Saturday, January 14, 2012

Suppression/Grief - Split EP (1995)

Growing up in a relatively small, somewhat culturally isolated city tucked away in the recesses of the Blue Ridge Mountains, punk rock came as a fucking godsend. I'll spare the whole getting-into-the-music story that's been done to death, but suffice to say it made an impression. However, while it tapped into a lot of feelings I had previously no understanding of how to articulate, most of what I could find out about the music in those days before the internet was the ubiquitous force it is today seemed to indicate that it had ended around the time Sid Vicious died, or in the case of hardcore, around the time the Bad Brains broke up the first time around and all the New York bands went metal. Coverage was scanty, so I took what I could get. I discovered Heartattack and more contemporary bands – His Hero Is Gone, Gehenna, Rorschach, etc. - not long afterwards, but it still seemed like something that happened a million miles away.

But I would search out what I could, often spending my limited early teenage income on whatever records looked cool. Not a great formula for finding killer music, but in one notable case it provided more than a little blowing of the ol' mind. It was such a small thing, something that would've been so easy to overlook, a split 7” with a flimsy green cover with some photos of dudes playing and destroying instruments on one side and some shit on the other that looked like it could've come from some high school stoner's art project. And it was a dollar. So I took my chances.

And one side was good. A band from Massachusetts called Grief. I'd heard some slower heavy music before – Melvins, Sabbath, etc. - but Grief took it all and injected some serious psychotic depressing vibes to it. I enjoyed it (if “enjoy” is the right word for something so nihilistic), gave it a few listens and flipped it over. The other band, Suppression, simply fucking destroyed. I'd heard some grindy shit before, had my mind similarly blown by Napalm Death not much earlier, but Suppression was next level. It was a feral blur, sheets of sound draped over blastbeats with harsh noise textures clawing their way through.


I didn't really know much about this sort of thing. I had no real exposure to noise beyond my dad's Sun Ra albums. I had no idea that there was this genre of lurching start/stop noise called power violence and that Suppression was one of the most vicious yet interesting examples of the style. And until finding that record, I had no idea that they (or anybody with ideas so extreme) were operating in the same small, punk rock-deprived city that I lived in. And that was the other facet to how mind-blowing Suppression was. Their music was – and remains – fucking killer. But that such a band could pop up in the same boring, backwater town in which I felt so isolated was an amazing feeling. It brought the world closer to home and provided an example of how great things can be made out of mediocre surroundings.


I managed to get most of Suppression's releases over the years and the majority of it is spectacular. It's like if Man Is The Bastard kept the noise parts, but instead of wandering off into the more technical instrumental parts, they opted for the blunt ferocity of Crossed Out or No Comment. Even after power violence turned into a higher-profile subgenre in recent years, with hordes of shitty youth crew bands throwing in a few blast beats and thinking that turns them into the next Infest, Suppression's music remains as bracing and compelling as when it was released.


During the late '90s, the band moved more into noise/ power electronics material and for several years their only performances and releases saw the band indulging their most dissonant impulses. It was interesting to watch – I recall one show where the band attached amplified contact microphones to bibles and beat them to shreds with dildos – but not always easy to sit down and listen to. In more recent years, the band has operated as a bass-and-drums duo, working in a vein that's somewhere between Ruins and early Butthole Surfers – frantic, obnoxious (in a good way) noise rock (sample song title: "Well Hung Toddler") that surprisingly doesn't stand in too stark contrast when the band breaks out some of their old power violence material, as they've thankfully been doing recently.


Bassist/singer Jason Hodges (the only consistent member of Suppression) runs an excellent label called CNP Records, which put out a compilation of all the Suppression material from their early years that's definitely well worth picking up. But as a bit of a taste of the mayhem inside, the band's split with Grief, the sort of new lenses that helped my younger self view the world differently, can be acquired below.

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When caged like animals, we will act accordingly.

5 comments:

Nothing Left Inside said...

Always got lots of time for Suppression. Alongside MITB, they where one of my first introductions to PV. Sweet post, good stuff.

Shelby Cobras said...

Fuck, I had totally forgotten about this one! So many wonderful memories... I've got just the Suppression side of the split on cassette somewhere, had totally spaced on it, though. Some seriously fucking sick shit!

Hide The Bodies said...

Suppression is insane, saw them 3 times in 1996 (i believe) and they were the most chaotic, insane, cathartic thing I had ever seen. Where's my time machine.

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