We got inspiration for this episode after reading a great Greg Anderson (from Southern Lord) interview about his hardcore roots in Seattle. Initially we thought about repeating a hardcore drenched episode, just like we did on “Episode 25 – Nothing Ever Changes”, but as Greg’s interview was about how different the Seattle scene was compared to the rest of the West Coast, soon our thoughts drifted to the roots of crossover thrash, particularly the LA of the early 80s. Back then, the punks and skaters didn’t see eye to eye with metalheads, but bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Cryptic Slaughter, Excel or DRI helped change that. Soon, you started seeing punks and skaters turning up at Slayer and Metallica shows, while metal bands started to play faster and harder. So basically this episode is part early crossover thrash and part modern crossover outfits, mostly released (or re-released!) by Southern.
Enjoy and kick it in the genitals!
Click for show notes and a complete tracklist.
The year of 1987 was good for crossover thrash. Excel was one of the best outfits around. They came from the same Venice (CA) scene as Suicidal Tendencies and Cryptic Slaughter, but unfortunately for Excel, Mike Muir’s band’s shadow loomed too large and they never really stood out, even though they got praise from both the skatecore community via Thrasher magazine and the West Coast thrash followers. It’s a shame, because they were really good. Take “Split Image”, the title track from their debut album. We specifically love Dan Clements unique and rowdy timbre and supple voice; the song’s unsettled structure; the amazing thrash riff, fat bass sound and the bouncy drumming. Curiously enough, Mike Muir is credited as executive producer for the album, while Randy Burns shows up as producer and engineer. It’s a good thing Southern Lord is reissuing their stuff. You may also wanna check the demo version for this track.
Compared to Excel, Black Breath may sound too “modern” for some tastes, but, same as all those bands from the West Coast in the 80s, these guys have one foot firmly rooted on hardcore punk and at least half a foot on thrash. “Sentenced To Life”, from their 2012’s eponymous album, starts viciously with nods to death metal (because they hail from Seattle, where the sun doesn’t shine. Lots of people mentioning Entombed), but soon you feel the hardcore kicking in, especially on the sing-along chorus.
Septic Death is among the hardest things to listen to. It’s not that they’re particularity experimental or avant-garde. They’re just kinda weird. Like Black Flag or Amebix, Septic Death also has a very characteristic visual identity which adds an extra dose of atmosphere to their sound. This is for connoisseurs only of course. You have to deserve it. By the way, that’s Kirk Hammett playing lead guitar. Before that we had Shellac’s blunt and precise form of noise rock. Fucking track seems like it’s about to explode at all times. It eventually does haha
M.O.D. is back again. We featured them back on “Episode 25 – Nothing Ever Changes”. And yep, our opinion hasn’t changed either. We still believe “U.S.A. for M.O.D.” is one of metal’s best albums ever, especially for the crossover genre. The intro and riff for this track, “Aren’t You Hungry”, is just unbelievable. What a shame, then, that for all its qualities, this album just underlines how much M.O.D. sucked thenceforth.
We hope Dallas’s Power Trip, our next band on the menu, doesn’t stray from the path the same way M.O.D. did. We’re almost sure they won’t. “Conditioned to Death”, the track we’re featuring here, is one of the highlights from their debut and only album (they released three EPs and the 2008 demo), from 2013. You can whine and bitch about modern studio production as much as you like, but these guys combine amazing organic thrash sound and studio savviness with brilliant results. And the gang vocals on chorus, man, epic “to the point of death!”. Cro-Mags, Testament, Exodus, Black Flag or Nuclear Assault all coming into one big power trip indeed. We’ll keep an eye on them for sure!
You know about Death from Detroit, right? Of course you do. They played punk before there was such a thing, remember? And they were black. They kinda had to be really. Anyway, there was another pioneering all-Black punk band in the USA. They’re called Pure Hell and it’s about damn time you meet them. Check their photos too. Black men in white-face. Quite amusing. We follow that up with thrash punk/crossover from Illinois. Impetigo has in “All We Need Is Cheez” one of the funniest death metal/grindcore live demos of all time and it fucking shows. They lacked technical proficiency but had more than enough attitude to kick everyone’s asses, including our own.
