Ten From the Tomb 8/12/19: Howl for the whip that no longer cracks.

TEN FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a themed list devoted to grouping together albums of similar interest that I missed throughout the year 2019. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons with the most common reason being constraint of time. I have a policy of covering 99% of everything I receive in some form, be it mini-review or full-feature, so don’t hesitate to send anything and everything my way.

Here I present a ten album sampler of some of the absolute best extreme crust punk & related releases so far in 2019. Consider it a blurry look through the burning wheel of the world around us, the illusory nature of rage, drowning in outrage culture, bartering with an addiction to frustration, edifying rampant perpetual paranoia, and the struggle to survive under the terror of knowing too much. Most of these albums made it here to Ten From the Tomb because I couldn’t manage the time for a long-form review or because I really didn’t have more than a paragraph or two worth of insight beyond banal description. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with 10 more albums from different styles, genres, themes, etc.

Hey! Don’t dive in thinking this will all be shit just because I am not doing full reviews for these releases! I always have some quality control in mind and look for expressive, meaningful, or just damn heavy releases that hold value without gimmickry or bland plagiarism. This weeks focus was chosen because I’d felt some sorrow following the public dissolution of Tau Cross. It was perhaps more of a beating than it should have been, but these provocative choices and awkward conspiracy theories were enough to shake me in my appreciation of Amebix… This loosens the very ground beneath me: ‘Arise!’ and ‘Monolith’ are a now-cracked keystone in my being. Thank you! I am eternally grateful for the support of readers and appreciate the friendly and positive interactions I’ve had with all thus far. Think my opinions are trash and that I suck? Want to totally tell me off, bro? Click away and let’s all live more sensible lives full of meaningful interactions. I’m too old and bored with people to care.


Artist Friendship
Title [Type/Year] Undercurrent [Full-length/2019]
Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Back in 2017 Friendship‘s debut for Southern Lord Recordings, ‘Hatred’, made waves with its seamless meld of hardcore/crust, powerviolence, and with some sludged-out moments. It was a behemoth that should have folks foaming at the mouth for more from this Japanese band who’ve been at it since at least 2014. ‘Undercurrent’ is a natural evolution from that point that focuses in on pure hardcore punk/powerviolence that is heavily influence by crust. The sludge/doom affect takes a slight backseat on this one and I think the production dictates this as much as the pacing of the record does. The guitar tone is tamed of its chuggy baritone just enough that the bass guitar shines through for a cleaner sounding record that is just as brutal and maniacal as the last, if not more. Are they any more catchy, clever, or adventurous compared to their debut? No, I’d say they’ve stayed the course and just improved every aspect of their craft while keeping the energy high. Check out “Plague” and “Garbage” back to back! Not pure crust or whatever but I felt this was the best sort of list/feature to hold ‘Undercurrent’ up as a true beast of an album.


Artist Depressor
Title [Type/Year] Hell Storms Over Earth [Compilation/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Born in 1992 as an industrial metal project with heavy Godflesh influence Chris Oxford‘s Depressor would soul-search unto a few vital points of defiance. Just beyond the industrial days (around 1998) Oxford would shift dramatically towards a self-recorded bout of thrashing crust punk that would drift towards increasing heaviness as the millennium approached. ‘Hell Storms Over Earth’ captures a radicalization, a crust punk DIY brain with a fucked up way high middle finger towards authoritarianism that captures everything from 1998 leading up to their 2004 death metal EP, including some unreleased material from 2000. It feels alien, outsider, pissed, but inspired by the classics of crust punk namely Amebix (see the cover of “Largactyl”) and Axegrinder with their thrashier movement. Loved this compilation but became curious about their early 90’s industrial metal side? Check out their unreleased 1995 self-titled album ‘Depressor‘ (2017), too. I think it provides great context for why this shift to extreme crust was such a trip at the time.


