuff, I need to learn more about SIMBIOSE (Portugal), as VISIONS OF WAR has been my second favorite Belgian punk band for quite some time (see second sentence).

Spells What the Hell is Caution / Some Would Say flexi 7″

SPELLS are back with two new songs for your listening pleasure. The first thing that struck me while listening to this is how well they can craft an enjoyable, listenable song. I really enjoyed their last LP Stimulants & Sedatives, so this is a nice way to follow that up. While both songs are great, the first one (“What the Hell is Caution”) is the winning track here for me. It’s got a quality that melds great melodic punk with an almost ’80s pop rock vibe. Nice work!

Steve Adamyk Band Live cassette

Primitive Screwhead. That name mean anything to you yet? It is the cassette subsidiary label of the mighty Big Neck Records which releases exclusively live cassettes for bands. And that’s what we have here for STEVE ADAMYK BAND, a collection of tracks from a slew of different live shows. The recordings range from crystal clear sound to very acceptable quality, being that it is a mix of different live recordings. STEVE and his band play a blend of pop punk, power pop, and garage rock, all mushed into its own amalgamation. The band has a slew of releases, many of them on Dirtnap, to give you an idea of what they’re all about. It’s super poppy and catchy, and if that’s your thing, jump on this cassette, as they don’t seem to last very long.


Wow, this is straightforward, grinding and pounding garage punk from Berlin. It’s got an intensity not often encountered in the melodic punk/power pop world. Sure, it’s catchy and it’s easy to bounce your head along, but the real story here is the energy they bring and the sense of urgency that comes with it. Eight tracks, but that’s all you need for now. At times, they bring me back to Australia and what was going on there in 1978/1979. Other times, they remind me of the STITCHES. Excellent record.

Tatxers Tatxers LP

In the last warm days of summer, I love listening to a record like this. There is a shimmering sadness, like dappled light on a body of water while the sun goes down and you didn’t think you’d need a sweater. These songs have a yearning core to them, melody and longing being the driving themes perfectly suited to the clean guitar tones that drive home lovely, mopey pop songs. With the stabbing guitar of the stunning second track “Labanak,” I realize it might well have just been called “Pamplona Calling.” There are even traces of what we used to call “college rock” in songs like “Iruñea,” with a staccato jangliness I’m always thirsting for. Song to song, though, this isn’t a band retreading old ground, but rather bringing a bright vitality to melodic punk rock with an old-school cool. I feel like there are plenty of bands right now that bring out this feeling of nostalgia for an era that never really existed. Or nostalgia for the now? TATXERS is exactly the kind of band I reach for to rebuke someone telling me they “stopped listening to rock music” a long time ago. The good times are still here (musically anyway), and they’re fleeting as always and full of joy and sadness, just like good rock music should be. A tender little record I’ll be spinning for a long time.

Uzu Uzu LP

UZU draws its members from our global community, but calls Canada their homebase. Darkened punk fuses with lyrics sung in Arabic to create a sound that has an ancientness to it predating recorded history, as if UZU has been watching from the shadows for eons and has chosen now to deliver their message. Occult imagery blurs with contemporary struggles as the descent into the abyss accelerates. If your soul contains a dark patch, then you should definitely give this album a try.

Wristwatch II LP

Following up their 2021 debut, Wisconsin’s WRISTWATCH continues mining the vault of melodic, synth-heavy garage rock. The songs oscillate between straightforward gritty numbers like the opening track “Rules,” and more saccharine indie-inspired tunes such as “Sweet Tooth.” The unavoidable comparison is to the output of Jay Lindsey, particularly Lindsey’s contributions in LOST SOUNDS and as JAY REATARD. It’s so blatant that there are even “once removed” correlations at play. For example, the vocals on many of the songs don’t just sound like JAY REATARD—they sound like JAY REATARD trying to sound like T.V. Smith. The same could be said for the instances in which WRISTWATCH evokes SCREAMERS…they’re actually more evocative of when LOST SOUNDS would ape SCREAMERS. Not to discredit the deftness of songwriting exhibited by the two members of this band, Bobby Hussy and Ty Spatz. There’s clearly a lot of talent and creativity in the mix, even a glimmer of erudition to be found. I’m just left thinking there may be untapped ingenuity lurking just beyond the confines of pastiche.

