Monday, December 31, 2007

Grind in Rewind 2007

The end of the year countdown list is an institution every bit as sacred as the one second song. So we humbly plowed through the ridiculously tall stack of crap we bought this year to sift out the five best records of 2007.
We look back on 2007 as a year of that presaged the advent of acoustic grind, the continued dominance of the Swedes and cinematic beatdowns, leaving us with the distinct sensation of insects burrowing under our skin. And we liked it.

5. The Locust
New Erections
One for the message board haters.
The worlds have warred, our new insect overlords have pillaged and gone and The Locust drone Justin Pearson is left to wonder whether there is any point in rebuilding. New Erections' 23 minutes are laced with enough paranoia and dystopia to fuel the second coming of Phillip K. Dick.
Returning from the meandering wtf moment that was 2005’s Safety Second, Body Last, The Locust have inched upped the bpm quotient once again but haven’t forgotten the lessons of slightly longer songs with a few slower moments tossed in to create their most dynamic and expansive record to date.
Alex Newport, in his third outing as the band’s producer, wrings a tight performance out of the spastic crew in rubber bug suits. The songs careen from blastbeat fueled freakouts laced with their trademark keyboard squonk to slowly blipping bits of frazzled computer sludge. The longer songs give Pearson a more expansive palette upon which to expound his post-apocalypse now meanderings.
Almost no band has been as divisive in their career as The Locust and New Erections won’t be winning any converts/defectors from either camp, but for those with a taste for the adventurous, the hardcore arthropods have swarmed back with their finest outing.

4. Graf Orlock
Destination Time Tomorrow
Level Plane
Load up Hot Fuzz on mute and fire off this burning little EP. These marauding cinophiles make a better soundtrack for Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s hilarious action film send up than even Robert Rodriguez’s climactic score.
Bad action movie samples abound, more bad action movie dialog serves in lieu of lyrics and it’s all soldered together with well executed Pig Destroyer-ish grind and a soupcon of '80s thrash.
But let’s be honest here, one of the reasons this EP made the cut is because of the absolutely stunning artwork. Instead of a jewel case, the CD is lovingly cradled by face hugger from the Alien series and wrapped in a “Uline state shield bag” that warns “Handling requires caution.” It’s the best packaging gag since HeWhoCorrupts packed the Microeconomics album in a wallet complete with credit cards and an itemized business lunch receipt.

3. Sayyadina
Mourning the Unknown
Sound Pollution
Yes Sayyadina are Swedish. Yes they sound a little like Nasum. No that doesn’t mean Mieszko Talarcyk is coming back.
But in a countdown full of contenders playing fast and loose with grind’s established ground rules, we take a moment to remind everyone that when executed well with slashing production and catchy songs, there’s nothing wrong with tradition.
Bringing in some of the hardcore vibe from his side project, Victims, Andreas Ericksson leads his cohorts through 21 tracks of rampaging grind on Mourning the Unknown that delve deep into the band’s psyche without having to bring in a shrink. They tackle isolation, loneliness and depression in a satisfyingly non-emo way.
Eriksson’s production gives the songs a heft and a bite, letting each instrument stake out its spot on the killing floor. Jon Linqvist’s high/low vocal tradeoffs with Eriksson also give each song a dynamism and personality.
Sayyadina have certainly studied at the feet of Nasum (Eriksson played bass on Shift), and the trio has absorbed those lessons well. They are on the verge of creating their own space in the crowded Swedish grind scene and are definitely a band to watch moving forward.

2. Total Fucking Destruction
Zen and the Art of Total Fucking Destruction
Translation Loss
I know it’s only acoustic grind, but I like it.
No we had never heard of it prior to 2007 either, but that’s just part of what makes Rich Hoak a metal visionary.
The former Brutal Truth drum basher and his crack A-Team were back on their second outing in 2007, a three part performance art soap opera that defied everyone’s expectations.
On Zen and the Art... TFD unleashed 10 new tracks of stream of consciousness grind, particularly standouts “Mad Pig Disease” and “We are all Elvis Now.” As a bonus the multimedia disc also includes footage of a 10-song live set showing the band in their natural habitat. But it’s the four song acoustic diversion bookended by those two sections that surely had many a grindcore tongue wagging this year.
The subdued take on TFD standards “Kill the Jocks and Eat their Brains” and “Bio-Satanic Terrorist Attack” give those songs a new depth and texture beyond the original versions.
For a band that has posited itself as cultural terrorists, they deftly pulled off a unexpected bit of musical legerdemain and subverted grindcore itself.

In any other year, that accomplishment would have warranted top of the list honors, but as Connor MacLeod knows all too well, there can be only one… (I know that would have been a slightly less lame reference had Graf Orlock been just a teensy bit better.) But keep reading....

Pearls from Swine: Pig Destroyer unleash a beast of an album

“She hung herself from an overpass down in McClean where the old trees loom…”
Welcome to Pig Destroyer’s Northern Virginia, a devastating tour through the ‘burbs of our nation’s capital and inarguably the best thing to cough blood on grindcore’s shoes all year.
Phantom Limb, the band’s third album for Relapse, crashed onto the scene like a grinding DUI hit and run, the sonic equivalent of rush hour traffic careening through the Mixing Bowl.
The only album in the metal family that came close to Phantom Limb’s caustic beatdown this year was Neurosis’ latest epic. While J.R. Hayes and company needed half the time it took noisecore’s elder statesmen to reach the pinnacle, the emotional catharsis was the same. Sort of like the ”you take the high road/I’ll take the low road” pairing of 2007 metal.
Obviously, we weren’t the only ones to enjoy Mr. Hayes’ wild ride through a serial killer’s diary.
But according to Blake Harrison, PXDX’s resident FNG/soundscape maestro, the band didn’t realize what kind of beast they had on their hands until the reviews started rolling in.
“Not really, we just kinda wanted to slim everything down from Terrifyer and make a leaner, meaner metal record with a little less art,” he said.
The album is certainly meaner from John Baizley’s (of Savannah sludge horde Baroness) horrifically psychedelic artwork to Scott Hull’s scalpel riffs and skull-scraping production work.“The writing was a lot more streamlined and the sound and the songs seem a lot less arty in general,” Harrison said. “I don't know if it was a matter of restraint, but more of the idea of a leaner meaner record.”
Juggling narcogrinders Agoraphobic Nosebleed, a hush-hush fed job, working as one of metal’s most in-demand producers and a growing family, guitarist/songwriter Hull is a busy dude. That left the band little time to fuck around when they have to write and record their latest masterpiece.
“Scott pretty much came in with songs done. There was input from everyone else, but the skeletons were there,” Harrison said. “So it wasn't like we were jamming and staring at him to come up with a part when a song wasn't done. It also made the recording process MUCH easier.”
For those of us lucky enough to be living in smelling distance of the cesspool on the Potomac, Phantom Limb is littered with references to local spots. On J.R.’s guided tour of Northern Virginia we get to see corpses piled along the Potomac, girls in Slayer jackets hanging from McClean overpasses and the kind of rich, upwardly mobile young douchebags this area attracts like flies on shit doing their primitive mating dance along the Duke Street waterfront in Alexandria in the shadow of the notoriously congested Wilson Bridge.
“J.R. just writes what he feels,” Harrison said. “Living in the area we live in, it has an affect on him.”
Here’s hoping Hayes never invests in a good shrink. But more intriguing moving forward will be watching the Destroyers fully incorporate Harrison into their already tight little unit.
Open minded grinders probably have visions of the devastating Merzbow/Discordance Axis collaboration dancing in their heads, but Harrison said he’s still working through PXDX’s back catalogue and figuring out his role during the band’s scant live appearances.
“I do my best. Now we have a little more time to work on stuff. I'm going to be doing more of a compositional thing live, but again, we'll see how it goes.”

