Une Misère – “Sermon” (2019)

We first encountered Une Misère at Iceland Airwaves 2017, and it was one of those magical examples of going to a venue to see one band (in this case Hatari) and being unexpectedly blown away by another.  Une Misère’s live performance hits you like a runaway semi truck, barreling along at breakneck speed with utter disregard for any obstacle in its path.  The sonic and psychic destruction is that complete, and we walked away that evening big fans.  We saw them again just a week ago (below), and trust me when I tell you they haven’t lost a step.  In fact they may even be picking up speed.

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I kept tabs on them after that first exposure and was surprised to find their only output were some digital downloads on their Bandcamp page (and I strongly encourage you to check out 010717 HERE).  How did these guys not have a deal, even one with one of the smaller Icelandic labels, to put out a physical release?  Well, it took a while, but earlier this year it was announced that Une Misère were releasing their debut LP Sermon, and on Nuclear Blast nonetheless.  I was lucky enough to track down a copy of the gold splatter edition while in Reykjavik last week (edition of 500), and this will be the first of many posts on Icelandic releases over the next few months as I dig through the pile of stuff we brought home.

For background on the band I refer you to a feature from earlier this year in the English language Reykjavik Grapevine HERE.  The wide-ranging interview included all of the band members and provides a solid background into their history together and motivations.

Sermon captures Une Misère’s live intensity, a crossover of hardcore and thrash, aggro and insightful, the embracing of life’s pain that is necessary in order to overcome.

Struggle to fight the pain within,
I won’t give in,
I won’t give in.
Push on,
Push every word you say,
They won’t hear you,
Blame me,
Feel my vengeance. 
— “Voiceless”

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The power of the music comes at you from every direction.  Pounding drums that sometimes transition suddenly to double bass and then back again, rage-fueled vocals, and not one, not two, but three shredding guitars fill the sonic space.  But Sermon is well mixed and there’s room here for everything.  “Failure” is the song that sticks out the most, a jam that maintains the core elements of Une Misère’s sound while being very intentionally structured.  Yes, it has speed and power, but it doesn’t rely on them so much as it does sculpt them in a way that creates a specific shape and form.  “Overlooked/Disregarded” is one of their earliest works, dating back to 2016, and it’s as powerful as ever on Sermon.

This is a killer record and a must-listen-to for those of you who like the hard stuff.  You can sample it online HERE.

“The Sound of Hollywood Copulation” (1984)

soundofhollywoodThis is a solid mid-80s hardcore comp.  Quite a few of these bands were from California, but other west coast entries include Sado Nation (Portland) and the Mentors (Seattle), plus Government Issue is from DC, so it feels like it’s more about the Hollywood punk scene than it is local bands per se.

This probably my favorite of all the various hardcore comps I’ve listened to over the years. Songs from this period were fast, but you could still follow along and understand most of the lyrics.  Sure the Mentors inject a dose of their typical sloppiness, but so be it.  Only available on vinyl, it appears there was a 2015 re-release that’s more affordable than an original pressing ($20 versus $40-50 for a nice 1984 version).  A good primer for someone looking to start exploring the 1980s LA hardcore scene.

The Fartz – “World Full of Hate…” (1982) and “You, We See You Crawling” (1990)

Picked up these two Seattle hardcore gems over at Tacoma’s Hi-Voltage Records a few weeks back.  I could write up a bunch of stuff about The Fartz, but to be honest they’ve been widely covered and interviewed all over the web and I don’t have anything new to bring to the table.  Let’s just say they were one of the rare Seattle-area bands who actually secured a deal with a label from outside of the area (Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles) and were fairly well-known on the west coast back in the day.  Nationally they are best-known for being a band that Duff McKagan played in prior to moving to California and becoming part of Guns N’ Roses, though he wasn’t with The Fartz for all that long.

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World Full of Hate… is blistering fast and packed with attitude, reminding me more of the European style of hardcore.  There’s a heavy political component to the lyrics, with emphasis on anti-war and anti-violence themes.  They even do an anti-Reagan song (“Battle Hymn of Ronald Reagan”) using the music of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and incorporate part of “The Star Spangled Banner” into the opening of “Hero’s (Cum Home In Boxes)”.  The musicianship is good (wait, is that a guitar solo I hear on the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave”??), as is the recording quality – it’s an enjoyable listen.  The snares and cymbals are a bit hot at times, but it still all holds together.

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You, We See You Crawling came out in 1990, well after The Fartz’s demise, in large part because it was a way to put out some early Duff McKagan songs and take advantage of the Guns N’ Roses hype.  The ten-song collection is mostly tracks from 1982, a combo of demo, rehearsal, and live material.  Half the tracks (all of the songs with Duff on drums) are from November, 1982 and sound pretty clean.  The earliest number is “Music Critics”, a live recording from January, 1981, that unfortunately is a bit hollow.  But hey, it’s live hardcore from the 80s, so what do you expect?  I actually prefer this record to World Full of Hate… as I like the rawer sound, which fits the band’s style.

“U-Boats Attack America!!!” Compilation (1986)

uboatsattackHardcore is generally not my thing.  That being said, I do enjoy some of the stuff done in Europe in the early to mid-1980s, so with that in mind I decided to give U-Boats Attack America!!! a try.  The comp consists of 15 tracks by seven different German hardcore bands, all recorded between 1983 and 1985 and released originally on the Weird System label.

Overall my favorite tracks are those by Neurotic Arseholes, with Blut + Eisen coming in a strong second.  But to be honest the entire thing is solid from top to bottom – plenty of speed and punk attitude.  If you’re into hardcore and interested in checking out some of the European stuff, this is a great starting point.  I’ll be in Germany later this year and all these bands will be on my list when I hit the streets of Berlin to go digging.

 

Ho99o9 – “United States of Horror” (2017)

Ho99o9 (pronounced “Horror”) were on my short list of bands to see at Iceland Airwaves 2015, but unfortunately the closest I got to experiencing them was seeing the guys in the crowd at the Reykjavíkurdætur show at NASA, which they appeared to be enjoying quite a bit.  I’m still pissed I didn’t catch them, and looking back at the schedule I can only guess that the reason was I just called it a night, as their one on-venue show was at 1:20AM.  I’m getting soft in my old age.

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What is not soft, however, is Ho99o9’s sound, a blend of hip hip and hardcore (check out “Sub-Zero”) with a splash of industrial (“Bleed War”) thrown in for good measure.  The lyrics, whether about being hard on the streets or critiquing the socio-political order, are dark and violent.  Personally I’m not a big lyrics guy, instead more focused on the sound and flow.  That being said, it’s hard in this day and age to be shocked by anything.  The idea of something like “Cop Killer” even being a blip on the radar seems almost impossible, though back in 1992 you’d have thought Ice-T should have been thrown in prison for writing a song given the outrage it caused.  Today?  That’s just par for the course.  Stifle a yawn and click on the next YouTube clip.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  So while Ho99o9 are at times quite aggressive, it doesn’t feel particularly outrageous.

I like the sound, though.  The distinctly different vocal styles of theOGM and Eaddy offer a lot of possibilities, and the duo explore them all, blending styles on the fly (there’s even some rockabilly on “City Rejects”) and holding it all together effortlessly.