Zero Boys Don’t Shoot Can’t Breathe / Long Way to Go 7″

Possibly irrelevant now, but their 1981 album Vicious Circle remains a classic and has some of the best hardcore songs ever. I’m generally not a fan of bands that are playing almost 40 fucking years later (that’s rich coming from a dude who is approaching 60), but I really like this one. This isn’t hardcore, but it is punk and it’s good. The A-side is methodical, almost MISSION OF BURMA-like. The B-side isn’t quite as good for me and leans more towards a trashy rock’n’roll number, even kind of funky. Honestly, if it was some other band, I might not like it at all. But the A-side alone is worth it. I’ve got a lot of respect for bands that keep at it but also just don’t keep doing the same thing. Nice job.

À Cran / Ad Vitam split EP

Fun split of two songs apiece for Montreal punkers and Parisien skins. AD VITAM’s half is more North American in its approach to Oi!, with the kind of skeletal, no-frills jangle guitar tone of early TEMPLARS and some straight rockin’ riffs. If you didn’t know the provenance of À CRAN, then the tell-tale skronk of sax haunting the split like Banquo’s ghost will answer your question easily. Fans of SQUELETTE and BROMURE will find plenty to enjoy.

Avskum En Annan Värld Är Möjlig LP

What can one ideally expect from a new AVSKUM album? In 2023, what should a lover of käng and D-beat expect from an established yet humble hardcore band? It’s not like there is any shortage of this specific sound today. Because of the unstoppable march of music streaming worldwide, there are probably more active Scandicore-inspired bands now than ever. A recent study revealed that, in some countries, there are more S-beat bands than there are working hospitals, which is saying a lot about the state of public health services. You could argue that, with the large amount of solid käng bands, the world may not need a new AVSKUM album, and that’s without mentioning that I am seriously running out of storage space for my collection of D-beat records. Besides, haven’t we all often been disappointed with newer records of “hardcore legends”? And yet, it’s not like the band vanished from all radars since the ’80s—in fact, AVSKUM’s output has been quite solid since 1998 (I’d argue that everything they did was quite good, with Punkista being my least favourite). Still, they have not released anything since the ferocious Uppror Underifrån in 2008 which is a long time in punk years. So why should you consider getting En Annan Värld Är Möjlig? Precisely because AVSKUM always sounds exactly like AVSKUM and doesn’t try to be something they are not. Forget your overproduced hardcore or fakely raw bands, AVSKUM still plays direct, DISCHARGE-oriented political käng hardcore with classic, simple but effective riffing and song structures and a rocking heaviness that has come to characterize their approach. They sound even closer to DISCHARGE and orthodox D-beat bands like MEANWHILE. In addition to the band’s tasteful musical classicism, the vocals are what set the band apart for me. Gunnar has always been one of my favourite Swedish hardcore singers, as the tone of his voice and his distinct prosody manage to express raw, spontaneous anger as well as a rough-hewn emotional tunefulness. He is both shouting and singing and has been doing so since the band’s first EP in 1984. This balance between strictly canonical Swedish dis-oriented hardcore and a highly recognizable vocal style is what makes En Annan Värld Är Möjlig predictably great and AVSKUM quietly memorable.

Beef Beef LP

Coming at you straight from the punk rock abattoir that is current-day Cincinnati, BEEF displays flecks of fine gristle amid its marbled fat. Strain the RAMONES out of the SPITS’ playbook, up the DEVO portion, throw in a pinch of spice, and you’re most of the way towards completing this dish. Not much on this LP is gonna last under the heat lamp, but it’ll keep you satisfied. There’s a pleasingly grimey texture to the eight servings offered here—you’ll be grinning like a fool with all that dirt stuck in your teeth. The stakes here are medium, but at least the eggs are relegated to brunch service only.

Bell Toll 23’ Demo cassette

At a glance, I’d have expected Las Vegas’s BELL TOLL to be a little heavier. They have a great name and some cool artwork, but to be honest, I was a little let down by the skate punk style I found here. It’s not bad by any stretch, just a little generic. The vocals remind me a bit of MALLWALKER or BE YOUR OWN PET, and sonically, there are some slight BLACK FLAG and DEAD KENNEDYS vibes, but overall it just doesn’t stick the landing. In time, I could see BELL TOLL carving out a place for themselves, but in this listener’s humble opinion, they need to let these songs cook for a little longer.

