Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sabbatical, Bloody Sabbatical

The time has come for me to step aside. After six years and more than 800 posts, I’ve written myself out. I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say and interviewed the bands I’ve really wanted to talk to.
It may not be permanent. For now I’m thinking of it as a sabbatical, but either way I need a blog break. Writing has become a struggle and I’ve found myself missing the deadlines I set for myself and not really caring all that much. I’m just kind of burned out. Right now I’m looking at almost 50 albums that people have graciously submitted for review and I just can’t find the energy to get to them all. I keep finding myself listening to old albums I grew up with rather than the new music people share with me. Having people ask you to listen to their art and offer an opinion is a privilege and if I can’t approach it with the right attitude then I shouldn’t be doing it at all. So, if you’re one of those 50 people, I sincerely apologize. Especially if you’re the one of a dozen or more I’ve been sitting on for six months. That’s bad even by my laggardly standards.
Unlike the last time I seriously thought about packing it in, this time I feel absolutely no anxiety. This is the right decision for the time being. But before I go (for however long I may be away), I need to thank each and every one of you, everyone who has read a post, left a comment, sent an email  or directed me toward new music. You’ve all made this a very rewarding part of my life the last few years. I’m not going to disappear entirely. I’ll keep the Facebook page going for the time being. I just don’t think I have blog length writing in my immediate future. After I take a few months off to rest and recharge and find my spark, that may change. Maybe not. Either way, it’s been a hell of a ride. In my arrogance, when I started I set the simple goal of having the best grind blog on the internet. In my arrogance, I think I got pretty damn close. Maybe after some time away I’ll find that fire. Or I’ll decide it’s time to close that chapter of my life permanently. Either way, thanks for coming along for the ride

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Grind in Rewind 2013

Punctuality has never been my strong point, but I thought I’d get ahead of the curve this year and put out my year end list a bit early. Yay me.
This year, in particular, I have to thank all the cool bands and labels who were generous enough to share their music with me. Since the advent of the Lil Grinder, my discretionary music buying budget has been slashed to zero. So more than ever I’m reliant upon the kindness of strangers. And this year strangers had some pretty damn good taste. Let’s get down to it.

10. Dead Church/Suffering Mind
7 Degrees
Don’t get the wrong idea. The only thing that puts this split down at number 10 is the fact that it’s just one song from each band. But sweet holy fucking Shiva on a shingle, those two songs are absolute humdingers. Suffering Mind have been operating at an extremely high level for quite a few years now, but “War Street/Wall Street” may be the most perfect distillation of the Polish band’s polish and promise that I’ve ever heard. It’s just a perfect little grind tune. Flipside, Dead Church match Suffering Mind’s intensity, chewing through “I Want Nothing” like Al Pacino with an electric scenery gnawing machine powered by cocaine and incinerated copies of Godfather Part 3. Normally, one song from a band is not worth the wax it occupies, but this split is definitely the exception.

9. Detroit
Reality Denied
Grindcore Karaoke
Detroit have been on a roll recently and Reality Denied just keeps that trend trucking like one of the diesel huffing monstrosities churned out by their namesake city. The album may start with “False” but Detroit remains true: loose and spastic and flailing with the abandon of youth. Every song is hewed from the molds established by Napalm Death and Capitalist Casualties, but they’re played with an aplomb that keep that from being merely derivative. There’s a sincerity of focus that elevates them beyond their humble ambitions.

8. Rotten Sound
Species at War
Just when I’d accepted that Rotten Sound’s Murderworks/Exit days were behind them and they were in more of a fast crust punk mold, the Finns start banging out awesome EPs that capture the vibe of their earliest material. Species at War was another great short effort, a snarling little bugbear of bad attitude and unrelenting pessimism. Rotten Sound sound ripped to the gills on humanity’s self-inflicted bullshit and they’re ready to push the button to end it all. The apocalypse has never sounded so upbeat.

7. Sacridose
Anxiety Tremors
Financial Ruin/Bandcamp
Cellgraft offshoot Sacridose sound like the former crossed up with a soupcon of Cloud Rat’s fast hardcore rampage. It’s a winning combination. Plus they cover Rudimentary Peni. Always a bonus. That aside, their original material is a shattered glass tornado of whirling aggression and vertiginous blasting twists. It’s lean and it’s mean and it’s got a hardcore soul that keeps it from being too easily tagged as Cellgraft resurgent.

6. Slavestate 641A
Grindcore Karaoke/Name Like His Master
This is not grind in the musical sense. It’s grind in the tectonic sense. It’s the slow motion smashing of giant plates of earth, buckling and crumbling under the pressure of uncompromising repetition. Born from Robocop, who helped lead the power violence resurgence, Slavestate 641A pull much the same trick on classic Godflesh and Swans, reinvigorating heavy as fuck slow motion misery that crawls along at a stumble step. It’s death by degrees and it’s demanding but the payoff is emotionally satisfying and enervating. It take it that’s how masochism is supposed to work.

