Friday, October 31, 2008

Blast(beat) From the Past: Torture Incident

Hearing Agathocles bassist Tony killed himself and picking up the band’s split with Torture Incident only to find that band has called it quits has made me a tad nostalgic. So I thought periodically I’d pull out a few older albums that I think deserve more attention than they have received. None of them will be groundbreaking (for that see the list top right), granted, but they’ll all be discs I’ve enjoyed that maybe haven’t gotten the right recognition. Also, I might be able to reign in what I spend on new albums before my newly wedded wife realizes just how expensive this hobby is and de-nuts me in my sleep one night.

Torture Incident
The Deadly Efficiency of Napalm
Dark Coliseum Records
Christopher HItchens (when he’s sober) can be one of the most erudite of political commentators, turning an elegant phrase with a Ben Johnson flair and excoriating his enemies with a savage glee. The Brit-naturalized-as-an-American can also be one of the single most frustratingly right wing ideologues in matters of the Middle East. His bloviating in favor of our current Iraqi catastrophuck is maddening, so it was a flash of refreshing intellectual honesty a few months ago, after years of standing up for Bush’s Constitutional over-reaching, particularly on torture, when Hitch strapped himself to a waterboard and spluttered through a session, himself. And guess, what? Turns out it’s torture.
But the guy could have spared both logic and several hundred “enemy combatant” detainees the torture and slapped on the sole solo album from Malaysia’s finest grind export, Torture Incident, seven years ago. Fast forward to track 15, “America’s Hyprocracy on Human Right” [sic], which opens to the sampled sounds of some poor bastard being drowned.
Torture Incident makes no bones about their influences on The Deadly Efficiency of Napalm from the almost namecheck in the album title, Napalm Death-style logo though the From Enslavement to Obliteration style grind contained therein.
Though it’s billed as a full length, Torture Incident gnaw through 19 tracks in about the same time it will take you to watch a Metalocalypse episode, commercials included. The songs themselves rip by in whirlwinds, like tornadoes thrashing around jagged pieces of tetanus-laden metal shards, carried by gusts of sub-Scum production and a fuck all attitude.
Despite forming in 1995, Torture Incident, like their short as fuck songs, just never seemed long for this world. In their wake, they leave a handful of splits, most notably with Agathocles and Embalming Theatre, and The Deadly Efficiency of Napalm, a stinging microgrind guerilla shout out from South East Asia that adapts what Birmingham birthed, aiming it at a corrupt political establishment in a corner of the world where economic, religious and political autonomy are genuinely in jeopardy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

G&P review: Cerebral Turbulency

Cerebral Turbulency
Segregace K Nule
If the tumbling dominoes on the cover don’t properly evoke a sense of finality, Cerebral Turbulency slapped a tombstone on the inside artwork of what will be their final album to help get the point across.
After six albums and a decade and a half, these hip Czech mates (for all you hockey and chess fans) have imploded amid their trademark mass of blorps, bloops, bleeps and other electronic detritus. For years they have effortlessly navigated the kind of eclectic electronic digressions that sound so forced and fake in Antigama, which makes it all that much more of a fucking shame they’re calling it a career.
Though that trademark open-mindedness is still C.T.’s M.O., the band has streamlined its assault a tad, going out with a grin and a grind. While prior disc, Crash Test, sounded like industrial Norwegian misanthropes Red Harvest gone grind, Segregace largely lays aside their martial, industrial overtones for a far more *gasp* fun vibe. Daring to crack a smile amid the sea of oh-so-serious metalheads in their blackest of black shirts may be Cerebral Turbulency’s finest trick to date.
“!Dobry? Den!” charges out of the gate sounding like Dino minus a few mandatory distemper shots while “Love Zonk” sizzles and skitters like a pat of butter on a hot griddle.
While a lot of bands, I’m thinking Agoraphobic Nosebleed particularly, have successfully used electronic flourishes as window dressing over a foundation of traditional grind, few have so successfully incorporated stuttering samples and fried FX boxes into the fundamentals of their songwriting quite as insouciantly as these Czechs, and we’re all the poorer for their loss.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

