Septic Tank


“Shit out your soul/Day by day/Accepting lies they throw your way…’
(Septic Tank by Septic Tank)

If ever there were a point in history that demanded angry, scathing, explosive music then this is it. With eerie but exhilarating echoes Reagan’s ‘80s and the bilious, hyper-aggressive hardcore punk scene that erupted in response, the world of 2018 is more than ready for the blistering return of Septic Tank. This band of weather-beaten underground veterans have existed since the early ‘90s, more as a whispered enigma than a full-time band, but the decisive moment of deafening reality has arrived with the unveiling of Rotting Civilisation, the first full-length Septic Tank record and the ugly, rampaging rebirth of the subversive hardcore spirit.

Originally formed in 1994 as a low-key outlet for doom metal standard bearers Cathedral’s love for Discharge, Siege and other pioneering hardcore luminaries, Septic Tank’s original line-up featured Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorrian, guitarist Gaz Jennings and drummer Barry Stern (ex-Trouble) alongside Repulsion’s Scott Carlson on bass. A handful of jaw-shattering, snot-spraying anthems were swiftly thrown together and the impromptu crew jammed together on a few occasions, but thanks to a combination of logistics, geography and life getting in the way, Septic Tank lay dormant for nearly two decades.

“We talked about doing it again many times, but it took us 20 years to make a record,” Lee Dorrian explains. “As you know, Scott re-joined Cathedral for the last few gigs and the last album. We were recording (final Cathedral record) The Last Spire at the end of 2012 and we’d done all we needed to do and had some spare time in the studio. So we revived the Septic Tank idea and literally bashed out an entire EP, writing and recording, in an afternoon, in just six hours.”

The result of this brief resurgence of ST activity was 2013’s self-titled seven-inch EP, released only in Japan and limited to 900 copies: very much in keeping with the underground DIY spirit of the scene that first inspired the band to make a racket. With Lee, Gaz and Scott now joined by drummer (and esteemed producer) Jamie ‘Gomez’ Arellano, songs like Fatal Eclipse and The Slaughter sounded like the start of something irresistibly intense. Once again, however, nothing further happened after that brief burst of creativity, but behind the scenes Lee and Gaz were still riding that momentum and were beginning to feel that, just maybe, this could be something more than an occasional side-project. Continuing to write songs that fit the ST vibe, they ended up with enough material to make the idea of a Septic Tank album a reality.

“Black Sabbath were doing their so-called last-ever show in Birmingham and Scott wanted to come over for that, so I suggested we got together and did an album while he was here,” Lee recalls. “He stayed over for five days. 14 of the songs were already roughly written but not rehearsed, another eight or so came up on the spot and were recorded straight away, and that was it. It took us over 20 years but I’m really happy we did it.”

With all the vitality and venom we demand from the best hardcore, Rotting Civilisation is an obscenely thrilling rollercoaster ride that takes in everything from numerous bursts of flagrant Discharge worship (Walking Asylum, Victimised) to Motörhead-style snot’n’roll ragers (Divide And Conk Out, Digging Your Own Grave), Frost-fuelled doomcore (Death Vase, Living Death) and even a skewed homage to Japanese punk legends G.I.S.M. (You Want Some?). Musically diverse but unrelenting in its belligerence, it’s also an album full of brutally direct declarations on the state of the world today, the idiocy of the social media age and the general stupidness and selfishness of humanity in the 21st century. With his incensed worldview vividly reflected in artist Stewart Easton’s idiosyncratic cover art, Dorrian has never written with such sledgehammer accuracy or righteous fury.

“They need to be direct. That general pissed off vibe definitely comes from my reality, whether it’s around me or inside me,” he notes. “I didn’t sit down for hours and worry about what to write about. With the new songs that I didn’t have lyrics for, it was one Saturday afternoon, I just sat down and wrote the whole lot in three hours. I didn’t labour over them. They were written instinctively and came out really fast, and that suits the vibe of the record, really. There’s a lot of shit to be angry about, as always.”

No longer a shadowy side-project that existed more in the minds of its participants than in the ears of the masses, Septic Tank have blossomed – or, perhaps, mutated – into one of the most invigorating musical fists to the face of our times. The perfect soundtrack to the collapse of society, Rotting Civilisation proves that legends never die, the best ideas are always worth another go and, above all, we the people will not go fucking quietly.

“It’s quite mad that we’re finally releasing an album,” Lee concludes. “I don’t think most people know that this band exists! But you never lose your passion for this stuff. It’s just in our DNA and our veins, really. Like with most things, we’ll put it out there and see what happens, but we’d like to do more records and I’m sure there’ll be more shows too. We’re chuffed to be doing it!”

Dom Lawson