Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Demo-lition Derby: Humanity Falls

Humanity Falls
Promo 2009
New York/New Jersey death metal crew Humanity Falls have it 180 degrees wrong on their song “No Room for Ingenuity.” The band brings ingenuity by the bucketsful on two song demo Promo 2009, but for all their technical chops and fret wizardry, all that boundless drive just never seems to ground itself in anything resembling traditional song structure. “No Room for Ingenuity” is all beetling riffs and cacophonous fret slides over ADD drumming. But it feels like a string of unrelated musical passages that never cohere into a genuine listening experience until the awesomely insectile closing riff that’s memorable largely as a call-back to the skittering noise of Discordance Axis’ “Ruin Trajectory.”

Humanity Falls – “No Room for Ingenuity”

Second song “To Have or to Be” hews closer to something like a traditional song structure. Where “No Room for Ingenuity” never took the time to develop any of its myriad musical moments, “To Have or to Be” latches on to a single expression – like its central circular riff but rides it so hard and so long it loses all impact.
This breed of technical metal demands close scrutiny for the fullest appreciation of its legerdemain, but the demo’s rough production turns everything into a featureless blur, which also hampers the overall effect. Humanity Falls are clearly talented musicians, but they could benefit from an honest editor who is willing to trim the fat, letting the choicest moments of their tech-driven songs shine.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blast(beat) from the Past: Slaughter of the Innocents/Endless Demise

Slaughter of the Innocents/Endless Demise
The Awakening/Split

I loved Excruciating Terror. They were a staple of my formative grind listening, and because of that I’m tireless in my advocacy for Jerry Flores’ latest project, Bloody Phoenix, as well. In fact if I could date myself with a hilariously out of touch cultural reference, I’d like to paraphrase the Brendan Fraser/Steve Buscemi/Adam Sandler meathead metal montage Airheads: Jerry Flores could record half an hour of himself farting on a snare drum, and I’d probably buy it just to complete my collection.
But even with that level of slavish devotion, I had a little trouble orienting my head around Endless Demise, the most recent band by Victor Garcia, ExTx’s gravel gargling motor mouth. The Terror just sounded so fricken massive. Even today they’re one of the largest sounding grind bands to ever stomp the terra. So it’s probably more than 15 years of nostalgia that clouded my initial reaction to Endless Demise, who make a glorious racket in their own right. Drummer Sam Ramirez beats his snare, in particular, like it owes him money over the space of three songs and Garcia’s shrill banshee shriek can only be the product of some sort of self-inflicted testicular trauma. String section Vito Tagliente and Fred Gutierrez acquit themselves admirably, but their monochrome wall tends to be obscured by memories of bigger, burlier sounds.
But being the Mirror, Mirror (you can tell cuz I’m the one with the goatee) Mark Antony of grindcore (how is that for pairing two totally unrelated cultural touchstones?), I come to praise this split not to bury it because whatever unfair hang-ups I may have had about Endless Demise, they get sandblasted into oblivion by German marauders Slaughter of the Innocents who nicked more than their name from Repulsion. With double the number of songs as their split-mates and a truly putrid pre-suck Slayer guitar tone, the pseudonymous quartet (Shadow Blade – since departed, Big Ape, Inquisitor 666 and The Bertilizer, complete with portraits that would do Bolt Thrower proud) barely pause to separate the guilty from the innocent before slaughtering everyone present, assuming everyone’s respective deities will recognize their own. Inquisitor 666’s snare hand must be pneumatic to be that tight, that fast and still hit that fucking hard. Low fi, irreverent and scabbed over Slaughter of the Innocents pretty much defines grindcore greatness. This band needs to get out of the split EP backwater and get working on full length now. There are plenty more innocents out there.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A D-Beat Dilemma

Dun dat.
Dun dun dat.
Dun dat.
Dun dun dat.

