Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Best Music of 2014

We know that there is a month left of 2014 so barring some kind of crazy last minute entrant, the contributors and I feel pretty comfortable with our selections.

James Khubiar
Justified Arrogance boss, Dallas Observer contributor, and did that Noisey article that one time.

LPs –
Hardcore punk
1) The Boston Strangler – Fire
2) Vanity – Vain In Life
3) Hank Wood and the Hammerheads – Stay Home
4) Inmates – Inmates
5) Raspberry Bulbs - Privacy
6) White Lung – Deep Fantasy
7) Long Knife - Meditations On Self Destruction
8) Give – Electric Flower Circus
9) Battle Ruins – Battle Ruins
10) Praise – Lights Went Out

(I have yet to hear the new Forward and Wetbrain. I’ll just mention them because I know they probably would have made this list if I had)

Not hardcore punk
1) Nothing – Guilty of Everything
2) Whirr – Sway
3) Volahn – Aq’al’ab
4) Iceage – Plowing Into The Fields Of Love
5) Merchandise – After The End
6) Teitanblood – Death
7) The Ukiah Drag – In The Reaper’s Quarters
8) Midnight - No Mercy For Mayhem
9) The Young - Chrome Cactus
10) Creepoid - Creepoid

Rap Releases (Mixtapes / Albums) -
1) Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, and Birdman - Rich Gang: The Tour, Part 1
2) Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Cocaine Pinata
3) Young Thug - Young Thugga Mane La Flare (collabo with Gucci Mane)
4) Young Scooter - Street Lottery 2
5) Future - Monster
6) Lil Herb - Welcome To Fazoland
7) Peewee Longway - The Blue M&M
8) Gucci Mane - World War 3D: The Green Album (collabo with Migos)
9) Lil Mouse - Michael Mouse Myers
10) Antwon - Heavy Hearted In Doldrums

EPs –
1) The Impalers – Psychedelic Snutskallar
2) Step Forward – Step Forward
3) Mammoth Grinder - Cosmic Crypt
4) Warthog – Prison
5) Goosebumps – Scared To See A Doctor
6) Savageheads - Savageheads
7) S.H.I.T. – Generation Shit
8) Hellshock – Low Men In Yellow Cloaks
9) Razorheads - Razorheads
10) Party Plates - Party Plates

Demos –
1) Stomp-I-Lation (tape comp featuring Peacebreakers, The Boston Strangler, and Waste Management)
2) Ajax – Bleach For Breakfast
3) Bad Faith – Demo
4) Crazy Spirit - New York's Alright Demo
5) Blazing Eye - East Coast Tour Demo

Jay Chary
Guitarist, Modern Pain & Sick Symptom. Bass player, Narrow Head.

1) Creepoid- S/T
2) Lust For Youth- International
3) The Ukiah Drag- In The Reaper's Quarter
4) Criminal Code- No Device
5) Whirr- Sway
6) Total Control- Typical System
7) Underpass- Assimilation
8) Protomartyr- Under Color of Official Right
9) Rhythm of Cruelty- Dysphoria
10) Dark Blue- Pure Reality

1) Vanity- Vain in Life
2) Impalers- Psychadelic Snutskallar
3) Boston Strangler- Fire
4) Gas Rag- Beats Off LP
5) Absolut- Punk Survival

1) Blazing Eye- 2014 Tape
2) DiE- Vexed EP
3) Savageheads- S/T 7"
4) Hard Stripes- S/T 7"
5) Ajax- Bleach For Breakfast demo
6) Blotter- Under Armour '77 7"
7) Enough Said- Heritage Day 7"
8) The Stompilation
9) Crazy Spirit- 2014 Tape
10) Breakout- Razor Wire 7"

Hayden Robertson
The Fifth Man of the Modern Pain squad.

HC Punk
1. Impalers - Psychedelic Snutskallar
2. The Flex - Wild Stabs In The Dark
3. Homewrecker - Circle Of Death
4. Boston Strangler - Fire

Non HC Punk
1. Creepoid - Creepoid
2. Whirr - Sway
3. Nothing - Guilty of Everything
4. Young Thugga Mane La Flare - (Gucci Mane/Young Thug collabo tape)
5. Merchandise - After The End
6. The Ukiah Drag - In The Reaper's Quarters
7. Obituary - Inked in blood

1. Glue - Glue
2. Hard Stripes - Hard Stripes
3. Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats - Runaway Girls 7” (Single 7”)
4. Mammoth Grinder - Cosmic Crypt
5. Institute - Giddy Boys
6. Modern Pain - Self Deconstruction
7. Rakta - Rakta

1. Ajax - Bleach For Breakfast
2. Blazing Eye - East Coast Tour Tape
3. Sick Symptom - Demo 2014
4. Dress Code - Dress Code
5. Red Death - Demo 2014

Honorable Mentions
1. Sleep - The Clarity
2. Rae Sremmurd - No Type
3. ASAP Rocky/Juicy J - Multiply
4. Joey Badass - Big Dusty
5. Narrow Head - Far Removed
6. Underachievers - Cellar Door

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chaos In Tejas: Revisited

One of the best and most important American hardcore labels of all time is San Francisco's Prank Records. We have Prank Records to thank for beginning the modern relationship between the Japanese hardcore scene and North America. In 1995, Prank records brought in Tokyo's Assfort to the USA to play some shows. This would lead to open the door for many other Japanese bands to come to the USA. In addition to a relationship with Japan, Prank also maintained a strong relationship with the Swedish scene (most notably Avskum and Totalitar) as well as many of the best crust punk / USHC bands of the day. Bands that would feature for Prank would include World Burns To Death, His Hero Is Gone, and Talk Is Poison.

In 1997, Prank Records expanded its scope to host a festival in Atlanta simply called Prank Fest. The fests would come and go and the Prank Fest name would slowly slide into obscurity. In 2004, the fest was revived in Austin, Texas with Timmy Hefner joining the operation. The 2004 edition featured the legendary Japanese act Paintbox along with acts like Born/Dead, Kylesa, and Worn Burns To Death. Prank Fest 2004 was a hit.

In 2005, Timmy booked another festival at the site of Prank Fest 2004. In Austin, at the legendary and now defunct Emo's. The new festival would be called Chaos In Tejas. It would carry on the same spirit of booking that Prank Fest did but not limit itself to the label's roster. The first Chaos In Tejas established two elements of Timmy's booking style that would continue with the festival until its demise in late 2013. First, Timmy had a flair for the unique. He wanted the headliners to be reunions of legends, one-off shows, or gigs that bands came from all the way around the world for. In 2005, the headliners included Swedish d-beat legends Avskum, Finnish d-beat legends Selfish, and USHC legends Deathreat. The standard was set though: when you came to Chaos In Tejas, you knew you would be seeing something special. A lot of hardcore fests in the USA today simply recycle acts, 2006 and 2014 weren't much different, but it doesn't matter. While the other hardcore fests were incestuous and cannibalized each other's lineups, Chaos In Tejas was doing its own thing. The second aspect of Chaos In Tejas was Timmy's desire to always outdo himself. In Chaos' nine years, it expanded from a 23 band fest at one venue to nearly 200 bands spread across 6-7 venues. That was the driving force of Chaos In Tejas: to make it special and do it bigger and better every time.

2006 was my first Chaos In Tejas. The headliners included the forerunners of Texas hardcore The Dicks, Portland garage punk legends Dead Moon, and Chaos In Tejas regular Tragedy (who played six in total). My experience at Chaos 2006 painted a different reality about hardcore than the one I had going into it. Chaos In Tejas was a festival that celebrated hardcore's history as well as its global reach. This compared to modern hardcore which is often without concept for its history and is as grossly oblivious to hardcore outside of the USA as the modern American is of world cultures. Rest assured, your average This Is Hardcore attendee is as hopeless to tell you about Bastards as your average American is about pointing out Baghdad on a map. 

Chaos 2006 was an awakening of sorts for me. I had only been into hardcore for a couple of years before I attended it but I had resolved to make the subculture an academic passion of mine. I wanted to understand it on every level and I realized then that Chaos In Tejas was a place that would help me in this pursuit. When Chaos was still around, one of my cardinal pieces of advice to new hardcore kids was to attend Chaos In Tejas. I told them it didn't matter if they knew the bands or not. I assured them they likely wouldn't know almost all of the bands playing. Just the same, I encouraged them to go, take in the bands, and, more importantly, take in the atmosphere. Attending Chaos In Tejas would make you a better hardcore kid. It wasn't the stagnant booking that many of the other fests featured that simply perpetuated more of what you already knew. Going to Chaos In Tejas was a chance to catch an up and coming act like Infernoh just as much as it was a chance to see a legend like Bastard. Chaos In Tejas was hardcore's past, present, and future from all over the world.

Chaos In Tejas 2006 would also include one of the best shows I've ever seen: Career Suicide / Iron Age / Fucked Up / Look Back And Laugh on the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge (this is an actual bridge over water in public; they would run a generator to power the equipment). The show would start at 2 AM and end by 430. In a subculture like hardcore punk where the prevailing mantra is "Show me something I've never seen before. Show me something I'll never forget. Show me something I'll never see again." Chaos In Tejas never failed to deliver on all counts.