G&P review: Rotten Sound

Rotten Sound
Europeans have been bogarting this beast of a release for most of the year, and I wish somebody would have tipped me off sooner because this indiscriminate murder machine is damn well worth shelling out extra for the import. Finally Spinefarm has seen fit to make this available at a reasonable price to cash strapped North Americans ride out the economic downturn.
Good thing, too, because, simply put, this is Rotten Sound at an unrivaled career peak both sonically and in terms of songwriting.
Shedding the focused restraint that I have generally associated with European grind, particularly from Scandinavia, the Finns’ fifth full length album draws from the barely constrained malevolence of North Americans, say Pig Destroyer, to rip and gut anyone who drunkenly stumbles into their path. This is the wide-eyed, slobbering ferocity Rotten Sound has often hinted at but never quite mastered. It’s the sound of veterans who are completely in control of their music and playing with the kind of unity you only see in Stanley Cup champions.
Though a blistering half an hour hit and run spree, Rotten Sound effortless channel the American Psycho-style office shotgun rampage that bands like Leng T’che have hinted at artistically but never quite reproduced sonically.
Mika Aalto’s guitar work – even at blastbeat tempos – is burly enough to anchor the rumbliest NOLA sludge band, fitting given the swamp crawl that kicks off album opener “The Effects” and provides a brief bit of respite between verses of “Colonies.”
Rotten Sound even bring the guitar shred courtesy of guest six stringer Juhu Yii-Koski who highlights a trio of tunes with the nimble fret dancing of “Blind” being a clear standout.
After an effort his masterful, Rotten Sound may need to consider a name change because this is grindcore euphony.

Shane Embury Breaks Napalm Deathlike Silence to Fangoria

First, you have absolutely no clue how long I've waited for the right opportunity to break out ^that^ atrocious pun. Second, gorehound bible Fangoria gets ultimate grind scenester Embo to open up about the new N.D. album Time Waits for No Slave (recording done!), the latest with Brujeria and his upcoming metal project, Absolute Power, featuring Tim Owens, Yngwie Malmsteen and members of Paradise Lost. Complete with audio goodness. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

G&P review: Agathocles/Torture Incident

Agathocles/Torture Incident
Blastworks Records
A-ha! So this is where the empty Folgers can Lars Ulrich abused in lieu of a snare drum on St. Anger ended up. What sounds like absolute shit on an album that sucked millions of dollars out of the national GDP is perfectly at home anchoring the wonderfully awful production values of this grind twosome’s split.
I decide to snag this album, released way back in January, after learning Agathocles bass player Tony killed himself only to be further depressed to learn the underrated Torture Incident has likely called it a day as well (their MySpace page lists them as R.I.P. and they didn’t respond to my messages looking to confirm that). So there’s a real pall hanging over this meeting of Belgium’s leading blast squad and Malaysia’s fiercest grind dissidents that has nothing to do with the music contained herein.
If you love Agathocles, here’s more of the same. The Belgians have been banging out a delightful racket of straight ahead, crusty as fuck grind for the better part of a quarter century and band fixture Jan Frederickx is not about to tinker with his blue ribbon recipe. Drums blast, guitars scrape incoherently through the demo-quality mix and the modern world’s ills get a stern talking to, Cookie Monster style.
Aside from the slightly better production values (and slight being a relative measure, here), you’d be forgiven if you failed to catch the transition from Agathocles’ 14 lead off tunes to Torture Incident’s closing 12 tracks, which were actually recorded in 2006.
Sounding like Agathocles, Assuck, Anal Cunt and a whole slew of other prime grind bands that don’t start with the letter A, Dick Cheney’s house musicians unleash more of the ripping old school blast beat barrage that characterized their too brief existence, railing against the political and religious oppression of Malaysia, where Islamic rule is the law of the land.
While the songs’ production sounds a tad bit worse than their mini-album The Deadly Efficiency of Napalm, the songwriting and performance are just as tight, hitting and running in under 90 seconds and never overstaying its welcome.
It’s grind at its basic with no surprises lurking, but if you thought Phobia went off the rails with Cruel’s cleaner production, if you have a lo-fi jones that must be fed or if you just want to memorialize a band and a bass player that stayed true to grindcore’s original promise and premise through two decades of upheaval and stylistic changes, then Agathocles and Torture Incident will not disappoint.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