Punk and metal types have been meditating over that percussive koan for the better part of three decades now without exhausting the zen depths of the deceptively simple drum pattern.
I doubt Discharge could have ever foreseen the staying power of their signature sound 30 years ago when they were banging out crusty punk classics in a squalid London squat. Born of a punk frustration with rampant unemployment with no prospect of a better future under the velvet frocked grip of England’s Iron Lady (the Sex Pistols were not exaggerating when they wailed they had “no future”), Discharge, unlike many of their predecessors and contemporaries, distilled that hard scrabble frustration into 90 second screeds driven by one of the most infectious and propulsive punk beats ever devised.

Discharge – “It’s No TV Sketch”

But here comes my dilemma: for all of Discharge’s range and staying power over the past decades, they were not a band that I ever heard mentioned when I ran with bored, disaffected American suburban punks. In fact, it wasn’t until I got heavily into grindcore that the British progenitors ever got name-checked with any kind of regularity or reverence. For a band that’s been so influential – they spawned their own devoted, vibrant and ongoing cult of soundalikes, ferfuckssake – it’s a troubling lacuna in traditional punk circles.

Anti Cimex – “Victims of a Bombraid”

Perhaps that was just a function of the particular punk circles in which I traveled. (Keeping in mind, of course, we're dealing with a sampling size of n=1.) While we never embarrassed ourselves like some of our forerunners by busting out the Union Jack as a fashion statement, we were heavily into British punk: Sex Pistols, the Clash, Rudimentary Peni, Subhumans, Exploited. But no Discharge.

Doom – “Nazi Die”

I have a deep, deep love for the Dead Kennedys, the first punk band to really capture my imagination and address my desire to engage real-world problems in a direct way rather than the generic sloganeering that characterized so much of punk and thrash at the time. Rivaled only by Rudimentary Peni, Jello and crew are probably still my favorite punk band. Generic claims to “stop war” and “fuck the system” just don’t have the same bite as calling out the perpetrators by name. But for all their influence, you don’t see DK's idiosyncrasies endlessly aped the way you do with Discharge.

Warcry – “White Flag”

I don’t know what it is about Discharge that has so captured our collective imaginations. There’s just something compelling about their simplicity and singlemindedness and it becomes blindingly obvious why they have such a hold over grindcore and the other punky, speed-obsessed fringes of the metal world. But those traits should translate to traditional punks as well.

Venomous Concept – “A Case of the Mondays”

Is my experience an isolated event, a strange confluence of influences and circumstances? Are there punk circles where Discharge are regularly given their due (outside of Scandinavia?)? My experience has been metalheads tend to be more open-minded about punk than the other way around, a strange inversion of where things generally stood during the crossover heyday of the late 1980s. Why does Discharge seem to have greater prominence among the metallic hordes than the punk throngs? Anybody got an answer?

Resistant Culture – “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing”

Friday, March 19, 2010

G&P Review: Guilty as Sin

Guilty as Sin
Led to the Slaughter

Self Released

Massachusetts trio Guilty as Sin bill themselves as “biker/Viking metal,” which appears to be a euphemism for instrumental thrash/proto-death metal with the occasional splash of prog and world music. So yeah, I guess “biker/Viking metal” is a lot shorter.
Though samples periodically stand in for the missing vocals, Guilty as Sin keep the focus squarely on the musical side of the operations and when that focus remains more on the thrash/proto-death aspect, things are adequately gruff and grumbly. “Carnivorous Intent” ably stampedes the gap between the overlapping styles. “Eagle Over Mountain” and “Reptile Agenda” crib from Metal Blade-era Slayer (“Reptile," in particular, nicks notions from “The Final Command”).
Where Guilty as Sin most ably manage to tame and master their influences is on “House Arrest,” a stamping rhino charge drums collide bodily with an opening blower bass and pick slide crescendo that detonates ringing glissades and brute force chug-a-lug. It’s a potent reminder that brute force is always as excellent choice when crafting a song.

