In Crust We Trust: Part 1

Amebix gave birth to crust punk in the early 1980s, but Ripper Crust, the 1986 demo from Hellbastard, officially christened the sub-genre. Crust’s early years were a hard scramble, with bands like Antisect, Doom, Deviated Instinct, and Axegrinder regularly playing to small crowds of pungent punks in grimy basement clubs and filthier squats. These days, though, the mainstream media’s been known to sniff crust’s ass, and you could even argue that crust is – shock! horror! – kind of fucking hip.

Obviously, suggesting crust is hip is a little awkward. Not least because crust isn’t a homogeneous sub-genre. I mean, there’s big ‘n’ beefy fist-pumping crust, which is often more melodic and accessible, and it attracts broader media interest too. But there’s also jugular-shredding crasher crust, which is rawer, far harsher, and considerably more feral and obnoxious.

Truthfully, crust has as many noisy niches as it does noisier sub-sub-genres, and there’s no rule book governing any of them. Broadly speaking, though, whether it’s stinkin’ dog-on-a-string crust, or full-blown stadium crust, a lot of bands take a dim view of materialism and consumerism. So arguing that crust is hip is a problematic proposition.

Still, there’s no point denying that crust’s current creative leverage far exceeds its gutter-dwelling origins. The sociocultural crux of crust clearly still matters to scores of bands. But plenty of other groups seem to see crust as more of a fashionable logo or hashtag. That’s no surprise given the number of “tastemakers” who’ve hyped crust’s cachet in recent times, bright lights have always attracted trend-surfers and shallow skimmers.

Does that sound too cynical? Too snarky? I don’t mean to be a killjoy, and I’m definitely not a gatekeeper of any kind. I’m just trying to draw your attention to how often crust is now cited as an aesthetic influence or vital artistic ingredient. However you look at it, crust is now nestled in more dank nooks and murky crannies than ever before.

Darkthrone began flying the crust flag years ago, and ever-increasing numbers of metal bands are now doing the same. That’s nothing new because crust and metal have always been closely intertwined. The only twist in that tale being that crust used to gleefully pilfer from metal, and now the tables have somewhat turned. Crust’s birth was the result of mixing the anger and impetus of punk icons like Crass, Chaos UK, Discharge, and Anti Cimex with the brute metallic power of Killing Joke, Motörhead, Venom, and Sabbath. Plenty of crust bands stick to a similar template today. But the pendulum swings back and forth when it comes to who is influencing who in the current crust/metal relationship.

Grindcore groundbreakers Extreme Noise Terror and Napalm Death were born in the UK crust scene, and the influence of bands like Bathory, Bolt Thrower, and Celtic Frost – not to mention black metal’s entire second wave – had a massive impact on crust. Of course, in return, crust has added a riotous amount of attitude (and a certain rankness) to countless metal bands’ sounds. Hell, crust was running at full speed before death metal got into first gear, but both styles have ended up having an incalculable influence on each other.

Point being, untold crust bands – as well as bands who’ve incorporated some of crust’s chaotic elements into combustible new concoctions – now inhabit every corner of the globe. And I’m certain those crust musicians who were toiling away in the 80s and 90s would never have imagined their abrasive music would prove to be so influential. Most of crust’s pioneers waited years before enjoying broader appreciation or receiving any credit for their trailblazing noise.

Of course, crust’s success isn’t meant to be gauged in terms of audience sizes, record sales, or critical applause, and most crust bands remain committed to those kinds of principles. That doesn’t mean that crust is always painfully stern and austere though. Crust’s lyrical focus frequently explores society’s ills, but crust also indulges in plenty of obnoxious silliness and nihilistic nastiness, often while celebrating all sorts of guzzling and snorting naughtiness.