G&P review: Voetsek

Infernal Command
Vampire zombie thrasher punks art and power fucking violence cover of “Strange Fruit?” Oh hell yeah.
This co-ed kill squad’s second full length (after a host of splits and EPs) slots nicely next to Crom and Battletorn as a reinvigorated crossover band that takes ridiculous music seriously. Hell, buy it for the song titles alone. “W.W.L.D. (What Would Lemmy Do?),” “Blueprint for the Perfect Circle Pit,” “Self Righteous Fuckdom” and “Plagued by the Winds of Conformity” – I dare you not to grin.
More than penning a good line, frontwoman Ami Lawless and her four accessories before the fact breathlessly rip through 17 songs of DRI meets early Metallica at a Capitalist Casualties basement show despite her acquired taste vocals. She tends to remind me of my toddler nephew at his nap time whiniest.
And just in case you needed one more reminder of how much San Francisco’s richest blow since they sobered up and spent time getting in touch with their feelings, album standout “Bully With a Badge” snaps along like “Whiplash” before giving away to an Arabesque bit of Mastodon twin guitar goodness. Even “Five Years in Iraq” lampoons “Master of Puppets” with a slow mo vocal fade out. Unfortunately, when Lawless gets all political, such as the aforementioned “Iraq,” the album gets dragged into the mire of tired cliché that saps the whole outing.
Musically, Voetsek (which is Afrikaans for “get lost” btw) just kill it. Guitarists Ben Reduction and the awesomely monickered Jef Leppard snake between each other’s riffs and runs over Athena Dread’s foot-on-the-monitor bass gallops and Scotty Karate’s (another fucking awesome name) propulsive drumming. But, sweet Thor, those vocals -- that way lies madness.
There are a lot of new jacks out there aping the thrash greats of the ’80s but Voetsek are like the Encino Man of thrash (minus the gratuitous Pauly Shore but just as intentionally retarded), only now getting thawed out after a 20 year deep freeze, cinching up their bullet belts and taking thrash and fastcore to the sweaty, crowded basement where they belong.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Blogaversary and a Bedtime Story

Happy blogaversary to me.
So one year and about a dozen thoughts of quitting later, it’s time to pull aside the curtain and reveal G&P’s s33kr1t, mystical origins. Gather ‘round, kiddies, Uncle Andrew’s gonna tell you a story.
Oddly enough it all starts with my brother, who, despite his H.I.M. tattoo fetish, really ain’t that that bad of a guy. Usually. The thing is, dude, a single father of two, is currently serving his third rotation in the Middle East as we speak (two tours spent in Qatar, the first in Baghdad). Briefly excusing his horrifically bad musical taste (again, H.I.M. tats), while he’s been gone we’ve actually bonded had some fairly interesting convos re: music, insanely violent Asian action films and, natch, the war, which tends to generate some all around mixed feelings in everyone involved.
But what has all this to do with blogging, you ask, impatient as I waste both pixels and your time navel gazing. Like I said, mixed feelings about the war. While I’m a little to the left of Kropotkin, myself, I do tend to find it annoying that my beloved punk and metal tend to be a tad lazy in addressing the complexities of political life in the 21st Century. Instead we’re usually left with stale ’80s sloganeering and lazy, reflexive attacks on the usual suspects: generic politicians, generic bankers, generic businesses and theo old standby, the military, usually with no appreciation for subtly, nuance or just generally taking more than 10 minutes to pen an original thought to anchor generic grind song about how the system sucks No. 12,342,479,987,498,374.
So, knowing there were a couple of guys who actually had combat experience working the grind scene, I hit them up for interviews, thinking I could just shop the story to some webzine for $30 and call it a day. And while just about everyone I approached graciously agreed to do interviews with some no name guy in D.C. without a magazine or even a lousy Blogspot account to his name. Writing the story was a snap; that’s what I do for a living. But after a few months of absolute fucking silence on behalf of every zine editor and web site manager I approached, I got pissed and the blog was born. I had a story I believed in, just nowhere to get it out. So after dashing off a regrettably lame blog name (I’m a huge Dostoyevsky devotee but Notes from Underground was already taken), voila, G&P became unnecessary music blog No. 34,329,238 to grace the intertubes.
Here I am a year later, and once again my brother is working 12 hour shifts six days a week in the desert, facing the possibility of being stop lossed, missing my upcoming wedding, missing Christmas with his kids, possibly missing his son’s fifth birthday, leaving my parents – who should be planning for retirement but instead have been potty training yet again – to watch one of his kids for him.
Given America will be hitting the polls in about two weeks and the frenzy of the final days of election ’08 is all but guaranteed to suck any substance out of our political discourse, I wanted to revisit what metalheads who have served on the front lines in Middle East wars current and past actually had to say about war, music and making the two mix.
I hope to hell I have no reason to post it again next year. Meanwhile, Mr. I-Know-How-to-Win-Wars-But-I-Won’t-Tell-You-How, go fuck yourself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pain in the Ass: Parlamentarisk Sodomi Thinks We’re All the Butt of the Joke

