Backyard Burial played their first show at Wellington, New Zealand’s Punkfest in 1999, and that was a fitting launch pad for the “Grind Scum” band that appealed to punk and metal fans alike. Tragically, Backyard Burial's vocalist, Matt “Blaps Warmonger” Hall, was murdered in early 2011, and the group disbanded soon after. However, even though Backyard Burial were a cult band with small (yet diehard) fan base, their impact is still clearly felt to this day.
Admittedly, there's an understandable tendency to mythologise obscure bands that break up due to tragic circumstances; especially if you know any of the people involved, however obliquely. The truth is, like any band, Backyard Burial played their share of sparsely attended and disastrous shows, and they experienced plenty of line-up changes too. However, none of that diminishes the memories that fans still enjoy, nor does it alter the fact that Backyard Burial's influence is still palpably felt in NZ's underground metal and punk communities.
Backyard Burial’s music was injected with insolence and mayhem, and tales of chaotic shows and lawless extracurricular activities spread like a rampant strain of super-gonorrhea. All of that added to the band’s reputation. But, these days, fact or fiction matters little. What’s important is that Backyard Burial are fondly remembered, still retain plenty of their original fans, and discovering the band seems almost like a rite of passage in the red-eyed realms of Wellington underground music.
Local label Limbless Music has amplified that experience by recently releasing Backyard Burial's 2002 full-length, Repeat Offender, on vinyl for the very first time –– with a sick inner sleeve included. Repeat Offender features Backyard Burial's down-tuned mix of chugging death metal and crushing grindcore, and I’ll leave the arguing about which deafening subgenre leads the charge up to you. (Although, to my ears, Backyard Burial are a brutal hybrid, inspired by both subgenres and plenty of other gruesome noise besides.)
Guttural grunts and squeals accompany blasting percussion and mangling guitars on short/swift/slamming Repeat Offender tracks like "The Bone Collector", "Religion & Politics" and "Persecuted by Fundamentalists". Sound bites are scattered throughout the album, and riotous songs with wry lyrics explore drugs, mental illness, violence, and other squalid fare (see "Spunking Batter Chunks"), but it's not all grinding chaos. Backyard Burial delve into dissonant noisenik territory on the final ten-minute track, "Amok in the Church on PCP".Repeat Offender’s songs are explosively cathartic, and they’d clearly appeal to raucously-minded metal or punk fans wanting to escape the mind-numbing drudgery of everyday life. In one sense, Backyard Burial's dank sound and dark humour were always about getting fucked-up and obliterating the stresses in life, and Repeat Offender offers precisely that.
In practical terms though, no small and underground DIY label is going to get rich releasing the challenging music you'll encounter on Repeat Offender. And that's why Limbless Music deserves yet another round of applause for showing dedication to the cause. Previous Limbless releases, like Stress Ghetto's Material Hardship or Vomit Storm's downright classic Mudge or be Mudged!, have also offered plenty of neck-wrecking insanity. And full credit to Limbless architect Simon Hartman for doing his part to keep incendiary underground music alive.
Throughout their career, Backyard Burial delivered musical salvos where utter contempt for both stale values and unthinking acquiescence sat at the forefront of their sound. Repeat Offender exemplifies that assaultive approach, and while it's a harsh and heavy album, it's also confrontational, which means it ticks all the obnoxious boxes, both sonically and philosophically.
That said, for all its musical intensity, Repeat Offender also offers something surprisingly poignant. Releasing the album on vinyl underscores Backyard Burial's importance as a band, but the care with which Repeat Offender is put together also pays due respect to a friend and a frontman missed by many. Sure, Repeat Offender is a hostile maelstrom. But spinning the vinyl, I can't help thinking that it's also a small (albeit loud as fuck) tribute to a life that ended far too soon.
Look... apologies for ending on a sombre note. I know that's not in keeping with Backyard Burial’s FTW approach. But the number of lives lost in NZ's various underground music communities over the past decade saddens me.
I get it though; you don't want to listen to an old man oversharing. You want belligerence and attitude, and that's fair enough.
So get fucked, you spunk-battered cunts. I'll see you round the glory hole. Don't forget to grab a copy of Repeat Offender on the way.
Blaps Warmonger R.I.P. 15/02/11