The Balkans have often been a flashpoint of conflicts in the European history. With the disintegration of the Eastern bloc at the end of the Cold War, a whole new reality was open up to the region in terms of music and culture.
That’s why, with the exception of Greece, whose crust and raw punk scene has been going strong ever since its early beginnings (but still obscure because of the language barrier), most outsiders seem to have very little knowledge about the scene in this part of the world. Especially when it comes to crust and d-beat punk originating in Turkey, Romania or Bulgaria.
Yugoslavia is another great example. Despite having some of the earliest hardcore punk and raw punk bands in history (Niet, U.B.R., Odpadki Civilizacije, etc.), the civil wars and military conflicts in Yugoslavia during the 1990s marked the formation of new country states and new beginning for their emerging hardcore punk scenes.
In this piece, I’ll take you on a short trip around 11 of the current Balkan states, trying to bridge the gap between the past and present by showing you one band from each country that I personally find interesting enough to feature in this article.
Let’s get to it.
Who would have guessed that the most consistent, orthodox d-beat raw punk in 2021 would come from the small Balkan country of (Northern) Macedonia?
Formed around 2012 in Skopje, Disease play arguably the most brutal slab of raucous punk you’ll hear from any other band around the world today. Channeling the realities of war, poverty, and pestilence through the transcendental spirit of d-beat master Kawakami of Disclose, these guys have toured almost everywhere in Europe, postponed a Mexican tour due to the pandemic and released a countless of splits, ranging from most-renowned (Besthöven) to most obscure raw punk bands across all continents.
Their second LP called Death Is Inevitable came out in October of 2020, and Disease entered 2021 with amazing new splits with Japan’s Zodiak and UK’s Better Reality. Disease’s singer and guitar player Alex Dust is also a prolific graphic designer and an author of Just A Nightmare zine, following the footsteps of some of the most iconic d-beat raw punk zines since the style has emerged onto the scene. Disease’s music and contribution to the scene is fucking triumphant!
Taking their name from Belgrade writer Goran Skrobonja’s 1994 sci-fi horror novel of the same name, Nakot was a crust band from the Serbian capital formed around 2005 and disbanded after their LP came out in 2008.
“We were sick and tired of living in a country like this which has passed through wars, economic crisis, NATO bombings, international isolation”, said the band in an interview I’ve read a long time ago. Musically, Nakot was equally influenced by classic Swedish d-beat and raw black metal. Following a couple of great split releases (with bands like Dyspnea and Dažd), their full-length Pod NATO Bombama I Represijom Nacije (Under the NATO Bombs and Repressive State) was, in my opinion, among the most important crust punk albums to ever come out of the Balkans.
Their singer Nesha then moved to Berlin and to this day is the creative mind behind Doomsday Graphics, which artwork you have seen on a countless shirts, patches and album covers from your favorite bands. Members of Nakot also went to play in death metal/crust band Mortifer.
Hailing from from the cities of Ljubljana and Koper in Slovenia, Pakt is probably my favorite ex-Yugo d-beat crust band at the moment. The band features some old time friends who have been playing in awesome bands in the past, but that’s definitely not the sole reason for me liking this band.
It’s actually because of their absolutely brilliant take on shouty female-led anarcho-punk, noise-drenched Japanese hardcore, ’90s crust-driven guitar tone, amazing basslines, and chaotic d-beats that all make this band among the best in the genre right now. This is a band that everyone should be aware of, I can’t wait for their upcoming split with Romania’s Cold Brats!
The Croatian hardcore punk scene is still going strong with tons of great bands in recent times but if your interests lie in the noisier, d-beat raw punk end of the spectrum, you should definitely check out Lüger.
There’s nothing musically groundbreaking in Lüger’s 2020 demo tape, but their rough and rugged approach is exactly what you’ll need if deafening noise, käng and råpunk is your thing. The band does a great job in channeling the classic Swedish sound throughout these 13 minutes, and it’s all great news for raw punk fans around the world.