Knowing full well that correlation does not equal causation and all that deductive reasoning shit, I think one man Norwegian grind band Parlamentarisk Sodomi (Papirmollen to his mom) just royally fucked up my 401(k).
Mollen and I have been having a running email convo since he first hit me up about reviewing Parlamentarisk’s debut full length, Har Du Sagt "A" Får Du Si "Nal,” a couple months ago. And turns out, in addition to his quixotic quest to make Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stolentenberg’s life that much kinkier, like –oh – everyone else in the world, he has a rather jaundiced view of America as well. Which means he’s probably cheering our economic downturn as we speak. But let’s let the man himself explain it in his own uniquely verbose way as he spouts off about dumb Americans, deviate sex practices, spoiled Norwegians, banjoes in grind and shitty anarcho-punk bands:
“Yes, that's USAmerica for you - you and your draconian feudal overlords + brainsmashed submissive TV slaves of Republicity. There's absolutely, absolutely no hope for USAmerica - might as well shut down and bury the entire ‘civilization’ immediately, because the potential for total chaos and anarchy is long gone (if it ever existed?). An analogy: For instance, there's no chance in hell - impossible to have a reasonable discussion, not even in a ‘subhuman,’ neanderthal (grunts, stones + clubs) fashion with say the webmaster of They are insane - forget them, fuck them. But take for instance someone, say a grindcore person you meet at a vegan coffee shop who for the very, very first time just used the term ‘gay’ to describe the sub-standard quality of your band, there might be a chance of debate - you win the debate and they regret the idiot choice of words and withdraw their horrible homophobesque comment. This metaphor at work / the next logical step: fuck the USAmerica - and Stoltenberg is full of wank though relatively ‘left,’ so let him die.”
Seriously, this guy does manage to pare his thoughts down to some pretty sweet 90 second bursts of grind. Really. I swear. But given that those 90 seconds are cloaked in Norwegian, I asked Mollen to expound on his lyrical philosophy for those of us who are too lazy to bust out the Google. His response, naturally, was Pynchon-esquely wordy.
“I actually translated all the lyrics for the debut full length, but they didn't fit into the booklet, those fuckers,” he said. “The lyrics deal with the clammy, eager hands who tamper with our freedom, the abused dirtied rags that are the remains of ‘justice;’ ‘Endless’ demands of the resignation of politicians, encouragement of flag burning, total protest, system hate, condemnation of oppression, ignorant brainwashed robots, the reckless fox we set to keep the geese of democracy, how the chase for profit kills and destroys children and the environment, electronic Big Brother 2084 style surveillance through computers, symbolic sexual descriptions of revolutionary orgies, economical collapse + chaos, our leaders' ideological adultery, constructive blasphemy, the whirlwindesque suffering that will take place during armageddon whenever that will be, total hate against nuclear weapons, crushing the lying parliament, anarchist semen, insulting the state church, puking because of politicians, hating patriotism, generally lots of metaphors of how horrid the system stinks - the politician/citizen buggering happens both ways, though it's almost always the guy in the street who gets fucked - well at least until now! And these are just the subjects for the debut album – tons of brand new topics will be discussed on the forthcoming second full length. Plenty of education. People are too brainwashed and ignorant because of the propaganda of the system. I don't really have an agenda for kinkification and perversification of the planet (that would come as a total bonus) – it's mostly a metaphor for how the system has no fucking balls, no spunk, it's all flat out soulless, filthy and full of lies.”
While Norway is known around the world for its active metal scene, it’s made more of a name for itself because of black capes and church burnings than it has for blastbeats and political dissent. Given the country’s reputation for lending material support to just about any artistic endeavor you care to name, it’s odd we’re not hearing more grind out Norway, especially given the phenomenal output of easterly neighbor Sweden.
“Absolutely every other country on earth has massive grind scenes, but it would be pointless here,” Mollen said.” Even if the Norwegian grindcore ‘scene’ was just one single person, (s)he could still get the municipality or hundreds of organizations to pay the necessary funds to set up a gig or festival, buy a guitar or record an album. The less popular the style of music, the easier it is to get subsidies. You can wear offensive shirts anywhere you want without needing ‘grind friends’ to help you avoid getting beat up. In other countries grind people seem to be 100% broke and get their asses kicked constantly, but never ever here. Norway = a spoiled, wealthy, ignorant, arrogant shit nation. Of course a big grindcore scene would come in handy if you need to borrow a guitar pick or a beer, but those things can be found around all kinds of musicians. So what's the fucking use? (Other than making it easy to find local grind idiots to do useless guest vocals on your shitty split 7" with Agathocles? >;) j/k) In Sweden (maybe Finland too?) the school system forces kids to play instruments from [when] they're extremely young, so naturally they have more grind bands there, more bossa nova, more of any genre.”
While grind may not be Norway’s signature sound, Mollen has adopted the isolationist ethic that has been a side effect of that nation’s black metal obsession. Though that was more matter of necessity than choice.
“Getting a full live line up would be cool, but it would have to be anarchy with no leaders + followers type of feudalism – so it would probably be a disaster. Everyone would have to get their say, which would inevitably lead to compromises, with some banjo here and there, hour long soundscapes/pad solos and a pop-punk snare drum,” Mollen said. “Anarchy is god, but for a band it means endless egalitarianism + freedom for each separate individual and the watered-down result is not uncompromising (that's why almost all anarcho-bands really suck!) But yeah, I'd love to do it some day if I find a willing drummer who can match the studio stuff.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Carcass Word of the Day Calendar: Oct. 8, 2008

