VA – Terminal Decay LP / Artcore Fanzine #29

AKA ‘Artcore Vinyl Fanzine Volume Five’. Punk rock fixture ‘n’ fitting Welly is back with yet another broadside in his war against mediocrity in the zine scene. And he’s a veteran in every sense – this is issue #29 of the exceptional ‘Artcore‘, an organ that he’s been thrusting into the hands of grateful punks since 1986. But with the printed word becoming harder to sell to the internet masses, Welly’s risen to the challenge and occasionally produces a vinyl fanzine to bring something a bit different to the table. Like this one.

Artcore zineThe mag is as jam-packed as ever and, with Welly’s experienced eye, beautifully laid out. All of the bands on the album are covered within, some with full interviews and the rest with smaller info panels, there are a few dozen quick reviews (I wish I had the ability to be both that brief and informative), a couple of Wellian polemics (the one on ‘knowing your place’ is outstanding), a bit of ranting banter from a few mates, some history lessons (MDC and more German punk), interviews with a range of deviant types (the highlight for me has to be the one with Rob ‘The Baron’ Miller of Amebix), and all tail-ended by some lovely ’50s horror comic style artwork courtesy of Dirty Donny, who also gets to say a few words.

Crammed on to the large round thing that accompanies the mag (AKA ‘Terminal Decay’) are twenty tracks that showcase a load of new(ish) bands from across the punk spectrum who are taking punk forwards on their own terms (whilst respecting the traditions that preceded them). Like any comp, there will almost certainly be a track or two that don’t quite gel with your ears. It’s music, it’s a personal response, that’s what happens. But, to these ears, this one hits the spot far more often than not, and even the ‘worst’ of the tunes is alright.

Other great things about the comp are that the bands represent 12 countries between them, thirteen of the tracks are previously unreleased while, for two more, it’s their first vinyl outing. That’s proper old-school, when comp albums would be made up almost exclusively of new songs and / or unknown bands from all over the place.

Welly wants to keep this deal as analogue as possible, but has kindly agreed to let me upload the title track (as used in the above video). If you want to hear the rest of it (and you’d be bonkers not to), you’ll have to grab this quick.

OP’s opinion: Four half

Download ‘Terminal Decay‘ (FLAC) by Burning Sensation (on hiatus)
Visit Welly’s website
Buy from Iron Column Records

Anthrax – One Last Drop 7″

Anthrax cover

Click for larger image

No, not that one, the proper one.

This is a limited vinyl pressing (300, each numbered) of their first new studio tracks in 25 years, originally released on MCD in 2009. The band have put this out to raise money for Bradford’s legendary ‘1 in 12 Club‘, who are facing large bills for essential safety work on their building.

Which means the first thing you’ll get for your money is a warm glow from having helped out a punk institution.

You’ll also get a heavy fold-out card cover with a piece about the club, lyrics to both tracks and some classic Anthrax artwork. They even include the MCD for free. Oh, and there’s a record.

Never mind the 25 year gap, this is about as fresh as punk gets. The pace may have slowed a fraction but the urgency hasn’t diminished one bit. The A side has a really powerful sound, almost an Oi! feel but with more depth to it. The flip is more traditionally moody @-punk, perked up with a simple semi-acoustic refrain along the way. The whole thing is like the second EP on steroids, and I’m really impressed with the progression. I’d even go as far as saying that, as a whole package, it’s the best thing they’ve done to date.

The whole deal is £4 plus postage direct from the band at or buy it on ebay for a little bit more.

OP’s opinion: Five

Opposition Rising – Aftermathematics LP

Opposition Rising posterThis is the first vinyl release from the rapidly-expanding Riot Ska Records collective (among others), and it’s a great start for them.

Opposition Rising hail from Boston and band members have been heavily involved with the scene for many years. Their diverse tastes are reflected in the sound they’ve produced here, a pleasant cocktail of sharp old-school hardcore and dismetal with touches of what is probably best described as ska-crust. The production job is crisp without being too clean, very well suited to what they’re doing, and everything fits nicely into place.

The band have matched the noise to some creative and intelligent lyrics, which is exactly what you’d expect from folk who’ve been around the block a few times. There’s an an uncompromising attitude that could only really come from veterans of the social war. They’ve also made some conscious positive decisions about what DIY means to them when it comes to putting out their music in this day and age. It’s nice to see the old guard (still) setting the pace in political punk rock discourse.

Being a vinyl nut, I scooped up the limited edition swamp green version from Riot Ska. The other labels involved – Active Rebellion (UK), Crash Assailant Records (US), Pirates Press Records (US), Rodent Popsicle (US) and Tankcrimes Records (US) – have each got their own limited colour pressings too (and they’re all really nice). There are (not-so-limited) black copies available from the band’s own label, Opposition Records, and all of the above.

