Loud Words: A Punk Primer Pt. 1

I’ve been scribbling about underground punk and metal on and off for a couple of decades now, and I’ve often ended up writing about thundering releases made by musicians (and enjoyed by fans) who think that most music journalism is a war crime. That’s fair enough, I guess. Many of today’s major online punk and metal portals do favor error-ridden clickbait or pointless filler over reliable reporting, and plenty of punks, at least, have a long list of reasons for distrusting the media.

Of course, there are also scores of punk devotees curating and writing their own blogs and websites for (a) all the right reasons, and (b) a bunch of dedicated readers. Some of those writers publish articles overflowing with all the minutiae that punk obsessives (like me, and you) love to hoover up. Others deliver quick-fire news bulletins or post links to new or classic releases, and most of those contributions are valuable additions to the punk and hardcore realm.

Unfortunately, a few writers sometimes spoil the party by attaching too much… well, let’s call it hubris to their undertakings. You’ll no doubt have seen writers and often editors — frequently from larger, hype-driven websites — drop the “tell me your favorite (insert X subgenre here) bands” question on social media, and then follow that up a week later with an article full of crowdsourced bands that they essentially suggest they personally discovered.

I’ve always thought it’s strange when writers project any sense of ownership over the music they cover, particularly when it’s entirely unearned. PR propaganda and emails from countless bands flood into every music writer’s inbox without any effort on our behalf, and we’re not out there risking life and limb in search of undiscovered treasures.

Sure, I’ve stumbled on a few little-known bands in my time, and sure, I’ve been thrilled to shine a little more light on ’em. But many of the groups I’ve written about were recommended to me by others, or I originally saw those bands mentioned someplace else, before I ever wrote a word about them.

These days, I think it’s more important than ever to acknowledge your sources. There’s no question that mercenary hyper-individualism stalks modern music journalism, and it’s snuck into punk rock reporting too. Some writers cover the scene like it’s a cut-throat competition, talking up half-baked rumors and scrambling for exclusive ‘content’. However, punk’s always worked best as a community-driven effort, not a self-serving solo endeavor, and one-upmanship and hot-takes that’ll be forgotten tomorrow are a waste of everyone’s time.

In fact, fuck hoarding your sources or thinking that punk is some kind of school-yard tournament. I’m all in for sharing my secrets and showing my appreciation of others’ efforts, rather than holding onto things in some kind of proprietary manner.

In that spirit, below I’ve gathered a few of the online sites that turn me onto punk releases or keep me up to date with happenings. Obviously, countless blogs and websites focus on punk and hardcore, and this is a just starter-pack, the first of hopefully a number of posts highlighting rock-solid repositories of underground punk. To kick things off, I’ve gone for a fairly broad swathe of sources.

Cheers to all the bloggers, writers, and punk fans below who’re fighting the good fight with aptly loud words.

I know I said that writers exploring the ins and outs of punk rock shouldn’t treat it like it a competitive event. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t blogs out there doing genuinely gold medal-worthy work. Case in point: Terminal Sound Nuisance.

Based in France, Terminal Sound Nuisance has been up and running since 2012, and the blog is helmed by a smart, sharp-witted and clearly driven author. Terminal Sound Nuisance’s aim is to promote punk through “lengthy reviews from a critical, sophisticated, and witty perspective,” which it does extremely well, and it’s hard to sum up just how jam-packed with historical, musical and cultural detail the blog’s reviews are.

Terminal Sound Nuisance’s epic-length write-ups are bursting with in-depth and incisive observations, but there’s also a lot of self-aware humor on offer, so things never get dry and dusty. The blog has well over 300 (and 100% nerdgasmic) articles examining everything from anarcho punk to caveman crust, post-punk to stenchcore, and d-beat to seemingly every other punk point in between.

