Without devolving to Bolt Thrower or Motorhead levels of self parody, Finland’s Rotten Sound have essentially been releasing the same album every couple of years for the last decade. Oh sure, the band tweaks an aspect here, tinkers with the production quality or experiments with a new songwriting element , but it hasn’t varied too far from its post-Nasum Scandi-grind roots. Murderworks set the vicious template and followup Exit gussied it up with a prettier production. Then came Cycles, which boasted a huge, overwhelming guitar tone but didn’t stray far from familiar climes. 2011 brings us Cursed, which, per the usual, features more than a dozen songs with mostly single word titles of your typical grindy nasty. The hook there is Rotten Sound has slowed things down a tad. Think of Cursed as the Marvin Gaye of grind, the kind of album you throw on to (relatively speaking) chill things out. How you’ll react to Cursed will largely depend on how attached you are to Rotten Sound’s legendary rep for inhuman speed. Otherwise, the riffs are still as catchy as Chlamydia in the Playboy Grotto hot tub.
Like in his other band, Deathbound, drummer Sami Latva is parsimonious with the blastbeats, preferring to use them as adornment rather than a song’s foundation. So “Self” simmers along like Drugs of Faith’s grind ‘n’ roll, complete with borderline coherent shouts among the growling. Likewise, “Decline” gets pulled and stretched like a crust punk taffy until it snaps in a spray of gnarly guitar feedback. “Hollow” even spirals down a psychedelic rabbit hole courtesy of some freakout riffing.
When Cursed does kick out the blastbeaten jams, motherfucker, it’s a cathartic explosion of freeform atomic fission that snaps the low-BPM proceedings into an intelligent focus. The slow-mo one-two punch of “Terrified” and “Scared” develop new importance and urgency as they explode into the album-closing pyrotechnics of “Doomed.”
Production-wise, it also turns out the scuffed up, rough and tumble Napalm EP has proven to be a brief detour through Rotten Sound’s raging roots because Cursed is, courtesy of Relapse’s markka, another pristine album that sacrifices rough edges in favor of finely honed musical torture. It’s the difference between a scalpel slice through your cortex and a Louisville Slugger to the cranium.
So while Cursed may be much slower, far groovier than what you may expect (tolerate?) from Rotten Sound, there’s clearly an intelligence driving the shift that makes it a fascinating document in the band’s storied CV.