Noel’s Straight Hedge: Punk & Hardcore In Review For May

This month's selection of punk and hardcore and OMFUG is particularly spicy and trenchant... even by Noel Gardner's standards

Didn’t plan it that way, but this wound up being a particularly noisy edition of Straight Hedge. Other approaches are available, of course, and I hope and expect to have something jangly and sweeter-natured to laud in the near future, punk and hardcore being a rich stylistic tapestry. April, however, is mainly given over to apocalyptic screech, feedbacking churn, redlined mixers and more than a few metal riffs. It comes to something when bananas Belgians Cocaine Piss serve as light relief among the crop, I can tell you.

First, though, the steel-jawed force of nature and rampaging metalpunk that is No One Wins, the debut album by Game. A storied ensemble, where each of the four members have played in more bands than most normal people watch in a year, it comes with skull-heavy sleeve art by Game’s skull-happy bass player, Nicky Rat, and is released on vocalist Ola Herbich’s label Quality Control. I made passing reference to Game in a previous column, circa their debut release Who Will Play? (issued on flexidisc, for whatever reason), with the assertion that Herbich is one of the best frontpeople in the biz, or indeed game, and time has only cemented this view. Not much chat, camo boilersuit as standard garb, death stares that melt steel beams, total beast of a voice. Given only one of those elements can be employed on record, No One Wins does a bang up job of replicating Game’s barrage for home listening.

The quartet’s ‘thing’ is metal bombast crammed into a HC frame, the most canonical ancestors of this carry-on coming from Japan: GISM and Death Side, notably. These groups, by their nature, were stylistically impure and excitingly not-right, and so it is that you can pick out elements from these ten songs and wonder why more bands aren’t forging this path. There’s blazing Slayer/crossover thrash leads and early Celtic Frost chug (Morbid Tales is a hardcore album, change my mind) from guitarist Callum Baird, manic Satanic Venom panic, Integrity demoncy, warpspeed Deep Wound fretboardcore on ‘Curse’ and a coupla outbreaks of battle metal swagger, six-minute LP closer ‘Foundation & Empire’ entering into this with the most gusto. Herbich sings in the two languages she speaks, Polish and English, but you’ll be fine picking out a few snatched phrases at most while getting bowled along, whatever your tongue. Essential for punks and metalheads alike.

Icelandic hardcore goddesses Dauđyflin have also been described feverishly in past Hedges, what with them being one of the best bands of their type in recent years. Sometimes, this has been in the context of polite awe that a nation with roughly the same population as Sunderland produces so much good music. The latest, of relevance here at least, is D7Y, who feature people from Dauđyflin as well as industrial-charred HC duo Roht and Óreiða, a psychedelic black metal entity which I’m pretty sure is just one member of Roht. If it’s actually quite hard (if not impossible) to ascertain the names of D7Y personnel, the music on their self-titled debut LP (Iron Lung) is anything but cagey: earthmoving D-beat filth with a bass sound that feels like you’re being incubated inside a Matamp cabinet.

Sometimes relatively midpaced (‘Klukkan Telur Niður’, say) but often whip-fast, D7Y’s approximation of Doom, Disclose, Totalitär and such has a tangible last-band-on-earth mania, like they nipped out of the recording studio for a smoke and saw a mushroom cloud. ‘Þú Ert Ekki Til’ is the big singalong-the-title-even-if-you-don’t-speak-the-lingo number and I can sorta see this band hitting paydirt in rarified circles, in that D7Y is basically just a really great crust record. Oh, and no drama but I think whoever did the cover art has taken a big bite out of Temple Of The Morning Star by Today Is The Day.