You may also be able to track down the free CD version or, if not, you can download it for absolutely nothing from the Bandcamp page.

For people who also like: Varukers, Toxic Narcotic, Mouth Sewn Shut

OP’s opinion: Four half

Opposition Rising website
Buy from the labels or from Iron Column Records (black version).

NB: the band also appear on a 4-way split 7″ with Embrace The Kill, In Defence and Hellmouth, which is also available from ICR.

Misery – From Where The Sun Never Shines DL

Misery - FWTSNS coverBack with a bang after too many years, heavy crusters Misery return to show the young pups how it’s done.

Embracing the new audio world order, this is a download-only release. But that doesn’t mean getting lumbered with crappy bitrate mp3s. No, this one’s available in full studio glory FLAC. Burn it to CD and you’ve got exactly the same thing the boys heard at the mixdown.

And this really needs to be heard uncompressed. It’s a monster of a recording, made even more impressive by the fact that “the whole lot was recorded in the HOM [House Of Misery – OP] basement over a five year period by some pissheaded bastard that is far from a pro producer” (in the words of Jon Misery, who does himself a massive disservice). IMHO, it sets a new milestone in DIY and delivers an album that nicely expresses what the band are about and how they want to say it.

As you’d expect, there’s a clear Amebix influence on many of the tracks. But it’s no clone. Misery have taken the sound and then mutated it into their own creature. There are also clear nods to the early UK anarcho scene throughout, some gothy touches, and even a flavour of Blitz-style Oi! (albeit with added gravel) in parts.

Bass riffs are hammered home while the chugging and riffage are all-encompassing. The strings are fleshed out with some smart use of effects. For the most part, the drumming is pleasingly heavy, although I found the cymbals and hats to be a little too crashy and dominant at times. But that’s just me, I know that many others love that crasher percussion. Overall, the end result is a cavernously big sound that embraces the senses.

The apocalyptic lyrics are well-written and stand out from the over-simplified ‘war/oil/man bad, nature good’ style that’s overly common in this scene. They ask heavy questions and pose challenges to us all, but there are glimmers of hope within them, a recognition that we can take the power away from the fools and find it within ourselves too. The shared vocal delivery leaves no room to hide and makes sure the message is received loud and clear.

It’s nice to see them have a bit of fun too, with their own takes on New Model Army’s ‘The Hunt’ and Amebix’s ‘ICBM’. They do a top job on ’em.

This is a quality piece of work and, for only five quid ($8), should definitely find its way on to your hard drive at some point.

For people who also like: Bolt Thrower, Aus-Rotten, Instinct Of Survival

OP’s opinion: Four and a half

Download sample track – Autonomy (FLAC)
Misery website
Buy from the band

Amebix – Knights Of The Black Sun 12″

Amebix - Knights of the Black Sun sleeve

My oh my. This truly is a work of art, from the outside in.

Let’s start with the sleeve. Ethereal tones of grey and blue swirl through each other to suggest a sense of freedom in what first appears to be a very foreboding landscape confined by the blackest of shadows. Immerse yourself in it for a minute and you’ll see the shafts of a brighter dawn on the horizon, the sharp silhouette of a barbed wire fence trodden down by those brave enough to have stepped outside the prison, the feather laying on the ground a symbol of sacrifices made in order to escape the bonds, sacrifices that will soon be forgotten in the exhilaration of the liberation found beyond.

Turning to the contents, ignore the five or so minutes of groove on one side for now and flip the ultra-heavy 180g vinyl over (unless you’ve taken it out of its sleeve groove down). You’ll behold a beautifully interpreted laser etching of ol’ Splathead him/her/itself, a reflection of the hidden recesses of your mind staring back from an ebony mirror. But look more closely and you’ll see yourself reflected too, a reminder of the power that lies within.

If you’re anything like me, the artwork is heavy stuff. If you’re not, you can just admire the lovingly executed design and imagery.

Anyway, on to the words and noise.

The lyrical symbolism is incredibly strong and rates as some of their most spellbinding to date. The years have given Rob the time to hone his wordcraft to absolute precision, evoking the great battles between dark and light that we all must face if we really seek our liberty. It’s classic Amebix territory taken up a notch, steeped in poetical traditions but without losing anything of Rob’s distinctive perspective, his ability to find that spark of hope in even the bleakest of times.

Musically, it’s crisp, clean and crushing as fuck, layers of finely-balanced and interconnected riffs and rhythms, starting out as sparse as the best of Joy Division before building to a monstrously intense peak, accented and tail-ended with the most delicate of ambient atmospheres, subtle notes of piano and the faintest of strings, and all without vanishing up its own arse. This is noise of epic proportions that will engulf you completely.

