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Posts Tagged ‘Refused

botch_ananthologyofdeadends

After nine years and two albums, Seattle noisecore pioneers Botch decided to quit in 2002, leaving us with this EP as a parting gift. And it is a fine gift. Although only just over 22 minutes long, “an anthology of dead ends” is full of the angular song structures, unexpected tempo changes, and just plain noise, that made them probably the most consistently exiting band of their type. Botch combines the technicality of metal and the raw ferocity of punk with complex time structures, similar stylistically to bands like Coalesce and Converge. Evil Math Rock! The devastating combination of noise, indie rock guitar, rhythmic density, and scathing vocals is about as subtle as hitting your face with a sledgehammer.

Their final EP topped up everything they stood for in 21 minutes. It showed their abilites to create, minmalistcally (‘Spaim’), how to create noise within acceptable pop boundaries (‘Japam’), create haunting ballands (‘Afghamistam’) and how to top it all off with one huge agressive jam session (‘Micaragua’). And I promise, you can listen thirty times to this record and still will be able to pick up new details.

A special album by a special band who changed the music scene like Refused, At the Drive-In and similar bands, wether you understand it or not is totally up to you.

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I wish I would find as much time as hardcore for nerds for my blog, but wait wait wait…. I can explain. University, my boring and fucked up job and my private life in general took just a lot of time in the last weeks, it was a nerv racking period, but as a regular visitor you know that urbanology always took some short vacations from blogging and always came back with some fine stuff. Well, here we go again!

I had a little debate with hardcore for nerds about hardcore/post-hardcore records in the last decade, my opinion is that the real groundbreaking records are at least 10 years or older and since that records almost nothing interesting happened. No doubt, a lot of good records were published, but nothing which let you listen to it with wide opened mouth, because the music is so astonishing impressive (as a hardcore record of course, not music in general). For my personal taste and view, “the shape of punk to come” from Refused, released in 1998, was the last groundbreaking hardcore record, pushing evolutions in the music from the last years to a climax and creating a new sound. Afterwards he presented this fantastic record on his blog and you all should check it out (also his fine mixtape, which is a result of our debate), it is a record I also wanted to present since a long time here.  But another record came to my mind instead, Abhinanda´s “rumble”, also released in 1998 and from the same city in Sweden: Umeå.

In the 1990s this small town – which daily life is dominated by its two Universities, in the very north of Sweden and only 400km south of the arctic circle – was a kind of Mecca for the european hardcore scene. In the city of birches a vital scene with uncountable bands evolved , a lot of concerts from national and international bands took place, as well as independent record labels, who supported the local scene. The interest for this music, which challenged established norms and was treated as political was enormous (with a strong focus on straight edge and veganism) and soon a lot of people outside Scandinavia also took notice of Umeå hardcore. Bands like Beyond Hate, Doughnuts, Drift Apart, Final Exit, Saidiwas, Separation, Step Forward and of course Refused, to name just a very few, made Umeå the european hardcore capital. Today still a vital scene exist in the town at the Bothnian Sea, The (International) Noise Conspiracy or The Lost Patrol Band are keeping Umeå worldwide on the map. One characteristic of the local scene was always, that a lot of musicians played in several bands and the bands interacted a lot. In both last named groups you can find persons, who played in various other bands before. In the past Refused and Abhinanda even switched members.

One leading band of Umeå hardcore was Abhinanda, who sadly stood in the shadows of the more famous Refused and often described as their little brothers. But their relationshis is better described as non monozygotic twins. The breakthrough for both bands took place after Refused and Abhinanda toured Scandinavia together in the winter of 1993. Afterwards Abhinanda released their debut full length “senseless“, considered a hardcore classic by many until today and also the record that turned the legendary Umeå-hardcore label “Desperate Fight” to a “real” label . The record is so intensive, so touching and keeps the perfect balance between anger and desperation. A song like “needle” or “serenade” casts a spell over me until today, even after all these years. 1995 a tour throughout Europe together with US-hardcore band “108” (yes, it was the time of the Hare Krishna hype in the hardcore scene, that religious bullshit raised the head and even when Abhinanda never were a Krishna-core band, the Krishna-influenced band name speaks volumes about the widespread influence of Hare Krishna ideas in the hardcore-straight edge scene. Luckily the shit was gone as fast as it had came) followed and Abhinanda took Europe by storm. A EP were released to fan the flames, the drummer Jonas left to do “Separation” and in 1996, almost at the same time as Refused released their “songs to fan the flames of discontent” album, Abhinanda published their same titled second full length record. Both records again had enormous impact on the european hardcore scene. Everybody could hear that both bands had made great steps forward and pushed hardcore towards its own boundaries.

