Sunday, January 31, 2010

So just to clarify...

... the mixtape I did for Invisible Oranges was "mostly ... garbage" but Earache sees fit to squander its legacy by afflicting us with vapid, nutless atrocities such as this. Which one of us seems to be wallowing in garbage?
I kid, I kid.
Anyway, learn the secret history of how G&P unwittingly played a humble role in Wormrot's well deserved new deal with the venerable, though no longer vital, grindcore label.

Thanks to Atanamar for the heads up. And as he pointed out, the punch line is Earache reps downloaded Abuse from Mediafire to check out the band. Way to respect those copyright laws, guys.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blast(beat) from the Past: Heresy

Heresy’s supporters can be distinguished by five indicators. First, there are those who visit heretics secretly when they are in prison; second, those who lament their capture and have been their intimate friends (it is, in fact, unlikely that one who has spent much time with a heretic remains ignorant of his activity); third, those who declare the heretics have been unjustly condemned, even when their guilt has been proved; fourth, those who look askance and criticize those who persecute heretics and preach against them successfully, and this can be discovered from the eyes, nose, the expression they try to conceal, showing hatred toward those for whom they feel bitterness and love toward those whose misfortune grieves them; the fifth sign, finally, is the fact that they collect the charred bones of burned heretics and make them an object of veneration.

Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose

Face Up to It

In Your Face


The period between high school and college is full of transitions. Way back in the Pleistocene (aka the mid-1990s) I not only transitioned myself the hell out of my parents’ house and into the dorm, but I was also phasing my musical consumption from punk and aggressive thrash to a diet of grindcore, courtesy of a cassette borrowed from a friend (the TDK 90 minute tape being the file sharing of the era) that had Suicidal Tendencies’ first album on one side and something called Utopia Banished by the punk-sounding-named Napalm Death on the other. Having recently had my mind blown by Napalm Death’s back catalogue, I found Heresy's Face Up to It sitting in the $3 vinyl bin at the truly amazing Rebound Records (RIP). Recognizing the name from a plethora of album thank you lists (something I still rely on for musical inspiration) I plopped down a fiver (also finding Possessed’s Beyond the Gates in the $2 cassette section). What I blindly picked up was a landmark grind/punk classic from that era when Drop Dead became Scum (with just a tad of Gate of Doom crossover thrash for lube). This is classic pre-grind. Proto, if you will.
Punk girth and grind acceleration getting up in hardcore’s grill. Right off the top the band blasts and snarls its way through “Consume” while frontman John snarls like a surly, British Keith Morris. The title track is even more traditional hardcore, making those connections back to punk even more explicit, but dominating the album is the sprawling “Flowers in Concrete” flails through punk, proto-grind, spoken word and is that a hint of hip hop bounce in the middle? The intro riff is pure “Jealous Again” worship while much of the song could have been outtakes from an early Napalm Death rehearsal tape.
Art by pastiche luminary/Dead Kennedys collaborator John Yates and a grimy, gritty aesthetic round out one of the less discussed offshoots of the early grind family tree. I understand Boss Tuneage recently scraped some of the scuzz off the mix and reissued Face Up to It, but I can’t imagine why you would bother. It’s a beautifully punk mess just as it is.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ear Worm

Vengeance is Mine got the drop on me on this one, but Wormrot have announced they have signed to Earache. Guitarist Rasyid let that slip a couple months ago when I interviewed him but asked me to keep that off the record until they could make their own announcement. Now the word is out. Aside from a reason to give a fuck about Earache for the first time in about 15 years (my last foray into their recent catalogue didn't end well), this is a well deserved boost for a band that released the single best album of 2009 but was somehow still criminally slept on by too many people. I'm still busy rocking Abuse and they've already got me salivating for album number two.

Blast(beat) from the Past: Beyond Terror Beyond Grace

Beyond Terror Beyond Grace


There seems to have been a flowering the last couple of years of what I think of as the “Maruta sound.” Not because the Floridians were the first to conjure up swampy sludge and power violence assault with their grindcore (Crowpath has them by a few years), but simply because they are the best at it right now. Give Beyond Terror Beyond Grace a better production budget and they can take a run at the crown. Extinction/Salvation suffers from overly thin production and a few questionable songwriting choices, but it’s enough of a cheap buzz to hold you over until your next Maruta fix.
“Ultimatum” draws a line in the sand with midtempo foreshadowings of doom and post-apocalyptic quiet, like Mad Max reflecting on the mohawked, football padded lives he’s taken. While drummer Steve is no slouch at acceleration, Beyond Terror Beyond Grace as a whole are at their peak when they crouch into a power violence crush on “Surveillance,” a potent laxative of Bolt Thrower chug cross bred with Man is the Bastard glower.