Coconut Planters Upset Hopes CD

When I saw the name of this band and the album cover, my initial thought was “oh, a ska band.” I mean the name COCONUT PLANTERS screams upstrokes and “hep-hep”s to me, and the tiki-themed Kaiju on the cover didn’t help matters. I could not have been more wrong. The band actually plays nicely polished punk of the classic Fat Wreck/Hopeless/Fearless variety. While I’m generally not a huge fan of this type of sound, I can appreciate it when it’s presented well. All in all, a pretty solid effort. In fact, the only two skippers for me were the ska-tinged “Reggae For Yankeez“ and the last song, the acoustic ditty “San Antonio’s Fire”.

Cura Ab Sublimation cassette

CURA AB’s love of bouncy rhythms and grooves doesn’t enter full metal territory or pure noise. They actually sound restrained to me, since the songs didn’t go longer or louder than they do. I agree with that choice because I prefer wanting more over being served one last chorus/main riff reprise. There’s still plenty of volume and vitriol, along with some fun curveballs like a guitar lead instrumental and some creative drum work. The sound quality is cleaner than I prefer, but there’s enough bass in the mix to give it HC-grade umph.

Cutre Cutre cassette

CUTRE is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where this tape originally came out in 2020. Thanks to Open Palm Tapes out of Chicago, we now get to grab one in the US. Playing raging hardcore powered by a steamrolling D-beat with speedy fills, it’s a solid set of beefy jams for all you hessian-types. I don’t speak Spanish, but this guy is clearly pissed.

D.T.A.L. Dark Dimensions of War LP

Cult punks D.T.A.L. recorded this LP in 1990, moving away from the classic ripping hardcore roots of their Time to Die debut EP, but it was shelved for 33 years! Now remastered, here is a very synth-heavy Swedish stench album that is leagues more metal. While their earlier material is fantastic, blisteringly fast mangel, Dark Dimensions of War offers a practically symphonic long-composition crust record. D.T.A.L. does no wrong in either lane. Many might find this a bit more contrived in its execution, but that kind of reminds of criticism of RUDIMENTARY PENI—“I don’t like anything after Death Church.” It’s just different. Musicians want to explore different sounds. If the D.T.A.L. EP and this LP were by two separate bands, no one would argue it’s “not as good” as the other. Significantly different. Anyway, think of the rhythmic delivery of ONSLAUGHT or VENOM (except tighter, but who isn’t?), with a lot of interesting synth like AMEBIX, AXEGRINDER, or DEVIATED INSTINCT (flute-like arias at times, and I thought it was on the wrong sped at first), but not lacking the punch of ANTI CIMEX and their own early ’80s impact. Riffs galore within seven songs of long passages and advanced changes. This came out at a good time, with a sound from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, but holds up against modern war/stench/crust metal bands. Pretty sure we’re getting some sax on Side B here too, but that may be a keyboard. A bleak catastrophic scene of the bombing of Cologne addresses the album’s themes on the cover. Overall, this is just a bigger, badder, more advanced sound from D.T.A.L., and I like both their razor-sharp narrow path and this tank-crushing direction as well. Get this, a dream album that sounds like a dystopian nightmare, for your next DJ night. It provides plenty of time to step away and enjoy your own playlist!

Enzyme Golden Dystopian Age 12″

ENZYME is back with a second full-length album. It is a massive work that is rooted in noise punk, but aims to broaden the soundscape of the genre. Some might treat noise as a one-shot gimmick, but in reality, it’s a rather versatile element found in so much music. ENZYME built songs as they are aware of this, and listened to enough different records to understand how cacophony could be used interestingly. Traditionally, they left the bass almost undistorted, loud and clear so it can drive the songs and lay down the fundamental rhythm. Above that, the guitars go wild, hissing alien sounds, future riffs for demented minds. Electronic influences appear here and there, but if you’ve dug deep enough into the EXIT HIPPIES discography, then you will not hear anything unfamiliar. Yet these unusual influences are adapted in a tasteful way—instead of showcasing bizarre ideas, you get ENZYME’s crafted individual sound, although this originality creates its own dimension which holds back the record from being an ear-threatening sonic attack. But neither is the record dirty or dumb. It dares to be different, packed with ideas that keep me entertained even after multiple spins. Truly a boundary-pushing record.

