Friday, December 30, 2011

You Grind...But Why?: Rehumanize

Florida duo Rehumanize formed with a simple mission: kick ass for the Lord. Singer/drummer Felipe may have been a grind novice, but he scored a winner with his first crack at it, Resident Apostasy. Weaned on death and black metal, he said grindcore's direct, pugnacious nature freed him up to address his Christian faith in avenues other musical styles foreclosed.

"I was introduced to grindcore in the late '90s," Felipe said. "Since I was a death / black metal fan, I loved its speed, aggressiveness, and brutality. I had already played in death and black metal bands, and thrash, so I started Rehumanize to vary and to be able to express myself differently. I am more of a death metal fan, but grind is awesome, the sonic chaos attracts me, so I wanted to play my own. My death metal lyrics did not allow me to express myself in the way I wanted to express myself with grindcore, and that was also a good release. I'm a retired musician but maybe in the future I can continue with grindcore."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Grind in Rewind 2011: The 20 of '11

Where 2010 was a disappointing wasteland of blandness, 2011 overfloweth with awesome grind. Unfortunately, the attrition rate was also high as we lost Maruta, Defeatist, Ablach and The Endless Blockade. But let's focus on the positive: there was a hell of a lot to smile about in the last 12 months. And that was before my copy of the new Brutal Truth album finally showed up this month after a lengthy detour through the limbo known as "back order."

So let the arguments begin!

20. Total Fucking Destruction
Translation Loss
Take another trip on Rich Hoak et al's grindfreak railroad. Hater's crazy train isn't so much going off the rails as it is forcing everyone to reroute their travel plans. Total Fucking Destruction's bullet train battery meanders further afield than even Brutal Truth. Though Hater is the most straightforward of TFD's experiments, it still tap dances its way through musical minefields most other bands choose to circumnavigate. It's an approach that either means they're going to accomplish the unthinkable or somebody's going home short a leg. Possibly both.

Grindcore Karaoke
Scottish grindcore archeologists Ablach were inextricably tied to their country's storied history. Putting on Dha was like cracking a textbook on warring clans, witch panics and getting blitzed on whiskey. Good wholesome fun, all. Dha, which will be the band's epitaph, was a perfect step forward from flawed first album, Aon. Dha just did everything right, demonstrating the consummate skill that I knew was lurking behind their debut's craptacular production. With the kind of growth they've shown it's a shame they won't get to Tri.

18. Hip Cops
In the Shadow of a Grinding Death
Bullshit Propaganda
There's no one less hip than a cop. Unless your cop revels in classic first wave-style grind that
smooshes together the earliest output of S.O.B. and Napalm Death. Hip Cops are not progressive. They do not have technical chops. Their songs do not advance the grindcore cause or culture a single iota. All they do is thrash the joint any time their 7-inch hits the turntable. This is the kind of unpretentious, perfectly performed grindcore record that keeps the style rooted in its history and constantly vital.

17. Noisear
Subvert the Dominant Paradigm

More so even than GridLink or Wormrot, I'd say Noisear may be the most controversial and debated album of 2011. Some of you instantly latched on to their mixture of Discordance Axis and Human Remains, and it's hard not to be enthralled by their circus grind antics. And then there's "Noiseruption." Some of you can shrug off a 22 minute noise track that sucks up half the album's run time and has zero connection the preceding music. I had a harder time with that, but when Noisear were clicking, Subvert the Dominant Paradigm was still a grisly beast of a bitch.

16. Cloud Rat
Cloud Rat
IFB Records/Grindcore Karaoke
There's something brewing up in Michigan. Cloud Rat and The Oily Menace are picking up and carrying on the fastcore legacy left by xBrainiax and Threatener and turning it into something that straddles the current with the historic in a way the seamlessly blends the twin impulses. Cloud Rat just did everything right on their self-titled record, which boasts 11 songs of adrenaline pressed to wax (or bytes if you go with the download version). Cloud Rat chased their full length with a killer threeway with The Oily Menace and Wolbachia, proving the record was no fluke.

15. Trap Them
Darker Handcraft

Trap Them have pretty firmly established their M.O. at this point: grab bits of every wave of speedy hardcore and metal and chainsaw their way through them all. Not much has changed album to album but Trap Them keep refining their sound each outing, jettisoning what little detritus remains. That impeccable riff to "Evictionaries" remains one of the single best guitar moments of 2011. Darker Handcraft is worth the entry fee for that song alone.

14. Drugs of Faith
Richard Johnson added rock 'n' roll swagger to his grindcore grimace with Drugs of Faith's first full length album, Corroded. It was a moody, personal album that seethes through various shades of gray and washed out brown. Johnson has always been ahead of his peers as the cornerstone of Enemy Soil or Agoraphobic Nosebleed, but with Drugs of Faith he's blazing an even more provocative trail through his own mental landscape. Corroded bravely speaks to the personal and uncomfortable in us all.

13. Keitzer
Descend into Heresy

FDA Rekotz
Descend into Heresy is the sound of your concussed ears ringing as you stagger forth dazed and bloodied from the bomb crater in the aftermath of an unexpected rocket attack. Keitzer only have one gear: implacable. The Germans take the direct route, obstacles be damned, and plow over any bystanders in their wake. Bolstered by heaping helpings of death with their grind, Keitzer are brutal and none too specific about their targets.

12. Defeatist
Tyranny of Decay

Self Released
Facing the extinction they've so long prophesied, Defeatist left it all on the table for final album Tyranny of Decay. Self-described "apocalypse kook" Aaron Nichols howled his way to near-perfection, finally bringing some much needed variety to his throat work. Everything else, Defeatist simply turned up their already impeccable assault, led by the concussive battery of drummer Joel Stallings. Perhaps a touch slower than their past efforts, Tyranny of Decay allowed Defeatist more room to explore and expand. It's the band's most varied and expressive record. It makes for a quality tombstone to a trio of lifers' bloody career.