Now here’s a true gem from Carcass’ magic murder bag, “Pyosisified (Rotten to the Gore)” is a (I think, grammatically incorrect) classic brutally ripped from Reek of Putrefaction. While there may be one too many syllables in the word pyosisified, the song itself is a heart warming tale of posthumous pus formation that for some reason has not become a staple on the funeral circuit. Go figure.

The lingering scirrhus begins to harden
As the insides fall prey to putrefaction
Rotting tissue turns to mush and pulp
As your mind is torn by encephalitis
Your cavities rot with ulcers
Your infected inflammations torn
Your gizzards eaten by incursive decay
You're infernally rotten to the gore...
Juices digested from each pus-swollen pore
Insatiable hunger as I feast on the gore
Nothing gives me greater pleasure
Than a bowlful of chyme
Maggot infested kidneys
Are what I choose every time
The smell of plaguing infection
Is nauseatingly emetic
Prolonged spumescence of stale pus
Stinks like hot, putrid vomit
Your body is indurate
The insides are black as tar
Your innards gnawed by septic hate
Now a mass of empyaema
Your blood is caked
Dried and inconsistent
Your bloody rotten goreIs now vitrescent

Pyosis – n. the formation of pus.
Scirrhus – n. a dense cancer.
Encephalitis – n. an inflammation of the brain.
Chyme – n. semidigested food stored in the small intestine.
Emetic – n. something that causes vomiting.
Spumescent – adj. frothy.
Indurate – v. to make harden.
Empyema – n. a collection of pus in the body.
Vitrescent – adj. having become like glass.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

G&P Review: Jesu (Getting Way Too Literary With My Reviews Week Part 2)

