As the story goes, 1977 was the year when punk invaded the mainstream music charts, national television and major newspapers in Britain. In the same year, David Bowie had also set foot in Europe to finish his record “Low”; a track called “Warszawa”, co-written with Brian Eno, also appeared on this album to further augment the solemn and depressive mood of Bowie’s album. This piece about the grey, somber and depressing Polish capital had also served as the main inspiration behind Joy Division to start the band at the time.
But punk wasn’t content to stay within the boundaries of the Western part of the so called Iron Curtain. In Poland, punk was a reaction to both totalitarian regimes and false promises of capitalism. Starting with the unique sound of punk-rock bands like Moskwa, Armia, Rejestracia, Dezerter and Siekiera, and continuing all the way through the late 80s and 90s with Włochaty, Homomilitia, Post Regiment and Infekcja, the Polish scene has had its massive impact on the development of hardcore punk until the present day.
Eastern European punk, especially when sung in some Slavic language, was a whole new world to the people in the West and it was created by people living under such conditions—ahem, secret police—that it inspired them to be even more creative if they want to succeed in what they are trying to achieve. But how many Western bands could sing in Polish if they don’t have a native Pole in the band?
Śmierć is a four-piece hardcore punk band from Stockholm that pays homage to the greatest punk bands and poets to come out of Poland.
In 2017, Sumo (drums) and Calle (bass) came together to start a new band that will sound somewhat different from the countess of other bands they’ve had before. Imperial Leather’s Krisse joined on guitar then, but it wasn’t until Ninka took on the lyrical and vocals duties when Śmierć was finally born. Before that, she’s been playing the drums or sing in many Swedish hardcore, punk and crust bands, but singing in Polish was something totally new to be brought on the table.
As a teenager, Ninka went to Poland and was amazed by the country to the extent that later on she would decide to study the language at the Stockholm University. Buying all the punk tapes and records from legendary labels like Nikt Nic Nie Wie, making new friends and occasionally traveling to visit them in Poland was the catalyst for Ninka to start a band like Śmierć, like ten years later. The band name translates simply as death, and the debut album’s title comes from a poem by the poet Wisława Szymborska.
The band’s music truly reflects the aforementioned intentions—from the melodic hooks and female vocals inspired by Post Regiment to the urgency and anarcha-feminist fury of Homomilitia; and all the way back to the poetic heritage of Ewa Demarczyk. The lyrics are not all that original though, but that’s entirely on purpose and charming in its own way. Not only are there references and influences, but also exact lines of classic Polish punk songs incorporated within Ninka’s own poetic endeavors. Listening to Dezerter’s Spytaj milicjanta or Homomilitia’s Moje ciało, mój wybór within these nine tracks was really interesting to say the least. However, being veterans of Swedish crust and hardcore punk scene, Śmierć also stay true to their own roots and don’t forget to deliver some pummeling Scandinavian d-beats on top of all the Polish craze.
This is one of the most interesting punk records I’ve heard in 2018, so it’s no surprise that Nikt Nic Nie Wie is releasing it along with all their great bands from Poland.