11. Rotten Sound

Rotten Sound churn out quality albums just about as often as the San Jose Sharks choke in the playoffs. It's such a regular occurrence that sometimes it's easy to take the Finns for granted. Cursed continues their career-long streak of great records, emphasizing their crust punk roots more this outing. Songs get more space to breathe without the compulsion to snap every neck in Helsinki. Instead, plenty of Cursed's best offerings are nod-along headbangers that build to a slow burn climax.

10. Wake

7 Degrees
In their wake: That's where these young Canadians are leaving many of their contemporaries. Following up an EP that was a clear 2010 standout, Wake make their second trip to the year end countdown with their first full length, Leeches. Second time out, Wake are sounding more comfortable in the hobnail boots they use to stomp craniums. Leeches is a wonderfully huge sounding album curated by Scott Hull and he lets the boys root around in his cabinet of grind, death and power violence oddities. There's plenty they seem to have picked up from the foot of the master.

9. Robocop

Grindcore Karaoke
Robocop cooked up the clear winner of the hometown shout out race with power violence piss take "Maine is the Bastard." But the band's cleverness is not limited to lyrical snark. A postmodern, postindustrial, post-power violence romp through a world where the membranes between man and machine are becoming dangerously (intriguingly?) permeable, Robocop are the high priests of J.G. Ballard-core. "Aftermathematics" felt a little clunky and disjointed for my taste, but that's really nitpicking at this point. This is a band that's more on the ball, intelligent and articulate than many of the their better acclaimed predecessors.

8. Cellgraft
Deception Schematic
No Reprieve
Cellgraft are the epitome of the internet band. Their success among the grindcore masses has largely been attributable to glowing blog praise and good old fashioned word of email. Florida's premiere grindcore trio slapped us upside the collective noggin with Deception Schematic, a knotty, snarling 7-inch worth of bile, broken resisters and collapsed civilization debris into songs that (all but on one of which) never crack a minute. I prefer Deception Schematic's grisly guitar tone (some of you were more partial to External Habitation's tinny table saw buzz), but regardless of your preferences, Cellgraft never disappoint.

7. thedowngoing
Untitled EP

Grindcore Karaoke
Not only do those sneaky fucks in Australia claim Christmas and the New Year are mid-summer holidays (seriously?) but they've been plotting grindcore domination while we've been distracted by Foster's beer commercials and old Paul Hogan movies. We were convinced the Aussies are a bunch of smiling, benevolently sloshed blokes right up until the point thedowngoing decided to extrude our souls through our nostrils on the harrowing Untitled EP (recently snagged by Grindcore Karaoke). Mathias Huxley gives the vocal performance of a lifetime, fully committing himself to his finest Linda Blair impersonation. I'll never look at the land of kangaroos and koalas the same way again.

6. Wormrot

By Wormrot standards, Dirge was a safe, slightly flawed record. By every other band's standards, Dirge would have been a career-making album. Hewing a bit too closely to the mold established by 2009 champion Abuse, Dirge found the Singaporean trio reveling in the same cross pollination of Repulsion and Insect Warfare they've claimed as their own patch of grindcore terra. Rasyid and Fitri have reached a level of musical simpatico you'd expect only from performers who have been playing together for decades and the shared joy of their performance elevates Dirge from its humble ambitions. I fully expect Wormrot to take another run at the top spot with their next album.

5. Dephosphorus

7 Degrees
Nothing prepared for me for the journey Greek grindonauts Dephosphorus had planned with debut mini-album Axiom. Nothing excites me more than to stumble across a never before heard of band that totally kicks my ass, and I'm still walking around with a bruised rump courtesy of Dephosphorus several months later. Easily the biggest surprise of the year, Axiom is also one of the best albums. It stitches together grind, crust, atmosphere and bits of black metal's obsession with things unworldly; Axiom is one of the most compelling records I heard in 2011. The 12-inch gatefold put out by 7 Degrees is also ABSOLUTELY STUNNING and the best packaging to be found this year. Dephosphorus started the year as unknowns but they close it out with upcoming full length Night Sky Transform lodged at the top of my most anticipated list.

Space Grind

Parlamentarisk Sodomi was one of my favorite bands to emerge in the last several years, churning out ass kicking albums almost effortlessly year after year. Then solo, misanthropic grindmonger Papirmollen crossed up Parlamentarisk with Parliament-Funkadelic and blasted off into the cosmos to sodomize Uranus. Piloting a neon-pink Super Star Destroyer named PSUDOKU, Mollen added weird keyboards, odd noises and space special effects to his already prodigious grind arsenal. This was the only album released all year that can compete with Orphan on a purely adrenaline basis. This atomic dog has learned some new tricks.

3. Maruta
Forward Into Regression

Forward into Regression was the most grisly sounding album afflicted upon the grindily minded in 2011. Maruta's (sadly/frustratingly/disappointingly) final album gnawed at your femur and sucked out the marrow inside. Hopscotching between grind and power violence is a pretty standard trick in most bands' bags these days, but nobody mixed them with the flair of Maruta. That snarling, nasty guitar tone is instantly recognizable as a serial killer's trademark flourish. It's a shame to see a band as promising as Maruta, still on the upward swing of their young careers, implode, but they left behind two excellent albums, especially Forward into Regression.

2. Looking for an Answer
Eterno Treblinka

There is nothing flashy about Eterno Treblinka, but Looking for an Answer very quietly and skillfully turned in a flawless grindcore record. Every song is catchy and perfectly crafted. Every riff, fill and Sylvester the Cat gone grind scream serves to advance the whole. There is not a superfluous second to be found. Looking for an Answer's ideology is just as uncompromising as their music; religion, politics and carnivores all go under their knife over the course of 17 bright line political statements. Spanish grind is one of the most exciting European scenes going right now and Looking for an Answer just proved they're at the head of that pack.