Splitting hairs and wigs alike, we journey from D-beat to noisepunk – less an epic quest, more like your dad leaning over the fence to lend some garden shears to a next door neighbour – with Howling Mind (La Vida Es Un Mus), the debut album by Australia’s Enzyme. On the basis of their first two 7-inches being titled Abuse Of Power and Piss On Authority, you’d be forgiven for assuming this band mere keen peddlers of subgenre stereotype, but this isn’t quite right. Yeap Heng Shen, ex of the superb Krömosom (unconfirmed if Enzyme is intended, as per the name, to be a conceptual succession), plays guitar with that shrill-drill atonality Disorder patented in the early 80s and throws in some phaser-heavy psychedelia. LVEUM’s blurb reckons it’s a Les Rallizes Denudes thing, more contemporaneously it shares headspace with what Geld, Urin and Casual Nun have been up to recently. Drummer Jake Revell has an unusually busy style for this sort of music, a full-kit whacker who could probably hold his own in a prog rock band, and vocalist Stuart Marshall is buried in the mix but punches yobbishly through the rubble, sounding like he’s trying to emulate Void’s John Wieffenbach as heard on a dodgy live bootleg. Howling Mind has enough individuality to elevate it over dozens of similar, more consciously stylised releases, but enough of the commonly understood good stuff that, to quote punk review columnist Abraham Lincoln, people who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.

Cocaine Piss, from Liège in Belgium, are travellers on a slightly different circuit than most of the other bands in this column. Sure, they release their records, including new, third album Passionate And Tragic, on the Hypertension label, and make an energising garage/noiserock chonk on those records, but also seem to have become one of those ‘punkest band playing otherwise slightly bland indie festival’ type acts. (Forthcoming UK dates include slots at The Great Escape and Arctangent.) I have no wish to be a punisher about what is/n’t ‘punk’, though, and it does seem like the quartet accrued their popularity because people genuinely like them, so let’s consider the 12-song cavort that is Passionate.

A Cocaine Piss song is typically under two minutes and paced similarly to, say, a Dangerhouse Records band, but with fuzzier, more effects-ridden and demonstrably rockist guitar, courtesy of Mathias Estelles Y Carrion. Rhythms are comparatively foursquare, perhaps curiously so given that new bassist Farida Amadou has a background in free jazz, while Aurélie Poppins’ vocal manner is as eyebrow-raising as her birth-given-as-far-as-I-can-tell name. Her declamatory shriek, very much the fulcrum of the mix (an Albini/Electrical Audio job, so you know it sounds ‘pro’ and has big drums), is mostly in English with occasional recourse to French, and is a choice vehicle for lyrics which skip between self-abasement, self-improvement, snark and horniness, aka the four horsemen of daily existence. On ‘Something For You To Worry About’ she sounds like a cross between Mark E Smith and Yasuko Onuki from Melt-Banana, which before hearing this 20 minutes of big riffs and good craic I wouldn’t have imagined possible.

The third album by Nots is a tasty piece of groovy garage punk, just FYI, but it’s also not out quite yet – unlike the warm-in-the-racks debut LP by Memphis’ Hash Redactor, who feature Meredith Lones and Charlotte Watson from Nots. So I’m reviewing that instead. Drecksound (Upset The Rhythm in Europe, Goner elsewhere) is hard-graft, rock-informed punk, a mite crabby but really just here for a good time: Hash Redactor vocalist Alec McIntyre is also in Ex-Cult, and that group’s garagey spin on post punk isn’t a thousand miles from what’s going on here. His scornful croak sometimes resembles Country Teasers’ Ben Wallers, for example on ‘Step 2: Success’, sometimes Coachwhips-era John Dwyer, like on the hectic and pleasingly titled ‘Open Invite (To The Caves)’. It often feels like the primary thing fuelling Drecksound is the tension between the Lones/Watson rhythm section and the two guitarists, McIntyre and George Williford: the latter faction sound perpetually on the verge of wildin’ out, but are reined in by their bandmates’ elbow-greased efficiency.

Here’s a tape named Dick Tape (Everything Sucks Music) by Basic Dicks that comes heroically close to transmitting the exact same messy abandon of their live performance. I bought it immediately following one, just a few days ago as I write, so feel vaguely qualified to state this. From Oxfordshire and numbering four – including two vocalists, sisters Taz and Loz – Basic Dicks play a something-for-everyone melange of quicksharp, vaguely anarcho-y punk and slower, grungier dirge-jabs. The five songs on Dick Tape (dictate? Duct tape? Tit tape?) are basic, or at least not complex, and uphold a frankly banterous brand of feminism which is by no means dickish. Unless you are East 17’s Brian Harvey, whose infamous post-supper car accident is referenced in the lyrics to ‘Giant Potato’. Or barely-convicted rapist Brock Turner, mocked and castigated in ‘Gone Off Steak’; men, or opinion poll-based agglomerations of men, who “prefer the natural look” (‘Slap’); men with small white cocks (‘White Cock’); men (‘I Am Man, Hear Me Bore’). Except you, the man reading this.

