A friend told me this last weekend that, one day, a guy suddenly asked him what sort of music was playing at his vegan joint – it was Fucked Up, a Canadian punk hardcore band. If you had to outline a ‘spectrum of heaviness’, those guys would hardly be in the middle of it, let alone at the top. Nevertheless, the guy jadedly replied: «Oh, I see, heavy metal». And, if you think about his pontification, there’s some inane logic attached to it: for every single dismissive and untrained ear, anything harsher than “Nothing Else Matters” is heavy metal. To tell him what punk music is would represent a rather pointless task (is that even something feasible?) – he doesn’t give a fuck anyway and perhaps there’s nothing wrong with enlisting Fucked Up and Slayer in the very same platoon.
Systemik Viølence is entangled in a similar exercise. I know some of them personally, they are huge music nerds and pay attention to tiny details that no one else cares or notices. Thanks to several years of getting shit-faced with them in a ridiculous amount of festivals and gigs, I’ve learned a lot of music-related stuff from these guys. And, for that to happen, a dialogue was not even a precondition actually. Sometimes just seeing them wearing a different t-shirt was enough. I remember spotting SV‘s drummer with a Parlamentarisk Sodomi tee a couple of years ago and I thought ‘Fuck, now that’s a cool name, I have to check that out’. And I did. And not only the band was great, but they were part of 625 Thrashcore catalogue, which, in turn, introduced me to incredible shit.
So, yeah, I’m beyond acquainted with their stances, philosophies and with the things they loathe in the Portuguese scene. But is there even a scene in this country? Despite their satirical trait, the ugly and odious components of Systemik Viølence are much more blatant and important in order to understand the band’s purpose. In their own words: “Punk has gone soft and became just a musical style, rather than an outlet for protest. SYSTEMIK VIØLENCE aims to bring back a threat to punk, using the aesthetics of seminal bands like GISM (…)”. And this is not only emphasized by tracks like “At War With The Scene” or “Retarded Metalhead”, but by what the neanderthal dancer Iggy Musäshi does on stage: he spits on your face, he pushes you, he kicks your camera if you get too close to take a picture, and he heckles you as soon as the band stops for a brief second. It’s not safe to be around that fucker. And I know it’s not just for the sake of being a 21st century GG Allin flat emulation – there’s some real hate involved in what he does. His screams when “Merda” kicks in (such a nasty Hellhammer sound, fuck) have a real source, a real target, a real enemy. It can be you. Or his boss. His city. His paycheck. His whole life. The stage itself.
And I can fucking sense it straightaway. I was in the corner trying to get a beer when Küso started that mid-paced beat and, immediately, I felt the urge to throw the fucking beer at someone’s face and unleash a mindless and anger-fueled riot, followed by Musäshi desperate yells: “NÃO QUERO VIVER! (…) ÓDIO A CRESCER! (…) NÃO HÁ FUTURO!”. It’s an inexplicable rush, it just hits along with a plot to obliterate everything in sight. Bone Awl has a track whose title says pretty much everything and then some – “Without Hate We Have Nothing”.
But there’s always something lost in translation. Systemik Viølence wants to piss people off, to prompt some raucous. But those who need to be pissed off, unsettled and basically hit with a club are seldom present. And, if they are, they don’t seem to care that much. Küso and Musäshi masks, for instance, are just another funny prop for the general audience and I bet they will never go the extra mile to understand the reference behind them. Or why they played an “Endless Blockades” cover. Not that they have to. But it just proves the point that, for some, loud guitars are “heavy metal” and, for others, Systemik Viølence is just another gig, another day in the office of a scene that never existed in the first place. They are condemned to run around in circles, to continuously live under this dreadful solipsism where the only blokes who get them are… themselves. It’s a strenuous and frustrating exercise. And keep in mind that these guys, particularly Küso, have been doing this for years and years through different outlets. I wonder if he ever thought about picking his snare and start cracking some skulls with it in a middle of a show.
At some point, in that basement called Cave 45, Musäshi dropped an honest shout: “I don’t even know why I try anymore”. Most stared at him blankly. Few laughed. And I don’t know the answer, man. As a matter of fact, I can ask myself that very same question: why am I even writing this? It always ends up the same way: