ERIK SN runs a distro and label, Social Napalm Records and has long been a proponent of the Boston area’s punk communities.

His top ten list:

Head On Electric – “Ghost Hunter” 7″ on Terror Trash Records

I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE Matador Records. I like what they are about, how they go about running their label, and a lot of the music that they put out. So when i saw this EP listed in their distro update as being compared to Rudimentary Peni, i thought i’d take a chance on it. While i don’t think this really sounded too much like Peni, it was still an amazing release, and possibly my favorite new release of the year. It seems like most people including myself are buying fewer and fewer records these days on a whim and without having heard the band first, but i was both surprised and extremely pleased by just how strong a release this was. To me, this sounded like sort of an indie meets goth sound with some other things going on. I don’t know. It sounds contemporary and fresh, but there’s some older influences going on at the same time. I can’t recommend this enough.


Deaf Mutations – “Crash The Clubs” 7″ on Static Shock Records

The members of Career Suicide from Toronto, Canada have been busy in recent years with side projects and off shoot groups such as The Omegas and Mad Men, and now the Deaf Mutations are here to add another to the list. Excellent, angry, and angst driven ’82/’83 styled hardcore. This reminds me more of bands like Negative Approach in their delivery. Very catchy riffs, a great insert, perfect production values, and an all around great release. The 1982 hardcore style has become diluted, over saturated and boring in recent years with the amount of retro bullshit that’s come out. Don’t write these guys off because of that — this is a great and interesting release that is leagues above the rehash stupidity.

Deaf Mutations – Crash The Clubs by Static Shock Records

Bloodkrow Butcher – s/t 7″ on Total Fucker Records

Another band playing a style that has been done to death is Bloodkrow Butcher. They are a local band (Lowell area) taking influences from Swedish HC bands such as Anti-Cimex, Absurd, SOD, and the like. The thing that sets BKB apart is that they have actual riffs here that are quite catchy. They don’t use overly noisy production to cover up for their lack of songs like so many bands doing the style. It’s just simple, stripped down, and punk.

Religious War (PDX) live in November at the Midway

Everyone said that the Lebenden Toten show in Boston was the best of the year. Unfortunately, i wasn’t able to make that one, but this, seeing Religious War live briefly reaffirmed my faith in hardcore too. Religious War formed in the late ’90s and play loud, filthy, and raw hardcore punk. It’s a mish mash of influences — i think that Discharge, GBH, Crucifix, Anti-Cimex, and more can all be heard in their music. While there’s about a million and one groups out today with these exact same influences, Religious War manage to stay head and shoulders above the crowd of imitators. It’s difficult to describe why i feel they are significantly better than similar bands in the genre, so i will just say that they are. Anyway, this show was great. There was a palpable tension in the audience that night. The band members were feuding, the stage was small, the place was over crowded, and people were amped up to see them. It was the perfect setting for a punk show, and Religious War killed it on this particular night. They blasted through a set of older songs as well as adding in a couple of yet to be recorded new tunes. It was a perfect show, made even better by a coked out and drunk Tony Bartek flailing himself around on stage, yelling at his band members, and then promptly walking out toward the end. Someone was able to go and get him to finish the set, and all ended well. Perfect.

Skizophrenia! – s/t 7″ on Hardcore Survives

Japan continues their claim as having the world’s most popular hardcore bands. So many boring American bands these days are doing their best at half assed imitations of Japanese bands — which is no condemnation nor fault of the Japanese themselves. It seems like every top 10 list in recent years has had at least 5 Japanese releases listed on it, and it is an amazing tradition of quality. I do think though that the past 3-4 years have finally seen a bit of a down turn in the quality of Japanese releases as great riff oriented bands have given way to an increased noise infatuation. In the mid 2000s, there were so many top tier bands coming out, that it was difficult just to follow the upper echelon, never mind the second tier material. But now there are only a few elite releases coming out of Japan, in my opinion. But the Skizophrenia 7″ from 2011 was certainly one of them. Despite comparisons to old Finnish HC, i thought this sounded more like late ’90s and early 2000s regular Japanese hardcore punk. Extinct Government and the Addiction were two bands that immediately sprang to mind for me. Great sweeping choruses, solid riffs, and a great overall ‘punk rock’ vibe on this. Plus the cover photo of all the members in a graveyard decked and wrecked was fantastic. Lots of nice touches on this release, and i recommend chasing down a copy.