Feels remiss that State Funeral, one of several very good current hardcore bands from Brighton, are being mentioned in these unhallowed pages for the first time. I’ve only passed over one previous release, in fact – Tory Party Prison, from 2016 – but since then their spectre has grown in UKHC circles, with their full-tilt gigs enlivened by a vocalist, Archie Cloutman, who performs with a bag over his head. Readers unfamiliar with State Funeral might kneejerkishly assume this is a low-rent gimmick to distract from pedestrian music, but (in addition to suggesting that in a world full of vocalists with no bag over their head, there is room for this minor deviation) their latest five-song 7-inch Built For Destruction (Static Shock) PROVES this wrong. It’s a ruthless patchwork of threateningly clompy intros, militaristic gee-’em-up drums, mosh parts and the skimmed cream from the HC scenes of early 80s Boston, New York and any of at least a dozen drudgeful UK towns. Cloutman kills it on the mic, like a first wave thrash metal frontman gone Oi! except better than that’d likely be, and the title of their debut still points towards their lyrical tack (why wouldn’t it?), as per the lyric “Self-serving nature that hangs like a cloud / Maggie’s little soldier, making her proud.”

Also on Static Shock, and back after a few years without releases but with intermittent live wildness, are Dublin’s studded screech owls Disguise with Bas Fada. Bought their Signs Of The Future LP when it came out, in 2015, and sure it was big loud crusty blare, but these six newies are something else. Not, like, uncharted territory: I’ve encountered Japanese-influenced hardcore whose guitars sound even less like guitars than these. Mixing techniques (in this instance courtesy of Jonah Falco, best known as a Fucked Up member but most recently drummer on the Game album) that consciously or not take on a dub-like gut-throb. Beastmode vocals akin to a Doberman issuing threats through a small railway station’s PA. Lyrics, very much taken on trust, that usually employ two words per line and lean on a compressed form of fire-and-brimstone hysteria. These are recognisable working methods, so it’s remarkable to me how irregular Bas Fada sounds. Definitely feels like one of those hardcore records noise devotees might get a lot from, despite Disguise striking me as straight-up punx with no obvious interest in that supposed power electronics crossover node.

I have written about Oslo’s Purple X before, but it was only two sentences in an end of year review, and I rate their self-titled debut 45 on the Byllepest label, which follows up the demo tape that prompted those two sentences. These four songs betray development, although you might call it a sidestep: here, the group are a little less freaky, more given to brood in deathrocking manner. Could put a spanner in the ointment of anyone initially on board for Purple X’s Dawn Of Humans-like wrigglecore tendencies, but I’m still down. Tone Espedalen has found reserves of vocal power, and lyrics that deftly juggle resistance-uber-alles sentiment and hippy idealism; behind her, some unnaturally catchy, pre-skatepunk melodic hardcore prevails, an almost Dead Kennedys-like riff piping up on ‘Daddy Issues’. Find myself thinking of Shattered Faith, or some other band who were/would have been on Posh Boy Records in the early 80s: yep, got plenty of room for that.

Upon which we jerkily circle back to tankard-raising metal madness with one of the stone killers of recent UKHC subterranea, Through Screams Of Infernal Misery (Cold Comfort) by Implement. This is a two-song, eight-minute tape, so in this reporter’s view cannot avoid being a cassingle even if it has its own title… but is surely a harbinger of imminent Implement-branded flat circular blackness. A Leeds outfit active for about nine months to date, the previous two Implement EPs hinted at their metal tendencies, albeit concealing them inside songs of typical hardcore length, but once you get a lug of ‘Total Control’s guitar intro – exquisite squeal; Eddie Van Halen joining Cro-Mags for their second album? – you’re in deep. Crossover thrash verses and power metal breakdowns leave you anticipating a bangover and Leah Massey is a vocal revelation. ‘Rot In Sin’ does much the same thing, except chuggier and faster and with the squeal near the end. Witnessed a swathe of people go from zero to “holy crap!” watching this band at the recent Static Shock Weekender, indeed I was one of them, so come with us if you want to riff.

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