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Neurotic Text: Back to Finland

Monday, May 08, 2006

Back to Finland


V/A "Propaganda - Hardcore '83" LP

Like most raw hardcore fanatics, I more than just dipped a toe into classic Finnish hardcore in the late '80's and early '90's. Records by Rattus, Terveet Kadet, Riitstetyt and Bastards were a lot easier to find, and incomparably cheaper, than they have become in this era of eBay pricing and a generally much higher degree of musical knowledge and subsequent demand in the age of the internet. By the mid '90's, I had therefore amassed a rather unhealthy collection of vinyl by the above, as well as Kaaos, Appendix, Destruktions and many more, a sizeable chunk of a punk collection that probably could have covered a pretty healthy downpayment on a Yaletown condo had I held onto it until today. Nonetheless, I'll admit that I rarely listened to it; next to the sheer energy of prime American hardcore, the burly onslaught of Swedish kang, the high-precision violence of Japanese thrash and the seemingly limitless mystique of the late '70's punk rock no-hopers retroactively categorized as "Killed by Death" bands, this raw, scrappy music was undeniably effective and passionate, but somehow less substantial and memorable than so much of the stuff cited above (a claim I'd also make for Holland's hyperactive thrash and Italy's psychotic hardcore). By the late '90's, I'd sold or traded away virtually every Finnish hardcore record I had, and rarely thought about them even as I couldn't help but reminisce wistfully about the Minor Threat and GISM records that once lined my shelves.

Fast forward nearly a decade to spring 2006. There are a couple of Riistetyt represses in my collection and a Terveet Kadet button on my leather jacket's lapel, but that's about the extent of my connection to Finnish hardcore when I come across a new copy of the "Propaganda - Hardcore '83" comp LP in the back room of a record distributor I work for on weekends. Quickly perusing the back cover, I see names like Aparat and Varaus, and the memory of this vicious little slab of pure, unrefined Finnish hardcore at its peak, originally released on Propaganda in 1983 and now made available again by excellent German label Hohnie, rushes back. Not an hour later, I'm blasting it at home, continually inching the volume louder and louder as I soak in the astonishing, long-forgotten power and rage of this stuff.

For those unfamiliar with the style, the key concept here is Discharge, but more so. Finland just loved Stoke-on-Trent's favourite sons, and the country's particularly catchy and melodic early punk sound was soon obliterated by a wave of spikey-headed drunks taking the rough, simplistic Discharge '80-'81 template and cranking up the velocity and rawness to new extremes of hardcore punishment. Perhaps the purest expression of this aesthetic is found in the Riistetyt, Tampere SS and Bastards tracks, unforgivingly primal blasts of howling distortion and barked vocals that sound like nothing quite so much as "Fight back" out takes smashed forth at twice the speed. In a peculiarly Finnish habit, the vocals are often pushed through heavy reverb but, like Portugese, Finnish is an ideal language for hardcore punk, and the rough, gutteral manner in which the words are spit out is rarely compromised.

Doubtless inspired by Disorder, Chaos UK and their own excessive kilju consumption-- and possibly by the newest wave of North American speed freaks a la Neos, Poison Idea, DRI and Gang Green-- even less refined outfits like Kuolema and Sekunda are already breaking speed limits with ultra distort thrashers that barely crack the 20 second mark in duration. These tracks are mercifully too short to seriously interrupt the LP's flow, but they already suggest the dead end represented by this weak and powerless style, their thin sound and monotonous beats appearing all the more disposable when stacked up against the mighty roar surrounding them.

On the other side of the fence are comparably more advanced tracks by the likes of H.I.C. Systeemi and Varaus. These are still fierce, severe hardcore, virtually bereft of melody and distinguished even to rawcore cogniscenti only by the occasional tasty guitar break or shift into a slightly less amphetamine tempo, but they nonetheless serve to break up the record's otherwise constant barrage of million MPH thrash. Perhaps the best example of this is Rattus' tremendous "Taalta Tullaan Kuolema", a damaging chunk of exemplary Finncore that weds a primitively melodic guitar refrain lifted from early Blitz and almost-sung vocals to the usual bass-heavy lurch for maximum impact.

I should be over this stuff, but ever time I think I've grown out of it, nostalgic curiousity gets the best of me and I end up finding myself unable to resist the raw power of purist hardcore punk-- to the point that I've literally listened to the entire thing probably ten or twelves times in the last 24 hours In that spirit, I'll concede that, while I no longer feel the need to own every single piece of Finnish hardcore vinyl ever released, a compilation as solid and forceful as this serves as a necessary reminder of just how welcome and even essential it is to remember exactly why this music has endured for so long, and just why it's so much harder to really kick than one might ever expect given its fundamental primitivity and simplicity. In fact, it's precisely that raw authenticity that makes hardcore work-- and why this time I'll be holding onto my copy of "Hardcore '83".

1 Comments:

At 11:02 pm, Blogger tglavin said...

Hey, Simon.

Trying to reach you.

Contact me:

transmontanus@gulfislands.com

 

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