Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grind in Rewind in 2010: The Top 10 of 2010

Looking back on another year of grind, I’ve got to share Flesh Monolith’s general sense of disappointment. This was a year that lacked a clear, breakout star. Instead, we were treated to a lot of good albums and a whole lotta meh. Keep in mind, though, my discretionary music buying budget took a brutal hit so things like the new Suffering Mind, Bloody Phoenix and even the fucking Wormrot/I Abhor split have eluded me. So I feel a little funny even doing a list since I don’t really feel like I can pull together a list as authoritative as I would prefer. But fuck it. Up front, I’m also gonna cop to padding the list so bring it to a nice round 10 to fulfill some bizarre numerological compulsion I can’t quite explain.

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.

10. Selfhate


Self Released

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.

9. Unholy Grave

Grind Killers


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.

8. Jesus Crost


Bones Brigade

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.

6. Circle of Dead Children

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.

5. Cellgraft

External Habitation

Self Released

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.

4. Gigantic Brain

They Did this to Me

Self Released

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.

3. Wake

Surrounded by Human Filth

Hearing Aids

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.

2. Kill the Client

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.

Haruki Murakami

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

Hayaino Daisuki

Invincible Gate Mind of the Infernal Fire Hell… Or Did You Mean Hawaii Daisuki

Hydra Head

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…

Monday, December 27, 2010

Grind in Rewind 2010: The Kids are Alright

I consciously try not to be that grumpy old dude who’s constantly complaining about how awesome things were when I was a young’un. As far as I’m concerned, musically, things are only getting better. Media fragmentation and the demise of the record label business model have shattered the entertainment landscape, weeding out those doing it for a paycheck and forcing the next generation of the truly dedicated to throw themselves out there and face the consequences. A lot of really cool demos have crossed my laptop this year, forcing me to reconsider my outlook on the pending collapse of all civilization as we know it into a Taylor Swiftian apocalypse of musical suck. The kids are alright as long as they keep banging out music this inventive. Here are five unsigned bands that won me over in 2010.

5. No Gang Colors
This is Your God
This is your god, and he really hates your ass. He insists on torturing you with electronic amalgams of clicking grind and harsh, psychedelic white noise. This is what would have happened if Justin Broadrick didn’t totally abandon grind for industrial post-Napalm Death. Encomiums to weed and power tools seem like a great way to lose a finger, but it’s also a perfect way to spend 11 minutes of your life.

4. Amputee
Two minutes. That’s all it took for New Jersey’s Amputee to cement themselves firmly in my affections. Yes, they sound like Assuck. No, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The fact that I could listen to their four song demo about three times before I finished typing this makes it all the better.

3. Standing on a Floor of Bodies
Teaching Pigs to Sing
Rising from the ashes of Thousandswilldie, one man band Standing on a Floor of Bodies ear rape four minutes of your life with an all bass ’n’ drum machine assault on your higher cortical functions. It’s got all the atmosphere of a suffocating horror film soundscape crammed into seven claustrophobic songs that won’t let go until those tentacled abominations in the basement decide they’re done with you.

2. Robocop
Demo 2009
Part man. Part machine. All power violence. Ryan “Body Hammer/Rational Punk” Page and his Robocop friends set out to torture hardcore with their seven track demo. Every instrument rattles against the others like clashing pots in an earthquake-addled kitchen producing a delightful racket of impassioned, urgent hardcore. And their most recent offerings have only spiraled off into more aggressive, abrasive directions.

1. Satellite Sleep
Satellite Sleep’s three songs of aquatically-tinged Australian hardcore just keep getting better with each listen. For a demo, the band just nailed that perfect somnambulant atmosphere, rising above the rest. This is what Eraserhead’s lady in the radiator sequence would have sounded like if it were filtered through post-millennial hardcore. Everything is hazy and disorienting but wonderfully riveting all at the same time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Punk as Fuck [Merry Fucking Xmas Edition]: SNFU

