Death and taxes aside, there are really only two things you can be certain of in this life:
- If your foot hanging off the bed at night has a sock on it, then the monster under your bed will not eat your foot. (Sock off, it’s game on. You’ve been warned.)
- Japanese raw punk is ear-fuckingly amazing and mind-fuckingly intense: see legendary Kōchi City d-beat crew Disclose.
Disclose’s skull-cracking adventures began in the early 1990s and ended in 2007, following the tragic death of vocalist and guitarist Hideki Kawakami. Kawakami accidentally overdosed on alcohol and sedatives, and since his death, his name has become a rallying cry for primitive punk bands from around the world.
Kawakami was a fanatical fan of d-beat icons Discharge, and plenty of other crusty noise-makers besides. He was a dedicated trader of scuzzy music and scummy zines from home and abroad, and that fuelled Kawakami’s creative drive. Disclose essentially took Discharge’s aesthetic intensity to its nth degree, but then Kawakami and his brothers in crust just kept on pushing even further into the sonic hinterlands, setting harsh fuzz and demolishing distortion at the forefront of Disclose’s bleeding-raw sound.
Disclose kept their flag firmly planted in the filthy soil of Noisepunkville throughout their career, and the band’s extensive discography sees them favouring sheer chaos over structure a lot of the time. Kawakami’s death shook the punk rock community—as did Disclose’s demise—and that’s partly because Disclose simply played honest underground punk.
Not rugged indie rock masquerading as punk.
Not Fitbit-friendly neo-crust.
Not flavor-of-the-month blackened råpunk.
And not d-beaten death metal matched with a shiny new pair of Nikes.
Disclose simply delivered blown-out punk that was celebrated in sweatbox clubs and squats the world over. Disclose were crude, they were crusty, and they were about as soothing as having red-hot acid injected into your urethra. And even if you’ve never heard a note of Disclose’s music, I can guarantee you’ve enjoyed bands that have listened to Disclose and quivered in fucking awe.
I’m going to highlight a few of Disclose’s rowdy releases below, and they’re all releases that are easily acquired from stores or distros. However, Disclose certainly weren’t the be-all and end-all of raw Japanese punk, so I’m also including a lengthy list of other abrasive Japanese punk bands, many that were clearly inspired by Disclose’s audio annihilations. Hopefully, that’ll provide a much fuller picture of obnoxious Nippon noise.
Think of it all as an introductory primer: Raw Japanese Punk 101…in four parts.
Feel free to pop a couple of analgesics before you begin.
Disclose – Tragedy 
Disclose existed to create “noise not music,” and the eye-watering corrosiveness of their debut full-length, Tragedy, exemplifies that. Discharge’s influence is written all over Tragedy, especially in Kawakami’s vocal phrasing, but the record also has plenty of feral Swedish hardcore hanging off its gnarled bones.
It was the blizzards of feedback and relentless “musical” hailstorms that always set Disclose apart from the pack, and that makes Tragedy a perfect litmus test. If you can’t stomach the album’s caustic hisses and roars, well, good news, you’re not alone in that. But if you can make it through the blistering maelstrom, let me assure you that noise-punk nirvana awaits.
Disclose – Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare 
Disclose’s sound didn’t evolve to a huge degree over their career, but they didn’t just unthinkingly duplicate the raucous primitivism of groups like Discharge or Broken Bones. (That said, Disclose did go through a “Disbones” period, taking on much of Broken Bones’ metallic crunch.) In reality, Disclose showed a fairly shrewd understanding of their musical milieu, and they reworked their brutal sound within that framework.
That’s best evidenced on Disclose’s final album, Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare, which includes the blistering 10-minute track “Wardead.” That song alone shows how Disclose were more than willing to challenge themselves as much as their audience. And that’s also why Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare is flat-out (and ferociously) fantastic. The album’s nine hurtling tracks showcase Disclose’s consummate skill at blending vitriol with über-corrosive music. And while this record isn’t “accessible,” as such, it’s a great place to start if you’ve not sampled Disclose’s music before.