1. GridLink

Hydra Head
Helen Keller could see this coming. I think I've made my feelings about Orphan fairly clear. We all know where we are on this album, so rather than rehash past debates, I'm simply going to shamelessly quote something fellow Chang fanboi Da5e of Cepahalochromoscope fame once told me:
I'd go so far as to say it's grindcore 3.0... Napalm Death's early stuff was the initial release (their Crass soundalike demos being an alpha), TID was grindcore 2.0, Amber Gray was a beta release and Orphan is a new beast, fully HTML5 compliant, demonstrating that the genre has stagnated and needs to evolve and move forward. I'd stick my neck out and say Matsubara is the greatest songwriter working in extreme music.
I find it hard to disagree with any of that. How many other grind bands can claim their music was used to violate the UN Convention Against Torture in an episode of Homeland?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Grind in Rewind 2011: The 11 Demos of '11

If this year's crop of demos are any indication, we're going to have several good years of grind before us. 2011 was chockablock with scrappy youngsters who respect their elders but aren't afraid to muscle their way to the front of the line. Especially this year's number one demo. I'd say a good four or five of these young bands could break out in the next few years. If so, the future is extremely bright.

11. Shangkuan Lingfeng
Scrappy Indonesians Shangkuan Lingfeng bulldoze their way into the last spot on the best-of list by enthusiasm and will alone. Their three song live-in-a-rehearsal-room demo may have lacked niceties (like intelligible instruments), but the band powers through with a pomp and bite that redeem the whole package. Fans of gut-level grind that gets by on energy and doesn't get hung up on the technical details need look no further.

10. Detroit
Detroit were readying a split with Robocop when their demo landed in my inbox and the Canadian band in many ways comes off as Robocop Jr., minus all the audio experimentation. What that leaves is an updated assault on '90s fast hardcore's foundations. Names like Infest, Crossed Out and Capitalist Casualties should come up in any conversation about their demo.

9. Spewtilator
Get Conjured
Spewtilator just might have penned some of the stupidest songs I've ever heard as part of their old style crashin' thrashin' Get Conjured. And deity of their choice bless them for that. It's a needed reminded that sometimes we take ourselves way too damn seriously. Some days you need to drop your worries and run around your living room pitting to songs about NES games and zombie bears.

8. Gripe
The Future Doesn't Need You
Gripe have got their grinding down, now they just need to add a few extra shelves to the workbench. The songs on The Future Doesn't Need You are uniformly strong but lack a bit of variety. However, this demo (later picked up by Grindcore Karaoke) is piquant enough that I've marked Gripe down as a band to watch. These guys have plenty of room to grow and the knowhow to get there.

7. Syntax
Syntax are on that bleeding edge of bands that absorbed Discordance Axis with their mother's milk and aren't afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves. Assuck also played a prominent role in their growth. While someone like Cellgraft has been able to turn those two pole stars into something unique, you can catch Syntax cribbing from the sheet music every so often. However, with their demo they're off to a fine start on a career that should take them far, provided their learn to bend others' tools to their will.

6. Colombian Necktie
Colombian Necktie
Colombian Necktie would make this list for the song "Joe" alone. That may be the first great hardcore song written about America's recent military excursions. The pain and guilt of that one song are undeniable and absolutely arresting. That's good enough to get the nod, but they included four other songs, including the totally unexpected piano interlude of "Lirit." Amidst the rest of their hardcore lashings, it was a surprising digression but definitely a sign of confidence from a young band.

5. God Harvest
You got your Man is the Bastard in my Vulgar Pigeons. You got your Vulgar Pigeons in my Man is the Bastard. Two great tastes that taste great together, God Harvest mix up the speedy with the trudgy and pound them both into sand with a piledriver of a bass. This isn't a demo that you listen to so much as one you feel deep in your gut. A nice, warm vibraty feeling all through your guttiwuts, as my droog Alex would put it. Put this one on right before a bout of the old ultraviolence.

4. Busuk
Beats of Rage
More than any other demo this year, Busuk left me wanting more. I'm curious to see how far this crusty-grindy group of miscreants can spread their wings after they banged and bumped with the perfect blend of intelligible performance and live-in-your-living room energy. But at only three songs, this demo feels like a bit of a tease. I know they have more left in the tank. I can't wait to hear it.

3. The Oily Menace
All Out Folk Attack
The only reason this isn't ranked any higher is that it's entirely cover versions of Napalm Death's "The Kill" and a handful of folk tunes stretching from the Depression straight through the '60s protest music heyday. Though the tunes are not original, The Oily Menace's passion is undeniable. All Out Folk Attack just bleeds excess energy into the atmosphere. This young band (who chased their demo with a quality threeway with Cloud Rat and Wolbachia) are the perfectly poised troubadours for the moment. It's an era of unrest and they've found a way to tap into that sense of anxiety and unease that define the age of economic collapse.

2. Per Capita
The Damage Done
Per Capita don't do a single original thing on The Damage Done, but they do it with such swagger and panache that it's easily pardoned. Rugged grind and crusty d-beat take one more victory lap around the track, but Per Capita are skilled enough songsmiths that I don't mind curling up with an old favorite. Plus they cover Dropdead. I'm pretty sure there's a rule somewhere that says if you pull off a great Dropdead cover you get a pass.

1. Priapus
Air Loom
Genital grinders Priapus redefine cock rock with their stellar demo, Air Loom, which takes a run at the swampy grind throne Maruta, unfortunately, just vacated. Priapus come right out of the gate with the most professional sounding demo of the year and with the attitude and chops to back up their swagger. This is the sound of tendons snapping and joints cracking over the rack in the hands of a skilled inquisitor. They play your pain like an extra instrument. I'm expecting big things from this Willowtip-ready band.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Mike Stitches

Whether he’s working with a full band or brutalizing your eardrums all on his lonesome, Mike Stitches is a slave to the grind. His compulsive quest for sonic acceleration has led him from the shortlived Thousandswilldie through his current bass-driven solo project Standing on a Floor of Bodies. Oh sure, he’s dabbled in music’s other stylistic offerings, but Stitches said he keeps coming back to his one true love.

“I feel like no matter what kind of band I'm in, I always end up returning to grind,” he said. “There's always that urge to play fast. I've been in metal bands, hardcore bands, worked with electronic music and noise, etc. For whatever reason, nothing fulfills me on the same level as grind. Now that I've got Bodies going, I look forward to how each release will turn out because I know for a fact this is the kind of music I want to make and have been trying to make for years. Thousandswilldie came relatively close, but I was nowhere near as excited about that as I am now with Bodies. Either way, once I started playing grind, I felt much more confident in the music and the recordings. The other stuff is fun but not the same.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: Shangkuan Lingfeng

Shangkuan Lingfeng
If your precocious toddler formed an impromptu grind band on your kitchen floor with upturned pots and pans, it would probably sound a lot like Shangkuan Lingfeng's three song rehearsal demo. This is probably the tinniest demo I've heard all year. The drums sound like an overturned saucier getting thwacked with a kitchen spoon and I'm not entirely convinced the guitars, buried deep in the mix, haven't been swapped out for a bandsaw.
That said, this Indonesian grindcore troupe succeeds by dint of sheer grit and chutzpah where technology failed them. It's got a certain energy and panache that redeems its amateur origins. (The band called it "raw as fuck.") It sounds like it was recorded in your living room and listening to it is like inviting them over for a private show, cruddy garage-quality equipment and all. But when you can cut through the squall, there are hints of 324, Terrorizer and countrymen Bangsat lurking in their songwriting.
Final song, "Bodoh," is the demo's gem. It boasts the most robust guitar sound and features the best overall balance of songwriting, production and performance. It's the best indication of what Shangkuan Lingfeng could accomplish with some decent equipment and a real recording budget. If they can clean their sound up (but not too much) this could be yet another fun Southeast Asian grind band to watch. Check out their demo here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

G&P Review: Defeatist

Tyranny of Decay

Bandcamp/Nerve Altar
Tyranny of Decay is a hedgehog's dilemma of a record. Defeatist have scaled back the acceleration enough that mere mortals can really appreciate just how crafty this New York City trio is, but the angular aggression (that recalls the band's Anodyne roots) is abrasive enough to keep all comers at an emotional arm's length. This is a prickly little beast that leaves an impression even if it won't be taking gold in the 100 meter any time soon.
Once again, Joel Stallings is a fucking monster behind the drums. He just naturally elevates the performance of everyone around him. This outing it's guitarist/vocalist Aaron Nichols who steps it up, finally expanding his vocal repertoire to match the intensity brought by the backline players. While they sacrificed speed to do it, that makes Tyranny of Decay probably Defeatist's strongest and most dynamic record. Of course, once Defeatist found their perfect balance that's when they decide to break up. But this pay-what-you-want download is a fine farewell for the gatekeepers of old school New York City grind.
"Mantle Retractor" is a waddling ankylosaurus of a tune; it's a squat bastard that revels in its own earthiness while "World Left Behind" seems intent on drilling its way through space-time and into the next universe by implacable force of will alone. One of the things I really loved about Tyranny of Decay is the way the lumbering "Mantle Retractor" obliterates the album's midpoint before being scythed away by the savagery of "Nameless Graves," giving the impression the whole album was sequenced for a vinyl release that, unfortunately, probably won't come. [Whoops, it is available on vinyl; thanks for the catch, Anon.] Defeatist were always consummate pessimists predicting apocalypse and catastrophe. They just got there before the rest of us.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekend Punk Pick: Buzzcocks

*Sigh* Yes, this is the song from Shrek 2, but please don't hold that against the Buzzcocks, whose Spiral Scratch EP was one of the first punk records ever released in England. By the time they collected Singles Going Steady, the 'Cocks had perfected the art of burying artful, beautiful pop tunes under carefully draped layers of punk noise and bile. Seth Putnam also slapped a pic of guitarist Pete Shelley on the cover of Morbid Florist. That's pretty punk, right?

Friday, December 16, 2011

You Grind...But Why?: Ryan Page

Ryan Page is one of the most exciting of the young guns slinging a guitar (or sometimes an electric toothbrush or bedframe) these days. Whether it's marrying Italian horror soundtracks with faulty electronics and grindcore in Body Hammer or revitalizing power violence for the 21st Century in Robocop, Page is consistently several steps ahead of his peers. He's been so successful (musically if not necessarily financially) because his compositions are carefully considered. Grind and power violence are no lark for him, and he approaches his music as would any other serious composer. Even if his methods are...unconventional.

