Crust punk

Crust punk
Crust punk
Stylistic origins Anarcho-punk
Extreme metal[1]
Hardcore punk[1]
Cultural origins Mid 1980s, England
Typical instruments Electric guitar - Bass - Drums - Vocals
Mainstream popularity Underground
Derivative forms Grindcore

Crust punk (often simply crust) is a form of music influenced by anarcho-punk, hardcore punk and extreme metal.[3] The style, which evolved in the mid-1980s in England, often has songs with dark and pessimistic lyrics that linger on political and social ills. The term "crust" was coined by Hellbastard on their 1986 Ripper Crust demo.[4]

Crust is partly defined by its "bassy" and "dirty" sound. It is often played at a fast tempo with occasional slow sections. Vocals are usually guttural and may be growled or screamed. Crust punk takes cues from the anarcho-punk of Crass and Discharge[3] and the extreme metal of bands like Venom and Celtic Frost.[3][5] Crust punk has always remained a deeply underground form of music, although fans of the style are found worldwide. While the term was first associated with Hellbastard, Extreme Noise Terror have been described as the originators of the style.[3]




Crust punk is a derivative form of hardcore punk and anarcho-punk, mixed with metal riffs.[3] The tempos are often fast, but just short of thrashcore or grindcore, though many groups confine themselves to a crawling, sludgy pace. The overall musical sound has been described as being "stripped down".[6] Drumming is typically done at high speed, with D-beats sometimes being used.[2]

Vocals and lyrics

Vocals in crust punk are often shrieked or shouted, and may be shared between two or more vocalists. The lyrical content of crust punk tends to be bleak and nihilistic, yet politically engaged. Crust punk songs are often about nuclear war, militarism, animal rights, police, personal grievances, oppressive states and fascism. Amebix were also interested in various forms of mysticism and Gnosticism.[5] Malcolm "Scruff" Lewty, guitarist and vocalist of Hellbastard, describes the distinction between metal and crust punk lyrics:

Metal lyrics were so dumb, so far removed from daily life. Venom were going on about Satan... and bikes... and Satan... and women... and Satan! You know what? I never got up in the morning and said, 'Fuck yeah! Satan! Let's go and meet my disciples from Hell!' I'd switch on the TV and know I was going to see hundreds of people dying because there'd been an earthquake in the third world... and all these people starving to death while military expenditure still increased... That was - and still is - the reality of it. The whole heavy metal thing is just an escape from reality, into this other world of... well, bullshit basically.[7]



The initial inspiration for the crust punk scene came from the anarcho-punk of Crass[3] and D-beat of Discharge.[8] Swedish D-beat groups such as Anti Cimex and Mob 47 and the Finnish Rattus were also early influences.[9] Amebix also brought in influences from various post-punk bands, including Public Image Ltd., Bauhaus, Joy Division, and especially Killing Joke.[5]


Crust was founded by the bands Amebix[2][10] and Antisect,[3] in 1985, with the Arise LP and Out from the Void single, respectively. The term "crust" was coined by Hellbastard on their 1986 Ripper Crust demo.[3] As punk historian Ian Glasper puts it,

'Rippercrust' is widely regarded as the first time the word 'crust' was used in the punk context, and hence the specific starting point of the whole crustcore genre, although some would attribute that accolade to the likes of Disorder, Chaos UK, and Amebix several years earlier.[11]

Malcolm "Scruff" Lewty, vocalist and guitarist of the group, commented, "A lot of people say we started the crust-punk genre, but whatever. If they wanna say that, I don't mind, but I'm certainly no Malcolm McLaren, saying I invented something I didn't."[12]

Punk journalist Felix von Havoc contends that Doom, Excrement of War, Electro Hippies and Extreme Noise Terror were among the first bands to have the traditional UK "crust" sound.[3] Additional subgenres of this style began to develop. Deviated Instinct, from Norwich, created "stenchcore", bringing "both the look and sound - dirty and metallic, respectively - to their natural conclusion".[13] Initially an anarcho-punk group, they began to take increasing influence from metal. As vocalist Julian "Leggo" Kilsby comments,

We were very much a part of the anarcho scene, to start with, very politically motivated... all the way through the band's existence, really, although it got less obvious as time went by. But I never really liked the straightforward 'War is bad...' lyrics that were so prevalent at the time, so as my writing skills improved I wanted to add more depth to our lyrics and make them more metaphorical; I'd always been into horror films, so that started to manifest itself in the imagery I was using...[14]

Extreme Noise Terror is credited with developing this style into grindcore.[8] However, Pete Hurley, the guitarist for the group, declared that he had no interest in being remembered as a pioneer of this style: "'grindcore' was a legendarily stupid term coined by a hyperactive kid from the West Midlands, and it had nothing to do with us whatsoever. ENT were, are, and - I suspect - always will be a hardcore punk band... not a grindcore band, a stenchcore band, a trampcore band, or any other sub-sub-sub-core genre-defining term you can come up with."[15]