Saturday, December 22, 2007

G&P review: Khann

Blackmarket Activities
This intriguing but alternately infuriating slab o' metal is enough to send any listener into Shatnerian paroxysms.
Former Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus vocalist Joshua Vitale returns from that band’s premature demise with Khann on debut Tofutopia.
Instead of BitGotA’s spazzy grind, these veggie heads emulate the sludge and grind smoothie of another gone-too-soon member of the metal family, Ohio’s Rune.
This Khann’s wrath throws Neurosis heft and Isis throb into a blender with crunchy Napalm Death, walking the middle course between knuckle dragging sludge and meth-ed out metal.
The grind to sludge and back slide of “Quarantined” and follow up track “Silver Mouth” show a band confident in its use of dynamics.
Clear picked notes slash through the opening of the appropriately titled “Squall,” one of the album’s clear highlights. The burly maelstrom that follows as Vitale wails “I am a powerless waste” is the album’s clear emotional peak.
But the young band does stumble occasionally as well.
Despite its stonerrific coda, overlong two part album centerpiece, “Volcanic Lungs” drags just when the album should be peaking, particularly during the 6 minute-plus first half. And closer “The Lone Hum,” a torrent of electric squeals and squonks is overlong at more than 8 minutes followed by a handful of untitled tracks with pointless noise and studio fuckery.
Tofutopia could stand to lose the soy filler. But there is a killer half an hour album buried beneath the unnecessary detours, and in the hands of a ruthless editor, this could have been one of the best releases of the year. Despite the rough edges, Khann’s debut has marked them as a band to watch.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen 9: Siege

Drop Dead
Originally self released (reissued by
Relapse, Deep Six and Deranged)

If you’ve ever wondered whose power Napalm Death was besieging, look no further.
The band may never have hit blastbeat velocities, but every other element of what would become grind was already in this Boston quartet’s arsenal.
Though the band’s entire discography spans a scant nine songs that can be enjoyed in half the time of your standard sitcom, Siege’s influence is incalculable.
Originally released in the Orwellian year 1984, Drop Dead seethes with the frustration and paranoia born of Soviet and American tensions. Song (“Sad but True”) after song (“Cold War”) after song “Armageddon”) rails against the two nation’s seeming glee in bringing the world to the brink of mutually assured destruction in stabbing 60 second blasts of hardcore noise. Racism (“Life of Hate”), world hunger (“Starvation”) and mindless conformity (duh, “Conform”) get a thoroughly scathing rundown as well.
From the blunt lyrics to the cro-magnon music and Kevin Mahoney’s distinctive yelp, Siege was never a subtle proposition. But in the face of abject stupidity, it seemed the only approach.
Medlied by Anal Cunt, whose Seth Putnam auditioned for a reformed lineup in 1992, and covered by Napalm Death, Siege set the standard for the full steam ahead aggression that would become grindcore.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Carcass Word of the Day Calendar: Dec. 16, 2007

What happens to you after you die? The question has plagued mankind since our ancestors began roaming the Serengetti about 50,000 years, eking out a haphazard existence. Luckily for enlightened modern sophisticates such as us, the theologians in Carcass have the answer for you: you rot and turn into goo.
The high priests of goregrind expound upon life’s aftermath in
Symphony of Sickness’ “Cadaveric Incubator of Endo-parasites.” So once again, we crack open ye olde medical dictionary.

ulcerous – adj. afflicted with ulcers
saponify – v. to convert fat into soap using an alkali
rennin – n. a coagulating enzyme in a calf’s stomach used to curdle milk during the cheese making process
autolysis – n. the breakdown of plant or animal tissues by enzymes contained in the affected tissues, self-digestion

"The inset of rigor mortis, ulcerous corruption and decay
Saponified fats lather as soap as you slowly eat yourself away
Organs savaged by rotten enzymes, rennin and rancorous cysts
A festering abcess immersed in ravenous autolysis…."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

G&P review: Total Fucking Destruction

Total Fucking Destruction
Zen and the Art of Total Fucking Destruction
Translation Loss