Artist Swarn
Title [Type/Year] Black Flame Order [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Swarn are an Estonian death-crust band with some black metal influences who’d gained some quick hype after their self-titled tape from 2017. This is a tricky one because they are primarily a death metal band but most all song structures and drumming come from a d-beat sort of mindset. ‘Black Flame Order’ is a grower and it’ll take a few songs to really show what is unique about Swarn in this context, which I’d say is their use of atmosphere in between bouts of d-beaten death. In interviews they’re pretty open about what death metal inspires them from the old Swedish stuff to the new bands like Pyre today, but this should be evident upon firing this very Svenska sounding punch of death. So, for as rote of a first impression as ‘Black Flame Order’ makes once you’re about wrist deep in the record you’ll undoubtedly see they’re coming with plenty of their own ideas most of which are compelling. I’m not in love with the guitar tone as it sounds uniform and digital in a way that doesn’t enhance the riffs themselves much, it does however offer a nice contrast to the ‘atmospheric’ leads and sections where Swarn trail off into space. Death metal very rarely caters to a patient fandom but if you’re the type to give something a chance despite some ‘typical’ attributes this is real beast of an album.


Artist Wretched of the Earth
Title [Type/Year] Collapse // Rebirth [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Portland, Oregon modernist d-beat band Wretched of the Earth have allied with Shove Records for this the vinyl issue of their second full-length album which was previously released in 2018 on other formats. Expect a bit more of a neocrust feeling on this one and all I mean is that you should pick up on the Tragedy influences by the end of the lengthy opening track. The dual vocal approach isn’t my thing but I enjoyed the melodic hardcore feeling of ‘Collapse // Rebirth’, which appears to be a vehicle for expressing anti-colonial and anti-racial supremacy centered lyrical themes. This is an excellent grab for folks seeking a broader picture, not only what crust was in the past but what it has evolved towards in the years since. Wretched of the Earth is cinematic in feeling above all else and this is at first counter-intuitive but once the full listen comes together there is a great sense of a long and emotional journey. It isn’t exactly my jam but an important addition to the Portland scene and a look at how expansive modern anarcho-punk can be in the hands of scene-tested musicians.


Artist Hive
Title [Type/Year] Most Vicious Animal [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

What could be more brutally depressing than reality, right? Although I think Victims‘ latest is the most soul-crushingly sorrowful hit of reality in ages consider Hive‘s take on Scandinavian hardcore just as ruinous for the self. These days this stuff is reshaping what bands like Gehenna and Integrity created with their ‘dark hardcore’ sensibilities and often comes by way of occasionally high-melodic ideas for most bands but, in the case of this Minneapolis quartet all that comes is the coroner. ‘Most Vicious Animal’ might jangle a bit on the side a la early Martyrdöd but the bulk of this album is destructive, ripping crust punk noise. Crank a song like “Threaten” and you’ll start to see past the wall of thunder Hive bring and see the full arc of the album start to form into something straightforward in the moment but somewhat adventurous as it plays out. Desolate and completely damning stuff.


Artist Rotten Hate
Title [Type/Year] Stabbing the Masses [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

If you remember the 5-way split from Canometal Records back in 2017 that featured Soulrot, Carnal Tomb, Anarchos, and Ectoplasma the only band that hadn’t put out a debut full-length since is Rotten Hate. Are they on par with those other bands? Maybe Soulrot and Anarchos, at least for my taste. Although there is some slight disconnect between the pure 80’s death metal description from the band and the marketing as death/crust the result is about right on both parts minus any expectations of thrash metal influences. Rotten Hate hails from Chile and they manage some pretty basic rhythms here with the occasional bounding death n’ roll worthy riffs that mostly stick with a standard punk beat. I didn’t find this to be simply d-beat drums and death metal guitars, though that sensibility is there but it isn’t purely Scandinavian in affect. What stands out? There is a classic heavy metal meets punk feeling here that only shines through in the more anthemic tracks (“Breaking”) which I believe is a meaningful path forward for the band where they emphasize those Motörpunk ideas but keep their filthy death metal edge. This one definitely caters more to the death metal fan side of things rather than the crust punk aficionado, much like Swarn does.


