Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Grind in Rewind 2012

This is probably the hardest year end list I've ever compiled because 2012 gave us a good, varied crop to pick from and I masochistically enforced a 10 albums only limit on myself. That means I've written this post about seven times, tweaking the order and shifting bands in and out of the lineup. But I think I'm fairly comfortable with my top 10. Unless I change my mind and rewrite it next week. Anyway, here's my favorite albums from 2012 as of right now. Feel free to add, delete and reorder my choices and lecture me on my stupidity in the comments. Here's to a productive 2013. 

10. Detroit
Grindcore Karaoke

Detroit's self titled record, their second album of the year, was an example of evolution through regression. The Canadian youngsters (some of whom can't legally buy beer in the States), proved their mettle by getting in touch with their troglodyte selves, turning in a buzzing, biting little critter of an album that's perfectly noisy and decidedly single-minded. Detroit are already banging out riffs in preparation for a more traditionally full-length record. I sincerely hope they build off the template they've established here.

9. Napalm Death
Century Media

If you told me at the start of the year that venerable grind geezers Napalm Death would be busting out one of the most visceral, exciting and varied records of their career 20 years and 11 albums after the current lineup solidified, I would have been highly skeptical to say the least. But Utilitarian kicks all kinds of ass. Liberated by their elder statesmen status, Napalm Death are free not to give a fuck and indulge in whatever whim struck them in the studio. So you've got crazy saxaphone and Gregorian chanting staple-gunned to crusty death-grind and somehow it all just works. A little less chanting would have been fine by me, but when everything is this damn good, I can't really complain. Sticking Napalm Death on a year end list is cliche at this point, but this is easily one of my most-listened albums of the year.
8. Standing on a Floor of Bodies
Sacrilegious and Culturally Deficient
7 Degrees

Legions of demonic doomsters and even the mighty Mythbusters have struggled in vain to achieve the brown note--that mythical infrasonic tone that can make you shit your pants. Frightmare duo Standing on a Floor of Bodies prove that it's not how low you drone, but how effectively. Right after I wiped off the shit Standing on a Floor of Bodies scared out of me, I strapped on my Depends and put Sacrilegious and Culturally Deficient on for another spin. Eschewing the modern horror trend for just jump cut shocks, Standing on a Floor of Bodies keep their bass-slung grind/violence shocks old school, building a claustrophobic atmosphere that revels in breaking down your psyche rather than traipsing through your viscera.

7.  F.U.B.A.R.
Lead Us to War

There wasn't another album this year that felt as massive as F.U.B.A.R.'s Lead Us to War. While they're not likely to win a foot race with some of their speed obsessed contemporaries, the Dutch grind/violence institution made sure every second of their long awaited album hit you firmly between the peepers and left an indelible mark. Fast, slow, screaming, despairing, F.U.B.A.R. had a range and sincerity sorely lacking in too many grind bands. They delivered their diatribes with the subtlety of a car crash, and I loved every second of it.
6. Antigama
Stop the Chaos

This has been a good year for getting sci-fi all up in your grindcore and Antigama's stop gap EP Stop the Chaos was a great excursion beyond the asteroid belt. Jetting into the black infinitude gave these technically adroit Poles a platform to get all cyberpunky up in here. It doesn't hurt that Stop the Chaos is also Antigama's most focused, song-centric batch of tunes in quite a while. This will keep you occupied until NASA figures out what caused those organic compounds on Mars (aliens, duh). The chaosmongers are coming to take you away.

5. The Kill
Make 'Em Suffer

Australia has been on a grindcore tear in recent years as The Kill are rightly the country's alpha dingo. Named after one of Napalm Death's finest songs, the band lives up to its name, ripping and snorting through 15 songs in under 20 minutes of impeccably performed grind nastiness. This is everything you want in a grind record and not a jot more. But you'll be too busy scraping your brains off the wall to care. They make you
 suffer; it doesn't matter why. 

Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees
I still think a more varied vocal assault would have really pushed this revolutionary call to arms over the top, but that's getting pretty damn nitpicky when you consider the staggering breadth and originality Matthew Widener served up as Liberteer. I listen to way more grind than is probably healthy for any stable person and I can say I've literally never heard anything like this. The operatic sweep and ideological focus of Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees is unlike everything you've ever heard before. The way it integrates into a singular musical experience speaks to a level of thoughtfulness and foresight sorely lacking from a lot of other musical quarters. Viva la revolucion.

3. thedowngoing

More like a thousand years of screaming in unending agony as demons strip away your flesh one teensy thin layer of skin at a time. Australia's gruesome grindcore twosome thedowngoing roared back again in 2012 with yet another tidy 10 minutes of soul flaying insanity that traps you in the pincer of Mathias Huxley's insane screeching and white-noised ear drum rape. Noisegrind has always been a fringe of a fringe of a musical underbelly, but thedowngoing's deliberately inaccessible art should get wider acclaim anywhere that people declaim their love for anything extreme. Time to add one more lethal addition to the long list of venous nasties that infest the antipodes.

2. Sakatat
Bir Devrin Sonu
Everyday Hate

What Bir Devrin Sonu lacks in length, Sakatat more than make up for with raging aggression. There is not a wasted second to be found here as Sakatat minced through a maelstrom of grind and wipeout screaming. Sakatat succeed by burning grindcore down to its most basic constituent parts and then kicking their fucking asses with energy and aplomb. Enjoy all eight minutes of Bir Devrin Sonu because Sakatat have just called it quits. They weren't joking when they named their album End of an Era.

1. Dephosphorus
Night Sky Transform
7 Degrees

Dephosphorus transformed more than the night sky with their sophomore effort; the Hellenic trio upended many of my preconceptions about what grindcore could be and convey. Night Sky Transform has evolved so far beyond mere grindcore that even trying to squeeze them into that label feels like a gross disservice to what they've brewed up as they musically venture into the empty(?) spaces between the stars. The first time I heard Axiom in 2011, this immediately became my most anticipated album of 2012, and Dephosphorus did not fail to deliver, even if they charted a course I didn't expect. Axiom was more immediate and visceral, but Night Sky Transform is ultimately the more rewarding musical experience if you take the time to invest yourself in its otherworldly meditations on the cosmic irrelevance of humanity and the splendor that is the universe at large. All hail aurora.


DesiccatedVeins said...

Some unusual selections here! I'm with you on 5 and 1-3, though. My LPs list is going to be cross-genre, so I'll probably have about 25 when I'm finished.

blasting D said...

some of these will also be on my specific grind end year list, and FUBAR, The Kill and Dephosphorus are already on my more general "fast & angry " bands list. I wasn't convinced by Liberteer, Antigama and Standing on a floor...but I'll give them another chance.
this list will be on my "list of 2012 lists".

Anonymous said...

Thank You Andrew! Seb.

Perpetualstrife said...

So the lockout's finally taken a toll on you...

While I think some of these-NST, Bir...- deserve your praise, I'm a bit worried about your mental stability and health when I see Napalm Death and Antigama there.

Alex Layzell said...

2012 the best year for grind to date. I still really cant see the buzz around new ND, sounds alright to me, nothing exceptionally worthy of praise though. If you get a chance check out Dead Instrument - Violent Death and Sufferinfuck - In Boredom two of the most criminally underrated releases of 2012.

Anonymous said...

Knelt Rote - Trespass

Probably my favorite grind album of the year aside from Dephosphorus...

Sidet said...

I second Anon for Knelt Rote's - Trespass album. In my opinion it serves perfectly as the soundtrack to immersing oneself in the Hell paintings of Wayne Barlowe.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Alex on that Dead Instrument album. Fucking incredible band. Were you, by any chance, in that unforgettable gig when they supported Cephalic Carnage in CPH, Aug 2008?

Alex Layzell said...

I am afraid not, last time I was in Denmark was probably about 15 years ago as a wee boy. However I can imagine all hell broke loose.