Sunday, April 19, 2015

Greek Crust (Hibernation, Chaotic End, etc.)

This article was originally included in a Social Napalm email update that was published in February of 2012.

For the write up at the end this month, my man Ian the librarian has written an excellent and very detailed piece on Greek crust. The Greek scene (like the Polish scene) has produced an extensive amount of great crust punk that often goes unheralded for a variety of reasons. Ian goes into these reasons in his own piece, but just to emphasize it, I think strongest reason is the language barrier and the fact that the Greek language features it's own unique alphabet separate from the Latin derived languages used by the rest of Europe, making it difficult for non Greek speaking fans to familiarize themselves with specific band names and releases. Bands whose names were translated to English such as Hibernation, Chaotic End, and Forgotten Prophecy became far better recognized for the English version of their name than their proper Greek language name. The defining characteristic of Greek crust is how much it is all influenced by Amebix and Axegrinder with their own distinct traits added on, and this continues to this day. Greece has always had a vibrant tradition of class consciousness and political protest dating back to well documented ancient times, and this is also clear in the lyrics and themes of the songs. The article covers the big name bands as well as many lesser known groups as well, and i'm really happy to have it included here. So mega thanks to Ian for contributing it. If anyone would like to contact him directly, go for it at iduncans@gmail.com.

Here it is:

Erik invited me to write a brief article about Greek crust, which is still by and large criminally underrated outside of Greece. I don't purport to know much about the inner-workings of the bands or scene; I'm writing about these records purely from a fan's perspective. Moreover, I’m going to be discussing the crustier side of the music and will be skipping some of Greece’s great punk bands, such as Genia Tou Chaous (Chaos Generation) and Stress. Greek punk feels virtually unknown outside of Greece, perhaps partially because of the more insular nature of the scene, or possibly because the Greek alphabet makes the band names difficult to read and search for by anyone who isn’t familiar with the language. Nevertheless, while European countries like Sweden and Finland were putting themselves on the map doing their own take on Discharge and Disorder, Greece seemed to be years late to hardcore punk and instead had a flourishing post-punk scene influenced by usual suspects like Joy Division. Hardcore slowly emerged in the mid-late '80s with bands like Stress, Adieksodo (Dead End), Antidrasi (Reaction), and Genia Tou Chaous – check out the "Διατάραξη Κοινής Ησυχίας," or "Disturbance of the Common Peace" compilation from 1984 on Enigma Records for a good overview of early Greek punk. It's a stellar comp, with each band contributing two unique songs that prove to be some of their best material.

It wasn't long before Greek punks emerging from the squat scene clearly began absorbing Amebix and Axegrinder records, and the scene emerged with its own uniquely Greek take on heavy, dark crust that took over and is still popular there today. Like current Greek politics and protests, the music is volatile with dark, apocalyptic overtones. I’m going to do my best to summarize the more accessible bands (i.e. those that had vinyl releases).

Industrial Suicide (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp5f5kAhlOg)
Possibly the first band in Greece to play in the heavier, crustier style that would define later bands. They released two demo tapes (in 1987 and 1989) before members went on to form Naytia (Nausea). Industrial Suicide played abrasive, metallic crust punk with guttural vocals very much akin to Swedish bands like Bombanfall or Doom and Bolt Thrower's early material. Both tapes are available online in their entirety if you look around, but I have yet to find copies with good sound quality. It’s a shame – these demos are absolutely crying out for a nice reissue!



Antidrasi (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wab-yp6zjSE)
Antidrasi are more of a hardcore punk band who remind me of South American / Mexican bands like Olho Seco and Massacre 68. They released a hyper-rare and abrasive 7” that should appeal to any and all noise-punks in 1989, and then an LP with a similar sound in 1990. The LP is one of the cornerstones of Greek HC – it’s raw, abrasive, and highly political. The cover features a zombie cop in front of the Greek flag, and the first song (translating to "Pig Meat") directly references the riots-sparking murder of a Greek teenager by cops. Antidrasi's second LP, "Enantia" ("Against") is a bit more polished, but still very strong HC and highly recommend. They are still together nowadays and still as politically-active as ever, but their music is more metallic hardcore and lacks the rawer edge that makes their first handful of records so great.



Naytia (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJGWkjtM3s0)
One of the classics of Greek punk, Naytia formed in 1987 or 1988 playing crust-influenced hardcore. I could be wrong, but I believe that personnel from Industrial Suicide were involved. Their first demo ("The Sweet Secrets of Life") was released in 1989, followed by the fantastic “European Alienaissance” LP in 1991 and a split LP with German band Graue Zellen on Skuld in 1994. The LP has a detailed foldout poster with English translations of the lyrics and plenty of artwork. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find and is in dire need of a repress.

