Friday, November 28, 2008

Warriors of Ice: Sayyadina Unthaw New Music (How Swede It Is Part 3)

Asking Swedish grind dervishes Sayyadina about the thermostat settings in the studio when they laid down tracks in August for an – as of now – stalled split with a – so far – unnamed American band, may sound retarded and random, but in my head the question makes sense.
The band’s last album, Mourning the Unknown, was that rarest of grindcore snipes: a disc that actually made me pore over the lyrics as I delved into the frigid meditations on depression and anxiety that layered its exquisite performance. Take a minute and go pull it out. Count how many references to cold, winter and ice you find. The sheer number even startled guitarist Jon Lindqvist, the band’s wordsmith.
“Preparing for this interview I read through the lyrics and I was a bit freaked out, but I think describing a depression is done very effectivly through those ‘cold’ words,” he told me via email. “If you got anything out of it that is nice. Dealing with depression and nightmares and violent fantasies and struggeling to get better and constantly falling back is hard work. Describing it as it happens is even harder.”
And with Mourning still in my regulator rotation, Lindqvist’s bandmates are eager for him to go spelunking the benighted crevices of his psyche yet again.
“Jon will continue to spit out new lyrics until his head is just a psychic vacuum,” drummer Ove Wiksten said.
But Odin only knows when we might hear the songs at this point. It’s a tale as old as time. Band meets label. Band agrees to work with label. Band loses label. Band tries to get label back.
While Sayyadina collectively declined to name names, the split they had hoped to put out soon seems to have fizzled and the fate of the songs remains a big question mark as of right now.
“It seems like that split isn't happening anymore, but hopefully we'll get to do something on or through their label anyway,” according to bassist Andreas Eriksson (who btw, big shout out, took the thankless job of corralling his bandmates for this interview, so big ups to that guy).
Hearing the songs are sitting in the vault is even more exquisite torture to hear Sayyadina gush about them.
“Great songs. Best songs we've written this year! What will happen? Who knows? Working with labels is a pain in the ass. Always,” Lindqvist said.
“The writing of the music for this recording combined with how we recorded it felt really good,” Eriksson added. “It was very intense and not so overworked as our stuff has been in the past. Or felt like when we recorded it anyway. The songs feels more alive somehow now for the first time in a very long time.”
While Lindqvist didn’t let me peak in his diary to suss out potential lyrical themes, but he did assure me Sayyadina are not about to become another generic political or gore band. As a consolation prize, he did offer some advice for those of us who will be diagramming Sayyadina’s sentences should the new songs see the light of day.
“I think Sayyadina’s lyrics have always been on a really deep personal level, and I think that is the only way I can write,” he said. “I don’t get the whole gore thing. The band is really happy if there are any lyrics to begin with. I'm not very interested in other peoples lyrics (especially) or ‘out-write’ brilliant Carcass lyrics, I'd rather read books. Talking about Mourning’s lyrics, though, it was really hard to get all of them together. They grew out of small sentences that I think said it all and then you have to write 15 more sentences saying the same thing or even try to develop or describe what I was trying to say. (And the key sentence is never the first five words.)”
If Lindqvist needs any lyrical assistance, I suggest he take a gander at page 66 of Webster’s New World Thesaurus (1990 edition – I know I need to upgrade) for all the permutations of cold. Meanwhile, I’ve dog eared page 26 looking for synonyms of awesome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

G&P review: Afgrund (How Swede It Is Part 2)

