Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Album Review: Sturmovik - "Destination Nowhere"

Crust punk always seems like a hidden niche genre, but if we’re being honest, this sub-section of punk (and some would argue its most genuine successor,) has a long and storied history that touches and descends through other splinters like hardcore.  For those unfamiliar, crust punk is essentially punk as it came of age in the early ‘80s, but with more distortion and more screaming.  Those are really the only distinguishing factors, so with that in mind, how does Polish crust punk newcomers Sturmovik weigh in against the rest of the genre?

In short, the answer is pretty well, actually.  Aficionados with an attuned ear will not doubt note that “Destination Nowhere” probably has more in common with the stylings of Pro-Pain than of the recent efforts from Darkthrone, but the line between hardcore punk and crust is blurry as it is, so fans of both will probably find value within.

Like most punk records of any style, “Destination Nowhere” makes sure not to overstay its welcome.  The nine cuts on the record flash past in a positive blur, making it easily possible to absorb the entire experience in about a half-hour.  That said, there’s enough composition here so that the record doesn’t feel short, which in this case is a compliment.  Each cut has just about the right amount of blistering riffs and smashing drums to fulfill its three minute obligation, and the melodies in the album’s bridges are varied enough to provide a rich punk diversity.

That versatility within the punk structure is what gives “Destination Nowhere” some added value.  You can listen to the energetic “Saint of Chains” and the beat-driven “Bad Sons, Bad Earth” back to back and yes, they’re the same band and the same paradigm, but still stand out as different songs.

For all that variety though, where the album sounds best is just in throwing caution to the wind and going for it, as we hear in the joyous slog of “Mental Uprising.”  It’s a bunch of messy chords played with quick strokes and ceaseless percussion punctuated only by the haranguing vocal shouts that represent verses.  Just to add to the chaos, the songs back half throws in a fuzzy guitar solo, and then we’re back at it for a quick verse at the end.  “Mental Uprising” represents more than just Sturmovik’s best song – it’s also an indication of their understanding of punk’s jointly springy and abbreviated nature.  These are songs that are meant to evoke a physical response, with accessible but fun riffs that dress up mean and demand that the listener bang their head or start a mosh pit or play hockey or something.

If there’s a downside worth nothing, it’s only that the vocal performance is ragged enough that it’s hard to distinguish the lyrics with any great accuracy.  In many vestiges this wouldn’t be an issue, but punk of all stripes has a long history of making sure that the message is transmitted and received along with the music, which is where Sturmovik stumbles slightly.

By and large though, Sturmovik’s “Destination Nowhere” hits all the necessary and proper hallmarks that a crust punk album, or any punk record, really, needs to hit.  It’s a fine addition to any punk fan’s collection and a sure sign that the legacy of crust lives on.

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