Don’t look now but somebody’s Violent Femmes is showing like a blister in the sun.
Yes TFD grind like motherfuckers through the first 10 new tracks of their latest disc, Zen and the Art of Total Fucking Destruction. And yes the video section lets you watch the cephalopodic Rich Hoak flail about his kit while screaming out the lyrics to the feel good classic “Kills the Jocks and Eat their Brains.”
But it’s going to be the subdued, stripped down four song acoustic middle section that’s going to start the most conversations and likely turn off grind purists. Yes, the acoustic version of the aforementioned “Kill the Jocks” sounds like an outtake from the first Violent Femmes album, but that’s exactly what makes these performance art terrorists so very interesting.
Proving he didn’t have his fill of the weird during his Brutal Truth tenure, Hoak and his co-conspirators have consistently pushed grind’s humble limits time and time again. Like John Zorn discovering blastbeats 20 years ago, Hoak et al help make the case for grind as art with 20 second blasts of reductio ad absurdum noise and stream of consciousness lyrical dribblings.
Zen’s 10 new tracks, especially standout “Mad Pig Disease,” naturally grind and thrash their way through the desolate America’s fractured mediascape at the start of the 21st Century. The grindcore carnival is capped with video of a nine song live set. We’ll just ignore the copyright warning that kicks of the video and assume that was a label call and not representative of a band that bills itself as subversive artists.
TFD is clearly onto something with this raucous, expectation defying tour de force, and this is clearly one of the grind highlights of 2007.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

G&P review: Tusk

The Resisting Dreamer
More than two years after the mindfuck camping trip nightmare that was Tree of No Return, the three-quarters of Pelican that comprise Tusk return with a revamped line up and a revised sound.
Anyone looking for another round of Tree’s Pig Destroyer/Neurosis cage match sound should just stop reading now. With nary a blastbeat in sight, The Resisting Dreamer brings in a more pronounced influence from the band members’ other project. Recorded during sessions for Pelican’s breakout The Fire in our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw, Tusk’s four new tracks swim in the sludge the other band has steadily been shedding in favor of a leaner sound.
Instead it’s The Resisting Dreamer that boasts the same beefy bottom end that made early Pelican and fellow Tortugans 5ive so enjoyable.
“The Everlasting Taste of Disguise” opens like a Jesu outtake before greasily sliding into jarring nightmare territory where spiky, corkscrewing guitar riffs stab at you like the flock of marauding crows in The Birds.
Final instrumental cut “The Lewdness and Frenzy of Surrender,” weighing in at a hefty 16 minutes, could easily serve as a companion piece to the recent Sunn O))) and Boris collaboration album.
The dominant lyrical theme is “ruin,” album as Young Widows’ Even Patterson and Toby Driver of Kayo Dot (standing in for MIA vocalist Jody Minnoch) expounding on crumbling realities literal and figurative.
Though it’s a solid and enjoyable sludge album, the new direction just makes Tusk feels redundant. If this is the band’s future and not an artistic blip, they might as well recruit Bryan Herweg for the next outing and call it what it really is: a throwback Pelican album that experiments with vocals. It would probably sell twice as many copies that way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen Number 10: S.O.B.

Gate of Doom
Toy’s Factory
In our anglo-centric world we sometimes forget grind is not just a transatlantic affair. These rising stars from the land of the rising sun have been name checked by Napalm Death (who covered a trio of their early tunes for a BBC session) and Discordance Axis.
These sons of bitches (who actually named themselves Sabotage Organized Barbarian) baked up a musical Twinkie with a fluffy, golden grind cake on the outside with sweet dollops of crossover-style thrashcore on the inside.
Their earlier albums, Where’s the Truth and the Engrish-titled Don’t Be Swindle, remain impossible to find, but Gate of Doom, with classic Ed Repka art, and its follow up are back in print courtesy of Toy’s Factory, securing at least a portion of the band’s immense legacy.
No less a luminary than Lee Dorian has said Napalm Death even swiped some of that band’s early riffs while writing for the immortal From Enslavement to Obliteration. Discordance Axis vocalist Jon Chang has also listed Gate of Doom as one of the bands that inspired the New Jersey grindsters’ writing.
Frontman Yoshitomo “Tottsuan” Suzuki recorded one more album with the band, Vicious World in 1994, but the next year he killed himself by jumping in front of a train.
The band soldiered on, recruiting grindcore royalty Dorian, Kevin Sharp and Shane Embury to plug lineup holes from time to time. However, later albums increasingly shed the grind aspects in favor of experimental hardcore.
Despite the loss of Suzuki and the band’s stylistic pilgrimage, S.O.B. already marked their spots as the gatekeepers of grindcore.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

GRINDecision 2008: The GOP Field

Republican administrations make for the best music, according to hoary punk and metal conventional wisdom. So which of the GOP presidential aspirants has what it takes to provide another four years of fodder for angry music? Join us as G&P swings to the right and explores the Republican presidential candidates.

