So let the arguments begin!
20. Total Fucking Destruction
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Descend into Heresy
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.
Tyranny of Decay
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?