Friday, November 30, 2012

G&P Review: Massgrav

Still the Kings

Massgrav toss down the gauntlet to all comers with a simple warning: watch the throne, motherfuckers. The Swedish blastcore kill crew annihilate 19 songs in 18 minutes as they defend their blastbeaten crust punk throne.  Anybody who is the least bit familiar with Massgrav's M.O. already knows that Still the Kings will not be larded down with a single superfluous note, ambient digression or arty farty passage. Instead, this is the sound of pretty much every Swedish d-beat great tossed into a blender set to liquefy. At their most sedate, as with "Brallorna nere igen," Massgrav are still zapping along at clip that would get the skate park popping.
There can be a samey-ness that creeps into Massgrav's sound, but when they hit it and quit in about a quarter of an hour that's a pretty secondary complaint. As one record executive famously said of the Ramones: he would have walked out of their audition but they were done before he could get up. Massgrav probably recognize this so they do break up their punk beatings with the occasional flourish like the minced guitar solo of "Kom ihåg vad du rösta på" in a nod to actually telling the songs apart.
This is the kind of record you reach for when you just want a jolt of pure adrenaline without recourse to subtlety or pretense. Sometimes you just wanna thrash and when you do Massgrav are still the kings.

[Full disclosure: Selfmadegod sent me a download.]

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

G&P Review: Mother Brain

Mother Brain
Straight to Business
Grindcore Karaoke

Mother Brain take their sweet damn time getting down to the grind for an album named Straight to Business. They spend “Introduction,” the album’s first two instrumental minutes, wallowing in sludgy despair. However, I’m willing to let it slide because they didn’t bury it at the end and because their doom haul is actually pretty good. Mother Brain seem to be that rarest of aves that has a firm grasp of what makes a song really click at either end of the speedometer.
Mother Brain, when they do get down to the grinding, recall elements of both Maruta and Pig Destroyer without outright theft. It makes sense because neither of those bands are afraid of varying the acceleration either. The performance is noisy and screeching, with a lived in authenticity to it that upends the trend toward sheeny, shiny production that denudes music of vital energy. Mother Brain also know how to quit when they’re ahead, “Introduction” is the longest track of the lot and when they do blast off into the stratosphere, they keep things exceptionally tight like the 17 raging seconds of “Cut or Uncut.” More often, as with “Old Man,” Mother Brain will mix up the fast with the slow in a single song, refusing the captivity of narrow genre labels. The quality of their craft and the concision of the 11 minute runtime makes Straight to Business compulsively re-listenable and well worth checking out.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Your mom or your local shampoo purveyor probably told you at some point during your impressionable youth that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. While your mom probably meant you shouldn't scratch your balls and spit on the floor during your job interview, it's also applicable to our own little grindcore realm.
As I become older and more crotchety (you damn kids stay off my blog's lawn!), I'm starting to lose patience with albums that take for-fuckin'-ever to really get ramped up. It seems like two out of three records these days start off with an overly long movie sample, a squall of feedback or a slow motion riff that explodes into blastbeats after a few seconds. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but unless you've dreamed up something as cool as Pig Destroyer's "Jennifer," it's probably best to just get straight to the blasting. That's why we're all here.
While I've tackled the ongoing blight of grind bands ending albums on slow songs, I want to be more positive with a tribute to those who know how to put their foot in the door straight away.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blast(beat) From the Past: Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy
United State of Amnesia
Self Released