Beyond Terror Beyond Grace – “Surveillance”

Not that there aren’t plenty of beautiful blasters to behold; “Defeated” will strip the siding from your house at 100 yards, and “Erosion” is mined with high, grating guitar tones that cut cross-grain against the blast beats.
And then Beyond Terror Beyond Grace have to go and squander all that accumulated goodwill with one of my least favorite quirks of grind bands: the overlong electronic close out song. “022617” is an inexcusably long, insufferably irritating blob of electronic twaddle that’s all the more excruciating for its several false ends. But bitching aside, stop Extinction/Salvation one song short and you’ve got a satisfying listening experience.

Aftertaste Obliteration

Given that I have square-root-of-negative-1 musical talent my advice may count for little, but grind bands of the world please heed me. I ask two things of you: start your album strong and finish it strong. If you snap our neck from track one and leave us with a steel toed groin shot as a close, you’re about 75 percent of the way to writing a near-classic record. But far too often grind bands get pretentious and clever and decide to erase any good will they’ve earned with a record by trying to end with some “arty” closer that’s supposed to prove they have broader musical influences than humble grindcore. This is even more annoying than the “end with our really slow song” cliché. And since your fan base will generally skip it anyway, why don’t you?
If you’ll turn your reference books to the chapter labeled Discordance Axis you’ll learn how to do it properly. The Inalienable Dreamless’ “Castration Rite” has got to be one of the classic opening screeds. No build up, no bullshit; just grind. And yes, while Discordance Axis did give in to the “let’s write a really slow song” impulse with “Leaden Stride to Nowhere,” they were smart enough to make it the penultimate song rather than the closer. If sludge trudge wasn’t to your taste, they made sure the 40 second amuse-bouche “Drowned” ushered you from the table with a smile Mental exercise: imagine if “Leaden Stride to Nowhere” had actually closed the album: would it still be as effective?
So now that we know how to do it right, let’s learn from a few counter-examples.

Beyond Terror Beyond Grace
Just. Don’t.
Please, that’s all I’m asking: just don’t. Beyond Terror Beyond Grace are a talented force for swampy, sludgy grindcore, and they should stick to that. Whoever told them they should dabble in electronic pastiche should be bitten by the multifarious venomous atrocities that infest Australia and then fed to dingoes. With its several fake-out endings “022617” is like the M. Night Shyamalan of songs: convinced it’s far more clever than it really is and just a grating disappointment in general. It’s also my new measuring stick for really horrible endings.
Beyond Terror Beyond Grace – “022617”

Justification of Criminal Behaviour
Bones Brigade
As Holland’s leading purveyors of power violence, F.U.B.A.R. can bring the noise. Somehow they were deceived into thinking they were the next J. Randall and larded the end of Justification of Criminal Behaviour with the empty calorie synth drone beat doom trifle “Fucked Up Beyond 7C.” Here’s a friendly word of advice: If I’m going to skip Man is the Bastard’s more annoying electronic excursions (and oh you better believe I do), then there’s no way in hell I’m gonna sit through five minutes of you fucking around with your Casio keyboard.
F.U.B.A.R. – “Fucked Up Beyond 7C”

Means of Existence
Slap-a-Ham (Reissued by Death Vomit)
Sadly, not even some of my favorite bands and favorite albums are immune from the phenomenon. Phobia have built their much deserved reputation as an unrelenting blastbeat monster gnawing through everything in their path. But for some reason at the end of Means of Existence the band suddenly decided they wanted to be Godflesh. So we’re treated to “Ruined,” an interminable mash of piercing jammed radio skree, inaudible samples that, mercifully, eventually gives way to a serviceable but certainly unnecessary doom song. By then I’ve already lost interest.
Phobia – “Ruined”

Darker Days Ahead
Century Media
This goes beyond merely asking why Darker Days Ahead needs to exist at all. Say what you will about Jesse Pintado’s half baked Terrorizer reunion, the crap sandwich aftertaste I get from this album rests squarely on the shoulders of Pete Sandoval. It’s courtesy of Commando we’re kissed off with a pointless piano and blastbeat amalgam that, though only 2:35, just seems like it will never end. If Sandoval was looking to evoke the interminable boredom of being stuck on a spectral locomotive that will never reach its destination, he’s succeeded. But as one of my favorite literature professors said of Kerouac’s drug-fueled, nonstop writing session for On the Road: Now you have to ask if it was worth the effort.
Terrorizer – “Ghost Train”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Punk as Fuck: The Dicks

