By Craig Hayes. The first record I ever bought was a rowdy UK punk compilation called Punk And Disorderly III. I’ll understand if you’ve never heard of it before, because it was released way back in 1983. But in all the years since, I’ve never forgotten howBy Craig Hayes.
The first record I ever bought was a rowdy UK punk compilation called Punk And Disorderly III. I’ll understand if you’ve never heard of it before, because it was released way back in 1983. But in all the years since, I’ve never forgotten how I felt when I dropped the needle on that compilation’s first track. My life changed forever when Abrasive Wheels’ “Burn 'em Down” kicked in. It was like getting hit by a bolt of lightning. Or being plugged into some electrifying and rabble-rousing grid. I had found the music for me. And I guarantee you there’s a kid out there right now who’s going to hit play on Rotten UK’s debut, That is not Dead, and experience that exact same life-changing rush of emotion.
Reason being, Rotten UK’s music is as visceral as it gets. The band’s first full-length features 14 throwback tracks that hit like thunderbolt of chaotic punk. That is not Dead is violent in tone, and thoroughly old school in temper, but Rotten UK are no fly-by-night punk rock fashionistas. Yes, the band’s music is features a vice-ridden snarl like plenty of incendiary bands of yore, but Rotten UK don’t deal in limp simulations of the past. The band capture a genuine feel for the fiery, anthemic spirit of UK82. And while a lot of bands simply take that four-letter abbreviation to mean a few riffs inspired by GBH or The Exploited, Rotten UK dig far deeper into second wave UK (and Scandi) punk to unearth not just the bones of their sound but the heart of their attitude too.
It’s clear that Rotten UK are heavily influenced by those aforementioned groups, and by the likes of Discharge, Broken Bones, and plenty of other underground 80s hooligans on That is not Dead. That adds an authoritative flavour to rip-roaring tracks like “Revolution Moon”, “Their Dreams”, “Dark Times”, and “Stagnation is Sin”. All the filth, fury, and unruly attributes that UK82 scene so instinctively appealing are front and centre on those tracks, and throughout That is not Dead. But Rotten UK also deliver their short and spiky tunes in rapid-fire fashion, and that means the bulk of That is not Dead hurtles past at a whirlwind pace that clearly shows the influence of the early years of speed metal as well.
That mix of breakneck metal and primitive punk is given even more of an abrasive edge thanks to That is not Dead’s rough-hewn production. Combine that rawness with Rotten UK’s anthemic songwriting, and there are more enough ill-bred elements to ensure the album’s a total fucking riot throughout. But Rotten UK don’t stop there.
The band add a mountain of eldritch ingredients into their raw hardcore as well. As the band’s record label Hells Headbangers notes, Rotten UK’s music is a, “special breed of revolution-inspired Lovecraftian punk”. That is not Dead duly features a deep well of fiendish mysticism alongside all of the bloody-minded rebellion, and the anarcho-punk therein is darkened by the wonderfully gloomy presence of deathrock.
Tracks like “Waiting for the Bomb”, “Reaper Follows”, “Royal Blood” and “Deathbeat” see propulsive gothic punk collide headfirst with gutter punk. And in some instances, Rotten UK’s wretched melodies sound like the band are channeling Christian Death covering Kaaos. (Or Disorder simultaneously reinterpreting the The Damned and Fields of the Nephilim.) It’s a great fusion of mysterious and murderous aesthetics, and colouring Rotten UK’s anarchic message with a haunting accent adds another level of grim gratification to an already wicked brew.
That is not Dead is a full-throttle reminder that intoxicating and exhilarating punk rock remains primed for changing lives. The album oozes authenticity, and it’s as much of a rousing call to arms as it is a plea to the Great Old Ones to smite this world, and wipe the slate clean. Admittedly, that’s a message you’ll not hear often, but that’s exactly what makes Rotten UK so captivating. The band are outliers, freaks, and their binding of punk to deathrock with a jagged metal edge is made for connoisseurs of truly lawless music. Rotten UK drag UK82-fuelled music forward, and sharpen it with a distinctively dark design. Degenerate and disrespectful till the end. Punk rock 666.