Wednesday, January 30, 2008

G&P review: Disfear

Live the Storm
That 14-year-old in Cheboygan who just fragged your digital ass for a fifth time in a Halo 3 death match, the one who calls himself n00bslaya1994, this is probably his soundtrack. At least the little fucker has decent taste.
In a perfect world this rampaging platter of d-beatery would pulse through hockey rinks everywhere, replacing that annoying Mortal Kombat techno dance thing as the sports hype theme of choice. Ah, a boy can dream.
Owing as much to Ace of Spades as it does to Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing, Live the Storm is a pick-sliding, gang-chorused fireball of punk fucking rock fun. For all the talk of mushroom clouds, self mutilation and funeral pyres, Tompa et al are clearly having a blast on their rampaging second *Relapse* album [Thanks for the catch, Adam].
Like grindcore, d-beat is one of those niche styles that excels and thrives as much because of its self-imposed limitations as despite them. Swedes Disfear don’t do much to advance the three-decade old style, but their second album exemplifies all that made the legion of Discharge clones great unleashing their latest powerload of songs.
Guitarist Bjorn Pettersson gets some extra help on Live the Storm from ex-Entombed shredder Uffe Cederland. Tomas Lindberg, who managed to squeeze this album in between recording with The Great Deceiver and an At the Gates reunions sounds are focused and forceful as he has in years.
The lyrics, all upbeat and revolutionary, manage to cram in nods to prime George Romero films (“Testament”) and several repetitions of the Lovecraftian concept of “dead but dreaming” (“Fiery Father,” “Testament” again).
And we haven’t even talked about closing track “Phantom,” a circle pitting blast that’s way more engaging than any seven minute (!!!) d-beat song has a right to be.
Disfear’s 2003 effort, Misanthropic Generation, was a workmanlike if rather unremarkable album bogged down by mushy production, but Kurt Ballou’s (Converge) knob twiddling on Live the Storm is crystalline. Each instrument gets its own space in the mix, which is beefy and raw. Frequent solos cut across the chunky guitars and snapping drums propel the entire enterprise with a compelling, infectious energy.
Again, Disfear are not teaching the old d-beat dog new tricks, but they are getting the most out of Fido’s beloved standbys. Saying that guys whose C.V.s include Slaughter of the Soul and Left Hand Path have dropped a landmark album is not something to be done lightly. But Live the Storm does represent five relaxed scene vets having the time of their life playing what they want.
One of Relapse’s first 2008 releases is also one of the year’s first must buys.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Maryland Death Fest Becomes You

The lineup for the sixth Maryland Death Fest is out and they didn't skimp on the grind for all of you blastbeat addicts out there.
The killer lineup includes Gadget, lifers Phobia, Disfear (more on their KILLER new album soon), a reunited Kalibas (!!!), Macabre (supremely nice guys, met them at Jaxx a few years back) and in a nod to the old school, Repulsion (watch for them in an upcoming installment of the Dirty Baker's Dozen).
March 23 through the 25th at Sonar in Baltimore. Now if only the wife will let me go out and play....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

