Friday, February 29, 2008

G&P review: Acursed

Tunneln I Ljusets Slut
For a while I was worried Thomas Lindberg would have to singlehandedly do all the heavy lifting in the Swedish hardcore scene. Not that I doubt Tompa’s ability following a solid new outing with The Great Deceiver and an absolutely rampaging new Disfear disc, but it’s good to see the man get some help. Even that guy’s gotta take a break some time.
So enter the spelling challenged Swedish enclave Acursed and their most recent offering for Prank, Tunneln I Ljusets Slut, a tasty slab of pink in the center d-beat from the land where Discharge still reign as gods nearly 30 years after they dun datted the first dun dun dat.
According to Inter Tran, the title is actually The Light at the End of the Tunnel and, sadly, has nothing to do with sluts. We were hoping maybe some of these oh so serious punk types had finally lightened up a little a decided to maybe crack a smile every so often. But that’s the only cue you’re going to get on this album’s content because this beautifully designed monochromatic digipack fails to include lyrics or even song titles.
You may notice the album’s design bears a striking resemblance to the most recent offspring of statewide d-beat collective, Tragedy, and that bad is a perfect reference point for the moody melodies that waft like smoke rings around this half an hour of crusty metal. Before you cry rip off, this is actually the stateside reissue of this band’s 2004 album.
Acursed break up their d-beat rampage with frequent spoken word pieces. But without a close friend fluent in Swedish to translate, the monologues begin to sound didactic despite the lilting Scandinavian accent.
You can just bet these guys are laying a serious bummer on you about war, death, misery and the way corporations and government conspire to strip you of your liberties while you consume yourself into oblivion. Skip the campus rabble rousing and enjoy the 20 or so minutes of hardcore heaven that light up the end of this dark d-beat tunnel. And hopefully Prank, which also brought Totalitar, Avskum and Svart Sno across the pond, won’t make us wait another four years for a follow up.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Next on the Agenda: Pete Benumb Back with New Band

When last we heard from Pete Pontikoff, he regaled us with tales of his time in Iraq, but on the musical front, the mighty Benumb had called it a day and his latest outing, Agenda of Swine, had yet to find a label home.
Fast forward about six months and Agenda of Swine are about to drop their debut album for Relapse, home to Pontikoff’s last collective of musical miscreants.
“Agenda signed to Relapse! Major sweat off my brow,” Pontikoff said when we checked in. “We just finished recording and submitted additional tracks to Relapse to add to what we already have to make a full length. Title will be Waves of Human Suffering.” The lone, self titled track on the band’s MySpace page is a longer, thrashier outing than you might expect from the participants’ past work. Clearly, these guys are not content to rehash the past and are crafting a new identity for the new project.
“As far as Benumb/VP 2.0 [Vulgar Pigeons, the band started by Pontikoff’s bro, Paul, and Benumb/Swine drummer John Gotelli], yeah, we might have a little similarity (same members thing), but there’s far more time put into this were looking at twelve songs over the last two years. We really didn’t rush and tried to weed out the stuff that was too VP/Benumb. Still fast.”
How about Pontikoff’s contribution, when last he graced us with a full length, 2004’s By Means of Upheaval, he had swapped out his roar for more of a hardcore style bark, one that unfortunately, could stray into the monotonous if you weren’t mentally prepped for it.
“Vocally, I leaned more on Jeff [Lenarmond, guitarist] to show me how to do new stuff, might not be new to the world but new to me. I really tried to just to make the vocals good with the help of those around me lets make no mistake. No don’t worry no more Upheaval. If it sounds anything like Upheaval to you, I will quit.”
(Lately, I’ve been spinning it and loving it, so go figure.)
Given they are clearly moving forward musically, how should we address Mr. Pontikoff, who worked under the nom de grind Pete Benumb for the better part of the last decade.”
“Pete 2.0 would be just fine lol! Just kidding. Pete Benumb is awesome.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