The releases examined are plucked from scores of countries, and from across the decades, and from thriving or entirely subterranean scenes. Personal tales and forthright opinions are woven into every article, and the level of knowledge displayed throughout is staggeringly impressive. Some writers might get a little cocky or even feel the need to skite about that. But Terminal Sound Nuisance keeps things low-key, always wry, and, crucially, punk as fuck.

PS: Terminal Sound Nuisance also has a YouTube channel, where numerous (and excellent) crashing/smashing compilations are posted.

DIY Conspiracy is a “web-based journal for underground music and culture,” and the busy site has been cranking out reviews, interviews, and scene reports from around the world since 2005. Fiercely independent, always energetic, and passionately political, DIY Conspiracy perfectly encapsulates punk’s do-or-die attitude. A diverse range of collaborators has helped to shape the website over the years, and DIY Conspiracy doesn’t just talk the talk online.

The website also organizes DIY shows for international and local bands and artists in and around Sofia, Bulgaria. Plus, DIY Conspiracy is invested in supporting and bolstering punk projects around the globe, happily sharing resources and ideas and being one of the few websites that actively promote the online efforts of other underground blogs and websites. DIY Conspiracy highlights a broad range of music and encourages new voices, but best of all, it’s an inspiring example of a community living and breathing punk’s principles and passion.

D-Beat Beater is an increasingly popular punk news and events portal run by Alex Fitzgerald, who is also head honcho of killer DIY Irish label and distro Distro-y Records. D-Beat Beater started out as a zine, but these days it shares updates from the world of underground punk via a website, Facebook page, and on Instagram.

If, like me, you spend most mornings trawling endless distros, labels, blogs, and websites looking for the latest news, D-Beat Beater is an absolute boon. Having a one-stop site posting about upcoming releases and the latest happenings certainly saves time. But what makes D-Beat Beater such a trusted source is that it’s run by someone who has personal experience and first-hand knowledge of the landscape of contemporary punk.

D-Beat Beater concentrates on the harder/louder corners of underground punk, and the current version of the multi-limbed portal is set for expansion in the coming months. The plan is to interlink a wider network of DIY resources, with band bios, archived news and more. D-Beat Beater recently added a new feature highlighting demos submitted to the site, and Distro-y Records’ endeavors are also set to expand in 2020.

D-Beat Beater is well worth keeping an eye on, especially if heavier and rawer veins of punk and hardcore appeal, and the blog gets bonus points for recently pointing me to Periferia.cz, which is a busy Czech webzine that features plenty of news from the depths of underground punk. You’ll have to put your trust in Google translate if, like me, you don’t speak Czech. But Periferia.cz has plenty of noisy content to peruse.

Crust-Demos is a dank, dirty and deafening paradise for fans of harsh and horrible subterranean punk. The blog’s been running for years, and it’s stacked with recommendations and releases that adhere to the nastiest and most ear-splitting side of the punk equation: crust, d-beat, noise, grindcore, powerviolence, raw hardcore… you know, all the good stuff.

Nowadays, it might be easier than ever to search Bandcamp, blogs or YouTube for brutal new releases, but Crust-Demos is here to help you sort the wheat from the chaff. The blog routinely posts hard-to-find or often-missed releases, with short and punchy write-ups. Make sure to check out Crust-Demos’ companion blog, 7 Inch Crust, which features exactly what it says on the lid. Crust-Demos and 7 Inch Crust are packed with great music and are well-respected by those in the know. That’s a win-win, my friend.

Negative Insight is a DIY zine that focuses on old school hardcore, but it also has an online arm that’s been steadily publishing more content this year. If you follow activities in the world of punk writing — and by that, I mean informed voices, not ridiculous Twitter hype — you might have noticed that a recent Negative Insight article, Tapping the Vein: Industrial Crust, has been getting plenty of well-deserved praise of late.

Tapping the Vein: Industrial Crust was a deep dive into previously (or at least sparingly) uncovered territory, and I witnessed scores of punks who are often dismissive of online content enthusiastically sharing the feature around. I can only really speak about Negative Insight’s online content — the zine itself looks great, but those good ol’ international US postal charges mean it’s out of reach for me — but I can confirm Negative Insight’s blog (much like Terminal Sound Nuisance’s) is in-depth and infused with a passion for genuine punk rock.

