Ah, crust punk. Death metal might try to make you feel dirty by describing torture and mutilation, but that loses much of its weight after a while, leading some death metal bands to resort to increasingly depraved album covers and lyrics in a desperate attempt to shock. While some highly talented and influential death metal bands have taken this route, the majority of bands using this tactic substitute it for actual talent, joining in the increasingly silly and often misogynistic race to the bottom in the hopes that if they’re disgusting enough, nobody will notice how badly they suck.
Crust punk, conversely, favors a more effective tactic of intimidation: holding up a mirror to the world. As befits a genre regularly known as stenchcore, the mirror tends to reflect the ugliest aspects of reality. Reality stinks, get it? Har har. But in all seriousness, it’s a smart play if you’re looking to affect people with your lyrics. Torture fantasies can be dismissed as silly and juvenile, no matter how extreme. The real world? Now that’s fucking terrifying. Injustice, corruption, cruelty, apathy, the spined worm that crawls up into your junk when you pee in a river: there’s a laundry list of bad shit out there that makes Leatherface look like a puppy tugging at your shoelaces. Now, pardon my ignorance, but my Portuguese is a bit rusty so I can’t tell it today’s band, Subterror, follow the lyrical convention of crust punk. But fortunately, their new album, Antropomortum, rips hard enough that I might listen on even if the words were all about murdering adorable kittens with a combine harvester. And that’s quite a recommendation. Because I fucking love kittens.
First off, the production here is filthy. While every riff and sickening gurgle comes through with plenty of impact, it all sounds slightly grotesque. It’s just a little twisted, the overall tone of the album like a cracking death-metallised hardcore band forced to perform in a hospital ward during the outbreak of a vicious disease, playing battered guitars with shards of broken syringes. It invokes a real feeling of suffering and plain old wrongness, the music coated in a thick layer of aural grime that works dark wonders for the atmosphere.
But Subterror have more than evocative production going for them. They find a middle ground between the hard-edged riffage of death metal and the rebellious energy of punk, and write some slamming riffs while they’re there. The songs are short as you would expect, ranging from a minute and a half to four minutes, and the band apply a hard-edged simplicity to the overall song forms. There is little time taken for rest in the album’s sub half-hour run time. For the most part the approach can be summed up as get in, riffs, get out. There is no pretension, or warm cozy spots for the listener to reflect and rest in. You are on Subterror’s time while you are listening to their album and they are going to play riff after riff until your head detaches from your shoulders. It’s blunt, but it works, the band pulling together one of the angriest performances I have heard this year and remaining focused on spewing the bile for the entire time you’re with them.
If stenchcore’s defining attribute is that it reflects the starkest realities of life, then Subterror act as posterboys for the genre. Nasty, brutish and short (in a good way), this musical bludgeoning will hit the spot for fans of intense, metallic punk. Fanatismo do pior is embedded below as a taster. Should you find yourself needing another hit, you can play the entire album on Subterror’s Bandcamp.