2008 is a year that has been ripe with political hyperbole, shaky economies, and bad, bad music. In times like these it can be hard to know what you can count on. Thankfully this year has been a great time for the ever reliable and consistent ass kicking ability of Japanese hardcore. A string of great releases have made their way to us nervous Americans to assure us that somewhere, at least in the world of punk rock, somebody knows what the hell they’re doing. Here is a short round up of newly available U.S. versions of amazing Japanese punk rock records. These have been glued to my turntable.
Gauze –Binbou Yusuri No Rizumu Ni Notte LP
Name a punk rock band that has all been around for nearly thirty years, has all original members, and has never made a crappy record? ”Such a band does not exist,” you might answer, but you would be wrong. Gauze is the answer. These guys might be well into middle age but their music has not let up one bit. This is only Gauze’s fifth record since forming in 1982, and it finds the band at its most vicious. While other well established band s look to Pro Tools to make their records more produced and clean, Gauze‘s new record delivers a totally raw and almost live sounding experience. On this record you’ll find the ugly, jerky, stop and go thrash that the band is famous for, but this time around the songs are even faster and more vicious. The mix is thin and in the red, yet the raw recording only makes their sound more frantic and immediate. It’s nearly impossible to find another band that has been around since the early years of punk and still sound as vital as these guys do on this album. Their last record came out ten years ago so don’t miss your chance to own a new Gauze record while it’s available. This was released on CD in Japan earlier this year and now Prank Records has brought it to the U.S. on twelve inch vinyl. Prank may be sold out but if you check the mail-order section of their website, you’ll see a list of distros that carry Prank Records. You should do this now.
Gauze - Eat a Meal
Paintbox- Singing, Shouting, Crying LP and Earthball Sports Tournament LP
Normally if you used phrases like, “melodic and hooky” or “blends different styles” when describing a hardcore band to me, I would instantly lose any desire to hear them. Apply those phrases to Tokyo’s Paintbox and it’s a different story. The band is amazing because they take the speed and ferocity of traditional Japanese hardcore and blend it with hard rock riffs, pop hooks and a sense of melody. This is some seriously energetic hardcore but their records can be a bit jarring. They go from straight ahead thrashers to more rocking melodic songs, made stranger by the occasional use of such non-punk instruments as the keyboards, acoustic guitars and strings. In anyone else’s hands this style would fall flat or worse, get you a slot on the Warped tour.Thankfully, Paintbox use this weird mix of style and sound to create unique and passionate punk rock that doesn’t let up on the drive or intensity. Singing, Shouting, Crying was originally released in ’99 by the Canadian label Ugly Pop. Earthball Sports Tournament was released on CD by HG Fact in Japan in 2000. Both records are now again in print thanks to Prank Records. These two albums are made even more important by the recent passing of Chelsea, the bands guitarist. Chelsea was the string shredding master in the legendary band Death Side and truly one of the best musicians in underground music.
Paintbox - A Mirror World
Blowback- Living Vibration LP
I was unaware of Blowback until I saw them on their U.S. west coast tour with Portland Oregon’s Tragedy. Blowback stole the show with their thick and burly hardcore. They were painfully loud, the singer had a great voice and he flung himself around like a madman. Their new album, originally released in Japan by HG Fact, delivers everything I liked about the band at the show. This is nasty sounding hardcore punk with the dark, bombastic sound of Discharge and a healthy dose of Motorhead style hard rock swagger. Living Vibration contains eleven mostly mid-paced songs with loud, thick guitars a solid, pounding rhythm section and some strained and over the top vocals. Blowback is a great reminder that punk and hardcore both come from rock n roll. Portland’s Black Water Records have made this available on vinyl in the U.S. so don’t miss out on a masterpiece of boom and crash.
Blowback - Cut of the World
A few years ago, Quentin Tarantino’s sorely underrated grind-house flick, Death Proof blew movie goers away with its subtle genius. In addition to being a thrill ride of action and danger, it had soundtrack typical of Tarantino’s style; great songs by fairly obscure or long-forgotten artists. For example, he revived the R & B hit of the 70’s, “Son of a Preacher man” by Dusty Springfield in Pulp Fiction, and he introduced us to the Japanese pop group The 5678s in Kill Bill Vol. 1. This go-around, the song “Chick Habit” caught the attention of music lovers. Fueling an underground revival of French Pop.