Impetigo’s track was the perfect excuse to slip in the otherwise hard to justify Lawnmower Deth, a grind/thrash/punk metal band with a sense of humor, BUT not too stupid. In fact, we think they’re underrated. Anyone able to mix Satanism and extreme metal with ska is okay in our book.
Next is probably the reason why this episode exists. Suicidal Tendencies may well be THE most influential hardcore meets metal band ever, and their debut album is one of the most influential for rock, period. It’s hard to explain Suicidal Tendencies significance without getting tears in our eyes. Not only they were amongst the first bands “bridging the gap” between hardcore punk, skatecore and metal genres and communities in terms of SOUND, they helped change what metal could TALK about. While other metal bands were singing about sword and sorcery or Satanism, Mike Muir (brother of Jim Muir, from Z-Boys fame), was singing/rapping/ranting to comment politics, street culture and violence, teenage alienation, or mental health. “Institutionalized” is one of the most important contribution for thrash and is responsible for one of the few hardcore/metal pop culture surrealistic one-liners: “All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi!”. It’s the “Flying Over A Cuckoo’s Nest” of hardcore/metal. (this may sound insulting, but we have to confess: this version of “Institutionalized” is not the original from “Suicidal Tendencies”. This one belongs to 1993’s “Still Cyco After All These Years”. Normally we would NEVER, NEVER do this, but this version actually fits best in the episode. So there you go).
After Dr. Know’s unique brand of punk infused thrash music (they did start out as a hardcore band after all) we present you with crossover heroes Carnivore. If the booming bass doesn’t get you we’re sure the barbaric vocals will.
We pull the curtains on this one with “Vistas”, from Canadians Baptists album from last year. Like someone put it, it’s more like a “sludge-covered” brand of hardcore. Good album, but this track, slower than most and strangely melodic but equally thick and brimming with anger, definitely stands out.
- Split Image | Excel (USA) | Split Image, 1987 http://excelsl.bandcamp.com/
- Sentenced To Life | Black Breath (USA) |Sentenced To Life, 2012 http://blackbreath.com/
- Crow | Shellac (USA) | At Action Park, 1994 http://www.discogs.com/artist/103197-Shellac
- Kichigai | Septic Death (USA) | Kichigai [EP], 1988 http://www.discogs.com/artist/203857-Septic-Death
- Aren’t You Hungry | M.O.D. (USA) | U.S.A. for M.O.D., 1987 https://www.facebook.com/ModMethodOfDestruction
- Conditioned To Death | Power Trip (USA) | Manifest Decimation, 2013 http://powertriptx.bandcamp.com/
- I Feel Bad | Pure Hell (USA) | Noise Addiction, 2005 http://www.discogs.com/artist/1247156-Pure-Hell
- Hey Jeff, What’s Up? (Pillsbury Hardcore cover) | Impetigo (USA) | All We Need Is Cheez [Demo], 1987 http://www.discogs.com/artist/325019-Impetigo
- Seventh Church of the Apocalyptic Lawnmower (Skank Mix) | Lawnmower Deth (UK) | Ooh Crikey It’s… Lawnmower Deth, 1990 http://www.earache.com/bands/lawnmower_deth/lawnmower_deth.html
- Institutionalized | Suicidal Tendencies (USA) | Still Cyco After All These Years, 1993 http://www.suicidaltendencies.com/
- War Theatre | Know (USA) | Wreckage in Flesh, 1988 http://www.discogs.com/artist/306209-Dr-Know-3
- Thermonuclear Warrior | Carnivore (USA) | Carnivore, 1985 http://www.discogs.com/artist/261541-Carnivore
- Vistas | Baptists (CAN) | Bloodmines, 2014 https://baptistssl.bandcamp.com/