Guilty as Sin – “House Arrest”

Where everything goes horribly off the rails, unfortunately, is the Curse of the Final Song. Of that Guilty as Sin are guilty as charged. A full 25 percent of this 32 minute album is consumed by “International Selection,” an interminably meandering faux Middle Eastern bit of annoyance that plunges straight into every bad stereotype you associate with an instrumental metal band, which Guilty as Sin had heretofore deftly hurdled. Everything just gets bogged down under the weight of the chimes, gongs, and electro-music trappings that are really there just to remind you these guys once enrolled in that world music appreciation course. Tell me, what kind of bikers and/or Vikings do you know who get down with a flute?

[Full disclosure: Guilty as Sin kindly provided me with a copy.]

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Body Electric: Grindcore Gets Down With the Sound of White Noise

Like so many other grindcore tales, this begins with Napalm Death.
Specifically, it beings with “Harmony Corruption.” The song not the album. Not appearing on the album of the same name, “Harmony Corruption” is a twitchy, fried mixing board industrial chug with creepy crawly ambience that, let’s be honest, goes nowhere (they got better by Utopia Banished, honest). The closing track of a space-filler EP, most people probably just ignored the early hint of Napalm 3.0’s wider musical vistas and scratched the needle back to hear “Pride Assassin” or “Mass Appeal Madness” one more time. [Ed's note: Richard Johnson helpfully pointed out I got my discography confuzzled. "Harmony Corruption" the song appeared on the Harmony Corruption 12". Oops. The details were wrong but the substance still stands]
But that three minute bit of ambient filler presaged grind’s eventual, inevitable evolution as life got downloaded as ones and zeros and began being lived on a 13-inch screen at your local Starbucks.
You would think grindcore – the ultra-primitive bastard of hardcore punk (there, I said it) with its stubbornly simple aesthetic – would be antipodal to the cerebral, emotionless cyber-shocks of electronic music. I’m just saying I never saw a grind dude proudly sporting a keytar on stage back when I was able to make the round of shows.
But in the pursuit of extremity, the enemy of my enemy is my future collaborator and grindcore has been bedding down in an unholy alliance with electronics, birthing a raving, twitching, jabbering cacodaemon of digital proportions in the process.

I Sing the Body electric;

“Grindcore was supposed to be the end of music right?” Ryan Page, aka Body Hammer, said. “But something about the shift from tonal music to noise caused the music to sound harsher. I think it has a lot to do with how humans interpret spectral complexity.”
Jake Cregger, whose electrogrind business card reads Jesus of Nazareth, found tape loops and FX box abuse were the natural next step for a drummer with boundless musical vision but lacking the requisite skills to accomplish that using more traditional instrumentation. And grindcore’s atavism just made it a natural launch pad for those experiments, he said.
“For me (snob alert!!) grindcore in its primal stages is just human energy being released through whatever instruments are available just like rock n roll, but just a bit farther down the spectrum from AC/DC,” he said. “After a certain point it’s just raw energy and that's where grindcore lies. It's right next to the limits of jazz, and all sorts of music I am probably not even aware of. Once you're dealing with just energy in that way any shift can send it into a whole new direction. So adding electronic elements made sense to me and it took it a step in a new direction for me. It’s all just trying to cultivate or harness that energy in some way, with various tools. Hence, if you take that energy and force it through something else I think you can still make a grind record.”

The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;