“Chick Habit” is sung by April March, an American born francophone who specializes in 60’s French Pop. She covered Serge Gainsbourg’s “Laisse tomber les filles” in French, as well as its English version, “Chick Habit.” When you delve deeper into the roots of the song, you find French Pop and Ye-Ye Girls.
“Laisse tomber les filles” was written by Gainsbourg for France Gall in 1964. Gall was Gainsbourg’s pet project in the 60s. She was fresh and innocent, with great sex appeal. France Gall’s voice was like hot chocolate from a candy shoppe. It was sweet and warm and has just enough flavor to make you want more. She had the perfect 60’s pop voice, similar to Nancy Sinatra in style.
Betweeen 1964 and 1967, Gall worked with Gainsbourg, singing his original songs. He was known for writing lyrics that had sexually innuendo, but Gall may not have realized what she was singing about. In hindsight, the Gainsbourg songs were some of her best, but at the time, the critics condemned her for singing such racy lyrics.
Baby Pop is the story of a young girl who was forced to marry a much older man and lost her innocence, having only her music to keep her going. Les Sucettes is about eating lollipops, but has obvious undertones of oral sex. Nefertiti is about being obsessed with the Egyptian Queen in a post-mortem sort of way.
Gall finally ended her contract with Gainsbourg and, over the next decade, worked to develop her own sound and style. In the mid 70’s, she finally hit her stride and became a long-lived pop star.
Gall’s career spanned over 30 years until the 90’s when her husband and collaborator, Michel Berger, died after having a heart attack in 1992. She released one more studio album in 1996 and a few live albums after that, but retired from singing in 2001. Her later songs fall into the category of contemporary pop. By far, the shining time in her career was in her early years, when she was 17 and singing songs about baby sharks and sawdust dolls.]]>
One of the most popular bands leading the throw back metal resurgence is Richmond Virginia’s Municipal Waste. Since 2000 the Waste has been refining a hardcore/metal crossover style. The “Waste’em All” album on Six Weeks Records is a perfect punk/metal hybrid. They have since shed some of their punk/hardcore influence and are sounding more and more like a classic thrash metal band. They are currently on Earache Records and have released two more full lengths; “Hazardous Mutation” in ’05 and “The Art of Partying” in ’07. The Waste has a killer live show and has toured all over the world. This band is a hell of a lot of fun. With songs like “Head Banger Face Rip” and “The Thrashing of the Christ,’’ Municipal Waste uses a lot of humor. They’re sort of like the metal equivalent of a Troma movie.
Portland, Oregon’s Toxic Holocaust is an old school, one-man, thrash monstrosity. Joel Grind is the metal monger behind Toxic Holocaust. He takes his cues from albums like Onslaught‘s “Power From Hell” and early Bathory records. This metal is fast, raw, primitive and primal, with a proto-black metal feel. Since ’99 Toxic Holocaust has released two full lengths, “Evil Never Dies” and “Hell on Earth” as well as some ripping splits, 7 inches and comp songs. Relapse Records are releasing the bands upcoming album “An Overdose of Death”. Donnie Paycheck from Zeke is going to play drums on this one; it might burn your face off!
Merciless Death from Canyon Country, California is a band that is dedicated to thrash metal authenticity. Their sound is a mix of the rawness of early Possessed and the more polished riffing of Exodus or early Slayer. The band has released two full lengths, “Evil in the Night” in 2006 and “Realm of Terror” in 2008. Both records are testaments to classic 80’s thrash metal. The cover art to “Realm of Terror” is done by the great Ed Repka, whose art has graced the covers of seminal 80’s thrashers such as Megadeth, Nuclear Assault, Death and Possessed among others. A Merciless Death album would fit right in that stack.