Famous Mammals Instant Pop Expressionism Now! LP

Two years ago, Amber Sermeño (the WORLD, NAKED ROOMMATE), Stanley Martinez (RAYS, CHILDREN MAYBE LATER, also the WORLD), and Andy Jordan (a.k.a. ANDY HUMAN, also in the WORLD and one million other Bay Area bands) dropped a limited-run cassette as FAMOUS MAMMALS. It was an absolutely fantastic debut from an act that seemed to come out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. I’d assumed it was a throwaway project that just so happened to be great, but no. They’ve apparently spent the interim since that release going deeply method as a troupe of UK DIY musicians. This is no longer a Bay Area act pretending to be a band that grew up in high-rise flats above King’s Road or a council estate in Manchester—this is now that actual band. And the results are exceptional. If I hadn’t known the deal before going in, I’m sure you could convince me this album was assembled by some hitherto unknown, staunchly independent CRASS-like collective wed by a way of doing things rather than a particular output they’re striving for. The eighteen tracks on this record cover such a wide array of sounds and styles: a mix of early FALL discordant clang, “Lady Godiva’s Operation” grimy but gentle meandering, “Don’t Throw Ashtrays at Me!” noisy ambience, warbly They Could Have Been Bigger Than the Beatles dejected yet twee psychedelic rock, and stripped-down, talk-sung ballads that could be a cross between MARINE GIRLS and YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS; it’s hard to imagine this coming from just the three musicians. And while I just rattled off a ton of stuff this sounds like, I want to be clear that this is far from cosplay. The songwriting is so distinct and the execution (including what I would consider the perfect fidelity production) near flawless that you’ll have no doubt this is an original undertaking. Easily the best record I’ve heard all year.

Glaas Cruel Heart, Cold Summer EP

“Cruel Heart, Cold Summer”—could there be a better banger (or name of a banger) of a summer anthem? The track has layers and layers of snot-ridden vitriol bellowing out of brass instruments, and a band shoveling out noise on a reverb loop. It has a little FLIPPER and a little CHROME and makes everything around it on the record kind of fall to the side. Not that the rest of the EP is bad; there is an artful combustion within each song and it carries on throughout. “Crossfire” is proof! And GLAAS is now a new favorite.

Hans-a-Plast 2 LP reissue

All three LPs from early German punks HANS-A-PLAST have recently been brought back into circulation thanks to Tapete, but 1981’s 2 (their second, duh) is their most striking, and I’d argue their best. The band’s self-titled 1979 debut was a relatively trad take on the wind-up punky energy of the BUZZCOCKS, with a streak of wild X-RAY SPEX abandon in vocalist Annette Benjamin’s animated delivery, and just as those groups fractured into new projects on the cusp of post-punk so that they could push into more challenging musical directions, 2 likewise finds HANS-A-PLAST deconstructing some of the rigid first-wave boxes in which they’d placed themselves on the first LP. It might not be immediately apparent when the speedy pogo-punk opener “Spielfilm” kicks in, but it soon will be, from the sax that skronks over the rattling rhythm of “Reicher Vati,” to the punctuated, stop/start jabbing and steadily more unhinged gang vocals in “Humphrey Bogart,” to the loopy KLEENEX-ish post-punk tumble of “Kunde Und Vieh” and “Kurz und Dreckig,” to Annette’s trills, squeals, and general motor-mouth chattering starting to take on character that’s much more Neue Deutsche Welle than Poly Styrene. By 1983’s swan-song Ausradiert LP, the tone had gotten a little darker and more dour—not quite goth, but rubbing elbows with the likes of XMAL DEUTSCHLAND or MALARIA!, and with less of the eccentric spark that made this second album so special. Weird, fun, just the right amount of messy and shambolic; the golden ratio of early ’80s Euro art-punk.

