Crusty Italian grinders Cripple Bastards celebrate their twentieth anniversary with this exhaustive double-DVD documentary plus their full set at the 2003 Obscene Extreme Festival in the Czech Republic. DVD sets are almost always “for fans only” affairs, and Blackmails And Assholism is definitely squarely in that category, especially considering the seven-hour running time. Those not yet converted to the Bastards’ crusty grindcore will certainly find this more than overwhelming. (Honestly, so will most everyone. I love grind, and I really dig the CB records I own, and it still took me a month to wade through this. This is simply a shit-ton of footage, but it’s hard to fault a band for giving everything they have.)
The documentary portion is split into two sections, roughly covering a decade apiece, but more divided between the band’s two most successful lineups. The first documentary details the band’s crust-as fuck beginnings in Asti, youngsters influenced primarily by the 1980’s hardcore scene. In subtitled interviews, vocalist Giulio the Bastard and guitarist Alberto the Crippler describe their first few gigs, their ever-changing drummers, and the requisite series of split 7s. (Herein I learned the names of many seminal Italian hardcore bands that I’ve already begun investigating—bands like Wretched, Indigesti, Woptime, and so on.) There’s video footage of rehearsals and shows in punk clubs and squats, all of it historically interesting but marred by the terrible sound quality you’d expect from a handheld camera mic pushed past its limitations. Disc one is rounded out with separate coverage of the band’s 2000 East and West coast American tours, the former including the aborted ABC No Rio show performance. (Short story shorter: the controversial cover of the band’s Almost Human album—an image from the film Forced Entry that shows a woman forced at gunpoint to fellate Harry Reems—wasn’t particularly appreciated by the ABC No Rio powers-that-be, and the band was neither allowed to play, nor even to enter the venue. The band retaliated with the song “Bomb ABC No Rio” which you’d be forgiven for thinking is a typo or a translation error, but actually makes perfect sense.)
The second part of the documentary is both more interesting (a plus) and twice as long (not particularly a plus). Without listing everything they discuss, I can say that the most eye-opening part is the segment where the band members detail the touring conditions in the European scene. After hearing about their years of traveling to shows to find that they had been cancelled days earlier or being forced to sleep on vomit-encrusted boards in doghouses behind squats, you have to admire the Bastards’ drive to carry on, if nothing else. Also, on a really cool note, this half of the documentary dedicates an entire chapter to praising long-running Brazilian crust-thrashers Ratos de Porao—a killer band if you’re unfamiliar with them—and there’s also footage of various other Euro-grinders from the Bastards’ home-squat Dordoni. (All making an appearance: Agathocles, ENT, Yacöpsae, a reunited Fear Of God, and the late, great Nasum…) Even as they’ve moved away from the constricting crust-core scene, it’s good to see that Giulio and company haven’t forgotten the bands that influenced them and the sense of camaraderie that a functional scene engenders.
So here’s the skinny, kids: if you really like Cripple Bastards, then you’ve gotta have this. Blackmails looks good; it’s informative, perhaps too much so, really; and there’s live footage of virtually every show the band has ever played. If there’s a better, more comprehensive history of the band out there, then I simultaneously do and do not wish to see it. (Let me mention again: this one is seven hours long.) I will say that it’s a pretty no-frills affair—most of the interviews are conducted in front of the same “TV screen with CB logo” background. The stage shows aren’t Iron Maiden productions; there’s no lasers and zombies and pyro and shit. Just four dudes on a stage, bashing out music that sounds like an artillery barrage. (But would you expect anything less from a crust/grind band?) If you’re on the fence about the Bastards or grind in general, then you’re better off just picking up a copy of Desperately Insensitive and working your way backwards through the band’s solid catalog.
(Also, on a technical note, my copy of Blackmails is PAL, region 0, and consequently wouldn’t play on my DVD player. I watched it on my laptop. You undoubtedly have a better DVD player than I do, but in case you don’t, or if you don’t have the ability to play this on your computer, then this review is moot because you wouldn’t be able to watch the damn thing anyway.)