Formative US crust bands like Disrupt, Antischism, Nausea, Misery, From Ashes Rise, Aus-Rotten, and His Hero is Gone (and all their ear-splitting disciples) have proved that crust has abundant global resonance. These days, diverse crust crews like Atrament, Downfall of Gaia, Skitsystem, Tragedy, Martyrdöd, Wolfbrigade, Iskra, Disfear, and 偏執症者 (Paranoid) are well-known the world over. However, rather than spotlighting the big kids of crust, Last Rites is digging deep with this two-part exposé to highlight hard-hitting underground bands from all points of the compass.

Sure, this crust catalog does include a number of familiar names, but it features plenty of obscure ones. Here’s hoping you stumble on something hellish to relish. I’ve always thought that crust exists to flush out those lukewarm contaminants clogging your arteries. So enjoy the rinse and the ruckus. [Craig Hayes]

TERRA MATER

Let’s get the main complaint about crust out of the way first; namely, that it all sounds the same. Honestly, that’s a fair enough accusation. Like all music genres or sub-genres, crust leans hard on a number of reoccurring and – sure, even extremely well-worn – signifiers. Thing is, though, fans happen to love those signifiers, especially the really strident ones, and a few reoccurring motifs never did Motörhead any harm, right?

That said, crust really isn’t all the same, and it’s wrong to presume it’s repetitive by default. Neocrust bands like Nux Vomica or Fall of Efrafa (or crust-driven post-metallers like Agrimonia) have shown that crust can be epic and exploratory, as well as whip-smart. Australian group Terra Mater fall into that category too, and their recent Holocene Extinction Parts I & II LP combines nuanced yet raucous crust in an astute yet aggressive fashion.

Dynamics are the obvious key; Terra Mater mix melodic crust (and passionate dual vocals) with bruising and darker/down-tuned d-beat, sludge, and doom. Strings add haunting elements to Terra Mater’s sound, and their long-form songs exude red-raw emotionality. Smart. As. A. Whip. [Craig Hayes]

WAR//PLAGUE

Most people would argue that the quality of a band’s creative output will inevitably diminish over time. Intensity and fervor often subside with age, and rock’n’roll’s a youngsters game, right? WRONG! Plenty of veteran metal bands have trampled all over that theory, and recent releases from crust groups like Deviated Instinct, Antisect, Extinction of Mankind, and Apocalypse have featured some of the most formidable music those bands have ever recorded, decades after they all originally formed.

Heavyweight Minneapolis crusties War//Plague aren’t as long-in-the-tooth as the aforementioned, but the band does feature members who’ve put in a fair few years of service to the cause. Age hasn’t wearied them though – nor has it blunted War//Plague’s rage – and the band celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2018 by releasing their harshest and most uncompromising album yet.

The band’s hammering Into the Depths LP ticked all the consummate crust boxes: see crushing physicality(✓), bulldozing bass, guitar, and percussion (✓), gruffly barked vocals (✓), and amp-melting levels of distortion (✓). Urban squalor, communities suffering, and the fight to maintain dignity and hope as the onslaught of hyper-capitalism continues abated, were all tackled on the LP. Plus, War//Plague’s rhythm section hits like a fucking runaway freight train.

Awesome, and awe-inspiring. [Craig Hayes]

WARBASTARD

With a name like “Warbastard,” this blurb essentially writes itself. Featuring members of Wartorn, Tierra De Nadie, Dispise, and Willful Mental Decay, this is a veteran outfit of Wisconsin crusties. The outfit combines an older punk delivery, something out of the early hardcore scene, where lyrics are shouted in a manner to make them audible. Warbastard combine their scathing lyrics with what is a pretty standard d-beat attack. Add to that perfectly done lo-fi production value and a commitment to short songs and you’ve got the recipe or a very crusty slice of pizza. [Manny-O-War]

DRAP

Sweden’s Drap dropped a total burner of a second record a few years back, taking the thick and crusty d-beat-meets-death-metal backdrop of their debut and upping the ante in every way: production, songwriting, execution, etc. Blending the crushing hardcore of a Wolfbrigade with some gnarly Swedeath and even dashes of icy and filthy blackened melodies for flavor, that album was a blistering good time, many facets of modern extremity all rolled into one. So then, after that rollicking crush of Roten Till Allt Ont, my hopes are raised for the forthcoming third Drap record. Though it’s a little rawer on the production front, this blast-and-groove teaser track from the Transcending Obscurity 2019 label sampler – and one indicating that it will appear on Drap LP3 at some point – certainly shows promise. [Andrew Edmunds]