Shhhhh. Nobody tell Zmaj because I don’t want him to take this as me capitulating in our argument over whether grindcore is more punk than metal. As you may have heard before, I came to this whole grind thing by way of punk because, let’s face it, grind is the punk of metal. I started buying fewer and fewer punk records as grind became my idée fixe and many of those albums I did have got sold off during the peripatetic phases of my young adult life. However, punk still holds fond memories for me as my first real musical love (one day I’ll tell the story of how I went from Foreigner and Dire Straits to grindcore), fondly remembered like a first kiss. So periodically, I’m going to pull out beloved punk gems to share and reminisce over.

The Dicks
Alternative Tentacles

The Dicks brought the pride of Pansy Division with the confrontational bitch slap of Black Flag, but wrapped through a narrative aesthetic that was more Hedwig than John Waters, courtesy of larger than life frontman Gary Floyd and his blues seared baritone that sounds like gnawed beer cans and gargled cigarette butts belting out street level observations about the most marginalized aspects of society against slashing punk rock battery. Floyd possessed a voice so soulful he could render a hoary punk cliché like “we don’t want no fucking war” refreshing and affecting for its world weary honesty and the genuine sense of despair driving it. He also proved himself to be one of the great punk rock raconteurs when he gay heckled a beer-flinging audience member mid-song during a live version of glory hole anthem “Saturday Night at the Bookstore” without breaking his stride.
While “Dicks Hate the Police” is probably their most famous song – deservedly so and largely due to being covered by Mudhoney, my favorite remains “Shit on Me,” a curb-side queen tale of gay hustlers so awesome Mike Watt of the Minutemen used it as his answering machine tape in the 1980s. Instead of a woe is me jeremiad on the misery of a life spent hooking, the song is a defiant brush back, sex wielded as a weapon in an era when Saint Ronnie of Reagan couldn’t even bring himself to utter “AIDS” for fear of offending the religious whackaloons who propelled him into office.

The Dicks – “Shit on Me

When you talk about the Dicks you also have to acknowledge the divide between the Austin and San Francisco lineups, with the former being more visceral and street scummed while the latter grew more refined and self-consciously arty, building on Floyd’s inherent abilities as a story teller and gutter-level journalist and no song captured that searing insight better than the thoroughly despondent “Sidewalk Begging,” a song that should kick the homeless romanticism out of a legion of spoiled suburban crusty runaways.

The Dicks – “Sidewalk Begging”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

They Write the Songs That Make the Whole World Scream

I found it interesting the conversation about my grind mixtape for Invisible Oranges pretty much followed my own thinking when I sat down to pull that together for Cosmo. The process involved three pretty intense weeks of digging through my closet o’ grind to try to winnow down a list of must hear grind to less than an hour. (Cosmo actually asked me to keep it to 45 minutes and do about 150 words of introduction, both of which I completely failed to achieve because I just get so damn excited about this stuff.) But back to the subject at hand, my hardest problem was picking a single song to represent a band, a nation, an album or a songwriting concept. Unlike my punk or straight metal albums, I never pick up a grind record to hear a specific song. Instead, it’s about the overwhelming gestalt of an unrelenting assault upon the senses. Grindcore is synergistic – its sum is greater than its constituent parts. That means I find grind to be more of an overall listening experience than a collection of thematically or musically related songs. I think that insight pretty much defines the difference between an avid grindcore fan and your run of the mill metalhead. However, while I played familiar albums over and over looking for comp-worthy songs, I was forced to really listen to individual tracks and I was struck by how some grind purveyors are able to rise about the sound’s self-imposed limitations to craft genuinely interesting songs that can easily stand on their own.

Squash Bowels?
Carcass have been famously dismissive of Reek of Putrefaction, their (supposedly) malformed firstborn. The band immediately switched playing styles after birthing gore grind, casually moving on to help found the melodic death metal and death ‘n’ roll sounds. But despite their own disavowals, Reek of Putrefaction, for all its under-produced, deliberately low-brow assault, that all barely masks some of the better song writers the earliest grindcore scene produced. “Fermented Innards” is a slow burn masterpiece that allots a full minute –most songs’ runtimes – to build the anxiety and let Bill Steer’s bonesaw leads scrape through gristle and marrow before being blasted away. Far too often grind songs are from the hit it and quit school that giving a song that kind of breathing room is damn near revolutionary. Did I mention the song is more than 20 years old?
Carcass – “Fermenting Innards”