Paleomusicologists a century from now looking to document Patient Zero of the electrogrind outbreak need scour no further than Agoraphobic Nosebleed. The hydra-headed, ever shifting Massachusetts by way of Northern Virginia digital devils were among the – if not the – first to fully marry grindcore and electronics on a full time basis, cooking up a murderous stew of redonkulous zillion-bpm songs that barely eclipsed “You Suffer’s” miniscule run time.
“Agoraphobic Nosebleed has gone through lots of changes in the area of its relationship with electronics and drum machines,” drum machine pioneer and ANb fifth columnist Richard Johnson said. “With albums like Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope and Altered States of America, we had lots of noise passages and some ‘blipcore’ songs—I even sang on a blipcore version of ‘Practice What You Preach’ by Testament that may or may not see the light of day—and we still have some noise here and there, like on the split with The Endless Blockade. But the main thing that's changed is how advanced the drum machine work has become. In a way, the drum machine sound used to be industrial, the way it was so cold and unwieldy. But Drumkit From Hell has made things sound so much more natural and must be affecting the songwriting. The complexity of the drum programming has gone into outer space.”
Cole, one of the organic components to the Voltronic armada that is Origami Swan, said the hybrid set up allowed the Canadian collective to craft something “far more intense, absurd, and over the top than we could ever do with a conventional set up.”
“There honestly wasn't a lot of thought to it,” he said. “It sort of just came into being on its own. The band was started as a noise project in nature from the beginning and due to a mutual love of blastbeats, grind was incorporated into that. It seemed natural and logical to us. The sound was also born out of a desire to create an insane musical project that was still musically listenable, rather than straight harsh noise like artists such as Merzbow create, we wanted the music to retain elements of rhythm and listen-ability whilst bordering on noise.”

They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,

Grindcore five fingering power electronics is not a one way street, either. White noise war criminals looking to beef up their – already considerable – extremity credentials are not adverse to pillaging grindcore’s notion of shatter musical strictures.
Winters in Osaka may not blip too many grindcore radars, but the Chicago outfit’s list of collaborators skims the cream of the recent grind and power violence scene, roping in members of Brutal Truth, Exit-13, Spazz, the Endless Blockade and Iron Lung to craft and control their static-swamped noise soup. Turns out grindcore has always been the secret ingredient, said founding member Adam Jennings, who can also be spotted bringing the “New Wave of American Mincecore” (his nomenclature, not mine) in Paucities.
“We just live for music, but personally, I listen to mostly grind and power violence,” Jennings said. “For me, there’s a timeless sort of magic in those records. The sludge and noise and politics of Man is the Bastard, the weirdo tape loops and hidden voices found in GASP records, and the sick hip hop samples and million time changes in No Le$. It never ceases to amaze me. Slap a Ham is by far my favorite label. I even have the logo tattooed on my stomach. The power violence scene has also given me a ‘plug in, don’t be a fucking egotistical rockstar, have fun, but also have something interesting to say and please leave all macho attitudes at the door’ approach.”
Power violence, grind’s still punkier kissing cousin, never had the same antipathy toward transhumant electric augmentation. For all their rejection of the ills of modern society, Man is the Bastard where twiddling the knobs of extremity long before evolving into the white noise monstrosity Bastard Noise.
While it may have taken a decade, that attitude is starting to percolate up through grindcore, and many electrogrind practitioners point to their power violence progenitors as inspiration.
“A lot of the old power violence records with sound clips on them also left a huge impact on me,” Cregger said. “Dystopia used to use sound clips constantly. I think that taught me that the content of the clips really lent themselves to the demeanor for the music as a whole. Some of those songs would do very little for me without the additional samples. I took hefty nods from that example and began to really love the synergy between how non musical samples blended with music. To compare it to something visual, in some way they create interesting negative spaces within the music that really add a tremendous amount of character to an image.”

