HardReviews 5
by Martin Popoff

Damned Damned Damned 30th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Castle)

Metal fans accepting of a slightly wider frame of reference would do well to check into pioneering and manic UK punks, The Damned. Seriously, there were no more than about 40 "heavy metal" punk albums from the original '76 to '79 punk era (US hardcore in the '80s arguably offered many more, and of a different strain) so it's not like this is a huge can of worms. Anyway, this was considered by many to be the first punk album, certainly more so the first from the UK, originally issued in February 1977. Its intensity is legion, driven from the engine room by drummer Rat Scabies, who out-loons Keith Moon with a wall-of-sound barrage that is like a big arse-kick of previously conceived '70s rock conventions. The vampiric Dave Vanian tops it all with a seductive blood-sucking voice while guitarist Brian James and the good Captain Sensible on bass blast out a rat's nest of wiry tones. The hard as nails anthems are 'Neat Neat Neat', 'Stab Yor Back' (sic), and 'New Rose' which... man, that song KILLED us in '77. Strange, but one barely notices its sweet boogie riff through the battle of its riotous performance. I mean, those drums almost brought down an empire. OK, enough... what's also important is that this is a definitive version of this album, offering a four-fold gate digi in cardboard over-sleeve, a booklet stuffed with photos and interview material, and fully three CDs, the first being the album, the second, 26 live tracks, Peel sessions, demos, b-sides and singles, the third, a 12 track live show from '76 (crap sound, but some interesting variants on the studio versions).
Rating 10

The Undercurrent (Listenable)

French soundscapers Scarve borrow equally from Fear Factory-derived industrial thrash sonics and avant garde progressive black metal, the former providing the platform, the latter providing the angled Borknagar melodies and the vocal oscillation between growls and clean singing down a Dimmu path. And the whole thing is beaten into a mash by some of the most panoramic drum grooves this side of Mnemic-pandemic Meshuggah. The steely Strapping feel might derive from the fact that Daniel Bergstrand produces, but much of the credit must also go to a brave distinction of dense architecture derived from fully 14 years of toil. This is a headphone album that just might be too fatiguing too loud, but an impressive clinic stuffed full of events at some applied sane volume. My 7... damn, call it my contribution to the feeling that this field is crowded, and really, that's not the fault of any one band in it.
Rating 7