As once famously stated by Kurt Cobain, then later used to “famously” open Pg.99‘s Document #8 lp, punk rock should be “playing what you want, as sloppy as you want, as long as it’s good and has passion.” Of course in the grand context of punk this sentiment rings true. After all, it was a genre founded on the ideals of minimal musical ability used to simply express one’s own ideals. And, above all else, passion still does primarily drive and determine what punk albums are good, and which are truly lack luster.
However, where this sentiment becomes an issue is when bands use it as an excuse to so blatantly rip off their idols without ever contributing to the growth of the genre. Take for example the billions of Discharge clone bands. While some may have plenty of passion to spare they all grow stale when searching through the bandcamp d-beat tag leads to a plethora of bands that sound almost identical. Crust has become too comfortable with itself, staying almost strictly in a rigid set of boundaries that were self imposed and ignoring the innovations of such notable crust bands as His Hero Is Gone and Fall of Efrafa.
Despite this, there are the few bands who still remain loyal to Crust’s pioneers while incorporating some of the newer elements. One such band is Swedish d-beat loyalists by way of Tragedy super fans Paranoid, who are re-releasing their Satyagraha with Southern Lord. By combining the two styles the band manages to create a robust sound that while still paying tribute to their roots, also is distinctly all their own. It is refreshing in a scene plagued by fear of experimentation as well as a staunch reminder to the punk community that no matter how much passion your band has, it can never replace actually good songwriting.
Take, for example, track number 6 on the lp, “Shisuru Sekai, Iki Jikogu”. The song starts as a fairly straight forward d-beat song plowing through until about the 2 minute mark. At this point a new riff kicks in that would feel appropriate in a Dwid Hellion project. Finally it ends in a surge of feedback, a trick that isn’t uncommon in crust records by any means, but feels a bit more meaningful as the riff actually helps to lead into it vs. simply charging into the feedback guns blazing with little to no transition. These tiny details seem so insignificant but in the long run help Paranoid to truly set themselves above the rest of the d-beat clones and provide a refreshing listen.
However, Paranoid still do suffer from the curse of the d-beat band. While they show a very capable range of black and thrash metal inspired riffs, even slowing down at some points to develop somewhat of an atmosphere, the band still steps a bit too close to familiar territory. Where they have so much potential to tap into their wider metal and extreme music influences, they often times choose to dip further into where they are already comfortable. This makes certain songs (tracks 1 – 4) often come as somewhat repetitive punk songs. It feels as if it’s already been done, and though the passion is there, it still begs the question as to why anyone would want to retread that ground. Unfortunately, this also affects the overall pacing of the record with the second half being far and beyond more engaging. By no means are those first few tracks boring, but they lack the extra zest of the last few tracks.
Paranoid stands somewhat alone in a sea of copy cat d-beat crust bands. They play with what the genre can be at certain points, and these moments result in a big pay off. But, despite this slight experimentation, still manage to fall victim to the curse of the crust band and walk back on the ground Discharge already walked before them. Satyagraha is by no means bad, and definitely should not be skipped as it shows enormous room for growth, but it feels like an incomplete product. Paranoid could do so much more, and most likely will, but sadly for right now they are stuck in an all too common rut.