Full disclaimer: this is the second time I’ve written about the latest 12″ release from Swedish crusties Warcollapse for Last Rites. Last time I only briefly mentioned the band’s Deserts of Ash LP in a two-part feature entitled In Crust We Trust. That double feature proved to be surprisingly popular, so In Crust We Trust is going to be a monthly column from here on in. It’ll cater for fans already neck deep in the bowels of underground punk, but also those who’re tentatively probing the darkest crevices of raw punk, hardcore, d-beat, and crust for the very first time.
For anyone who’s crust-curious, Warcollapse is pretty much the perfect place to start. The band’s music is heavy as a fuckin’ tank, harsh as a fuckin’ acid burn, and bleak as a fuckin’ massacre. They originally formed in 1991 (as Earcollapse) and their reputation as Scandi punk kingpins is well and truly secured. Warcollapse have produced a number of crucial crust releases over the years, including their last full-length album, 2007’s Defy, and (spoiler alert!) Deserts of Ash underscores the band’s continuing relevance to this day.
Crust operates on more of a level playing field. The subgenre isn’t immune to the never ending cycle of fresh meat having to be ravenously consumed, shat out, and then… (repeat, forever). However, crust’s staunchly DIY attitude does shield it a little more from the pressures of trends and popularity contests. Most crust fans clearly value authenticity over clever marketing, and that leaves plenty of room for older bands to participate.
Obviously, crust is also the perfect place for outwardly decaying but still inwardly raging punks to reside. Chiefly because looking like a moth-eaten nightmare that’s guzzled gutter slops for breakfast is all part of the deal. (And I say that with utmost affection for the unkempt and unwashed.)
Clearly, not every battle-scarred band with a fresh batch of tunes is going to recapture the visceral spark of their prime years. Sometimes, the flame simply isn’t there. But, more commonly, the results are predictably prosaic or hit and miss. Unfortunately, a passion for making music doesn’t guarantee that enthralling creativity will follow. See the return of seminal punk bands like Antisect and Axegrinder, which brought mixed rather than wholly triumphant results.
That’s not the case with Warcollapse, though. The band sound fired-up on Deserts of Ash and the structural integrity and grim intensity of their music remains fully intact. The music is still bitter and bruising, and crustcore that’s doomy, sludgy, and distorted tussle it out on their thickset songs. Warcollapse still sound as epic as hell, too, even when delivering brief barrages.
Deserts of Ash doesn’t alter the band’s course significantly, but Warcollapse do explore a little previously untrodden territory on the album’s 10-minute title track. Gloomy atmospherics see “Deserts of Ash” teetering on the edge of neo-crust, but Warcollapse’s feral savagery bites down hard, ensuring it’s crustcore that wraps the dirge in barbed wire, dragging the song to its brutal conclusion.
Hardcore claws at raw punk on the ferocious “Masspsykos,” which kicks into gear with a Celtic Frost-worthy “ugh,” followed by a salvo of sawtoothed riffs, guttural vocals, and foot-to-the-floor drumming. “The End Game,” “As They Decide” and “Coffin Ride” massage the mind and body with all the subtlety of a bloodied clawhammer attack. And while Warcollapse’s bulldozing songs will definitely meet fans’ demands, some might find the feast of noise too crude or caustic to comfortably digest.
No question, Deserts of Ash is as unsightly as a pack of rabid dogs fucking on a mountain of corpses, and no one’s breaking any new ground here either. Warcollapse guitarist Emil hacks out familiarly jagged riffs, vocalist Jalle still sounds like he’s gargling nails while caught in a bear trap, and drummer Kalle pounds out relentless beats. It’s the same formula they’ve always used—but then, no one’s pining for Warcollapse to expand the parameters of their sound.
The band mix old school influences from the likes of Doom, Amebix and Antisect, and add in a hefty amount of Discharge’s darkness, and that’s exactly what Warcollapse’s fans desire. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Deserts of Ash doesn’t feature any radical swerves or fancy new tricks, but Warcollapse aren’t simply going through the motions here. The band sound galvanized and combative, delivering an onslaught of classic soul-crushing crust. Deserts of Ash is clearly driven by destructive urgency and it exudes wrath and misery. A perfectly ugly combination for this equally ugly epoch.