Rudy Giuliani, NY
As Will Scarlett O’Hara observed in Mel Brooks’ marginally funny Robin Hood: Men in Tights, you’ve got to be a man to wear tights. Nobody knows this better than Rudy. Despite donning a frilly dress on Saturday Night Live, hizzoner has been parading around as the nation’s toughest executive and talks like he’s being paid to shill for 9/11.
Guiliani has been living in the Age of Quarrel since his days as a New York prosecutor cracking down on organized crime. As mayor he fulfilled Travis Bickle’s desire for a “real rain (to) come and wash all this scum off the streets” when he reclaimed Times Square for tourists and MTV.
Rudy just screams tough guy NYHC. You know he just goes home at night and weeps manly tears into his pillow as he thinks of all of the friends who have stabbed him in the back. But he will rise above and overcome. Cuz revenge, revenge is sweet. So don’t tread on him.

Mike Huckabee, AR
There must not be a single grocery store in Hope, Arkansas, because the town’s residents seem to crave fast food. Bubba Clinton’s jogging trips to McDonald’s are well documented (it’s even on the tour), but now we have former fat ass turned health freak Mike Huckabee.
A Huckabee win in 2008 would mean one out of every 5,000 people in that tiny Arkansas town has succeeded to the White House. Per capita, that’s got to be one of the best ratios in the nation.
So let’s take a look at the demon hunting ordained Southern Baptist minister would be president.
He good naturedly endured the white trash jokes when he had to move from his governor’s mansion to a trailer on the grounds during renovation, like positive minded metalcore mavens he also urged everyone to get along, declaring a month of racial reconciliation in 1997. But like Demon Hunter, Huckabee couldn’t help but trot out his bff Jesus every so often. He signed the Covenant Marriage Act, making it nearly impossible for participating for some couples to get divorced and proclaimed “Student Religious Liberty Month” in 2001, encouraging schools to make time for students to pray, skirting the lines of Supreme Court rulings.
When he’s not Storming the Gates of Hell, Huckabee is laying down fat bass grooves with all-pol band Capitol Offense.

Duncan Hunter, CA
In the me-too primary that is the GOP runoff so far, Hunter is trying to out-Reagan Reagan by running a little to the right of Attila the Hun.
No women in combat units, a push to legally define life beginning at conception, arranged for a 14-mile stretch of fence between San Diego and Mexico and the disturbingly-titled Parents Empowerment Act, which would give parents the right to sue anyone who distributes "any pornographic communication, picture, image, graphic image file, article, recording, writing, or other pornographic matter of any kind" to minors.
Since he’s such a pro-censorship dick, we give him 40 More Reasons to Hate Us.

Alan Keyes, MD
How many times does this guy want to lose to Barack Obama (even with help from his imaginary friend)? After lambasting Hillary Clinton as a carpetbagger for running for the New York senate, Keyes relocated from Maryland to Illinois to get soundly trounced by Obama in that state’s senate race in 2004.
Keyes has been running his own personal Family Values Tour for more than a decade now. Taking his third stab as the nation’s chief executive, Keyes is back with his familiar pro-Jesus, anti-gay, anti-abortion platform.
And who doesn’t love a warm and fuzzy family values type who disowns his own daughter publicly because she is of the Sapphic persuasion?
Obviously, somebody has Issues.

John McCain, AZ
While we doubt John McCain has a copy of …For Victory stashed away amid the Beach Boys and ABBA records he seems to prefer, nobody in the 2008 field has a better understanding of the realities of combat than the former Navy flier who spent more than five years in the Hanoi Hilton (never mind his musical paean to the destruction of Tehran).
But here’s where the metaphor starts to break down. To his credit, McCain, a former POW, recognizes that in battle there is indeed a law and has come out against torture, no matter how euphemistically it’s couched.
And unlike the Coventry warmasters, who have steadfastly persisted on the same track for two weeks, McCain has shed the maverick qualities that made him a media darling and has actively courted the religious right. Though he labeled him an agent of intolerance in 2000, McCain gave the commencement speech at televangelist huckster Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in 2006.