Kiht Fihsto Kiht Fihsto cassette

It took me a couple listens to appreciate this EP. KIHIT FIHSTO melds a bunch of different styles ranging from D-beat to metalcore to skate punk to Kill ‘Em All-era METALLICA. Sometimes when a band draws from different influences, it comes off as more disjointed than it does eclectic. That’s the impression I got on my first run-through here. But the more I re-listened to this album, the more it all clicked into place. They’re just a group of folks looking to have a good time playing rock’n’roll, and that’s all that really matters. To hell with an aesthetic! The guitars sound huge on this and are impressively tight, even if they are just power chords. As a fellow Illinoisan, I always need to give props to a band from Not Chicago.

Longings Dreams in Red LP

It’s been seven years since LONGINGS from Western Massachusetts have released material. Obviously, a bunch of shit has happened and the world is in a darker and more dire position, and all of this is very reflective in Dreams in Red. Opening with the raging, darkened post-punk of “Expensive Graves,” this album only builds into a level of aggression that begins to two-step a fine line between post-punk, hardcore, and post-hardcore. By the midpoint of the album, the squelching, squeals, and general noise level rips through desperately angry songs with earworm lyrical accuracy that will run endlessly in your mind for hours like mini protest chants. There’s a heaviness to this album that is only attained by staring into the decaying void of our present reality and refusing to descend further into it by shouting, screaming, and fighting.

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.

Mayge Mayge cassette

What excites me about lo-fi music isn’t because I just love it when things sound obscure or chaotic, it takes familiar forms (in this case, new wave-adjacent punk) and brings an impressionist bent to what was otherwise familiar, like looking at a Matisse painting up close and letting it blur into a psychedelic mess. You get the feeling of the song and your mind fills in the blanks. MAYGE uses production as an extension of the songwriting, creating an enjoyable and disorienting EP that sounds anything but familiar. Strange gibbering vocals, melancholy guitar lines, it all works. The covers here are a treat as well, taking an original from TONY MOLINA and morphing it into something barely familiar to fans of the original, likewise with the SCREAMERS’ track “If I Can’t Have What I Want, I Don’t Want Anything.” The originals, however, are what bring me back to this release, biting and squeaking like a little mutant rat gnawing on your eardrums. Sometimes lo-fi production pisses me off, like it’s an affectation. Not the case here by a long shot, so take a listen.

Natural End Natural End cassette

Five traditional hardcore anthems from this Raleigh band. Their sound and energy deliver DIY NYHC energy, like a non-corny MADBALL, with lyrics about life’s injustices and the current state of the US. The band frequently switches from fast punk to mid-tempo, fuzz-bass crawls with a few measures of blastbeats powering the intelligible, shouted vocals. “New American Age” finishes out the tape with, “Anger, rage, hatred, malaise / This is now the new American age,” so, yeah, that checks out. Is NATURAL END especially original? Nah, but this well-produced and energetically performed collection might be just the thing if you like your hardcore with some tough-guy vibes.

Novak’s Kapelle Hypodermic Needle / Doing That Rhythm Thing 7″

A repressing of a 1968 single—I initially thought this was a modern recording of a band doing a throwback sound. Austria’s NOVAK’S KAPELLE played psychedelic garage rock, and while it’s a decent little single, I was much more into it when I thought it had been recorded in this day and age. I do appreciate a re-release for those who want this stuff on wax, especially considering that the original 45 has gone for upwards of $400 on Discogs. For fans of IRON BUTTERFLY and doing large amounts of LSD.

Oil! The Glory of Honour LP reissue

Not funny enough to be a good joke, not good enough to be taken seriously. Bollocks then, bollocks now. What a waste of plastic to repress this to vinyl when it could have been made into something useful, like a Happy Meal toy or a petrol station football.

Parasomnia Vigilia cassette

Debut release Vigilia by Chilean band PARASOMNIA is a captivating journey into the realms of dark post-punk. Sung in Spanish, the album carries an air of mystique that draws listeners into its hauntingly atmospheric world. PARASOMNIA masterfully weaves together intricate guitar melodies, pulsating bass lines, and ethereal moods to create a sonic landscape that is simultaneously melancholic and enchanting. The interplay of these elements forms the foundation for their sound, an approach similar to DECIMA VICTIMA. Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer, this album offers a rich and immersive sonic journey that lingers long after the final chords and whispers fade away.

