Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sabbatical, Bloody Sabbatical

The time has come for me to step aside. After six years and more than 800 posts, I’ve written myself out. I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say and interviewed the bands I’ve really wanted to talk to.
It may not be permanent. For now I’m thinking of it as a sabbatical, but either way I need a blog break. Writing has become a struggle and I’ve found myself missing the deadlines I set for myself and not really caring all that much. I’m just kind of burned out. Right now I’m looking at almost 50 albums that people have graciously submitted for review and I just can’t find the energy to get to them all. I keep finding myself listening to old albums I grew up with rather than the new music people share with me. Having people ask you to listen to their art and offer an opinion is a privilege and if I can’t approach it with the right attitude then I shouldn’t be doing it at all. So, if you’re one of those 50 people, I sincerely apologize. Especially if you’re the one of a dozen or more I’ve been sitting on for six months. That’s bad even by my laggardly standards.
Unlike the last time I seriously thought about packing it in, this time I feel absolutely no anxiety. This is the right decision for the time being. But before I go (for however long I may be away), I need to thank each and every one of you, everyone who has read a post, left a comment, sent an email  or directed me toward new music. You’ve all made this a very rewarding part of my life the last few years. I’m not going to disappear entirely. I’ll keep the Facebook page going for the time being. I just don’t think I have blog length writing in my immediate future. After I take a few months off to rest and recharge and find my spark, that may change. Maybe not. Either way, it’s been a hell of a ride. In my arrogance, when I started I set the simple goal of having the best grind blog on the internet. In my arrogance, I think I got pretty damn close. Maybe after some time away I’ll find that fire. Or I’ll decide it’s time to close that chapter of my life permanently. Either way, thanks for coming along for the ride

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Grind in Rewind 2013

Punctuality has never been my strong point, but I thought I’d get ahead of the curve this year and put out my year end list a bit early. Yay me.
This year, in particular, I have to thank all the cool bands and labels who were generous enough to share their music with me. Since the advent of the Lil Grinder, my discretionary music buying budget has been slashed to zero. So more than ever I’m reliant upon the kindness of strangers. And this year strangers had some pretty damn good taste. Let’s get down to it.

10. Dead Church/Suffering Mind
7 Degrees
Don’t get the wrong idea. The only thing that puts this split down at number 10 is the fact that it’s just one song from each band. But sweet holy fucking Shiva on a shingle, those two songs are absolute humdingers. Suffering Mind have been operating at an extremely high level for quite a few years now, but “War Street/Wall Street” may be the most perfect distillation of the Polish band’s polish and promise that I’ve ever heard. It’s just a perfect little grind tune. Flipside, Dead Church match Suffering Mind’s intensity, chewing through “I Want Nothing” like Al Pacino with an electric scenery gnawing machine powered by cocaine and incinerated copies of Godfather Part 3. Normally, one song from a band is not worth the wax it occupies, but this split is definitely the exception.

9. Detroit
Reality Denied
Grindcore Karaoke
Detroit have been on a roll recently and Reality Denied just keeps that trend trucking like one of the diesel huffing monstrosities churned out by their namesake city. The album may start with “False” but Detroit remains true: loose and spastic and flailing with the abandon of youth. Every song is hewed from the molds established by Napalm Death and Capitalist Casualties, but they’re played with an aplomb that keep that from being merely derivative. There’s a sincerity of focus that elevates them beyond their humble ambitions.

8. Rotten Sound
Species at War
Just when I’d accepted that Rotten Sound’s Murderworks/Exit days were behind them and they were in more of a fast crust punk mold, the Finns start banging out awesome EPs that capture the vibe of their earliest material. Species at War was another great short effort, a snarling little bugbear of bad attitude and unrelenting pessimism. Rotten Sound sound ripped to the gills on humanity’s self-inflicted bullshit and they’re ready to push the button to end it all. The apocalypse has never sounded so upbeat.

7. Sacridose
Anxiety Tremors
Financial Ruin/Bandcamp
Cellgraft offshoot Sacridose sound like the former crossed up with a soupcon of Cloud Rat’s fast hardcore rampage. It’s a winning combination. Plus they cover Rudimentary Peni. Always a bonus. That aside, their original material is a shattered glass tornado of whirling aggression and vertiginous blasting twists. It’s lean and it’s mean and it’s got a hardcore soul that keeps it from being too easily tagged as Cellgraft resurgent.

6. Slavestate 641A
Grindcore Karaoke/Name Like His Master
This is not grind in the musical sense. It’s grind in the tectonic sense. It’s the slow motion smashing of giant plates of earth, buckling and crumbling under the pressure of uncompromising repetition. Born from Robocop, who helped lead the power violence resurgence, Slavestate 641A pull much the same trick on classic Godflesh and Swans, reinvigorating heavy as fuck slow motion misery that crawls along at a stumble step. It’s death by degrees and it’s demanding but the payoff is emotionally satisfying and enervating. It take it that’s how masochism is supposed to work.

5. Gowl
Self Released
Gowl raged right out of nowhere (i.e. Connecticut) in 2013, leaving a smoldering nuclear crater of irradiated awesomeness in their too brief wake. The onomatopoeitic Buzzbox lives up to its name with a snarling tiptoe through Backslider’s garden, which is planted high with amp buzz and clanking snare. It’s a glorious little cacophony that doesn’t offer too much in the way of originality, but it’s delivered with bravado and abandon. That’s really all I ask.

4. Wake
7 Degrees/Handshake Inc.
Wake have been churning out amazing records with such regularity now that it’s almost easy to take them for granted. False is another immaculate entry into their already enviable discography. Its chief success is corralling together another 11 songs that each have their own voice and personality and then having the confidence to let the songs breathe and stake out their own space. Wake haven’t stumbled yet so False makes me truly eager to hear what the Canadians churn out next.

3. Sick/Tired
King of Dirt
King of Dirt worships at the altar pure noise. Noisecore has a special place in my heart and Sick/Tired pluck at each and every string. It’s a chaotic blast of everything that makes grind great. Even the ending on the slow noise song cliché takes on a new vitality at their twisted behest. It’s noisy, angular and strikes with a concussive force. And I keep coming back for more. This is definitely one of my most listened albums in 2013 and it’s still a part of my regular musical rotation. Their follow up EP is just as badass.

2. Who’s My Savior
Wall of Sickness
7 Degrees
Look, I’ve been raving about Who’s My Saviour for years now. I think Glasgow Smile is a certified fucking classic. So I don’t know how much more I need to say to them. Why aren’t you listening to this shit right this fucking minute? Because Wall of Sickness is another brilliant slice of twisted grind from the German trio, who refuse to be bound by grindcore convention but never leave their roots too far behind. Wall of Sickness is an amazing slow build EP that boasts some of Who’s My Saviour’s catchiest songs and these guys excel at writing a memorable grind hook.