G&P review: The Great Deceiver

The Great Deceiver
Life is Wasted on the Living
Deathwish Inc.
Tomas Lindberg, the hardest working man in metal, managed to drop this raging slice of experimental hardcore in between exhuming At the Gates for a series of festival dates and recording a new Disfear album.
With his umpteen projects, how is it Lindberg’s creative paths have yet to cross with those of attention deficit drummer Dave Witte?
Life is Wasted on the Living sees a reinvigorated The Great Deceiver hauled out of dry dock for its fifth release and first output in three years.
Anyone who was turned off by 2002’s overly poppy and meandering A Venom Well Designed would be well served to give this Swedish threesome another listen. Though short a rhythm section, guitarists Kristian Wahlin (who shredded in At the Gates precursor Grotesque) and Johan Osterberg, who also swap bass duties, remember to lay a hardcore foundation under their trademark swirly guitar leads.
Until hordes of violin toting hardcore kids endlessly ape The Red in the Sky is Ours, Slaughter of the Soul will remain the go to album for melodic metalcore bands looking to swipe a riff.
But Lindberg and Co. spare that landmark yet another uncomfortable hardcore reacharound. Instead, Life is Wasted can comfortably snuggle up next to In Flames’ electronics flecked Clayman.
Though the Deceivers are in fine form this outing, Life is Wasted is not with out its occasional, staggering miscue, such as the embarrassing lyrics of the overlong “Discontent.”
When a decade’s benefit of hindsight, “I feel my soul grow cold/Only the dead are smiling” does have a vaguely emo-ish vibe to it, but ATG ripped despite a few lyrical miscues. However, there’s absolutely no excuse for as talented a frontman as Lindberg to puke out such dreck as “For my art and my freedom/ I will gladly endure/ Until the end.” Leave that for the sissies with anime haircuts wearing girl pants. You’re better than that, Tompa.
Thankfully the band correct course on scorching album closer “21st Century Heartburn,” a scathing thrash/hardcore outing that sums up the best these scene veterans have to offer.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen 7: Terrorizer

World Downfall
Almost overshadowed by the various members’ subsequent bands, Terrorizer’s World Downfall, recorded posthumously, is a roaring, blasting furnace of punk-infused grind.
No experimentation like labelmates Brutal Truth, and tighter than the first two incarnations of guitarist Jesse Pintado’s future partners in grind, Napalm Death. Instead World Downfall is a 36-minute whiplash ride from the moment you hit play. Pete Sandoval’s relentless drumming would later earn him a spot on the throne for deathsters Morbid Angel.
Coming from the racially charged cauldron of L.A. – which would explode just three years later – Terrorizer raged against all that was wrong with the world with short jabs of vicious metal and punk.
World Downfall’s DNA is found in a legion of younger bands playing straight ahead, ferocious grindcore. Lesser bands have spent careers endlessly aping Terrorizer’s sound, but very few can rival the original.
Culturally, the three-fourths Hispanic collective was also an important step in shattering the white boys’ club that had been metal to that point, introducing a powerful new voice and experience into the mix.The dead did indeed rise in 2006, this time with Resistant Culture’s Tony Rezhawk at the mic, but the band had lost a step or two in the intervening 17 years and Darker Days Ahead just lacked that verve that propelled World Downfall. Unfortunately, Pintado died only weeks after the album was released, but his work with Napalm Death as well as World Downfall has secured his place in grindcore Valhalla

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

G&P review: Sino Basila

Sino Basila
Sino Basila
Black Box Recordings
Mike Hill is the Justin Broadrick of second gen noise rock.
Hill’s name many not carry the cultural currency of Remix Master J’s, but follow me here.
Both men took the foundation of what had gone before (Broadrick’s Swans obsession, Hill’s obvious familiarity with Unsane, Helmet and the AmRep catalogue) to make staggering, uncompromising music that was scathing in its social and emotional impact. Godflesh set the bruising tone for what would become industrial and experimental music while Hill scraped some of the most abrasive music of this early century out of the grime and rhythms of his native NYC in the truly ferocious Anodyne (co-conspirators Joshua Scott and Joel Stallings are currently getting their grind on in Defeatist).
Both guys also got all contemplative later in life, the godly Mr. ‘Flesh cranking out divine ambient drone in Jesu while Hill teamed up with former Lickgoldensky six string strangler Jamie Getz to channel their inner Robert Smith in Versoma.
But here’s where the comparison breaks down. While Broadrick has settled into a pastoral Green Acres existence in rural England, Hill quickly relapsed into newer and more scathing musical outlets. While Hill’s latest project, Tombs, has been getting tons of press and praise, let’s not overlook Sino Basila in the rush to crown the newest Anodyne
The third release from Hill’s own Black Box Recordings, Sino Basila presents two tracks of gargantuan, ponderous instrumental sludge stretching out over 25 tar pitted minutes.
Though Hill’s catalogue of AmRep releases is surely near and dear to his heart, first track, “Draconian,” shows the man didn’t miss out on those limited edition Melvin’s 7”s while he was at it. The 18-minute thud and drone of “The Iron Ghetto of Man” could easily sit along side Khanate’s first go-round or anything from the Grief catalogue in your record collection.
While the man of the million muses has already moved on to Tombs, it’s well worth picking up this hand-numbered, limited to 100 release.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Off the Grid: Jon Chang talks anime, new album