Svarta Dagar
This Swedish-Finnish grind collective inhale/exhale the best of their Scandinavian predecessors on their debut full length, and Sayyadina and Gadget had better start looking over their shoulders.
My knowledge of Swedish comes primarily from what I gleaned from the Muppets, but Svarta Dagar means Black Days. For anything more than that, you’re going to have to consult your nearest phrase book or embassy, but from the sound of it, life has left these lads a mite bit perturbed.
Guitar scrapes, spots of feedback and the occasional sludge trudge mix up the blastbeatery of raging Swede-style goodness. Even guitarists Andreas Baier and Patrik Howe’s vocal tradeoffs remind me of early Nasum mic duels between Anders Jakobson and Mieszko Talarcyk.
Stretching their songs out to the two minute mark or longer, Afgrund give their music enough room to breathe and expand that actually allows for some movement and dynamic tension in the space of a grind tune. The guitars hint at ominous melodies, the bass rumbles with fuzzed out crunch and drummer Panu Posti knows when to reel in the blastbeats in service of the song as a whole.
Remixed by the ubiquitous Scott Hull, Svarta Dagar is still a tad too muffled, sapping that necessary punch out of their playing, but it’s good enough to highlight the band’s aggression and songwriting chops.
Adding the nine tracks from their split with Relevant Few for a total playing time of nearly 50 minutes, Svarta Dagar may be a smidgen overlong for one sitting, but that’s just bitching about too much of a good thing.
It would be premature to crown Afgrund the next Nasum, but they are not someone to be missed if you still mourn the Swedish titan’s loss. Given their pedigree and clear songwriting talent, I’m already hotly anticipating what they will offer next because, clearly, they are slaves to the grind. This is what it’s all about; this is why they play.

Monday, November 24, 2008

G&P review: Retaliation (How Swede It Is Part 1)

Exhuming the Past: 14 Years of Nothing
Anyone who is functionally literate and wastes about 5 minutes here will figure out that I *heart* Swedish grindcore and punk. Like listening to both discs of Nasum's Grind Finale back to back. Which was good training for Retaliation's 80 minute, 85 track (115 song) discography behemoth.
For much of their existence Retaliation has vacillated between the Carcass copping medical malpractices of Regurgitate (“Nailgun Rectal Entry,” the Acrid Genital Spew demo) and planting one Doc Marten in the festering polipunk demimonde that spawned Nasum (“Things Never Change,” “No Peace”). The combination over the years has produced a hybrid, deep seated misanthropy not unlike Rotten Sound and their ilk.
Unlike other tedious compilations, Retaliation don’t present their songs in a straight chronological/antichronological order, forcing you to either suffer through six EPs of horrible sounding demos up front or alternately despair as a decent sounding album spirals downward into murky unintelligibility. Rather, the songs jump around through their catalogue, while the inconsistent volume may make for a difficult headphones experience, the ordering manages to keep you interested by varying up the sound.
And Retaliation can uncork some doozies, especially when they dissect someone else’s tune. Smack in the middle of the album, like a stray dandelion growing out of a sidewalk crack, Retaliation bust out a savage cover of His Hero is Gone’s “Like Weeds,” sheering away the original’s haunting melody bits and turning it into a savage cudgel before practicing some amateur dentistry on your canines and incisors.
Retaliation struck back again this year with their latest album, The Cost of Redemption, but Selfmadegod’s infuriating international ordering system has so far stymied my efforts to land that disc [Warning from Superego: Don’t even think about making a Polish joke here]. But it’s not for lack of trying because Retaliation has earned a prized place on the Ikea shelf where I keep my Swedish goodies. It’s rare to find a band that will be able to unite the disparate branches of the grind family tree around a common love of blast beats and disdain for humanity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

G&P review: Misery Index

Misery Index
Not content with simply being the Greg Ginn for a new generation of punks, Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou is rapidly establishing himself as one of the premier metal producers in North America. This year, alone, he has helmed both Disfear and now Misery Index to the career highs, at least on a production front.
Forgive me, but I just can't get into Misery Index. For some reason, Baltimore's finest just never seem to itch my blastbeat scratch.
While every instrument mercilessly rips through the perfectly balanced fader work on Traitors, it is just another Misery Index album loaded with straight ahead death/grind rampage and frothing political diatribes. If you loved Retaliate or Discordia, Traitors will have you sporting metal wood. Band mastermind Jason Netherton remains one of the brightest and most articulate lyricists working in metal today, tarting up tried and true cock-slaps at politicians, churches and corporate corruption with fresh imagery and honest rage.
But inevitably my attention fades about halfway through any Misery Index album.
Ferocious instrumental “We Never Come in Peace” kicks the album off with a bang, midtempo chug giving away to drummer Adam Jarvis’ exceptional footwork (which should have dedicated MI fans asking ‘Kevin Talley, who?’). My blood keeps racing through first true song “Theocracy” and my fist throws up horns of its own volition until sometime after the mid-album Bolt Thrower style panzer assault of “Ghosts of Catalonia.” After that, I start to lose interest and all the songs begin to blur into an indecipherable blastbeaten mush.
If you love Misery Index, you probably already have this. But, for me, I’m at a loss to explain the critical praise and major label money being heaped on a pretty run of the mill death/grind outfit, albeit one with top shelf production.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