1. Cloud Rat


IFB/Halo of Flies/React With Protest/7 Degrees
I called this one back in January. I stand by it 11 months later. Simply put, there has not been another album that comes close to Moksha’s transformative emotional experience this year. Cloud Rat sneak in His Hero is Gone melody and a Neil Young cover as part of the most unabashedly emotional and riveting album in recent memory. Moksha is harrowing in its honesty and plaintive in its frustrated sincerity. No matter how bleak life gets, Cloud Rat still strive for the light of hope. Madison absolutely brought it this album, screaming her soul out to make Moksha the standout musical experience that it is.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Punk Rock Docs

One of my pet peeves is how punks are often portrayed in popular culture. Too often they’re the lunkhead with the ridiculous clothes and hair who is treated like a running punchline. The image of the idiot punk is so ingrained that they’re almost automatically assumed to be falling down drunks who are little more than comic relief devoid of personality or prospects whenever they pop up. In my experience, it’s the direct opposite. Punks are the musical smart asses: the intelligent kid in the back of the room who can do the work but just doesn’t take it seriously. It takes a keen mind to zero in on society’s myriad failures in a way that’s hilarious, excoriating and trenchant all at once.
But some punks have taken that a step further by putting their diplomas where their mouths are, earning some serious academic accolades outside of the mosh pit.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Freaks on Parade: Grindcore Still Puts a (Glasgow) Smile on Who’s My Saviour’s Faces

The term “grindcore” probably evokes a pretty specific set of characteristics: blastbeats, screams, a punk core, indecipherable screaming, micro songs, incoherent politics. Who’s My Saviour don’t want you to dwell on any of that when you encounter their crawling chaos of whirlwind sound. They cop to the grindcore tag as the best fit for their unique racket. They just don’t want to be limited by your crabbed definitions. Grindcore is a much broader term in Who’s My Saviour’s world than most people will allow.
“In its roots, grindcore wasn't that limited genre like it is today. It wasn't even meant as a genre but more like a melting pot for everything which didn't fit into existing genres,” guitarist Stephan “Hazy” Haase said. “Today when you're speaking of grindcore, people think of bad musicians playing ridiculous fast songs with mainly blastbeats, crying evil lyrics, that no one understands at all because 90 percent of the bands in the scene fit into that scheme. We try to get this thing more open for new influences. No fuckin limits!”
So the German trio brings a whole host of outside sounds to Who’s My Saviour and the result is a masterful mix of emotionally charged grind full of individually memorable songs with actual riffs that have a definite starting point and consciously evolve and mutate before the end. In a sea of 30 second bursts of repetitive riffs and single shot ideas, Who’s My Saviour are a verdant island of abundant musical fecundity.
“In fact WMS has always been meant to be a bit different from classic grind bands,” Hazy said. “We are all listening to many different kinds of music apart from grindcore metal stuff. According to that, we wish to bring many different aspects to our music to keep it interesting for ourselves and the listener.”

You March

A wall of sickness... and amps

It’s been six years since Who’s My Saviour graced us with the under the radar grindcore masterpiece Glasgow Smile, but the trio, rounded out by bassist Andy Colosser and new drummer Peat (who replaces the departed Pierre Bernhardt,) roared back in fine fettle with the triumphant Wall of Sickness. It’s a ripped from the headlines missive from the underclass who got stuck with the check when the too big to fail bankers wafted away on golden parachutes courtesy of the public treasury. Hazy said Who’s My Saviour have always had a political edge buried under their façade of intricately spiraling music, but this time out the anger is closer to the surface. It’s all kicked off by an exquisite sample of Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano ripping into the architects of the recent global financial meltdown. It’s the perfect mood setter for the revolutionary rabble rousing to come.
“We were always interested in politics and what's happening in the world. Maybe it is a bit more obvious because of the samples we used on Wall of Sickness, but in general you won't recognize a big difference between both records, if you check the lyrics,” Hazy said. “Of course we kind of react to the financial crisis and its consequences. Ordinary people have to pay the banks while the banks don´t have to fear any restrictions. So the sample of Mike Capuano was just perfect to describe the big gap between the banks and those who have to refinance the bailout. You can really hear that he is totally pissed and that this is what most people think. Check the song ‘This World Belongs to Us’. This is what we think about the situation.”
While Who’s My Saviour say the music always comes first, they’ve shown an incredibly deft hand with samples. Glasgow Smile closes out with one of my favorite ever songs, “Save Your Breath,” which wraps a sinuous stoner riff around a perfectly placed sample borrowed from the film 2001. It’s all the more impressive when I learned the song was a last minute addition to the album and a bit of a happy accident.
“Funny fact about ‘Save Your Breath’. We wrote that song in about 15 minutes,” Hazy said. “We came to the point that we just need one more song and it should be plain simple. After recording that song, we already had in mind that we want to use this particular sample from 2001 - A Space Odyssey from Stanley Kubrick and it worked out pretty good.”
Who’s My Saviour pulled the same trick on Wall of Sickness with closing track “Weedeater,” which also wraps itself around a sample to punctuate the catharsis the album had slowly built toward.
“It was pretty much clear that ‘Weedeater’ had to be the last song, because for us it was the perfect solution to leave the listener with a feeling of quite unwellness,” Hazy said.

This World Belongs to Us

Weedeaters pause the grind for a slice.
I had already mentally reconciled myself to Who’s My Saviour being that perfect one album wonder before Wall of Sickness appeared almost out of nowhere. It was actually intended to be the band’s farewell statement, but a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.
All of the members of Who’s My Saviour have been pulled in myriad musical directions over the last decade. Hazy previously did time in Cyness while Colosser still pulls double duty in Wojczech. Drummer Bernhardt eventually reached the point where he had decided to devote himself full time to his other project Bad Luck Rides on Wheels. Who’s My Saviour thought they had reached the end of their road.
“We lost the ‘battle ‘, but we are still friends and we understand the situation he was in,” Hazy said. “Andy and Pierre are even sharing an apartment. He also recorded Wall of Sickness, played the drums and did the mixing job along with our new drummer Peat. Everything is fine and change is still something good. We decided to record these songs after Pierre told us that he´s going to quit the band. We didn't even think about playing with a new drummer because it is hard to find a guy playing drums like he did. And then all of a sudden Peat fell from heaven.”
So that’s how Who’s My Saviour ended up answering these questions from the road on their recent European tour as they look forward to tackling South America in early 2014 with friends Wojczech. It’s a tour that will force Colosser to double shift by playing bass and singing for both bands.
“Andy has been playing with Wojczech and WMS for over a decade now and we always played shows and tours together,” Hazy said.  “He is used to do[ing] this although it is always a tough job, especially doing vocals twice a show. I will train that bastard up so he will be in shape for the Brazil attack.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

G&P Review: Limbs Bin

Limbs Bin
Summertime Blues
Grindcore Karaoke

Limbs Bin make only one mistake on Summertime Blues, but it’s a bit akin to booking your kids for a relaxing August getaway at Camp Crystal Lake. I have a congenital hole in my soul that can only be filled by insane drum machine grind, but the gaps between songs on Summertime Blues are just fucking massive. Just as I’m getting into a song like the excellent “Le Samourai” (somebody has impeccable taste in French gangster films), I slam into the brick wall of silence. I'm waiting four or five seconds for the next hammer to fall. Summertime Blues is only 11 minutes but the lag makes it feel twice as long sometimes.
But I do my best to overlook that because Limbs Bin make very choice drum machine-driven grind madness. It’s somewhere between the earliest Gigantic Brain material and Agoraphobic Nosebleed at their most cybernetically aggressive. The individual songs are fantastic and the drum machine is one of the best sounding I’ve ever heard. The drums just slam into your chest with a palpable force. At its best Limbs Bin just about leaves you gasping for breath from concussive force.
But grind is an apex predator that has to constantly keep moving in search of prey. Lag is its only known rival. If Limbs Bin could go back and retroactively excise the between song gaps on Summertime Blues, they would have a near flawless record on their hands. While my short attention span usually can’t handle a few seconds between songs, the individual tunes Limbs Bin have wired together from broken machinery and volcanic bile are strong enough on an individual basis that I still keep coming back for more.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Good Reads: Eat the Worm

The book: Dune by Frank Herbert

For all its accolades, Dune, in my opinion, epitomizes the difference between writing and storytelling. Frank Herbert thought up an amazing story, fascinating characters and a brilliantly detailed world. Unfortunately, the he was really deficient when it comes to the mechanics of writing. The point of view leaps from person to person every other paragraph and, given the immensely detailed universe and thick political intrigue, characters are left to narrate large blocks of the plot in droning masses of dialogue. That said, who wouldn’t want to ride a fucking sand worm? Solve math problems with a mentat? Or watch a spiced-up Guilt steersman pilot an interstellar freighter? Fear (of terrible writing) is the mindkiller.