For a while we thought grind had its very own Chinese Democracy in Amber Gray, the difference being we’re pretty sure GridLink’s debut wouldn’t, you know, blow dead goats for quarters.
But grindcore’s resident otaku (and we mean that in nicest possible way) and emoticon enthusiast, Jon Chang, assures us GridLink is alive and well and only months away from dropping its debut, one of the most anticipated albums of the year.
“Art is the only thing left to finish,” the former Discordance Axis frontman assures us, but beyond that, he’s keeping the project under wraps.
After seven year musical hiatus following his former band’s colossal The Inalienable Dreamless, Chang is about to tear our eardrums a new one with 11 tracks of twitchy, scattered, Japanese inflected sonic goodness.
Chang et al managed to invoke the musical equivalent of comic book convention in downtown Akihabara with Discordance Axis. But Amber Gray, tentatively scheduled for an April or May release via Hydra Head is not merely DA 2.0. Teaming up with ex-Mortalized guitarist Takafumi Matsubara, Chang has crafted a new approach, fusing his trademark vocals with longer, thrashier songs, giving him larger palette to work with.
“Songs have a very Matsubara sound, which is very technical metal influenced,” Chang said. “Art is very different than DA as are the lyrics. There is commonality, but I already wrote those songs. Now I am writing new ones. :)”
One of the delays has been coordinating trans-Pacific recording schedules and closing GridLink’s revolving band member door.
“Matsu flew [to New Jersey] to record. [Drummer] Bryan [Fajardo, Noisear/Kill the Client/ Phobia] flew to NJ as well,” Chang said. “We actually finished mixing over 3 months ago. We're still finishing the art and we've also had Hayaino Daisuki coming out as well (Matsu and me in a thrash band).”
Aside from “Naked Pieces Scattered” on Discordance Axis’ Our Last Day CD and Amber Gray’s title track on the band’s website, the fanboys and –girls have had little to tide them over in the intervening years. Part of that was due shakeups within the band.
“Terada [drums] was unable to focus on GridLink so he bowed out of the recording. Okada [bass] also experienced a similar situation,” Chang said.
Now with a steady lineup, skinsman Fajardo wants to let the music do the talking.
“All I can say is that this release will have no shortage of blistering blast beats,” Fajardo said.
For liner note nerds, one of the joys of Discordance Axis albums was the wealth of explanatory notes, offering a peek inside his influences from film, animation and literature. But until Amber Gray actually hits a turntable near you, he’s keeping his direct lyrical inspirations a closely guarded secret.
“Those will be revealed in time. :),” he said.
However, he did have a few suggestions culled from his personal library for those determined to wring the most out of the new album.“I've been reading Neal Asher [author of Gridlinked] a lot lately,” he said. “In terms of anime I've been enjoying Welcome to the NHK and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. They are wacky but there hasn't been much in the way of good sf anime IMHO. Flag is ok. The new Votoms series was a piece of crap.”
Being the consummate cartoon connoisseur, it seems a natural Chang, who ran Studio Grey – part of Echelon Software – would try his hand at animation. However, his project, Scratch Trigger Era, a hyperkinetic, cell shaded romp through the neon drenched prism of Japan’s gnat-like attention span has been, well, scratched for the time being.
“We're temporarily holding on that while we focus on our game development,” Chang said.
That and dropping an obvious contender for best grind album of the year.
“I hope it lives up to your expectations. ^_^” Chang said.

The Unofficial Jon Chang Reading List

I don’t know if the United Duchy of Geekdom has ever thought of naming an official ambassador to the outer states, but if it does, Jon Chang has got to be in the running. The Discordance Axis/GridLink vocalist has done more than just about any other underground figure to scour through the best of comic books, science fiction, role playing games and Japanese cartoonery and present them to the target audience.
His exhaustive liner notes on the Discordance Axis album not only gave an insight into his lyrical and conceptual influences but name dropped some of the 20th Century’s more interesting thinkers.
Join me on a tour of the fractured mediascape that has inspired some of Chang’s most insightful art.

Philip K. Dick inspired many of Discordance Axis’ songs, and Chang swiped the title for Jouhou’s “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” from the PKD novel of the same name. The congenitally weird science fiction scribe’s trippy 1974 novel follows television star Jason Taverner as he wakes up one morning to find the world doesn’t know who he is. As Taverner tries to get a grip on his altered reality, we learn life as he knows it is all the delusion of one drugged out woman. Whoa.

Frank Miller’s (300, Sin City) gritty four issue miniseries, The Dark Knight Returns, along with Watchmen, grimed up comics in the 1980s, introducing complex characters and probing the twisted psyche of not only the villains but the supposed heroes. In this reinterpretation of Batman, Miller revisits an aging, bitter, quasi-retired Bruce Wayne as he watches Gotham circle the toilet of gang violence. Jouhou’s title track was inspired by the fate of Harvey Dent/Twoface, who has spent the last decade getting a thorough psychological going over on Wayne’s dime only to relapse back into crime.

Chang has some great taste but even he will admit to enjoying the occasional clunker. Case in point, 1989’s Allen Smithee-directed fromage fest Gunhed. The low budget singularity-inspired Terminator rip off live action mech film referenced in Ulterior’s “Wheels Within Wheels” follows a bunch of tech scavengers as they run up against a severely mean spirited computer that has decided humanity is no longer necessary. Though it inspired a decent song, the film’s dialogue and special effects, in Chang’s own words, will make you “squirm.”

Masamune Shirow is an icon among devotees of truly insightful science fiction manga and anime. Chang has also repeatedly cited the The Ghost in the Shell author as an influence on songs such as “Dominion” and Appleseed,” both named after and inspired by his work. In between white knuckled action scenes, Shirow also manages to wedge weighty thoughts about the interactions between humans and the technology we think we understand and control. Dominion is set in a world where toxins have poisoned the environment beyond repair while Appleseed grapples with the rights of artificial organisms within human society.

And we simply can’t overlook that Chang’s latest project takes its name from limey cyberpunk Neal Asher’s debut 2001 novel Grindlinked. Chang’s staying mum on Amber Gray’s lyrical themes until the plastic platter is actually in our hot little hands hopefully this spring, but the novel deals with a government agent who slowly loses touch with his own identity after being linked far too long with an artificial intelligence. Fertile ground for Mr. Chang, indeed.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Carcass Word of the Day Calendar Jan. 10, 2007

We all know Carcass was able to throw out a slew of sesquipedalian words like few other metal heads, but the Birmingham grinders were not infallible. “Pedigree Butchery” on Carcass touchstone Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious mixes actual SAT prep vocab with a the occasional misspelling and words of dubious origin. Every test taker knows, when in doubt, just fill in the bubble for C and move on.
"Desparental, prim[i]paral goods oozing
The bawling, squabbling denied the suckling teat
Sentient bloodletting sprains the sporulate
Makes a choice chimerical treat"

