Unkind – Harhakuvat

Back in August, when most of us were trying to get a bit of sunshine on our backs and find a long enough break in the rain to fire up the barbie, Finland was the setting for the unleashing of this furious slab of prime D-Beat from Unkind.  I know that it’s always tempting to refer to the dark/cold/extreme northern-ness of Scandinavia when reviewing a release from bands hailing from this region, but in this case, you can’t draw any other conclusions.  ‘Harhakuvat’ is a collection of despair and rage, with few let ups.

A five piece band, this eight track ep is their fifth release since 2005, and although there is an obvious influence of Discharge simply by virtue of this being classified as ‘D-Beat’, the influences on show here range from metal to downtuned all out punk that brings to mind the hellish despair of Wolfbrigade’s excellent ‘Damned’ outing earlier in the year.  Slow, metallic passages give way to all out headlong rushes into a snowdrift of angry punk.  I dunno if it’s something in the water up there, or if it’s the long periods of night time and the price of a beer [ok, that’s enough cliches thanks…..Finland Tourist Board] but something has got under these boys’ skin and they have produced a powerful, hard hitting slab of dark punk rock.  Have a bad day and then play this loud!

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Breakfast in Sweden

To kick off the week, DeHud has already posted a short piece on the excellent Wallrides from Sweden.  And now, to act as the jam on this punk rock toast, I am going to introduce you to some more excellent releases that have emerged from up north in Sweden, courtesy of Monument Records.  It goes to prove that the country is capable of far more than just churning our D-Beat bands!

Let’s kick things off with a real blast in the face wake up call – Final Exit, which is a band that has spun off from another Swedish outfit, Refused.  A 5 – piece, they got together in order to go ‘back to the roots’ and play basic, straight ahead hardcore during their four year career.  As the label describes them:

“Sometimes they played naked and sometimes they even invited the kids to take the moshpit out to the street. One can say that if the members controlled their madness and rage in their regular bands they got out of control totally in Final Exit”.

Moving on, the next band I want to feature is a really solid sounding band called Artificial Conspiracy, whose 2 tracker, ‘Dead Eyes’, is released this month on Monument.

Heavy, hard and reminiscent of a slice of NYHC put through a blender with Prong, this ep pleases and leaves the listener shaken as their senses are assaulted by a wall of bass and guitar whilst hard drum slaps complete the assault.

Outlast! is next.  A long established straightedge band in Sweden, Monument have collected and released their discography in a – get this – 57 track LP, of which sadly only two tracks preview here.

Proffering a hard-hitting, punchy hardcore sound with crunchy guitar and hooligan chanted choruses, they make for a rousing listen.  As the song says, ‘Get into the Pit!’

No Omega have released an album entitled ‘Metropolis’ which is a heavy, heavy effort that introduces anguished sounding vocals, thunderously heavy guitar and bass that makes the ceiling plaster crack, and variations in pace that keep the listener intrigued.  My only criticism of this storming release is that the vocals tend to be a bit on the ‘screamy’ side for me, which is not something I find it easy to listen to.  But a varied, melodic and hard hitting effort nonetheless.

Finally, in order to really make your Monday morning complete, here is Dead Reprise.  Their second lp, ‘The Unveiling’ showcases a savage hardcore attack with a hint of that famous Swedish D-Beat sound, but made contemporary by the addition of liberal quantities of East Coast US hardcore power – the pace varies from slow mosh parts that will make you jump up from your breakfast table and form a circle pit, to fast chugging, Sick of it All style hardcore.  A worthy release and a good sign that Swedish hardcore is in fine fettle!

Prehistoric Punk

Rip It Up scribe Hud, being ahead of the game but in a low-key way, has already mentioned Austin, TX band Mammoth Grinder as his tip of the week a few weeks ago. But I thought this deserved some more publicity as it’s due out early June. It’s their new 7″ release, featuring three blazing tracks of hard, heavy-hitting, basic crust punk, with the added bonus of an Amebix cover.

This takes me right back to the early 1980s, when said Hud introduced me to his just-purchased vinyl copy of ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’ by Discharge. I remember being taken aback by the unrelenting fury of the tracks, and the sheer intensity of the attack as they spilled out of the dusty hi-fi speakers, each one seeming to last one and a half minutes or so. This is one of those rare releases where the same effect occurs. Neither too fast, nor too extreme, nor too shouty, this is refined punk rock that brings to my mind Poison Idea – thick drum slaps maintain a fast punk rock beat, while over the top of them a solid wall of distorted guitar chugs along, the roared vocals transmitting just the right balance of rage and authority.

This is Mammoth Grinder’s sixth release, which they corrected me on earlier! They already have a 7″ release from two years ago as well as one side of a split 12″ with Hatred Surge, released last year. The previous releases are of a similar standard, although the new release just trumps them for me.

Review: ‘Damned’ – Wolfbrigade

I’ve already done a short piece on Stockholm, Sweden’s’s Wolfbrigade.  They have been around for some time and have pioneered the Discharge-influenced D-Beat crust sound relentlessly.  Their latest release, ‘Damned’ is available on Southern Lord Records, and is a 12-track LP which lasts a mere 35 minutes in total.  

The album starts with ‘Feed the Flames’, which gives away the album’s really excellent production.  They’ve captured almost exactly the powerful, deep sound that characterised ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’.  The drums and bass underpin the sound, and the heavy, mountainous guitar attack that Bones, Discharge’s legendary guitarist, unleashed on the world back in the early 80s is authentically reproduced.  Mid-paced songs are mixed with slower numbers, one of my current favourites being ‘Damned to Madness’ which brings to mind ‘Protest and Survive’.