The Sleep of Angels
Can atheists cannonize saints? My crack research staff is telling me no. Well, fuck them because Mieszko Talarczyk should be the patron saint of grindcore. It’s impossible to discuss the style without his name coming up because he was the single greatest songwriter the genre has ever belched up. Nasum had any number of jaw droppers in their back pockets through the course of four full lengths and a bazillion EPs and comp appearances, but when they when they dropped the speed and dimmed the lights on “The Final Sleep” from masterwork Helvete, that’s when their prowess – and their emotional intensity – staked their own square of grind pavement. I love grind, but one thing it doesn’t really do well is emotion. That is, unless you consider “break shit” an emotion. Again, my research staff is saying no. Killjoys. But listen to “The Final Sleep” and you’ll hear anxiety wrapped in a thin pastry of bravado from an artist who swung the kind of sack to let things like insecurity and self-doubt rise to the fore. The only thing more disappointing than Talarczyk’s tragic death is that his emotional honesty is still such a rarity.
Nasum – “The Final Sleep”

Sheet Metal Sheet Music
Scott Hull pretty much perfected the sensory overload style of grind that most people associate with the style between Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope and the absurdly awesome Altered States of America. While that band was pretty much regarded as a curious novelty until it slowed things down enough for the non-grinding masses on Agorapocalypse, Pig Destroyer has pretty much gotten the respect it so obviously deserves from the get-go. In this case get-go means second album Prowler in the Yard where Hull definitely proved himself one of the greatest metal musicians – notice I didn’t just say grind – ever. OK, so when I said I don’t listen to grind albums for one specific song, I lied. Listening to Prowler in the Yard, for me, is all about that sweet anticipation for “Sheet Metal Girl,” easily my favorite Pig Destroyer song. It kicks it with an Exodus-style thrash gallop that’s abraded by JR Hayes’ scathing, psychotic howl. And all that’s before the shrieking harpy guitar leads scythe through the mix sounding as though they had been punched out of sheet metal by some demonic press.
Pig Destroyer – “Sheet Metal Girl”

Who’s the Master? Shoah Nuff!

While I agree with Zmaj that Magrudergrind aren’t quite strong enough to hold their own against the likes of Kill the Client just yet, the D.C. band’s place on the comp was due to more than my own hometown bias. Magrudergrind made the cut for one reason alone: “Martyrs of the Shoah.” I can’t tell you the last time I heard something as affecting as that ballsy little tune’s mix of grindcore and Yiddish folk music. The juxtaposition of rage and sorrow between those two passages is a bold artistic statement that separates them from their peers. Grindwise, “Martyrs of the Shoah” boasts a slow build opening that ponders the senseless loss of 6 million murdered lives with a brooding power violence soul and stop/start precision. And as the feedback slowly crackles out, rage gets swept away by a cappella folk song sorrow, the only possible response to such an atrocity.
Magrudergrind – “Martyrs of the Shoah”

Freakery on a Leash
Befitting their status as a Repulsion-grade grindcore circus of deliberately low-brow and low-fi intention and execution, Cretin led by mistress Marissa Martinez proudly fly the freak flag for the grotesquerie they set to music. But don’t let the carnival atmosphere blind you to the band’s artistic merits, especially on a song like “Walking a Midget.” These guys (and gal) have put some serious thought into their craft. “Walking a Midget” is a masterpiece of deliberately conservative songwriting. At its core, the song is your basic verse/chorus/solo construction, just scummed up for the grind masses. It’s all driven by an appropriately graven Repulsion meta-thrash riff that gets repurposed and recycled throughout the song. The deftest touch to the deliberately retrograde songsmithy are Col Jones’ half-time cymbals that counterpoint the consistently blasting snare, building tension from the percussion up.
Cretin – “Walking a Midget”

Between Jon Chang’s hellboy shriek and otaku fanboy enthusiasm and Dave Witte’s penchant for playing in pretty much every band that ever existed, Discordance Axis’ Rob Marton occasionally gets lost in the shuffle. Oh sure, we all talk about the degenerative nerve condition that ultimate stopped him from performing, but the guy hardly gets any credit for being one of the finest songwriters to ever set plectrum to string. But don’t he wasn’t a prime mover in making The Inalienable Dreamless the most unfuckwithable grind album ever set to tape. Song after song the guy just bangs out mindblowingly awesome, catchy riffs that marry punk simplicity with a Tin Pan Alley ear for a virulent tune. Go grab the album and put on “The Necropolitan,” one of my favorites songs from an CD filled with a dozen “favorite song evAR!” candidates that could be argued for decades. Marton’s swirling half time guitars swim almost languidly against the rabbit heart blasts and Chang’s pneumatic trap, creating a churning, tense dynamic. It’s a deft touch from a band of musical visionaries whose contributions to grindcore are only belatedly being fully appreciated.
Discordance Axis – “The Necropolitan”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