A representative passage:
Aloud, he said: “You speak of a place where you cannot enter? This place which the Reverend Mother cannot face, show it to me.”
She shook her head, terrified by the very thought.
“Show it to me!” he commanded.
But she could not escape him. Bludgeoned by the terrible force of him, she closed her eyes and focused inward—the direction-that-is-dark.
Darkness and a wind out of nowhere.

Through it all threaded the realization that her son was the Kwisatz Haderach, the one who could be many places at once. He was the fact out of the Bene Gesserit dream. And the face gave her no peace.

The album: Mourning the Unknown by Sayyadina

Sayyadina take their name from the caste of Fremen priestesses in Dune, so naturally their music is intrinsically linked to the novel in my mind. It doesn’t hurt that the Swedes aren’t afraid to bust out of grindcore’s narrow gore vs. politics lyrical confines and spread their philosophical wings a bit more, opining on life and our place in it. While Mourning the Unknown couches many of its metaphors in the chill of winter and the creak of ice, it’s not too hard a notion to transplant their lyrical isolation to the clean-swept sands of Arrakis.

A representative song: “Stolen Identity.”

Like a lot of messianic literature, Dune struggles with the nature of fate, identity and the weight of people’s expectations and desire to bend power to their own ends. Sayyadina ably wrestle with the same themes on “Stolen Identity,” the excellent lead off track from Mourning the Unknown.

Stolen identity
You took it all from me
Obsessed with violence
Obsessed with hate
Never thinking
Before it’s too late
Now all that I can see
Is revenge, finally
Hatred and violence
Controlling a fat
Never thinking
Before it’s too late
Stolen identity
You took it all from me

Friday, November 8, 2013

High Priests of the Death Church: A Rudimentary Peni Retrospective

Nat informed me that “punk is not fashion, it’s an attitude.” I have heard this somewhere before. I must say I am relieved that both he and Greg take this view and will not be resorting to war-zone dress sense of many punks. Nat gleefully described the “corpse of punk” as having no life in it whatsoever, and it was this decayed grandeur of a fallen subculture which had so attracted him.
Nick Blinko
The Primal Screamer

Rudimentary Peni did not revolutionize punk rock. At least not in the sense that the band boasts a wave of imitators intent on stealing any hint of the English band’s psychologically unstable glamour and passing it off as their own. The trio of guitarist/vocalist/visionary Nick Blinko, bassist Grant Matthews and drummer Jon Greville is just too idiosyncratic and hermetic for such easy imitation and commoditization.
But what the band has accomplished over its 30 year run is unrivaled in the annals of punk. When too many other punks celebrate their semi-centennial birthdays with sad trips around the nostalgic circuit (is there anything more pitifully un-punk than the very existence of such a nostalgia circuit?) or filing lawsuits against former friends, Rudimentary Peni unexpectedly pop back up a couple times a decade to drop yet another immaculate EP’s worth of new material that builds on the morbid visions they first laid out in 1981 without recourse to rehashing their (wilted) salad days.
Unique among the restless waves of politically-minded crust punks that roamed England in the early 1980s, Rudimentary Peni, while certainly political, filtered their diatribes through Blinko’s nightmarish insights and intricate artwork to set themselves well outside the circle of their peers. Rudimentary Peni songs, practically from the very outset, were psychologically rich meditations on death, decay, social oppression and mental upheaval that resonated far beyond the glut of bands who just tried to provoke and shock with cheap frights.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Good Reads: Ewige Blumenkraft!

The book: The Illuminatus! Trilogy

Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson put the voodoo into economics with their occult libertarian opus The Illuminatus! Trilogy, which blends together just enough fractured history, complete bullshit, libertarian broadsides and kinky sex to be confuzzle and amaze the most burned out acid casualty from the ’60s and anyone else with a biting sense of humor. Robert and Robert’s scifi whatsis touchstone is a mordant mix of spy shlock, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, John Dillinger, the Bavarian Illuminati, cheeky deux ex machina, Anton LaVey’s fake satanic hustle and Lovecraftian Nazi zombie death apocalypse at a music festival that skips through time, space and point of view in a schizophrenic mirror of the fractured 20th Century. There’s a reason why this might be one of the greatest books ever written. Fnord.

A representative passage:
There was a silence that seemed to stretch into some long hall of near-Buddhist emptiness—George recognized the glimpse at last!, into the Void all his acidhead friend had tried to describe—and then he remembered that was not the trip Hagbard was pushing him toward. But the silence lingered as a quietness of spirit, a calm in the tornado of those last few days, and George found himself ruminating with total dispassion , without hope or dread or smugness or guilt; if not totally without ego, or in full darshana, at least without the inflamed and voracious ego that usually either leaped forward or shrunk back from naked fact. He contemplated his memories and was unmoved, objective, at peace. He thought of blacks and woman and of their subtle revenges against their Masters, acts of sabotage that could not be recognized clearly as such because they took the form of acts of obedience; he thought of the Shoshone Indians and their crude joke, so similar to the jokes of oppressed peoples everywhere; he saw, suddenly, the meaning of Mardi Gras and the Feast of Fools and the Saturnalia and the Christmas Office Party and the other limited, permissible, structured occasions on which Freud’s Return of the Repressed was allowed; he remembered all the times he had gotten his own back against a professor, a high school principal, a bureaucrat, or, further back, his own parents, by waiting for the occasion when, by doing exactly what he was told, he could produce some form of minor catastrophe. He saw a world of robots, marching rigidly in the paths laid down for them from above, and each robot partly alive, partly human, waiting its chance to drop its own monkey wrench into the machinery. He saw, finally, why everything in the world seemed to work wrong and the Situation Normal was All Fucked Up. “Hagbard,” he said slowly. “I think I get it. Genesis is exactly backwards. Our troubles started from obedience, not disobedience. And humanity is not yet created.”

The album: Violent Resignation: The Great American Teenage Suicide Rebellion 1992-1998 by In/Humanity

South Carolina’s In/Humanity lived to fuck with crust punk convention as they proselytized for the obviously-fake-but-still-kinda-serious concepts of “occultonomy,” “smashism” and “emo-violence.” In/Humanity’s rangy noise mixed crust punk politicking with cheesy Satanism, Charles Manson mockery and a goofball rip on the occult and esoteric to advance their goals of anarchism and personal autonomy at all costs. And with all that, their posthumous compilation demonstrates they had a deft hand at bending raw punk noise to their bidding as well. Death couldn’t even keep the band back as key members morphed into Guyana Punch Line to continue their mordant assault on mainstream mediocrity with a psychologically skewed slant on society’s ills.

A representative song: “Emo Violence Generation”

People try to put us down, the short sighted never see. What’s that emo violence sound? A sound for you and me! Occultonomist grips like strychnine on your back. The beast unleashed bears[sic] its teeth, now ready to attack! EMO VIOLENCE! EMO VIOLENCE!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hostile Carbon Units: Standing on a Floor of Bodies Invite You to Their Creepshow

It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror... Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms.

