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Sarabante / Weekend Nachos - Remnants / Worthless

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Artist: Sarabante / Weekend Nachos

Album: Remnants / Worthless

Label: Southern Lord / Relapse

Review date: Aug. 24, 2011

The original hardcore punk scene dissolved in so many directions by the end of the 1980s, it’s impossible trace whatever subsequent trends are true keepers of the flame. Even attempting to do so gets you tripped up in pointless games of what is unfashionable enough to earn a hardcore label. Outside of actual sound, there’s forever an obsession with a grimy notion of purity. You always hear fans talk about that stretch of time when they only listened to hardcore. The purity involves harboring idiots in the name of outsider brotherhood, and backfiring doctrine that brings on the dysfunction and violence most kids were trying to escape when they first got drawn to hardcore. Sound-wise, it’s less consistent; if you’ve got shirtless jerks playing too fast to tell the songs apart, you could call it hardcore.

Spend enough time with a record, and you will start to tell the songs apart, of course. Whether it was worth effort or not just goes to show how hardcore you might be, dude. Or how stale a particular branch has become. Lately, it really has been worth the effort, far more than in a decade or more. Somewhere around 2008, when Relapse released Disfear’s Live the Storm, underground metal labels started picking up more bands that had the turbo-marching rush of Discharge — upbeat mayhem with downtuned guitars. It’s weird how British-style d-beat and grindcore has taken over, when so much of the foundations of the sound came from America. Rollins-esqe bellowing is the most obvious carryover from sunbelt punk, far more than Greg Ginn’s scuzzy scales.

While record labels Relapse and Southern Lord spent most of the last decade trafficking in sludge and doom, they have become responsible for some of the best late model HC. Sarabante and Weekend Nachos give a good sense of the breadth of what’s going on. Sarabante is sincere and sloganeering. Weekend Nachos, if you couldn’t take the hint from their name, don’t give a fuck.

Sarabante hails from Greece, a place that’s been giving exemplary lessons in the decline and fall of western civ. The lung wringing on Remnants is wall-to-wall agony, but the songs follow sturdy four-chord rock structures. “Γia Πanta Nyxta” has the dynamics and blue descent of The Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy,” right down to some modulating chime to the guitar. The bulk of the title track is as crusty as a blond dreadlock caught in the springs of a punkhouse sofa, but the intro and bridge could pass for shoegaze.

The ultra-strumming “Do You Feel Safe?” is actually traditionally Greek in it’s melody, ripe for bouzouki. That could be because of Dick Dale’s surf staccato informing Agent Orange and Adolescents, or it could be a more direct quote. It’s just there on the fast bits — the funeral march build-up and collapsing bass breaks between the verses are straight U.K. anarcho-anthem. Sarabante brings a lot of mainstream rock’s best zippos-aloft dramatic techniques to its window-smashing.

Chicago’s Weekend Nachos base approach (and it’s pretty base) is closer to the end of first-gen hardcore. Worthless is gouged-out metallic shock that refuses to stick with a riff for more than a few bars, like a clearly produced remake of Napalm Death’s Scum. No one gets to pump their fists in the air. Two different screamers trade off vocals on the 53 seconds of “Frostbitten,” one sandpaper, the other nasal. The zillion-BPM part isn’t but a few seconds of the running time, and the sludgy lurch of the rest never finds a pattern, but those 53 seconds hold together, teasing like they will become a predictable song, finishing before you realize you’ve been had. The suspense justifies the freezing death of structure. Similarly, “For Life” goes from zillion to quadrazillion, then provides relief with a catchy throbbing riff, but we only get about 20 seconds. Sounds like the band got to enjoy the riff after the fade out, though. Good for them.

The middle of the record provides about two minutes of test-tone feedback, even spanning a quick fade between two of the tracks, suggesting that the distinctions between ends and beginnings could be arbitrary. Like a good insult comedian, you know don’t know if they’re laughing with you or at you. And you don’t really care, either.

By Ben Donnelly

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