SCRAP BRAIN – UNHAPPY HARDCORE (2018)
This new year (sorry 2017, missed you out entirely) gets to wake up with Scrap Brain proffering a sour 7″ that does them waaay more justice than their first demo could. The production boost has worked out near perfect for the band, a bunch of strident London prickly punx with a great reputation who needed a sick record and got one. Vocalist Camille comes across bold against the juddering movements of the music, erudite and human and out of breath, while the impatient censor bleeps of clotted feedback and blindsiding switches between fast punk and moments that oddly allude to Gallhammer‘s sparsity earn them an arty, noise rock thumbs up. ‘Vindictive’ is a hateful banger, one of a few tracks on the record that are far too easy to enjoy for a band giving their best shot at making Unhappy Hardcore.
MIDNIGHT PARASITE – DEMO (2016)
Raw punkmetal from Norwich (see: Jackals, Sonic Order, Deviated Instinct) – this first demo from Midnight Parasite is mean as hell and gripping throughout, delivering five tracks of spluttering dbeat/notorious metal gallops that get swallowed up in a caustic fizzing guitar tone, a scummy mix of Hellhammer and Hoax. Fast forwarding the gritty Axegrinder – Grind The Enemy sound through three decades of refinements, it’s a surge of strained guitar wails and excess distort that strikes the right balance between messy and crushing, maybe done best on the shortest track ‘Immersed In Death’. Although they have a quite different approach, Midnight Parasite are severely needed in the absence of bands like Crowd Control, and as ever, it’s superb artwork from Wes.
BEG – S/T 7″ (2016)
Superhuman chaos grind from a member of Art of Burning Water (‘PhD-beat‘ 10/10) and a member of The Afternoon Gentlemen – so restless and heavily encrypted it could be both bands playing at once. Beg churn out the most challenging spread of riff/blasts you’re likely to encounter this year, segmenting their tracks into hundreds of brutal hurdles that hurt the brain as much as the ears, and underneath the bursts of flak, a constant nauseous whirl of soft noise exarcebates the pervading sense of unease. Krupskaya and Narcosis both hit this level of rare intensity in years passed, but neither did it in this warped manner, bringing in serrated bits of repurposed AmRep sludge and maniac powerviolence and often executed as surgically as extreme metal. A truly brilliant seven minutes of mastergrind 7″.
REVENUE – CS (2016)
A glorious 5 goals scored by London’s new suave punks, Revenue, featuring members of Jackals, that little known band Fat White Family, No Coast and a few other acts (Boneyards? Easy Hips? Static Palm?) that probably ring zero bells to resolutely punk ears. This first demo is an excellent guide to making achingly modern updates on classic guitar music without coming across like empty-headed fashion mopes (the kind that huddled around Power Lunches until its closure) – the runaway bass pogo jaunts, covert rock’n’roll melodies and matter-of-fact vocals demand attention regardless of whether you’re coming to the band as a fan of Observers/Red Dons, The Adverts or The Walkmen. The unfussy production works so well applied to the lively nature of Revenue’s tracks, and consider it mandatory to pick up this tape from Whipping Boy Records if you’ve ever obsessed over bands like The Estranged or La URSS.
DRORE – TAPEONE (2016)
Extraordinarily crude sludge headaches from Oxford’s newest, Drore. Their first demo (which sold out way too fast…) is a filthy disharmonic sandpit of deliberate mishits and bellicose riffing that opens with the literal sound of pissing before proceeding into a savage musical portrayal of passing agonising kidney stones. The four songs are crammed with loose strung buzzsaw riffs, each one a composite of multiple quarreling notes that ooze unease, and the raw vocals are overflowing with despondency. There’s a musty metallic taste that brings to mind Lich, an angular darkness that relates well to Ghold’s PYR, and during the most terrifying passages, Drore sound like Deathspell Omega’s punk side project. It’s obscene, obscure and incompatibly brutal, and one of the most crucial demos to get to grips with this year.
SEMI – GO VIRAL (2016)
London’s Semi only crop up once in a while, dishing out doses of repellent noize hardcore punk to confused audiences then skulking away again, but now they’ve got something posted permanently online in the La Vida Es Un Mus 7″ Go Viral. The four tracks are pickled in a piercing bitcrushed treble that renders everything positively inaudible, covering up their crashing pogo with torrential distortion and scrambled FX, and with dial-up breakdowns and complaining vocals, Semi tread the fine line between punk sophisticate and lowlife scum punk extremely well. An essential update for fans of The Wankys, as well as followers of semi-related capital city bands like No, Snob, Good Throb. Beware of this audio malware.
MARKED FOR DEATH – TOP 10 HITS (????)
Marked For Death sound too good to be new – high concentrate blunt force hardcore played viciously fast and direct like this has become virtually extinct in the last few years, and this release does nothing to change the sparse outlook either… On closer inspection, the nine tracks are either a Best Of compilation or re-recordings of old songs (the originals released in the early 2000s), put up ahead of their imminent reunion show with Siege at Temple of Boom. A relic of a BBC article, a live set supporting Mental, their Discogs and this Collective Zine thread provide a bit of context for this gnarly Middlesbrough band, and their frantic style of brutal rotor blade riffs and lean songwriting echo through the excellent Volunteers, SSS at their punkest/fastest, Never Again’s ‘Pressure II‘, and the indomitable Voorhees, who get a decent cover here. Wipes the floor with some of the contrived attempts at hardcore that are so popular currently.