And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

If you think electrogrind is nothing more than disregarding the safety warnings on a drum machine while running the noise you concocted on your Casio keyboard through your laptop, Page would like to have some polysyllabic words with you. You see, Body Hammer’s Jigoku was meticulously pieced together over a period of three years and the college student brought a sound philosophical and musicological imperative to his music.
“I'm not sure of it's superficial or not, but in many cases indeterminacy has worked it's way into the way I created a track,” he said. "I'll generally set tonal parameters, and I guess in that way I score it, and improvise on a track within those parameters. Usually one track doesn't sound great, but five or six tracks in each channel can build up stochastically to achieve the particular kind of atonal ambiance I want.”
Page cites Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope as one of the pivots that sent him skittering along electrogrind’s circuit patterned maze.
“I've had a chance to talk to Richard Johnson about it recently, and I think he's starting to see how influential that record was. What I tried to do was apply some of that in a darker direction,” Page said.
Grindfather Johnson knows a thing or two about mixing up his grindcore with his electronics as an early pioneer of the drum machine first with Enemy Soil and later Agoraphobic Nosebleed. He’s also keenly aware of the pitfalls that can come when you slide too far into cyberspace and lose that essential human element.
“I think working with a machine, meaning basically a metronome going 120 bpm, helped with my sense of timing a lot, but I still have a hardcore, jangly picking style, so I'm told,” Johnson said. “What's depressing is how technology is removing the human element out of drummers, though. If you trigger your drums—so more than just having complete control in mixing them, you don't have to hit them with any sort of conviction—and clean them up in ProTools, and quantize them, or line them up with a grid so the timing is perfect, then what's the point of playing them in the first place? That's why Mick Harris is one of the best drummers ever, although he'd be the last one to admit it, I guess. He's also so innovative because of his work with mixing up his drumming and drum machines in songs on early Scorn records. That's an interesting way of doing things.”
See? It all goes back to Napalm Death.

Bring the Noise: A Crash Course in Electrogrind

Like a chocolate covered cadmium Witman’s sampler, consume at your own risk. Side effects may include cerebral hemorrhages, pissed off neighbors/roommates/spouses, expanded musical horizons and exorbitant Radio Shack bills as you attempt to recreate the sounds contained with in.
You’ve been warned.

1. Winters in Osaka – “Flowers in the Bodies”
2. Body Hammer – “Digital Direct Drive”
3. The Endless Blockade – “Perfection”
4. Exploding Meth Lab – “Exploding Meth Lab Soup Kitchen”
5. Napalm Death – “Harmony Corruption”
6. Gigantic Brain – “Dehumanize (Ninja Gaiden NES cover)”
7. Origami Swan – “Castigating Leukemia”
8. Jesus of Nazareth – “The Shame of Being a Child Track 11
9. Agoraphobic Nosebleed – “5 Band Genetic Equalizer 2”
10. Man is the Bastard – “Steak Eating Boss”
11. Discordance Axis with Merzbow – “Alzheimer (Live)”

Friday, March 12, 2010

300th Post Crap-taca-ganza!

This is madness. No, this is GRINDCORE!In the last 2.5 years I’ve pooped out 300 posts now. At an average of 300 words per album post, give or take, and with a bunch of longer think pieces and interviews that means I’ve probably sent about 100,000 words skittering off in the digital ether. That’s the size of a fairly respectable paperback. Take a moment to ponder the absurdity of a novel length discussion of grindcore. So in honor of all this ridiculous persiflage, there seemed to be only one sensible way to reflect: with the world’s most retardedly short grindcore compilation.
*Link has been corrected to appropriate zip file*

1. Brutal Truth – “Collateral Damage”
2. Discordance Axis – “Dystopia Pt. 2”
3. Body Hammer – “The Principles and Practices of Nihilism”
4. S.O.B. - "S.O.B."
5. Agoraphobic Nosebleed – “Fuck Your Soccer Jesus”
6. Nasum – “Disforest”
7. Napalm Death – “You Suffer”
8. Rehumanize – “Rough”
9. Retaliation – “Distrust”
10. My Minds Mine – “Why Don’t You Just Fuck Off?”
11. Anal Cunt – “Newest HC Song #2”
12. Gore Beyond Necropsy – “Shitgobbling Hate Generation”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Demo-lition Derby

