Post-punk trio Chain Cult from Athens, Greece just released their latest Shallow Grave LP that instantly made it to the top of our end of year lists! However, it’s even more kick-ass to ask band members themselves to list their favorite records of the year. It’s is Dino, guitar in Chain Cult, sharing his top picks of dark / synth / post-punk music in 2019. Enjoy!
This is the second time that I’ve been asked to write a DIY Conspiracy article and yet again, about post-punk. This time, however, it’s about my favorite records of 2019.
Since there hasn’t been a lot of going on in the world of rock-ish hardcore punk or metal punk with tons of guitar solos, I’m reviewing a couple of post-punk, dark punk, and synth-wave records that are worth checking out before the end of this decade—and the beginning of a new, darker, and (for sure) bleaker one.
1 Diät – Positive Disintegration (Blackest Ever Black / Iron Lung)
Among my friends, I was one of the few who kept insisting that Diät’s return was even better than their previous record (2015’s Positive Energy). Months after its release, I’m 100% sure.
If you need to know how punk lyrics should be written in 2019, check out this record immediately. They’re to-the-point, cynical, and deconstruct the modern way of living, thinking, interacting with others and perceiving the world. They give no quarter to anyone, not even ourselves (the punks) in a society of complete alienation.
The music is gloomier and more coherent today, showing the maturity of the band and the members who find themselves in a tricky post-30s situation. This is a masterpiece.
2 Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror (Dais)
Until I actually saw this band play in Athens, I couldn’t imagine such glorious guitar excellence. The guitarist is the master of arpeggios, caressing the strings of his guitar while articulating perfect dynamics. On top of everything, his lengthy, massive reverb leaves you stunned.
Synths and double vocals complete a futuristic environment, diving into darkness one moment and emerging into a colorful feast of thousands of neon lights. Honestly, all the tracks of this album are gems.
3 Fatamorgana – Terra Alta (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Even though heavier listeners won’t agree with me, this 2019 Fatamorgana record is one of the best from the scene. Sorry guys! This Barcelona duo has nothing to do with hardcore or punk-rock, but it’s perfect electronic music. The production is slick, the vocals are dreamy, and the songs’ minimalism tests your repetitive dance skills on the floor. This is a magical synth-pop trip to cold landscapes, beckoning you to explore with them.
4 Education – Culture (Imminent Destruction / Symphony Of Destruction)
This is a rawer, dirtier version of post-punk madness coming from Rome’s Education. Education has been around for a few years and Culture is the follow-up to an excellent demo released in 2018.
The debut album clocks in with eight tracks, where the band develops an unfriendly sound of punk that’s dark as the closet of your childhood bedroom. Add in some super-catchy guitar lines and distinctive vocals yelling about the oppression a young person deals with in the current system and it’s impossible not to fucking enjoy this one. Be sure to check out these two labels’ back catalog—they’ve been releasing great records through the years.
5 Bleakness – Functionally Extinct (Sabotage / Icy Cold)
I’ve been a fan of Bleakness since their previous release, Frozen Refuge, a four-track mini LP released on Bremen’s Sabotage records. Functionally Extinct delivers the same style of frozen, earworm dark punk, with all the good French vibes we need in punk-rock. This time, it comes at a slower pace, providing enough space to appreciate the development of each track.
I still dig a lot the guitar leads (in my opinion, this is a key element of their music) and can’t wait to finally see them live. This is the kind of hard-working band I really admire.
6 Nox Novacula – Hitchhiker / Drug EP (Moo Cow)
The best goth band I’ve seen live lately. In addition to a couple breathtaking songs in their Zoro Fest set last September, there was a perfect chemistry between all the members. Add in the singer’s vocal skills and an ultra-sensuous performance, and their set gave me goosebumps. This EP includes their best discography moments up to date.
7 1981 – Acts of Rebellion EP (19in81)
Even though this is an anarcho-punk release, I’m super happy that this sound and attitude is still around these days. I’ve been following this band since the beginning and they never disappoint. Acts of Rebellion is one of their best EPs so far, including their good ol’ recipe of clean, melodic punk-rock, female and male vocals, and politically-charged lyrics that always speak the truth. Anthems for revolutionary souls!
8 Spectres – Provincial Wake (Sabotage)
In 2016, Spectres’ monumental Utopia was one of the biggest international post-punk moments in the last decade. The band’s return, Provincial Wake, is a polarizing 7” single. While the title track—and first on the record—isn’t great, it’s immediately followed by “Northern Towns”, absolutely one of the top songs of the year.
Their musical approach is again the same, with beautiful Johnny Marr-influenced guitar and android-ish vocals, which are great and characteristic for the band.
9 Shivers – Self-Titled (Self-released / online)
I normally don’t write about online releases, but I’m sure it’s gonna be released soon in some kind of physical format (‘cause it’s some good shit!). It’s also “appreciation time” for these newcomers!
Shivers’ debut includes five tracks of well-played post-punk in a heavier, more punkish vein. This comes with excellent bass tone, eerie keyboards, and some really great ideas and genre tropes all over the place. Considering that one band member is just 16 years old, I need to take a bow at this release. When I was 16, I was just a simple idiot listening to The Exploited (I still like The Exploited, by the way).
10 Γεμάτος Αράχνες, Ρε Φίλε! – Γεμάτος Αράχνες! (Είσοδος Κινδύνου)
Translated into English, this band’s name is something like: “Dude, I’m Full of Spiders!” Judging from the name, you may have correctly guessed that these guys are total weirdos. A very fresh band in the Athens scene, the need to play dark and uncomfortable synth-punk was so urgent that they quickly recorded seven tracks and released them in a demo tape right away.
The result is amazing and reflects the madness and frenzy that exists in the heads of Athens oddballs. This demo perfectly combines youthful energy with the experienced and talented use of synths (and numerous other nerdy analog devices). The whole package is gorgeous, specially curated by Είσοδος Κινδύνου, a new and promising label in town.
Νίκος Χαντζής – Music for Ordinary Life Machines (Greece)
This is a great documentary about the Greek minimal synth/dark-wave scene (with English subtitles). It’s mostly a self-presentation of local bands and artists from the ‘80s through the current scene.
Loaded with couple of super interesting interviews and (of course) amazing music throughout the film’s 2-hour run, I was especially blown away by recounts of the 80s Greek music pioneers (legendary bands like Horis Perideraio, Alive She Died, ANTI, etc.). The movie features stories about their beginning, how they got their first synths, what was to be part of such a small underground scene, and more. It’s so fucking good!
If these records are still not enough for you, check also:
- Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
- She Past Away – Disko Anksiyete
- The Wraith – Gloom Ballet
- Body Of Light – Time To Kill
- Blu Anxxiety – Baptized in Space
- Anxious Living – S/T EP
- Cold Brats – S/T EP