“Weirdly enough for genre born out of the anarchist movement and thoroughly left-wing politics, crust punk is pretty conservative as extreme music styles go.” – MacDara on Nuclear Death Terror‘s  Chaos Reigns.

Following stops in Germany (for the dark crustcore of Alpinist), Sweden (for Wolfbrigade‘s acclaimed Damned LP) and even Ireland (for Drainland‘s collection And So Our Troubles Began), Southern Lord’s round-the-world tour of the underground visits Denmark for this compilation of EPs from Copenhagen crusties Nuclear Death Terror – a band with a connection to the auld sod via their Roscommon-reared guitarist / vocalist, Zero Tolerance scribe (and friend of Thumped) Cormac O’Síocháin. So what are we in for?

Well, it’s crust punk. Now here’s the thing: weirdly enough for a genre born out of the anarchist movement and thoroughly left-wing politics, crust punk is pretty conservative as extreme music styles go. There’s a set drum beat, an established guitar attack, plus off-the-shelf lyrical concerns, and notwithstanding the odd influence from death metal, grindcore and the like, songs rarely vary from that template. And that’s the way the crusties want it, so it’s a perfectly valid approach, even if the results can grow weary on the ears with prolonged exposure.

Chaos Reigns leads with four tracks from the just-released 12″ Blood Fire Chaos Death. Opener ‘Crisis‘ rides a pickscrape into a wonderfully wobbly downtuned riff before that D-beat kicks in, propelled by a simply ferocious vocal delivery – the best thing about this collection overall. However, something’s off about it. The production’s a little too clean and tidy. The drum sound is phenomenal, but that melodic death soloing is very out of place. ‘Collapse‘ comes next a tad faster and harder, but that solo towards the end veers too close to Van Halen for my liking, and at nearly 3 minutes 20 the track more than overstays its welcome. Boredom sets in on ‘Descent‘, but at least the hooks it’s missing can be found on ‘Abyss‘, which has to be a Slayer tribute, with its chiming riff lifted almost straight from the Seasons… title track.

Thankfully things get better with the middle tracks on this reverse-chronological release, these from the Total Annihilation EP from 2009. There’s a dirtier sound, the production rougher round the edges but more suited to the material. Plus the guitar-hero soloing is de-emphasised, and the vo-kills have a satisfying rasp and heft to them. ‘Total Annihilation‘, ‘Mindchain‘ and ‘Devolve to Submission‘ are shrouded in an eschatonic miasma the newer songs are lacking, and it’s something that also marks an improvement on the previous year’s Ceaseless Desolation 7″: three tracks – ‘World Enslaved‘, ‘Chaotic Alliance‘ and ‘The Darkest Age‘ – that blur into each other unremarkably, and a cover of Celtic Frost’s ‘Morbid Tales’ that doesn’t embarrass itself yet is quite unnecessary.

Maybe I just don’t get it and the leather-and-spikes brigade will lap it up. But NDT have all the right pieces, and those middle tracks show they can produce the goods when they cut out the bull. I expect better, crustier things in future.

Chaos Reigns is out now on Southern Lord.