Kawakami Forever! Japanese Raw Punk 101, Part 4

Here’s the breakdown of the bands that have been covered so far:

Part 1: Disclose, Warhead, System Fucker, Isterismo, Crow.
Part 2: Confuse, Framtid, Disturd, Reality Crisis, Kriegshög, G.A.T.E.S., D-Clone, Gauze, Gloom.
Part 3: Zyanose, Folkeiis, Catastrophe, Zoe, Attack SS, Acrostix, Contrast Attitude.

Now, part 4 brings our leap into raw Japanese punk to a close with six final bands…

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Effigy – Evil Fragments

Effigy only existed for a few short years, but man do people ever fucking love those years! Fair enough, too—Effigy’s discography might be minuscule, but in many ways they’re the quintessential Japanese metallic crust band. Blazingly intense and dexterously accomplished, Effigy smashed extra-dark vintage crust into equally grim old-school thrash and speed metal, and the dual-barked vocals of guitarist Matsumoto and bassist Masuda add even more graveled gruffness into the brew. All of that means there’s as much Deviated Instinct and Hellbastard to be heard in Effigy’s sound as there is Venom or Celtic Frost, and Effigy’s audience duly featured plenty of crossover fans. The band’s full-length debut, Evil Fragments, is the very definition of ripping. Seek it out, forthwith.


Battle of Disarm – Crust, Love and Peace [1999]

Crusty anarchists Battle of Disarm have probably sold more patches and t-shirts to Western audiences than they have cassettes or LPs. The band’s “DIY or DIE” motto has become ubiquitous in punk circles around the world, too. There’s a lot to admire about Battle of Disarm: their own label, D.I.Y Records, has been running since 1992, and the band’s fervent concerns about animal welfare, the rise of technology, and total war have never faltered. The band was at their most prolific in the 1990s, and like a lot of the rawest Japanese punk from the era, the band’s music was heavily influenced by Europe’s thriving crust scenes. Like Disclose, Battle of Disarm’s music was enthusiastically shared via trading networks, and while the band haven’t released new material for some time, their older releases still make a powerful statement.


Asmodeus – Life? [2016]

These days, it’s easier than ever to discover previously obscure Japanese punk online. There are multiple YouTube channels dedicated to excavating the fetid caverns of Japanese crust, and plenty of blogs are busy cataloging every underground Japanese punk demo, 7″, and LP ever released. I stumbled on Asmodeus via one of those nerdvana blogs, and the gruff-toned stenchcrust band are custom-made for Out of the Void-era Antisect fans. Self- (and fittingly) described as “EVIL HARDCORE FROM HELL,” Asmodeus’ music sounds dark and corrupting, and I’m willing to believe they’re fueled by fire and brimstone. The band have only released a handful of recordings thus far, so fingers crossed that means there’s still fierce and fiendish noise from Asmodeus to come.


Abraham Cross – Peace Can’t Combine [2002]

If there’s one thing a lot of Japanese raw punk bands do, it’s trim the fucking fat. Abraham Cross discard anything superfluous to their savage musical vision and don’t hesitate to amplify the core components (and only the core components) that drew them to punk in the first place. The band formed in 1993, feature members who’ve played in pivotal Japanese punk groups like Collapse Society and Life, and didn’t manage to drop their first proper release, the Peace Can’t Combine EP, until 2002. That date is slightly deceptive, though, because the EP was actually recorded during two sessions in 1994 and 1995. Better late than never, eh? Peace Can’t Combine has the tone, tang and tenor of mid-90s crust, and Abraham Cross’ distorted and heavy bass-driven sound clearly references OG UK noisecore brutes like Sore Throat and Doom. Peace Can’t Combine demands maximum volume while delivering maximum insanity.


Skizophrenia – Don’t Give Up! EP [2012]

I discovered Skizophrenia via their killer split release with US punks Vaaska. (FYI: Texas d-beat crew Vaaska are f.u.c.k.i.n.g amazing.) Skizophrenia are as ragtag and coarse-voiced as any other group on this list, but they certainly aren’t as thick-necked and hulking as many of the bands I’ve mentioned. Skizophrenia sound a lot more… well, schizophrenic. There’s sawtoothed UK82 in their sound, as well as Disclose, Discharge, and various Scandi punk, too. But where a lot of crust punk bands drag out the heaviest artillery by default, Skizophrenia’s approach is much spikier, more skittery, and, dare I say, even subtle. Take a listen below and you’ll hear what I mean. Skizophrenia’s sharp and quickly stabbing raw-punk attack is just as effective as any full-frontal and all-guns-blazing assault.


G.I.S.M. – Detestation [1983]

You really can’t have a discussion about raw Japanese punk without mentioning cult heroes/villains, G.I.S.M., who formed back in 1981—the notorious band’s bristling debut, Detestation, is widely acknowledged as a legendary Japanese punk release. As time went on, G.I.S.M. incorporated more industrial and avant-garde elements into their sound, and they were always confrontational, both personally and musically. Frontman Sakevi Yokoyama was renowned for baiting and even attacking concertgoers, and despite being lauded for many reasons, some have suggested their wild reputation exaggerated their actual talent. Of course, that’s up to you to decide.

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Where to next? Well, I covered 27 bands in this raw Japanese punk primer—both old and new—but I mainly concentrated on ultra-harsh crust groups that could cite Disclose as an inspiration or a peer. That means I didn’t include well-regarded Japanese hardcore bands like Acid, Death Side, Tetsu Arei, or Systematic Death, which are also all well worth investigating.

Also, I started out with a huge list of potential bands to cover, but a healthy stack of others were left behind. (Like pioneering Japanese punk/grinders S.O.B.) If you’re interested in continuing down the Japanese raw punk road further, consider exploring the following bands to further your education:

Defector, Absurd Society, Disgust, Persevere, Gouka, Disprove, Shikabane, Zouo, S.D.S, Death Dust Extractor, Forward, Crocodile Skink, Massgrave, Confront, Atrocious Madness, Bastard, Clown, Think Again, S.O.B, Paintbox, Stagnation, L.S.D, Reduction, Asocial Terror Fabrication, Frigöra, Rise From The Dead, Beyond Description, Dropend, Judgement, Nightmare, Poison Arts, Ferocious X, C.F.D.L… and the list goes on and on.

One point to keep in mind if you do decide to dig further: all of us value obscurity over merit sometimes, unintentionally or not. That’s certainly been the case for Western fans who’ve picked apart Japan’s subterranean punk scene over the years. Additionally, plenty of bands have been hyped simply because of their point of origin. I’m guilty of such behavior myself. And sure, sheer enthusiasm means I’ve probably oversold some of the underground bands that I wanted to share. I do like them all, and more besides, but I also appreciate that beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to the fucking ugly noise I’ve covered here. I just hope that somewhere along the way you found a band or two to enjoy. That’s “mission accomplished” in my book.

Sayōnara for now, friends — and brand new frenemies.

Posted by Craig Hayes

Semi-literate hobgoblin, full-time shark obsessive, old-school nincompoop.

  1. Very well written series and lots of new and interesting stuff to check out! I’d also add Bastard and Shikabane to the list of great bands to check out.

    Reply

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