…And No One Else Wanted to Play
BYO Records

Given that it’s the Christmas season, I just want to address something that has been festering for decades now: fuck all the Whos down in Whoville, the tall and the small. Fuck who hash, fuck roast beast and fuck Cindy Lou Who who was no more than two.
You see, I get pissed each and every year when the Grinch goes soft because those fucking Whos have it coming. They create an ear piercing racket annoying their neighbor three miles away and for some reason he’s the asshole? It’s called a fucking noise ordinance violation. You’re just lucky he only stole your Christmas presents rather than suing those antennae things off the Whos’ heads and foreclosing on the whole fucking town.
So in my shriveled, bitter heart, nothing really speaks to my yuletide malaise like the cover of Canadian skate punks SNFU’s debut record …And No One Else Wanted to Play. Christ, this is such a fucking great album. I can go for months without even thinking about it, but once I put it on, it’s easily a top 20 lifetime favorite kind of album. Not as bratty as the Circle Jerks, not a pointlessly goofy as Angry Samoans, frontman Chi Pig’s sardonic delivery and wry and hysterical lyrics circle pit with the Brothers Belke’s guitarmageddon – the rhythm section rotated almost as often as Naked Aggression’s – to soundtrack a perfectly wasted summer with your skate rat friends. The songs have that punk simplicity paired with a just-short-of-doubled-picked thrash crunch that set them apart from their contemporaries. And metal heads may want to give the bass and drum opener of “Seeing Life Through the Bottom of a Bottle” because it may actually be the genesis of Carcass’ oft-copied “Ruptured in Purulence” riff.

SNFU – “Seeing Life Through the Bottom of a Bottle”

But more importantly, SNFU brought a slyly subversive sense of humor on the feminist-minded cafeteria jibe of “She’s Not on the Menu” or mystery meat ode to the “Cannibal Café,” which also highlights Chi Pig’s artful dodger way with the tongue twister lyrics.

SNFU – “Cannibal Café”

Unfortunately, that humor would degrade over time after the band jumped to Epitaph and started churning out less satisfying songs about the celebrity twat of the week (yay, a John Bobbit song. That will be totally topical 15 years later. Oh wait.). But … And No One Else Wanted to Play remains a seminal punk touchstone in my life. This is an album that nails everything punk should be: it’s hilarious, fun and played with a teenage abandon. I’m not generally the kind of person who looks back fondly on the teen years as the best days of my life, but throwing this on is almost enough to put me in what passes for the Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fear of Napalm(isms): Grind Waits for No Slave

Napalm Death shocked the shit outta me during the recent tournament. Out of 32 bands, the venerable British institution placed third – keeping in mind my dictate that the band had to be evaluated based on its current merits and not be allowed to lounge on decades old glories that were sieged by other people’s power. Hell, I thought pitting them against Agathocles in the first round would be a clever little joke to play on a band that has often strayed far from the roots of the style it embodies (in most people’s minds).
We all love Napalm Death in some form or another, right? But I was surprised to find out people love the current version as much as they do because I’m not really sure it's accurate any more to label them a grind band.
So that’s the question I’ve spent the last few months really pondering as I dug back into some of the more awkward annals of the band’s history – like that period after Harmony Corruption but before their post-Earache rejuvenation.
And here’s the thing, post-From Enslavement to Obliteration, Napalm Death has graced us with 11 full length albums of original material. But of those, only three, at least to my thinking, qualify as actual grindcore records: Utopia Banished (which some of you already dispute), Enemy of the Music Business and Order of the Leech. That's only 27 percent.
The rest drift through phases of death metal and crusty grind-lite with varying levels of success. Smear Campaign is probably only of my favorite recent album. Inside the Torn Apart, granted not recorded under the best of circumstances, is a blast beat-free blight on my record collection that I’m perfectly happy to never hear again but can’t bear to throw out. Diatribes used to have a soft spot in my heart, but the poppy production has soured my appreciation for it (instead, I recommend getting their collection of BBC recordings where the band – short Mitch Harris, who had the flu – just destroy songs like “Greed Killing”). Fear, Emptiness Despair and Words From the Exit Wound (aka the screaming face albums) are, respectively, short on blast beats or given to really unnecessary experimentation. Seriously, I can live a pretty contented life without Barney trying his tonsils at clean vocals ever again.
Shane Embury has credited Nasum with kicking the band in the ass and setting them back on the path of true grind with the Spitfire duo of Enemy of the Music Business and Order of the Leech, but while the former was a joyous return to adrenaline and aggression, the latter fell a bit flat, like a carbon copy of a better record. It just lacked some spunk and spark.
That spark was short lived because the band’s trio of albums for Century Media has seen it drifting into another experimental phase, mixing Amebix crust with Voivod thrash with scattershot results; again, Smear Campaign kicks ass, but the Code is Red … Long Live the Code seemed like Fear, Emptiness, Despair v. 2 and Time Waits for No Slave was nearly a damn hour long and could use the ministrations of a ruthless editor.
I’ve been kicking this around for quite a few months now, and I’m not sure I can really come to a conclusion. Napalm Death seems at once to be a band that is both something more and something less than you can sum up by labeling it grindcore. Unable to work this one out for myself, I toss the question out to you: Is Napalm Death still a grindcore band? A lot of you and a lot of folks over at Cosmo's digs seem to think so.

