Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Death Threat: The DDZ Visual Guide

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Were I enlisted to write the book on 00’s hardcore, I’d definitely include a chapter on Twitter and how it’s granted a slew of aging HC icons a second run at relevance as online personalities and how internet forums became an indelible part of the culture. This image of a tattered Death Threat canvas belt would be the cover because it was lowkey one of the most ubiquitous clothing items of hardcore in that era. I wore mine to prom.

In terms of the millennial pantheon of hardcore, Death Threat always occupied a unique space, peripherally wading in the sonic shores of  “tough guy,” with a left of center visual approach and unrivaled catchiness.  Blood splatter and brass knuckles bore the standard aesthetic uniformity to their mosh-bit contemps while unapologetic heartbreak songs, weed and beautifully illustrated material a’la cartoons, comics, neon and graffiti separated them from the shlock and onto this author’s Rushmore of “important” bands.

Here’s my biased and subjective visual guide, a bloggist homage to that summer in 2006 where I worked in the Walgreens photolab, (re)discovered Last Dayz and made a point of hitting it all the way through on a daily basis. Per some Twitter coordinating, I may have managed a forthcoming Death Threat piece featuring some of the actual heads involved (would love to interview Steve Karpe, Noah Butkus and any band members and CT heads) but for now, here’s the Drug Dogs visual take on the band’s discog.
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1998 Demo - Here’s a peek into the still embryonic world of Connecticut Kickboxing, the triplicate of songs that would make up the penultimate section of the Stillborn released Last Dayz later that year. Considering “Brotherhood” is in my top DT tracks ever, I’d count this wholly essential with a comic illustrated cover (courtesy of an artist known as Jr. X High), spine design typeface lifted straight from a “Live at the Fillmore” flyer and a logo so fresh, I’d come out of “core shirt” retirement to buy a bootlegged tee bearing the design.


1998 Last Dayz (Stillborn) - Gun to my head, charged with one adjective to adequately describe Last Dayz to the layman, best I can whip up is “grimy.’ So grimy. Drums like a pencil on a coke can, 1998 ball peen hammer on a steel pipe. Exposure to Last Dayz came a touch later for me, and though it’s not my favorite album song wise, it’s the one I play for anyone who’s never heard the band. This cover’s by Steve Karpe who, in addition to the graffiti logo on their demo, whipped up the iconic 100 Demons In the Eyes of the Lord cover 2 years later. The first time I ever saw that switchblade tattoo flash logo, Jamey Jasta was wearing it on a shirt and I was seeing Hatebreed for $2 at an amphitheater.

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2000 (Triple Crown/B9) Peace & Security
I’d declare this album a 2000’s classic. It’s visually indicative of where the genre was going, without getting sucked too far down the Jake Bannon/Photoshopped rabbit hole. In fact, what I like most about this cover (courtesy of vocalist Aaron Butkus’ little bro) is that it combines the comic illustration style of Jack Kirby and Frank Miller, with some of the design-school layouts the post 00’s decade would make famous.

Another interesting facet of the record here is that it features the best hardcore heartbreak song this side of….well, I shan’t define that. I’m also a big fan of the backwards E thing, made for a distinctive logo that, though I don’t entirely understand the reasoning behind it. Also s/o to the song with Rob Lind because “hatred is the white trash family value” is a very gnarly lyric.


2002 (Triple Crown) For God and Government
As a total package, For God and Government is my absolute favorite Death Threat record. Noah Butkus’s artwork is quite unique for a band of this ilk, equal parts Schoolhouse Rock and soviet propaganda posters, and I like that it was done with a marker (I think). I’m also a fan of the lyrics “every night it’s high fives and stage dives,” and “broke and bummed out” was my damn mantra in college. I posited the question of which DT album was everyone’s fav, and my friend Evan of Mandatory Moshing zine said “For God and Government goes hard, but then that Op Ivy cover pushes it into hardcore godhead.”

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2002 Split with Over My Dead Body (Bridge 9)
Here’s from that time when Linas Garsys art was all over the place. I never could get into OMDB, even rose-tinted nostalgia won’t bring this shit back (or the singers’ appearance on the Edgeland podcast), but I am a sucker for the era when B9 actually hosted one of the pre-eminent “stables” in HC.

Cool that Death Threat covered Chain of Strength here, and there’s never much to complain about when a bunch of stylized skulls are in play, I’m just glad it wouldn’t come to visually be define Death Threat for decades in the years to come.

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2004 Now Here Fast (Triple Crown)
Here’s hardcore firmly in that tweener era where there were actually labels doing CD-only HC releases. Here’s the Death Threat stuff I listen to the least (“so go ahead and talk about me, you’ll only fuel my fiyahhh.” Editor's Note: I know those are FGAG lyrics, just seemed appropo) but I’m happy that at this point, they’d been using so much of Noah’s art. I’m also happy to see a heavy, moshable band fucking with neon color palettes in an era before Turnstile.

Floorpunch or Release may have created the most iconic version of the “hooded HC edge guy” Death Threat had their own version (who originally appeared on the CD design of Last Dayz). He kind of looks like a Scooby Doo villain, which I fully support, this is the kind of design that would give some precedence to Death Threat’s “lighter” T-shirt fare.

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2004 Live @ Showcase Theater
Here’s a Bonus 7”. I never actually had this one, but it was the background for the B9 board for a long time and you can see some great flyers from a bygone era scattered throughout.

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2009 Lost at Sea
Besides the awesome Outburst cover, I just thought this was a fantastic album anyway. I had a full size 18x24” print hanging in my dorm and I got clowned by it from the one girl I tried to date seriously in college.

Giant ass sword a’la the dark side of Adventure Time and a “Lost at Sea” logo pulled straight from the Jim Phillips school of design, something that could have legitimately been a skateboard wheel graphic for Santa Cruz back in the Streets of Fire days.

Check Death Threat’s infrequently updated Tumblr here.

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