G&P Review: Infernal Stronghold/Gatt

Infernal Stronghold/Gatt

Bullshit Propaganda
I admittedly don’t know much about black metal, but anybody who wants to drive trucks into churches while raging to ice pelted crust has got to be invited to my next party. After Godless Noise made me feel a little bad about all the shit I’ve talked about black metal, Infernal Stronghold strike back with an even more unhinged cross-section of crusted blackness that sounds like the distilled audio essence of Jack’s fate in The Shining. What’s most interesting about the three new songs is how they dip in and out of various genres, recycling their tropes for Infernal Stronghold’s only nefarious purposes..
The ever so polite “Excuse All the Blood” brilliantly works a pretty traditional hardcore riff until the miles away rasping reverbed vocals and blastbeats kick in. It’s a high protein prime cut of punk goodness that would have people grabbing change in another context. “They Let Their Guard Down” slips ’80s thrash a mickey on a slippery, serpentine mite of guitar noodling I think I remember from an old Sacred Reich album.
And then there’s Indonesia’s Gatt, who work pretty much the same shtick as Infernal Stronghold, only slightly slower and without as much grace. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Gatt, per se, but when you’re the flip side of your style’s apotheosis, you tend to look a tad tinsel in comparison. Unlike Infernal Stronghold, Gatt actually allowed their singer to be in the same time zone during recording so there’s no echo, and in a concession to frail human flesh, they also turned the temperature up in the studio to keep their blood from coagulating in their arteries. But their songs are serviceable bits of blacked crust. The guitars are all snarly and indistinct, the drums are lost somewhere beneath a pond scum of distortion and the vocals are croaky and grim.
While Gatt are still out of their league, anything new from Infernal Stronghold makes this a worthwhile split to snag.

[Full disclosure: BS Propaganda sent me a review copy.]

Friday, January 8, 2010

G&P Review: Suffering Mind/Lycanthropy

Suffering Mind/Lycanthropy
Cycle of Extinction/Too Late to Survive
Bullshit Propaganda
Not to jack Cosmo Lee’s shtick, but Napalm Death’s Scum turns 23 in March and we’re no closer to answering the band’s eternal (though possibly, rhetorical) question: You suffer, but why?
Scoffing at such existentialist piffle, Poland’s Suffering Mind would probably blithely retort that it’s all in your head and then grind all over your face with gutter punk brutality. The band boasts their half of this split was “100% DIY recorded” and it shows. It’s a staticky, near incoherent, beautiful mess. Cycle of Extinction is one of those recordings that’s so low fi and unpolished it’s explosive. Suffering Mind surge off the vinyl with screeching, screaming grind that revs like a dental drill boring into a rotten molar sans anesthesia while Ula rips the plaque out of your ears vocally. There is absolutely no definition to any instrument on this atavistic little treasure, but it all works.
On paper there’s so many ways that Czech grinders Lycanthropy could have gone bad: a cutesy boy/girl band that evokes werewolves easily could have been a steaming slab of indefensible symphonic black metal that would have sent the Twihards swooning. These pitfalls would swooped over Indiana Jones style in favor of knuckledusting grind that, name aside, doesn’t really shift shapes. And that’s still cool.
“Two Sides to a Coin” is a snappy start/stop blast with a drum that sounds like an early machine gun clearing a trench in All Quiet on the Western Front while frontlady Zdisha works up a plausible strep throat excuse for work the next day. The remaining four songs are just as tight. Drummer Ondra is a real star here and the band smartly shoves his metronomic performance to the fore with a snappy, dry snare sound like a krav maga bone strike. Vosuck (guitar) and Supin (bass) are no slouches, but they clearly know their spot, providing seething, scarred foundation for the drums and scathing vocals to land the finer body blows.
Suffering Mind and Lyncanthropy are an inspired pairing, probably the best I’ve heard from Bullshit Propaganda so far. How good is this? I just ordered Suffering Mind’s full length and I’m on the hunt for anything else by Lycanthropy.
[Full disclosure: BS Propaganda sent me a review copy.]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