2007 was one of my favorite years of the festival. Headliners included contemporary (if you want to call them that) British oi greats Hard Skin, Belgium's The Kids (punk legends on their first and only USA show ever), and reunited Cleveland hardcore legends Gordon Solie Motherfuckers. The show would also feature bands that are today both acclaimed (Sex/Vid while Iron Age and Mind Eraser opened shows, put that in perspective) and bands that are criminally underrated (Complications, Peligro Social, Drop Out). Eyehategod would drop because of legal trouble and would be replaced by crust punk heroes Dropdead.

I remember when Gordon Solie Motherfuckers was announced that the reaction was ecstatic. This was a band that had earned a reputation for having some of the most violent shows ever. Bands like No Justice and Haymaker would take cues from Gordon Solie Motherfuckers on how to act out. I had no idea what to expect going into their set but I knew I wanted to be involved. This show would also be a week after I turned 21.

Before Gordon Solie Motherfuckers played, my friend and I went to my car and drank a six pack of Lone Star beer, half a flask of hot Jager, and in between every belt of Jager, I ate a hydrocodone (six total). Walking back to Emo's, I could feel it all start to take effect. I stepped foot into Emo's and looked at my friend and said "I can't a feel a thing". His eyes dropped and he gave me a look that told me he knew I was about to do something really stupid.

Gordon Solie Motherfuckers started playing and the room exploded. I can't tell you everything that happened during that set. There's what I remember, what I've seen on a DVD that my friend Sikander filmed, and what I've heard happened. So let me try to recount it all. There was a pinata loaded with ground coffee that exploded on the crowd. A bag of flour burst over the crowd. Almost every trash can in Emo's was converted into a missile (including some launched at GSMF drummer Wedge; there had to be someone by him to keep his kit from falling over). At one point, one of Tony Erba's friends charged him, mounted him and laid down a ground-and-pound that would have made an MMA champion proud. Erba was bloodied for most of the set because of it. A member of Iron Age took the TV from the Emo's green room and threw it off the stage. Someone stole a box 7"s from someone's distro and threw them into the crowd where people would use them as frisbees (I was told some of the records were worth up to 50 dollars). To open the set Erba took out an industrial-sized chain and whipped the crowd with it. My friend Mark took the chain to the face and had to get stitches and staples for it. He's told me the shirt he wore that night still has all the blood on it. Because GSMF was a pro wrestling themed band, kids were throwing down dropkicks into the front of the crowd instead of stage dives. A member of Repercussions would later find that chain and turn it on the pit causing everyone to clear out. I've never seen a crowd clear out as quickly as when that chain was brandished by the Repercussions member.

As for me? As soon as the set started I grabbed a trash can, tossed it, and started throwing punches every which way. In between songs, I would pick up empty beer cans and throw them at people's heads (something that would become a regular thing for me when I was out of sorts at shows) while screaming at people. At one point, some burly crust punk charged me up in the pit because I was acting a fool only to have three of my straight edge friends get in between us and usher me away. This part is on the DVD and you can see my face entirely when I'm confronted. My brain was completely off and my face is blank. Eventually I went searching for more weapons. I would find a folding chair, the remains of the TV that was thrown off the stage, and more trash cans. My friends Sean and Zack have separately told me that I wore the look of a madman that night. I'm not even trying to dress that up, they used the word "madman".

I've heard that the floor of Emo's became the most treacherous part of the GSMF show. Because of the thrown drinks, flour, and coffee that had amassed on the floor, the floor had turned into a pool of black sludge. It was what was hidden that sludge that made the show dangerous. Emo's served glass bottles. Those empty bottles were discarded in the trash cans. The trash cans that would be overturned and emptied during the show. Because of this, that pool of sludge was loaded with broken glass you couldn't see. I know of at least two people who fell and had their hands sliced up by it.

As it stands, the Gordon Solie Motherfuckers set is one of the best live music experiences of my life. It captured everything that hardcore punk should be and why we get into it. Chaotic, violent, unpredictable, and unique. I've been to hundreds of shows since that GSMF set and nothing has come close to what happened that night in Emo's. Anyone who was there will tell you their version of what happened. Imagine Kennedy's assassination without the Zapruder film and that's the Gordon Solie Motherfuckers set at Chaos In Tejas 2007.

2008 was the crossroads year for Chaos In Tejas. It would be the last time Chaos operated under its traditional three nights, all at Emo's format. The headliners were Austin psych rock legends Roky Erickson & The Explosives, beloved Minnesota pop punk act Dilligner Four, and Chicago Latino hardcore gods Los Crudos. Also featured were the Chaos staples of a Japanese band and a Cleveland band. For 2008, Japan was represented by Crude while Cleveland was represented by Inmates.

Another standout performance from this fest came in the way of Tragedy. Tragedy's Chaos 2006 performance was criticized by many because the band appeared listless and uninterested. In 2006 they were touring on the release Nerve Damage, which in recent years has gotten more love than when it came out, so the lion's share of the songs in 2006 were off that album. In the build-up to Chaos 2008, my friends and I joked about what Tragedy could to make up for 2006. The first thing we said was "they should open with Conflicting Ideas" and sure enough, when they were about to start, before even a note had been hit, Todd Burdette grabs a mic and screams "CONFLICTING IDEAS" and the set took off. It was a set that was almost exclusively Vengeance / EP / Tragedy songs. The crowd was ready for it too. I don't know if it was because Tragedy played earlier in the night or what, but to this day, I've never seen a crowd go off that hard for Tragedy.

The memorable after show was Inmates in a garage. When I say garage, I mean a body shop. There was equipment and all kinds of auto-related fluids. Most notably, someone moshed with a bottle of antifreeze. There were hundreds of punks packed into the room with fireworks going off and kids grabbing most everything that wasn't bolted down and either taking it or throwing it. Inmates got three songs (including a wild Chaos UK cover) in before the show was shut down around 300 AM. That's how Chaos In Tejas 2008 ended.

Chaos In Tejas 2009 was only the second time I would miss the fest. It was very hard on me as Timmy had outdone himself bringing in oi gods Cock Sparrer, crust punk gods Amebix, New Orleans metal legends Eyehategod, and Burning Spirits legends Judgement as headliners. I use terms like "gods", "legends", and "heroes" a lot to describe the bands that played Chaos In Tejas and it might sound like I'm being hyperbolic or biased, but that isn't the case at all. That was what Chaos In Tejas was all about. It wasn't about the middle of the road acts. It was about bands that commanded cult followings or bands that helped to innovate their genre in some way or bands with a pedigree. Chaos In Tejas was the kumite of hardcore punk. An invitational for the best in the world and the greatest of all time. That was the point.

Chaos 2009 was also the first year the fest switched to a four day format and spread the action out across different venues.

I got to see Bolt Thrower in the small room at Sonar for Maryland Death Fest 2009 in lieu of Chaos 2009. It was a pretty amazing experience. Guess what? I still wish I had gotten to see Judgement. Only show absence that actively haunts me to this day.

Chaos In Tejas 2010 was Timmy's ultimate upping of the ante. The headliners were Bastard, Poison Idea, Crow, Inquisition, and Rorschach. These bands need no introduction. That was the stratosphere of Chaos In Tejas had reached. You didn't need to wonder anymore who was getting booked. You just knew it was going to be something special and that you needed to be there. In Bastard, you had arguably the greatest band of its generation in Japan playing a one night only reunion show in the USA.

I can't describe what the Bastard set was like without doing it a disservice, but I'll try anyway. It was easily the greatest hardcore punk performance I've ever seen. I touched it on when I did the post on Bastard, but I'll explain again for anyone who hasn't read that. They opened with "Tragic Insane" and that intro with a crowd who had waited their entire subculture lives to hear Bastard was surreal. Beginning with Koba's bass drum and into Iizawa's bass line coming in, the entire crowd started to move, either by moshing or anxiously shifting. By the time the feedback came in on Zigyaku's guitar, the entire crowd stopped moving. Their eyes became locked on the stage waiting for Tokurow to let out one of his cries. As soon as the intro ended, the room became unglued.

You hear about shows where no one stays still? Most of the time that's sensationalized bullshit to make the show sound cooler than it was. I can honestly tell you that everybody in the room at Emo's was moving during Bastard. Stage dives everywhere, kids moshing, slam dancing, or just pushing each other around. I said this in the Bastard post, but Bastard knew this was foreign territory and they came to Emo's to conquer it. Their performance was reflective of an invading army, rather than that of a live band. The crowd, having waited a lifetime to see Bastard and thinking they'd never get to see them, stepped up to show to Bastard they were ready for it. The result was the best show I have ever been to.