"I've been trying to think of an answer that's a bit more personal than 'I've always been into extremes and grindcore is the most extreme blah blah blah,' unfortunately I think that's ultimately pretty close to what I was thinking at the time. Drone and grind are the spaces where tempo, perceptually and conceptually, begins to fall apart. There's a quote from Stockhausen somewhere about the point at which rhythm ceases to be perceived as such. Essentially the idea is that if a rhythm is slow enough (the sun coming up everyday for example) it loses its rhythmic character and becomes something more systemic, similarly extremely fast rhythms essentially become tonal, or in the case of Body Hammer, a noise band. Anyway, at the time I was interested in the barriers for speed and the fastest possible music, and eventually I wanted to take things further, beyond what Agoraphobic Nosebleed was doing, which was my benchmark for grindcore at the time (and to a certain extent it still is). This was around age 15 or 16. I was playing in a hardcore/grind band, and becoming somewhat frustrated with the limitations of that.
"I guess the other element of the narrative is that I also developed an interest in noise; an interest that only grew when my bandmates protested ('that's stupid, you can't have a separate track just for feedback,' 'it needs to become a song eventually'). Interestingly, the sound I hoped to achieve with this band was a lot like how Robocop II ended up. So out of the frustrations of feeling limited by playing with other people, I started the recordings that became Jigoku.
"Many of the songs on that album came from improvisations, using microphone feedback or prepared guitar. I was interested in using limited means (guitars, microphones, and drum machines, no synthesizers) to create a fairly broad sound. I wanted to remove myself from music as much as possible. I would detune my guitars to the point where they were no longer producing pitch, and use a wrench I found like a bow (and arrow, although sometimes in the musical sense as well) or create rhythms by hitting my pickups. On one track I used a giant reverb on the a recording I made of scraping on a bedframe."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Namesake Series: "Chemical Warfare"

Decidedly non-grinding this time out, but I can't let the fact that both the Dead Kennedys and Slayer - probably two of the most defining bands of my pre-grind high school experience - have songs called "Chemical Warfare." The juxtaposition of Jello Biafra's comical indictment of chest-thumping militarism hilariously bounces off of Slayer's attempt to be all scary and serious and dark and oh sooooo metal.

The Dead Kennedys lived by Voltaire's prayer, and the 1980s provided them plenty of fodder for their sneering assault on stifling Reagan-era conformity. Biafra took the jingoistic fellating of the military and the United States' war-mongering prowess that was de rigueur at the time and upended it. What better target for liberated chemical weapons than your local country club?

In Slayer's hands, "Chemical Warfare" becomes an awesome, abrasive slab of relentless thrash that stands out on their finest all around release, Haunting the Chapel. (As an aside, can we all finally just admit that Reign in Blood is two great songs bookending a bunch of really meh filler? I mean, is there really a garage band out there clamoring to add "Reborn" or "Necrophobic" to their repertoire?) There is no humor to be had here. The jokers will only die laughing.

For totally bonus shits 'n' giggles, here's Sepultura's "Rest in Pain (R.I.P.)," which liberally steals from the Dead Kennedys' "Chemical Warfare" as it fades out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

G&P Review: Fuck the Facts

The sweat dripped from his forehead and ran down his cheeks. It welled at his throat and flowed down his chest. An inexhaustible reservoir of sweat.... If only, he thought, everything were inexhaustible this way--he would hardly need to exist as an independent, solid entity. It would be enough to be connected up with something, to be connected to the source of the stream. He'd been sure of that so far; but sources dwindle and dry up, and the more he sought to cling to them the farther, he suspected, they would recede into the distance.

Yukio Mishima


Fuck the Facts
Die Miserable

For a band declaring they're bound to Die Miserable, I just don't get the feeling that Canada's Fuck the Facts are all that perturbed by the prospect. Grindcore is supposed to be angry music; Fuck the Facts should rage, rage against the dying of that light a little bit more. Though they're consummately talented musicians, I struggled with Die Miserable's lack of heart. (This may be just a matter of not clicking with my tastes, so I recommend VII's ecstatic revelry in the album's praise.)
There's an unfortunate mechanical sterility to the drums that I know damn well were performed organically and that trickles through the entire performance. Every riff, scream, fill and bass run are technically on point and masterfully executed, but I kept wondering what someone like Landmine Marathon could have achieved with this batch of songs instead. Sure they'd shatter some of the finery, but the heart would be balls out (if that makes any sort of anatomical sense).
Die Miserable's clear highpoint is mid-album pivot "Census Blank," which succeeds in evoking that sense of impending apocalypse and annihilation via a maddeningly tapped central riff that would have done Botch-era Dave Knudson proud. It's like trying to decode a lifesaving Morse code message when all of the codebooks have been blanked out.
The rest of the songs left me cold, like the faux-Neurosis transcendental near-miss of the title track. I just kept expecting Fuck the Facts to deliver that truly knock out song that would define Die Miserable and, much like Godot, it just never showed up.
Brutal Truth are the patron saints of off-kilter grind, but they never lost sight of their titular adjective in pursuit of their nominal noun. Die Miserable pays pro forma tribute to the dread that must accompany the unknowable prospect of our own dissolution, but the emotions never dig deeper than the surface. Rather than dying miserable, this album leaves me thinking Fuck the Facts will die alone after a period of prolonged indifference just like the rest of us.

[Full disclosure: Fuck the Facts sent me a download.]

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekend Punk Pick: The Crucifucks

Have you ever said to yourself, "Self, I really love the Dead Kennedys, but it would have been really awesome if they swapped in Rodger Rabbit for Jello Biafra." Well, Self, you are in luck because that pretty much sums up Wisconsin's greatest contribution to '80s punk, The Crucifucks. Deliberately provocative (their debut, self-titled album was broken up by a running phone conversation with a local cop and campus authorities trying to shut down an upcoming house show) and patently absurd, The Crucifucks were surrealist agitators in service of the lulz on their debut self-titled album and follow up Wisconsin (the less said of their early '90s reunion record L.D. Eye the better). They also continue the long tradition of great punk songs that desperately need grind covers with "Earth by Invitation Only."

Friday, December 9, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Shantia

Shantia, six string anchor to Dutch grinders My Minds Mine and Blood I Bleed, is easily one of my favorite songwriters working these days. He’s got a stripped down punk quality to his playing that careens between catchy and aggressive amid strangling squalls of delicious guitar feedback. It turns out for Shantia grind wasn’t so much a choice as a calling.