American crust punk began in New York City, also in the mid-'80s, with the work of Nausea. The group emerged from the Lower East Side squat scene and New York hardcore,[16] living with Roger Miret of Agnostic Front.[17] The early work of Neurosis, from San Francisco, also borrowed from Amebix, and inaugurated crust punk on the West Coast.[18][19] Disrupt (Boston),[20] Antischism (South Carolina), and Destroy (Minneapolis) were also significant U.S. crust groups.[3]


An important American crust punk band was Aus Rotten[21] from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Crust punk also flourished in Minneapolis, shepherded by the Profane Existence label.[9] In this period, the ethos of crust punk became particularly codified, with vegetarianism, feminism, and sometimes straight edge being prescribed by many of the figures in the scene.[9] The powerviolence scene associated with Slap-a-Ham Records was in close proximity to crust punk, particularly in the case of Man Is the Bastard and Dropdead.[22] Crust was also prominent in the American South, where Prank Records and CrimethInc. acted as focal points of the scene. The most well-known representative of Southern crust was His Hero Is Gone.[2][23] Prominent crust punk groups (Driller Killer, Totalitär, Skitsystem, Wolfbrigade, and Disfear) also emerged from Sweden, which had always had a strong D-beat scene. Many of these groups developed in parallel with the much more commercial Scandinavian death metal scene.[24]


Some notable crust bands in the 2000s include Iskra,[25] Behind Enemy Lines,[26] and Tragedy.

Fusion with other genres

Vivian Slaughter of Gallhammer


As Amebix was heavily influenced by Killing Joke,[3][5] who are among the founders of industrial rock,[27] crust punk has always had some relationship to this style. Nausea also eventually incorporated elements of industrial rock.[28]


Crust had a major impact on grindcore. The first grindcore, practiced by the British groups Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror emerged from the crust punk scene.[3] This style is dubbed "crustgrind".[8]

Thrashcore and powerviolence

The thrashcore and powerviolence genres which emerged from American hardcore punk are also linked to crust, in the cases of Man Is the Bastard, Dropdead[22] and Capitalist Casualties.

Black metal influences

Crust punk groups, such as Amebix, took some influence from the early black metal of Venom and Celtic Frost.[3] Similarly, Bathory was initially inspired by crust punk as well as metal.[29] Crust was affected by a second wave of influence in the 1990s, with some bands emphasizing these black metal elements. Iskra are probably the most obvious example of second wave black metal-influenced crust punk;[25] Iskra coined their own phrase "blackened crust" to describe this new style. The Japanese group Gallhammer also blend crust with black metal.[30] In addition, Norwegian band Darkthrone have incorporated crust punk traits in their more recent material. As Daniel Ekeroth wrote in 2008,

In a very ironic paradox, black metal and crust punk have recently started to embrace one another. Members of Darkthrone and Satyricon have lately claimed that they love punk, while among crusties, black metal is the latest fashion. In fact, the latest album by crust punk band Skitsystem sounds very black metal--while the latest black metal opus by Darkthrone sounds very punk! This would have been unimaginable in the early 90s.[31]


Crust punk also has an associated DIY-oriented branch of punk garb. Similar to anarcho-punk, most clothing is black in color. Denim jackets and hooded sweatshirts with sewn-on patches, or vests covered in studs, spikes and band patches are characteristic elements of the crust punk style of dress.[32] Crusties sometimes wear dreadlocks.[33]

Julian "Leggo" Kilsby of Deviated Instinct describes crust as "a punk-y biker look, more akin to Mad Max. Mad Max 2 is the crustiest film ever made!"[34]

List of notable crust punk bands

Band Country Formed Notes
Amebix UK 1978 [35]
Antisect UK 1982 [36]
Behind Enemy Lines USA 2000 [37]
Counterblast Sweden 1993 [38]
Dirt UK 1993 [38]
Disfear Sweden 1992 [39][40]
Doom UK 1987 [38]
Driller Killer Sweden 1993 [41]
Dystopia USA 1991 [42]
Early Graves USA 2007 [43]
Fleas and Lice The Netherlands 1993 [38]
Hellbastard UK 1986 [38]
His Hero Is Gone USA 1995 [44]
Nausea USA 1985 [45]
Sore Throat UK 1987 [46]
Tragedy USA 2000 [47]