On the other side of this was Saturday headliner, Poison Idea. I could discuss how bad their performance was, but the simple fact is I walked out halfway through. I didn't listen to Poison Idea for a year after the performance because the memory of the Chaos show was that depressing. Judging from this, you can make a pretty educated guess about what happened. Jerry A was too fucked up to play. The set started with him standing too far from the mic making his vocals inaudible. The set cleared the room out. Hundreds of people walked out. It was a tragic sight. Everybody was excited to see Poison Idea that night and watching their heroes look the way they did painted a mortal face on the bands playing Chaos (ironic, given the fact that one of the members of Bastard had cheated death only days earlier). The laws of the universe dictate balance. It was only fitting then that one of the worst shows I'd ever see would come the night after the best show I had ever seen.

Chaos 2011 was the most ambitious yet. The amount of bands playing was double in size from 2010. Additionally, it was the most diverse to date. While other fests would have flavors utilizing other genres, 2011 would showcase multiple genres prominently. This included metal, hardcore punk, crust punk, pop punk, indie, and modern hardcore. In effect, Chaos 2011 was four small fests operating with each other. The outlay of the venues had expanded to include Emo's (both inside and outside), the Mohawk, and Red 7 as well as other smaller venues.

The headliners included US death metal legends Autopsy, youth crew legends Youth of Today, Finnish metal greats Hooded Menace, UK82 legends Doom and 90s hardcore greats Unbroken. By now the fest needed no introduction. It was an institution. What I was saying in 2007-2008 about people going regardless of prior knowledge of lineups was now the rule. You had to go to Chaos In Tejas. It was quietly becoming the SXSW of the subculture. If you were initiated, it was a convention of sorts where you would see dear friends from all over the world at.

Chaos 2012 was another banner year for the festival. By now the festival had hit a stride and the question became "what legends / icons can we get now?" For 2012, Timmy brought in Flying Nun Records / indie rock icons The Clean from New Zealand. Also playing were anarcho-punk legends The Mob and Antisect. He also expanded to bring in a NYHC flavor bringing together the Breakdown 87 Demo line-up together as well as The Abused. Also featured were legendary and acclaimed doom acts Church of Misery, Winter, and Saint Vitus. USHC was well represented with Tear It Up as well as black metal with Absu. Chaos 2012 was more of the same while upping the ante just a little bit more.

Do you notice that the write ups about the fest are getting smaller? Because by now, everything that could be said about Chaos In Tejas, had already been said. What happens to a festival whose legend has matched that of the bands playing it? People around the world knew what Chaos was. It had become a destination. The joke about it being the "SXSW of the subculture" was not a joke anymore. In a lot of ways, it was beautiful how far it had come. In some other ways, the scope of the fest and the bar that Timmy had been raising for himself for years had begun to take a toll. The 2013 edition featured Japanese hardcore legends Framtid, powerviolence gods Infest, British death metal legends Bolt Thrower, Finnish hardcore legends Terveet Kadet, US heavy metal legends Manilla Road, and Cleveland hardcore legends Integrity. 

The below poster doesn't do the fest line up justice. There were nearly 200 bands that played the 2013 edition. Everything from Japanese black metal greats Abigail to cult rapper Lil Ugly Mane. 

Timmy Hefner once told me in 2008, "I'll stop doing Chaos In Tejas when I don't think I can outdo myself anymore". The 2013 edition of Chaos ended with Infest. It had Framtid play two shows. It had Bolt Thrower in a room with a thousand people and no barricade. Where do you go from there?

While I was watching Infest on Sunday, it dawned on me that this really was it. It wouldn't be until months later that Timmy would announce the end of the fest. But for those of us who had been there for years and watched the fest grow into what it was, we knew back in that hangar while Infest tore through their set that it was over.

Chaos In Tejas is the most important festival in hardcore punk history. It was unique, it had flair, it had intelligence, and above all else, it had growth. It wasn't ever the same lineups. Timmy had an aversion to booking the same bands repeatedly. Chaos' audience grew with the fest. A person who went to the fest when they were 15 to see Tragedy would be coming to the fest to see Merchandise by the time they were 21. 

Chaos In Tejas was conscious of growth. Not just of the audience, but of its own as well. The fest continued to reward its audiences for their diverse and nuanced musical taste every year. There will never be another festival that will come close to Chaos because as corny as this sounds, Chaos In Tejas was in the business of making subculture dreams come true every year. When Timmy ended Chaos In Tejas in late 2013, it was him closing the book and moving on. He had done everything he had hoped to accomplish and couldn't outdo himself anymore. Rather than book a recycled lineup or downgrade the fest's quality, he just ended it. Above all of the lineups, amazing shows, and world class booking, it was Timmy's respectable refusal to compromise that made Chaos In Tejas so admirable.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Skin Deep

One of the most overdone tropes in the oi subculture is the use of football culture. I say "overdone" because I am trying to be polite. The fact is that most of the oi subculture just shouldn't talk about football. It is embarrassing. Songs like The Cockney Rejects' "War On The Terraces" or The Business' "England 5 - Germany 1" operate in counteraction to what oi should bring to the footballing world.

One of the most annoying sights in the modern subculture is your oi fan turned football connoisseur. By connoisseur, I mean wears a scarf everywhere he goes, drinks exclusively at pubs, and supports a middling English team because it is romantic. In the USA, it is doubly annoying because these types do it for the MLS.

Here's a fact about the modern oi-fan at large in the USA: they're nerds. They're nerds backed by a haircut, fashion sense, and cultural sensibility that British guys thirty years ago (likely with very questionable views) made famous and intimidating. It is painful to see it. Especially when it comes to football.

I'm Turkish. We have our own understanding of football. When Turkish fans attack / maim other fans, I'm happy about it. It is a point of pride with me. British fans are usually most vocal in their disgust of Turkish fans (notably in 2000 after the Leeds United - Galatasaray UEFA Cup tie). Brits and Turks don't like each other. We never have and we never will. The modern discourse of this hatred really goes back to World War I (between T.E. Lawrence's subversion of groups within the Ottoman Empire to Churchill getting slapped around at Gallipoli). In recent years, our hatred for each other has taken on new forms on the football pitch (most famously in the Euro 2004 qualifiers when England and Turkey were in group together). British football fans regard Turks as savages and animals. If Alf Ramsey was still alive, that's what he would say about us. We're the new Argentines.

Let me clue you in on why the Brits hate our footballing culture so much. Because we are them. We are who they used to be. Until the early 1980s, the British were the savages of Europe. Destroying cities everywhere they went, attacking other fans, etc (a lot of this is highlighted in Bill Buford's book, Among The Thugs). Before there was the farcical Green Street Hooligans film, there was Heysel. The Turks are simply the British if there had never been a Heysel. Fanatical, without reason, and violent.

Maybe this is why Skin Deep's catalog has always resonated with me so much. There's no romanticizing about football culture as a Sunday afternoon at the pub over a pint. It is a day at the club's ground, hoping beyond hope for a victory, and a well-concealed knife that is ready to go if it need be. Football is not about beer, scarves, and chants. It is about blood, pride, and silver. To this point, it only made sense that oi would naturally gravitate toward football. Scotland's Skin Deep were only around briefly from 1983 to 1986. They recorded a demo and an EP called Football Violence. Above all other oi records that address the genre's relationship with football, this is the best.

Included is the band's demo and the Football Violence EP.


Thursday, November 20, 2014


Fun. The F word in hardcore.

What we decide is fun says a lot about us. Usually the more "fun" a band is, the more they suck. Refer to: Good Clean Fun. In some cases though, bands can pull it off and do well with the fun motif. Take the case of RZL DZL who make it clear that everything they do is ridiculous, but they're high as hell while they do it so you either get it or you don't, but that's your problem. Compare this to Good Clean Fun who play to a crowd like a bad comedian, complete with rim shots, and a "is this thing on?"

Where do the Omegas fit on the fun scale? Recorded, you wouldn't necessarily say they're fun. They're a pretty straight forward mix of NYHC and first wave USHC. The mix makes them fast, mean, and bouncy (a trait that a lot of the first wave USHC bands lacked but NYHC perfected). Hailing from Montreal, Canada (one of the more underrated hardcore strongholds in North America), Omegas was formed in 2007 with Ryan "Hoagie" Hogan, Spoiler (formerly of Belgium's Justice), Yannick Sarrazin, Dan Scheme, and Tony Frenchman.

The Omegas are a tale of two different bands that are also the same. The first band is the recorded Omegas. Pissed off, unrestrained, and all over the place. The recorded output of the Omegas is stellar and their pedigree is well-traveled. Their demo was released on the European-based Powered Records. The Sonic Order EP was released on High Anxiety Records. The Blasts of Lunacy LP was released on acclaimed punk label Parts Unknown Records. Their NY Terminator EP was released on Boston's Painkiller Records. Good hardcore punk labels want to work with good bands. It isn't supernatural. Everybody has wanted a piece of the Omegas.

