Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mimetic: Attack of the Discordance Axis Clones

If The Inalienable Dreamless were a child, it would be old enough to start high school this year.
In the nearly decade and a half since Discordance Axis gifted the world a masterpiece and then summarily retired, the New Jersey trio has gone from that band that few had heard of and even fewer liked to a significant touchstone in grindcore. A whole generation of grind musicians has grown up with Dave Witte’s tendon-testing speed, Jon Chang’s upper register screech and pop cultural fixations and particularly Rob Marton’s uniquely phrased guitar parts as part of the musical heritage they have inherited. That influence is coming to fruition as a recent of wave of Discordance Axis clones.
“I think that we identified with Discordance Axis because they're different from other grindcore bands,” said Jonathan Thompson, whose band, Vertigo Index, cribbed both their name and style from one of Jouhou’s songs. “Despite the fact that they do adhere in some sense to the sort of the grindcore blast-heavy template, they really managed to do so in a way that was forward thinking. Rather than rehashing the bands that came before them, they took their ideas and morphed them into something that was wholly their own. That is, they were able to write short fast songs that still feel like songs rather than simply bursts of aggression. Their song writing skills, specifically on The Inalienable Dreamless, are unparalleled in grindcore. While the songs are still ferocious in their own right they contain more interesting tonal characteristics than the simpler fast power chords and blast beats of their contemporaries.”
But for Discordance Axis, after years of being marginalized, seeing other bands adapt their sonic template is a bizarre reversal.
“I have always found it surreal that DA has any kind of following today given how completely people were disinterested with us when we existed,” Chang said. “It seems like the music has influenced people in the form of bands, individuals or other artists who have nothing to do with music.”
Cloning is intrinsic to musical evolution. Nobody would be grinding now if it weren’t for shamelessly ripping off Siege, Napalm Death and Repulsion. Hell, Carcass has been cloned more times than a Mandalorian bounty hunter. Indeed, Discordance Axis’ first album, Ulterior, owed a significant and obvious debt to From Enslavement to Obliteration.
“In the case of clones or cover bands, I hope those people are getting their sea legs and working to eclipse what we did. I know when we started we were very influenced by the Scum, SOB-split era of Napalm Death, SOB, Assuck and Anal Cunt, but we found our own voice in time,” Chang said.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

G&P Review: Keitzer

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Matthew 24:6

The Last Defence
FDA Rekotz

A Midwestern town is in flames after cops dolled up in surplus military gear stormed out in force to put down protests after an unarmed black kid was shot by the police. America is easing its way into yet another war in the Middle East with an incremental build up that should make anyone with a passing familiarity with the history of Vietnam queasy. Israel and Gaza’s millennia-old internecine squabble is on again. Russia seems to be determined to reunite the old Soviet Union with Ukraine being first on the agenda.
It’s a fraught and violent time. Keitzer’s latest, The Last Defence, is a fraught and violent record that reflects its era. It may just be fortuitous (if that’s really the word) timing, but the downer news cycle synchs up perfectly with the Germans’ latest missive of relentless, bellicose negativity. The Last Defence is a single-minded beast that moves with the implacability of armored battalions cresting a battlefield. Every song rumbles along with the same Bolt Thrower chug by way of Nasum blast, and while the album may lack for variety, each of the 14 songs is like an incoming artillery round. From the sinuous, Nile-ish opener “Bellum Indicere” straight through the final shock of “…Before Annihilation,” Keitzer mine the sorry state of the world for inflammatory material. Just reading the song titles is likely to provoke PTSD in anyone who has spent time in a war zone: “Exist to Destroy,” “Forever War,” “Next Offensive” and “Glorious Dead” are dispatches from realms where bomb craters are more common than elementary schools with a soundtrack to match.
Musically, Keitzer do not deviate from the death-grind nexus that they’ve honed on past albums. If you’ve heard and enjoyed them in the past, then will offer up another 40 minute cluster bombing of the sound that’s served them so well. 