Knowing that this is the last track on the forthcoming album makes perfect sense. It’s a point of closure and a point of departure, the end of one journey and the start of the next. If everything that precedes it matches this finale, then The Amebix will undoubtedly have come of age.

As an added bonus, you get a download card (possibly pre-orders only, check with the labels) for an HD-quality CGI animation for the track by Andy ‘Leffer’ Lefton, also part of Minneapolis crust-punk combo War//Plague. You’ll probably either love it or hate it depending on how you feel about CGI. Me, I love it. Given the constraints he worked under, having to hit a tight deadline using his own spare time, he’s done genuine justice to the audio storyline.

The overall message here is clear – freedom begins within. It’s up to you to smash your own chains and break on through to the other side. And you can do it, no matter how daunting things may first seem. Now that’s a fucking slick thing to achieve with nothing more than a few words, noises and pictures.

If you’re looking for The Amebix of yesteryear, you may end up quite badly disappointed. Personally, I think it’s inspiring that the boys have each allowed their own internal (r)evolutions to be reflected in the sounds they’re now creating.

Some are going to say it’s pretentious bollocks (maybe both the record and what I’ve just written), a waste of good plastic. I say that, in this case, each part’s an essential element of the whole. The aesthete in me approves most fully. And I love playing with words to try and capture how something makes me feel. From where I’m sat, that’s the point and beauty of art. So bollocks to yer bollocks, and bollocks to mine too.

OP’s opinion: Five

Listen to the song and watch the vid on YouTube
Amebix website
Buy from Profane Existence / Easy Action

Burnt Cross – Break The Law Not The Poor 7″

The brothers Marriot show no let up in their output as yet another explosive blast of full-blooded anarcho-punk is committed to vinyl. This time round, they’re busy calling out murdering bastard cops for the scum they are and suggesting a suitable riposte with their stripped-down and powered-up reworking of The Apostles’ ‘Mob Violence’, a venom-filled verbal assault on the rich and their lackey police (and which, along with Conflict’s ‘The Ungovernable Force’, rates as my all-time joint-favourite punk rock song). Rob combines metal-edged fuck-off guitar and bare-knuckle bass with a cleverly-programmed drum machine to produce music that’s steeped in the legacy of the Crass bands without sounding in the least bit hackneyed, while Paul spits out the vocals with a ferocity that’s well-matched to the lyrics.

Burnt Cross labelIt’s all wrapped up in a heavy card sleeve sporting a suitably combative red ‘n’ black (with a bit of white) graphic on the front, a lyric sheet inside, and a label that’s one of the smartest I’ve seen in quite a while.

The record is a co-operative release by ten different labels (Tadpole Records, Lukket Avdeling Records, Loud Punk Records, Opiate Records, Rawby Records, Active Rebellion, Arripurri Records, Schizo, Höhnie Records, Rusty Knife Records), so extra @-punk points to everyone for do-it-together style.

OP’s opinion: Four half

Download sample track – Mob Violence (FLAC)
Burnt Cross Facebook
Buy from Iron Column Records

New Town Kings – M.O.J.O. CD

NTK MOJO cover
Is it just me, or does it seem like every summer brings along a record that’s timed to perfection for the (hopefully) sunshine-filled season? This year, that honour goes to the ten(ish)-strong outfit known as the New Town Kings. This is trad ska with an added kick that actually brings something fresh to the table. This is music for long evenings and longer drinks.

Chris Watts’ voice is spot on, strong and direct with an uplifting energy that’s as refreshing as a cold cider on a hot day. The lyrics are simple without being simple-minded, taking on the daily pressures of everyday life while still keeping a postive edge. Really clean and crisp brass bounces around with joyful abandon, the trumpet and sax capturing that rudeboy unity spirit perfectly. Unmistakable Cuban influences add to the depth of authenticity displayed by the NTKs, as do the smooth low-end bass and Kingston-flavoured keyboard and guitar rhythms. Packaging is in keeping with the look of the era although, given my love for real vinyl, the all-black disc complete with grooved surface on the arty side to resemble an actual record seems a bit weird to me – why not just press some proper ones?

OP’s opinion: Four

For people who also like: The Aggrolites, Prince Buster

Download sample track – Stop! (FLAC)
New Town Kings Facebook
Buy from Bomber Music (released 18th July, a few limited edition pre-orders with t-shirt and poster may still be available)

Copasetics – S/T CDEP

Copasetics EP coverI was kindly sent this 4-track introduction to Copasetics by the band, and I’m glad they thought of me. For a group that’s only been around for a year or so, it’s a great first release that holds promise of more good things to come.

Taking their influence from real old-school swing-flavoured ska right through to the fuzzed-out 3rd-wave style first brought to the world’s attention in the ’90s by the likes of Moon Ska Records, they certainly know how to get a groovy beat going. With the brass standing proud and the beats choppin’ in all the right places, it’s pretty infectious. Even the slower, more reggae-flavoured tunes have a certain oomph that demand you stand up and get your feet jiggy.