Apocalypse Now

Horror is the central tenet of Standing on a Floor of Bodies’ grisly grind. Not the cheap corn syrup spray of lazy goregrind and generic slasher films, but the soul crushing starkness of naked terror and unsettling atmosphere. Musical mastermind Mike Stitches wants to be that adrenal itch beneath your epidermis, the prickling hair at the back of your neck as you walk down an unlit street on a moonless night.
“The atmosphere in any convincing horror film is so undeniably massive and encompassing and I've always wanted to capture that in another way,” Stiches said. “Whether I've been successful at this is rather subjective. Depends mostly on the listener and what s/he considers scary. I've always been drawn to movies like Carrie (original), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original), House of the Devil, Calvaire and The Conjuring, where the mood is centered around isolation, darkness, tension, claustrophobia and hopelessness. You just know when Leatherface appears for the first time in Texas Chainsaw that his first victim is beyond fucked at that point. Or when Jack Torrance starts whaling at the bathroom door with his axe. Those moments beg to be matched musically.”

Die! Die! My Darling!

There’s something undeniably cinematic about Standing on a Floor of Bodies’ unique blend of bass-driven grind and the perfectly matched murder scene visuals, which look like they were swiped from the cops’ cold case files or an Unsane photoshoot. Stitches and his wife, musical accomplice and all around survivor girl Bvnny specialize in 45 second fright fests that run the gamut of fight or flight responses on albums like the nightmarish Sacrilegious and Culturally Deficient. It’s a match made in matrimony and the sanguinary aisle of your local videorama.
“In terms of working on a project like this, it's good to work with someone who understands the overall intention and purpose, which she definitely does. So, I don't have to spend all this extra time throwing movies, records and books at her. She's seen all that stuff, which is a relief,” Stitches said. “Now every time we experience something new and interesting, it's usually together. Or if I find something on my own, I usually show her right away. I'll never forget when we watched You're Next. We were at this theater in the desert in the middle of the day and there were probably like 20 people in the place. We laughed our asses off the whole time at these yuppies just getting decimated. Before, I'd usually have to wait for a movie like that to come out on DVD, rent it, watch it by myself and then sample it after a long day at work because nobody I knew at the time would be into it. With Bvnny, she'll usually grab me and be like, ‘Dude, when this comes out, you GOTTA sample that part’ or ‘that would make an awesome album cover.’”
Adding Bvnny to the mix on Sacrilegious and Culturally Deficient gave Stitches an extra sounding board for the music as well as let him farm out the lyrics, something he’d tackled in prior band thousandswillide but never really considered his strong point.

The Sound of My Voice

While she’s the band’s dedicated lyricist, Bvnny gets extra assistance from the duo’s choice taste in samples to bolster their aesthetic. The samples are integral to developing Standing on a Floor of Bodies’ creepy crawly vibe and Bvnny and Stitches have been known to abuse their Netflix privileges in search of inspiring sounds.
“Samples are an on-going process and can be totally random. Bvnny and I will be watching a movie and sometimes won't send back to the DVD to Netflix until I've picked through almost every scene, if it's a really good source,” Stitches said. “The manipulation process is more dependent upon the song writing, of course. It just takes time to figure out what's going to work well. What usually happens is I'll suddenly come up with a few ideas out of nowhere, finally get home and program the drums, record bass tracks over them, throw them on my iPod and listen to my own demos for months before actually recording anything officially. This give me a chance to think things over and make adjustments where needed. Most of these demos don't have any sampling involved until I'm just about ready to record, others will be written around samples. It all kinda depends on what we're working with at the time.”
Given that he puts that much thought an effort into the sound of Standing on a Floor of Bodies, it’s no surprise that Stitches is equally meticulous about finding a visual that perfectly matches the racket.
“Music and artwork on an album can work so powerfully together. I think if you're an intelligent musician that doesn't make the effort to merge those two somehow, you're not really applying yourself. Because a record can have a huge impact the listener, even more so than most people you meet,” he said. “There's always going to be some shithead who hassles you to digest 50 brand new bands that all want to musically, lyrically and visually recreate Napalm Death’s Scum. Nobody needs to listen to that guy. The desired result should be ‘holy shit, this is interesting. Where do I get more?’ Not, ‘okay, cool, I got yet another punk by numbers record with a landfill or mass grave on the cover.’ Find what fucking knocks the wind out of you musically and enjoy it for yourself and with anyone who likes it as much as you do.”
And it’s not like Stitches will ever lack for inspiration.
“I've still got probably hundreds of samples from movies that haven't ended up on any song on any release (yet),” he said. “There's some days where all I do is sample movies and play around with layers and layers of noise.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Good Reads: Two Thumbs Up

The book: Zeroville by Steve Erickson

Cinema has always haunted Steve Erickson’s best work from the stuttering movie critic protagonist of Amnesiascope (a doppelganger of the author) through the lost film masterpiece that lurks at the fringes of the narrative of Days Between Stations. But Erickson never gave himself over to the silver screen as wholly as in Zeroville, the story of film editor Vikar Jersome, who wanders into Hollywood with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor from A Place in the Sun tattooed on the side of his head. His eventual rise to cinematic prominence parallels the advent of New Hollywood and the book is filled with veiled allusions to artists such as William Friedkin, Robert Deniro and John Milius. Vikar is described as “cine-autistic” by one of the other characters. Awkward and detached in social situations, he’s prone to repeating other people’s opinions verbatim when at a loss for something to say, but Vikar is completely steeped in the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age and his journey across Los Angeles is a pilgrimage that pays homage to the city’s movie landmarks from the hotel where Clift once lived (and supposedly where D.W. Griffith haunts) to the graveyards of nascent Hollywood’s most prominent stars.True to the Hollywood spirit, it's only fitting that Erickson be the first Good Reads author to get a sequel.

A representative passage:
“Fuck continuity,” says Vikar
Silence falls over the meeting. This is the first thing that anyone in the meeting has heard Vikar say.
“The scenes of a movie,” Vikar says, “can be shot out of sequence not because it’s more convenient, but because all the scenes of a movie are really happening at the same time. No scene really leads to the next, all scenes lead to each other. No scene is really shot out of order. It’s all a false concern that a scene must anticipate another scene that follows, even if it’s not been shot yet, or that a scene must reflect a scene that precedes it, even if it’s not been shot yet, because all scenes anticipated and reflect each other. Scenes reflect what has not yet happened, scenes anticipate what has already happened.” Vikar rises from his chair. Los Angeles is the City of the Real, whose stories are as old as time, where people go to hide from God, unlike the more hopeful, childlike people of New York. “Scenes that have not yet happened,” he explains to those around the table, “have.” New York makes sense to Vikar now—as he leaves the room, everyone staring after him –in a way it never did when he was there.

A bonus representative passage:
Vikar is wholly consumed by film. That is until he’s working on a film in New York City in the late ’70s and comes across a seedy bar in the Bowery that exudes a raucous rock ‘n’ roll noise he only knows as the Sound.

It’s not just a music, rather it’s the Sound, the real Music everyone has tried to tell him over the years that all the other music was when it wasn't.
Vikar is standing on the Bowery outside what seems to be a tunnel cut into a bunker. The sidewalk is crowded with more kids like he saw in St. Marks Place, as well as old people sleeping under newspapers and drunks stumbling through the crowd asking for money. A dirty barefooted woman shivers under a yellow awning in nothing but the paper-thin gown that patients wear in hospitals.
The address on the awning is 315. There are nonsensical letters on the awning that spell nothing. A mystifying hand-written cardboard sign on the black glass doors that says
and while nothing about this is comprehensible to him, the illicitly narcotic Sound is irresistible and he goes inside, the doorman eying him with wonder.