Monday, December 20, 2010

G&P Review: Kill the Client

Kill the Client
Set for Extinction


“Life is pain, life is fear, and man is unhappy[,” Kirillov said “]Everthing is now pain and fear. Man loves life now because he loves fear and pain. That’s how it’s been. Life is given in return for pain and fear now, and that’s the whole deception. But man is still not really man. There will come a new man, happy and proud. He who doesn’t care whether he lives or dies – he’ll be the new man. He who conquers pain and fear – will become God. And then the old God will no longer exist. […] God is the pain of the fear of death. He who conquers pain and fear – will become God. Then a new life will dawn; there’ll be a new man; everything will be new… History will be divided into two parts: from gorilla to the destruction of God and from the destruction of God to… […] … to the physical transformation of the earth and man. […] Everyone who wants absolute freedom will have to dare to kill himself. Everyone who dares to kill himself will have discovered the secret of deception. There’s no freedom beyond that; that’s everything – there’s nothing more. He who dares kill himself is God.”

Kill the Client’s post-Escalation of Hostility progress has been a nigh on Buddhist seminar in addition by subtraction. Shedding a second guitarist and their more overt Terrorizer and Brutal Truth influences for something more primal. More instinctual than intellectual, the Texans have hit this state of blissful transcendence since Cleptocracy. At this point I don’t see how the band could even continue as Kill the Client if it were to ever lose one of its component parts.
While Set for Extinction may not sound as crisp as Cleptocracy, there’s no escaping the glowering murk of the guitars or Champ Morgan’s snarling dynamo as he winds up his bandmates to paroxysms of bursting frenetic energy. And James Delgado and Bryan Fajardo are quite simply the tightest rhythm section in grind, mixing fluid bass and concussive drumming.
There’s pretty much no point in talking about any of the 19 individual songs on Set for Extinction because it's a suffocating 30 minute gestalt with each unrelenting blast passage choking out rational thought, leaving only atavistic brain stem impulses to crush and kill. The down tempo moments that stuck out like speed bumps on Escalation of Hostility have been gleaned of their finest moments and sprinkled throughout the album on songs like “Pandemic” as ballast.
I look forward to several years of arguments (with myself, if no one else) about whether Cleptocracy or Set for Extinction is the superior album. I can’t say for sure, but I do know that when “Cull the Herd” crashes the album to a close on such an abrupt note I’m caught breathless and I have to hit play again.

Grindcore Bracketology: And the Grindy Goes to…

So here were are almost exactly two months after this little party got rolling, and it all comes down to this. After nearly eight weeks and five rounds, you’ve offered your best arguments for which band – RottenLink or Grid Sound – should be crowned king of the world.
Now before a botoxed bimbo escorts our winners on to the stage where they’ll be unceremoniously played off by Repulsion’s “Helga Lost Her Head” if their acceptance speech rambles too long, let’s take a quick review of how we got here.
We started out with 32 bands that I, in my purely arbitrary judgment, thought represented a pretty good cross section of the best the world has to offer. Feel free to disagree. Many of you already have. But based on that, here’s a list of the roadkill to date, ranked by the number of votes they received and the round in which they went down in flames.

