I like to imagine I’m a cynical old grouch, but the truth is I still get ridiculously over-excited about upcoming albums. Sadly, most of the time that heightened anticipation is rewarded with an album best described as a damp fucking squib. But, on rarer occasions, all of that anticipation pays off with an album that exceeds my hopes and expectations.
You’ll know those kind of albums, because they’re the ones that arrive with an intense visceral impact. And I got to experience that adrenalized rush twice in a row recently when I heard the latest full-length albums from heavyweight crust bands War//Plague (Carrion) and Bädr Vogu (Wroth).
Those new releases already topped my list of most anticipated albums this year. Which makes it all the more satisfying that they’re utter triumphs. However, Carrion and Wroth aren’t the only ten-tonne, sledgehammering punk albums to have impressed me thus far in 2016.
Releases from Victims, Nomads, Storm of Sedition, Polis-Äckel, Ursut, Okus, Voidfiller, Instinto, Ancst, Blazing Eye, Morrow, and Insidious Process have all been feral and ferocious gems. Plus, the re-release of the chest-crushing debuts from 偏執症者 (Paranoid) and Kohti Tuhoa via label Southern Lord were huge highlights too.
In truth, a lot more bands besides the above have kept my addiction for downtuned, distorted chaos sated this year. But let’s get digging into what War//Plague and Bädr Vogu have brought to the table of late.
Carrion is the second full-length from Minneapolis-based War//Plague. If you’re not acquainted with the four-piece already, War//Plague’s name might still ring a bell because one of the band, guitarist and vocalist Andy Lefton, played on Tau Cross’ much-acclaimed (and widely covered) debut back in 2015.
Tau Cross was founded by Rob “The Baron” Miller, famed vocalist and bassist of pivotal UK crust punk pioneers Amebix. You’ll hear Amebix in War//Plague’s DNA. But War//Plague features a number of punk rock veterans in their ranks, so you’ll also hear the rabble-rousing echo of other formative crust bands like Discharge, Doom, Deviated Instinct or Anti Cimex.
There’s definitely no trace of any trendy nü-wave crust in War//Plague’s sound. There are elements of stenchcore, abrasive thrash, and even glimpses of grim postpunk. Which is to say, War//Plague deal in pissed-off protest punk that’s contemporary in approach but thoroughly old school in attitude: think titanium-tipped crust with a virulent Scandi bite, a D-beat uppercut, and a squat-punk headbutt.
All of that savagery is front and centre on Carrion. The bludgeoning fury found on tracks like “Shadows”, “Exit to Enter” and “Insomnia” makes for storming tracks in musical terms. But those songs also evoke the feel of hard times and grim circumstances.
In fact, all of War//Plague’s songs capture the tense mood of the times perfectly. Political, social or personal concerns are framed by pictures of broken cities and smashed hopes and dreams on Carrion. But surrender is not an option here. Because War//Plague also bring a fierce sense of defiance.
That tone and temper, and that strength of will, is what makes classic crust truly classic. And War//Plague display all of those hallmarks. Resistance, subversiveness and provocation are heard in the steamrolling riffs, pummelling bass and percussion, and gruff vocals on tracks like “Fermentation”, “Shadows”, “False Security” and “Drought”. And there’s an unyielding sense of both urgency and insurgency throughout Carrion.
That’s a vital piece of the puzzle too, because Carrion’s songs aren’t simply attacks on modernity’s failings or ills. They’re also fist-in-the-air anthems that we need to fire us up, more than ever.
It’s easy to get weighed down by the world outside your door. There’s the toxic consequences of capitalism and shallow materialism running riot; cultural and religious conflicts; and unchecked environmental destruction. Politicians spouting increasingly insane rhetoric isn’t helping to lift the spirits either. But Carrion sure will.
Carrion is filled with rebellious roars andsteadfast battle cries — rallying calls to arms for these very troubled times. With every new release, War//Plague continue to showcase crust punk’s greatest strengths. Certainly, Carrion is the very definition of indomitable.
I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
Bädr Vogu: Wroth
Bädr Vogu’s latest album, Wroth, is forlorn, abrasive and grim. The Oakland-based DIY band churn through the squalor on Wroth, piling on the negativity and brutality from the very first note. If you’re looking for a dose of punk that’s heavy as Hell, in both musical and psychological terms, then trust me, Wroth is the perfect pill.
If, like me, you actively seek out hulking and filthy punk to shatter your psyche, then I highly recommend you check out Bädr Vogu’s thundering debut, Exitium, as well. Both Exitium and Wroth see Bädr Vogu tip their hat to familiar punk rock influences. But Bädr Vogu also add a much strong measure of gutter blues and doom and sludge (à la Noothgrush or Grief) into their cough syrup crust.
The band lay things on thick and sluggishly, working their doom-punk arsenal over and over on bruising album opener “Copernican Theory”. That song, like many others on Wroth, is stretched out slowly, allowing Bädr Vogu to work their way under your skin. Few would be left unscathed by the emotional weight of songs like “Beasts of Burden” or the monolithic heaviness of “Deadweight”.
In fact, all of Wroth’s tracksfeel like soul-crushing misanthropic epics that offer harrowing accounts of inner torments and the end result of humanity’s selfishness and greed. In that sense, Wroth is both harsh and wretched to its core. But, mostly, it’s just real.
Tracks like “Anathema of Time”, “Traitor” and “Deprogram” aren’t just replete with pulverising music, they also reek, right to their rotten marrow. It’s a fine stench too, one that evokes misery and decay, and it captures the desolate realities and dire futures many of us hold to be true.
Is that too bleak? I don’t think so. Life is utterly miserable sometimes. We all know that. The point is, wallowing in dark music that reflects our very worst days is exactly the kind of cathartic release we often desire.
So, sure, Bädr Vogu bring grim tidings and spell out ill-omens on Wroth. But, man, it feels pretty fucking good to hear the band preaching such bad news.