The second band is the live act. Omegas shows are an experience. The first time I saw them it was at Chaos In Tejas 2011 with Tragedy, Mind Eraser at a day show. Guess who was the best band? Featuring Hoagie in boxers and a duster jacket, the Omegas got the place to explode. There was a 36" pizza that was brought into the pit which led to a foodfight, a giant oversized foam Texas longhorns hat adorned with Omegas related graffiti, and kids losing their minds. A group of Chicago straight edge kids tore the room apart. At one point, they commandeered a riser box from the front of the Emo's Inside stage and started launching themselves into the crowd from every direction. It took three bouncers to physically take down one of the kids who was laughing hysterically while getting choked out.

After that show, I had to know about every Omegas show, even the ones I wasn't at. Every time the Omegas play a big fest, I hit up Spoiler about the details because I know something crazy happened. For last year's Not Dead Yet fest in Toronto, he told me about the Omegas set. The band got a friend to dress up like a bouncer (complete with SECURITY shirt) and have him try to shut down the show. The punk crowd, with a natural contempt for bouncers, was getting anxious and things looked like they were about to go south. Hoagie then grabs the bouncer by the shirt, tearing it off, and revealing under an Omegas shirt. The Omegas swerved the audience. The bouncer was with the Omegas the whole time. The crowd erupted in celebration. The whole thing was a nod to the famous Mike Tyson / Degeneration-X stunt from the WWF in 1998 and a testament to the nuanced sense of humor the band has.

That's the point of the Omegas. It is fun and it is hardcore. Both are nihilistic. That's how Omegas get away with what they do. Regardless of the act, be it a hard song or a pizza food fight... there's no higher meaning to it, it just is. The band has never lost touch with their philosophy. There's no rhyme or reason to any of it really. It just happens. They do them and the crowd follows. The Omegas' idea of fun is not fun for many people. They're a niche within a niche. They've conquered two styles of hardcore that many fail the mastery of one. The Omegas are for people with sensibilities and those without sense. That's the way they've always wanted it.

Included is their demo, all three EPs, and the Blasts of Lunacy LP.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Obliteration was the brainchild of the Nu Scene minds behind Painkiller Records (Chris "Cooch" Minicucci and Chris "CC" Corry) along with DFJ and Craig "Carms" Arms. Along with Southern California hardcore legend Jon Westbrook (Carry On, Knife Fight, Broke Needle) on vocals, Obliteration played USHC crossed with Scandinavian d-beat with vocals soaked in reverb.

They were only around very briefly. Their first show was at Chaos In Tejas 2009 playing the Cock Sparrer Emos show. They played Chaos In Tejas 2010 at the Nu Scene Shuffle show. The Nu Scene Shuffle show is arguably one of the greatest shows I have ever been to. Here's why: it took place at what is now The North Door in Austin. It was an after show that started at 2 AM. Because it was after 2, it was an open bar with all beer free. As for the music? The Nu Scene showed up sharing equipment and featured several of their bands, each playing three songs and they were off. In total the following bands played:
Mind Eraser - Scapegoat - Viper - Rival Mob - Obliteration - Mens Interest - No Tolerance - Step Forward - Waste Management

It was a tour de force. The show didn't end until around 430 AM. Obliteration was one of the standouts of the show. The band's intro "Megatons / World's Destruction" comes in with the drums and a stark riff to let audiences know its time for war. Unfortunately for Obliteration, like many Nu Scene bands, their time with us was too short. They released a demo and two EPs, This Is Tomorrow and War Is Our Destiny. In a time where bands try to pull a lot of gimmicks to get over as credible, it was refreshing to see Obliteration get over with so many aspects going on. It is tough for a band to excel at one style. Especially the daunting and ambitious cranking of the reverb on vocals. Obliteration was able to excel as a USHC band, a d-beat band, and nail the reverb sound. The stylistic hat trick, if you will.

Included is their demo and both EPs.



Of all the bands put under the “shoegazing” category, none are more misinterpreted than Oxford, England’s Swervedriver. From late 1989 until their breakup in 1998, the band put out a slew of EPs and 7” on top of four full-lengths. The misinterpretation about them being labeled “shoegazing” comes perhaps from their inclusion on the Creation Records roster that also housed notable shoegaze acts such as Slowdive, Ride, and My Bloody Valentine. Swervedriver are not a shoegazing band in the conventional sense. They had too much of an attitude and punch to their sound to be corralled into the same style of melodramatic vapour trails and ethereal soundscapes that the shoegaze acts of the day were vaunted for. 

Let’s be honest, the only time you’ve ever seen lead guitarist / vocalist Adam Franklin stare down to his pedal board at length is during the ten minute cross-country road trip of “Never Learn”. Aside from that the band can, and should, be considered an alternative experimental rock powerhouse (with some light punk tendencies). On record, specifically Raise & Mezcal Head, the band makes a very clear distinction between sections. The opening track off the record Raise, “Sci-Flyer” contrasts the incredibly solid and heavy rhythm section between Franklin’s guitar work and his upfront use of his diverse pedal board. In Raise, the band has obviously found their place and are beginning to improve on the formula they’ve created. From beginning to end, you can hear the personalities in the band start to come out. Franklin’s devotion to driving the countryside and his admiration of American cars becomes apparent in the opening tracks “Sci-Flyer”, “Pile-Up”, and “Son of Mustang Ford”. The band’s interest in movies of all qualities is put on full display in the track “Feel So Real”. To add to the personalities of the band you can also decipher the attitudes and overall feelings of the band at the time, especially in the hopelessly sad “Rave Down”. 

Raise is an extremely well crafted record that the band heavily builds upon into their follow up release Mezcal Head. However before the record could come to fruition the band had a rather dramatic “break up” with their rhythm section. On a US tour in 1992, the band’s original drummer, Graham Bonnar, ditched the band at Niagara Falls and just never came back. On top of that they also had their original bassist, Adi Vines, leave the band later on in 1992. After a reformation of the impressive rhythm section (of bass player Steve George and drummer Jez Hindmarsh) and the addition of producer Adam Moulder (Ride, Boo Radleys) comes THE record for Swervedriver, Mezcal Head. The album, out in 1993, is a much more mature rendition of 1991’s Raise. On this well-structured album, the guitar work of Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge catch up to their songwriting with distortion drenched riffs, catchy choruses, and exploratory use of effects. All of this helped the band to successfully manufacture the sounds from the aesthetics they conveyed. “For Seeking Heat” the band opens up the record with the gut punch Swervedriver is capable of leading into. The deep, catchy choruses make "Duel" another one of the standout tracks. 

The other standout track on the record showcases how great Swervedriver truly is. “Last Train To Satansville” is the best song on the record. From the opening crash and wah-ing guitars, to the relentless pacing of the rhythm section. The song's haunting opening lines “You look like you’ve been losing sleep / said a stranger on a train / I fixed him with an ice cold stare / and said I’ve been having those dreams again” further illustrates Swervedriver’s attitude. Let's not forget about the other side to the attitude of the band; Mezcal Head displays a draining feeling of disappointment. Specifically on the bonus track “Never Lose That Feeling/Never Learn”, which debuted on a 7” of the same name the year before.

The thing that sets Swervedriver apart from their shoegazing contemporaries is the importance of their lyrics and personality as opposed to mere soundscapes. When we talk about My Bloody Valentine or Catherine Wheel, we usually refer to something specific the bands did with sound. We talk about an effect or an overall sound. When we talk about Swervedriver, more often than not, we refer back to the lyrics. The band's lyrics bore much of the dream aesthetic that other shoegaze bands did. The difference for Swervedriver is that theirs came from a constant state of manic depression. A lot of the band's lyrical themes tell stories of harsh realities and beautiful delusions of grandeur.

Included are all four of Swervedriver's albums and five of their EPs.

- Hayden Robertson


Monday, November 17, 2014


This is another standalone essay. Consider the lack of a link a nod to Metallica's ignominious past with the activity of file-sharing.

Cliff Burton. Napster.

When we think about the modern discourse of Metallica as a band and their legacy, we often refer back to these two events. If you're a die-hard Metallica fan, you swear by Cliff Burton. He is a metal god. He helped to write the first three Metallica albums (and "To Live Is To Die" off ...And Justice For All) which are generally regarded by die-hard fans as the best records. If you hate Metallica, you usually refer back to the band's row with Napster. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the short of it is this: Metallica was the first and really, to this day, the most vocal act to speak out against file-sharing. They sued Napster's founder Shawn Fanning and arguments on both sides made it all the way to the US Senate Judiciary Committee. Seeing Lars Ulrich dressed like a pint-sized Danish Andrew Carnegie while sitting across from 20 year old Shawn Fanning in the United States Senate was farcical. Here we had the biggest metal band of all time (who once were nicknamed Alcoholica) making it known that they felt threatened by a kid who wasn't even old enough to buy a beer. The situation was embarrassing but not because Metallica didn't have a point. They did. Napster and the rise of file-sharing broke the music industry. Fifteen years after Napster and the music industry looks completely different. The reality is that Metallica were the soothsayers of the music industry's inevitable, and continuing, demise. The situation was embarrassing because Metallica stooped so low to get into a dogfight with a 20 year old kid over it. Refer to this grossly unnecessary and pitiable anti-Napster PSA that Lars participated in during the 2000 MTV VMAs.
The war between the music industry and the internet was always coming. It just shouldn't have been Metallica who had to lead the charge. Let's back up though, Metallica's discourse is far more complex than these two events.