“I was into hardcore/punk right after I was into (speed/thrash/any) metal and discovered this beautiful mix of both with even more speed and anger,” he said. “My band at the time quit in '95. As I had some friends who are/were on the same level as me music-wise, it wasn't even a discussion; we had to start a grindcore band.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Words Fail Me

So you've accepted that most grind lyrics are various degrees of awful. What's an enterprising young band to do if they don't want to embarrass themselves with bad poetry and aren't willing to go full on instrumental? One option is to skip the lyrical morass entirely and try to pair your song to a great sample that will serve in the stead of your own words. Yes, I've bitched about haphazard use of samples before, but this is a cool and tricky move that, as far as I'm concerned, isn't used nearly enough. It's one that takes far more thought and planning than crapping out another bit of Full Metal Jacket dialogue to start your record.
It's tricky because you have to identify the right sample and, when it's done best, construct your song around it, timing the music to the sample's rhythms and pacing. However, if a band can nail that perfect pacing, it's a really cool effect.
Here are three pretty good examples.

ASRA "Untitled"

The dearly departed ASRA gave full expression to the death half of their death-grind perfection with "Untitled," which rides the corporate condemnation of its sample like a death-doom roller coaster of paranoia and dislocation. It's the perfect sample for an era when the country is inflamed with anti-corporate, populist uprising sentiment. This could be the soundtrack to Occupy Wherever. "Untitled" is a Jason Voorhees of a song, implacably plodding along until its conclusion, refusing to alter its deliberate pace but still, somehow manages to sneak up to you and plant its political machete firmly in your cranium at the end.

Wormrot "Condemnation"

"Condemnation" is a bit more haphazard of an effort but still worth discussion. Wormrot find a great tinfoil hat of a schizophrenic for a sample, but the ranting gets away from the music a bit. A better pairing of the rhythm of the words to the music would have shown it off to better effect. Wormrot later went back an added their own lyrics and vocals to "Condemnation," but I like the earlier version with the psychotic sample raving about government mind control.

Who's My Saviour "Save Your Breath"

Who's My Saviour's awesome "Save Your Breath" plops you right into the claustrophobic space suit with Dave as he confronts 2001's psychologically unstable Hal 9000. The churning, stonerish grind adds to the atmosphere, becoming the adrenal heartbeat and panicked breathing of a man in full fight or flight. It's probably the most perfect use of a movie sample in grindcore. Everything about this song just clicks. The pathos of poor, distraught Hal perfectly rides the cresting waves of the music, which gives emotional and musical impetus to the proceedings. This is the song that convinces more band needs to give the sample-in-lieu-of-lyrics approach a whirl.

Monday, December 5, 2011

G&P Review: Cloud Rat/The Oily Menace/Wolbachia

Cloud Rat/The Oily Menace/Wolbachia

IFB Records
Who doesn't enjoy the occasional pleasant threeway? Certainly everyone's favorite sex fiend and Romanov embarrassment, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, had a hard time saying no. The Mad Monk's glowering gaze presides over the sweaty, tangled bedsheets and awkward, giggling morning after conversations following Cloud Rat, The Oily Menace and Wolbachia's drunken experimentation on their threeway split LP.
Standing at the center of this 12-inch experience, both literally and figuratively, is Michigan's The Oily Menace, who follow up their outstanding All Out Folk Attack EP (recycling some songs in the process) with a blistering outpouring of grindified protest music and their own breed of sonic outrage. The Oily Menace employ their instruments as ideological weapons and it's no exaggeration to say they are quickly becoming the grindcore equivalent of The Clash. This could be the only young grindcore band that really matters. They are not mouthing cliches when they advocate for a locovore lifestyle (to the point of including kale seeds in the record) or taking outraged DIY potshots at everyone's favorite car company on "Scion and Vice." There's a conviction that comes through that can't be denied. The Oily Menace just get better and better with each release.
Cloud Rat, who kick off both sides of the record, also flamboyantly flash a few new tricks, following up on their excellent self-titled album. The same frenetic blasting that tilts more toward fast hardcore than grind is just as frenetic and jolting as ever. This outing, the vocals are the focal point, an unusual choice for a grind band, but the frothing bile and searing spit demands attention. It's a great curveball that really plays to Cloud Rat's strengths. While most of their seven songs start blasting right where their last album left off, Cloud Rat do change up the tempo with "Battle of Bulls Run," a knuckledragging trudge that kicks off side two of the album. It's great to see them playing against type and succeeding. It adds another venomous bolt to their quiver.
After all that blasting, Wolbachia are something of the odd men (and women) out. The band brings a bruising breed of female-fronted grind akin to Cloud Rat brainswapped with angular, second generation noise rock a la Anodyne and Knut. The band loves nothing more than double-footing the brake while doing 100 mph and handbraking into a sliding hardcore swing.
Once again, IFB have done a beautiful job with the packaging, printed on old 12-inch sleeves that have been folded inside out and recycled. The lyrics booklet is also plastered over with pastiche of ironic corporate logos and slogans that hearkens back to the chop and glue montages the celebrated Winston Smith used to turn in for Dead Kennedys albums.
Cloud Rat, The Oily Menace and Wolbachia deliver a well balanced and fluid threesome of a record, and you don't have to delete your browsing history in shame after enjoying it.

[Full disclosure: Cloud Rat sent me a review copy.]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Punk Pick: The Clash

The only band that really matters. Here's a great twofer that highlights the politics vs. pop personality split between Joe Strummer and Mick Jones.

Friday, December 2, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Resistant Culture

While many of us can claim Terrorizer introduced us to grindcore, I doubt you can say Jesse Pintado gave his imprimatur to your racket. But that’s how L.A.’s resident indigenous-core grinders Resistant Culture (which Pintado joined post-Napalm Death) found out their punk and metal racket had a name.

