Tag Archives: Hardcore

Pandemix’s Poetic Punk Politics

Pandemix

Photo by Ryan Stanis.

Pandemix is a punk band from Boston, Massachusetts. Granted, punk is a broad term—it encapsulates a myriad of subgenres: hardcore, peace punk, Oi!, crust, and so on—but Pandemix manage to seamlessly pick and choose from decades of cultural and artistic detritus to create something unique and engaging, though clearly rooted in the familiar. They employ the poetic politics and bounce of many Crass Records bands, the catchiness of ’77 style punk, and the aggression of hardcore.

Their first full-length, Scale Models of Atrocities, released by Boss Tuneage Records, expands on the work Pandemix did on their 2016 demo. The band manage to ramp up both the aggression and catchiness by delivering memorable riffs that still have teeth. Old songs like the tense, building “Total Immersion” or the dark, stomping “Faultless” are given a fresh polish and new context when sequenced with more ambitious numbers like “A Wall” and total rippers like “The Pornography of Hope.” It’s the best kind of musical progression—a band that takes a step forward creatively while still sounding distinctly like themselves.

The lyrics, thoughtful and poignant, are delivered with precision and palpable frustration by vocalist Shannon Thompson, who’s been around the New England scene for years in bands like the alt-country-influenced Long Gone and who runs Nervous Nelly Records with her partner. We spoke with Thompson about avoiding punk conventions, the pitfalls and necessities of identity, and navigating this complex world full of interlaced power dynamics.

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Six Gloomy Gems From the Dark Punk Revival

Arctic Flowers

Arctic Flowers.

In 2013, during an interview with Danny Gallegos, singer of gloomy Chicago punk group Cemetery, I asked him how he’d categorize his band. I wondered if he thought the term “dark punk” was appropriate. It was a term that was coming into currency at the time, as a way to describe a new community of former hardcore bands who were playing music closer in style to deathrock and post-punk. “I hate the term ‘dark punk,'” Gallegos responded, “because to me that’s redundant. Punk should already be dark. There’s always been a message behind punk that is very bleak and dark in nature.”

But the “dark punk” designation stuck, and not just for Cemetery. It’s jockeyed with other genre tags—goth-punk, deathrock revival, the tongue-in-cheek “G-beat“—to identify a style of darkwave-, post-punk- and anarcho-influenced punk that’s grown out of the hardcore scene since the late aughts, and which gained intensity around 2010-2012. It still continues today. The revival’s early years saw important releases by acts like Lost Tribe, Belgrado, Spectres, Arctic Flowers, Bellicose Minds, and Bluecross.

During the latter part of the last decade, many groups operating in the underground DIY hardcore punk scene found themselves moving away from political D-beat and thrash, and started to explore slower tempos, different effects pedals (the Almighty Flanger, for instance), and moodier or more introspective themes. “You can only play a D-beat so many times,” Brian Gustavson of Spectres said in an interview with Austin deathrock site No Doves Fly Here in 2012. “For me, it was rediscovering ’80s U.K. peace punk that made it seem all right to be into post-punk, new wave, and ‘harder punk’ simultaneously.”

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Terminal Consumption: The Best Punk on Bandcamp, June 2017

Terminal Consumption

In this installment of Terminal Consumption, our monthly reviews column focused on the margins of punk and hardcore, Sam Lefebvre reviews Xylitol’s militant meanness, Liquids’ fluid catalogue, Glue’s dour return, and debut tapes by New York groups Decisions and HVAC.

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Integrity’s Dwid Hellion Thinks Humanity is a Disease

Integrity

Photo by Jimmy Hubbard.

Dwid Hellion, the mastermind behind long-running Cleveland metallic hardcore band Integrity, is heavy duty. He’s about to release the band’s new album, Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume, and as one would imagine from its name, it’s not exactly light fare. The central concept of the album is that the renowned, troubled painter Francis Bacon gets sucked into a metaphysical realm and is dragged across eternity in order to bear witness to humanity’s continuing and unending disgrace. At each juncture, humanity is given the choice to behave less disgracefully; at every juncture, we fail.

The idea that humanity itself is a disease is something that Hellion has investigated since the band’s first full-length. Those Who Fear Tomorrow, released in 1991, combined punk and metal in new and brutal ways, and instilled it with Hellion’s metaphysical introspection. His thesis, developed across a string of ever more daring and bizarre albums, is that, well, humanity is the devil. (Sir David Attenborough, among other scientists, philosophers, and commentators, might agree. Hellion includes himself in this class of wretches, of course.) Over the course of their career, the band has explored death cults, mind control, and the concept that we might only exist as the projection of some other (possibly idiotic and/or chaotic) force.

Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume, which uses Bacon as a hierophant for this revelation, acts as a sort of capstone to this 26-year quest. Bacon is shown the light, and the light is not pretty. It’s fitting that the new album is the band’s most metallic to date, with guitarist Dom Romeo whipping ably between thrash, power metal, and stoner metal.

With this puzzle laid out before us, we spoke to Hellion about Francis Bacon, why humanity is so horrific, and his cool shoes.

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Terminal Consumption: The Best Punk on Bandcamp, May 2017

Terminal Consumption

In this installment of Terminal Consumption, our monthly reviews column focused on the margins of punk and hardcore, Sam Lefebvre considers Kaleidoscope’s lovely hostility and Anxiety’s anticipated sophomore release, plus new releases by Leisure World, Marbled Eye, and Mutual Jerk.

Kaleidoscope, Volume 3 CS/12” [D4MT Labs/Feel It]

Shiva Addanki’s visual art often involves streaks and splotches of black ink, textured by crude reproduction, which is a good accompaniment to the trippy-yet-mean music of his band, Kaleidoscope. The New York trio, which Addanki leads on guitar, is workmanlike and consistent: they’ve issued several lengthy cassettes since 2015, mostly self-released, all of which boast an unfussy, production line title-scheme (Volume One, Volume Two, Vol. 2 No. 2, etc.). The members play in other bands, live together in Brooklyn, and record in the basement. And the recordings, fraught with errant noise, reliably convey menace and amorphous sounds alike—call it “thuggish psych.”

It’s become common lately for punk and hardcore groups to invoke psychedelia, perhaps finding it a good catchall—now that “post-punk” elicits groans—for newfound formal ambition or electronic predilections. Volume 3 is full of generous echo and burbling flourishes, which sometimes overtake the riffs, evoking the 13th Floor Elevators’ electric jug by way of Chrome’s proto-industrial clank. But the group’s strength is still careening wildness; what produces the most disorienting effect is that, like so much rousing punk, the players probe the threshold of order without splintering apart.

A frantic, galloping rhythm, on “Cloud Control” gives way to a trudging mid-tempo passage where the vocalist’s halting, marble-mouthed syllables sound wonderfully hostile. And the fragments of forbidding guitar that begin “Simulator” typify Addanki’s moodily dynamic playing, which veers between frenetic riffing and frosty melodies, not unlike the style of Link Wray. This tension—between an apparent wish to muddle the music, and players too feisty for that to really occur—charges the whole of Kaleidoscope’s expanding catalogue.

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