To get to know the basics about the Japanese punk-band Conclude, read this review. This particular release of theirs features a 22-minute live-recording from Tokyo, all the way from 1996. It's been previously released in a bulk with two other live-recordings on the band's untitled CD-R, but the recording's sound on the CD-R was coated with sharp and unnatural distortion. This time around the sound is a lot more organic. The tape also features a previously unreleased five-song demo recording from '96 or '97.
Conclude was heavily influenced by early Scandinavian hardcore (especially Terveet Kädet) in their early years, which should come as no surprise when listening to this tape. The songs are short and simple bursts of hardcore with brief choruses. The songs range from downright chaos to more mid-paced material, the latter of which really brings out the band's originality. The opener has a clean and really eccentric guitar sound, similar to the band's "Made in Finland"-EP, whereas the rest of the songs have a more distorted and mushy sound. You can hear the scandinavian influences, but the band's output has such a personal vibe and a dose of "weirdness" in it that it doesn't sound like a mere copycat. It's a mixture of Japanese and Scandinavian traditions of punk-hostility.
The songs are mostly of the faster breed, and the lo-fi recording equipment causes the riffs to tangle up here and there. Luckily this was a property I was prepared for, and otherwise the live-recording is rather pleasing. The sound is harsh and raw, but still leaves the songs recognizeable. The drums provide a strong and steady backing for the bouncier guitar riffs, and the somewhat clean bass-pounding provides a nice add to the distortion. Keiichi's vocals are as eccentric as ever: he howls and shouts in his own personal way, with full intensity. The instruments tend to get entangled in the fastest bits, as said above, but I see it as a part of these lo-fi live recordings' charm. The tape doesn't sound lacking.
The bonus demo-songs are of surprisingly good quality. They could've been delivered with more energy, but their bassiness, lunatic vocals and appealing simplisticity is well enough to entertain the listener. The soundscape allows each instrument to be heard, too, so I'm very glad I got to hear these songs. They follow the live-section carrying a lower volume level so that they don't get to mess up the record's balance.
This tape isn't the best starting point for getting to know Conclude's music due to the recording quality (and its minuscule pressing amount), but it should be a pleasing listen to anyone already familiar with them. The live-bit hasn't been edited afterwards, so you can hear the whole performance with all its rugged charm. Check Conclude out if you want to hear traditional hardcore with a fresh twist.