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Album by Dystopia

Life is Abuse Records

Dystopia's reign over the 1990s hardcore crust scene, particularly here on the West Coast, is one of legend, with its tattered remnants still clinging to the fading black denim of scenesters new and old alike. It's not that their brand of acrid and crushing doom-ridden punk was groundbreaking or new. It was the fact that they performed with an incomparable sense of embittered ferocity that set them apart from the rest of the scene. The band's tenure was during an era in which the nation was lost in a sea of complacency and contentedness, and Dystopia's scathing attacks on technocracy, vivisection, urbanization, police brutality and American imperialism stood in stark contrast to a populace taken by stained blue dresses and little blue pills.

This long anticipated posthumous offering was recorded between 2004-2005 and serves as the concluding chapter to Dystopia's scattered discography. It is a collection of six tracks, one of which is an unreleased recording from drummer Dino Sommese's old grind band Carcinogen. Considering that today's underground is littered with sludge and metal bands aimlessly exercising generic doomy stonerisms and click-tracked blast beats, hearing, or rather feeling, Dystopia's bass-heavy crush and raging wall of raw down-tuned guitars wretch forth from the speakers is a welcome relief. The band manages to preserve the reckless abandon that defines their past, and thanks to some quality studio time and tightening of musicianship, they deliver with a more focused and calculated intensity.

Unapologetic in tone and uncompromising in their verbal assault, Dystopia's target was a passive American public obsessed with the Internet, hooked on their designer meds, and blind to the global effects of its consumption. Dino's shriek and growl drips thick with rancor, highlighting the anger and disgust that has always driven the band. War, of course, is an underlying theme throughout, and on "Illusion of Love" both religion and the nation get their treatment: "Nailed to your cross, it should have been a dollar sign. We can't be part of you, hate all that you do. No love I can see, for God or country."

Jarring and cryptic sound samples weave through most of the album and include excerpts from Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, as well as the rambling and sometimes incoherent digressions of the insane and heavily medicated forced to live on the streets. Taken in combination with Dystopia's depressive tones and the disturbing imagery dominating the album's cover and 20-page booklet, we are not so gently reminded that the world is hopelessly trapped in a perpetual state of human degradation, a state for which the band offers no solution but one that we nonetheless need to rail.

In addition to closing Dystopia's career, the release of this album could also mark the unfortunate end of a record label that has been integral to the growth of Oakland's crusty metal scene. Life is Abuse, a fixture in the Bay Area since the early '90s as both label and distro, is thinking about closing up shop, leaving behind a legacy of releases that include efforts from Asunder, Melvins, Graves at Sea, Artimus Pyle and Ludicra. So, keep your nubby little digits off the download button and scoop the new Dystopia legitimately, preferably on vinyl of course. Either way the label decides to go, you'll be sending these guys the respect and props they deserve.

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Michael Mannix

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