Why Are We Not Perfect?
Talk to anyone who seriously writes for a living and they’ll tell you that penning short fiction is a far different proposition than inscribing a novel. Sure it’s all putting words on paper, but writing short takes a special brand of focus and economy that eludes some long winded novelists. There aren’t many scribes other than David Foster Wallace (RIP) who could ably transition from maximalist to minimalist with any kind of fluency.
Which is why more metal heads should take postmodern scribe Donald Barthelme as the guiding muse of less-is-more thinking. Trained as a journalist – who all worship two gods, Time and Space, because we never get enough of either – Barthelme’s genius lay in penning micro stories, often only paragraphs long, that managed to cram whole universes of detail and character into their brevity.
The same for Justin Broadrick’s Jesu work. While his two full lengths to date have been breathtaking (if a tad overlong) in their expansiveness, it’s in the EP and split format that his brilliance has truly radiated under the pressure to intensely edit his meandering meditations.
While plenty of musicians can pen a good tune, actually creating an extended cohesive listening experience has eluded many. It’s why Neurosis and Pig Destroyer continue to draw me back in to their worlds while I lost interest in Nile about two albums ago. Artists like Rudimentary Peni and Broadrick take it a step further, ruthlessly culling the detritus and issuing 20-minute bursts of transcendence.
While not as radiant in composition or execution as Lifeline or Silver, Why Are We Not Perfect? (is the title some postmodern self-referential in-joke?) is the latest solid if somewhat lacking line on Broadrick’s CV. Three tracks from last year’s split with Eluvium and a pair of forgettable remixes, Perfect is another half hour of druggy drift dominated by endless Vangelis-scoring-Bladerunner keyboard washes over Quaaluded vocal mumblings about life, death and the universe. It’s Broadrick, flying solo, at his most contemplative with almost nary a guitar in sight. This is JKB getting his Sigur Ros on minus the falsetto.
The descending synthed tubular bells sounding riff from “Farewell” could have been swiped from any Cure album during that band’s prime while the (relatively) short instrumental “Blind and Faithless” would have passed unremarked as the intro to any song off of Jesu’s eponymous full length.
While Broaderick is your go to guy for remixing a tune until it’s a droney, contemplative waft of ethereal goodness, remixing songs that are already droney, contemplative wafts of ethereal goodness seems a tad redundant, and the alternate versions of “Farewell” and the title track add little more than a few extra seconds of swirly keyboard to songs already larded with keyboards.
While Why Are We Not Perfect? lacks true standout moments like Silver’s “Star” or Lifeline’s collaboration with Swans diva Jarboe, “Storm Coming On,” even malformed Broadrick still offers plenty of moments to absorb during repeated listens.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

G&P Review: Ghostlimb (Getting Way Too Literary With My Reviews Week Part 1)

Bearing and Distance
Level Plane
On a cross country road trip with a His Hero is Gone soundtrack, California trio Ghostlimb pen a travelogue of angst and understanding through the vacant, stripmalled 21st Century.
The exquisite artwork, a fold out map of California as an island breaking away from America, could easily have graced the cover of Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland, a tome that wrestles with the cultural upheaval that has characterized (some would say lampooned) that state since the 1960s.
Combining Nashville’s finest export’s penchant for tense moods and gloomy melodicism, Ghostlimb tears through 15 tracks of anxious hardcore in just a hair under 19 minutes on their second EP. With that unpretentious palette, Ghostlimb diagnose and treat the modern malaise with minute bursts of furious hardcore sutured together with fleeting, frantic melody. “Seven” unleashes squalling guitar leads while “Document” and “Ruins” reinvigorate the melodies of the underrated I-Spy (I’m getting a strong “Just Between Friends” vibe).
Produced by Graf Orlock’s Jason Schmidt, every searing note and desperate drum beat leaps out of the speakers as soon as laser touches plastic.
Where most hardcore bands’ lyric sheets are afterthoughts only rarely if ever consulted, Bearing and Distance is a well-written and genuinely thoughtful meditation on despair and hope in the face of cultural ennui without wallowing in Poetry 101 fromage and worn out cliché. The unsettling relationship with your own culture (“The Ocean Floor”), acknowledging the debt to artists who have gone before while appropriating their tropes to create something new (“Copywritten”), and the hourly battle against complacency (“Bridge Above the Water”). They may be fairly typical topics for frustrated punks, but Ghostlimb inject new, desperate blood into the discussion, approaching them with a passion and insight sorely lacking in most metal and hardcore.
I am not doing this album justice, I know. Simply put, Bearing and Distance’s cartography of modern America is a must hear and easily one of the best records I’ve found in 2008.