[Full disclosure: I received a download for review.]
The Last Defence

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

G&P Review: Vertigo Index

Vertigo Index
Posthuman v1.1

They’re named Vertigo Index. Do I really need to explain where these information snipers are coming from? On the off chance it’s not obvious, this carcass lottery from the remains of Bastards and Scum Guilt come apart together come together alone to worship at the altar of Jouhou. But in a refreshing twist, their damage style hews close to the Discordance Axis template without slavishly recapitulating the past.

Rather than going for another reincarnation, Vertigo Index shine brightest when they dial back the mimetic elements and take the Discordance Axis influence in new directions. Their best riffs indeed bathe in Rob Marton’s love of odd tones and musical tension, but through attrition Vertigo Index deliberately slow them down, putting one of this century’s fastest bands on a ruin trajectory with ominous sludge slog. EP standout “No Fate But What We Make” slows down a Marton-style riff to allow you to savor the odd interplay of the notes and the way they warp and bend through repetition and sustain. It’s a great, smart use of an influence without straight up mimicry. That’s not to say they can’t blast when needed. “Mother Boxx” tries to shove a Witte-grade blast beat through a 57 second aperture of pinholes, squeezing a career of acceleration into a super dense minute and it works splendidly.
In the increasingly crowded realm of Discordance Axis tribute acts, Vertigo Index are probably better than The Parallax View, about on par with Syntax but not quite as good as Asterisk*. Still, it’s a solid 3 out of 5 on the Kim Novak scale for a promising first effort.

Friday, August 8, 2014

G&P Review: Jesus Cröst

Jesus Cröst
Bones Brigade

The worst aspect of the quadrennial World Cup feets-ball tournament is suffering through that one coworker who has suddenly declared him- or herself grand poobah of all soccer, loudly pontificating on the arcane advancement rules gleaned from Wikipedia. I’ll never understand how the United States was able to lose its way into each round. (And quite honestly I don’t care because, duh, it’s soccer and I’m an American [USA! USA! USA! USA!]). But for those of you with fond memories of Paul the Octopus and a quarter hour to kill, Rotterdam soccer hooligans Jesus Cröst penned an ode to the 1986 World Cup on their third album.
Musically, the dynamic Dutch duo has not advanced the powerviolent arts significantly with 1986. In fact, there’s a monochromatic quality to writing on the 22 songs that blurs them into a somewhat long and confusing whole (Hey, just like a soccer match! Perhaps it’s a meta commentary on the experience of watching the game?).
Taking a cue from Macabre, each song is dedicated to a different footballer of yore, shining 50 second spotlights on players that give the album a strong narrative quality even if the music is frustratingly lacking in diversity. It’s a great idea, but one similar song careens into another. It’s like watching a game from way up in the nosebleeds where you can’t see jersey numbers, so the action all becomes a formless smudge of people milling about way down on the field. Jesus Cröst’s past two albums were hacked from the same blast, pause, scream, blast foundation but they felt more invigorated and propulsive than 1986. So it kind of sucks that this is their farewell effort knowing that they have so much more to give.
America’s periodic, herpes-like flare up of soccer fever has passed, but if you’re a football fan with a passion for powerviolence then Jesus Cröst have the (oddly specific) cultural crossover you’ve been waiting for. 1986 is not a bad album, but you’ve heard this done better, even by this band. 

[Full disclosure: I received a download for review.]

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Devil’s Horns: Exploring Grindcore’s Ongoing Fascination With the Saxophone

“And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods—the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.”— H.P. Lovecraft, “Nyarlathotep”
It’s time we talk about grindcore’s dirty secret.
For 30 years—literally from the very first moment—grind musicians have been cheating on you with the must un-metal of instruments: the saxophone. (Yes, I know, literally, that's it made out of metal. You know what I mean, smart ass!)
Saxophone is that instrument your parents tried to foist on you when they misunderstood what exactly you meant when you told them you wanted to join a band. It’s probably not the instrument you picture yourself shredding on a stage in front of throngs of panty-throwing fans.