Disclose – Nightmare or Reality EP 
Disclose recorded untold EPs and split releases. Some revealed stark metallic influences. Others were fueled by noxious noise. All of them were exceptionally harsh—texturally, audibly, physically, psychologically… whatever. Debates about which Disclose release is better or the best often come down to choosing which deafening cyclonic nightmare you prefer on the day. (I mean, good luck deciding if 1996’s Visions of War EP is really any more ear-gouging than 1997’s The Aspects of War EP. They both sound horrible/wonderful to me!)
Many fans would consider Disclose’s Nightmare or Reality 12” to be a standout release. Musically, it’s another razor-wire whirlwind. But it’s probably better known for being, well, popular. Disclose were well-established before Nightmare or Reality‘s release, but the 12″ did find a bigger crossover audience. For better or worse, Disclose clearly did spark wider interest in raw d-beat and crust over their career, and while the band were never going to break through, as such, Nightmare or Reality proved that with enough underground impetus even the harshest band can still broaden its fanbase.
Warhead – Warhead 
I got the idea to write this Japanese raw punk primer after I picked up a second-hand copy of the self-titled album from veteran punks Warhead a few weeks ago. Warhead originally formed in the early 90s, and they’re a great example of just how deep the well of raw Japanese punk is. Discovering one brain-smashing group, like Warhead, always seems to lead to uncovering yet another rage-fueled band. Also, Warhead, like many of Japan’s harshest punk bands, have a decades-spanning discography full of jaw-droppingly violent music to enjoy. Warhead’s name might not spring to mind as quickly as Japanese punks like Gauze, Gloom or Disclose, but they’re just as fierce, equally aggressive, and highly respected. As a wiser commentator than me once put it: “Warhead are your favourite Japanese HC band’s favourite HC band.”
System Fucker – System Fucker 
There’s no shortage of challengers to Disclose’s crown—see raw punk desperados like D-Clone, Framtid, or Kriegshög. System Fucker are another contemporary horde that have clearly been inspired to up the abrasive ante of Disclose’s blasts of noise, and their self-titled full-length duly delivers a non-stop barrage of berserker punk. There’s a hefty chunk of UK82’s snot-nosed riotousness to be heard, but there’s also rotten rags, crushed cans, and probably even a dog on a string somewhere in the mix. Jagged riffs, throat-slit howls, and mohawked madness abounds. And sure, System Fucker absolutely fuck the system. All. Day. Long.
Isterismo – Follia Verso L’Interno 
Isterismo deal in high-speed crasher crust that vividly notes the impact of bands like Gloom and Disclose. What marks Isterismo’s head-splitting sound as different, though, is that the band also pay tribute to old-school Italian hardcore. You can expect to be greeted by an anarchic bite and all-out assaultive noise on Isterismo’s superb Follia Verso L’Interno full-length, and there’s plenty of nimble-fingered skill woven into all the battering chaos to admire as well. Isterismo are currently inactive, perhaps never to return. In which case, make sure to also grab their excellent Tokyo Crusties compilation, as it also features A-grade knockout noise punk.
Crow – Bloody Tear 
Do you like obliterating punk rock? If the answer is yes, take note: Crow’s Bloody Tear LP is fucking decimating. This heavyweight hardcore group began life in the early 1980s, and like a lot of Japanese punk bands of that era, they started out with an unmistakable Discharge obsession. Crow developed their own bombastic crust-metal accent as time went on, and are now well-regarded for their instrumental agility and creative abilities. Crow mix vicious riffs with screaming solos, crashing drums, and snarling vocals. The band pour it all on with unrestrained energy, ripping the guts out of hardcore and reveling in the bloodshed.
LATER TODAY: PART 2
TOMORROW: PART 3 & 4