Live Reviews

Systematic Death – Live

The Varukers, Sick On A Bus
The Purple Turtle, Camden London
April 28th 2008

Although there’s a distinct lack of actual purple turtles in Camden tonight, the punks are out in force and some of them do look a bit like Turtles. And one even had purple in his hair.

So, if, like me, you’re both old and punk then you will either by alarmed at the sheer volume of bands from your youth reforming and playing again or you’ll be happy as a punk in vomit at the thought of getting to see some of the greats and original innovators again. Over the years, some reformations have been great. Agent Orange, The Adolescents, Stooges, TSOL, The Ruts, Only Ones, The Sonics have all turned in fantastic high-energy sets recently. And some have been not so good. The less said about the Dead fucking Kennedys the better. I can’t believe they are coming back to Europe yet again on another Biafra-less tour in an attempt to milk the sacred cash cow (their words, not mine) that little bit more. Well guess what. We’re not going. Fuck you. You might enjoy playing the music BUT IT IS NOT THE DEAD KENNEDYS WITHOUT JELLO YOU DUMB FUCKS!!

Sorry, where were we? Oh yes, reformed bands. Systematic Death formed in 1983 in Yokohama Japan and split up in 1988. Between that time, alongside other classic Japanese hardcore bands like Gism, S.O.B., Gauze, Lipcream and Deathside, they created some of the most ferocious hardcore thrash punk to explode from this planet. The Japanese hardcore bands always had an edge and odd twist over their western contempories and Systematic Death were no different. I originally came across them as part of the classic ‘Thrash ‘Till Death‘ (with Lip Cream, Gauze, systematic Death, Outo) album that came out on the Pusmort label (Septic Death Singer/Zorlac skates and Metallica artist Pushead’s eighties hardcore record label). Their tracks stood their ground well in an album of heavy hitters. I never expected to see them live, certainly not in 2008. And guess what? They were fucking incredible.

Admittedly, some of this is down to the less than inspiring support bands. Sick On The Bus do a punked up, sloppy punk n’roll version of Motorhead (ending their set with a cover of Lemmy classic ‘Bomber‘) and The Varukers are old enough to know better. Some of their early eighties releases are good Discharge inspired hardcore punk but their sloppy set tonight lacked energy and bite. Both bands are damp squids compared to the whirlwind of fury that Systematic Death unleash. Drummer Hiromichi propels the whole band forward like a Tasmanian Devil, exploding like a jet-engine at the back and sending each grenade of a song exploding into the shell-shocked crowd! He manages to play stupidly fast and still hit the drums like sledgehammers as each song ricochets off the stage like a short sharp electric shock and sends as reeling.

This is how hardcore should be done. Watch and learn.

James Sherry