But let’s look beyond the obvious; although they trade on a style that is consciously derivative, Wolfbrigade aren’t totally about blind reproduction of something that has gone before.  This album, their eighth, sees them again developing their own sound, with melodic guitars and metallic influences showing through on ‘Ride the Steel’ that bring to mind the likes of early Celtic Frost, whilst the Scandinavian influence of bands such as Rattus, Totalitar and Disfear clearly shows.  But at the core of each track is the shattering intensity and the power that simply bulldozes everything in its path.  The anger and general ‘Fuck You’ attitude that lies behind this record makes it sometimes a harrowing listen.

The music is incredibly dense, yet all the component instruments are clearly discernible in the mix.  These Swedes have captured the cold, the desolation and the power of nature in their north European homeland expertly on ‘Damned’.  In fact, the only criticism I would level at the release is that ultimately Wolfbrigade have defined themselves and their style with such authority that they will find it very difficult to find any new converts to their music other than those who already like to consume the output of bands who play explicitly in the D-Beat style.

But there’s another thing that’s been gnawing away inside me.  I haven’t been able to put my finger on it….wait! Rewind again, way back in the day.  I know what it is. Growing up, and taking into account my personal points of reference, the 70s merged into the 80s at the time when my childhood naiivete became burgeoning awareness of the world around me.  The things I recall were British Leyland car workers on strike, the Icelandic Cod Wars, and the most significant escalation in the nuclear arms race since the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And that last event was what made bands like Discharge somehow special – or maybe it was just that the band was a powerful signifier of that period.

My point is that the Discharge rage was directed at a very tangible, and at the time very frightening proposition that really affected everybodys’ lives at the time – the very real possibility of an iminent, possibly nuclear, war.  This somehow made their music relevant and their anger justified, and their whole stance immediately political, whilst it existed in stark counterpoint to the escapism of the emergent New Romantic movement which had become almost the default youth culture of the time, in ignorance or defiance of the touchy political landscape.

Let’s bring the whole situation right up to date.  In summary, the release of ‘Damned’ makes me glad that there bands like Wolfbrigade out there.  It’s a stormingly fine slab of punk/metal, and one of the better releases of 2012 so far.

Love From Stoke on Trent, via Sweden

I watched a video clip some time last year on Youtube which dealt with the quite remarkable legacy left by the Stoke on Trent, UK – based band Discharge. When they erupted onto the scene in the early 1980s, they were on Clay records, along with bands such as GBH from nearby Birmingham. They seemed to be different from many of the other cartoon punks of the era, in the sense that they merged Crass’ severe, austere visual aesthetic [all black and white photos of nuclear war victims, and desolate lyrics concerning the threat of nuclear war] with a searing, heavy punk sound. Their original drummer, Tez, pioneered a unique style of drumming that underpinned all their songs, and which has now become known as ‘D-Beat’. Vast numbers of copycat bands have sprung up over the years, from locations as diverse as South America and Sweden. Especially Sweden.

So, going back north to the current home of the D-Beat flame, and to be honest I know not why the style has become so popular up in the Scandinavian countries, we must alight on a really storming new release from one of the prime movers on the D-Beat scene, Wolfbrigade. They have just released their new album, ‘Damned’, on Southern Lord records. And what a slab of rust-coloured vinyl it is, too. They seem to have spent the long, cold dark nights refining their trademark sound until it reached its logical conclusion, a heavy, down tuned and stripped to the bone blast which in a sense has out-Discharged Discharge. This is furious, pummelling, unrelenting hardcore punk of the kind that you cannot fight or refuse; this is another must purchase. In a similar vein to the brevity used to great effect by California’s OFF! these guys have produced an album that runs to 35 minutes in length, and in that short time they say all that needs to be said.

A full album review will follow soon, in the meantime here’s a taster.

See them live:

12/5 STOCKHOLM @ Kafé 44 (swe)

17/5 POTSDAM @ BlackFleck (de)

18/5 GIESSEN @ Jokus (de)

19/5 VERDEN @ Juz Dampfmühle (de)

12/7 OBSCENE EXTREME (cz)

13/7 LEIPZIG @ tba (de)

14/7 DIY FEST (pl)

14-15/9 ENEMY OF THE SUN FEST Praha (cz) (2 gigs, one all Wolfpack songs, one all Wolfbrigade)

12/10 HAMBURG @ hafenklang (de)

13/10 BLOODSHED FEST (nl)

Disrupt

It’s a quiet Saturday today, and I’ve done little except walk the dog, dry the inevitable mud off the dog and draft an interview with a well known and exciting band who are about to release some equally exciting new material.  More on that soon, so keep checking back.  In the mean time, here’s a short, sweet blast from Disrupt, the short-lived punk band from Lynn, Massachusetts, who in 2007 released a storming 78-track album entitled ‘The Rest’, which served as a posthumous anthology of their work.  Their style is good old fashioned hardcore punk with more than a nod in the direction of the legendary Extreme Noise Terror.  In fact the vocalist sounds uncannily like the late Phil Vane.

  When you’ve had enough of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ this evening, play this at full volume.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Hud’s Tune of the Week

Rip It Up Art dude and small dog owner Hud is wont to submit his verdict on the track that has impressed him the most in a given week.  And, to encourage him, this week we start publishing his hot tip. 

Now Hud is partial to tuneful punk as much as the next man – he is after all one of the longest standing Screeching Weasel fans out there.  But his great love these days, and something we should all make sure we take in regular measures, is foul-smelling, de-tuned and heavy stuff such as this week’s tune: “In-Out” from the superbly named Mammoth Grinder.  This is crust of the finest kind, Discharge-influenced, black clad, angry, dreadlocked and in every way the kind of thing you would have found living in a Norwich squat in 1984.  And he’s right on the money this week.  It’s a killer tune.