Z “Violence Action” (Z Record 002)

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It’s a familiar story. In fact, without it, rare punk dealers around the world would be like the schlubs selling Dire Straits LPs out of cardboard boxes on street corners. It’s the story of mediocre bands that release one outstanding record (or song), one release differing in quality so greatly from the band’s other output that it is obvious they imbibed their tiny ration of genius in one great gulp. Z would be a totally forgettable late ‘80s/early ‘90s slightly metallic Japanese thrash band were it not for their “Violence Action” flexi (red wax, one-sided). Indeed the title song appears in an unrecognizably different version on the 8" comp, “I’ll Gather Up,” which is a veritable compendium of the era’s Japanese mediocore. Luckily, the good record in this case isn’t very rare and is most likely the cheapest record on this list. It was bootlegged on “Order of the Kite Volume One” CD in the ‘90s. (The mp3s available for download below are taken from that CD.) Also, their split EP with Finland’s Valse Triste might still be available in some distros at the price of a new record.

The jacket of the flexi depicts a crudely drawn leather-jacketed, ripped-jeans, booted, be-mohawked skeleton. An apparent manifesto on the inside of the sleeve contains the English line “Stand hair” twice. Sincerely. The nose on the skeleton’s skull is pinocchic and would be phallic were it not for the absurd height of the mohawk. (Yes, I know you’re wondering “What, after all, is absurdity when discussing a walking skeleton with a mohawk?”) The points of the mohawk add up to ten phalluses for “Z Boy.” We know his name because he’s walking past a wanted poster for “Name Z Boy” which has an even cruder drawing of our friend on it. Reward: $15000. Natch. It’s clear that Z Boy is wanted for some “violence action,” and what’s more, it’s clear that said violence action was not only perpetrated on Z’s instruments but also on the flexi-disc listeners. It is sheer algolagnia.

The title track starts with a propeller hitting a girder. Oh wait, that’s a guitar. Then, “Go To Kill” is dominated by the sound of a crash cymbal being shoved into an industrial fan. Actually, in the first few seconds, before the cymbals begin, the rough guitar tone is more reminiscent of one heard on a lo-fi basement hard rock record (think Vulcan) than a late ‘80s high-speed hardcore record. That’s all over in a flash, before a riff really even develops, once the noise kicks in. The speed is notable because none of the other records on this list is defined by its speed. Certainly the 1988 release date meant that the band could’ve been aware of early grindcore (and superfast hardcore). Could Z be the result of laying Repulsion’s velocity atop Confuse’s noise and feedback?

What makes this record great is not just that this is rehearsal gutter junk, it’s that the band’s other releases didn’t sound like this. They’re not so fast, not nearly so noisy. The violence of their other recordings is calculated, blustery, like the poncy posing of so many metal bands. The violence of the flexi is tangible in the mad cymbal crashes, the tortured vocal barks, the string-breaking guitar explosions. Their ounce of genius was not only spent on the music, a goodly portion of it went into the decision to release this recording on vinyl (or whatever the hell flexis are made from).

The “Violence Action” flexi is a particularly ugly example of the Japanese noise-core sound near the end of its ‘80s incarnation. Before long, the facepaint and studded face masks would give way to the more traditional rags-core style of UK crusties. Here, whether intentional or not, the blinding white noise of the flexi seems to derive more from an encounter with early industrial music than from an attempt to outdo Chaos UK. In this way, the flexi evinces a feeling one associates with punk of the ‘80s, before the range of influences from which punk bands drew narrowed and ossified. Against this argument is the mediocrity of the band’s other recordings, as I mentioned. That unevenness, too, however, also seems wholly of the ‘80s, when first releases far outdoing subsequent ones was the norm. It’s nice to think that Z were trying to combine extremely harsh proto-industrial noise with Discharge and Napalm Death, though it’s probably just a fantasy. More likely, these punks just went for it and what resulted was a better outcome, in terms of extreme music, than anyone should’ve expected. The important question is: what the heck was Z Record 001? A demo perhaps?


mp3s (Right click and "Save as..." to download): Violence Action | Go to Kill | Go Ahead | Peace of Hiroshima

photo below courtesy of Frank B.

The singer's website:


Shit-Fi Mailbag:

From: Zach Howard

The text to the left of Shingi on the line up photo says "Z Wa Urusai" or in English; "Z is noisy". To his right it says "Kane Ga Nai," which means something like "No money" ("Kane" means money, "Ga" is a particle and "Nai" is indicating the negative form).

The text on the back side of the sleeve is, I think, an ad for their 1st tape (I've put the literal Katakana pronunciation in brackets). It says something about 1st [Te-Pu] (tape in English) and sending 600 yen to an address. The Katakana in the last line says [Hebi Meta] Fuckoff,or when spelled in English; "Heavy Metal Fuckoff". Finally, it looks like the tape has 26 songs.