32. Total Fucking Destruction

30. Graf Orlock (tie)
30. Captain Clearoff (tie)

25. Splitter (tie)
25. Noisear (tie)
25. Cyness (tie)
25. Crowpath (tie)
25. Agents of Abhorrence (tie)

24. Phobia

19. Unholy Grave (tie)
19. Infanticide (tie)
19. Looking for an Answer (tie)
19. Suffering Mind (tie)
19. The Arson Project (tie)

17. Agathocles (tie)
17. Swarrrm (tie)

16. Magnicide

13. The Kill (tie)
13. Gadget (tie)
13. Blood I Bleed (tie)

11. Attack of the Mad Axeman (tie)
11. Agrund (tie)

9. Brutal Truth (tie)
9. Kill the Client (tie)

6. Pig Destroyer (tie)
6. Nashgul (tie)
6. 324 (tie)

5. Sayyadina
4. Wormrot
3. Napalm Death

So that’s the recap for those of you joining us late.
Using the Oscars as a template, I am now, of course, required to make you suffer as I ramble pointlessly, postponing the one moment you came here for until the very last second.
First off, thanks to Miskatonic who got the ball rolling by asking for advice on modern day grind classics. Using this as a template, you'll pull together a pretty wicked grind collection, dude. Likewise, everyone give Dessicated Veins a round of applause for coming up with the tournament format.

So your 2010 grindcore champion is….

Wait, wait. First give yourself a pat on the back for coming along for what I, honestly, thought would be something of an in-joke for a few regulars. So everyone who’s dropped a comment/made a cogent argument/called me an uniformed asshole/questioned my sexual orientation, thanks for your participation to a greater or lesser degree. For those of you who joined us for the first time, I hope you stick around. I always enjoy hearing different opinions on this funny little critter called grind, even if you’re totally wrong, of course. I can prove it. Using the maths.

And the winner is…

Unholy Grave!!!
That’s right. In a stunning write-in upset, Gamefaced managed to stuff the ballot box when nobody was looking.
OK, I kid, I kid.
I shouldn’t pick on her like that.

So for really real your winner is….

By the way, how long do you think I can keep putting it off like this? How many of you are still reading this shit and how many just skipped my blather and went straight to the announcement? Ingrates.

Alright, I swear on my cat’s life. This time for true. The best band working in grindcore right now in 2010, as voted by you, the loyal G&P minions is:


Well that was pretty anticlimactic, wasn’t it? Eviscerating Rotten Sound with a "Stake Knife" (geddit? geddit?) by a final score of 20-10, GridLink rode the strength of one 11 minute “full length,” a few scattered tracks and our raging nerd hardons for the impending Orphan to Total Victory. So that means new Orphan tracks better be up as promised, Chang or the nerd hordes of the internet will rain down upon you like the arrows of a million level 15 half-elf rangers!
Anyway, once again thanks to everyone who participated. Thanks to the bands that pimped this ridiculous contest like a $2 trick.
This has a been a blast and if anybody has any suggestions for goofy stunts we can all try next, by all means drop a note in the comments.
Thus ends Grindcore Bracketology 2010. Maybe we’ll revisit the concept in a couple years to see how the top 10 holds up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

G&P Review: Guilty as Sin

Guilty as Sin

Self Released

“Do you think,” he said aloud as he painstakingly drove, “that when we die and appear before God on Judgment Day, that our sins will be listed in chronological order or in order of severity, which could be ascending or descending, or alphabetically? Because I don’t want to have God boom out at me when I die at the age of eighty-six, ‘So you’re the little boy who stole the three Coke bottles off the Coca-Cola truck when it was parked in the 7-11 lot back in 1962, and you’ve got a lot of fast talking to do.’” “I think they’re cross-referenced,” Luckman said. “And they just hand you a computer printout that’s the total of a long column that’s been added up already.”
Phillip K. Dick
A Scanner Darkly