There’s not a great deal of content on Negative Insight’s blog at present, but fingers crossed there’s more to come. Tapping the Vein: Industrial Crust certainly proved, without a doubt, that Negative Insight knows plenty of smart ways to write about glorious fuckin’ noise.

Everyone’s got an opinion on whether uploading albums onto YouTube — or disseminating them via a wildly popular punk download blog like Dead Air At The Pulpit — is problematic, or not. On the one hand, plenty of punk bands are only too happy to share their music, regardless of getting paid, and it’s well-known that punk (and metal) fans are more likely than others to purchase merch or music after discovering bands online.

Of course, I’m not naive, and neither are you. There’s also plenty of validity to the opposing argument that free exposure counts for zilch and sneaky streaming and downloading are wreaking havoc on DIY labels and destabilizing independent music as a whole.

The truth is probably somewhere in between, maybe? But, whatever your viewpoint, YouTube has certainly enabled underground bands to connect with far bigger audiences than they would have if they’d remained tucked away in a dark corner. Every subgenre and offshoot of punk is readily available on YouTube, with new, old and obscure releases popping up every minute of every day. It’s a lot of noise to try and sift through, but I’ve had a pretty good hit rate and found a lot of great music by subscribing to YouTube channels like Grindwar and Gore Grinder.

Grindwar and Gore Grinder upload scores of recordings from the heaviest, darkest, and scummiest end of the punk and metal spectrum. (In punk’s case, that means crust, d-beat, grind, powerviolence, raw hardcore and all manner of howling, clamoring and clattering mayhem.) I’ve written about a lot of music I first heard on Grindwar and Gore Grinder — and yeah, I’ve bought a bunch of that music too. I’ve got no idea who curates either channel, but they do a damn good job of highlighting some of the heaviest, head-splitting punk and hardcore around.

Defunct YouTube channels — like Noise_Not_Music or Japandcrustpunk — can also be absolute treasure troves. YouTube is littered with dead channels that are still alive with great music, and while Noise_Not_Music and Japandcrustpunk haven’t been updated for some time, there’s plenty of obscure and often mind-shredding content to enjoy. (And much of it you’ll not likely run into anywhere else.)

If you’re looking for active YouTube channels streaming some of the best contemporary DIY punk, check out Harakiri Diat, Atomvinter or No Deal. Harakiri Diat often delves into more off-kilter realms, including releases featuring experimental or alt-rock elements. Harakiri Diat is a definite favorite for fans of idiosyncratic punk, while Atomvinter tackles a wide range of raw and feral hardcore, crust, noise punk and more.

Like most of the active YouTube channels mentioned here, Atomvinter makes sure to include links to the Bandcamp pages (or other places) where you can purchase the music streaming. No Deal does the same, and while the channel isn’t updated as regularly as the aforementioned, No Deal does stream the crème de la crème of punk and hardcore, from a pool of today’s most well-respected underground labels.

The music media is dominated by Western writers who tend to concentrate on Western music first and foremost. Obviously, I’m not saying that North American writers never write about music from Singapore or India. Or that European writers never write about bands from South Africa or Egypt. (And I’m definitely not saying anyone is excluding anyone else deliberately. Okay?) Fact is, though, European and North American bands do get the first bite of media coverage, and that leaves legions of non-Western bands and music scenes in the dark.

That’s why sites like Unite Asia matter. The website features everything from pop punk to black metal, grindcore to metalcore, and from red-raw punk to chest-thumping hardcore. Unite Asia features reviews, interviews, news, scene reports — as well as video/music premieres — from throughout Asia. In fact, pick an Asian country, and Unite Asia likely has a foot in the door. (Maybe not North Korea, yet.)