5. Gowl
Self Released
Gowl raged right out of nowhere (i.e. Connecticut) in 2013, leaving a smoldering nuclear crater of irradiated awesomeness in their too brief wake. The onomatopoeitic Buzzbox lives up to its name with a snarling tiptoe through Backslider’s garden, which is planted high with amp buzz and clanking snare. It’s a glorious little cacophony that doesn’t offer too much in the way of originality, but it’s delivered with bravado and abandon. That’s really all I ask.

4. Wake
7 Degrees/Handshake Inc.
Wake have been churning out amazing records with such regularity now that it’s almost easy to take them for granted. False is another immaculate entry into their already enviable discography. Its chief success is corralling together another 11 songs that each have their own voice and personality and then having the confidence to let the songs breathe and stake out their own space. Wake haven’t stumbled yet so False makes me truly eager to hear what the Canadians churn out next.

3. Sick/Tired
King of Dirt
King of Dirt worships at the altar pure noise. Noisecore has a special place in my heart and Sick/Tired pluck at each and every string. It’s a chaotic blast of everything that makes grind great. Even the ending on the slow noise song cliché takes on a new vitality at their twisted behest. It’s noisy, angular and strikes with a concussive force. And I keep coming back for more. This is definitely one of my most listened albums in 2013 and it’s still a part of my regular musical rotation. Their follow up EP is just as badass.

2. Who’s My Savior
Wall of Sickness
7 Degrees
Look, I’ve been raving about Who’s My Saviour for years now. I think Glasgow Smile is a certified fucking classic. So I don’t know how much more I need to say to them. Why aren’t you listening to this shit right this fucking minute? Because Wall of Sickness is another brilliant slice of twisted grind from the German trio, who refuse to be bound by grindcore convention but never leave their roots too far behind. Wall of Sickness is an amazing slow build EP that boasts some of Who’s My Saviour’s catchiest songs and these guys excel at writing a memorable grind hook.

1. Cloud Rat


IFB/Halo of Flies/React With Protest/7 Degrees
I called this one back in January. I stand by it 11 months later. Simply put, there has not been another album that comes close to Moksha’s transformative emotional experience this year. Cloud Rat sneak in His Hero is Gone melody and a Neil Young cover as part of the most unabashedly emotional and riveting album in recent memory. Moksha is harrowing in its honesty and plaintive in its frustrated sincerity. No matter how bleak life gets, Cloud Rat still strive for the light of hope. Madison absolutely brought it this album, screaming her soul out to make Moksha the standout musical experience that it is.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Punk Rock Docs

One of my pet peeves is how punks are often portrayed in popular culture. Too often they’re the lunkhead with the ridiculous clothes and hair who is treated like a running punchline. The image of the idiot punk is so ingrained that they’re almost automatically assumed to be falling down drunks who are little more than comic relief devoid of personality or prospects whenever they pop up. In my experience, it’s the direct opposite. Punks are the musical smart asses: the intelligent kid in the back of the room who can do the work but just doesn’t take it seriously. It takes a keen mind to zero in on society’s myriad failures in a way that’s hilarious, excoriating and trenchant all at once.
But some punks have taken that a step further by putting their diplomas where their mouths are, earning some serious academic accolades outside of the mosh pit.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Freaks on Parade: Grindcore Still Puts a (Glasgow) Smile on Who’s My Saviour’s Faces

The term “grindcore” probably evokes a pretty specific set of characteristics: blastbeats, screams, a punk core, indecipherable screaming, micro songs, incoherent politics. Who’s My Saviour don’t want you to dwell on any of that when you encounter their crawling chaos of whirlwind sound. They cop to the grindcore tag as the best fit for their unique racket. They just don’t want to be limited by your crabbed definitions. Grindcore is a much broader term in Who’s My Saviour’s world than most people will allow.
“In its roots, grindcore wasn't that limited genre like it is today. It wasn't even meant as a genre but more like a melting pot for everything which didn't fit into existing genres,” guitarist Stephan “Hazy” Haase said. “Today when you're speaking of grindcore, people think of bad musicians playing ridiculous fast songs with mainly blastbeats, crying evil lyrics, that no one understands at all because 90 percent of the bands in the scene fit into that scheme. We try to get this thing more open for new influences. No fuckin limits!”
So the German trio brings a whole host of outside sounds to Who’s My Saviour and the result is a masterful mix of emotionally charged grind full of individually memorable songs with actual riffs that have a definite starting point and consciously evolve and mutate before the end. In a sea of 30 second bursts of repetitive riffs and single shot ideas, Who’s My Saviour are a verdant island of abundant musical fecundity.
“In fact WMS has always been meant to be a bit different from classic grind bands,” Hazy said. “We are all listening to many different kinds of music apart from grindcore metal stuff. According to that, we wish to bring many different aspects to our music to keep it interesting for ourselves and the listener.”