G&P review: Antigama/Nyia split

Selfmadegod Records
Smoking Poles Antigama and Nyia hopped into the creative sack on this split, but this slight EP somehow fails to build up to a satisfying climax.
Antigama follow up their solid but occasionally grating Relapse debut, Resonance, with six more tracks of twitchy, electrocuted grind but fail to deliver anything substantially different from what we’ve heard from them before.
“Torture’s” title comes off as more warning than advertisement as its 90 seconds of blurring electro babble seem to drag on interminably before giving way to the satisfying, blast beat laden “ADV.” That song, with its stop/start tempos, is one of the EP’s easy highlights, but unfortunately, it gives way to more pointless rambling in “The Trio Infernal,” a pointless mix of jazzy bass, cymbal rolls and twittering birds. Song birds are many things, but infernal they are not.
Antigama, with their clear willingness to experiment, have true potential to give the staid grind scene a much needed jolt to the ‘nads, but the trio just never seems to fully incorporate their left field potential into consistently listenable tunes.
Fellow travelers Nyia suffer from the same affliction. The Polish band’s three tracks meander all over the musical landscape, channeling Justin Broadrick circa Messiah (“Of the Will”) and otherwise sounding like a cut rate Antigama.
Both bands feature talented musicians capable of wringing impressive skronks and screeches from their instruments, but the bleeps, bloops and blasts fail to gel into a listenable whole.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen 5: Nasum

You could argue Nasum saved grindcore.
Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury, who guested on a pair of Helvete’s tracks, has famously credited Nasum with the posterior nudge necessary to set the elder statesmen back on the true path of grind.
After a dizzying half hour spent with Helvete, it’s not hard to see why. Mieszko Talarcyk was grindcore’s single most talented and consistent songwriter, cranking out album after album of hellaciously catchy blastbeat anthems with co-conspirator Anders Jakobson. On their third full length the song writing tag team crafted their most memorable collection of jams, 22 tracks of seething anger and political frustration.
If that weren’t enough, Talarcyk was also one of metal’s most accomplished producers and Helvete has his loving fingerprints all over it. Helvete boasts the band’s thickest and clearest recording, propelling the band’s ferocious onslaught right from opener “Violation.”
Nasum’s third full length is by far the band’s best sounding outing, with thick, ripping guitars, snapping drums and rumbling bass by Jesper Liverod of Burst.
By now the story of Talarcyk’s untimely death during the December 2004 Pacific tsunami while vacationing with his girlfriend has been endlessly retold. His legacy is an astonishing 256 tracks of frighteningly consistent grind spread out over six discs. Musicians with careers three times as long have failed to touch his astounding output, but it’s Helvete that will stand as his, and the band’s, masterwork.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

G&P review: Gallhammer (Better late than never edition)

Ill Innocence
I meant to review these delightful doom pixies several months ago, y’know when this album actually came out. But after scouring several stores and being back ordered (twice) I just now got my hands on this solid, if rough, mash of Amebix and Hellhammer. I thought about skipping it, but Terrorizer just gave them a cover, so why not?
Yes, these Japanese sprites have a deep love of the crust, and that’s we’re gonna focus on. Instead of being yet another retread doom band or a novelty chick act, Gallhammer are mix up all of their influenced on their first international LP to craft a sound that is endearing in its wide eyed naiveté
The latest version of “Speed of Blood” comes off a little crisper if no edgier and “Delirium Daydream,” with its strummed acoustic intro, and “Ripper in the Gloom” chug along at mid-tempo punk speeds with crusty, grarled guitar lines screeching through the feedback laden mix. But one of the album’s most delightful moments is the third track, “Blind My Eyes,” a rawking punk number that channel’s Melt-Banana right down to the charming chirped Pokemon vocals.
The whole 50 minute affair is bookended by straight up sludgy doom such as the aptly titled penultimate track, “SLOG,” an eight minute dirge that goes spelunking in the caves where Stephen O’Malley conjures demon drones. The not quite as aptly titled closer “Long Scary Dream” gets two out of three right. It is indeed lengthy and has a wonderful somnambulistic quality that makes it a great soundtrack to sit down with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, but it fails to evolve from mildly interesting phantasmagoria to outright nightmare.
Overall, Gallhammer have improved leaps and bounds over The Dawn of... proving they are not a novelty act stage managed by Peaceful and turning in an album, with a stunning all white layout, that would sit capably along side the other punky doomsters in your collection like Unearthly Trance.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Carcass Word of the Day Calendar: Feb. 10, 2007

