Over the 21 tracks that comprise Rudimentary Peni’s iconoclastic 1983 record Death Church, you can hear why it is such an esteemed sonic artefact. It’s positively bursting with vitriol, hatred and – most pertinently – humour. Of course, folks will forever be drawn to the track “Rotten to the Core” as singer/lyricist/artist/guitarist Nick Blinko takes a crack at the commercialisation of the punk ideology and the money-spinning antics of two of the elder statesmen (even by that time) of UK punk.
Pinning a genre on the record isn’t easy, and is largely pointless – you could realistically call it ‘positive punk’, ‘deathrock’, ‘anarcho-punk’… tags that could be stuck on the other godheads of the early 80s British punk godheads (Crass in particular defy and define those same labels). As for the album itself – it still sounds as incredible as it did the first time you heard it. Time has had absolutely zero negative effect on the album (time hasn’t been so kind to some of RP’s contemporaries, sadly.) Besides, any album that starts with the words “Three quarters of the world are starving” has given you a pretty stark warning about what you’re about to experience – especially when that’s followed up with “The rest are dead”.
As you can tell by Blinko’s fury, the album, amongst other things, is dripping with political vehemence. It’s also unabashedly influenced by The Damned’s caustic guitar attack and propulsive rhythmic power and Bauhaus’ roaring bass and pseudo-theatrical horror-show bent.
After careful consideration, I can honestly tell you that my personal favourite track would be “The Cloud Song” – it’s a slow-burn number constructed around Grant Matthews roaring bass, and Blinko’s serrated, buzzing guitar locking in tight with John Greville’s rock-steady percussion. At 2:36, it also happens to be the longest track on the record. Then there’s the hyper-speed spasm of “Vampire State Building”, where the eerie double-tracked vocals and grinding rhythm practically invent grindcore in one fell swoop.
Another highlight is “Pig in a Blanket”, which condemns killing animals for one’s consumption – militant vegetarianism never sounded so convincing. The track itself is undoubtedly one of the most influential here – modern bands like Anasazi and The Hunt are practically descended from tunes like this (and Southern Death Cult’s “Fatman”.). Grant’s bass on “Radio Schizo” is absolutely unbelievable – it rings, pops and growls away with considerable menace. For such a bass-led record, this track stands out as Matthews’ finest performance.
And later on you’ll find such riotous gems as the ripping “Alice Crucifies the Paedophiles” and the scathing “Army of Jesus”. “Drink their blood/And eat their flesh/Insane” is the mantra of the latter, and that pretty much sums up the tone of the record. It’s anti-establishment, anti-religion, anti-butchery, anti-prejudice, anti-money and marvellously honest.
The record as a whole is still eminently listenable – the musicianship borders on virtuosity, the lyrics are thoughtful and cutting, the artwork striking. The records that came after built on the template of sonic ferocity – resulting in an equally estimable later work by the name of Cacophony.
If you’re using this record as your springboard into all things goth/peace/positive/anarcho whatchamacallit, your next port of call should be Crass, and from there onto Southern Death Cult and Flux of Pink Indians and Subhumans. But I guarantee, wherever you end up, you’ll keep coming back to worship at the Death Church: everybody does.
Some notes on the reissue: The album was remastered in 2011, so is excellent by modern sonic standards – it sounds brighter and fuller than my original 1996 Himalayan issue. That sounds like an empty statement, but I assure you, I listened to both CDs one after the other, and will definitely be going for the 2011 master in future. The rendering of Blinko’s superb art is amazing: The glossy, slim-line digipack sleeve replicates the original vinyl perfectly, even down to the facsimile of the lyric-sheet that’s enclosed inside. It’s a terrific little package that one can reasonably assume carries over to the vinyl edition.
All in all, this reissue has been put together by Southern Records in the perfect fashion. It looks great, sounds fantastic – and is just about the perfect punk record to be spending your time with this summer. You might find the themes resonate louder than ever. They simply do not make bands like this nowadays.