The paradigm-smashing creative churn in hardcore as the eighties gave way to the nineties was an amazing thing to behold. And few label rosters represented that wondrous, multidimensional, beauty and the beast evolution-through-revolution moment than Nemesis Records — a legendary 1988-1993 run which, along with Nemesis founder Big Frank Harrison, at long last receives a fitting tribute via Reaper Records founder Patrick Kitzel’s scrappy, enlightening, no-holds-barred, lovingly assembled The History of Nemesis Records, featuring release-by-release commentary from Harrison as well as reminiscences courtesy such scene luminaries as Mike Hartsfield (Outspoken), Issac Golub (A Chorus Of Disapproval), Andrew Kline (Strife), Ron Martinez (Final Conflict), Jon Bunch (Sense Field), Dave Franklin (Vision), and others.
Actually, in attempting to relay just how essential this volume is, it’s difficult to beat No For An Answer/411 frontman Dan O’Mahony’s summation: “It staggers the mind to think that The Offspring, Brujeria, Pitchfork, Insted, Bad Religion, Reason to Believe and Sick of it All were all represented in one form or another on this one label.”
To celebrate the book’s release, Decibel has compiled the following ten-part playlist…
1. BRUJERIA — “¡Demoniaco!” 7-INCH
Yeah, that’s right — Nemesis can take credit for releasing the very first single from these legendary extreme metallers who graced our cover back in September.
2. VISION In the Blink of an Eye (1989)
This LP is just a straight-up masterpiece of nuanced, brilliantly conceived and executed melodic hardcore that stands the test of time in a way some more celebrated records from the same era and in the same general vein simply don’t. Sadly, frontman Dave Franklin passed away last month at age 47, lending his enthusiastic essay and this stream a bittersweet air. (Check out a heartfelt eulogy for Franklin over at the official Vision Facebook page.)
3. A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL — Truth Gives Wings to Strength (1990)
Sometimes manic, sometimes crazy brutal, always insanely pissed, on Truth Gives Wings to Strength A Chorus of Disapproval employs a diverse attack that makes its straight edge hardcore vision one of the more compelling on west or east coast.
4. REASON TO BELIEVE — When Reason Sleeps Demons Dance
As something of a precursor band to Sense Field, Reason to Believe often is relegated to footnote status — it’s not easy to compete with Killed for Less and Building, two of the greatest records of the 1990s, period — but When Reason Sleeps… holds its own adventurous, devil-may-care charms for fans of post-punk/-hardcore a’la Falling Forward, Bad Religion, Endpoint, etcetera. (Bunch talked to No Echo about his Reason to Believe years a couple years before his untimely death in 2016. Check it out here.)
5. PITCHFORK — “Saturn Outhouse” 7-inch (1989)
If there’s anything not to love about this spunky, inventive band in which future members of Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From the Crypt, and Hot Snakes cut their teeth I haven’t discovered it yet.
6. BILLINGSGATE — No Apologies (1991)
A very cool emphasis-on-the-hardcore melodic hardcore release from a band that largely succeeds in its attempt to drag a bit of metal, hard rock, and even prog influences into a sound which otherwise seeks the Porcell-worship sweet spot between Judge, Shelter, and Youth of Today.
7. BONESAW — Written in Stone (1993)
Written in Stone exudes a Cro-Mags meets circa-Spreading the Disease Anthrax meets thrash-era Suicidal meets Ramallah kinda vibe. That’s a good thing, son.
8. VARIOUS ARTISTS — “HARDCORE 1990 — EAST MEETS WEST” 7-INCH (1990)
All you need to know: Live tracks courtesy Sick of it All, Killing Time, Carry Nation, A Chorus of Disapproval, Vision, and Point Blank.
9. Insted — We’ll Make the Difference (1989)
Top shelf, flawless straight edge hardcore — nothing more, nothing less.
10. WALK PROUD — RIP LP (1990)
In the book, Harrison describes this band as the “West Coast Mexican Agnostic Front.” A description which checks out in every way you hoped it would.