Lyrically they’re not afraid to include some pretty strong political opinions either, which is always to be applauded. There are too many bands who think a good song stops at the instruments and merely use the vocals as another layer of noise. Copasetics don’t fall into this trap and offer up sharp lines dealing with everything from isolation to inebriation via class struggle and social control. The one lyric that really caught my eye comes from ‘Firing Squad – ” I was busting a gut not to better myself but for reasons I fucking hate…to make a rich man richer”. That’s the plight of the working man and woman summed up in a nutshell. It’s a simple message and it’s good to see the next generation unafraid to tell the world just how things really are, especially when there are still so many who are blind to it.

If I’ve got one criticism, it’s the vocal delivery itself. While it’s generally strong and fits in well with the sound and the message, it has that faux Yankee twang that grates on my ears. For a band from Yorkshire, this should really be an opportunity to celebrate the county’s linguistic twang, not hide it under a blanket of Americanised stresses. Yeah, I know, it’s my bugbear and not everyone gets so het up by these things but, for me, music needs the individuality of an accent to really bring it alive. You can catch traces of the regional patois now and again, it just needs bringing much more to the fore. It says a lot for the quality of this lot though that, after a few listens, I can (almost) forgive them.

A new EP is in the works and, if this debut is anything to go by, should be well worth the wait. Until then, do your ears and brain a favour and grab this little taster for a bargain £2.50 including post and a free badge!

OP’s opinion: Three half

For people who also like: The Skints, The Specials, Capdown

Download sample track – Firing Squad (FLAC)
Copasetics website
Buy from the band

The Rebel Spell – It’s A Beautiful Future CD

Rebel Spell Beautiful Future coverThese young but well-established veterans of the Canadian punk scene have pulled off a neat trick with their latest release, managing to capture the passion at the heart of our culture and condense it into 12 tracks and 30-something minutes of life-enhancing music. Packed with more energy than a vegan’s farts, the band blast their way through the walls of oppression with their sounds of inspiration. There’s some pretty clever verbal dissection of the multitude of problems that face people around the world but this only serves to reinforce the common ground – we’re all victims of the colonialist mindset of the ruling elites, whether it’s done by invading armies or imposed by our own home-grown governments and their all-seeing eyes. The Rebel Spell do a damned fine job of shining a light into the dark shadows of the fortresses of the power-crazed, exposing them for the cockroaches they really are. Their ability to lay bare the fetid corpse of capitalism is only matched by their desire to get us all to connect the dots and stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the common enemy. The inclusion of radical folk singer Leon Rosselson’s ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ at the very end of the disc is a fitting climax to all that precedes it, the band infusing it with their own unique passion. I’d go as far as to say it’s destined to become many people’s favourite version of this well-loved tune.

It’s really well-balanced when it comes to the musical foundations, perfectly in keeping with the lyrical finesse laid over the top. The bass player double-picks riffs at a speed that suggests he must have some hummingbird genes in his arms, the guitar and vocals dance with the passion of lifelong lovers, while beats are of the solid and hearty variety needed to pull and hold this potent force together. There’s nothing too fancy here, just smart and sharp use of whatever’s within arm’s and tongue’s reach to make a clear and concise point.

The Rebel Spell are the essence of political punk rock, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded once in a while what a great smell that is.

For people who also like: Dropkick Murphys, The Restarts, the first Propagandhi LP

OP’s opinion: Four half

Download sample track – Feel The Same (FLAC)
The Rebel Spell website
Buy from Iron Column Records / the band / Rebel Time Records.

The Mob, Bristol 08.04.11


Click to enlarge

For the first time in nearly 30 years, one of the most intense bands from the first wave of @-punk took to the stage and blew 400 minds. The Mob are back. And this time round, they’ve got the kit to really do their sound justice. Mark even smiled! Sure, there were a couple of hiccups, and the guitar wasn’t always 100% in tune with itself or anything else (hey, it’s punk) but, married with the strength of the voice, the pounding rhythms and the intense basslines, the synergy produced from every element created one of the most awesome atmospheres I’ve ever experienced at a gig, punk or otherwise. I have no idea if they’re going to do any more gigs (rumours of a London show were heard) – if they do, get there by any means available.

Here are a few of the pics (click to enlarge) I was able to grab in between regressing to that 16-year-old optimistic human being that still lurks somewhere inside me.

Rubella Ballet
Rubella Ballet 1

Rubella Ballet 2

Zounds 1

Zounds 2

Zounds 3 - Mark Astronaut

The Mob
The Mob 1

The Mob 2

The Mob 3

The Mob 4

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