Let round one of the great grindcore faceoff begin. Bring on your best arguments. Winners will be announced next week. You can view the full bracket here. Have at it.
Pig Destroyer (1) vs. Phobia (8)
Though my enjoyment of Pig Destroyer has decreased slightly with every album after Prowler in the Yard, I can’t deny they’re still the most beastly and brutal band working in grind. Scott Hull’s riffs and production are consistently huge, a looming mugger crowding you in a dark alley on the wrong side of town at the worst possible time. And that’s before J.R. Hayes’ emotional violence seethes through lyrics about murder, suicide, emotional abuse and love gone horribly wrong. Fantastic drumming and the recent addition of full time electronics artist Blake Harrison only add to the exquisite torture.
Phobia are grindcore lifers. Part of that second wave that took what Napalm Death and Terrorizer had inspired, the tandem of Shane McLachlan and Steve Burda, regardless of supporting cast, have bashed out a consistent brew of no frills punk-inspired grind. Phobia have always given off the vibe of a band that doesn’t give a fuck whether it's playing in front of a club full of a 800 or a basement show with 12 people in the audience. More of a crust punk band in their infancy, Phobia have evolved into more of a traditional grind as they’ve aged, but their spit and fury have remained unchanged.
Asia and Australia
Wormrot (1) vs. Captain Cleanoff (8)
By now you should be fairly familiar with my thoughts on Wormrot: They kick your favorite band’s ass. The Singapore trio doesn’t waste time trying to reinvent the grindcore wheel so much as reinvigorate it with a streamlined, savage take on the sound that crosses straight ahead aggression with thrashtastic riffing and an unhinged energy. If they had never recorded another note beyond Abuse, that would easily stand as the post-millennial equivalent of Horrified, but the band has Earache’s backing now and their next album won’t find them positioned as upstart outsiders but rather as leaders of a new generation of grinders.
Wormrot square off with Captain Cleanoff, the clear people’s choice for this matchup. The long running Aussies dropped their Carcass-mocking first album in 2008 and people are still talking about it today. Mixing up groove with their grind and adding Bill Steer-ish soloing, Captain Cleanoff are staunchly planted in the past. Like Wormrot (but paying homage to different influences) the band doesn’t advance grindcore so much as hit all the right notes very hard and very quickly.
Rotten Sound (1) vs. Infanticide (8)
The Scandinavian bracket could just as easily been the Sweden bracket because that country seems to have a grindcore factory tucked away among its fjords. Except across the eastern border Rotten Sound have planted the flag for Finn-core, a rampaging romp of Nasum-quality blasting that centers around that rarest of avi: actual grindcore songs. Armed with a batch of songs mostly titled with a single word, Rotten Sound are a grinding machine, mechanistically beating out high quality noise with a frequency and quality that’s outright stunning 17 years on.
Paired with Rotten Sound quintessence of grind is Sweden’s Infanticide who lard their blasts with a layer of death metal. Just as comfortable working at lower RPMs as they are with blastbeats, Infanticide are part of a new crop of bands that challenge our notions of what grindcore should be. Infanticide’s music is just as likely to reference Entombed and Bolt Thrower as it is Unseen Terror and Brutal Truth. Grind thrives on self-imposed limitations, but Infanticide don’t so much think outside of the box as pop the lid on it and take a look at what the rest of the world is up to.
Continental Europe and the United Kingdom
Napalm Death (1) vs. Agathocles (8)
You can’t have a conversation about grindcore without Napalm Death’s name popping up. The band, through its various incarnations, has pooped out some of the most essential noise the scene has seen. However, for this discussion, you’re limited to the current Greenway/Embury/Harris/Herrera lineup (discussions of Pintado’s contribution will be allowed). Argumentum ad Scum-um is verboten. With an entirely new cast from their glory days and playing a style that eschews straight noisy punk for a casserole of punk, grind, death, crust and thrash, Napalm Death are still innovators and are at once instantly recognizable.
Just as geriatric, if not always as widely lauded, as Napalm Death, Belgium’s Agathocles are probably better known for their colossal back catalogue than they are for the music that comprises it. Led by pivot Jan Frederickx, since 1985 the band has been banging out a punked out brew of anarchistic grind that’s grown even more jaundiced with age. Like Phobia on the left side of the Atlantic, Agathocles are the kind of band that will play a show or split a 7-inch with anybody, anytime anywhere. And it’s a measure of the band’s esteem that sharing wax with them is still considered a rite of passage for many a young grind band a quarter century later.