Power of Dusk Demo 2023 cassette

Three years have gone by since the band’s debut release Demo 2020, and little seems to have changed. POWER OF DUSK is still super pissed, playing angry, fast hardcore punk, and they are still dead-on with their politics. To say they were left-leaning would do them a disservice. With songs like “Queer Angry & Violent,” it’s pretty easy to see where they stand on modern issues. Fuck yeah. Five songs of aggressively intense hardcore punk. Get into it!

RJ and the Riots RJ and the Riots LP reissue

Surf rock’n’roll from the Philippines in the early ’60s? Exactly, and this is a gem. It’s smooth and catchy and melodic and really nicely done. It’s a reissue of their second album, originally released in 1964, but it’s not like anyone reading this review has an original. I have no idea if it was remastered in any way, but the recording is excellent. Drawing comparisons to the BEATLES would be too obvious.

Shawnis and the Shimmers Shimmer Shake EP

A three-song 7” from a shambling four-piece out of Richmond, VA. At first listen, the lo-fi garage-abilly sound brings to mind the ghost of HASIL ADKINS and the early ’00s bands out of Oakland like NOBUNNY, CUM STAIN, and PINK SLIME. But repeated listens (which are pretty much unavoidable, as this stuff is catchy as hell) bring to mind queercore vibes in the vein of HUNX AND HIS PUNX or PANSY DIVISION, and also the humor that riot grrrl bands could bring. I’m thinking of the first track “Eat A Dick” and BIKINI KILL’s songs “Suck My Left One” and “Carnival” at the same time (“I’ll win that MOTLEY CRÜE mirror if it fucking kills me!”).

Squander The Western Nightmare Continues… cassette

Halifax’s anarcho deadbeaters start with a great classical bass line in the UK82 tradition, but frankly, afterwards I utterly disliked the reverb or delay (ab)used here to create the ambience, lowering the quality of the vocals, instruments, and force that we could have otherwise encountered here. It all comes off as a messy, reverbed and delayed version of D-beat that doesn’t appeal to me. It lacks precision and equalization, losing the vibe of the drums and guitars. Nice artwork for the cover, though…

Step to Freedom Step to Freedom CD

STEP TO FREEDOM’s self-titled CD is a non-stop barrage of riff-y metallic crust with brutish and mean vocals. It’s music as intense as you’d expect from a Russian stenchcore band, especially considering the turmoil unfolding over there these past couple of years. Perhaps what’s more impressive than the fiery delivery is how catchy each of these grime-coated songs are, each filled to the brim with hooks that keep the listener’s attention in spite of the long-running track times. Standouts “Bad Karma” and the seven-minute odyssey “Revengeance Altar” are both thrashing headbangers with vicious backing vocals and guitar solos that will (not to be too cliché) melt your face. A powerful listen and highly recommended.

The Steves Jerk! EP

Here’s an interesting pearl dredged up from the deep chasm of the early ’80s Boston underground. Jerk! is the third EP of STEVES material to be released this year. Unlike the reissues of Making Time and In a Room, Jerk! features previously unreleased songs that were recorded during the original sessions around 1980–1981, and have been unearthed and repackaged by Iron Lung Records. The STEVES played an eclectic blend of punk, proto-metal, and proggy power pop. I hear elements of BLACK RANDY AND THE METROSQUAD, DEVO, and the ZIPS, mixed with RASPBERRIES, FOCUS, and QUEEN. The ripping guitar solos and operatic layered vocals make the STEVES more interesting than a lot of the KBD-style punk they’ll inevitably get lumped in with. The three songs on Jerk! are not quite as potent as what you’ll hear on the two previous EPs, but they still pack a wallop. Recommended for anyone with a penchant for the quirkier side of obscure underground punk.

Sultry Promotional cassette

This promo cassette from Virginia’s SULTRY is three tracks of fast hardcore punk with furious speedcore energy, but also acid-dosed vocals as well as chorus-driven guitars like worn-out wobbly cassette tape sounds—reminiscent of bands on the ’80s Italian HC comps BCT Tapes put out. For true weirdos.