Negative Stance (Arnitika Stahsi) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Q_tuMB5mA)
Some of Negative Stance's material is a bit more on the traditional melodic Greek HC punk tip than crust, but I'm including them because they gigged around with the bigger crust bands in the early 1990s and definitely had a few metal flourishes. They released a split LP with British band Kismet HC in 1990, and then a full-length of their own ("Angels of Deceit") on Greece’s famous Wipe Out! Records; Genet Records did the international version, making it pretty easy to locate. There was also a 7” released on none other than Profane Existence that same year, featuring two songs that were on the LP. Like much of Greek punk, their lyrics were introspective and existential but still highly political.

Forgotten Prophecy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hygXTxaoRvw)
Similar in sound to Naytia (and I believe featuring at least one ex-member), Forgotten Prophecy was a short-lived band very much in the traditional dark Greek crust vein. Their sole recorded legacy is a split LP with the pre-Fleas and Lice band Mushroom Attack, released by Loony Tunes out of the UK in 1990.


Panikos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7OW1f4d6dQ)
Formed in the late '80s and still going strong, Panikos are for me of the genre-defining Greek crust bands. Their sound veers from slower, heavier Amebix-inspired slowness to faster, more rocking crust-metal songs. Their split LP with Germans WWK and 7" from the 1990s are excellent and reasonably easy to find. The strongest recording may be "Awakening From Lethargy," released last year on a bevy of labels and still readily available in distros. The production is thick and crunchy with great rocking crust riffs and some minimal spacey synth work that doesn’t overwhelm the music.


Hibernation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WHBjID-z_E)
I always lump Hibernation in with Panikos in the pantheon of '90s Greek crust even though their riffs are a bit less rock-influenced. They’re faster on their 7”s released in 1997 and 2000; 2003's Skuld LP "Into the Silence of Eternal Sorrow: slows down the pace and adds some synth. The LP also boasts a less muddy production than the still solid 7"s. Guitarist Alexander was also in Forgotten Prophecy. These records are all pretty easy to locate, and well worth the effort.

Chaotic End (Xaotiko Telos) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTqNOaPbPA0)
An absolute must for Amebix / Axegrinder fans, Xaotiko Telos had members of Ashen Breath and Hibernation. They played heavy, dirgey crust with strong riffing and a good use of synth, never overwhelming the music. The singer sounds phenomenally angry and desperate, like he’s shouting on a moonless night near some ancient Greek ruins. Note that the cover of their sole 1993 LP on Wipe Out! Records features the ‘crust bird,' popularized later by Tragedy. When it comes to their imagery, I can’t help but also be a bit reminded of the more ecologically-minded Scottish bands Sedition and Scatha.

Ashen Breath (Anasa Stahti) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWZZDIBlvPY)
Along with the Chaotic End LP, this is one of the very best Greek crust records. The riffs are catchy and the band plays faster ala Panikos or Forgotten Prophecy. They did one LP on the small Greek label "Do It Yourself" Records in 1994, and were also featured on a comp. a few years later on the same label. The LP is probably the rarest Greek crust record, but stock copies of the compilation did turn up a few years ago and can probably still be scored for an only semi-crazy price.

Psychosis (Ψύχωση) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQpaGN-cN30)
Really just a footnote because I haven't heard much about or by them, but Psychosis' two tracks on the aforementioned Do It Yourself Records compilation are top-tier examples of heavy '90s Greek crust punk. I would love to hear the entire demo!


Newer Bands:
There are also a handful of newer Greek crust bands that are well worth a look for fans of the style. Stateless in the Universe (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0E5g8EJ3VA ) had a member of Naytia and did a split LP with a German band called Knallkopf in 2001, and then seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth. It's a little more melodic than Naytia, mainly because of the less guttural vocals. Epithanatios Roghos (Death Rattle - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yr5aRw4v2XY) plays crust with a melodic edge not too far from bands like His Hero Is Gone, but with that distinct Greek style. They did a split LP with Poreia Sto Perithorio (Journey to the Margin - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5zYZn06Nh4) which is still moderately easy to find, and was even sitting around in distros in the U.S. for a couple of years. Dyspnea (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN67sFKMtqI) plays stench Greek crust with guttural vocals – check out their split 7” with Czech crusties Nakot. Anti-Mob (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TetY9n7jKmg) is a melodic crust band with some slight Tragedy / Japanese similarities, but the Greek style propels what might be forgettable into something worth tracking down. They are best known for a split 7” with the German band Burial, but they also did their own 7” five years ago that received limited distribution. Most recently, there's Hellstorm (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M2HBgjASbg), who, as the name implies, take a few cues from Axegrinder but maintain their own Greek sound. They did a single-sided, screened 12” (a vinyl release of their demo) and a split LP with Last Legion Alive. To my knowledge, these records have only really been distributed in Europe, but are still available.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rigma's lp and Nuclear Winter's mini-cd now put to lp are great examples as well! Great post!