In December of 2011 sixty-four punks were detained in Banda Aceh, the capitol of the Aceh province in Indonesia. Aceh, along with several other provinces, enjoys a special status that grants it a certain level of autonomy; thus, while Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country, the use of Shariah law is unique to the Aceh province. Moral police roam the streets searching for drinking, gambling and unmarried couples who dare to be in close proximity to each other. In an environment like this, it's no surprise that tattooed mohawk sporting punks would draw the ire of the local authorities.
After their arrest, the punks had their mohawks shaved off by the police, were immerged in water in order to purify them and then sent to "re-education camps." Although the incident was not a major news story, I do remember hearing about it. I signed a petition and thought to myself, "Wow, that fucking sucks, but what can you do?", and then I quickly forgot about it.
Luckily, there are people like Michael Rothstein, aka "Mike Virus", frontman for Evacuate. Instead of sitting on his ass, Mike took action, and the result is Punk Aid: Aceh Calling, a massive 72-track compilation album designed to raise money for Indonesian punks.
"This compilation is a necessity," writes Mike in the digital booklet that accompanied my download. "This compilation is a message to the world that we demand freedom and will not live in fear or ever change our lifestyle for anyone."
Evacuate kicks of the album with the title track, "Aceh Calling", a street punk anthem with a chorus that makes it hard not to pump your fist and shout along to the message of defiance it conveys:
"Rise up, we're gonna stand with you / Rise up, we're gonna see it through / Fuck with one, fuck with us all / You'll leave with your back against the wall"
For Trash, an Indonesian band, follows with the eponymously titled track "For Trash," a 30 second hardcore assault. With 72 tracks, it would be impossible to provide a synopsis of every song, but given that the reason for this compilation's existence is to raise awareness of the persecution that Indonesian punks presently face, I urge everyone to check out the seven Indonesian bands that contributed to this album.
There's something for everyone here, and I really dug Antiseen's "Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match." The southern punk/metal sound reminded me a little bit of The Cooters, but if you aren't paying close attention, you might think they'd recruited Lemmy to contribute vocals.
This is not a "best of" compilation, and according to the liner notes, 73 bands submitted tracks for consideration, and 72 tracks made it onto the album. Clearly, the organizers did not have the luxury of cherry picking the cream of the crop, so you might expect some mediocre contributions, but I can honestly say there is not a single song that I disliked. Naturally, some kicked ass more than others did, and my personal musical preferences influenced the selections that I chose to highlight. A wide variety of sub-genres can be found throughout the album, and I doubt that most people will be crazy about every single track.
Burns Like Fire offers up "One More Shot," a melodic song that reminded me a little bit of later Anti-Flag (think For Blood and Empire). I don't know anything about the band, but just based on this track, I suspect that they could see some commercial success and FM airplay if they chose to go that route. Although I know DIY enthusiasts probably cringe when they read that, let me emphasize that my preceding comments are nothing more than speculation, and the bottom line is that I can see this song getting some heavy rotation while I'm sitting at my desk during the workweek.
My musical tastes are diverse, but I love my music fast and hard: crust, thrash, grindcore... you get the idea. Count on the Swedes to deliver a couple of crushing tracks that are right up my alley. Crypt of the Zombilord—according to their website, crusty grind-thrash heavily influenced by old school grindcore and even metal punk; whatever the fuck that means—provides just the sort of track that gets me juiced. "Cultural Hyphae" layers guttural growls over a blast beat assault with a breakdown thrown in for good measure. "Fiskefarfar" from hardcore/metal band KalleNinja evokes some similarities to Swedish crust masters Warcollapse, although there are noticeable differences. The audio quality on this track wasn't the greatest, but the music is solid.
I've only touched on a fraction of the bands that contributed to this album, and it bears repeating that there wasn't a single track that made me think, "Wow, this sucks." Unfortunately, it just wasn't possible to give a track by track breakdown of the entire compilation. I tried to select a handful of songs that represented a couple different subgenres, and that I really enjoyed (and any of the bands not mentioned should not view this as a snub), but if you really want to hear what the album has to offer then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. The digital download is available for $6.00 (USD), which equates to a little over eight cents per track. Let me repeat that: eight cents! Even if you end up hating half the songs, you'll pay roughly 16 cents for the tracks you like, and that's a steal.
And remember, this is punk with a purpose. As Mike Virus wrote in the digital booklet that accompanies the download:
"This compilation is also a message to the world that punk music is about a lot more than drinking beer and partying. It is a way of life that is ingrained in the hearts and minds of all who decide to be a part of it."