“Grindcore wasn't so much a choice for Resistant Culture, it was more of an evolution,” the band said. “Originally the band was called Resistant Militia founded in the late 1980s. At that time, grindcore was just barely starting to emerge. We were synthesizing punk and metal as crossover. At one point the late Jesse Pintado (RIP) described the new heavier types of crossover as ‘grind.’ He said it was like putting the sound of punk and the sound of metal into a grinder and cranking it out!”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Panic! at the Discography: Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer
38 Counts of Battery

Pig Destroyer achieved the nigh-unthinkable on early career compilation 38 Counts of Battery: it's a discography record that easily stands on its own as a contained album experience. That's largely because the first 18 of the eponymous 38 tracks come from Pig Destroyer's debut album Explosion in Ward 6. When you tack on an extra 20 songs corralled from the band's various splits and demos it still feels seamless and coherent. Even with all that, 38 Counts of Battery still comes in at a hair under 40 minutes (a tad long maybe), which keeps everything listenably concise. Despite being culled from disparate sources, the production remains largely uniform. Pig Destroyer's trademark heavy and overblown sound feels seamless and coherent.
Scott Hull probably ranks as the single best grindcore songsmith active right now. Every song is anchored in a distinctive hook. Every riff serves a purpose to advance the theme. Pig Destroyer's choice covers of The Melvins, Carcass and Dark Angel are a nice summation of the various influences that have driven Pig Destroyer creatively (add in covers of The Dwarves, Stooges and Helmet from Painter of Dead Girls and everything the band has done suddenly snaps into perfect focus). So 38 Counts is a wonderful peak behind the Great and Powerful Oz's curtain, letting you see how he grew and experimented as a songwriter, leading up to the perfection that is Prowler in the Yard.
38 Counts also represents vocalist J.R. Hayes' larval stage before he'd explode from the cocoon as a venomous, carrion-yellow butterfly on Prowler as one of the most intelligent and evocative lyricists in grindcore. Songs like "Yellow Line Transfer" and "Unwitting Valentine" are early examples of his obsession with obsession, stalking, toxic relationships and aloof, casually violent women. Others, the warped pro-choice savagery of "Treblinka," show Hayes being far more political than maybe we've come to expect from him.
I always enjoy when compilations include explanatory liner notes to fill in a band's history or illuminate where they're coming from musically, and that's lacking here. However, 38 Counts of Battery is so astonishingly coherent despite being Frankensteined together that it's easy to forget it even is a compilation. Instead, it just serves as another great album in Pig Destroyer's legendary career.

Monday, November 28, 2011

G&P Review: Guilty as Sin

Guilty as Sin
Self Released

Guilty as Sin commit subtraction by addition on latest effort Psychotronic. Their reliance on really bad hardcore barking for the first half of the album distracts from the Massachusetts trio's otherwise thrashing blend of DRI and Voivod. Guilty as Sin lives or dies on the strength of their twisty instrumental mystique and the vocals do nothing to contribute to the music's effect. Luckily, by the stronger second half they shut up and just let you enjoy the expansive weirdness. The rhythmic tension and release of "Addicted to Cyanide," with its dark night of the soul introspective interlude and its spiraling toward enlightenment conclusion, shows just how effective Guilty as Sin can be at conjuring emotion without the crutch of vocals.
Otherwise, Psychotronic is like a curated museum of the last 30 years of punk and metal evolution, revolution and convolution. "Frothing at the Cunt," as its deliberately stupid name may suggest, could have been slapped into the set of just about any of the bands on the infamous Rock Against Reagan tour while the horn section of "Into Dust" would go unremarked on a Total Fucking Destruction record.
Vocals aside, there are a couple of other clunkers that distract from Psychotronic's better moments. The Middle Eastern shuffle of "Godekli Tepe" is too much of a rehash of the similarly-inflected "Before the Flood" from prior album III and the 12 minute title track, which shuts down the album, is meandering to the point of being inert.
So once again, as with III and Led to the Slaughter, Guilty as Sin show flashes of inspired thrashy genius but fail to deliver a concise, complete album. However, editing the best parts of all three records into a single album would make a tidy little experimental thrash extravaganza.

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Punk Pick: The Sonics

The Sonics were inventing punk back when John Lydon was swimming blissfully in his Irish pappy's balls. At the same time the Beatles were crooning about holding your hand to legions of 12 year olds, The Sonics were screaming about blue balls ("Psycho"), slurping poison ("Strychnine") and evil chicks ("The Witch") while destroying covers of '60s staples such as "Do You Love Me" and "Have Love, Will Travel." The songs were simple and played with blunt force brutality, driven by ridiculous pounding of drummer Bob "Boom Boom" Bennett and the crotch-level sax sway of Rob Lind. The little Seattle band never had much success in their lives, but they influenced what would inevitably become punk. The compilation The Ultimate Sonics includes a interview with befuddled bassist Andy Parypa who's absolutely oblivious to the band's influence and astounded anybody would bother to interview him about his 40-year old garage band. He may not get it, but a whole host of rockers who came after certainly did.

Friday, November 25, 2011

You Grind...But Why?: Gate

Gate grind. It's what the Japanese duo does. Toshinori Otake doesn't mince words when I ask the Discordance Axis-inspired guitarist and vocalist why he itches to blast. For him, it's an innate drive and the sense of [synaesthetic?] achievement that comes from it.