Crust punk record labels

Further reading

  • Ekeroth, Daniel (2008). Swedish Death Metal. Bazillion Points Books. ISBN 978-0-9796163-1-0
  • Glasper, Ian (2004). Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980-1984. Cherry Red Books. ISBN 1-901447-24-3
  • Glasper, Ian (2006). The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980 to 1984. Cherry Red Books. ISBN 1-901447-70-7
  • Glasper, Ian (2009). Trapped in a Scene: UK Hardcore 1985-1989. Cherry Red Books. ISBN 9781901447613
  • "In Grind We Crust," Terrorizer #181, March 2009, p. 46, 51.
  • Mudian, Albert (2000). Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore. Feral House. ISBN 1-932595-04-X
  • Profane Existence (1997). Making Punk a Threat Again: Profane Existence: Best Cuts 1989-1993. Loincloth. ASIN: B000J2M8GS

See also


  1. ^ a b Begrand, Adrien. "Botch: We Are the Romans < PopMatters". Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d Peter Jandreus, The Encyclopedia of Swedish Punk 1977-1987, Stockholm: Premium Publishing, 2008, p. 11.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Von Havoc, Felix (1984-01-01). "Rise of Crust". Profane Existence. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  4. ^ Glasper 2009, 185
  5. ^ a b c d Glasper 2006. "Amebix." p. 198-201.
  6. ^ Loolwa Khazzoom, Special to The Chronicle (2005-03-11). "Livermore: All's well with the Bay Area punk scene say members of the Sick". Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  7. ^ Glasper 2009, 183.
  8. ^ a b c "In Grind We Crust," p. 46.
  9. ^ a b c "In Grind We Crust," p. 51.
  10. ^ "The Gauntlet". The Gauntlet. 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  11. ^ Glasper 2009, 185
  12. ^ Glasper 2009, 185
  13. ^ Glasper 2009, 284
  14. ^ Glasper 2009, 286
  15. ^ Glasper 2009, 279
  16. ^ Init 5, September 25, 2007. [1] Access date: June 18, 2008.
  17. ^ John John Jesse interview, Hoard Magazine, June 2005. [2] Access date: June 18, 2008
  18. ^ Adam Louie, Mastodon, Neurosis show review, Prefix magazine, January 29, 2008 [3] Access date: June 18, 2008
  19. ^ Anthony Bartkewicz, Decibel Magazine No. 31, May 2007. [4] Access date: June 18, 2008
  20. ^ Nick Mangel, Disrupt LP review, Maximum Rock'n'Roll #301, June 2008, record reviews section.
  21. ^ "Crust-punks Behind Enemy Lines release One Nation Under The Iron Fist of God
  22. ^ a b "Powerviolence: The Dysfunctional Family of Bllleeeeaaauuurrrgghhh!!." Terrorizer no. 172. July 2008. p. 36-37.
  23. ^ Andrew Childers, "Kick in the South: A Look Back at Prank Records and the Southern Crust Scene." April 5, 2008. [5] Access date: June 21, 2008
  24. ^ Ekeroth, p. 107, 266.
  25. ^ a b Iskra Interviews.
  26. ^ Mervis, Scott (2007-02-01). "Pittsburgh Calling: A capsule look at Pittsburgh bands making news". Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  27. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip it up and start again: Postpunk 1978-1984. London: Faber and Faber Limited, p. 435
  28. ^ "All through the 80’s I was very into bands and styles other than punk or metal like Killing Joke, Einstruzende Neubauten, Test Dept. ..." - Roy Mayorga, interview with Bela. [6] Access date: August 4, 2008.
  29. ^ Ekeroth, p. 27.
  30. ^ "Hard of Hearing", Terrorizer no. 171, June 2008, p. 56.
  31. ^ Ekeroth, p. 258.
  32. ^ Kevin Stewart-Panko, "I Saw Disfear Three Times in Three Days", Decibel, no. 46, August 2008, p. 22.
  33. ^ Hetherington, K. New Age Travellers, page 9. Cassell. 2000
  34. ^ Glasper 2009, 287
  35. ^ Kott, Paul. "Amebix discography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  36. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Antisect biography". MusicMight. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  37. ^ Hopper, Justin. "Crust-punks Behind Enemy Lines release One Nation Under The Iron Fist of God". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  38. ^ a b c d e Hannon, Sharon M.. Punks: A Guide to an American Subculture. ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  39. ^ Born, R. "Disfear biography". MusicMight. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  40. ^ "DISFEAR: Montreal Show Sells Out, Second Date Added". Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  41. ^ Born, R. "Driller Killer biography". MusicMight. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  42. ^ Born, R. "Dystopia biography". MusicMight. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  43. ^ Jeffries, David. "Early Graves biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  44. ^ Kott, Paul. "15 Counts of Arson review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  45. ^ Griffin, John. "Nausea biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  46. ^ Sharpe-Young, Garry. "Sore Throat biography". MusicMight. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  47. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Nerve Damage review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 

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