Published on July 7th, 2016 | by The Beige Baron0
SWARRRM | 20 Year Chaos
If you had to pick a band that best represents the uniqueness and intensity of Japanese grindcore, then Kobe-based SWARRRM would be high on the list — and their latest record 20 Year Chaos is the perfect gateway to their catalog.
Collecting 12 tracks taken from various splits, EPs, and VA compilations, 20 Year Chaos highlights a fruitful period between 2001 and 2004 before former Hellchild vocalist Tsukasa Harakawa replaced original singer Hidaka in 2006 — the only change to the band’s lineup in two decades.
20 Year Chaos demonstrates why SWARRRM has influenced so many bands locally as well as abroad—Gorguts, Endon, Stubborn Father, Black Bong, Narcosis, and Portal have all noted the band’s impact, if not in terms of shaping their sounds, then certainly for the band’s singular individualism, and in spite of guitarist Kapo’s protestations.
“Honestly, I don’t think we are influenced by, and haven’t been an influence on other bands in the scene,” he says. “I think there are some ‘rules’ in the hardcore scene, but we haven’t paid any attention to them and have done things just for us.”
The madness hits instantly on opening track Leave Me Alone, a song that shows SWARRRM constructing and then dismantling a monster detuned riff, attacking it from every angle, messing with tempo and meter in squalls of frenetic bass, blast-beat, and screamed off-kilter harmonies.
The defining element of SWARRRM during this period was Hidaka’s vocals: incoherent jabbering, anguished bellows, sobbing and choking in wordless agony. Hidaka uses his voice like a blunt instrument, performance art at the rawest end of the scale.
As the band jumps from thrash to d-beat to grindcore to minor-chord melancholy, it’s Hidaka that keeps the different elements lashed together. The band precisely assembles each component, creating unexpected and compelling musical structures, but it’s Hidaka’s voice that delivers that thrilling animalistic power.
In part because the songs are collected over a longer timeframe, 20 Year Chaos presents the band at its creative best. SWARRRM insists that they draw upon inspiration from within, and do not copy or adapt what’s happening outside their world.
“There are always trends and ways of thinking within the hardcore scene, but we feel we are always in an unrelated place,” says Kapo. “Our way of thinking has always been, ‘we don’t want to do the exactly the same thing as everyone else’.”
“We don’t want to do the exactly the same thing as everyone else…”
In practice, there are few comparisons that can be made to SWARRRM — though I was reminded of Sore Throat’s Disgrace to the Corpse of Sid for the insane vocals, and compatriots Clotted Symmetric Sexual Organ for their ability to subvert the conventional: a lick of flamenco guitar or a reflective piano passage soon devoured in malevolence.
We wonder what changes SWARRRM has seen in the local scene since they started out, and if they hope 20 Year Chaos will bring in a new generation of fans?
“No, I don’t think [it’s changed]. We’ve always enjoyed a pretty good audience and good music sales. But our music is always incomplete, and I don’t want to be influenced by other people’s values, so I think, in a way, other people don’t understand us.
So what’s the secret to the band’s longevity? For Kapo, the answer is simple.
“We just haven’t lost interest in the kind of music we make.”
20 Year Chaos is out now on 3LA Records. Order via 3LA, download via bandcamp, buy on Amazon (Japan) or Disk Union (Japan). Follow the band on Facebook for news on future shows and upcoming releases. With translation by Yasutomo. With photos courtesy Ellie Photography.