Before we get down to it, though, I want to briefly ruminate on a couple of positive trends I saw this year: the rise of the tidy EP (if you don’t have the material for a full length, don’t waste people’s time with filler) and bands eschewing the traditional label structure to throw their music out to survive on the Darwinian internet.
As always, feel free to call me an idiot, point out gems I may have missed, hash out the order and berate me for bands I foolishly left off.
The veteran Poles’ return to the grind scene after a lengthy hiatus was a welcome surprise in 2010. Nearly a decade older and consequently a step or two slower, Selfhate still bring quality riffs and perfectly poised dynamics in place of setting new land speed records. The band also stand out in an area where grind is usually deficient: emotional weight. The song “Dajesz Zycle/You Give Life,” which tells the true story of a murdered child, is chillingly grounded without giving way to typical metal posturing. Selfhate were a landmark band in the 1990s and they still have a lot to share with a new generation.
Grind Killers was not one of the best albums of the year from a song writing standpoint and it could definitely stand to lose three or four songs to make it a tighter experience, but Unholy Grave’s live in the studio romp had a sense of spontaneity and just plain old fashioned fun that’s missing all too often. Fun? You guys remember that? Amid all the bitchnig and screaming and howling about powers that should be seiged and our extreme response to extreme conditions, it’s nice to occasionally see a band bust out a Ramones cover and just have a good fucking time.
Given the art on pseudonymous Dutch power violence/grind twosome Jesus Crost’s second album, soccer hooliganism is the easy, go-to metaphor for their boisterous brand of blast beaten noise. But I prefer to reference a far more refined, dignified and ultimately understandable sports moment: the 1994 Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver. That’s pretty much what 010 sounds like: rioting punters caught on tape as they blast, huff, puff and chuff their way through blasty-violency tunes that know just when to throw in a tempo change up or an unexpected vocal flourish like the occasional pig squeals. It makes you want to smash a window front and shit talk some cops after your hometown team blows the championship round.
7. Rotten Sound
I almost feel bad for including the six song EP, half of which is Napalm Death covers, but if Napalm is any kind of precursor to Rotten Sound’s impending full length, the Finns have found their footing again. Napalm was a gnarly, snarling, underproduced bit of racket that reminded me of the kind of noise Rotten Sound used to bring back during their Murderworks prime. Though it may be more gimmick than honest expression of Rotten Sound’s own ouvre, Napalm is still a fun listen that sees them reconnecting with what made grind great originally.
Psalm of the Grand Destroyer
That Circle of Dead Children frontman Jon Hovarth is still alive to make albums after contracting a near-fatal infection is enough to make me smile. That Circle of Dead Children recovered from the false step that was Zero Comfort Margin and barged back with the crushing, multifaceted Psalm of the Grand Destroyer is almost more than we all deserve. But there it was, that perfectly pitched blend of blasting snarl, deathly crush and sludgy misanthropy that was just as bleak and hopeless as Hovarth’s lyrical outlook. Given a light production touch courtesy of Scott Hull (thank you for dumping Steve Austin, guys), studio trickery took a back seat to a pack of guys with a handful of crushing songs that were perfectly performed.
Cellgraft got all up in your guts in 2010 with their self released, biologically tinged 11 track album External Habitation. The Floridians channel Assuck attack and visual tropes by way of Jouhou acceleration and refinement for a 21st century brand of science-minded aggression. Intelligent, articulate, fiercely DIY, and most importantly, armed to the bicuspids with a passel of quality songs, Cellgraft are a young band with brilliant future ahead.
They Did this to Me
To call the final Gigantic Brain album “grindcore” would not only be woefully inaccurate but would also trivialize the one man band’s affecting space opera of twisted electronica and drum machine stuttering. Yes, there are still grind elements, but Gigantic Brain has evolved so far beyond ordinary grind since the Mars Attacks/Nintendo-core days of The Invasion Discography. Now the grind elements serve as a substrata to emotionally churning layers of affecting keyboard swaths and plaintive yowling. The paranoia is palpable and the moments of transcendence and even joy are fleeting, making They Did This to Me an emotionally suffocating workout and the perfect capstone to an adventurous outfit.
Surrounded by Human Filth
Canadian crushers Wake got their Carl Sagan worship on with a nail studded grindcore bat on the Surrounded by Human Filth EP. Think of it as the musical equivalent of Nietzsche’s philosophizing with a hammer. Taking all the best, ugliest components from grindcore, death metal and power violence, Wake set their sonic phasers to stun (they could probably lecture on why phasers wouldn’t work according to phsyics). Not overstaying their welcome at a tidy 11 minutes, it’s the perfect grind amuse-bouche (to radically change metaphors) that leaves me craving a full course of their sonic smorgasbord.
Set for Extinction
That client has done been killed good and dead by the Texans on third full length and Relapse debut Set for Extinction. Though it’s not much of an advancement over Cleptocracy, don’t underestimate a band like Kill the Client that does all the small things relentlessly well. Grind is not about singles or standout tracks and Set for Extinction is a ferocious blur of madman howling backed by the tightest – and probably most overlooked – rhythm section working in grind. Everything just clicks into psychotic place like an Ed Gein jigsaw puzzle carved from human flesh.
1. “The reason that people sing songs for other people is because they want to have the power to arouse empathy, to break free of the narrow shell of the self and share their pain and joy with others. This is not an easy thing to do, of course. And so tonight, as a kind of experiment, I want you to experience a simpler, more physical kind of empathy.”
Everyone in the place was hushed now, all eyes fixed on the stage. Amid the silence, the man stared off into space, as if to insert a pause or to reach a state of mental concentration. Then, without a word, he held his left hand over the lighted candle. Little by little, he brought the palm closer and closer to the flame. Someone in the audience made a sound like a sigh or moan. You could see the tip of the flame burning the man’s palm. You could almost hear the sizzle of the flesh. A woman released a hard little scream. Everyone else just watched in frozen horror. The man endured the pain, his face distorted in agony. What the hell was this? Why did he have to do such a stupid, senseless thing? I felt my mouth going dry. After five or six seconds of this, he slowly removed his hand from the flame and set the dish with the candle in it on the floor. Then he clapped his hands together, the right and left palms pressed against each other.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Grind is the ultimate expression of emotion played with every fiber of the player's being straining until it literally tears the people apart who make it. I think this is one of the reason true grind bands can never last. You are literally tearing yourself down and rebuilding yourself everytime you play those songs - practice or live. There's only so much of that you can endure as a creator, challenging yourself to raise the bar every day. Believe me it takes a toll...
Jon Chang in a comment here
Invincible Gate Mind of the Infernal Fire Hell… Or Did You Mean Hawaii Daisuki
Invincible Gate Mind of the Infernal Fire Hell… Or Did You Mean Hawaii Daisuki may be a rounding error short of actual grindcore BPMs, but the thrashtastic alter ego of the almighty GridLink is not some side project goof. The band brought every bit of the passion and urgency you would expect from the grind collective on their second EP. Packing four times the energy of Reign in Blood in half the time, Invincible Gate Mind is an exhausting, exhaustive expression of pure sonic abandon. I said it then and I’ll repeat it here: when Jon fucking Chang is the most improved aspect of an album, you know you’re performing in front of a world-beating collection of musical bad asses. Hayaino Daisuki pretty much shamed everyone else who set a blastbeat to tape or byte in 2010 with four body-rending songs of screaming catharsis.
Now about Orphan…
…and my sexroids…