The Finnish quartet Tuhkaus ("Cremation") released their debut demo in 2010, and now in the halfway of 2011 they've released their first 7". The band was originally meant to be a side project, but it seems to have turned into something greater with the time gone by.

Tuhkaus has improved greatly since the above mentioned demo, on which they seemingly hadn't yet found their style nor sound. Their music's core elements haven't changed though; the songs are still one to two minutes long poundings of raw and hardcore-influenced crust punk, but now the band seems to have a lot better grasp of what they're aiming for. The opening song "Sotatila" pretty much sums up how the band has evolved: the verse-riff is a rather basic crust punk one, but has such a good touch and groove to it that it's a very pleasing listen. The chorus kicks the song up a notch through employing some d-beat, and the whole thing is finished with a tastily rocking guitar solo. Veikki's "hate them or love them"-type of dry and inhuman howls are still as harsh as ever, and they give the band a lot of its own sound and hostility.

The A-side doesn't present anything too spectacular in the simplistic riff-department, but the few brief samples, the great amount of groove and attitude and the moments of d-beat well make up for it. The songs have simple shout-along choruses, which makes them even more appealing. Still, the B-side clearly has the bolder and more interesting songs - for example, its opener relies on such catchy rhythmics that its listener is almost forced to jump around and bash things. Surprisingly, its follower is a short and stylish mid-pace song that relies on echoed vocals and sturdy bass guitar-groove, but the remaining two songs quickly pick up the pace. The last song has some militant and even apocalyptic vibe to it, and the short warfare-samples give the song a spot-on finish.

The slightly humorous cover arts should give a good hint of the lyrics' content to those who don't understand Finnish; they're about (and against) war, religion, and humanity's abuse of Earth leading to it's total destruction - aside of the song "Ulluh" which is a humouristic bit about paranoia. The visual and lyrical side is commendable all the way to the vinyl's center labels, which is not something I can say often. A great improvement from the cheap-looking DIY-demo!

The band doesn't try to reinvent crust punk, but have an original approach to it, and the musicians handle their instruments well which gives the songs a good drive. The production-values are good but the end result is still raw and hostile, and by no means lightweight. If the basic riffs had more jagged edge and personality in them and if the guitar solos weren't as repetitive, this EP would easily be worth over an eight out of ten. I truly hope this isn't the last we'll be hearing of this band.

7 / 10