If the metal world has a Janus, the mythological two-faced representation of past and future, it is Metallica. The band was originally formed in 1981 in Los Angeles by Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield. Their first recorded output was "Hit The Lights" for the Metal Massacre comp on the Simi Valley, California based Metal Blade Records. The band solidified their lineup before effectively departing Los Angeles for San Francisco with Hetfield and Ulrich along with bass player Cliff Burton and guitarist Dave Mustaine. This part of the story you know. They move to the Bay, begin work on Kill Em All and throw out Mustaine replacing him with Exodus' Kirk Hammett. After that the line-up was set, and in the following years Metallica gave arguably the best three year stretch from a band ever. I can't think of a trio of records that operate in such congruence while being so different from one another.

Metallica's 1983 debut album, Kill Em All, is a heavy metal record crossed with the UK hardcore scene. You're hearing Motorhead just as much as you're hearing Mercyful Fate. Regardless of how Mustaine might have been kicked out of Metallica, his contributions on Kill Em All are immortal. The solos on the record are Metallica's best with their length and complexity. The lyrical themes are less philosophical as they would eventually become and were more in-your-face and abrasive. This record personifies Metallica as they were. A bunch of hardcore kids / metalheads who wanted to do more. When we talk about bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Anthrax, and Slayer, we're talking about Metallica just as much as we are them. Metallica's future success will never divorce them from their subculture beginnings. Whatever Metallica would eventually become, it didn't matter because Kill Em All was the proof that they were cut from the same cloth as the rest of the subculture.

1984's Ride The Lightning, the band's second album, is considered by some as the band's finest output. Released only a year after Kill Em All, the sound was immediately different. On the opening song "Fight Fire With Fire", following a short acoustic intro the music comes in and it is almost a completely different band. Everything on Ride The Lightning sounds meaner. The vocals, the drums, the riffs. The lyrics are also heavier. Instead of thrash d'jour lyrics, Hetfield's lyrics run much deeper. "Ride The Lightning", the album's eponymous track, is the closest a metal song will come to sounding like a Johnny Cash song. "Fade To Black" is a pill of existentialism. Even "Creeping Death" is a recitation of the Biblical story of Passover. "The Call of the Ktulu" is an homage to HP Lovecraft. The riffs are more structured and a bit of departure from the work on Kill Em All. This is thanks to Kirk Hammett contributing his input to the songwriting process. Ride The Lightning helped to solidify Kirk Hammett's place as Kirk Hammett and not "Dave Mustaine's Replacement".

1986's Master of Puppets, their third and last with Cliff Burton before his death, is the crossroads album for the band. You can say what you want about the later years (let's just call it the Bob Rock era), but the stuff you would hear in the Bob Rock era was on Master Of Puppets. The intro on "Battery", the middle part of "Master Of Puppets", and all of "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" were a bellwether (or harbinger, depending on your opinion) of things to come. The point of that is this: if someone sits there and says "Metallica died with Cliff Burton" or "it should have been Lars" loses sight of the fact that Cliff was there for the writing of those parts. Who is to say that Cliff Burton wouldn't have cut his hair off with the rest of the band and sat in the Senate with Lars in 2000?

Death is the ultimate absolution in life. Cliff's death excused him of everything the band would do after him. To fans, his death made him into a metal god and the representation of who Metallica was. More distressingly, die-hard fans morbidly held up the specter of Cliff's spirit to the band as a constant reminder of who the band was, as if they could forget.

1988's ...And Justice For All is Metallica's most important album as a band. This album should forever put the "Metallica died with Cliff" argument to bed. Cliff only wrote on one song ("To Live Is To Die"). Tell me if that song doesn't sound like something that would have been on The Black Album. The rest of the album is the band's slowest and heaviest. It is grating and it is angry. The lyrical themes are about hatred, injustice, and pain. When someone we love dies, we undergo five phases of grief (the Kubler - Ross Model): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. On ...And Justice For All, we hear denial and anger. We hear it on the abstract "One". We hear it on "Harvester of Sorrow" and "Blackened". Even the band's recording process is conscious of Cliff's absence. My biggest problem with ...And Justice For All is that the bass is turned all the way down. My theory is that the remaining members did this in honor of Cliff (and conversely, in spite of new bass player Jason Newsted, whom the other members have made clear in interviews they didn't care for in the beginning). ...And Justice For All is a painful album because it is how a lot of us really approach loss. We don't cry in darkness and ask "why?" repeatedly. We break down walls, scream, attack the world and then, when our body is drained of all energy, so exhausted that we are beyond feeling and reason, do we ask "why?" That's ...And Justice For All. It is a violent journey for understanding life's ultimate question which is ironically also its answer.

1991's The Black Album marked the beginning of the Bob Rock era. For those uninitiated, Bob Rock is a record producer who began his relationship with Metallica on The Black Album and continued until 2005's St. Anger. On St. Anger, he essentially tried to weasel his way into the band after Jason Newsted quit and gave the band a lot of bad ideas. Bob Rock was never really a metal mind as much as he was a hard rock mind. On St. Anger, the band spent a great deal of time trying to understand metal at a molecular level in the hopes of reinventing themselves (it was their first album post the Napster feud). The results included the conclusion that solos were played out and over and that snare drum sound on the album. All of this is highlighted on in the documentary Some Kind of Monster. Long story short: St. Anger was awful and the band severed their relationship Rock after the album's release.

For me, ...And Justice For All and The Black Album are concept albums about loss and grief. If ...And Justice For All deals with denial and anger. The Black Album is about depression and acceptance. The Black Album is the band coming to terms with the fact that Cliff is gone and there isn't anything they can do about it. When we lose someone we love, we sometimes say "I'd give anything to have them back." Metallica was literally in that position. They had an endless fortune. They had the love and adoration of the world. They were gods among men. And here they were, despondent and lost. Songs like "Nothing Else Matters", "The Unforgiven", and "The God That Failed" are just a few examples of how the band had lost something they were hopeless to reclaim. It doesn't matter how tough you are, when true loss happens to you, it will hit you harder than anything you've ever been hit with. That's what The Black Album is. It is Cliff's death finally hitting Metallica five years later. Making peace with the loss of a loved one is never easy because of how long it takes. The Black Album is an amazing album because it is a band capturing that reconciliation on record.

If you closed the book on Metallica after The Black Album (and I don't blame you, cause I did), that's fine. In a way, the band closed the book themselves. The journey of Metallica the metal band ended at The Black Album. Metallica didn't die with Cliff as much as it did when Metallica finally said goodbye to Cliff. Only Janus didn't die, they just turned their head to reveal their hard rock face. Load and Re-Load were not for the long-haired metal kids who still wore the patch-laden denim jackets. They were for the people who started to listening to Metallica at 17 and were now 31.

Music at the end of the day is about growth. That's the last lesson from Metallica.: the Peter Pan syndrome of the subculture. If you grow up and cut your hair, change your clothes, start caring about your taxes, suddenly you've betrayed an unwritten subculture code. This expectation is unrealistic. It always has been. Metallica grew up. The subculture held it against them. Maybe that's why Metallica unabashedly sued Napster in 2000. It wasn't about money. They had enough of that. Maybe it was about revenge against a group of people who spent the better part of ten years telling Metallica who they were. They were marked traitors to the subculture, apostates to its code. They had nothing to lose and they didn't owe any of us anything because we had spit on them years ago.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Eyehategod, formed in 1988, are from New Orleans, Louisiana. To this day the only remaining original members are vocalist Mike "IX" Williams and guitarist Jimmy Bower. There's something you need to know about New Orleans. It is one of the worst cities; it is a third world country within the USA. It is thirty feet below sea level staying dry by virtue of levees made of paper mache and rubber cement paid for by the lowest bidder. It is a city whose abject poverty is so pervasive that it took a hurricane to wash most of it away (and even then, the powers that be left much of the poor folks to rot after). Then after that hurricane, the refugees fled to the major cities of Texas where the Texans were desperate to kick the refugees out and send em back to Louisiana. It is a place where the religious fervor is actually oppressive. We use that term a lot to talk about fanatical Christians, but in Louisiana you can actually feel the religious right's sleight of hand at work. Lastly it is a place where the racial divide is palpable. Hyperbole aside, Katrina really did paint a stark picture of how whites and blacks live both together and separately from each other in New Orleans.

Newton's third law states that "for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction." In the subculture, we have a law of our own: "the more fucked up the social conditions are, the better the music is." Consider Ronald Reagan's repressive, regressive, and reprehensible administrations and how that is we arrived at USHC (more or less). When you look at how bad New Orleans the society is, it is only logical that the music scene would produce something special. The result was New Orleans' famed sludge metal scene featuring Exhorder, Crowbar, Acid Bath, Down, and Eyehategod. Everyone obviously knows Down because of Phil Anselmo and Pepper Keenan (of Corrosion of Conformity). Down also features Jimmy Bower (of Eyehategod). A lot of people know Crowbar because of their heavy (and oh so polished) riffs as well as Kirk's heavy, baritone vocals.

