When it comes to northern European hardcore, Sweden gets most of the love. I’m not sure why that is; Refused has been “fucking dead” for a very long time. Norway, on the other hand, has a small but vibrant hardcore scene. After Kvelertak’s 2010 success, and a growing interest in distortion-driven hardcore, more of that hidden gem is being unearthed.
Applause for the Black Hole Crew, a group of forward-thinking hardcore musicians that draw heavily from Norwegian black metal, but also infuse old-school punk, sludge, doom, and even alt rock into their various projects.
Here’s 21 minutes of Norwegian hardcore. Some new, some old, all awesome.
DOWNLOAD: CORE VALUES #1 [42.69MB .zip]
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Betong Hysteria – “Vi Vil Ikke Ha”
from Vi Vil Ikke Ha (7″ reissue, 2011)
This may be the first example of Norwegian hardcore in existence. At this point the interest is more academic than musical—Norway’s extreme musical identity was in utero when this was released in 1983. Still, Betong Hysteria has enough beauty marks to keep things interesting. The guitar playing is stilted in a Dead Kennedys sort of way, with the ghost of surf rock still clinging (“Louie Louie” is covered later on this release). More importantly, WHAT. IS. THAT. DRUM. SOUND? Is that the tom or the bass drum that sounds like an exercise ball getting bonked by a rubber mallet? If anyone knows, please email me.
Okkultokrati – “Sacred Filth”
That was then, but this is now. This song is off Okkultokrati’s 2011 split with Årabrot [see below], and a perfect example of what the Black Hole Crew do: a potent mix of Norwegian black metal, hardcore and crust punk. The tones here owe a great deal to the Deathlike Silence roster, but in high fidelity, and more solid song structure.
Haust – “Skate Rock”
from The Powers of Horror (2010)
There is a certain sneer, a ballsy attitude derived from The Sex Pistols and displayed by great punk, hardcore; I find it much more attractive than toughguy posturing. Frank from Gallows has it in spades, but since he just left that band I’m riding on Haust. Both of Haust’s records are half-hour blitzes of crusty skate punk with bursts of thrash played through great distortion. Think Black Breath playing Suicidal Tendencies with thumbs bitten. “Skate Rock” is a series of blackhearted jabs at the genre it shares a title with—that it’s a fine representation of that genre only make the joke funnier. I want this band to tour the US with Kvelertak now!
Dark Times – “Talk Too Much”
from Dark Times (tape, 2011)
This may be my favorite artist on this playlist. Dark Times sound like an old school hardcore band, but being fronted by PJ Harvey circa 1993. Between this and Subrosa, 2011 has been the year of alt-rock frontwomen invading extreme music, and I welcome them with open arms. Their demo tape, from which this track was culled, is available for free on bandcamp thanks to Ormeyngel records [see Drugged SS below]. It comes with my highest recommendation.
Wits End – “The Ghost”
from Wits End (2011)
Epic and moody in a compact package, this is what Norwegian hardcore sounds like when it thinks even further outside the box. Hardcore is obsessed with the quick start, and as a result many of those records end on a whimper. Wits End is about things ending, lyrically and sonically, so every song feels like the end of a record. As it stands, this is just the halfway point breather.
Stengte Dorer – “Pålen”
from split release with Proces (1985)
After all that hardcore taking from black metal, here’s some old school that may have influenced the black circle types. Even for ’80s punk this is fast—the guitars nearly tremolo a few times, and the unsettling string-rubs around 0:37 briefly conjure that much-loved frigid atmosphere. The vocals unsettle as well, with a tormented below that reminds me of Nocturno Culto (or vice versa). This song was taken from a split with Proces, a Serbian band. Even the choice of record partners brings up bad thoughts.
Årabrot – “Procrustes”
from Okkultokrati/Årabrot split (2011)
This song makes you open up and say ‘ugh!’ Judging by this song Årabrot are the kind of people you don’t want to talk shop with—they just sound completely disgusted by life and everyone. Every instrument sounds like it’s been drug though miles of toxic sewage. The call-and-response between the Neurosis-y shouts and the nasal spasms matches the interplay of the bass and guitar moments later. Given the rising popularity of Southern Lord’s newer roster, I expect to hear more from and about Årabrot in the near future.
Drugged SS – “Deep Lore”
from I Hate What You Think About My Life (2010)
The sound of things falling apart. That drum crash near the start does it for me every time. Hardcore usually comes from a place of strength, but Drugged SS play out of a sense of freefall into desperation. Drugged SS are the most straightforward band on Ormeyngel, but there’s real tension in their [free to download] demo tape.
Problems – “Snake Oil”
from digital single (2011)
Snake Oil is the only song this band has released in 2011. Can you imagine 365 days of spite erupting in the course of 82 seconds? Vitriol, distilled, that’s what Problems is. This song is a magnesium burn—intense heat and blinding light for barely an instant, then ashes.
So Much Hate – “Feel the Heat”
from Lies (1993)
To play us out, some old-school Norwegian hardcore punk, the direct ancestor of everyone in the Black Hole Crew. Their album Lies is a new favorite for me, its hooks are big and poppy, but the guitar accents have very cool dissonant chord choices. Check out that robust bass tone—like getting assaulted with a roll of power cable! Every song on Lies is good, but “Feel the Heat” is played with exceptional conviction. I’m not sure that this record is even in print anymore, but I want a hard copy.