The best thing about Unite Asia is that it doesn’t treat the music it covers like an exotic treat. Sometimes, Western writers can inadvertently sound patronizing covering music from far afield. Sometimes, those writers come across like they’re doing Asian bands a huge favor by covering them. Sometimes, there’s a not-so-subtle suggestion that Asian bands aren’t quite as good as Western bands. But Unite Asia’s comprehensive coverage is the antidote to all of that bullshit.

Unite Asia’s authoritative approach promotes music from a raft of DIY scenes in bustling cities and smaller towns — or even villages with their own logistical or sociocultural hurdles to manage. Unite Asia doesn’t shy away from tackling political issues either, and it’s worth remembering that some of the bands Unite Asia features operate in places that are hostile to punk in a way that Western groups rarely have to consider.

Unite Asia is an excellent way to keep up to date with scenes and bands not routinely covered by the Western music media. It provides a mountain of music and creative happenings to explore, but, even better, Unite Asia exemplifies punk’s DIY attitude and community-focused objectives by forging relationships that extend across geographic, social, religious or economic borders.

When I first started writing about punk rock and heavy metal, the only place to do that was in zines or magazines, and the internet was still the stuff of sci-fi dreams. Nowadays, of course, the number of zines and magazines has rapidly diminished, with online pages proving more popular than tangible ones. I can’t say I’ve been crushed by the loss of many bloated music magazines, but the demise of Maximum Rockandroll (MRR) and a few others did sting more than I’d imagined it would.

I always enjoyed MRR’s bluntness, frankness, and wise-ass humor, even if the zine was a ridiculously strict gatekeeper. MRR wasn’t at a highpoint when it folded, but my sadness about seeing it go was tempered when it announced plans to continue online.

I always valued the fact that MRR’s pages provided a crucial home for weirdos and rabble-rousers, and the zine’s short and often snarky record reviews were routinely fun. In fact, MRR was a great resource for finding out about new punk and hardcore bands from around the globe, which is why I was stoked to discover that MRR posted their first online column of records reviews recently.

If you’re looking for a quick-fire way to scan some recent releases, you should seriously consider adding MRR’s review section to your bookmarks, even if you don’t happen to agree with all the cutting (or kind) opinions therein. I don’t know what other online content MRR has planned, but I hope there’ll be columns, lengthy interviews, and even more Q&As to come. I’m glad MRR is keeping on keeping on, even if that means the zine’s record reviews will be arriving in my inbox, rather than my mailbox.

Idioteq is as big, brash and as brawny as the music it covers. The slick and popular website is buzzing with features covering every imaginable strain (and adjunct variety) of hardcore, metalcore, and post-hardcore. To be honest, Idioteq covers a lot of thick-necked hardcore and melodic punk that I’ve got zero interest in. But that’s my problem, not Idioteq’s, and the site deserves a mention right here because of the time and effort that’s poured into Idioteq’s pages.

Idioteq exhibits true dedication to the cause, and it features music news, premieres, interviews, streams, and videos, which clearly make it a treasure trove for fans of contemporary hardcore. Obviously, Idioteq is far from alone in being a polished website that covers hardcore and punk-friendly metal. But Idioteq stands out because it maintains a strong DIY ethos and it spends as much time actively seeking out and highlighting emerging groups as it does covering much-loved and established hardcore and metal bands.

Posted by Craig Hayes

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

  1. This is rad! I’ve been hoping for an article like this. Thank you!

    Reply

  2. You’re very welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply

  3. Hallo there.
    This is Romain from Terminal Sound Nuisance here. Thanks a lot for the flattering comments about the blog. I don’t get that much feedback so it is always comforting to know that someone enjoys my enthusiastic tirades.
    Cheers!

    Reply

    1. Hi, Romain. Thanks for your thanks! I really enjoy your blog (and tirades!), and I know plenty of other people who do too. I’ve discovered a lot of great music via Terminal Sound Nuisance. Cheers, mate!

      Reply

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