G&P Review: Bangsat/Archagathus

World of Starvation
Bullshit Propaganda
Being a lazy, self-absorbed American, I’ve come to accept it as a given just how large a chunk of my life is either being outsourced to or imported from the Orient all so I can save an extra 30 cents on beef jerky at 7-Eleven. Living with that reality, somebody please tell me why I’m continually surprised at just how good the grind being pumped out by Southeast Asia has been the last couple of years. Still reeling from Wormrot’s heretofore unacknowledged Manhattan Project, Indonesia also apparently has its own weapons grade grind initiative going on behind the scenes, as evidenced by Bangsat.
More Torture Incident than Wormrot, Bangsat is a testicle crushing if flawed slab of meaty, guttural grindcore that functions best when the band throttles down the speed. The band’s real standout is actually the slower paced “World of Starvation” a visceral, looming monster stomping over the landscape before a brief sprinting finish. Ditto “Gears of Death,” which also features enough punk tempo passages that drummer Yope can concentrate on his patterns and fills. Because when the band goes all out grind, as on “Kingdom of Hypocrisy,” Yope’s drumming fades into a dull featureless blur that pulls the attention away from Toan’s enjoyable, chunky riffs and Agus’ wails. Slow down please.
On the flip side, everyone’s favorite Agathocles tribute band, Archagathus, sound, well, a lot like Agothocles with more upper register screams. The Canadians will ever be accused of being innovators as they mince their way through four songs, but their side of this 7-inch is serviceable and enjoyable. “Land of Filth” features some unexpected tempo changes and it’s hard to quibble with a catchy blastfest like “No Help.” The guttural roar becomes a tad monotonous during long intervals between screams on a song like “Vomiting Idiocy” but that’s far from a fatal flaw.

[Full disclosure: BS Propaganda sent me a review copy.]

Friday, January 1, 2010

Grind in Rewind 2009: The Envelope Please

According to existentialist icon and chain smoking gloomy gus Albert Camus, for modern man “one sentence would suffice.” Supposedly all you need to know is “he fornicated and he read newspapers.” Pretty much any of my un-/under-employed former colleagues will tell you ain’t nobody reading fucking newspapers. However, fornication is still in style. So sub out making lists for newspapers and Camus makes an easy transition into the 21st Century. No matter how arbitrary and purely subjective they may be, we are a list making species. Whatever extra terrestrial anthropologists go sifting through our nuked out debris in a few millennia surely can’t help but notice we feel a need to compulsively rank things, particularly at some arbitrary point in the planet’s annual trip around the sun that we designate as the start of a new year. In that spirit and because I will not be a slave to the cheap numerology of round numbers (or my inability to cut one band off my list), here are my 11 favorite grind albums of 2009.

11. Mumakil
Behold the Failure

The jokes would have written themselves if Behold the Failure had sucked outright. (And you all know I can’t resist an easy joke.) But Mumakil defused that problem by crushing everything in their path. For all the faults I found with Behold the Failure – its desperately in need of some varied songwriting – there was something about Mumakil’s second album I found compelling. It left me wanting more because this Swiss band is just on the cusp of a truly explosive breakout album. While Behold the Failure may be hampered by a same-iness to the songwriting, the unrelenting brutality – one of the most visceral and violent albums released this year – easily hurdled any artistic deficiency.

10. Antigama

I get it now. After years of not understanding why everyone raved about these slantwise Poles, Antigama met me halfway by upping the aggression on fifth album Warning. Their post modern everything but the kitchen sink-core is just as left field as before, but now the band’s wonkishness is tempered by a slavering lunge and spittle-flecked intensity lacking in some of their more prior output. Warning leaves you as drained as if you had just sat for a calculus quiz. The physicists among us could probably pen a treatise on Antigama’s use of inventive drum patters and odd sounding time signatures, but for those of us with a more literary bent, I would say this is grindcore for Pynchon aficionados.

9. Squash Bowels
Grind Virus

In the race to be the fast drum in the West, grindcore practitioners often lose sight of songwriting in the process. With a (relatively) slow is steady wins the race, Polish veterans Squash Bowels thrust themselves more forcefully onto the world stage with Willowtip’s backing and an arsenal tunes that recognize the groove is just as important as the grind. Comparisons to Cretin and Repulsion are obvious and are in no way pejorative. Grind Virus is a virulent, catching collection of absurdist body horror and cretanic grotesquerie. Don’t expect shattered land speed records. Do expect to giggle until you shit yourself. I think that’s the point.