T.A.C.K. T.A.C.K. cassette

Stomp-and-crash duo from New Orleans, rattling the bolts off the garage door and red-lining their four-track on this wonderfully lo-fi recording. Stella keeps a nasty, splashy beat while taking on most of the catchy, screechy, and shouted vocals, while Roach sings back-up and pushes his guitar through a blown-out amp, performing lead fills between rhythm chords. Each listen draws me closer, and I think the opener “P.L.F.” is a fucking hit: “I’ve got a car, treats me kindly / It’s got wheels and that’s all that I need.” Any chance you’re doing a Northeast tour? Think these two would be a blast live. The Feed My Ego tape I got has the bonus single “Lunch” as the closer, and so does the Blä version, but the XTRO version does not. Each release also swaps around the track order, so you decide? Feed My Ego appears to be the band’s own label, so show some support!

Upside Upside LP

Now this is one for the true lovers of Italian hardcore, those who can pretend to speak Italian because they can half-pronounce the titles of WRETCHED songs and show off at dinner parties by pointing out that NERORGASMO actually rose from the ashes of BLUE VOMIT. Avoid these boring bastards at all costs. UPSIDE can barely be considered a classic band of the amazing Italian hardcore punk scene of the time—I was familiar with the band for their delightfully snotty Nato Per Sofrire EP from 1983, but never took the time to properly listen to the rest of their discography. The aforementioned EP was a perfect example of an Italian take on the vintage UK82 sound, and this demo originally recorded in 1981 is (a little) more versatile, with songs convincingly exhibiting darker overtones and others sounding like furious proto-hardcore. I have to say the production is, well, raw, if not rough or non-existent, so that it will appeal to the aesthetes of old-school hardcore music (those who do not fear bands who could not tune their instruments but still did solos), but it might alienate other audiences. There are some great, catchy songs on the demo, reminiscent of CANI or even NABAT for the punkness and the aforementioned BLUE VOMIT for the eerier and darker influences. I personally love Italian hardcore, so I believe this record is important for two reasons: first, it is a testimony of one of the most powerful hardcore waves in punkstory, and this project matters because it is an archive, something that preserves our collective past because punk belongs to the punks. Second, because I just like, on a very primitive level, raw, snotty punk from Italy. I suppose the first reason makes me sound a bit more clever, though.

Whisper Hiss Shake Me Awake cassette

Portland, Oregon, garage pop quartet WHISPER HISS recently released the Shake Me Awake cassette, their first proper full-length. Rocking similarly to DC band SLANT 6, and with familiar harmonies that recall sounds from BLONDIE and the EXPLODING HEARTS, it would be silly to not give this tape a try. Poppy as all get-out, Shake Me Awake slides around the rock spectrum with bits that surf and meld with fuzzy-toned edges. “Trouble in the Mansion” feels like a dystopian dream from the ’60s, then “Party Dress” kicks in with a sort of riot grrrl bend. In all, it’s a good time through and through.

The Wirms III LP

First notes in, you can tell there’s something special about this record. Memphis garage punk still hits the hardest, and this band fits right into that lineage. With blown-out vocal delivery and nasty licks that slither in and out like the snakes in a traditional skull tattoo, there’s no bullshit on display here—just real-deal, manic hot-dialed rock’n’roll. The cover of jazz standard “Lover Man” (originally popularized by BILLIE HOLIDAY) is a standout, if only to hear such a beautiful song turn so ugly. The whole album slams with that exhilarating unhinged quality of a band that is tight as hell but can convincingly sound like they’re on the brink of self-destruction, reminiscent at times of MEAT PUPPETS’ first (and my favorite) record, which feels like some sort of country drug mania from hell. But the tunes stay strong, never fully falling apart and just hitting the mark cut after cut. If you like your meat bloody, don’t skip this one.

V/A Dot Dash Mixtape, Volume One cassette

A brand new label’s debut release, and an all-around cool idea. A compiled mixtape of bands on the label’s radar, all doing unreleased/live/cover songs. Super fun. I always love when labels do things like this, because it is a beautiful way to expose people to a ton of new bands. Featuring tracks by the already-known and beloved RETAIL SIMPS, GG KING, and IBEX CLONE, as well as fifteen others to open your eyes to. Love it. Will certainly be keeping an eye out for what Dot Dash ends up releasing next.

Allusion Allusion demo cassette

This demo cassette from French punks ALLUSION features four viciously raw, D-beat-heavy hardcore punk tracks on the A-side, with even more abrasive versions of the same program on the B-side. It’s evident from the first thirty seconds of both sides where ALLUSION draws their aggression from. Be ready for pummeling drum breaks, distorted guitar leads, and barking vocals on whichever side you choose to play.