LIFE

Proper punks – i.e. not gray-bearded posers like me – have been shouting about Japanese crust legends LIFE for years. I’m not sure what I can add to the conversation, aside from reaffirming that LIFE are one of the greatest punk bands to have ever walked this earth. I know that sounds hype-heavy and, truthfully, I could have said the same about genius Nippon noise-makers like Framtid, Contrast Attitude, Reality Crisis System Fucker, Disclose, or Gloom. But nonetheless, LIFE are a genuinely superb punk band whose music reeks of authenticity; and a few other interesting odors besides.

LIFE formed in 1991 and over the years they’ve dabbled in raw punk, classic UK crust, Scandi hardcore, crustcore, stenchcore, and ten-tonne crasher crust. The band are simply genius at writing vitriolic odes that see them maintaining their peace punk poise while sounding wholly combative at the same time. Where to start? Well, LIFE’s The Only One Earth 7” from 2018 is a filthy gem. But I’d recommend the band’s 2013 full-length, Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. That album features a cornucopia of crust, from right across the sub-genre’s ear-splitting spectrum. [Craig Hayes]

WARCOLLAPSE

Look, I don’t want to embarrass anyone by getting all gushy, but the truth is, I love Warcollapse to an unhealthy degree. To be fair, hit play below and you’ll likely love ‘em too. Plus, loving Warcollapse to an unhealthy degree is certainly the aptest way to love a band that’s released such noxious albeit revered screeds of piledriving crust. Warcollapse are held in high regard for good reasons; top of the list being the sheer strength of their harsh and gravelly sound.

The Swedish punk titans originally formed in 1991, and Warcollapse’s music has had a profound influence on the darkest, crustiest, and most primal end of the kängpunk spectrum. It’s been a number of years since Warcollapse has released any new music, but like many crust veterans of late, Warcollapse’s latest release, Deserts Of Ash, features some of the band’s strongest work yet. Intense, epic, and driven by guttural intensity, Warcollapse’s return adds yet another storming chapter to crust’s story. [Craig Hayes]

FATUM

Fun fact: crust punk was originally called stenchcore. These days though, stenchcore is usually reserved to describe the heaviest, and well, crustiest crust. Honestly, the dividing line between thickset crust and stenchcore is essentially semantic in many cases. But stenchcore definitely rains down like an über-heavy artillery barrage, and it’s where you’ll hear the loudest echo of OG mind-crushers like Axegrinder, Sacrilege, Extinction of Mankind, and Deviated Instinct.

Russian band Fatum are stenchcore champs and their hulking 2018 album, Edge of the Wild, was fueled by rotten punk and driven by filthy metal. Like a lot of stenchcore bands, Fatum proudly worship Motörhead, Venom, and early Celtic Frost, and they capture both the strength and the squalidness of stenchcore to a T. If you want to sample Fatum’s untamed uproar – and I highly recommend you do – Edge of the Wild or the band’s 2017 split with much-loved stenchcore icons Instinct of Survival are great places to start. [Craig Hayes]

FEROCIOUS X & ZYANOSE

Time after time, Japanese punk bands manage to distill the genre’s essence into its most potent and often most deranged form. Maybe that’s a result of Japanese punks having an extremely strong desire to transgress strict social norms? Whatever the case, groups like Battle of Disarm, Kriegshög, Warhead, Acrostix, Death Dust Extractor, Isterismo, Asocial Terror Fabrication – honestly, the list of legendary Japanese crusties is endless – all exhibit withering levels of raw intensity.