The first few listens, Guilty as Sin’s latest album was a tad disappointing. The ’80s grade thrash production seemed to flatten out the largely instrumental trio’s more ambitious and meandering compositions, but the more I spun it, the more it began to fit like a well worn denim jacket covered in patches for MegaForce bands.
III splits its time between old school thrash ragers and more ambitious material that evokes Pelican (with better drumming) in one instance and Voivod the next. The old style production works best on a speed picked romped like “Truth Serum,” but I would prefer a sharper, brighter sound on something like the cosmic loops and whorls of “Planets.” But bands that fund their own albums often have financial choices to make.
I crave that clarity because the trio has really stepped up the songwriting, despite the occasional false step, like adding vocals and lyrics to Led to the Slaughter standout “House Arrest.” Lyrical sampling: “House arrest/House arrest/Got me on motherfucking house arrest,” which sounds like it could be a parody of a really bad ’80s hardcore band. But all of that can be forgiven for the Voivodian grandeur of “Galactic Agent: Pacal Vocan”

Guilty as Sin – “Galactic Agent: Pacal Vocan”

The world music elements that felt grating and misplaced in the last album have also found a comfortable home. Breaking up the noise, the Middle Eastern bump ‘n’ grind of “Before the Flood” sounds like the kind of tune Karl Sanders puts on when the strippers stop by for a private show.
The bulk of the material is strong enough to overcompensate for the occasional lyrical false step and production that may not show off their music to its fullest potential. But bottom line, songwriting wins out every time.

[Full disclosure: the band sent me a review copy.]

Monday, December 13, 2010

Demo-lition Derby: Failure Trace

Failure Trace
Demo 2009
I don’t know if Failure Trace’s limitations are technological or financial, but the Thai band has yet to hand me a consistent sounding demo. The production on their latest batch of tunes is all over the place from the prime time ready “Five Pills Perennially” or “Bangkok International Homeless” to the barely audible live-in-the-rehearsal-dive jams of “Continue or New Game.” It’s maddening because when you can actually hear the music, it’s pretty fucking good. Like I would pay for this good. Failure Trace sound like everything I wish Bangsat would be, a grind band that won’t shy away from a tasty mid-tempo groove. From what I can hear, the band has also tightened up its songwriting since their last demo and the progression makes me drool like Pavlov’s pup over the thought of them scraping together the scratch to fund a decent sounding session. The band has a pending four way split with Magnitizdat, Onanizer and Nervous Impulse so hopefully that will give them the leg up to make that happen. And maybe they can huddle up with Nervous Impulse to discuss their attitudes toward homosexuality. Having a song called “Faggot Regime” only works if being gay is, ya know, a bad thing. Otherwise, this is a band that’s got real breakout potential in the next few years. I’ve zipped their songs for your pleasure and give it a listen for yourself here.

Grindcore Bracketology: There Can Be Only One

OK, Connor MacLeod, fire up the Queen soundtrack because this is it: The very last round where you will hash it out for your favorite grind band working right this very fucking second. For a quick recap of how we reached this momentous decision, you can review the brackets that led us to this juncture here.

So, your final two, survivors of four rounds to date, are GridLink and Rotten Sound.

How did we reach this conclusion?
If Singapore upstarts Wormrot ever decide to put paid to their current venture and strike off in a new direction, maybe they’ll also have accumulated enough goodwill to power 12 minutes of awesome music to date to the precipice of grindcore perfection. But for now, GridLink romped all over them by 17-7.
Rotten Sound finally pulled off the upset I’ve been expecting since round one, sidelining Napalm Death by 14-10 and for that get their shot at the title crown. Will the Finns’ recent return to a rawer sound be enough to tackle living legends again?

Once again, you’ll have until Saturday to make your case for the king of all grind. Given the momentous import of such a decision, evening attire is requested.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reggae-core: Agathocles

This is Not a Threat, It’s a Promise

Agathocles not only groove out to reggae’s lackadaisical lope, but the mincecore institution manages to do it while paying homage to Belgian fastcore unit Ronald Ruck’s anti-Lacoste jam “God Save the Real Green Crocodile” as they slouch along like the Bad Brains on simmer. Jan Frederickx’s accent even sounds vaguely Jamaican as the song drifts from punk romp to reggae slide.

