Thursday, August 23, 2012

Punk Briefs: 1980's

I have slowly been dipping my toes into the waters of classic punk, only in those parts of the pool where the names have been dropped in metal circles.

Some may protest at my decision to boil down a significant portion of the history of such a vast genre to three short reviews of three albums, while I did a series of posts on every year of death metal from 1990 through 1994. That's fair. But this is a metal blog, and I'm not going to dig that deep into punk.

Killing Joke: Night Time (1985)
4.5 out of 5 stars

To say that Killing Joke has influenced every important rock band of the last few decades would only be hyperbole in the strictest meaning of the word. They’ve made themselves timeless in that way. In another way, 1985's Night Time is clearly a product of its time. Take the music of any early MTV band with polygonal electric drums and maybe a keytar and you'll be well on your way to getting this sound. That time capsule feeling is punctuated by album closer "Eighties" (later ripped off by Nirvana). But they gave that 80's sound an edge, with often dissonant post-punk guitars and occasional growls. And it's catchy as hell.

Buy Night Time

Amebix: Monolith (1987)
4 out of 5 stars

In their original run, Amebix played with reckless abandon. In a lot of ways, they out-Venomed Venom. But their songwriting was not Venom's hook-oriented pop, their riffs were far more interesting, and they were better musicians. (It sounds a bit like Killing Joke, too . . . but doesn't everything?) It's easy to see that these guys had a huge impact on the development of black metal (e.g., "Chain Reaction") as well as thrash (e.g., "Fallen from Grace"). Check out the opening monologue in "Last Will and Testament," because it's obvious Dave Mustaine has.

Buy Monolith

Christian Death: Only Theatre of Pain (1982)
1 out of 5 stars

OK, so I've really enjoyed some of the deathrock I've come across lately, but apparently I don't like where it began. Or at least the vocals. Christian Death's seminal Only Theatre of Pain has a lot that I enjoy about the style, the bass-centric sound and overall eeriness, but those vocals . . . . Some of the songwriting is pretty cool, but damn, those vocals are terrible. I want to punch Rozz Williams in the throat. His untimely death deprives me of that satisfaction. Anyway, I think I'd like this if I could get past those vocals. Did I mention that I hate the vocals?

Buy Only Theatre of Pain


  1. I hate to be a genre-Nazi but only Amebix is punk of these three. Killing Joke are resolutely post-punk while Christian Death are as you say deathrock/goth. Then again, I suppose in many ways punk can be a loose a term as metal...

  2. I think you answered your own objection. I'm using "punk" the same way I would use "metal." I guess in the case of metal, we have "heavy metal" to describe it in its purest form, but I don't know if punk has such a term.

    It's kind of up in the air anyway, isn't it? Some people say "hardcore and punk," implying that those are separate, while others would say "hardcore punk," implying that hardcore is a type of punk.

    I'd also throw a lot of industrial and grindcore into the same general "punk" bin.