Just like it did in the 1980’s, Brazil is cranking out some full bore, old school thrash metal. Sao Paulo’s Bandanos, has a shredding new debut CD on 625 Records, incredibly titled “We Crush Your Mind with the Thrash Inside”. They play some raging crossover thrash that pays tribute to mid-80’s Accused and Venice Ca, thrashers Excel. The bands MySpace proudly claim they are the “son’s of Venice Beach”. Violator is another current Brazilian thrash power house. They take their influence from the most seminal of 80’s thrash acts like Slayer and Nuclear Assault and, well, pretty much stop there. In fact an ad for their new CD “Chemical Assault” boasts that the album has “no new influences and no trendies at all. Only old school thrash metal, nothing more”.
Of course no sub-genre of music is complete without a record label to support it. Well consider the current thrash resurgence complete thanks to New York’s Heavy Artillery Records. Calling themselves “A new force in old school metal,” Heavy Artillery has a healthy roster of current thrash acts. Check out their ‘’Speed Kills … Again!” compilation. This comp features the afore mentioned Toxic Holocaust and Merciless Death as well as fellow retro-thrashers Warbringer, Enforcer, and the “Germanic” thrash of Avenger of Blood (they sound exactly like Kreator.) The compilation is a cool and cheap way to find out what this label is all about.
This particular genre band wagon is filling up fast, but there are some really great bands playing this style. Check the “friends” list on the MySpace page of any of the bands mentioned here. There are a lot of bands playing just about every possible form of thrash metal .The current thrash resurgence may not be adding much to the modern musical lexicon, but it is an awesome display of musical passion. These dudes love this stuff and are dedicated to bringing it back.]]>
I’m not convinced its their greatest work and it sounds like a major label record by a band with a Nike shoe deal but they are still on the very short list of bands that I’ll listen to that sing about vampires, coffins, and romanticizing death. Some stand out tracks are Calling All Skeletons, I Found Away, and Lost And Rendered which features some guitar or synth sounds that sound like they came out of a theremin.
They get cut some slack by me because the few times that I have met and interacted with Matt he has been very nice and genuine plus I’ve seen them put on some great shows back in the day. Oh and they wrote Hell Yes which is one of the more clever songs I’ve ever heard (you can listen to it in the youtube embed below)…
I can’t say I am going to run out and pick up this record when it comes out in a few days but I may grab a couple singles or stream it from time to time.]]>
D.O.N.D.O.N. is actually an acronym which stands for Detestation of Negative Destruction of Nuclear. No shit, that’s the name of their band. Their name is not so strange when you consider the ridiculous acronyms of other Japanese hardcore bands like G.I.S.M. (God in the Schizoid Mind) or S.O.B. (Sabotage Organized Barbarian). D.O.N.D.O.N.‘s music is also similar to other Japanese bands of their time. They condensed all the elements of the Japanese and European bands that influenced them and added a bit of their own insanity. The guitars are fuzzy, crunchy, and slightly metallic. There is even the occasional wailing solo. Yoshikawa’s vocals are raspy and delivered in a growling, mostly yelled, sometimes spoken style. The singers voice sits just on top of the mix, giving you the feeling that your listening to some crazed transient, shouting his angry manifesto over a raging thrash score. The drums are pretty basic but, more importantly, they are played at an absolutely ripping speed. That’s probably the first thing that jumped out at me when I first listened to this disc. Death Side, Lip Cream, and loads of other bands were playing a similar version of hardcore, but many of the songs on D.O.N.D.O.N.‘s “Last Warning” approach near grindcore velocity. Even the Discharge-esque, mid-paced songs here seem a little rushed. This is all a total bonus in my book.
D.O.N.D.O.N may not be the first band mentioned when talking about Japanese hardcore, but they are an absolutely ripping band. It’s not every day that a label can make these kinds of records available in the U.S., so if you’re new to Japanese thrash or a long time fan, get this record. Schizophrenic has made this available on CD and vinyl, but they pressed only 700 records. I bought one, so that leaves a possible 699 records for the rest of you to fight over.
Broken Ever Thus
So It Goes