The album: Los Angeles by Graf Orlock

Obviously, no other grind band is as equally enraptured by the power of cinema as Graf Orlock. Where other bands are content to sample bits of dialogue here and there to set off their songs, Graf Orlock are wholesale remixers who spin new stories out of repurposed dialogue and samples jailbroken from the context of their original films. Like Erickson’s Zeroville, the Los Angeles EP is their love letter not just to films but to the city that births them. It’s a tribute to the ways film reflects the glorifies the city and the way the very streets and architecture have given birth to the movies themselves, an Oroborus of influence and mutual reinforcement that just can’t happen anywhere else.

A representative song: Just listen to the whole damn thing

Thursday, October 24, 2013

G&P Review: Daggra

Grindcore Karaoke

There’s a sweet spot, a musical Lagrange point precariously poised between the twin gravitational tugs of Cellgraft’s slingshot sweep past the sun and Priapus’ bulldozing gas giant mass (yes, that means it kinda sorta sounds like Circle of Dead Children). That’s where Daggra chose to set up shop, in the relatively stability between speed and mass.
Now Daggra won't be knocking any of the aforementioned trio of grinding greats from their laureled perches just yet, but this is a band that shows some promise once they grow into their sound. Daggra keep the fundamentals of their attack simple. Their songs are a full bore charge into your face that seeks to overwhelm with brute force rather than muck about with messy strategy. To that end, they keep the riffs concise and catchy. Songs follow that comfortable formula of short, punky build up into grind explosion, all executed in 100 seconds or left. Six originals and an Insect Warfare cover are enough to convey what Daggra are all about. But that simplicity and familiarity also mean Daggra won’t be blowing you away with originality. This is squarely in the comfort food category of grind, familiar and filling but none too challenging to the palette.
If there’s one other knock on Daggra’s attack it would be the percussion. I can’t tell if it’s an issue of performance or production, but the drums seem divorced from the other instruments at times. It’s like the drums are chasing the song when they should be diesel-spewing engine that powers the whole spiel. A more robust performance there may have been just enough to jump Daggra up from faithful followers of grind’s finer traditions to a band able to inject new blood into a well worn formula.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Good Reads: Children of Men

The book: Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

If all you know of Akira is Otomo’s own (admittedly awesome) anime adaptation of his masterwork, then you’ve only scratched the surface of the story. The film version barely touches on the events of the first volume of his six phone book-sized tomes, chronicling the plight of psychic street punks in decaying Neotokyo. The film ably captures the body horror aspect as Tetsuo’s newfound power rips his body apart, but it doesn’t quite capture the same sense of social horror as Otomo addresses the fraying ties that unite a country and the uneasy alliances that are left over when rigid hierarchies fall away and people are forced to shift for themselves. There’s certainly a lot more going on with Akira than bike punks on a rampage. Check out the books and widen your scope on an anime classic. Like Gojira before it, Akira starts with a thinly veiled allusion to the atomic bombing of Japan, bifurcating of the country's history and casting aside the rigid ordered past in favor of something new and unsettled. The unease that accompanies all sudden social upheavals strongly informs Otomo's tale as the cross section of complex characters each try to grapple with the unknowable power represented by the titular, godlike Akira and his insane chamberlain Tetsuo.

A representative passage:
“Ours is a young nation, and some might say it’s vulnerable! It is true we are yet weak, without laws or a constitution… …But a glorious future awaits us if we remain steadfast in our will and in our faith! Interference from the outside world will not be tolerated! We will repel all attacks whether from the United States, Russia… .. or even from Japan herself! … This land is our land!”

The album: Orphan by GrindLink

Orphan is a good theme because Otomo’s Neotokyo is a culturally isolated city full of people who have been disconnected from their past and their culture by the power of Akira. Cast adrift from its history and social institutions, Akira’s world is full of people who are forced to make compromised choices out of ignorance and necessity just to get by. GridLink’s freneticism and Far East fascination perfectly pair with the dizzying, neon-fried landscape that dominates Otomo’s masterpiece.

A representative song: “Orphan”

I never wanted this distance
This distance between myself and the rest of the world

Unanswered voicemails the cursor hangs anxiously
Waiting for words that never come
Pages filled with scraps of life imagined
Reconstructed like the act of a murder scene
I don't want the baggage of things that are left unsaid
Somewhere in between we've lost ourselves

Keep our cards close it's how we wear our lies
Together but we are alone
Bridge of memories, that ends in death cycling like cover flow
Why are we trapped where only shadows fall?
How do we belong?
Punching holes in myself when there's no holes left to cut and regret does not absolve

It's all falling apart in my hands
It's all I have
Choked up
Bled out
Waiting for tears
Will they come?

Further our hearts
Our rendered voice
Across the world
Still the tears won't come

Thursday, October 17, 2013

G&P Review: Slavestate 641A

“It was you who inoculated me with selfishness, pride and cruelty, and you shall be their first victim. I now literally enjoy having a human being that thinks and feels and desires like myself in my power; I love to abuse a man who is stronger in intelligence and body than I, especially a man who loves me.
“Do you still love me?”
“Even to madness,” I exclaimed.
“So much the better,” she replied, “and so much the more will you enjoy what I am about to do with you now.”
“What is the matter with you?” I asked. “I don’t understand you, there is a gleam of real cruelty in your eyes today, and you are strangely beautiful—completely Venus in Furs.”
Without replying Wanda placed her arms around my neck and kissed me. I was again seized by my fanatical passion.
“Where is the whip?” I asked.

Ritter von Leopold Sacher-Masoch
Venus in Furs

Slavestate 641A
Grindcore Karaoke/Name Like His Master

There’s a very limited subset of humanity that wants to hear their shitty, repetitive, inconsequential lives recreated in a droning, stumbling, implacable audio form. Even noted musical bummers Mike Gira and Justin Broadrick had to take decade-long vacations into the realms of the ethereal and more upbeat (relatively speaking, here) before diving back into the broken pavement misery of daily survival.
That’s all an elaborate way of saying the Slavestate 641A is probably not for everyone, even in the target demographic of people primed to hoover up anything that boasts 66 percent of Robocop as its creative nexus. Masochist is unrelenting in its repetitive slow motion negativity. It just wears you down through sheer heft and indifference that take the most antagonistic output of artists like Swans and Godflesh as a starting point then beats them into submission.
The product of a 24 hour recording process that involved homebrew DIY recording tech, lashes from belts and near drowning while trying to scream underwater, Masochist lives up its name, grinding away at two songs carved from endless waves of slow motion repetition that soundtrack a lifetime of organs slowly failing and machinery sputtering to a half from routine wear. It’s an audio diary transported from the realms of Stephen King’s Dark Tower, the sound of a tired world that’s “moved on,” its technology and very reality wearing out and decaying in its wake.  The keening “Screwdriver” stumbles and throbs like a cyborg angina, a congestive heart failure of faltering components and broken down circuitry. The slithering “Reptile Enclosure” is more organic, the  suffocating throes of an animal too weary to even flail at the prospect of death. The song is attenuated droning near the point of stasis (think Khanate at their most dessicated), which probably makes it the more difficult of the two to truly appreciate as music. But it does get across its fundamental musical mission.
Slavestate 641A do not make feel good music to soundtrack your humdrum life. This is something a little more challenging that maybe deserves some additional thought but is admittedly targeted to a very narrow demographic set. If audio self flagellation is your thing, you can do worse than Masochist.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Six, Six, Six