But at the moment of the release these boundaries weren´t that visible, it took some more releases from some bands of that, in my opinion golden age of new school hardcore bands. Refused´s and Abhinanda´s releases soon became milestones, with a whole scene addicted to them. I was one of that people, a young boy in his adolescence who was into hardcore and who found the perfect musical expressions of his feelings about the society he was forced to grow up in. In the retrospective this period with its releases, its shows and the lyrics, the whole scene seems like the climax of the new school hardcore in Europe, soon after that the music changed and hardcore-music got more into metal and tough guy shit, while the scene that hold up the ideals of punk and hardcore (sometimes in a very dogmatic way) branched off the limited possibilities of the music. The last records from Abhinanda and Refused are a good symbol of it. Both bands told in many interviews, that after their releases from 1996 they fell into a black hole and soon started to search for new way, in music and expression in general. Refused undoubtly went to the highest step with “the shape of punkt to come“, the epitaph and throne of that sound in one. A few weeks after the release, and I hope I remember it the right way, also after Refused splitted up, Abhinanda released “rumble“. A superb record, still with a hardcore basis, but with typical Swedish garage rock’n’roll influences and thirst for experimentation. The songs are rocking like hell, not as arty as Refused, more directly, but not losing the hardcore spirit, the rage, the desperation and the hope. Maybe it can be called the hardcore version of Turbonegro and The Hives, both conquering the world in the same year, 1998.  Soon Abhinanda also did split up. Most of the members from both bands are playing in several bands until today, research it four yourself, you will find some very interesting music that came after the climax of new school hardcore.

A anecdote at the end: When The (International) Noise Conspiracy toured Europe for the first time in 1999 a friend called me: “Today the new band from the Refused singer plays a gig, do you come with us?” Of course I did, it was a show in front of 40 people, most never heard them before and only came, because it was the new band from Denis Lyxen, but it was a good concert. The only had one release with them on tour and also just one release at all, a 7inch on a Hong Kong based label. Before they came to Europe, they only played some shows in Sweden and made an illegal tour through China. For some reasons I didn´t buy the 7inch, what a mistake, I was a fool. A few months later the band was the new hype, the full length a megaselling record. I should have bought 5 copies and sell 4 of this very rare one to some kids on ebay a year later or so, damn.

Well, enjoy the little brothers.

Started with a screamo sound close to San Diego style back in 1995, Standstill themselves wouldn’t probably think that they would become, through the years, the influential and respected band they are nowadays. So what happened, why is Standstill not another average hardcore, later post- and nowadays ex-hardcore band?

Besides the fact that they´re from Spain and that you still can reach at least an exotic touch with this origin in that genre, it was in first line their ability to play hardcore music in an aggressive AND melancholic way, with no lack of power. Their debut from 1997 was good and reached attention outside Spain, but their second full length “The Ionic Spell” from 2001sent shockwaves around Europe. That record put a start to the next era of Standstill, when they started to play continuously around Europe, causing a strong influence over a number of british, french, german and belgian bands who wanted to have the same punch, attitude, sound and songs that Standstill was showing successfully wherever they played. The post-hardcore/screamo scene in Europe pulsated and Standstill were on of the leading bands. “The Ionic Spell” awarded like best spanish album of the year by Rock Sound and Mondo Sonoro and highlighted by most of the main spanish specialized magazines. It showed how the rage of the screamo roots can fit with the beauty of the instrumental landscapes, using samplers and keyboards with dexterity.

But one year later, 2002, the next album “Memories Collector” did go one step beyond with the addition of trumpets, vibraphones, upright basses and other instruments really uncommon in the “hardcore” scene. Like 4 years ago with “the shape of punk to come” from Refused hardcore-music was reinvented (or killed? to invent something new?), last time the storm came from Sweden, this time from Spain. And for me it came at the right time, once again I thought that hardcore was dead. Refused legendary last release from 1998 became something like a blueprint, hundreds of bands just copying them, hardcore music (with all its different subgenres) once again was trapped into stagnation. Standstill´s “Memories Collector” broke up that stagnation and the record title was perfect: the music collected all the tendencies and developments that took place over the last years and transformed the whole into a new sound. Hardcore (and of course Punk) has a long history of that kind of important records (we can argue if Standstill´s “Memories Collector” is one, in my eyes it is, especially for the european hardcore scene), that ended stagnation (and hardcore is full of stagnation and conservative nostalgia), aggregated and evolved new directions (and since some years I´m waiting for a new milestone in hardcore music or did I just miss it? tell me if you think so!)

With the addition of Carlos on second guitar and Damià on the saxophone Standstill added a touch of experimentation to their emotional sound, losing agressivity but not power. Surprising from the very first breaks of “Ride down the slope” until the Black Sabbath inheritance of “Memories Collector”, passing through the quiet lyricism of “Dead man picture” or the apic intensity of “Always late” or “Not the place”, this record simply broke up with anything else done before in the international post-hardcore scene, left impress also in the indie scene.

The following releases, all on highly respected spanish indepentend label BCore, led Standstill more into a quieter, smoother sound rather than the explosive output of their previous stuff. Their same titled third record from 2004 is their most mature, profound and eloquent album ever, as it is the first release they have sung in spanish. A few weeks ago they released “Viva la guerra” continuing on that way.

“Memories Collector” is until today one of the most important european hardcore records, that broke up with typical hardcore sounds and arrangements, completed a musical development that was on the rise for years in the european scene.

Ride down the slope!


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