1980-1986, 2001-2004: Icons of Filth

Anarcho punk, to many of its fans, is linked to a message of peace and disorder, defiance of authority through quiet riots and finger-pointing, raging against the establishment without rocking the boat. They’re punks who are actually hippies dressed in patch-covered black clothing.

Of course “hippies dressed in black” automatically conjures images of the almighty Crass, who for better or worse dictated not only the look but also the message and sound of fellow Brit-bands who were against everything — from violence to sing-along football chants — in great part because some of the best singles of the scene were produced by Crass’ own Penny Rimbaud and released through their self-named label. Yet bands like Amebix, Rudimentary Peni, and Zounds — as well as lesser-known outfits like Antisect, Lack of Knowledge, and The Cravats — escaped the tiny sounds of midrange-y guitars and martial snare drums to forge their own form of expression.

These bands are often overlooked within the anarcho scene because they don’t sound as “true” to the norm, therefore not actually part of the whole camp (yep, I’m connecting the dots between anarcho punk and black metal; no matter how opposite their politics, they are brothers in sonic orthodoxy), but you still find people who embrace bands that not only thought like Crass, but tried to sound as close to them while presenting their own personal flair. And that’s what makes Icons of Filth so damn peculiar and worthy of revision: they played the notes and sang of the themes like the premiere black-clad outfits (your Flux of Pink Indians, Dirts, and Subhumans), yet they performed with such ferocity and aggression that you want to start slamdancing around the room without a care of McDonald’s foreign policy. Not to mention they displayed some of the best artwork within the subgenre this side of Gee Vaucher and Nick Blinko.

Coming from the land of Prince Charles (of Lady Di fame), the countryside of Wales gave way to one of Brit-punk’s most intense frontmen in the form of Andrew “Stig” Sewell, who penned poetic lyrics that spat battery acid and farted soy oil in an oblique and passionate way hardly heard anywhere near the black flag proselytizing pack. He was supported by guitars puking out riffs that were desperate, heavy, and rooted in the Class of 77, which resulted in exciting music that did without the experimental fervor of Crass, yet wasn’t so atonal it resembled something entirely different. There’s a feeling of desperation that goes beyond simple anger that makes Icons of Filth seem vital and fresh; even though it’s obviously recorded on cheap gear from 30 years ago, you can feel that something is bothering the band, something much more personal than global politics and more contagious than the majority of loud protest music. Or perhaps it really was global politics that inspired the venomous vitriol that the Icons poured as fuel for their passion. But if so, then they took animal abuse and corporate greed as personally as a member of their family dying. It is music to scream to, to get excited about, and to listen to while cooking really angry vegan meals.

In their time, the Icons recorded a brilliantly-named demo (Not on Her Majesty’s Service), three 7-inch singles (one for Crass affiliate Corpus Christi, the others for Conflict-owned Mortarhate), and one amazing long-player, Onward Christian Soldiers, each one better than the last. The band has sadly vanished in punkdom obscurity, only briefly reuniting around 2001 when they were persuaded by Go-Kart Records to make a comeback album, Nostradamnedus, which they toured behind as if they had just starting to exchange xeroxed zines for sandwiches. Sadly, this new surge of activity ceased completely when Stig died after a gig in a squat.

Let us remember Icons of Filth and their frontman, the roar they committed to tape, and the proof that great, scorching, and heartfelt bands have roamed among the washed masses. You get two videos: the studio version of the song “Brain Dead” and another from the reunion, showing that even if they seemed tamer than what they used to be, they could still sound like rabid dogs, creatures for which they surely played tons of benefit gigs.




There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

Most Read