Happy sixth birthday, G&P, you gigantic time sink in my life.
Just a couple months ago I couldn’t imagine reaching this milestone. I was burned out, lethargic, my writing sucked ass and I was ready to just chuck the whole damn thing. But here I am marking the sixth anniversary of the blog. Funny how things change in the course of a couple of weeks.
So once again, I want to take stock of it all so I never get complacent and forget what an amazing privilege this has all been. I just want to take the time to thank every one of you for stopping by and reading, indulging me in all of this. Thank you for chipping in and making this fun. I wouldn’t be here and I couldn’t do any of this without your support.
Thank you to every awesome band that’s ever sent me stuff to listen to. I apologize again for taking so fucking long to get around to writing about you. I know it’s only gotten worse lately. I’m working on that, I promise.
Thank you as well to everyone who’s ever done an interview. Those are definitely my favorite parts of this. I wish I had the time and energy to do them more often. I’m working on that too. I especially want to dive back into the long, in depth band histories again, provided Lil Grinder will give me the time.
After six years, I kinda feel like I just now really understand what I want the blog to be and where it should go. It’s taken half a decade to maybe figure out what my niche is. Hopefully you guys dig it and stick around.
A couple months ago I gave serious thought to packing it all in because I was tired and burned out. Nothing was really exciting me. I found my inspiration again just before I was about to pull the trigger. I can still envision shutting it all down one day. But then it will be on my terms and not in a fit of pique. Until then, I’m just going to enjoy the opportunities the blog has opened up for me and take it all as it comes.
Thanks everybody for making it happen.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

G&P Review: Blurring

Jan. 26 2013 Demo

The garbage plate is Rochester’s culinary gift to the world. It’s a gut-busting catchall of fried potatoes, baked beans, hotdogs, chili and whatever else is at hand. It’s also a pretty convenient metaphor for Rochester’s resident metal scene, an omnivorous blend of hardcore, grind, death metal and related musical roadkill that managed to be fast and burly while still cramming in enough bent technicality to keep things aslant without ever sliding into music nerd math dissertation territory. The ground zero of the city’s musical mayhem was the almighty Lethargy, a circus-souled calliope of grind blitz, death metal intensity and just plain oddball time signatures. That unique collection of cavemen with calculators later spun out Rochester’s roster of signature bands including Kalibas and Sulaco (also something called Mast-O-Don, whatever that is).
If that specific sound sets your limbic system aflame, please allow me to direct your attention to Blurring, which boasts the services of Rochester institutions Matt Colbert (Kalibas) and Erik Burke (Kalibas, Lethargy, Sulaco, Brutal Truth and plenty of others).  Blurring sound exactly as you imagine given that cast of characters, the perfect way station between Lethargy’s balls out insanity and Kalibas’ chunk/skronk dumpster diving, all overtopped by Burke’s instantly recognizable howler monkey yowl . [Burke is actually the drummer. I apologize for the mistake.] Blurring appropriate just about every offshoot on the metal tree in pursuit of pure heaviness. There are only three teasing tracks to be found on their demo, but it’s enough to get the salivary glands a-drooling like one of Pavlov’s hounds. Hopefully Blurring pile that garbage plate high with a second helping soon.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Good Reads: Oedipus Wrecks

The book: The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme

Don’t be alarmed. The loud buzzing and the flashing lights you’re experiencing are simply the Very Important Metaphor Early Warning System kicking in. You see, Thomas has a problem with his Dead Father. Thomas, along with his lover Julie and a host of underpaid, alcohol-deprived malcontents, is dragging the city-block sized corpse of his Dead Father across the country in hopes revivifying him. But the Dead Father is not, strictly speaking, dead. The Dead Father can still speak, hand down pronouncements and generally tries to order around everyone’s life. When he doesn’t get his way, the Dead Father has been known to run off into the woods and put various tiny woodland creatures to the sword to vent his rage. The metaphor seems almost insultingly obvious, and in the hands of a lesser craftsman, it would be. But Donald Barthelme wrote the way Monet painted. He steamrolls you with waves of sentence fragments that individually reveal little but taken together weave a pointillist tapestry of vivid, obsessive detail in the mode of David Foster Wallace. Barthelme was a master of ribald absurdity and telling anachronism. He turned Snow White into a farce of sexual mores and inverted King Arthur into a parable of the Cold War. Sure, he was working out some fairly Freudian issues with The Dead Father, but like poor beleaguered Thomas, it’s all about what the journey reveals.

A representative passage:

I don’t like this, said the Dead Father.
What? asked Julie. What, dear old man, don’t you like?
You are killing me.
We? Not we. Not in any sense we. Processes are killing you, not we. Inexorable processes.
Inexorable inapplicable in my case, said the Dead Father. Hopefully.
“Hopefully” cannot be used in that way, grammatically, said Thomas.
You are safe, dear old man, you are safe, temporarily, in the mansuetude of our care, Julie said.
The what?
The mansuetude that is to say mild gentleness of our care.
I am surrounded by creepy murderous pedants! the Dead Father shouted. Unbearable!
Thomas handed the Dead Father the pornographic comic book.
Now now, he said, no outbursts. Read this. It will keep you occupied.
I don’t want to be occupied, said the Dead Father. Children are kept occupied. I want to participate!
Not possible, said Thomas. Thank God for the pornographic comic book. Sit there and read it. Sit there with your back against that rock. Thank the Lord for what is given to you. Others have less. Here is a knapsack to place between your back and the rock. Here is a flashlight to read the comic book by. Edmund will bring your Ovaltine at ten. Count your blessings.

The album: The Jester Race by In Flames

Jumping off the grindcore track briefly, The Jester Race is an album that’s chained to the past and struggles with the way our histories come to define our futures. Each song seems to contain some nugget of the same thought from the backwards looking “Artifacts of the Black Rain” through the inability of mankind to learn from its prior mistakes in “Graveland” or the way “Dead Eternity” promises that “time will be your master in this laborious part of human subsistence.” And perhaps too on the nose for our purposes, there’s “Dead God in Me.”

A representative song: “Dead God in Me”

To slit the grinning wounds
from childhood's seven moons
the palette stained with the ejaculated passions
(of forbidden, hedonistic colors...)

Strike from omnipotence; all-seer, all-deemer
and haunt my severed country with your
dripping, secret games

You pick the unripe lilies
deflored and peeled the bleeding petals
made known to me
the grainy stains, the crimson lotus
of the Black-Ash Inheritance,
the semen feed of gods and masters
The worms still in me,
still a part of me,
racing out from leaking rooms,
swoop from broken lungs to block the transmission
to put an end to the nomad years

you are the
dead god in me

Thursday, October 3, 2013

G&P Review: Sacridose

Anxiety Tremors
Financial Ruin/Bandcamp

PROTIP: plunking a sweet Rudimentary Peni cover (“Only Human”) in the middle of your EP will put a big coprophagic smile on Andrew’s face, predisposing him to shower oodles of wordy praise upon your efforts. I get that no band wants their slaved-over recording judged solely on their deft handling of someone else’s music, hacking out covers like some garage denizen. I’m just saying it greases the critical skids around these parts.
Because Sacridose have so much more going for them than excellent interpretations of choice cuts of psycho British punk classics. For starters, you may recognize the name and riffs of guitarist Ryan Zell from a little band called Cellgraft. But Sacridose is not just a victory lap rerun of a band that fizzled too soon. While there’s a nod back to Zell’s old stomping grounds, Anxiety Tremors rumbles along like Repulsion crossed with His Hero is Gone and its XX chromosome presence at the mic creates some aesthetic and attitudinal overlap with Cloud Rat. There's not a single word in that sentence that shouldn't trigger the pleasure centers of your little grinding noggin.
In a whisker under nine minutes, Sacridose are not interested in belaboring the point. Each song snags a central riff or a vocal quirk, builds around that and politely steps aside once it’s made its point. In fact, the 93 second “Only Human” cover is the album’s longest track by a good 20 seconds but more often by nearly a minute. That fact makes repeat performances a must. Each fragment from the floor-punching “Faceless” through the energy drink shot of the introductory “Poison Design” are models of songwriting economy that can be unpacked to reveal a plethora of little tricks that each contribute to a model song. All that and a great Rudimentary Peni homage. What more can you ask?