Eyehategod is the champion of New Orleans sludge. They're the truest representation of New Orleans. Questionable socially (refer to songs like "Hit A Girl" and "White Nigger"), tortured, deviance bordering on anomie, and drug-addled. Obviously we've heard about Phil Anselmo's (mis)adventures with drugs. If Eyehategod has taught me anything, it is that Phil Anselmo is really bad at drugs. While Phil brags that he's been pronounced legally dead from overdose like four times, Eyehategod has been mainlining heroin (for that matter, anything else they can snort, smoke, or shoot) for a long time and functioning(ish) as a band for that time.

One of my favorite stories about a band ever is an Eyehategod story. It talks about when the band was recording their third album, Dopesick. This was at the height of the band's relationship with heroin. The story goes that Williams wanted to capture the sound of a bottle smashing so they could sample it for the album. He goes into the booth and smashes the bottle and then lets out the most viscerally piercing shriek you'll ever hear. While smashing the bottle, he messed up, and sliced his hands up badly. He screams and the next thing you hear is the recording booth door open and slam. The whole thing was used as the intro to the album on the opening track "My Name Is God (I Hate You)". The story doesn't end there. The rest of the band, doped up and watching all of this unfold, thinks it is the funniest thing ever. They can't stop laughing. One of the members dips their fingers in Williams' blood and starts writing stuff all around the studio, like "Hell" and "Death To Pigs". The owner of the studio had to call the label and inquire if Eyehategod was actually insane.

While bands like Down and Crowbar are polished and controlled, Eyehategod goes the other way and offers listeners a glimpse of what aggression, hate, and drug addiction in New Orleans really sounds like. Williams' vocals are pained, not like Crowbar's Kirk Windstein who sounds like a riverboat singer or Phil who sounds like a worn down country singer (for Down anyway). Williams' vocals sound like someone who was abandoned by the world, by family, by God, by love. When you truly feel like you have nothing, you won't sing about it, all you can do is scream. Jimmy Bower's guitar work has comprehension of what Eyehategod is and what New Orleans is. The riffs sound foreboding and anxious. There are times when you can actually hear Eyehategod fiending for a fix on record. Coming from a forsaken place breeds forsaken men. It was inevitable that some of them would pick up instruments and start playing music.

Included are their first four albums: In The Name of Suffering, Take As Needed For Pain, Dopesick, and Confederacy of Ruined Lives


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The 10 Greatest Hardcore Scenes Ever

Justified Arrogance is trying something a little different. In lieu of a standard essay and upload, Justified Arrogance will be posting a stand alone essay for the first time. 

Special thanks to Chris Ulsh, Arthur Spoiler, Matt Luttrell, Chris Bonner, Matthew Bellosi, and Trevor Maguire for consulting on the list. 

Honorable Mentions:
- Texas circa 2000 - Present
- Boston circa 1978 - 1985
- Italy circa 1982 - 1989
- San Francisco Bay Area circa 1982 - Present
- Chicago circa 1977 - 1984
- Toronto circa 1996 - Present
- New York City circa 2010 - Present
- Belgium circa 2003 - 2006
- Southern California circa 1978 - 1984

#10 - Southern California (West Coast Powerviolence) circa 1986 - 1997
This scene broke the mold on powerviolence. The term 'powerviolence' was actually coined by Infest guitarist Matt Domino. It would be referenced in song by Man Is The Bastard on their song "Hispanic Small Man Power (H.S.M.P.)". Following the cues of Larm and Siege, the WCPV scene came about in the mid 80s. It was based in Southern California. The major bands in the scene would include the legendary Infest, Crossed Out, Neanderthal, Man Is The Bastard, No Comment, and the Capitalist Casualties. All of these bands would establish cult followings for their brand of hardcore.

The scene's influence would be felt forever. The WCPV scene isn't some flash in the pan niche situation. They became the standard for powerviolence. The bands have been cited as an influence for countless bands. They would directly influence the powerviolence scene in the San Francisco Bay area which would lead to the creation of famous labels Slap-A-Ham Records and 625 Thrashcore.

It isn't enough that this scene was influential. Powerviolence bands after this scene seemed almost incapable of replicating their greatness. There are obvious exceptions. The Bay Area scene has received a great deal of adoration over the years with Spazz, Slap-A-Ham, and 625 Thrashcore all basing from it. Despise You, Rorschach, Hellnation, Charles Bronson, Iron Lung, Hatred Surge, and the Nu Scene powerviolence projects are the only other bands that seem to have been close to the WCPV scene since. This compared to the hundreds of bands that have tried and failed.

The WCPV scene is a metaphorical powerviolence song in itself. It was brief, it was violent and chaotic, and then it ended, leaving audiences wanting more.

#9 - Boston (Nu Scene) circa 2002 - Present
The Nu Scene is roughly 30-40 guys from Boston. At the heart of this group are Chris Corry AKA CC and Justin DeTore AKA DFJ. CC runs the Paincave which is a studio that many of the bands record at. DFJ drums for most of the bands within the scene. In the last 12 years, the Nu Scene has tackled USHC, straight edge hardcore, NYHC, powerviolence, oi and, more recently, various kinds of metal.

The Nu Scene has two labels that were the scene's engine for a long time: Painkiller Records and Lockin Out Records. In the last few years, Rock and Roll Disgrace and Fun With Smack records have shouldered some of the workload for the scene. The scene has had a relationship with other scenes working with notable personalities from other locales. This includes Jon Westbrook (Obliteration), Alex Hughes (Put To Death), and Shaun Dean (Mens Interest).

Much like the NYHC scene at #1, all of the Nu Scene's bands are held in high regard by initiated parties. Anything from the lesser known Born In Hell demo to the universally acclaimed Stop And Think demos. The output from this group is remarkable. They record and release music with little fanfare or warning. They simply just keep trekking along. The number one feature of the Nu Scene is their prolific work ethic with their quality being a close second. It is one thing to record good music, it is another thing entirely to do it at the pace and the versatility that the Nu Scene has done it in.

As far as contemporary scenes go, the Nu Scene is far and away the best in the USA (and one of the best in the world). Their work is already held high by most and they are only 12 years old. The Nu Scene doesn't even have the benefit of time and hindsight working for them yet. As time goes on, their rank on this list can only go higher.

#8 - Finland circa 1978 - Present
Finland got a raw deal when it came to attention. This can be attributed for a variety of reasons. First, a lot of Finnish bands never bothered to sing in English. This hurts when you consider the fact that bands in Japan, Sweden, and most every other foreign scene does everything in English. Second, and this is exclusively an American thing, it seems like a lot of Americans don't have an aptitude for foreign hardcore. Too often you hear about kids only just getting into Japanese hardcore and want to know the best bands. That's the second best (or first best to a lot of initiated parties) hardcore scene in the world and they're oblivious to it. It was almost a foregone conclusion that Finland would fall by the wayside.

Finland has plying the hardcore punk trade since the genre's beginning. Finland's scene would produce bands like Rattus, Terveet Kadet, Bastards, Kohu-63, Varaus, Riistetyt, and Kaaos. Finnish hardcore was dark and dreary by nature. Unlike Sweden, which was out of control and blown out, Finnish hardcore was more controlled and honed their ugly feelings into the sound. Finnish hardcore would carry on a tighter relationship with metal influences than other hardcore scenes (with the exception of the UK scene). They were doing it long before many hardcore scenes considered such a move. Terveet Kadet being one of the most successful to make the jump. Max Cavalera (of Sepultura) has cited Terveet Kadet as one of his favorite / most influential bands.

Finnish hardcore's biggest influences can be found in today's crust punk scene. While Sweden became a d-beat mecca and the UK bands moved on to other genres, Finland continued to hold it down for crust punk. Along with the USA, Finland would become a stronghold for crust punk as a genre. Bands like Terveet Kadet, Bastards, Rattus and Kaaos are sworn by in crust punk circles. More recently, Finnish bands look closer to their neighbors in Sweden with acts like the d-beat / Burning Spirits influenced Selfish and the recently defunct Kieltolaki. The scene's legends have also continued on with Terveet Kadet, Kohu-63, and Riistetyt all still touring and releasing music to this day.

The Finnish scene is the zenith of initiated scenes. While the Burning Spirits, Cleveland, NYHC, and Swedish scenes have become increasingly accessible over the years, Finnish hardcore remains out of reach to the average subculture constituent. To know Finnish hardcore is to declare you truly know hardcore punk.

#7 - Washington DC circa 1978 - 1983
Is this where it all started? If it is, they set the standard in one major respect: hardcore does not last forever. It came and went just as fast it started. Unlike New York, which took a decade to abandon hardcore and move on to post-hardcore, the DC fell apart almost as quickly as it started.

Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Youth Brigade, Faith, Void, Teen Idles, and Government Issue were just some of the bands that led the charge in DC. The DC scene was a grand experiment in hardcore punk. It was a juxtaposition of a violent scene against a sea of normos. The DC hardcore scene made the Georgetown area their stomping grounds. This was a far cry from New York's Lower East Side. In DC, the kids were well read, mindful, and socially conscious. That's not to say they were weak. They just weren't what was happening in other cities. While LA was fighting a war with the police, Boston was at war with themselves, and New York was at war with everyone, DC was being a controlled release. There was a ceiling to the aggression. This was made abundantly clear when the Bad Brains split for New York in the early years of the 80s.

DC did a lot of things differently and the results are timeless. The obvious accolade being Minor Threat's coining of the term 'straight edge' and starting the movement. The Faith / Void split is considered by many as the greatest hardcore split of all time. The split was a microcosm for what DC hardcore was and would become. Void was drenched in hate. The noisy sound, Weiffenbach's lyrical themes, and infamously violent shows are Void. Hardcore kids ever since Void have held them up as a role model. On the other side was The Faith. The Faith would be one of the first bands from the DC sound to explore melodic sounds. The rest of the scene would eventually follow them in the "Revolution Summer" with the post-hardcore style that Dischord would become famous for. DC also helped to push for all ages at shows. It was the Teen Idles who would lobby the famous 9:30 Club to allow minors in and mark them with X's on their hands to allow them entry.

DC hardcore really did get there first. In a genre that is constantly criticized for lacking originality, the early DC scene can lay claim to many firsts within the subculture. That's important on its own. Even more so, what the bands were doing musically was different. It didn't take long for the scene to abandon hardcore punk and move on to post-hardcore. They were the first to make that jump. The DC post-hardcore scene has a cult and, in some cases, mainstream following of its own today. When you do it first, maybe you don't want to keep doing it because where's the fun in doing something over and over again?

#6 - Portland circa 1980 - Present
Portland, Oregon. Doomtown. The city was designed to house a world class punk scene. When we think of college sports recruiting, we think of pedigree, facilities, culture, and lifestyle. When we apply that to punk, it is only logical that Portland would become a punk destination. Beginning with Poison Idea in 1980, Portland has flown the flag for hardcore since. In the 1980s the city played host to Poison Idea, Final Warning, Lockjaw, and Sado-Nation. This in addition to the city's world class punk scene most notably featuring The Wipers and The Rats. Together the first generation of Portland hardcore punk held it down admirably.

Poison Idea would go on to influence the some of Burning Spirits scene in Japan's second generation while The Wipers would go on to influence the grunge scene in Seattle. The Rats were made up of darling punk couple Fred and Toody Cole who are the subculture's undisputed longest running married couple. The Rats would eventually run its course and the Coles would go on to start acclaimed garage punk act Dead Moon. Dead Moon would end and the Coles would form Pierced Arrows. Basically, the Coles have made a blissful lifetime of playing great punk music.

Poison Idea would eventually become the last hardcore band standing in Portland. For a moment it looked like the city ran the risk of a dark age, considering Poison Idea's fragile balance. Then Portland got reinforcements...

In the late 90s the Burdette brothers relocated to Portland from Memphis. Arriving in Portland, the brothers' reputation preceded them. These were the guys behind His Hero Is Gone. What could they do in a punk mecca like Portland? The brothers had already started Tragedy, which at that point was still very young. They took Tragedy with them to Portland and started to increase the band's activity and output. Each release seemed to be better than the last. Along with Tragedy, Portland in the early 2000s also welcomed d-beat band Hellshock and female-fronted Lebenden Toten. With Tragedy and Hellshock, Portland became the capital for d-beat in the western hemisphere.

Besides Tragedy, the Burdette brothers took up other projects. Todd Burdette started Warcry, Trauma, and Call The Police. Paul Burdette was also in Call The Police as well as starting Criminal Damage. Criminal Damage is an oi project in the vein of Blitz. They are one of the best USA oi bands since the genre made it to this country. In addition to other bands, the Burdettes also run Feral Ward Records which has specialized in USHC, d-beat, and crust punk from around the world.

Portland has survived on because it is influential. It will continue to survive on because the nature of the city makes it a place where punks to want to go. Poison Idea helped to shape Burning Spirits hardcore. The Wipers shaped grunge. Tragedy helped shape modern d-beat. The city's influence is eternal on the rest of hardcore punk.

#5 - Cleveland circa 1982 - Present
Cleveland punk is famous for the Dead Boys to some. To the people in Cleveland hardcore punk scene, that isn't the definitive Cleveland band, The Guns are. The Guns set the tone for Cleveland, influencing much of what would become the Non-Commercial Records scene. The other major influence on the Cleveland scene would be the Burning Spirits scene for both the Non-Commercial scene and, to a lesser extent, the Dark Empire scene. After The Guns ended around 1987, the Cleveland scene would explode.

Bands like Confront, Integrity, Face Value, Ringworm and Bowel would all sprout up around 1988-1989. They would collectively lay down the foundation for the modern Cleveland scene. During the 1990s, much of the USA was losing itself in the silliness that was 1990s hardcore. Following the demise of Face Value, the Non-Commercial scene would truly open up. The Non-Commercial scene was centered on a select group of characters: Paul Schlacter (who runs Non-Commercial Records), Tony Erba (who, along with Paul, fronted most of the scene's bands), and Wedge (a Burning Spirits fanatic who drums for a lot of the scene's bands). The Non-Commercial scene would produce Cider, The H-100s, Inmates, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, Upstab, 9 Shocks Terror, Ruiners, Brainwashed Youth, and The Darvocets. For the 1990s and even early 2000s, this would be some of the best and interesting USHC. It was abrasive, both in the aggressive and sarcastic way. Bands like Inmates, 9 Shocks Terror, and Upstab would incite fights because of their sound. Bands like Darvocets and Cider would drive you insane because of how obnoxious they were. The Non-Commercial would effectively fortify Cleveland's place as a hardcore stronghold in the USA.

The Dark Empire scene was centered on metallic hardcore. From the ashes of Confront, Bowel, and Die Hard came Integrity, Ringworm, In Cold Blood, and One Life Crew. It was in this scene that metalcore would be perfected. Largely through the excellent work of the Melnick brothers and the scene's ignominious frontmen Dwid Hellion (of Integrity), Human Furnace (of Ringworm), and "Mean" Steve Murad (of One Life Crew). The scene's ability was only outshone by the controversy it drew. From Integrity's war with DMS / FSU / Victory Records to the rumors of One Life Crew's racism. Controversy followed the Dark Empire scene everywhere it went.

The vocalists from this scene are personalities that are worthy of study. Tony Erba's banter on The H-100s' live album is a textbook case of this, much like Dwid Hellion's banter on the Palm Sunday set is. The guitar work from the likes of Aaron Melnick, Frank 3Gun, and others have been emulated ad nauseum since their day. The drum work of Wedge is perhaps the closest an American will get to playing at the level of a Burning Spirits drummer. For a scene that perfected metalcore and played amazing USHC in the 1990s, Cleveland's contributions are deep to the modern discourse of hardcore.

#4 - Sweden circa 1977 - Present
"I don't know who started it and I don't give a fuck. The one thing I do know is that we did it harder, we did it faster, and we definitely did it with more love, baby. You can't take that away from us."

If one quote summed up Swedish hardcore, it is this line from the 90s film SLC Punk. While Sweden didn't necessarily innovate in the way NYHC or the UK did, they did take things to the next level the way Burning Spirits did. I imagine the day Swedes discovered d-beat was like when man discovered fire. It was a brave new world for them. The difference is that the Swedes used d-beat as an outlet to become more savage than civilized.

No scene has a prouder d-beat tradition than Sweden. Beginning with genre icons Anti-Cimex, who are arguably more beloved than Discharge, the tone for d-beat was set in Sweden. It needed to be ugly, it needed to be mean, and it needed to be unrestrained. Along with Anti-Cimex, the early Swedish scene also produced the likes of Mob 47, Avskum, and Totalitar. D-beat might have started in the UK, but it was unquestionably perfected in Sweden.

After the first generation, Sweden saw a second generation of d-beat emerge to carry on the country's tradition. These bands included Wolfpack (now Wolfbrigade), Skitsystem, Disfear, Martyrdod, and Driller Killer. Today bands like Infernoh have taken up the national style and carried on the tradition.

When you consider styles (d-beat and crust punk), ferocity, longevity and, above all else, quality Sweden is a step above most for hardcore punk.