With Valentine's Day in less than a week, it's never a better time to remind ourselves our loved ones are little more than future carrion, destined to rot away. Carcass dwelled heavily on life's seeming pointlessness on Necroticism's third track, "Symposium of Sickness," which really, c'mon should have been the title track to Symphonies of Sickness. That or somebody just got lazy with titles. Either way, nihilism never looked so wordy.
An encloaking, dark epoch
In which all life is not appraised
Another valueless commodity
On which the rapacious may feebly graze
Indebted homage to their mammon
Whilst the mort is the music of the meek
Transcendence from a beautifully brutal reality
Is what we seek

Noxious, sully dolour
Is not the sentiment upon which we feed
But precocious consciousness
Draws out a morbid nous to bleed
Chiselling out seething words
Which cut deep to the bone
Always legible
So be it on our own headstone

Rising to our nadir
Reality we try to extirpate
Trying to raise a twisted smile
Similar to that silver plate
On a coffin which is joined
Hammering in each final nail
Last kill and testament
Left now intestate

Noxious, sully dolour
Is not the thesis which is bled
A precarious train of thought
In which mental cattle trucks are led
Carving out skillful words
Always spelt out well
We can't just leave the dead alone

A terminal doctrine of diseased minds perplexed
Enunciated epigrams

Epoch -- n. A particular period of history.
Dolour (American English, dolor) -- n. Sorrow or grief
Precocious -- adj. Unusually advance or mature.
Nadir -- n. The lowest point possible (Not to be confused with Ralph Nader who just keeps sinking lower).
Extirpate -- v. To exterminate, destroy utterly.
Intestate -- adj. Dying without a will.
Monograph -- n. A treatist or study written on a single subject.
Epigram -- n. A short, witty statement.
Eschatology -- n. Theology or doctrine dealing with death, judgement or the end of the world.
Requiem -- n. In Catholicism, a mass celebrated for the dead.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen 6: Brutal Truth

Brutal Truth
Sounds of the Animal Kingdom
Anal Cunt were grind’s clown princes, but Brutal Truth reigned from the dopethrone as philosopher kings, dispensing bromides of wisdom only partially obscured by veils of pot smoke.
Long before Cephalic Carnage coined the term “Rocky Mountain Hydro Grind” these New Yorkers were unloading searing bong hit after bong hit of metal perfection.
Brutal Truth helped define grindcore on their first two essential albums as part of the impressive Earache stable, but it wasn’t until they swapped drummers and labels that grind’s potential really shone through.
From its punker than thou roots, grind was suddenly allowed to grow up a little bit, maybe read anthropology text or two, spend a college semester getting really into jazz or world music. Nobody here is going to dispute the simple joys of 90 second bursts of ear splitting racket, but Sounds of the Animal Kingdom found the New York quartet making a case to take grind seriously as, gasp, art.
Brutal Truth’s “Collateral Damage” may hold a Guiness world record for shortest music video at 2 seconds and some change, but the band was at its absolute best when they bucked grindcore’s brevity to truly stretch their legs. And Sounds finds the band at its most limber. “Pork Farm,” “Jimenez Cricket” and “Fucktoy” scale back the speedy chug and snapping tempos to introduce something actually resembling texture and dynamics into a grind tune. Throw in some blistering metal, a Sun Ra cover and the 30-some minute headfuck that was “Prey” and you’ve got a grind milestone unlike any seen before and rarely rivaled since.
Now a decade after Sounds of the Animal Kingdom’s release Brutal Truth reunited (with Lethargy/Sulaco guitarist Erik Burke standing in for Gurn) because, for some of us, grindcore still isn’t loud enough, still isn’t fast enough.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Toca rapido o muerte: A Look Back at Grind’s Latin Explosion