[Full disclosure: the band sent me a download.]

Monday, September 30, 2013

Good Reads: A Man Chooses; a Slave Obeys

 The book: Sewer, Gas & Electric by Matt Ruff

Matt Ruff’s Public Works Trilogy is many things. It’s a screwball near-future sci-fi freakout about looney pacifist eco-warriors trying to preserve endangered species against the onslaught of unchecked industrialization. It’s the tale of a racist computer’s final solution. It’s the story of a vicious mutant land shark on the rampage through the sewers, streets and Cub Scout hiking trails of an unsuspecting city. It’s also the life story of a nigh-immortal Civil War veteran who just refuses to die. But most of all Sewer, Gas & Electric is a pretty brutal takedown of Ayn Rand, who appears as a holographic head in a hurricane lamp. With Objectivism currently enjoying an undeserved renaissance among political leaders who should probably know better, it’s as good a time as any for Rand’s flawed thinking, sloppy suppositions and blatant hypocrisy to get a well deserved literary smack down as thinly veiled avatars of Rand’s own creations skewer her philosophy by injecting sloppy, random humanity into her clear cut worldview.  Mercifully, there are no 60 page speeches to slog through.

A representative passage:
“Jesus,” Joan said, as John Galt gave the novel’s closing benediction and traced a dollar sign in the space above the desolate earth. She laughed, and shut the book, and spent a moment studying the portrait on the back cover. “Who is this woman?”
“Well?” said Archie. “How was it?”
“Pinch me if I missed a punchline somewhere,” Joan said, “but this book is not intended as a spoof, correct? It’s not an incredibly understated parody?”
Archie shook his head.  “Rand’s an ex-Russki, pre-glasnost, and they don’t kid much. They’re not much into understatement, either. … When she says, ’And I mean it’ in the afterword, you can bet money she means it.”
“Jesus …so it really is then…”
“Really is what?”
“The anti-Communist Manifesto,” Joan said. “Das Kapital for capitalists, with chase scenes and heavy petting…”

The album: Withering Strands of Hope by Benumb


For all of grind's political sloganeering about the mechanisms of power being turned on the poor and the disenfranchised, nobody zeroed in on the economic concerns of the working class better than Benumb. Like some lame political functionary once said, "It's the economy, stupid." The California grind-violence collective had a financial reporter’s eye for the way the changing 21st Century economy was filling Wal-Mart’s shelves with cheap crap to buy at the expense of American jobs being shipped out to third world shitholes where impoverished populations would work for pennies on the dollar without the protection of labor laws or workers’ unions. Since the Clinton administration, free trade has meant many blue collar middle class families were free to watch their jobs get traded to Asia and South America. Benumb gave voice to their angst.

A representative song: “WTO: Disintegration of the Working Class”

Workers of the world unite!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

G&P Review: Who's My Saviour

Who’s My Saviour
Wall of Sickness
7 Degrees

Discussing the difference between surprise and suspense, Alfred Hitchcock said suspense is telling the audience a bomb under the table will go off in five minutes and then watching ordinary people obliviously talk about baseball. He could just as easily put on the opening sequence from Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. It’s an unbroken tracking shot that follows a car with a bomb hidden in its trunk as it wends its way through narrow Mexican streets filled with tourists and revelers on its way to the American border. After building up the excruciating tension, that the bomb explodes off screen may be the most jarring part of the shot.
A bomb will go off at the end of Wall of Sickness.
In fact, the first three songs are united by a rhythmic metallic clanking that sounds almost like a detonator ticking away in a car trunk. Who’s My Saviour savor that tension while flirting with restraint. The German trio’s prior album, Glasgow Smile, was a hallucinogenic thrill ride of off kilter riffing and concussive artistry, pushing grindcore’s dynamics and sneaking in sly melodies without ever sacrificing the headlong rush that makes it work. If there’s an album that truly embodies the trope of the overlooked masterpiece, Glasgow Smile was it.
But latest EP Wall of Sickness toys with you by playing things relatively straight at first, casually building up the little layers that make their songs interdimensional portals of sonic wonder and mystery.  “Intro” is all queasy seasick riffing at Quaalude speeds over a sample of Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano ripping into a panel of bank presidents who came hat in hand to Congress looking for a bailout. From the outset, Wall of Sickness is a fraught record that oozes the malaise of our current economic implosion. The first few songs are fast-fingered grind rushes that still drip with technical acumen in service of surgical strikes at the heart of a faltering society. These are also some of Who’s My Saviour’s most tuneful efforts; “Hemingway” and “This World Belongs to Us” practically beg for the sing along treatment. “Pillbox” slithers with a slimy sleaze before the song is devoured by a colony of army ants on the warpath.
But there’s a bomb at the end of this EP. The fuse gets lit somewhere around sixth song “Niere Kopf” as the wonted angularity and ambition start bleeding through Who’s My Saviour’s pores. The preceding five tracks were only intended to tenderize your mind to let their multidimensional daggers slide in all the more easily. The exuberant songwriting explosion bombs out of final track “Weedeater,” which builds a wall of stoner drone feedback into cyclopean citadels of circular riff insanity every bit as obsessive as the finest moments of “Shizo” or “When Magic Turns into Black Plague” on Glasgow Smile.
After my first listen to Wall of Sickness, I was disappointed. I thought Who’s My Saviour had sacrificed the quintessence that made them special. That changed a dozen listens later (all in the same afternoon, on endless repeat, I must add). Turns out I was too busy listening to the baseball discussion and not paying nearly enough attention to that bomb under the table.

[Full disclosure: 7 Degrees sent me a download.]

Monday, September 23, 2013

Good Reads: Higher Forms of Pornography

 The book: Tours of the Black Clock by Steve Erickson

Banning Jainlight, a frighteningly large half-Indian teen on a Pennsylvania farm, murders his brothers in 1930s after being made the butt of an exceptionally cruel joke. On the run in Europe at the outbreak of World War II, Jainlight eventually becomes Adolf Hitler’s personal pornographer, crafting supremely perverse tales of sex and sadism for the 20th Century’s most evil personality in an alternate reality where the war never ends, dragging on in a futile stalemate for decades. Eventually even history's greatest villain becomes an afterthought, a doddering old man in a secret hole, half forgotten and the half that is remembered more myth than man. As Hitler slips into his dotage, he clings to Jainlight’s stories and the haunting heroine, the victim of his lust, becomes the dictator's great love. The tales become so compelling they bleed into reality as Jainlight plots to break the soul of history’s greatest monster in an act of vengeance that can only be forestalled by a confused young mother’s love. Erickson’s novel is bleak, nihilistic and violent as Jainlight’s degenerate scribblings collide with a hallucinogenic reality and the only possibility for redemption he may ever unknowingly achieve.

A representative passage:
Big is the violence in me.
It has a sound, the slosh of Henry’s brains when I take his head in my hands. I suppose in the last moment before his ears run with the pulp of membrane and blood he understands that I know. The scream from him, well, it’s not much of a scream, really. A bit of a yelp. It cuts off mid-pain. If I were a bit more selfpossessed in this moment I’d prolong it a bit, to make sure he knows that I know. To make sure there’s not a misunderstanding. I drop him from my hands and he crumples to the floor. Oral looks at the heap of Henry there in the moonlight and the expression in his eyes is very satisfying to me. He looks from Henry to me, his eyes wide as dollars, and he bolts for the door. I catch him long before he gets there. He’s screaming so as to be heard clear across the valley, but the sound of it just can’t travel fast enough to make any difference.

