Japanese hardcore icons G.I.S.M. recall a time when it took some genuine legwork, elbow grease and probably some extra cash to track down releases from overseas. The band’s 1983 debut album Detestation saw release only in the group’s native Japan, but their underground buzz grew loud enough that publications as far-reaching as Maximum Rocknroll and Thrasher helped to spread the word, turning a relatively hard-to-find punk document into a highly sought-after cult classic. That aside, it still took nearly 40 years for any label outside of the band’s home country to give it proper release and distribution, commanding prices on the secondhand market of upwards of $299 for a copy.
There’s a reason why Detestation resonated so immediately with listeners, arriving at a time when hardcore punk and heavy metal circles were beginning to cross over, each side engaged in an arms race of speed and volume until the line between the two had begun to blur irrevocably. G.I.S.M.’s first LP is a bruising punk rock record of the highest order, but it’s also as harsh and menacing as the most punishing of heavy metal records of the early ’80s, with more than a few moments of oddball experimentation and arena rock triumph. Its production is raw, its sound is steeped in D.I.Y., lo-fi static, and yet Detestation—now given its first official U.S. reissue through Relapse Records—remains the sound of utter mayhem.
The fuzzboxes that G.I.S.M. were using in 1983 might give away the era in which these songs were recorded, but the energy and intensity is such that Detestation remains exciting, even overwhelming on a first listen 28 years later. From the opening moments of “Endless Blockades for the Pussyfooter,” the set is nothing but forward momentum and explosive sonic power. The band bridges the immediacy of a band like Hüsker Dü with the unrelenting muscular roar of Venom or Discharge, while Sakevi Yokoyama’s barking his way through each track with both derangement and disgust, occasionally trading his growl for a belch or a grunt, or at the end of “A.B.C. Weapons,” even a cough. His level of gruff confrontationalism is a constant, but the band’s style is constantly evolving throughout the album’s half-hour, employing glam-punk swagger on “Nightmare,” triumphant heavy metal pageantry on “Document One,” and sheer, destructive mayhem on “Choke,” one of three bonus tracks here.
G.I.S.M.—which might stand for Guerilla Incendiary Sabotage Mutineer or God in the Schizoid Mind or any number of other similarly outlandish phrases—left a burn mark on heavy metal and hardcore that can be felt decades later in bands such as Converge or Pig Destroyer. It’s not necessarily a straight line from here to there, though; the reason why Detestation remains as revolutionary as it is has as much to do with how ahead of its time it was in merging different worlds of extreme music as it does with making them sound so much wilder and weirder. Critic Jay Bentley once said that G.I.S.M. made Venom sound like The Knack, which is both hilarious and somewhat accurate, but even when so much of extreme music has worn itself thin, there’s something reassuring about a 38-year-old punk record that can still light your hair on fire.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.