Ron Paul, TX
Ron Paul is an enigma. Like the Dennis Kucinich of the right, he embodies a lot of the best his party has to offer ideologically, but his personal wackiness keeps him gaining any mainstream traction.
The 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for president is back again to pitch his ardent belief in personal freedom in another quixotic stab at the White House. But this time he’s channeling the dissatisfaction of young, alienated voters.
Hate the IRS, want America out of Iraq tout-de-suite, think the Constitution is worth saving or understand what the gold standard is? Then Ron Paul is the candidate who deserves your once over.
His pitch must be working because the idiosyncratic congresscritter took home $4 million in Internet donations in a single day in a grassroots effort by supporters and handily outpaced his GOP rivals. All of this despite his supporters being banninated from commenting on an influential conservative blog.
Ron Paul clearly has a hard on for people power and we think metal’s resident gun toting individualist Steve Austin would agree.
But there’s still on word from the Paul camp about his stance on fucking other men’s wives in the ass.

Mitt Romney, MA
Yes Mitt Romney is a Mormon, which is pretty nutty on its own. And yes, nearly half of the country thinks that cult is crazier than a guy who walks on water and comes back from the dead. But if that weren’t enough, Romney also has questionable taste in literature, preferring the ponderous tomes of huckster sci fi hacks to invent charlatan religions for the benjamins (and yes we know that’s redundant).
In that spirit, we’re pretty sure he could groove to Kiss’ intolerable Music from “The Elder,” a pretentious concept album farted out in the wake of the band’s unmasking and Pink Floyd’s success with the wall. We’re pretty sure Romney could really relate to the album’s incomprehensible story of a young boy set on the trials of manhood by a cabal of creepy elders.
So what do you need to know about Romney aside from persistent questions about polygamy and holy underwear?
Before politics, his major claim to fame is brokering the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.
The Mormon Masshole served one term as that state’s governor where he pushed a moderate, pro-choice agenda, required state residents to buy health insurance and raised taxes to close that state’s $3 billion deficit. Not that he’ll admit any of that now.
(Big thanks to Rob for his encyclopedic knowledge of Kiss. Take a Kiss Koffin out of petty cash.)

Tom Tancredo, CO
Far be it from us to accuse Tom Tancredo of National Socialist sympathies ("They were Nazis, Dude?"), but the fact remains, he’s not the most welcoming guy if you’re an immigrant whose skin happens to be darker than your run of the mill Swede.
Tancredo has been pretty honest and pretty shameless when it comes to appealing to America’s xenophobia in his campaign, such as this ooh-scary-terrorists ad that ends with the dubious slogan “Tancredo…Before it’s too late.”
So while we doubt Tancredo has a larger collection of NSBM on the campaign bus as he wastes our time with his quixotic run for president, we don’t doubt a convo between the candidate and Rob “Darken” Fudali, the Polish racial purity champion of Graveland, would be rather interesting.
We’re sure at least one them of them has a copy of The Turner Diaries tucked away somewhere on their bookshelf.

Fred Thompson, TN
Jump in W.A.Y.B.A.C. Machine with me as we travel back to that magical time that was May 2007.
Conservatives were putting on sackcloth and gnashing their teeth over their lack of viable candidates (support the guy in the magical underwear; the crossing dressing, gay hugging former mayor; or the likeable former minister from the same godforsaken hell hole that gave the world Bubba Clinton?).
Then riding in on the back of a lame prosecutor porn show that should have been cancelled a kajillion years ago came Reagan Redux, Fred Thompson. Here was another former actor with solidly conservative credentials who could slay the Clinton beast and lead the faithful back to the halcyon days of tiny government, military clout and cultural prominence. At least that was the script.
At the same time, riding a way of MySpace buzz, Arizona troupe were supposedly going to lead metal out of the emo-core doldrums. Instead they farted out Genesis, another generic slab of hardcore and death metal.
Just as Job for a Cowboy failed to match their impressive hype, Thompson’s campaign has wallowed early on, dogged by persistent allegations that he’s too lazy to really run for President. Despite all the hype and hopes, Thompson and JFAC both turned out to be another warmed over slice of more of the same.