8. Graf Orlock
Destination Time Today

Adagio 830
The John Williamses of grindcore completed the third and final chapter of their twisty time traveler paradox audio action film (if listen to all three chapters in a row – admittedly difficult since volume three is vinyl only for now – pay attention to the stolen lyrical conceits, think about it way too hard – possibly with medicinal aids – a plot does begin to almost emerge) with all the triumphant bombast you expect from a popcorn action flick’s third act. Our heroes load up on weapons (“Run Over by a Truck”) and get righteously pissed (“An Interest in Prosthetics”) before peaceably settling their disputes with the antagonist. I kid. Everyone dies in a hail of bullets. What keeps Graf Orlock from being just another one-trick goof is the fact that the songs are damn good, and Destination Time Today features some of the best and most emotionally resonant sequences in the band’s catalogue.

7. Rehumanize
Resident Apostasy

Open Grave
Christian music is so easy to mock. At least it was until Rehumanize brutalized my ear drums and my soul (if such exists). Rehumanize’s grindcore of mass conversion is just as blunt and unrelenting as their missionary work. For all their self righteous proselytizing (there’s a come to Jeebus diatribe in the liner notes that has to be read to be believed) and intrusive, fat fingered samples of oh so earnest ministers, these guys are keenly aware of what makes grind work and they deftly work it into half an hour of apocalyptic grind. God is coming back, they say, and boy is he pissed.

6. Magrudergrind
Probably the most debated and discussed grind record of 2009, Magrudergrind’s self-titled Willowtip debut may have polarized for its cleaner production and sleeker attack, but taken on its own, the album was a scorcher of stripped back grind and flashes of goofy humor. But there was also a vicious soul to the mayhem as well. “Martyrs of the Shoah” is probably the most affecting piece of grind I’ve ever heard and the band’s sense of outrage at local injustices comes off as sincere and not rehashing of shopworn clichés. This is a band that wants to fight for your right to party and live in decent housing and make a liveable wage. It’s a potent combination driving one of the better performances of 2009.

5. Attack of the Mad Axeman
Scumdogs of the Forest

Scrotum Jus
I don’t know if they’re nihilists, but German grindcore furries Attack of the Mad Axeman bring a Lebowskian sense of the absurd to the genre with second album, Scumdogs of the Forest. Aping the already self-referential Gwar and picking fights with Glen Benton, Axeman don’t gore your sacred cow so much as make sure you’re treating properly, getting it regular vet checkups and making it comfortable while it lives out its days in comfort and you dine on cold tofu. Not the most obvious scheme to win friends and influence people, but their absurdist brand of performance art – complete with risible animal costumes – is damn effective. Oh, and they grind like motherfuckers while they do it.

4. Blood I Bleed
Gods Out of Monsters

You know that scene in A Better Tomorrow where Chow Yun-Fat walks into a room and artistically guns down every motherfucker in sight? Yeah, that’s what Gods Out of Monsters sounds like. Pure shrapnel; nobody gets out alive, and you just might walk away crippled like Mark Gor. Wielding a guitar strung with concertina wire, Shantia is easily one of the top five songwriters working in grind right now. Each track on Gods Out of Monsters, despite its all fast all the time missions statement, is distinct and bears his signature feedback-rodeoing stamp. With a supporting cast that’s just as single-minded, Blood I Bleed are poised to be a thoroughly dominating grindcore fixture for many years to come.

3. Afgrund
Vid Helvetets Grindar

Swedish powerhouse Afgrund kick off their second album predicting that Europe will burn in the future. I’m not here to dispute these digital Nostrodomi or their precognitive abilities. What I do know is that they’ve been setting most of the grind loving globe on fire right here in the present with Vid Helvetets Grindar. Everything they hinted at with Svarta Dagar gets refined, carefully edited and reduced to a lambent core of plasma intensity. While a pair of forays into sludge and stoner swing are, to be charitable … ungood, that’s a minor misstep for a band that’s the grind equivalent of a time traveling, plutonium powered DeLorean. It’s 1.21 gigawatts of blastbeaten goodness. You know you want one.

2. Parlamentarisk Sodomi
De Anarkistiske An(n)aler

625 Thrash
Nobody has been as consistently awesome the last two years as Parlamentarisk Sodomi’s Papirmollen. His one man crusade against Norway’s reigning power structure tripped the fuse on three homemade bricks of C4 to date, sending blastbeaten and dildo-shaped shrapnel flying toward every unprotected orifice. Latest long player De Anarkistiske An(n)aler finds him devising ever more intricate death traps as though he were Jigsaw in a parallel universe where the Saw films didn’t suck. He’s a moral terrorist, Papirmollen, and he wants to his targets to stew over the life choices that may have brought them to this impasse in their lives before he delivers the killing blow (say, in the shape of 11 minute epic “Klaebukranikene (de Anarkistiske An(n)aler)”). While not as visceral as Har Du Sagt "A" Får Du Si "Nal,” De Anarkistiske An(n)aler is a bold – and overwhelmingly successful – statement from a grindcore visionary.