"I think the grindcore is an ultimate music," Toshi said. "I have to work hard [so] I can play it. I can taste a great sense of achievement. Of course, I love fast musics!"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Namesake Series: "I Abstain"

To keep himself occupied during those tedious tour bus rides (when the keyboardist wasn't playing video games, at least), David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap fame subscribed to the Namesake series of cassettes. The hook was that a celebrity would read the works of some author with the same last name (though why Dr. J was reading the works of Washington Irving remains a mystery).
More than just a throwaway gag during the credits of a 30 year old flick, the notion of namesakes really resonates with me. When you come from a general musical world that revolves around hate, misery, death and pain, it shouldn't be a surprise when two different bands strike at the same image or idea. It's a pretty limited pool you're working with. Nonetheless, I'm always intrigued to see two divergent groups of musicians reach the same point from different directions.
Case in point, in a three year span both Napalm Death and Converge hit upon songs titled "I Abstain." I can't see any other correlation between the two bands and two songs other than that they both decided on the same phrase at about the same time. One doesn't seem to be a reference to the other, as far as I can tell. Intriguingly, both bands slotted it as the second track on their albums
First out the gate in 1992 was Napalm Death with Utopia Banished. After a pointless bit of noisy/industrial folderol, Napalm get their death on with "I Abstain."

Short of my personal favorite, "Dementia Access," I'd say "I Abstain" pretty much typifies both the album and Napalm Death's better post-Mick Harris output. With the only consistent presence and principle songwriter on their first thee full lengths defenestrated, guitarists Mitch Harris and Jesse Pintado shook off the deathly (but respectable nonetheless) rust of Harmony Corruption and started penning pretty much the kinds of songs you'd expect from the guys who anchored Righteous Pigs and Terrorizer, respectively. Just ignore that run from Fear, Emptiness, Despair through Words From the Exit Wound and dive back in with Enemy of the Music Business and the continuity seems to make more sense.
Two years later sickly talented Massholes Converge were lighting the fuse on a hardcore powder keg with their debut Halo in a Haystack (conveniently collected on Caring and Killing with bonus goodies for those of you who don't want to spend a rent check on a piece of hardcore trivia). There at track two is old faithful, "I Abstain."

The plodding menace of the song's deliberative tread is about as anti-grind as you can get short of going all drone doom on our asses. But from the start, "I Abstain" flashed the poise, creativity and pure technical chops that would define Converge, especially once they encountered a young lady who will forever be known as Jane Doe.
Two very different bands within the space of three years write songs with identical titles. So who owns it best? Don't ask me. I abstain.

Monday, November 21, 2011

G&P Review: thedowngoing

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

Luke 8:26-32

Untitled EP

In the near future, what passes for law enforcement in Australia (which I understand is mostly made up of half-naked guys with football pads and mohawks in souped up cars screaming across the desert fighting over "juice", according to a trio of documentaries I saw in the '80s) will track down duo thedowngoing to find out more about that exorcism they surreptitiously taped and tried to pass off as their Untitled EP. Because I guarantee you no healthy human can/should be able to make those kinds of noises without demonic assistance.
Guitarist/exorcisee Mathias Huxley turns in what is easily the vocal performance of the year, and his spiky, chaotic, just-short-of-random riffing seethes and swarms like a herd of suicidal Gadarene swine. Then suddenly the chaos will smooth, however briefly, and a Pig Destroyer- style hook will breach the surface of the chaotic noise soup just long enough to impale your ear holes just before diving back to the lightless depths of the id. Not to discount the drumming, which is the adrenaline-jacked beat of a full-blown fight or flight trip, but Untitled EP rides on Huxley's dynamism as a guitarist and singer.
At a tidy nine songs and 10 minutes, the adorable little 3-inch CD is perfectly proportioned. Anything more would have defeated the effect by diluting the chaos with sheer repetition. However, this is a perfect example of perfectly balanced economy in action. Previous offering I Am Become was a perfectly serviceable outing, but Untitled EP shows the band reaching new, dizzying artistic heights. There's something demonically magical going on in the land of Oz.
[Full disclosure: The band sent me a review copy.]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Punk Pick: Minutemen

Brutal Truth already did a fine job ripping through "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs" on Evolution Through Revolution, but "Joe McCarthy's Ghost" is a tune just begging for a grindcore cover. I kicked back to watch We Jam Econo, an excellent documentary about the Minutemen, a few weeks ago. If you've got even the slightest interest in this much-missed band, it's a mandatory watch. Very few bands were as astute as the Minutemen in analyzing the language and economic structures that were stacked up against the little man.

Friday, November 18, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Wake

For Wake’s Sergey Jmourovski, grindcore has been a lifelong, bi-continental journey through sonic oblivion, culminating in the Canadian band’s impressive death/grind/violence brew of brutality. As he tells it, grindcore is something that has traveled with him from his native Russia, evolving with him as his musical aspirations matured.

“[F]irst of all, I'm a firm believer that music should always be an expression/extension of what one is going through in their life, anything but that comes off contrived,” he said. “My first encounter with grindcore with hearing Napalm Death, off the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, back in 1995, at 13 years old, right before I left Russia. As you can imagine, grindcore wasn't all that readily available in the middle of Siberia, so it definitely left an impact on me. However, it took me awhile to really get into it. I didn't begin grinding until I was in my mid-20's (I'm 29 now). Having ‘done time’ in punk, thrash/death, atmospheric sludge metal bands prior to that, I was always looking for something that was more true to what my vision of uncompromising heavy music was. Guess I was growing older and becoming more and more frustrated with the state of the world, my own personal failures etc. Grindcore, to me, is the purest expression of whatever dissatisfaction I have; it is a way for me to channel my hate, stay sane if you will. In an age where music is mass produced, this is one of the few genres that is still full of passion and without compromise. I don't imagine any grinders get into it to get rich. As a matter of fact, it is a point of pride for me to be a part of something that I know will never be accepted by the ‘norm.’ At this point in my life, I want to keep creating crushing, fast music that combines my love of punk, metal and hardcore. I think, in the end, grindcore chose me.”