Now I don't need some smug-ass Canuckle-head talking shit about the United States' backasswards invasion of Iraq just because their government had the good sense to politely decline their invitation to the Coalition of the Willing. If they lack the sack, then they can just go back to their socialized death panel health care system, their polite neighbors and a homicide rate only a third of America's. USA! USA! USA!
But I'll let my patriotic fervor pass when America's 51st state is handing out death-grind as good as Alberta's Exit Strategy. The quartet cluster bomb what's left of the United States' Bush-era dignity with nine death-grind cruise missiles in 37 minutes. Exit Strategy stitch together the best parts of Circle of Dead Children's glower and the doodlee-deedlee riffsplosions of Decapitated. Every so often they dredge up a smidgen of Burnt by the Sun playfulness or the occasional nod to Dying Fetus just to keep things interesting. Though their songs inherited their girth from the death metal side of the family (they're consistently in the three to four minute range, for all you ADHD types), they never seem to drag or lose pace. Instead, Exit Strategy constantly introduce a twisted bit of riffery or a kamikaze scream to keep your attention focused. They're not without the occasional misstep ("The Hand of Victory Holds the Pen of History" veers dangerously close to br00tal slamz territory before the blastbeats slash back in), but on the balance Exit Strategy keep the ship upright even if they're sticking pretty close to their forefathers' playbooks.
Now the snarky asshole American in me might want to know why a quartet of Canadians is so obsessed with the United States' international malfeasance (I'd suggest taking a look at your country's odious hate speech laws one day), but I also can't deny that many of their critiques are also spot on. "Just?" appropriates the pledge of allegiance, holding it up like a perverse funhouse mirror that throws into sharp relief the gulf between America's lofty rhetoric on freedom and human rights and its often compromised implementation.  While large chunks of United State of Amnesia seem to be frozen in the amber of a bygone era of hubristic mission accomplished banners and unknown unknowns, when you remember the current Hoper and Changer in Chief has arrogated the power to kill American citizens with virtually no judicial oversight, then suddenly Exit Strategy's criticisms don't seem so dated. Or so funny.

Monday, November 19, 2012

G&P Review: F.U.B.A.R.

Mongo only pawn... in game of life.
Blazing Saddles

Lead Us to War

The sagacious assortment of anonymous eminences we collectively refer to as "they" assure us that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Accepting that, ad arguendo, as a truism, my ventricles must be near to bursting with joy (or Five Guys bacon cheese dogs) because it's been seven years since F.U.B.A.R. graced us with Justification of Criminal Behaviour. Sure, they've popped a squat and dropped a bucket full of splits in the long years since, but there's something special about getting a full 30 minute experience from the Dutch power violence-inflected grindcore gang.
F.U.B.A.R. albums always sound wonderfully huge, and Lead us to War is another apatosaurus-sized stomp through 21st century sickness and malaise, courtesy of Dr. Doom bassist J.B. Van der Wal's production job. It also showcases a band in consummate control of their art. While they're not shattering any molds (though "Misplaced Faith" sneaks in some apocalyptic pschedelia and hip hop delivery), F.U.B.A.R. know how to play with time and tempo to generate the largest impact and they're not shy about swiping tidbits from every branch of the speedy punk family tree to make their point.
And they'd really appreciate if you pay attention to that point. Fourth track "I Scream Protest" is the best key to unlocking F.U.B.A.R.'s Cerberus-headed vocal assault on the eroding foundations of civilization. Faced with the iniquity and inequality of a globalized world, the song is a rallying cry to cast down the demons of avarice, violence and intolerance. Those themes may be familiar to the point of tired cliche, but F.U.B.A.R. manage to convey a sincerity that earns them a pass even from my cynical, shrunken Grinch heart.
In another wonderful touch, Lead Us to War feels like it was sequenced for vinyl, with the title track in the middle providing a satisfying emotional closer to what would be Side A before taking a deep breath, flipping the platter and diving back into the grind. F.U.B.A.R. won't lead you to war, but give them a chance and they'll lead you somewhere awesome.