It’s incredibly hard to pick only one Greek band for this article. In Greece, there seem to be more crust and d-beat bands than all other Balkan countries combined. You can take from literally hundreds of bands incorporating the d-beat style in their music, and while my personal taste gravitates more towards the modern sound of Greek bands like Sarabante, Kataxnia, and Procrastinate, I’ve decided to put Hellstorm on the list.
I think I first heard Hellstorm in 2012 through the amazing Balkan Tribute to Amebix LP, alongside other great bands like Panikos, with whom they also shared a split LP in 2013. The music of Hellstorm can be described as a dark and apocalyptic stenchcore with gruffer-than-gruff vocals, blistering cold, razor-sharp metallic guitars, and raging death metal drumming that goes into the occasional d-beat frenzy. Bands like Instinct of Survival, Stormcrow, and Hellshock easily come to mind when listening to this.
This next band brings back memories of my late teenage years. Bombshelter were a bunch of skateboarding punks from the coastal city of Varna, with whom I’ve spent a huge part of my summer vacations.
Members of the band have been involved in hundreds of other bands ever since and we’ve been sharing a lot of records with each other in these formative years for developing our music tastes. As far as I remember, Bombshelter was formed—after binge listening to the Swedish band Warvictims—by Danny in Varna’s Sea Garden in the Summer of 2007. The band existed for quite some time, they did a ton of great shows in the now defunct Area 51 venue and fortunately, they’ve managed to release a self-titled record in 2008. A landmark in the Bulgarian hardcore punk scene, where crust and d-beat bands are still a rarity.
The Turkish hardcore punk scene has been an enigma for a long time, but at last the mists are rising. A huge number of bands have played İstanbul in the last couple of years and there’s definitely a plenty of local bands you have to keep an eye on, too.
Taking nods to classics such as Anti Cimex, Extreme Noise Terror, Crude SS, and Driller Killer, while incorporating a fun zombie apocalypse themes all throughout, Rötbrains were among the first Turkish d-beat bands I’ve stumbled across a few years back. We’ve also booked Rötbrains to play at DIY Conspiracy’s three-day festival that was supposed to happen in 2020, but things didn’t go as planned. You know what I mean.
Killer Victim (Romania)
The Romanian hardcore punk scene has been thriving with great bands and plenty of gigs before the pandemic but has never been a birthplace of any prominent crust bands to speak of. There are a handful of great hardcore bands, however, incorporating the crust aesthetics and d-beat style of drumming into their music.
Despite its short lifespan, Killer Victim was one of those hallmark d-beat influenced hardcore bands from Bucharest that released a bludgeoning record called Terror State in 2018. Drawing influences from a great deal of styles within the hardcore punk and crust soundscape, the contents of this record will more than likely satisfy your expectations. Members of the band also played in Mediocracy and most recently in Anger Dose, check them out!
Coming from the city of Tuzla in Bosnia, Šarlah is a raw crust / grind / d-beat duo that allegedly formed around 2017-2018 when their Probisvjeti EP first appeared.
The band’s music is an unforgiving, ear-slaughtering mess, and while one can barely stand their raw and underproduced delivery, it will unquestionably stoke your quench for a politically charged noise onslaught coming from this region. To my knowledge, they have a several split releases with bands like Toke De Keda, Ultimo Gobierno, Death Pill, Pro-Plast, Bugarska Skupština, Agathocles, and Kosovo’s Preokupacija.
Hailing from Kosovska Mitrovica, Preokupacija is another off-the-chain crust punk band from the region that I’ve actually found through their split with aforementioned Šarlah. Honestly, the band sounds awful and all instruments have a bathroom-recording quality that I can barely stand listening to more than a couple of seconds, but they are here to remind you literally anyone can play and record a punk record, especially when you have the political attitude to do so.
Based in the city of Podgorica, the newcomers Gnar are the first d-beat hardcore band from (independent) Montenegro to my knowledge.
Released earlier in 2021, their four-track promo is a lovely display of stripped-down and straight-forward hardcore with plenty of d-beats and crust influences. The original tracks are political in nature and sung in their native language, the last track is a Doom cover and the band is definitely on my watch-out list for future releases.
That’s all for now, hope you’ve enjoyed our little d-beat trip around the Balkans!