(Un)holy Land – Notes from Israel’s Corrosive Music Scene

This post has been a long time coming. We’ve been dropping hints here and there for years now about the growing underground scene in Israel, a scene which I, as a native of Tel Aviv, am well poised to explore. Interestingly enough, this has become less and less obvious as the punk, grindcore, hardcore, and powerviolence scene here has expanded well beyond the borders of Israel’s cultural capital and established footholds in Haifa to north and even Jerusalem, to an extent. The music made here is rapidly getting heavier, more pissed off, more incessant on a refusal to obey, to step in line and to just keep on going with the day to day.

And that shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. Indeed, it is a benediction. In times when Israeli oppression continues to spiral out of control, when hyper-capitalism continues to erode what little remnants of a welfare state we have, when climate change (which will have immediate and painful impacts in our little stretch of land) continues to promise a bleak future, what else is left to us but rage? Rage you’ll find aplenty over this series of posts exploring the filthier sides of the Israeli musical scene but also dejection, derision, hate, and a weaponized sort of despair which lashes out at everyone and everything. As it should.

Who better to walk us through this rapidly mutation scene than Matt, our resident lover of all things filth? As an outsider, and one knowledgable in the dark ways of the grind, he is doubly well positioned to explore this scene, with my guiding, and local, hand. Together, we’ll try and give you a little peek into a DIY, underground, fiercely rebellious scene as it grows before our eyes, kicking, screaming, and spitting into existence. Happy reading and listening.

Eden Kupermintz

Karkait – Yekum // Kiyum

To get the ball rolling, we’re looking at the April release of Yekum // Kiyum from Jerusalem’s Karkait. Covering more ground than a long-distance runner with mechanical legs, this weird little release could feature in many of Heavy Blog’s genre-centric articles. The grind freak in me took a moment to get to grips with the sludgy black metal that opens the record, but after hearing the rest of the record it made sense. While not overtly grind, black, death, or hardcore, Karkait harnesses the kind of raw energy that makes the best bands from these genres so goddamn entertaining. At times a blackened Middle Eastern version of Devil Sold His Soul (opener “Karkait Ha’Kiyum” is murky as fuck), Karkait shift gears loudly and suddenly into the kind of razor-sharp grindviolence that sets a match to the gas-filled environment; all while using blast beats and rapid-fire sections sparingly. Less is more. Or something.

The production by local Aviv Gozlan (who had a helping hand on mastering from one Dan Swano) gives each of the three elements (voice, guitar, percussion) a podium to spew their wretched and twisted sounds from. Powerful, punchy toms and shimmering, glassy cymbals take an absolute battering behind some deranged, detuned guitar work. An apparent lack of bass doesn’t hold back the heft of some seriously dirty, low-end riffs and siren shrill blackened chords; closer “Karkait Ha’Yekum” dips into funeral doom territory in it’s closing barrage, but perfectly encapsulates the weird grind-doom-black hybrid of the previous six minutes. Yekum // Kiyum is on the longer side of grind adjacent releases with just six tracks (ten minutes is a long time, okay) but the sheer variety of devastation delivered via leftfield structure and disregard for genre norms gives this slice of Israeli sickness instant replay value. It’s name your price on Bandcamp so the price you will pay might come out of your wallet, sure, but you’re definitely going to feel the toll on your soul too.

Matt MacLennan

xLODEAx – First Scumdal

I’m a native English (Scots) speaker, so I can only understand one language. Blame it on my public schools’ language department. Not that it’s usually important when encountering foreign bands who sing in their native tongue, but in the case of xLODEAx and their most recent release First Scumdal, I feel like I’m genuinely missing out on what could be some of the most challenging, engaging lyrics of all time. True poetry is barked over lo-fi, no fucks given, pick a kid up by the feet and shake them violently grindviolence. The band sum up their message better than I could ever hope to, so let’s just copy and paste that right here –

“The lyrical theme of the album is mostly sensitive and close to our hearts subjects such as Dora the Explorer, Alcohol, Drugs and Farts.”

There you have it. Gripping stuff. Now, I could and possibly should have asked Eden to translate some of their Dora related lyrics, but I never, so that’s just that. It’s pretty safe to assume that the tongue-in-cheek nature of a lot of powerviolence is being adhered to here, but the actual violence component is something I can actually understand. Drums? loud, noisy, fast and fucking fearless. The bass? Fuzzy and jagged, providing the low-end wave for the bedlam of shouts, screams, yelps and yells to ride; though really, it wouldn’t be missed if it wasn’t there – like 99.99% of powerviolence. The riffs are loose and almost sloppy sometimes, but that’s just the nature of this kind of grind. It’s harmless fun that in a live environment, could quickly turn into slightly less harmless fun. Take the cutesy themes out and this is still over-fried punk rock multiplied by the nth degree, the resulting equation landing somewhere between a rock and a minefield.

MM

NEZEK – NEZEK

Significantly outside of my day-to-day listening habits, NEZEK don’t grind, blast, or growl their message at the listener. Instead, the Haifa band perform souped-up hardcore with a clear message of anti-oppression and human/animal rights across the board. This is an old formula, for sure, but on their self-titled release NEZEK speed up the d-beats and pull the pin on a shrapnel grenade stuffed full of anarchic punk moments. Like I said, punk and OG hardcore isn’t necessarily my favourite but this outfit really spit in the face of anyone they set their sights on. That I can totally get behind. It helps that there’s a touch of chaotic, mathy hardcore going on too.

Each track on NEZEK could stand on it’s own as a punk anthem for 2019. Bodily autonomy, vegan living, relationships… They’re all covered and, for the most part, they’re all met headfirst with bass-heavy, power-of-positivity hardcore. This isn’t Knocked Loose or Jesus Piece, NEZEK instead delivering powerful, heavy music with different tools other than beatdowns and bully riffs. “Devil” and “Chronic” both feel incredibly personal, but the raucous, grinding (not like that) music that accompanies these heavily personal tunes is unflinching and cuts closer to home than you’ll feel safe admitting to.

This is a fired-up version of punk that more often than not comes off as preachy or impudent; the breakup/relationship strife song “Always Late” is poetry, not pop-punk whining –

“How can I even communicate
When every time I try to love it backfires as hate?
How can I even communicate
When every time I feel loved I respond it with hate?”

It’s been a very long time since I enjoyed a four-chord punk performance but fuck me if NEZEK don’t deliver on levels way above the genre’s status quo. I wasn’t around for punk when it was a big deal in the news and in the homes of worried, conservative parents, but I’m mighty glad that I’m around just now to dip my toes into some unruly, unassuming Israeli punk. Raw, emotional stuff and more than worth a trial, even for the brutal noise mob. “Vegan Rebellion” kicks ass, and if I listen to it a few more times I’m going to have to tell m’lady that we’re going cruelty-free sooner rather than later.

MM

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