1. Wormrot

Scrotum Jus

Lo! ’tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly –
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
Invisible Woe!

That motley drama – oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes! – it writhes! – with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And the angels sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.

Out – out are the lights – out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
And the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy called “Man,”
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

Edgar Allen Poe
“The Conqueror Worm”

There is absolutely nothing I can add to what Atanamar, 206-Grind and Zmaj (especially Zmaj) have already said so much better. All hail the Conqueror Worm.

Grind in Rewind 2009: As the Worm Turns

The single best grindcore record of 2009 almost never happened because Wormrot were unsure it was a strong enough debut. Let that thought sink in for a minute and weep for every other basement band that ever farted out a dozen songs over a weekend and called it an album.
Abuse was meant to be a 12 songs / less than 15 minutes release, but it felt too short and didn’t really have the punch of a full album after reviewing it ourselves for a few days,” guitarist Rasyid said via email. “It was missing the satisfaction of listening to a complete album in one sitting. At the same time it is a grindcore album so it’s not going to be not too long or short. In fact, we didn’t even want to release it as our debut album in the first place. But we decided to throw everything we've got into this, and with the help of Scrotum Jus Records, which is clearly an awesome label just by looking at its bands roster, we just sat, watched and see if anybody bites. Some listeners got sentimental and were quick to point out and say 'Dude, that sounds like an Iron Maiden riff!' or more commonly 'I’ve heard this riff before, but where...?' It’s nice to see a reaction, even if it’s bad.”
I’ve read probably a good half dozen reviews for Abuse, and through it all, never was heard a discouraging word so Wormrot need not worry about bad press. That’s because a hitherto unknown trio from Singapore just set grindcore on its collective ass by boring down into the sound’s bedrock traditions to extract the gem at its core. Abuse is a charnel ground of ripping traditional grindcore that’s too self contained to bother with the vagaries of fashion or taste.
“Arif grew up from brutal death and grindcore, Fit was into black metal/punk and currently deathcore, and I was into mainstream Relapse/Hydrahead releases, grunge, some grindcore, a little indie and now, the radio with the likes of Paramore and Lady Gaga, and don't you dare think I'm kidding,” Rasyid said.
[Ed’s note: They fucking ripped out a totally believable Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover a la grindcore so I have no doubt he’s a serious as a heart attack.]
“From these diverse backgrounds, we incorporate and play around with the ideas and materials we have. I’m not ashamed to put a Black Sabbath hook riff, nor would Fit second-guess slipping in a screamo drum pattern. It’s about playability and variety under a disguise called grindcore. We're not really punks or metalheads. We're just a bunch of unprofessional musicians playing things we like in the vein of grindcore and it just happens that some people, like you, like our stuff.”
For an album so cohesive and focused, Rasyid said Wormrot did not have a playbook ready when they sat down to write and record Abuse so all the nods to all of grind’s various incarnations were organic outgrows of the band’s various interests.
“We planned nothing. Like you said, it evolved through time. For example; the goregrind element in ‘Fuck... I'm Drunk’ and ‘Fix Your Broken Mind’ didn’t really come in until the second half of the writing process when we're all listening to Jig-Ai's Katana Orgy at that point of time. Or for ‘Scum Infestation’ when Fitri and I were discussing and listening to Slipknot's ‘Heretic Anthem.’ The politics and humor go hand in hand. We didn’t really give a fuck about boring politics in the first place. So we thought we'd poke some fun on politics. or bands which write songs about politics.”
And after ruling 2009, Wormrot have also set their sights on conquering 2010 with a busy slate of split releases and – prepare to squeal like a school girl – a second album.
“We just completed recording for the split with Joe Pesci, which you can listen to a couple of tracks on MySpace. We're in the process of writing materials for the split with I Abhor from the US. After that would be an arduous process of writing for the second album which we're hoping to release at the end of 2010. We're saving up cash for another month long tour to support its release. Money is a killer but we need it.”
All hail the Conqueror Worm.
“We're like one of your typical MySpace success stories you read on teenage magazines. Ha ha!” Rasyid said.