As the son of an educator and a former substitute teacher, myself, I’ve heard a lot over the years about different theories of learning and education. Some people learn visually; others need to have it explained to them. Me, I’m the type who can’t learn a damn thing until I get my own hands on it. I am your quintessential tactile learner.
All of that is a way too convoluted way of explaining – but not excusing – why it’s taken me so long to get to some of these demos. Six months in a couple cases. I’m just generally not very good at getting to mp3 submissions. Unless something physical is sitting in front of me: outta sight, outta mind. So to all the bands that forwarded their demos months ago, I apologize for taking so long to write about you. Nothing personal; I’m just really bad at getting organized.
So in no particular order:

Origami Swan
Traditional Kaiju Violence
Easily the most composed and big-show worthy of the bunch, Canada’s Origami Swan is what would happen if Gigantic Brain swapped its 1950s saucer film fixation for Japanese men in rubber monster suits and Z-grade exploitation films. Blending raped samples and frizzled electronics with their grindcore, Origami Swan are more ambitious and reach a little further than some of their peers with the degraded Merzbow hums of “Castigating Leukemia” or the Kaiju-grind of “The Return of Battra.”
Origami Swan – “The Return of Battra”

No Gang Colors
This is Your God
Following Justin Broaderick’s industrialized post-Napalm trajectory or at least steeped in the Man is the Bastard canon, duo No Gang Colors blast beat grind back to pure noise with an industrial tinged tenderizer. Sample-swamped and lacerated with black metallic screeches, No Gang Colors’ trebly assault rips through your cortex like a bandsaw crusted in high grade weed resin. Clear standouts are the deep industrial thrum of “Chicago Churches” or the rusty internal combustion rumble of “This Jug Kills Fascists.”
No Gang Colors – “This Jug Kills Fascists”

Corpse Flower Cassette
Corpse Flower’s matte black metal atmosphere lingers like a greasy film long after it’s over. Unfortunately, Anion’s songwriting just doesn’t have the same staying power. The Canadian metallic hardcore band specialize in knuckle dusting, mid-tempo hardcore that’s absolutely drenched in creepified doom and black metal spiderwebs and gloom. It’s just the songs evaporate like midnight mist come dawn once the EP is over. “We Made Our Graves” is notable for a bit of Southern swagger but the remainder, like generic pit fodder “Scum Lord” barely register.
Anion – “We Made Our Graves”

Failure Trace
Two Demos
Thailand’s Failure Trace passed along two different demos and, production-wise, they’re a pretty mixed bag. But when you can hear their racket clearly, it’s just one more indicator that the locus of grindcore vitality is inexorably shifting to Southeast Asia. This is reckless punk-inflected grindcore that hurls itself bodily at you with spittle-frothed vocals gnawing through the noise. The demo featuring “The Song,” “A New Breed of Pig” and “Killed by Making High” provide the best balance of production and attack of the two. While I certainly hold demos to a lesser standard, the second demo is so tinny sounding it’s actually rather grating after a while, even if is only six songs long. But this is a band with a future from a burgeoning region if they can afford some decent studio time.
Failure Trace – “A New Breed of Pig”

Heseai Yasokawa's Empty Orchestra
Songs of an Endless Charade
Gruesome Massachusetts twosome Heseai Yasokawa’s Empty Orchestra bring a mouthful of a name with a sinister grind assault that manages to deftly weave myriad moods and techniques into three short songs. With more of a skronk/tech vibe than your gutter grind types, HYEO smother the intellectually sublime in the deliberately retarded and got tap dancing in a tech-grind minefield as a show stopper. With an impressively cutting production for a demo, Songs of an Endless Charade is well worth seeking out.
Heseai Yasokava’s Empty Orchestra – “Pepper Jack Love Fraggle Rock”