Pete Sandoval didn’t even know what to call the racket he was kicking out on his first drum set in 1984 in Los Angeles.
Two decades on, Terrorizer is synonymous with grindcore, but the "Grind/core/Death/Speed/metal" noise they banged out didn’t even have a name when Sandoval unseated a drummer named Fishe to cement the band’s lineup.
“Finally I could do what I wanted to in a pure Grindeathcore guitar hellstorm! I loved it!” said Commando, who had been playing in a band called Merciless Death Squad at the time.
And while no list of the greatest drummers in metal could overlook the Terrorizer/Morbid Angel skinsman, Sandoval and a small coterie of L.A. bands during grind’s formative years can also be credited with breaking metal’s cultural line.
As uptight crypto-racist demagogues are calling for the roundup and deportation of anybody with more melanin than an Irish albino – regardless of legal status – it’s important to remember how Hispanic musicians helped birth grind. A full 15 years before MTV afflicted us with Ricky Martin, grind had its own Latin explosion going on.
Metal as a whole was just coming into its international own in the mid-80s, but aside from Suicidal Tendencies’ revolving door and the Spanish speaking half of Slayer, it was still very much a middle class high school white guy scene in America.
“Well, I guess most white guys were interested in heavy metal and glam rock while on the other hand the Hispanic musicians were busy writing sick stuff and having gigs anywhere they could,” Sandoval said.
“East L.A. was full of Hispanics before I moved to Tampa in 1988. There were tons of bands from that area and it meant that most bands were made of mostly Latinos and a few white guys that joined the extreme metal scene. I could mention to you bands like Sadistic Intent, Darkness (all Latinos), Terrorizer (all Latinos), F.C.D.N. Tormentor (all Latinos). I mean, I could mention to you at least 15 bands which are formed mostly by Latinos!”
That list would also include Excruciating Terror, Resistant Culture (known as Resistant Militia then) and the mighty Nausea, featuring Terrorizer throat Oscar Garcia.
It seems inevitable L.A.’s racial cauldron would open metal’s narrow doors to new viewpoints and cultural experiences.
“We have a little bit of everything here, a microcosm of the world,” Excruciating Terror guitarist Jerry “Roadkill” Flores said. “We have people here from every part of the world here. It is very segregated though. By government design of coarse. Just like any major city, the government creates ethnic ghettos. The segregation is residential. People do of course interact. It would be impossible not to.”
It was in that “ethnic ghetto” Flores met Martin Alvaro and Victor Garcia, the other two thirds of E.T.’s lineup, which even briefly included a young Dino Cesares of Fear Factory/Brujeria fame.
“We all went to the same schools and are from the same area, North East LA,” said Flores, who is still active with a new band, Bloody Phoenix. “We all lived about 3 miles from each other. I had known most since junior high. Looking back now, it's clear we all had different plans/goals. Speaking only for myself, from day one I just wanted to make music, record it, travel with people I could have fun with and meet all my pen-pals that I had had since I was about 13.”
Grindcore’s hybrid nature also forced upstart bands to mix up their social circles, which helped broaden its appeal and introduce new voices. There was no grind “scene” in L.A., Sandoval and Flores agree. Rather mid-80s grinders, who didn’t really know what to call their hellacious racket, were forced to carve out space on punk and metal bills to get their music heard.
“L.A. has had a steady influx of grind bands since the mid ‘80s. Most of those early bands didn't know what they were playing would eventually be called grindcore,” Flores said. “But at no time during that time would I honestly be able to tell you that there was a huge grindcore scene in L.A. Grindcore bands usually played death metal shows. It was weird. Too punk for metal, too metal for the punks. During that time it was much easier to get on a metal show than a punk show though. A lot of punks, not all, were elitist snobs who wanted nothing to do with us.”
So what are we to take from this little stroll through grind history? Latinos, like all other blast beat junkies, were just looking for an outlet for all the frustrations, petty and cosmic, that come with being part of the human species.
“Maybe it's the purity of it,” Flores said. “It's simplicity. It's intensity. It's anger. Things people from any background can feel and understand. Maybe it's the fact that in grind you don't hear about dragons or about how much money you have or how many women you've abused or Satan. Grind is honest and humble.”
We broach the possibility this whole exercise is just recursive post modern bullshit with Flores and he happily agrees.
“I am Latino,” he said. “I identify with Latinos, obviously. But I consider myself human before anything else. We are all one race, human. By breaking us down into groups you divide us. Division is our downfall as a race.”