The album: Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Erickson’s writing is twisted and perverse without being trite or stereotypically horrific. It sounds like something that could have come out of Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s early output, particularly when Carl Schultz was adding his cerebrally twisted vision to the caustic mix. There was nothing like early ANb, who managed to shock and confound without giving in to cheap gore. There was always an undercurrent of social criticism that lent a pointed edge to the band’s misanthropy, which too many of their contemporaries missed. Like Erickson, Agoraphobic Nosebleed know that the real horrors hit close to home.

A representative song: “Unwashed Cock”

This is as far as I come ever
Most everything’s nonsense now
Confusion has replaced amusement
More worthless wonders of the world to confuse our libido
I need to sleep not feel
I’m not there, not here
An unwashed cock at a point in time and space where pussy is your asshole and the hurt is acute

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Namesake Series: “Cleptocracy”

I’ve been re-reading Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s brilliant and prescient DMZ comics lately. It makes me think a lot about the conditions that could lead to a second American civil war. A war-weary public feel like they’re about to be railroaded into yet another military intervention in the Middle East without any clear understanding of the goal or strategic necessity. Whackaloons are talking about secession because they lost a democratic election. Congress is so broke that it can’t even come together to accomplish the most basic requirements of governing. There’s something in the air that Brian Wood could see coming nearly a decade ago. People left, right and center have this vague, undefined feeling that forces just out of sight and beyond their control have taken over the levers of power, a quiet coup by the kleptocracy.
Astute grinders sensed it coming as well. Texas libertarians Kill the Client dedicated a whole album to the concept way back in 2008.

Freedom-loving Ron Paul aficionado Champ Morgan launches a revolutionary diatribe, exhorting people to rise up against the plutocrats who have used their wealth and influence to tilt the economic playing field against Joe Sixpack who’s just trying to cover a mortgage and keep the kids in school. It’s the frustrated cry of the bewildered workaday office drone who never got a fair shake. Kill the Client aren’t calling for a huge societal upheaval. They just want the rules to be square for everyone.

Hailing from the opposite end of the political spectrum, Jan Frederickx and crew appropriated the language of Karl Marx when they called out the kleptocrats on Agathocles’ 2010 effort This is Not a Threat, It’s a Promise. Frederickx exhorts “Comrades of all nations [to] kick back capitalist domination.”
Two bands with almost diametrically opposed political ideologies keyed in on the same sense of frustration with the way the modern economy is unforgivably gamed to the benefit of the already rich. Same diagnosis but different prescriptions. However, it gives you the sense that maybe something is brewing among the disaffected masses of wage slaves who lack the clout to force their elected representatives to act in their constituents’ interest. So maybe next time somebody warns you about a redneck uprising in Helena, Montana, you better pay attention.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good Reads: Double Live Gonzo

The book: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson
  Hunter Thompson disrupted the very idea of journalism. For all his faults (and they were legion, both personal and professional), he’s a towering figure whose influence, utility and repeatability are still being parsed four decades after he did his best work. Unfortunately, his legacy seems to blaze brightest among the cadre who reduce Thompson’s evocative prose to the level of cheap snark, imitating his antics more than his insights. Thompson may have been the kind of reporter who drove editors and subjects alike to heavy medication, but for all of his sins, the man truly had a grasp on the tenor of his times. Probably not as widely read as his other Fear and Loathing effort, Campaign Trail ’72, I’d argue, is by far the more important and the better representation of what Thompson was actually like as a journalist. Rather than hiding behind tales of screwball antics and exuberant drug use, here Thompson chronicles the drudgery and orchestration of the campaign trail grind as he tagged along with Richard Nixon challenger George McGovern, a genuinely decent man running for office in the most indecent of times. If Richard Nixon had not existed, Hunter Thompson would have had to invent him. There could be no greater foil for Thompson to riff on his favorite topics of venality, corruption and narcissism in the political universe. Collecting Thompson’s various reports for Rolling Stone after Nixon crushed McGovern, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is not just an elegy for one man’s presidential aspirations but for a nation that was so terrified and twisted that it would reelect a man as petty and grasping as Richard Milhous Nixon. There’s a pall that hangs over the book decades later, a sense of disbelief at the kind of moral bankruptcy that could shock even the soul of one of America’s greatest cynics.

A representative passage:

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I would rather not write anything about the 1972 presidential campaign at this time. On Tuesday, November 7th, I will get out of bed long enough to go down to the polling place and vote for George McGovern. Afterwards, I will drive back to the house, lock the front door, get back in bed, and watch television as long as necessary. It will probably be a while before The Angst lifts—but whenever it happens I will get out of bed again and start writing the mean, cold-blooded bummer that I was not quite ready for today. Until then, I think Tom Benton’s “re-elect the president” poster (above) says everything that needs to be said right now about this malignant election. In any other year I might be tempted to embellish the Death’s Head with a few angry flashes of my own. But not in 1972. At least not in the sullen numbness of these final hours before the deal goes down—because words are no longer important at this stage of the campaign; all the best ones were said a long time ago, and all the right ideas were bouncing around the public long before Labor Day.
That is the one grim truth of this election mostly to come back to haunt us: The options were clearly defined, and all the major candidates except Nixon were publicly grilled, by experts who demanded to know exactly where they stood on every issue from Gun Control and Abortion to the Ad Valorem Tax. By mid-September both candidates had staked out their own separate turfs, and if not everybody could tell you what each candidate stood for specifically, almost everyone likely to vote in November  understood that Richard Nixon and George McGovern were two very different men: not only in the context of politics, but also in their personalities, temperaments, guiding principles, and even their basic lifestyles….
There is almost a Yin/Yang clarity in the difference between the two men, a contrast so stark that it would be hard to find  any two better models in the national politics arena for the legendary duality--the congenital Split Personality and polarized instincts—that almost everybody except Americans has long since taken for granted as the key to our National Character. This was not what Richard Nixon had in mind when he said, last August, that the 1972 presidential election would offer voters “the clearest choice of this century.” But on a level he will never understand he was probably right…and it is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character almost every other country in world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie doll president, with his Barbie doll wife and his box-full of Barbie doll children is also America’s answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks to the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts, on nights when the moon comes too close….

The album: De Anarkistiske An(n)aler by Parlamentarisk Sodomi

There’s lots of bullshit “political” posturing in grind. Most of it means attacking “the system” in the vaguest of terms, particularly since favorite punching bags Reagan and Thatcher fucked off the scene. It relies on the comfort of familiar slogans that make the chanters feel superior and the audience righteously indignant but results in very little real world action. Hunter Thompson was a man who blistered his enemies by name, excoriating their every flaw. Papirmollen may be his musical heir, flaying his favorite target, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, mercilessly in his Parlamentarisk Sodomi persona. Though Stoltenberg may be laughably too liberal to ever play more than  a fringe role in American politics, Parlamentarisk Sodomi still ravages the man personally and politically whenever the opportunity presents itself.

A representative song: “Klaebukranikene (de Anarkistiske An(n)aler)”

If there’s a song that combines Parlamentarisk Sodomi’s disdain for politics and kinky sense of humor, it’s the 10 minute, multipart grind epic “Klaebukranikene (de Anarkistiske An(n)aler).”  Allegedly taken from a 19th Century book that chronicles the laws of politics and sex--perpetually linked in the mind of authoritarians everywhere and therefore to be controlled--the song is a Ferris wheel of antic energy and political pathology that perfectly sums up the clownishness of modern politics. It’s the sort of song Thompson would have been rocking while eviscerating the Obama administration for its many faults, hypocrisies and reversals if he’d managed to slip into a wormhole connecting to the early 21st Century. When the grinding gets weird, the weird turn pro.