You March

A wall of sickness... and amps

It’s been six years since Who’s My Saviour graced us with the under the radar grindcore masterpiece Glasgow Smile, but the trio, rounded out by bassist Andy Colosser and new drummer Peat (who replaces the departed Pierre Bernhardt,) roared back in fine fettle with the triumphant Wall of Sickness. It’s a ripped from the headlines missive from the underclass who got stuck with the check when the too big to fail bankers wafted away on golden parachutes courtesy of the public treasury. Hazy said Who’s My Saviour have always had a political edge buried under their façade of intricately spiraling music, but this time out the anger is closer to the surface. It’s all kicked off by an exquisite sample of Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano ripping into the architects of the recent global financial meltdown. It’s the perfect mood setter for the revolutionary rabble rousing to come.
“We were always interested in politics and what's happening in the world. Maybe it is a bit more obvious because of the samples we used on Wall of Sickness, but in general you won't recognize a big difference between both records, if you check the lyrics,” Hazy said. “Of course we kind of react to the financial crisis and its consequences. Ordinary people have to pay the banks while the banks don´t have to fear any restrictions. So the sample of Mike Capuano was just perfect to describe the big gap between the banks and those who have to refinance the bailout. You can really hear that he is totally pissed and that this is what most people think. Check the song ‘This World Belongs to Us’. This is what we think about the situation.”
While Who’s My Saviour say the music always comes first, they’ve shown an incredibly deft hand with samples. Glasgow Smile closes out with one of my favorite ever songs, “Save Your Breath,” which wraps a sinuous stoner riff around a perfectly placed sample borrowed from the film 2001. It’s all the more impressive when I learned the song was a last minute addition to the album and a bit of a happy accident.
“Funny fact about ‘Save Your Breath’. We wrote that song in about 15 minutes,” Hazy said. “We came to the point that we just need one more song and it should be plain simple. After recording that song, we already had in mind that we want to use this particular sample from 2001 - A Space Odyssey from Stanley Kubrick and it worked out pretty good.”
Who’s My Saviour pulled the same trick on Wall of Sickness with closing track “Weedeater,” which also wraps itself around a sample to punctuate the catharsis the album had slowly built toward.
“It was pretty much clear that ‘Weedeater’ had to be the last song, because for us it was the perfect solution to leave the listener with a feeling of quite unwellness,” Hazy said.

This World Belongs to Us

Weedeaters pause the grind for a slice.
I had already mentally reconciled myself to Who’s My Saviour being that perfect one album wonder before Wall of Sickness appeared almost out of nowhere. It was actually intended to be the band’s farewell statement, but a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.
All of the members of Who’s My Saviour have been pulled in myriad musical directions over the last decade. Hazy previously did time in Cyness while Colosser still pulls double duty in Wojczech. Drummer Bernhardt eventually reached the point where he had decided to devote himself full time to his other project Bad Luck Rides on Wheels. Who’s My Saviour thought they had reached the end of their road.
“We lost the ‘battle ‘, but we are still friends and we understand the situation he was in,” Hazy said. “Andy and Pierre are even sharing an apartment. He also recorded Wall of Sickness, played the drums and did the mixing job along with our new drummer Peat. Everything is fine and change is still something good. We decided to record these songs after Pierre told us that he´s going to quit the band. We didn't even think about playing with a new drummer because it is hard to find a guy playing drums like he did. And then all of a sudden Peat fell from heaven.”
So that’s how Who’s My Saviour ended up answering these questions from the road on their recent European tour as they look forward to tackling South America in early 2014 with friends Wojczech. It’s a tour that will force Colosser to double shift by playing bass and singing for both bands.
“Andy has been playing with Wojczech and WMS for over a decade now and we always played shows and tours together,” Hazy said.  “He is used to do[ing] this although it is always a tough job, especially doing vocals twice a show. I will train that bastard up so he will be in shape for the Brazil attack.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