Agathocles – “God Save the Real Green Crocodile”

Unforgiveably comma spliced though it may be, This is Not a Threat, It’s a Promise finds the Flemish institution stretching the proverbial legs a little, limbering up the hamstrings and working out the old anterior cruciate ligament in the name of grind, punk, hardcore, reggae and even some noisy Neurosis clash on the abrading “Motherfucker (Swing That Axe).” It’s all tied together by mainstay Jan Frederickx’s distinctive snarl. For those who prefer their Agathocles more traditional, “Aside” rides a dive bombing whine while “Bits and Chips” could easily be the twin of Grind is Protest’s “Ministry of Arms.” Hey, let’s see you write a bazillion songs without recycling an idea or two.
At this point do you really need another Agathocles record? Probably not, but if you’re in the mood, This is Not a Threat, It’s a Promise is one of the band’s more well rounded collections of music. A quarter century on, the band can still surprise.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reggae-core: Looking for an Answer

Looking for an Answer
Buscando una Respuesta
Bones Brigade
In retrospect, it probably shouldn’t surprise me that grind bands would want to get up, stand up with reggae’s slow boiling grooves. (I, myself, have felt the seductive pull of its loping rhythms.) Differences in acceleration aside, both genres are protest music at heart. Still, there I was gobsmacked when I hit the end of Looking for an Answer’s 2003 EP Buscando una Respuesta, re-released this year by Bones Brigade, and crashed face first into a fullblown reggae freakout in “Crustafari.” And damn it’s good (and not the only instance of reggae grind I’ve heard this year).

Looking for an Answer – “Crustafari”

Things seem primed for a Looking for the Answer grind explosion. Relapse backed their last 7-inch, Bones Brigade re-released this EP (apparently missing one track from the original, though) and Deep Six just dropped a collection of the band’s splits on to one handy CD for easier consumption, making life that much easier for the LFAA completist.
From day one Looking for an Answer rocked bruising, low slung grind pitched with piss and snarl. “Tierra” rumbles and blasts with a punked out opening like classic Napalm Death while “Caminando En La Dirección Equivocada” pogoes a spiked riff that would put a smile on Rob Marton’s face.
While it’s not as composed as Extincion or as rawly ragged as La Caceria, Buscando una Respuesta proves the band knew its shit right out the gate, which is to be expected from a band that’s half of the almighty Denak reunited.

Grindcore Bracketology: The Regional Kings/The Battle for Hemispheric Dominance

I knew Zmaj would eventually break down and chime in. No one can resist my nefarious plotting. It was only a matter of time. Having already reached that crowning achievement, we’re rapidly closing in on the end of the brackets. For something I thought started as a lark and would probably only get five or six votes per round, this has snowballed beyond anything I could have predicted. Here’s what you had to say in the last round.

North America
Given their trans-Pacific composition, it’s probably only fitting that GridLink slaughtered Pig Destroyer by 22-12 as they advance to square off against the best Australasia has to offer. The constant refrain against them has been their lack of material to date, but apparently Amber Grey and a couple of one-off tracks are winners.

Asia and Australia
This was another round where nobody was going to walk away happy because a solid case could be made for either band walking away with the whole contest. The people have spoken and Wormrot edged out 324 by 16-12.

In the battle of the Nasum clones, Finns Rotten Sound squeaked past Swedes Sayyadina by 17-15. So Rotten Sound moves on to make the case for dominating all of Europe.

Continental Europe and the United Kingdom
Nashgul partisans put up a quality fight to the end. The Spaniards kept swinging above their weight division, but faced with the imperial might of Napalm Death, it was a bit like attacking the Death Star with spitballs and rubberbands. Napalm Death blew them out 21-12 as the machine rolls on. Oops, I just violated my own ground rules.

That means now we move on to the hemispheric championship round. It’s North America v. Asia and Europe turning on itself. The revised brackets are available here, and you have until Saturday to make your case.

North America v. Asia
GridLink (2) v. Wormrot (1)
Given Matsubara’s integral contributions to GridLink’s success, you could easily argue the band more properly belonged in the Asian category to begin with, so it’s only fitting to find them here squaring off with Wormrot. If there’s been a consistent knock on both bands throughout the process, it’s that each has a dearth of music to their credit to date. So in a battle of one album wonders, who deserves a shot at the title round?