Friday, November 16, 2012

G&P Review: Bangsat/Exogorth

Depart of an Illusion/Split
Grindfather/Incursion/Opaqus/Witch Bukkake

I've always had a soft spot for Bangsat even when, as on their split with Archagathus, the parts just didn't seem to be coming together. There was just something about the Indonesian trio that suggested they were on the cusp of joining that rising tide of awesome Asian grind that includes scene leaders Wormrot as well as Compulsion to Kill and SMG. With their latest 7-inch split, they've really made great strides toward mastering their grind.
Over six originals and an Extreme Noise Terror cover, Bangsat bang heads with the right mix of lo-fi and high energy that keeps me coming back for more blastbeats. The riffs are all '80s hardcore by way of Scum Side A. The barely-holding-it-all-together blastbeasts create the perfect storm of cacophony. The production is nice and hot letting the songs just shimmer off the wax.
Bangsat are backed up by Seattle space slugs Exogorth who would be just about perfect if it weren't for the annoying, monotonous shrieking vocals. That aside, they have a killer command of grindcore song structure. The fast parts thrash, the (relatively) slow parts chug and they know how to expertly powerslide between the two without throwing off the song's momentum. So they rampage through three of their own songs and a Proletar cover (yeah, me neither) before they bring the 7-inch squealing to a close.
This is a record so fun it took four labels to put it out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Panic! At the Discography: Gasp

There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

An Earwig's Guide to Traveling: Collected Vinyl and Unreleased Tracks 1996-1999
Avant Garde Farm

Gasp were fuckin' weird. That's the first thing you need to know. Like Melvins-level weird. They had an album called Drome Triler of Puzzle Zoo People and stage names like Professor Cantaloupe, ferfuckssake. You try to tell me what that's even supposed to mean. But their very weirdness was this SoCal "psychedelic power violence" band's greatest asset: an outre attitude that set them far (FAR!) outside the musical boxes erected by their mid-90s contemporaries (bassist Cynthia got more conventional when she went on to Despise You). Unlike the lightspeed hardcore of the day, Gasp brought a more brooding brand of sludgy noise to the power violence plate and they took their goddamned time about getting there. They mixed up Man is the Bastards bass bludgeoning with weird burbling noises, random jazz freakouts, manipulated tape insanity and other oddities. If Swans had been a power violence band then Soundtracks for the Blind probably would have sounded something like this retrospective. The most beautiful part of An Earwig's Guide to Traveling is that it doesn't feel like a discography record. There's a seamlessness and an intention to Gasp's oddity that stitches together all 65 minutes into a single psychedelic trip, making it the rare discography that feels like a unified album experience. Where Man is the Bastard tried to reconcile man and nature through low slung bass and screeching effects, Gasp were on a trip straight to your pineal gland and if their weird samples and soothing tape loops couldn't lull you into a trance, they would break on through to the other side using brute force. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to hear that The Endless Blockade have Gasp records stashed in their collection because the Canadian power violence revivalists see to be operating on the same cosmic wavelength. While An Earwig's Guide to Traveling is a slow starter, those with the patience to synch to its vibe will find themselves transported, as though all of the songs were written and recorded of a piece rather than trickled out as splits and 7-inches over the course of half a decade. Too weird to live at the time, Gasp's power violence excursions have survived the band's death as new generation's connoisseurs turn on, tune in and freak out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tickets to the Car Crash

Pig Destroyer's first album in five years has routinely been the most anticipated grind record of the year for about the past three years as it continually kept getting pushed back and postponed. But when the band finally put Book Burner in our hands we were left with ... this. I've never before checked my watch in boredom waiting for a Pig Destroyer album to be over. Ever. That just happened with Book Burner.
While I was certainly disappointed, I'm surprised at how quickly the consensus seems to have emerged that Book Burner kinda sucks. I'm just now emerging from my self-imposed media blackout on this (still haven't bothered to watch more than 5 seconds of that awful monkey video). So I've been cocooned for weeks so my impressions wouldn't be tainted by the conventional wisdom.
But given the emotions I've invested in Pig Destroyer over the years, I'm still trying to discern exactly how the disappointment happened. I know that I don't like it, but I'm still trying to discern the why. So I'm opening the floor to theories both here and [shameless plug following] G&P's new Facebook page (where you can be subjected to even more grind-related ramblings that don't even rate blogging)[/shameless plug].
So it's time to play (psycho)pathologist...what went wrong and how does Pig Destroyer get themselves back on track? The floor is yours.