However, it’s probably got more of a grindcore pedigree than you’d credit it at first blush. Its reedy wail has been adding an extra frisson to the wonted arsenal of slashing guitars and thumping drums for decades. If nothing else, dabbling in odd instrumentation will probably get you street cred as a serious musician who’s not afraid to test barriers. Also expect lazy reviewers to drop the term “jazzy” a lot when describing your song.
“Any band with a saxophone that doesn't play ska will eventually be described as jazz,” Dead Neanderthals saxophonist Otto said. “I'm really not into traditional jazz but love free jazz. Maybe we're a little jazz in that sense.”
Saxophone grind is still a bit of a novelty, and I’m certainly not advocating making it a full time thing, but maybe it’s time we recognize it’s not as incongruous as it sounds at first blush.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

G&P Review: P.L.F.

Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration

Growing up in Tornado Alley, storms were a form of entertainment. I remember sitting on the porch with my dad as a kid watching the sky turn a queasy green right before a really ripping front would tear through the town. Black clouds would build over the horizon and we’d sit there as long as possible, waiting to catch a glimpse of a twister touching down before running inside for shelter.
P.L.F.’s Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration channels some of that onrushing Great Plains thunderstorm vibe as the guitars brew up whirlwind riffs that chart dangerously high on the Fujita scale. “Rejection of Pathos” lashes and snarls with the playful, arbitrary malevolence of a tornado, the way it flays about at random destroyed some neighborhoods and leaving other blocks untouched. Paired with the high winds of guitars, the drums rain hail down in icy, pelting chunks. But once the initial welts fade, the drums will occasionally fade into the murky production, becoming the background patter of a thunderstorm on the roof.
And if Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration has one flaw (and that’s a rare misstep for a P.L.F. who have consistently delighted), it’s that in nearly 25 minutes, the band doesn’t make room for any variety. Anybody who’s ever hunkered down in a storm cellar to wait out a tornado can tell you that eventually that frisson of danger from the storm sirens fades into a gray monotony as the wind’s unceasingly shrill howl becomes more background noise straining to capture a childhood imagination. A good peal of thunder and a flash of nearby lightning every now and again (the Assuck cover is a good start) would have could have foisted Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration into storm of the century contention. Instead, it’s just one more good thundershower that spices up a hazy, humid summer and fades like a crack of heat lightning.

[Full disclosure: I received  a download for review.]

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

G&P Review: Dråp

En Naturling Dod
Embrace My Funeral

First off, there’s not much here that you probably didn’t pull out of Anti Cimex’s raped ass 30 years ago. That said, like a high calorie, low nutrition fast food fix, there’s something about Dråp (Manslaughter) that just hits the spot. En Naturling Dod is the Swedish crust punk version of drunkenly plowing through Taco Bell’s drive through window for a quesarito at 2 a.m.
Unlike a lot of their crusty contemporaries, Dråp aren’t appropriating death metal tropes to bulk up and refurbish their punk rawk. They closest these heavily bearded Viking punks come to extra-genre exploration is a nod to thrashtastic chug-a-lug and the occasional squealy guitar solo. So everything barrels along at a more or less consistent head banging nod that makes En Naturling Dod a pretty good driving record. From the black and white artwork straight through the familiarity of the music of itself, Dråp will live and die by how well they can get one more good go-round out of a style that doesn’t lend itself to musical innovation.
With that in mind, the 10 songs on En Naturling Dod are uniformly tight and uniformly ... uniform. (In a rare nod to variety, “Horstmorker” slows down and probably drags out more than is needed.) Dråp have a solid foundation to work with and injecting some solid hooks and a more commanding vocal style could have them nipping at Victims’ heels. What Dråp may lack (or simply not give a fuck about) in originality, they make up for with energy and brevity, pounding through 10 songs in under 25 minutes, playing like the world might end before they finish. It makes En Naturling Dod a head rush of a record and one that can flipped back over for repeated spins. And if you’re asking for more than that from your crust punk records, you’re probably doing it wrong.

[Full disclosure: I received a review copy.]