Viva la Revolucion: Five Mandatory Latino Grind Albums

World Downfall
We’ve already deemed this the seventh greatest grind album of all time, so not too much more needs to be said.
World Downfall is a blistering tour de force of straight forward punk guitar over blast beat goodness. Almost as famous for the band members’ subsequent bands, Terrorizer were not only L.A.’s premiere grinders, but America’s best entry into the blast beat sweepstakes during the 1980s as well.
Terrorizer’s influence is undeniable. You can hear World Downfall’s influence in every straight forward, grimy grind band that came after them.

Crime Against Humanity
Wild Rags
After Terrorizer posthumously recorded World Downfall, frontman Oscar Garcia leaped into his new project. Rounding up members of Majesty and other local bands, Nausea crossed up proto-grind with bits of crust and a few industrial flourishes to firmly establish Garcia was not about to rest on his Terrorizer laurels. Though Crime Against Humanity is the band’s only full length to date, Garcia and Co. remain active, periodically playing along side like minded bangers such as Venomous Concept and Phobia.

Resistant Culture
Welcome to Reality
S.O.S. Records
The first album G&P set its hand to reviewing. After a not so amicable parting of the ways with Napalm Death, guitarist Jesse Pintado hooked up with this all Latino ensemble, formerly known as Resistant Militia and featuring Tony Rezhawk, who would stand in for Oscar Garcia when Pintado reunited Terrorizer just before his untimely death. While Darker Days Ahead failed to revive Terrorizer’s glory days, Welcome to Reality is a stunning bit of forward looking metal noise, mixing prime grind with native chants and rhythms to create a startling original sound. The band’s lyrical concepts and political stances on the behalf of America’s marginalized native peoples are also refreshing.
If your ancestors sold small box infected blankets to indigenous peoples, Resistant Culture would like to have a word with you.

Excruciating Terror
Divided We Fall
Other than Phobia, no other first wave grind band was nearly as crusty and punked out as Excruciating Terror. This trio blasted out bass-heavy, primal thumpings that could peel the siding off your house from a couple blocks over.
Though they only recorded a couple of albums during their brief lifespan, Excruciating Terror went out on a high note with 1997’s Divided We Fall, a pissed off diatribe about the world’s many failings spread over 21 60-second outbursts. This is a band that has never gotten the proper credit for their place in grindcore’s annals, and Divided We Fall is an excellent place to get acquainted with one of the scene’s elder statesmen.

Bloody Phoenix
War, Hate and Misery
625 Thrash
After Excruciating Terror fizzled, guitarist Jerry Flores roared right back with another largely-Latino ensemble that whips out snarling, stabbing bursts of grindcore bliss.
Picking up where his last band left off, Flores and his team are setting the bar even higher with a new batch of songs that easily rival the genre’s forerunners.
We’re all for seeing grind mutate and explore new possibilities, but it’s also nice to see someone keeping the home fires of the old school burning.