#3 - United Kingdom (UK82 scene) circa 1978 - 1989
The UK scene innovated both the d-beat and grindcore genres. Without the work of Discharge (who put the "d" in d-beat), The Varukers, and Charged GBH, who knows what the d-beat genre would have been like? The first major grindcore scene was in the UK with Heresy, Sore Throat, Extreme Noise Terror, Unseen Terror, and eventually Napalm Death. Even the beloved death metal act Bolt Thrower began as a crust punk band within the UK scene. There is a term in Islam known as "Kharijite". It means 'those who went out'. In Islam, it is the mark of an outcast. The UK scene, for its day, were hardcore punk's Kharijites. All of them were doing something else, all the while straddling other genres. What would begin as d-beat would eventually become crossover and then bad punk. What would begin as crust punk would become death metal or grindcore.

Discharge gave hardcore punk seven of the best years anyone could ask of a band. Those years were so good that today when people hear about Discharge playing somewhere, they get giddy and excited, completely forgetting about the 28 years of utter dross the band has given us since. Discharge helped to innovate one of the sexiest genres in hardcore punk with d-beat. Along with Charged GBH and The Varukers, they gave the world the blueprint to the d-beat style.

On the other side of it, the crust punk genre owes an infinite debt to the UK scene. The modern foundation of crust punk comes from England. Bands like Amebix, Crass, Antisect, and Hellbastard (who coined the term) would help to establish the crust punk genre. It would be Deviated Instinct who would make crust punk more than just a sound as they would fashion the look (and smell) that would influence the modern crust punk. Then you factor in bands like Chaos UK, Electro Hippies, and Doom and the conclusion becomes obvious: the UK was loaded with transcendent talent.

The UK scene is one that innovated two genres and created the foundation for an entire subset of hardcore punk. For these reasons, the UK's importance can never be discounted.

#2 - Japan (Burning Spirits) circa 1980 - Present
Burning Spirits is a term that is used to describe Japanese hardcore (and is far more appropriate than the unfortunate "Japcore" label). It is an allusion to the puroresu (Japanese pro wrestling) concept of 'fighting spirit'. 'Fighting spirit' in puroresu is when a wrestler takes a gross amount of punishment and is actually emboldened to fight harder. Although the Burning Spirits moniker wasn't coined until the late 1980s by Forward's Ishiya (also of Death Side) and Buta-man (of Tetsu Arrey), Japan's hardcore scene was already been developed and had been one of the best in the world for some time.

Japanese hardcore's first generation included bands like Gauze, GISM, Lip Cream, Death Side, Systematic Death, and Gudon. All of these bands featured some of the best to ever do it. From frontmen like Ishiya and Sakevi to the virtuoso guitarists. Japanese hardcore is heavily influenced by the earliest UK hardcore punk bands, most notably Chaos UK and Discharge. The early UK scene was the template for the Burning Spirits genre. The second generation would be influenced a little more by Poison Idea (who were influenced by the first generation of Japanese hardcore). With Pig Champion (of Poison Idea) being one of the greatest American hardcore guitarists of all time, it should come as no surprise that Burning Spirits guitarists are some of the best to ever play. Japan's first generation gave us at least 4 of the top 10 hardcore punk guitarists of all time: Randy Uchida (GISM), Souichi (Gudon), Zigyaku (Gudon), Chelsea (Death Side) and Momorin (Gauze).

What make Japan a remarkable scene is that the second generation is arguably better than the first. The second generation featured bands like Bastard, Judgement, Framtid, Forward, Disclose, Tetsu Arrey, Paintbox, Warhead, and others. It was in the second generation that Japanese hardcore officially became Burning Spirits. In addition to mastering hardcore itself, Japanese bands would also attack raw / noise punk with bands like Zyanose, D-Clone, and Disclose. Disclose's Kawakami would become a legend within his own right for his work.

Much of the second generation of Japanese hardcore has continued on to this day. I just saw Forward last weekend. I saw Framtid last year who were celebrating the release of a new album. Warhead has a new album in the works. Consider the fact that the second generation has soldiered on into what would be a third generation for most other scenes and that the bands holding it down are still excelling. Consider the fact that a lot of these bands' personnel is made up of people from the first generation.

Burning Spirits will live on as long as the people within it do. Chelsea played in Death Side, Poison Arts, and Paintbox until he died. Kawakami played in Disclose until he died. Burning Spirits is a lifer operation through and through.

#1 - New York City (NYHC) circa 1982 - 1994
Everything about this scene is iconic. Books have been written about it (notably the much anticipated book by Tony Rettman). Movies are being made about it (Ten Thousand Saints starring Emile Hirsch and Ethan Hawke). Kids have made it their mission to model their lives off the people from this scene. Modern hardcore bands have tried desperately to capture this scene's essence. The fact about NYHC is that it was the right time, right place. Much like the Fertile Crescent made the conditions ripe for the empires of Mesopotamia, so did the social wasteland that was 1980s New York make it possible for the NYHC scene to come about. Every piece of music from this era is held in some form of high regard. Be it The Age of Quarrel or Underdog's abominably recorded Carl The Mosher demo, it is all beloved.

The world knows CBGB as a musical mecca. Here's a fact: CBGB was it what it was because of NYHC. That place earned a reputation because of the likes of the Bad Brains, the Cro-Mags, Youth of Today, and Agnostic Front. Never forget that when CBGB began to go under that it was the hardcore bands who reunited en masse and tried to save the day. It wasn't Blondie, who didn't show up until the venue was officially shutting down and then she came to pick the bones, or any of those other A-list bands who held up their CBGB lineage like a badge to gain some kind of credibility among wealthier circles.

So many of the motifs we think of in hardcore were immortalized in the NYHC scene. Straight edge with Judge, Project X, Youth of Today, and others. Skinheads with Youth Defense League, Warzone, Agnostic Front and others. They had melody down with Gorilla Biscuits, Underdog, and others. And violence? They all had it covered. NYHC was a fighting scene. They had to be. They lived in the concrete jungle.

The scene is one of a kind. It won't ever happen again. Top to bottom perfection. It is everything you wanted a hardcore scene to be. It is everything that hardcore scenes have measured themselves against since.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Wipers

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” That’s how the saying goes. In fact, Steve Jobs stole the damn quote from Picasso and thus created a debate on who actually said it first. That’s how the creative process works for most people; you hear or see something that you like and you try to recreate it in some way until eventually it becomes your own. You can try to duplicate something exactly, but there are two issues in doing so: 1) your own personality naturally slips into that process of recreation and automatically starts to stray you away from the original and 2) what is the point of doing something that’s already been done? There isn’t. Building upon something, however, is a completely different story.

There’s a foundation to everything, a backbone holding every piece of work up, or some source of inspiration lying behind the creator’s thought process somewhere. Whenever I listen to music, I don’t just listen to what’s going through the speakers. I think of two things: the influence and the writing process. People want to know where their meals come from right? Why should music be different? Take, for example, the greatest mosh part ever written in the Bad Brains’ "Right Brigade". Aside from the fact of how great the song itself is, I am always left wondering, “How the fuck did they think to do that?” Modern music has it easy. You have these set guidelines for how to write a mosh part or a how to structure a song, but back in the inception of these various genres of music, they didn’t have much to work from. Hardcore punk only covers a small fraction of the musical spectrum, so let’s move beyond that.

The 90’s are huge right now and are incredibly romanticized; everything from the clothing, the products, the TV shows, and the music. Especially the music. Some of the most influential bands of this era are obvious: Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Melvins, Mudhoney, and the list could go on. But who influenced them? Sure, there’s a probably an incredibly long laundry list amongst all of them, but what is the one band that they can all trace back to? The Wipers.

By no means am I downplaying any of the precedents that any of these bands have set, but what I’m asking is shouldn’t the band that influenced your influences be held in a much higher esteem than they already are? There’s infinite acclaim for the aforementioned list, but the amount of acclaim for The Wipers is criminally underwhelming by comparison. This is a travesty. The Wipers are by far one of the most important American (punk) rock bands ever.

Often categorized as a punk band, they struggled to see themselves fitting in that category with each release. The Wipers, the brainchild of Greg Sage, was formed in 1977 and intended to be a recording project to do 15 LPs in 10 years. No touring, no promo. As time went on, this obviously didn't remain the case but the DIY mentality never faded away. They wanted to record the music themselves and put it out on their label through their own funding. Maybe the rejection of extended promotion is the reason why they were left in the shadows of their successors. Nirvana has stated that The Wipers one of, if not the biggest, influence of their music. Nirvana covered one of the best Wipers tracks, “D-7”, which ended up being a major contributor to their later recognition.

Sage early on discovered the key to success with his seminal “labyrinth guitar soaked punk rock epics” that would be eventually be borrowed by all of the aforementioned bands. The band has a lot of material, but the first three releases are by far the most important: “Is This Real?”, “Youth of America”, and my personal favorite, “Over The Edge”. It’s a very interesting phenomenon being able to listen to your favorite bands and finding the bands that were innovating the stylings of your favorite bands before they were even formed. Take a listen for yourself. Maybe tracing back and, later appreciating, the creative process will become a habitual action that will be sure to take music from being something you just do to something you give a shit about again.

- Jay Chary

Included is Is This Real?, Youth Of America, Over The Edge, Land of the Lost, the Alien Boy EP, and the Better Off Dead single