Ferocious X and fellow Osaka-based band Zyanose know all about intensity—both in sonic and psychological terms. Ferocious X’s recent Den Grå Sanningen 7” sold out in the blink of an eye, while Zyanose’s recent Chaos Bender 12” is on course to do the same. Why so popular? Well, Ferocious X and Zyanose are code-smashers and noise-fuckers supreme; busting minds and destroying song structures while embracing sheer ungovernable chaos. Zero compromises + maximum madness. The perfect combo. [Craig Hayes]

DEKONSTRUKT

These boys blistered onto the scene straight from Germany in early 2017 with a two-song demo. March of 2018 saw them gain notoriety when Brad Boatright handled mastering duties for their self-titled debut. A fitting union as Dekonstrukt reveal a From Ashes Rise influence across their EP. DIY ethic reigns supreme for this quintet as they handle most everything themselves including distribution and production. A balance of pacing and just enough armageddon-like instrumental magic helps diversify their sound and keep interest piqued across their eleven-minute debut. [Manny-O-War]

MOLENAAR

One thing crust punk isn’t short of is ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards) attitude. Obviously, a fired-up “fuck the police” message can spark different reactions in different settings, but if you’re all in for hating the fuzz, crust will duly provide. That said, you don’t have to support every (or any) anti-cop sentiments to enjoy the vast majority of crust. Just like you don’t have to believe in Xtian fairy tales to enjoy black metal.

New Zealand heavyweight crust crew Molenaar put their lawless point of view front and center, naming their band after a gunman who shot three NZ police officers a decade ago. Molenaar coat urgent d-beat with a thick, scabrous layer of toxic crust—and ragged and jagged metal riffs abound. The band’s Hate Not Phobia demo (2018) was driven by unapologetic intensity, and the raw and rabid crossover crust within had attitude to burn. [Craig Hayes]

MORROW

As about an atypical crust band as you can get, Morrow pushes the limits with the sheer length of their compositions. Unafraid to write tracks in excess of 12 minutes in length, Morrow implements samples, atmosphere, and absolutely blistering wall-of-sound attacks that bludgeon the listener into acquiescence. Further, they employ both a violin and a cello to set just about the most depressing atmosphere that you can imagine. Forlorn, lost and utterly devastating their strings sing underneath spoken word and softly picked clean guitars. But make no mistake about it, Morrow is a crust band, and will, when you least expect it, break out into crusty sludge paired expertly with a touch of melancholy melody that will tug on your own heart strings. Sometimes it’s not always about how much noise you can make but how much noise you can create in the negative spaces. That’s where Morrow excels. [Manny-O-War]

ZYGOME

Zygome are a Canadian stenchcore band that features members who play in a number of other well-regarded groups, including ear-splitting raw punks Fragment. (FYI: Fragment is – as the kids say – sick AF.) Like Fragment, Zygome doesn’t indulge in fancy footed histrionics. The band simply pluck a few grimmer-than-grim old school cues from Amebix and Axegrinder and set to making a skull-rattling racket out of metal-tipped riffs and an 80s-referencing tone and tempo. It’s a simple formula, but one that resulted in one of 2018’s most formidable punk demos—by a wide margin.

Zygome’s debut demo was also markedly (and deliberately) unpolished, which added to its authenticity. Some bands might consider having their music labeled crude or coarse an insult. But Zygome’s crudity and coarseness are both huge creative strengths. [Craig Hayes]

Tomorrow: PART 2

Posted by Craig Hayes

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

  1. Hard scrabble. The term is hard scrabble. Good read. I am still a defender of Amebix. One of the game changers in my life as a guitarist. Cheers.

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  2. I have many memories of SoCal crust which included Orange County and Garden Grove/Long Beach crust crews. When our friends came back from England in the mid 80’s with demos from the likes of Hellbastard we were hooked! Influenced by Crucifix, Motorhead and Amebix, we already had bands like Final Conflict, Iconoclast and Another Destructive System. But it was Apocalypse, A-Solution, Glycine Max, Confrontation and to a lesser degree Mindrot who flew the flag unapologetically. Ahead of the times and unfortunately lost in time but damn if it wasn’t a fun time!

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