Basuko Lasting Ordeal EP

From the moment the EP kicks off, it’s clear that BASUKO is here to make a statement. Much like ELECTRIC CHAIR, their music embraces the rawness that defines US hardcore punk, channeling energy into an electrifying listening experience. A sonic rebellion against the mundane, a call to arms for those seeking an unfiltered musical escape. BASUKO will carve out their own place within the genre.

Battery March Futur Pour Eux EP

Enjoyably knockabout Oi!-infused street punk from this band of Boston bruisers. Unfairly compared to DEATH RIDGE BOYS (Oi! for people who hate Oi!) in the accompanying blurb, this release fits nicely within the pantheon of American Oi!, replete with obligatory TEMPLARS-adjacent gruff vocals (without wandering into caricature territory). A surprise French number is also welcome, yet perhaps thankfully lacking the accursed saxophone by which our comrades from La République are inexplicably enamoured.

Bunnydrums To Reptile 12″

Under what conditions do folks generally welcome a live release? When it’s by a seminal act with a relatively large back catalog of hits (It’s Alive)? When it’s a particularly exceptional performance (Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963)? When it’s by a beloved band that burned too hot or was shrouded in mystery and folks are clamoring to gain any additional insights (anything from Mark Winter bands)? When it’s aimed at a relatively large audience of sickos (the FUGAZI live series)? What we have here is a four-track 12”—the digital version has two bonus tracks—culled from a 1984 live performance by post-punk group BUNNYDRUMS. Does it meet any of the above conditions? It does not. BUNNYDRUMS, a Philadelphia act that grew out of the ashes of first-wave punk unknowns the BONEHEADS, are at best an interesting footnote in American post-punk history. They existed as part of an odd scene at an awkward time when new wave and post-punk were beginning to coalesce into alternative rock. Insofar as this release does anything, it perhaps provides a decent snapshot of that moment. But, honestly, I would think one of their two studio LPs, 1983’s P•K•D or 1984’s Holy Moly (the former of which is pretty good!), would better serve that purpose. That’s not to say this is bad. I actually quite like the instrumental track that closes out the record—it reminds me a lot of the early OH SEES, when they were at their CRAMPS-iest. I just don’t know who’s asking for this thing. It looks like these guys were big in the Netherlands for some reason-—it’s the only other country that issued their LPs, and this performance took place in Wageningen, so maybe the Dutch. For this label’s sake, I hope so.

Cat and the Underdogs Punk Rock Overdrive CD

This is a funny one for me. From Sweden, these guys deliver a version of melodic punk rock that has guitar elements that remind me of both the STOOGES and SOCIAL DISTORTION, though definitely a little softer. It’s got a very 1977 sound to it. It’s mid-tempo and catchy, and the production is crisp without sounding overproduced. That said, there’s a metal/glam thing in some of the vocals that almost reminds me of hair bands, like POISON. The jury is still out on this one.

Cross Control Try and Survive LP

CROSS CONTROL from L.A. plays hard and mostly mid-tempo traditional hardcore on their LP Try and Survive, following in the footsteps of the classics (think BLOOD FOR BLOOD, SLAPSHOT, and CRO-MAGS). While not bringing anything particularly new to the table, fans of the genre will find plenty to sink their teeth into. In addition to some great breakdowns on “Half Right” and “Always the Same,” “Number of Dead” and “Diadem” both boast some majorly catchy vocals, and final track “Everything’s Fucked” veers into straight punk territory reminiscent of MINOR THREAT. Good shit that sounds tailor-made for a hardcore fest.

Die Theory Ice Cream Headache LP

This is the second 1991 demo tape from this obscure Providence thrash metal band.  They were doing this style a little late in the game, and I can’t say it’s very interesting. The guitar solos are annoyingly jazzy over some old recycled NUCLEAR ASSAULT riffs. I can’t see that anyone in this band went on to do anything big. It’s pretty mediocre overall. The band name and demo title are pretty dumb. Why is this on vinyl now, and in multiple limited versions, some even signed by the ex-members? What must be a real labor of love from an aging member of a forgotten scene is unfortunately a record I would likely leave on the street. Sorry, guys.