Rotten Sound (1) v. Napalm Death (1)
I’m willing to bet Napalm Death was probably responsible for most of us really getting into grind (Utopia Banished in 1993 drastically altered the course of my musical life). Keeping in mind we’re talking about Napalm Death’s current incarnation, do they still stand up as the best grind has to offer for all the stylistic and personnel shifts? And how do they stack up against Rotten Sound, a band that embraces the grind ethic Napalm Death (and, yes, Nasum) laid down long since?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

False Flag Attack

I guess I was never what you could call a very orthodox punk. There were plenty of bands that were considered canonical that I just never could get into. Cases in point: though many would have dubbed me straight edge throughout high school and college, I despise Minor Threat (though “Filler” is a damn fine exception) and think Ian MacKaye is a self righteous prick. I also hate the Misfits and take an immediate loathing to the kind of toothless meatheads you see in pretty much every mall Hot Topic sporting that goofy skull logo.
Likewise, Black Flag was a band I struggled with for many years. A lot of it is because the whole Henry Rollins persona irritates the shit outta me for reasons I can’t quite articulate.
I eventually made my peace with Black Flag much later in life, backing my way into the band through the music of those they influenced. But I still thank Damaged is painfully overrated, particularly in light of Greg Ginn’s later masterworks. Ginn is simply the greatest punk to ever sorta tune a guitar and it was hearing his atonal template trickle down through the next few generations that brought me back around to the original.
Here are three bands that radically altered by thinking about Black Flag.

Sick of it All
If anybody can claim Rollins’ caterwaul/catharsis crown, it would be hardcore stalwart Tim Singer. Dude had a band called Family Man, f’fuckssakes, but most of you probably know him as the guy popping forehead veins in Deadguy. Now I loved Deadguy just as much as the next 'banger, but, for me, Kiss it Goodbye was always the most interesting and cathartic of Singer’s bands. And if I’m going to reach for one song by Singer, it’s going to be the titanic drone of “Sick Day,” which has helped me come to appreciate the B-side of My War more as I get older. In fact, I doubt this amazing song would even exist without that polarizing Black Flag album and the sepulchral misery of “Nothing Left Inside.” It defied the “play faster” ethos of the era by daring to get down with the doom. Hell, this was an era when Saint Vitus and Black Flag shared a label, something that still astounds 20 years later.

Fuck Yeah
If any band in recent years has fully embraced Black Flag’s proposition that punk is a process and not a product, it would have to be Canadian audio provocateurs Fucked Up. With a swing like Class of ’77 Brit punk band, Fucked Up also channeled Black Flag’s unique blend of down and dirty punk and elevated aspirations from the transitional Slip it In and Loose Nut albums with a toe tapper like the scorching “The Black Hats.” It sends a shout out to that era when Black Flag was coming out of a crippling lawsuit that essentially sidelined their efforts but gave them the space they needed to nurture a sound that just couldn’t be contained by the strictures of what passed for punk at the time. A song like “Bastard in Love” still had one Doc Marten firmly planted in Los Angeles’ grimy underbelly, but Ginn and (sigh, yes, even) Rollins were beginning to grapple with the expanded possibilities of lyrical narrative and sonic dynamism.

Harmonic Convergence
As I said, Black Flag’s more e/in-volved later albums are far more interesting to me than their early generic punk works, and nobody in hardcore has really pushed the songwriting aspect as much as Kurt Ballou and his co-conspirators in Converge. Converge’s quiet mastermind has fully embraced the notion of abrading traditional song structure with a scouring pad of atonal awesomeness filigreed with amazing single note runs that jolt me into immediate attention. In fact, it was songs like album of the decade contender Jane Doe’s opening “Concubine” that lead me back to late catalogue goodness like In My Head’s title track, which shames all of the Flag’s narrow minded three chord contemporaries for its shifting tempos, textures and trills.

Here’s a quick comp of the songs that lead me back to an appreciation of one of punk’s finest practitioners. Enjoy.
Meanwhile, this is my list of other supposedly classic bands that don’t do shit for me. What classics can’t you stand?

The Beatles
Black Sabbath without Ozzy
Cannibal Corpse
The Exploited
The Germs
Judas Priest
King Diamond
Led Zeppelin
Minor Threat
Morbid Angel
Ozzy’s solo material