G&P Review: Limbs Bin

Limbs Bin
Summertime Blues
Grindcore Karaoke

Limbs Bin make only one mistake on Summertime Blues, but it’s a bit akin to booking your kids for a relaxing August getaway at Camp Crystal Lake. I have a congenital hole in my soul that can only be filled by insane drum machine grind, but the gaps between songs on Summertime Blues are just fucking massive. Just as I’m getting into a song like the excellent “Le Samourai” (somebody has impeccable taste in French gangster films), I slam into the brick wall of silence. I'm waiting four or five seconds for the next hammer to fall. Summertime Blues is only 11 minutes but the lag makes it feel twice as long sometimes.
But I do my best to overlook that because Limbs Bin make very choice drum machine-driven grind madness. It’s somewhere between the earliest Gigantic Brain material and Agoraphobic Nosebleed at their most cybernetically aggressive. The individual songs are fantastic and the drum machine is one of the best sounding I’ve ever heard. The drums just slam into your chest with a palpable force. At its best Limbs Bin just about leaves you gasping for breath from concussive force.
But grind is an apex predator that has to constantly keep moving in search of prey. Lag is its only known rival. If Limbs Bin could go back and retroactively excise the between song gaps on Summertime Blues, they would have a near flawless record on their hands. While my short attention span usually can’t handle a few seconds between songs, the individual tunes Limbs Bin have wired together from broken machinery and volcanic bile are strong enough on an individual basis that I still keep coming back for more.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Good Reads: Eat the Worm

The book: Dune by Frank Herbert

For all its accolades, Dune, in my opinion, epitomizes the difference between writing and storytelling. Frank Herbert thought up an amazing story, fascinating characters and a brilliantly detailed world. Unfortunately, the he was really deficient when it comes to the mechanics of writing. The point of view leaps from person to person every other paragraph and, given the immensely detailed universe and thick political intrigue, characters are left to narrate large blocks of the plot in droning masses of dialogue. That said, who wouldn’t want to ride a fucking sand worm? Solve math problems with a mentat? Or watch a spiced-up Guilt steersman pilot an interstellar freighter? Fear (of terrible writing) is the mindkiller.

A representative passage:
Aloud, he said: “You speak of a place where you cannot enter? This place which the Reverend Mother cannot face, show it to me.”
She shook her head, terrified by the very thought.
“Show it to me!” he commanded.
But she could not escape him. Bludgeoned by the terrible force of him, she closed her eyes and focused inward—the direction-that-is-dark.
Darkness and a wind out of nowhere.

Through it all threaded the realization that her son was the Kwisatz Haderach, the one who could be many places at once. He was the fact out of the Bene Gesserit dream. And the face gave her no peace.

The album: Mourning the Unknown by Sayyadina

Sayyadina take their name from the caste of Fremen priestesses in Dune, so naturally their music is intrinsically linked to the novel in my mind. It doesn’t hurt that the Swedes aren’t afraid to bust out of grindcore’s narrow gore vs. politics lyrical confines and spread their philosophical wings a bit more, opining on life and our place in it. While Mourning the Unknown couches many of its metaphors in the chill of winter and the creak of ice, it’s not too hard a notion to transplant their lyrical isolation to the clean-swept sands of Arrakis.

A representative song: “Stolen Identity.”

Like a lot of messianic literature, Dune struggles with the nature of fate, identity and the weight of people’s expectations and desire to bend power to their own ends. Sayyadina ably wrestle with the same themes on “Stolen Identity,” the excellent lead off track from Mourning the Unknown.

Stolen identity
You took it all from me
Obsessed with violence
Obsessed with hate
Never thinking
Before it’s too late
Now all that I can see
Is revenge, finally
Hatred and violence
Controlling a fat
Never thinking
Before it’s too late
Stolen identity
You took it all from me

Friday, November 8, 2013

High Priests of the Death Church: A Rudimentary Peni Retrospective

Nat informed me that “punk is not fashion, it’s an attitude.” I have heard this somewhere before. I must say I am relieved that both he and Greg take this view and will not be resorting to war-zone dress sense of many punks. Nat gleefully described the “corpse of punk” as having no life in it whatsoever, and it was this decayed grandeur of a fallen subculture which had so attracted him.
Nick Blinko
The Primal Screamer

Rudimentary Peni did not revolutionize punk rock. At least not in the sense that the band boasts a wave of imitators intent on stealing any hint of the English band’s psychologically unstable glamour and passing it off as their own. The trio of guitarist/vocalist/visionary Nick Blinko, bassist Grant Matthews and drummer Jon Greville is just too idiosyncratic and hermetic for such easy imitation and commoditization.
But what the band has accomplished over its 30 year run is unrivaled in the annals of punk. When too many other punks celebrate their semi-centennial birthdays with sad trips around the nostalgic circuit (is there anything more pitifully un-punk than the very existence of such a nostalgia circuit?) or filing lawsuits against former friends, Rudimentary Peni unexpectedly pop back up a couple times a decade to drop yet another immaculate EP’s worth of new material that builds on the morbid visions they first laid out in 1981 without recourse to rehashing their (wilted) salad days.
Unique among the restless waves of politically-minded crust punks that roamed England in the early 1980s, Rudimentary Peni, while certainly political, filtered their diatribes through Blinko’s nightmarish insights and intricate artwork to set themselves well outside the circle of their peers. Rudimentary Peni songs, practically from the very outset, were psychologically rich meditations on death, decay, social oppression and mental upheaval that resonated far beyond the glut of bands who just tried to provoke and shock with cheap frights.