Monday, November 12, 2012

G&P Review: Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer
Book Burner

Pig Destroyer have wrenched a number of unpleasant emotions from me over the course of their five album career. Most obviously, there's the morbid fascination you get driving past a nasty fatal traffic accident. Then there's the sickening self-loathing I feel when I recognize the worst aspects of my personality reflected back in the J.R. Hayes' madman scribblings. Hayes' lyrics can also force me to recoil in disgust at his relentlessly jaundiced take on life, particularly his interaction with women. But the one sensation their previous albums had not prepared me for was indifference.
Book Burner is an average Relapse grind record. Taken as that, I'm sure some people will find plenty to like. While I've loved everything Pig Destroyer have done before (Yes, Phantom Limb included), this made almost no impression. The past few years have been tumultuous for Pig Destroyer as they've been plagued by constant turnover behind the drums and a few false starts before they were able to get serious about writing and recording Book Burner and that toll sounds obvious here. This is a band that sounds uncertain and strained.
While the album is full of shorter, grindier songs in the vein of their 38 Counts of Battery material with just a small handful of longer, more involved tunes that take after Phantom Limb, they're missing that primal intensity that set them apart. Scott Hull is one of the most prodigious musical talents in all of metaldom and I kept waiting for that signature hook to come -- a "Sheet Metal Girl," a "Carrion Fairy," a "Thought Crime Spree" -- but it never showed up. The closest we come is the fishtailing end of "Valley of Geysers." You'd also be forgiven for forgetting Blake Harrison is in the band because his talents are being severely underutilized. The much ballyhooed addition of Adam Jarvis seems to have imported the worst aspect of Misery Index as well: that lifeless, emotionless drumming. Jarvis' playing could probably be timed with an atomic clock, but he doesn't generate a single significant emotion throughout 30 minutes of music. If there's a bright spot to be had, it's that J.R. Hayes still sounds pissed as all fuck. The short story he contributes to the expanded edition of the song is nothing memorable, but he's still slitting his musical wrists and laying it all out with his performance. (Likewise the bonus album of punk covers is demo quality, by the numbers takes of familiar songs that doesn't take them anywhere new.)
Pig Destroyer have been at the acme of grindcore for more than a decade. When I defend the notion of grind as art, I point people to Prowler in the Yard and The Inalienable Dreamless. But Book Burner falls short of the standard they've set for themselves with past efforts.  Everybody is entitled to an off album. Hopefully this lineup is stable and the band can gel and really find their footing because next time I want to feel something.

Friday, November 9, 2012

G&P Review: D.E.R./Aberrant

Karasu Killer/Criminal Attack/Everyday Hate/Give Praise

D.E.R. have been having quite a little moment for themselves recently because their 2008 album Quando a Esperanca Desaba has been given not one but two ass kicking reissues. But lest you think that's all these Brazilian blastbeat-mongers have to purvey, they're back again with another 10 songs, sharing wax with Colorado's Aberrant (who got into the reissue action themselves with a 2010 discography record). What they're dropping on your turntable is a Thunderdome of straight grind nastiness.
Four years removed from their last record and D.E.R. haven't bothered to learn any new tricks, and that's probably a good thing. Once again, they grind like From Enslavement to Obliteration is the only record ever made. They're content to keep kicking out jam after jam of unremitting blastbeats and nasty table saw injury guitars without getting too fancy. If Quando a Esperanca Desaba lit up your cortex, these new songs will jolt you another fix. Otherwise, don't expect to be blown away by originality. You'll come out of their half of this psychedelically-flecked periwinkle 12-inch with your socks safely unrocked, but you still have to admire D.E.R.'s ferocious energy.
Meanwhile Aberrant, which features an ex-member of Catheter, is a touch thrashier in spots, but clearly these are two bands that have been prepping from the same playbook. Aberrant's riffs have a tad more complexity and innovation to them than D.E.R., but they whip by at such a clip that it demands close listening to really excavate every interesting nugget that's buried behind the blast beats. And speaking of blasting, the drums are fine when they're going full tilt, but the drummer lacks that sense of timing when it comes to fills and tempo changes. The result is the explosive climax of their songs could have been even more pyrotechnic. (But good news, everyone! Aberrant is in the hunt for a new drummer.)
The split is a cool face off between two bands that share a similar genetic root but have taken alternate paths. It's a great example of divergent evolution in music.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cover Me