Faith – “Subject to Change plus First Demo” LP on Dischord Records (reissue)
Void – “Sessions 1981-1983” LP on Dischord Records (reissue)

Dischord Records (Minor Threat, Fugazi, etc.) has recently begun the process of digging through the treasure trove that is their vaults and releasing lots of long out of print, previously unreleased, and just hard to find material. Faith and Void are two bands intangibly and permanently linked together due to their seminal split LP released by Dischord in 1983. But these LPs compile other tracks from each band. Both of these records are crucial (a term i honestly hate but that is applicable here) to all fans of hardcore punk. Both feature material that has never appeared anywhere before, including on bootlegs or blogs. And both come with fantastic liner notes written by Ian MacKaye of Dischord Records. In a genre and era that has been mined to death right down to releasing rehearsal tapes of 4th tier bands on vinyl, these are two fantastic and top quality releases that should appeal to fans of both bands as well as hardcore punk in general.

Boston Strangler – demo tape

I’m so fucking sick of 1982 styled hardcore at this point. It’s an entire genre filled with people claiming influences that they sound nothing like, passing themselves off as something they aren’t, and releasing vinyl before they should have even left the practice room. I hate it. The reason why the ‘Strangler beats the stereotype is because of how studied and focused their sound is without sounding forced, contrived, or corny. It’s refreshing and new and yet very similar all at the same time. The Boston Strangler actually sounds like the bands they cite as influences — SS Decontrol, DYS, and Negative FX. But it’s not some retro rehash bullshit where they just go through the motions. It’s not new ground, and it’s not a new style, but it is spot on. And that, in and of itself, is something that really no one has been able to replicate since the likes of 1984.

Bone Awl – “Bowing Heads” LP on Iron Tyrant Records

Bone Awl, along with perhaps Pissed Jeans, has been my favorite band of the last few years. Stripped down and primitive black metal done without all the ‘Hail Satan’ stupidity and face paint that so many others have employed to obscure the fact that they don’t have good songs. Bone Awl does it right. Just pure minimalism with simple beats, amazingly catchy riffs, and repetition and grooves that make for continuous head bobbers. I’ve seen Bone Awl get compared to a cross between early Bathory and Oi punk, and though i’m certainly no authority on black metal, the description seems exceedingly spot on. For folks new to Bone Awl, i would recommend checking out one of their first two LPs first (“Not For Our Feet” or “Meaningless Leaning Mess”), but this is still a great record and certainly one of the top 10 for the year.

Occupy Wall Street (NYC)
There is an intense feeling of hopelessness, disillusionment, and disenfranchisement among young people today. Perhaps you’ve spent four years working your ass off at college and have student loans coming out of your ears, but all you can find is a low paying retail job or a crappy job not in your field. Perhaps you can’t find a job at all. Perhaps your plan was go to college and work hard to come out with a degree in a respectable field and then find an entry level job in that field while you work your way toward a successful career. This was clearly the idea of many people in my generation. But the promises of American capitalism, American success, and the American Dream have become distant prospects for many highly educated and skilled persons. This feeling, mixed with the Wall Street bail outs by the Obama administration, the attacks from the Right on Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare, organized labor, and other social welfare programs, and the general disparity in wealth between the working poor and the ruling elite finally got some mainstream attention this year. There was a feeling of hope and potential for grassroots change thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The movement was rooted in anarchist and anti-authoritarian principles. It was egalitarian and without leaders. And it’s goal was to speak for a diverse group of people who felt that they were without a proper voice representing them in Washington politics. Occupy Wall Street eventually flamed out through police repression and lack of long term planning or ability to adapt, but it did bring attention to the fact that the elite 1% of this country have an iron grip and that that has got to change. There are a host of issues that need to be addressed, and i don’t see Occupy as being a solution to all of the problems. But Occupy gave people a voice, brought attention to issues that were being ignored by the mainstream media, and educated many other people who just felt marginalized and confused. I’m not sure what the future will bring, but i am hopeful that grassroots actions like this that do not become co-opted by Democrat or Republican politicians can continue to grow and flourish — and sustain themselves — into these uncertain and bleak times.

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