Desparental – a Carcass creation and not a real word, but we assume it relates to one’s parentage.
Primiparal – adj. (misspelled in the lyric sheet and the word is actually primiparous. Time to hit those books, Mr. Walker) of or relating to a woman who has borne a single child or is pregnant for the first time.
Suckling – v. nursing at the breast or udder
Sentient – adj. Thinking, conscious.
Sporulate – v. To produce spores.
Chimerical – adj. Fanciful, unrealistic.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

G&P review: Exit-13

High Life
Mixing weed, environmentalism, contempt for humanity and weed, Pennsylvania grinders Exit-13 proved massive marijuana consumption is not the sole provence of bell bottom wearing Black Sabbath clones.
Relapse honcho Bill Yurkiewicz, guitarist Steve O’Donnell and Brutal Truth’s first rhythm section unload 140 minutes of jazz infused deathgrind barely hidden behind wafts of pot smoke and Danny Lilker’s impressive Jewfro on High Life, a quality retrospective of the band's output.
These tree hugging grindcore Loraxes (Loraxi?) expound upon their love of all things green and leafy over the course of 46 tracks spread over two discs. This is the latest in Relapse’s recent string of excellent discographies. (See also: Repulsion, Disembowelment, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Nasum, Disrupt and Human Remains, whose master blaster Dave Witte guests on a handful of tracks here.)
Environmentalism “Reevaluate Life!”), direct action (“Only Protest Give a Hope of Life”), weed (“Legalize Hemp Now!”), human extinction “Societally Provoked Genocidal Contemplation”, weed (“Facilitate the Emancipation of Your Mummified Mind”) and a mouthful of muff diving (“Oral Fixation”) all get their workouts in this collection.
You know they were serious because nearly every song title had an exclamation point. And that’s just the first disc.
Containing nearly every recorded moment of this often overlooked death/grind/jazz hybrid’s entertaining and socially aware career, High Life is snap shot of the formative years of grind when a new wave of bands and labels were laying the cornerstones of a scene too many of us take for granted.
At a time when any banger who mixes metal with jazz and the kitchen sink (*cough* Cephalic Carnage, *cough* Between the Buried and Me) gets hailed as a musical visionary, it’s good to pay tribute to those who the first to “keep on tokin’ onward through the fog!”

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen Number 8: Pig Destroyer

8. Pig Destroyer
Prowler in the Yard
“Semen tastes like gunmetal, she said, smiling…”
From the opening line of “Cheerleader Corpses” you knew you were in for something supremely fucked up.
Scott Hull rears his ugly riffs on the list once again, one of only two guitarists to score multiple honors on the countdown (that’s called foreshadowing, boys and girls). Unquestionably grind’s premier auteur, Hull shreds and fumes his way through 22 tracks of perverse beauty on the band’s second full length and first for Relapse Records.
Where Hull’s blipcore grind underlies social decay with Agoraphobic Nosebleed, in Pig Destroyer the searing riffs cradle frontman JR Hayes’ jaundiced look on his own psyche. Nosebleed chronicles society’s greater collapse, PXDX pull in for the extreme close up, documenting one man’s eroding soul.
This album was a tough call because latest slayer Phantom Limb could have just as easily filled this space, but it was Prowler’s psychotic scrawl, a loose concept album about a failed relationship from the viewpoint of a stalker, that left the band’s initial mark on grind.
Prowler is still the only album that has ever disturbed me, and that has nothing to do with tattooist Paul Booth’s demented artwork.
Many eons ago, a friend and I went to a show at Jaxx in Northern Virginia. He was interested in some Atlanta band named Mastodon, touring on their first EP (Hey, whatever happened to them?). I was there for Pig Destroyer because I heard Hull was involved. After a blistering 30 minute set, I immediately set out to find the band’s album, a ravaged, diseased platter that made me physically queasy once I sat down to read the lyrics. That’s a milestone not even the mighty Carcass can claim.
I tucked it away in the back of my CD collection for a couple of days, but like that first viewing of Ichi the Killer or Audition, I couldn’t shake its greasy allure.
And that, folks, is the hallmark of art.