The cover song is a time honored tradition that probably dates back to the first couple of cavemen banging out a crazy beat on a log. Anyone who’s ever fretted a chord or thumped a drum has probably burned with the desire to emulate and pay tribute to their musical forefathers, casting themselves into the vicarious shoes of their heroes. If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance that bands like Napalm Death, Discordance Axis and Phobia probably played a pretty significant role in your musical development. However, I don’t need hear yet another cover of the “The Kill.” There’s very little chance you’re going to top the original.
Maybe it's time for all of us to widen our horizons. Thinking about the ubiquity of covering certain bands led me to brainstorm a wish list of songs outside the grind realm that I’d absolutely love to hear get blastbeaten and the band I think is the best candidate for the job.
Here are my top 10 dream parings:

Monday, November 5, 2012

G&P Review:Nashgul/P.L.F.

Bones Brigade

Nashgul have always had a cinematic quality to their ghoulish grind, whether it's their penchant for sampling horror and action flicks or the flickering celluloid flash of their grisly slasher tunes. El Dia Despues al Fin de la Humanidad was probably the best zombie flick that has yet to crash a cinema near you. But I had never had the same epiphany about Texas' P.L.F. until they paired up with Spain's grind morticians for these seven wonderful inches of madness. Now I'm a willing to drop a few bucks on Kickstarter to roll cameras on their self-professed Texas Grindcore Massacre.
Nashgul know that a good horror flick is much as a matter of anticipation as it is the kills. So they take their sweet time easing you into the proper mood with Blind Dead-paced instrumental opener "The Trip" before they start slitting musical throats. Once they do unleash the beats, they're off at a (heretical to be sure) running zombie canter for the next three jams that pick up right where the last album left off. That should be pretty much all you need to know.
Flipside, P.L.F.'s horror show is certainly more modern in approach, diving camera-first into the ruptured joints and organs of the hapless listeners with two new songs and a seamlessly integrated Phobia cover. They're driven by a guitar tone that skrees like power tools winding up. That tone perfectly serves P.L.F.'s Megadeth on fast forward riffing-- and I mean good Megadave back when he was addicted to heroin instead of Jesus and rightwing crankery. It's good enough to make me overlook the (guest written) lyrics to "Arena of the Gladiator," which are bombastic and bro-tastic enough to make Manowar faint from shame. But dammit this is grindcore Thunderdome and some things just have to be overlooked.
But really, none of the preceding 300 words even should have been necessary. You know god damn well you need this in your life. The cover even features Jesus being crucified in the name of grindcore. How can you pass that up?

Friday, November 2, 2012

G&P Review: Jesus Ain't in Poland

Jesus Ain't in Poland
Freiheit Macht Frei

Jesus Ain't in Poland sound like they could have been cloned from an Afgrund tissue sample. That's a simpler way of saying these Italians sound like a photostat of a mimeograph of a Xerox of Nasum. The Italian band have chosen to play in a pretty crowded sandbox and they have a hard time jostling for facetime against more aggressive peers like The Arson Project, Relevant Few and Sayyadina. Even that name plops Jesus Ain't in Poland in between Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Crost. They just can't seem to differentiate themselves no matter how you look at it.
Musically, Freiheit Macht Frei is a whirlwind of high register keening and blastbeats, but there's no hook that consistently rips at your flesh, making their presence permanent. In fact, Jesus Ain't in Poland are at their best when they back off the blastbeats and led things get low and slow. The stumbling tempo of "The Kingdom" gives the wonderfully grisly bass the space to reverberate, letting the phone cable-thick strings rumble underneath the noise. But Jesus Ain't in Poland can even take that impulse too far. The very next song, "Scarlet Tongues" pushes the downbeat shtick into fumbling, pointless repetition.
Jesus Ain't in Poland have the speed; they just don't have the riffs yet. They're pulling from the right influences, but they need to spend a little bit longer studying what made their favorite songs so great in the first place. Once they pin that down, then they'll be ready to macht grind.

[Full disclosure: Grindpromotion sent me a download.]