Artist Pale Misery
Title [Type/Year] Black Candles and Gutter Scum [EP/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

It is one think to emerge from a DIY mindset but to do so and land upon an unusual form of distinction in the process is almost doubly respectable. There are plenty of apt descriptions of what Pale Misery do, somewhere in between early second wave black metal and a less melodramatic touch of neocrust with some doom metal-esque drum kicks, but what interested me right from the start is the relative tunefulness on hand despite the sonic ugliness employed. I’m not sure what they’d intended to be, if anything, but it appears ‘Black Candles and Gutter Scum’ is the result of experimentation that’d transform into palatable music along the way. I think I was just spinning through “Live Fast and Die” the second time when I began to imagine a middle ground between say, early Vision of Disorder, Lifelover, and Eyehategod for the groove, the seething moments and the crackling vocals in the distance. The riff structures are more or less black metal in motion though they’ve created a sort of howling punk music of some sort from it that feels as if it were churned from an ancient vine-covered computer in an old warehouse. The balance of artificial (digital?) grate and organically shaped performances is promising and I’d like to see what they might do next.


Artist Agenda
Title [Type/Year] Apocalyptic Wasteland Blues [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

As you’re going through the releases in this list, if you are, pay close attention to the lyrics and you’ll quickly begin to see the majority of these records are lamenting the apocalypse from different angles and with varying amounts of hope for the future. Agenda surely bring desolation and the end in spirit and from a sourly depression point of view but there is an easy groove to their songwriting that brings melodrama more than angst in most cases. Surely influenced by Tragedy and with members of Avast, Nag, and Dödsstraff the music here isn’t so much hopeful as it is content to feel the apocalypse and mourn a bit for what is lost. The record is deeper than that, of course, but the general shape of ‘Apocalyptic Wasteland Blues’ is a nuclear defeat. I don’t necessarily need more melodic, metal, or whatever else here so much as I wanted more variety in the generally pensive motion of Agenda where each step forward feels tentative. If the aim was anxiety inducing bewilderment, then I’ve felt the end in the intended way.


Artist Victims
Title [Type/Year] The Horse and Sparrow Theory [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I went back to college in my late 20’s to pursue a degree focusing on sustainability within high density populations, a matter of public health and the environment from an engineering perspective. There was a huge bout of hope within me that drove my efforts for years to do well for the greater good and preserve the lush and gorgeous pocket of the planet I’d grown up in within the pacific northwest of the United States. After roughly five years of education, various jobs and detours I’d hit a point where it eventually clicked, by 2015 it was too late and the future had past the point of fragile a decade previous. The end of habitable climes is coming fast and I can only hope watch it burn from whatever high ground life affords. What? Oh, right ‘The Horse and Sparrow Theory’ is another name for what we in the United States would recognize as ‘trickle-down economics’ today where the rich seize power by enhancing their wealth through giving themselves tax breaks that leave mid-to-lower income citizens bearing the brunt of taxation. It is just one of many allusions to the abuse of power on this latest record from Victims which is perhaps one of the most depressing albums I’ve heard this year by virtue of its subject matter alone. It feels like ‘now’ and it relates to the feeling I’d gotten before I left higher education, that war and suffering will follow the despair that climate change brings. Otherwise I’ve always felt like Victims were unique within Swedish hardcore/crust punk for their halfway modernized sound and pretty clear Discharge influenced performances. To be completely honest, I didn’t cover this album sooner because it depressed the hell out of me and anything I wrote about it felt too personal. Devastating and all too real at times.


Artist Swordwielder
Title [Type/Year] System Overlord [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Spend about fifteen minutes with any Swordwielder release and you’ll understand why they’re not only special within the Swedish crust mindset but why they’re interesting on a global crust scale. ‘System Overlord’ finds these Amebix/Hellbastard-esque rippers at their most thoughtful and seemingly most pissed. In the most immediate sense Swordwielder is referential to the crustiest and earliest greats and hell, the use of ‘stench crust’ in their press is all a callback to the inception of the defiant sub-genre. Beyond that the band do feature fairly regular use of spoken samples, much like the Victims record I’d mentioned earlier which is less prevalent but no less disappointing. The axe-swinging mid-pace of ‘System Overlord’ finds the band able to cram their message, their riffs, and a lot of triumphant stomping metallic hardcore along the way. There are tinges of ‘modern’ (as in updated 80’s/90’s…) straightforward European hardcore here and there but expect old school crust that crunches along at a death marching pace. Jump on “Cyborgs” right away, but every song is killer here.

Did I miss your favorite 2019 album? Send me an e-mail and tell me about it. It is always worthwhile to speak up for the lesser known stuff. Please consider a small donation to help keep me in front of the computer writing about metal. Thanks.

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