Friday, March 5, 2010

Punk as Fuck: Naked Aggression

Naked Aggression
Gut Wringing Machine


Years before Green Day permanently debased the notion of punk rock for another generation by farting out bloated, self-involved concept albums about thoroughly safe topics such as hating George W. Bush, a tiny Southern California quartet penned a ghetto opera to age, doubt, insecurity and blame that was astonishing for its grace and sweeping in its vision of teen angst amid American suburbia.
Naked Aggression spent most of its early years as Generic Chick Fronted Punk Band Number 2,345,837,629, raving about how The Man and how he wouldn’t Hold Them Down (and yes, caps are absolutely essential for that breed of teen bravado). But then came Gut Wringing Machine and guitarist Phil Suchomel’s decision to fully integrate his classical training into his punk. That insight permeated through all elements of the band. Instead of generic declamations about the suckitude of suburban life, school, home and church, Naked Aggression turned inward, penning introspective songs about runaways, suicides, abuse victims and the kind of emotional turmoil that comes as you slowly age out of your adolescent rebellion and into something resembling adulthood. It was that maturity, reluctant it may be, that powered Gut Wringing Machine. Several songs fixate on the notion of living life without regrets before your inevitable death, particularly in “Chasing Dreams” and the title track. French horn, tubular bells and piano add startling sophisticated grace notes to the song “Gut Wringing Machine,” a forlorn ditty built on the tension between growing older and constant teen protestations that you’ll live your life the way you want without ever compromising or settling down.

Naked Aggression – “Gut Wringing Machine”

“Wound Up” is a blazing spitball of incommunicable adolescent rage that can’t identify much less articulate its source of frustration, just knowing it has to lash out at something while “Stay Away” offers a sympathetic portrait of the runaway impulse that neither offers excuses nor minimizes the slights and abuse that land kids on the streets. Against a backdrop of ringing tones and charging verses, “The Prose and Cons of Dying” begins to ask some serious questions about what exactly it means to rebel, something that never would have occurred to the band’s earlier incarnations.
Suchomel , who penned the lyrics and wrote the music, would die within a year of the album’s release and the band, which had boasted a new rhythm section with every new release, decided to add a new guitarist and soldier on, but they had already reached a startling pinnacle they would never likely reach again. Hope they don’t have any regrets.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

G&P Review: Body Hammer

Body Hammer
The Path Less Traveled
A DVD package. Striking blue-tinged art. Exotic fonts. Lyrical themes five-fingered from the cream of bizarre Japanese horror films.
Any of this starting to sound at all familiar?
But the packaging, as with every other aspect of Body Hammer is deceptive. Instead of a Jason Voorhees-style shrine to Jon Chang’s shriveled, severed cocoanut, Body Hammer arc welds one man electro grind experimentation to fx box abuse with the kind of hellbound vocals Alan Dubin hears in his more pants-shitting night terrors. Relevant touchstones would include Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Khanate, Merzbow and the almighty Godflesh
Jigoku, meticulously crafted over three years by student Ryan Page, is an album with a definite entropic direction. It steadily moves from its anchor in electroshocked grindcore to a rootless heat death by smothering, abstract electronics, buried under waves of collapsing sound. Decaying as the tempos slow, percussion erodes leaving only Page’s digital demons to run loose in the crossed circuitry of his burned out id. Balanced on the precipice between the relative grindcore order and white noise chaos, the blast to blaze tune “It’s Not Even Human, Shove it Back in” is the very heart of Jigoku’s synergistic contradictions.

Body Hammer – “It’s Not Even Human, Shove it Back in”

Jigoku is twitchy, convulsive and increasingly paranoid as it builds layer after layer of discomfort. “The Bystander Effect,” “Blue Eyed Assassin” and “The Principles and Practices of Nihilism” (2 second grind filtered through Page’s laptop deconstructor) are all comfortably anchored in grindcore. But that paranoia starts gnawing its way through your psychic defenses early on. “Digital Direct Drive” is a purgatory storm of barely heard croaking always just over your shoulder and malevolent electronic detritus.
For sure this is not going to be album for everyone. However, for someone so young, Page has married both an impressive musical focus to legitimately engrossing artistic conceits to unleash an unsettling foray through the decaying mounds of castoffs that capstone our planned obsolescence society.

[Full disclosure: Body Hammer sent me a review copy.]