G&P review: After the Bombs

After the Bombs
Relentless Onslaught
Please step away from the reverb, ma’am, and no one gets hurt.
True to Canuck collective After the Bomb’s throwback ’80s crossover style, front woman Janick’s vocals are drenched in enough watery reverb to overflow a host of early Voivod and Kreator albums.
And it’s not just the shouting from the bottom of the swimming pool vocal style that seems to be stuck in suddenly (inexplicably) resurgent Reagan years. Mixing slow motion Amebix trudge with underproduced early ’80s thrash, After the Bombs hearken back to metal’s first, earliest, awkward dates with that funny looking girl known as punk.
Penning longer ditties than your average two minute hardcore tune, After the Bombs give their songs the space to expand and meander, allowing the band to fully explore their riffs rather than breathlessly stampeding to the end of the song.
“Black Wind of Fear” is pure Def American-era Slayer midtempo chug, “Condemned” is a Reign in Blood thrash rush and “To the Void and Back” has the slow building creepy crawly atmosphere you expect from Seasons in the Abyss’ title cut. You get the idea.
This album combines not only the five tracks from Relentless Onslaught but also the four songs from Terminal Filth Stench Bastard EP (a truly inspired title, btw), which boasts slightly more robust production that gives the songs more verve, particularly the more pronounced bass attack.
The title Relentless Onslaught may not entirely pass the truth in advertising test because the production lacks the clarity or punch necessary to qualify as either relentless or an onslaught, but if you’re hunting for a shot of early ’80s crossover hardcore, After the Bombs will satisfy provided you keep your expectations moderate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

G&P Review: Brutal Truth (The Class of Oct. 28)

Brutal Truth
For Drug Crazed Grindfreaks Only!
Am I the only one who remembers when Relapse was a killer label that actively sought out new artists rather than just convulsively hoovering up out of print goodies that other people had released years before?
With Brutal Truth back in the studio laying down tracks for their first album in 11 years, Relapse snapped up and re-released this Solardisk EP from 2000, recorded in New Zealand on tour for their finest album, Sounds From the Animal Kingdom. For those of us who missed the classic lineup live: It’s just a band busting out tunes live in a studio. It’s refreshing to hear instant classics “K.A.P.” and “Jemenez Cricket” liberated from Billy Anderson’s uncharacteristically rickety production to become the rabid, snarling man-beasts they were meant to be.
New York’s stoniest leave no release unpillaged during their 20 minute assault, tearing through raw versions of “Walking Corpse” (complete with hilarious spoken word intro in lieu of the classic sample), “Choice of a New Generation” and “Let’s Go to War.” And true to their weirdo credo, BT also throw in an untitled track of low key electronic meandering that is worth a listen but definitely won’t be a selling point for anyone into the band’s high speed assault.
Despite the title, you don’t have to be drug crazed to enjoy a nice contact buzz from this short album, but it’s definitely one for the grind freaks who may have missed them in their prime.

Friday, November 14, 2008

G&P Review: Total Fucking Destruction (The Class of Oct. 28)

Total Fucking Destruction
Peace, Love and Total Fucking Destruction

“You suspect me of trickery?” Hagberd asked raising his eyebrows.
“Trickery is your métier,” Joe said bluntly. “You are the Beethoven, the Rockefeller, the Michaelangelo of deception. The Shakespeare of the gypsy switch, the two headed nickel, and the rabbit in the hat. What little liver pills are to Carter, lies are to you. You dwell in a world of trapdoors, sliding panels, and Hindu rope tricks. Do I suspect you? Since I met you, I suspect everybody.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Hagberd grinned. “You are well on your way to paranoia. Take this card and keep it in your wallet. When you begin to understand it, you’ll be ready for your next promotion. Just remember: It’s not true unless it makes you laugh. That is the one and sole and infallible test of all ideas that will ever be presented to you.” And he handed Joe a card saying

The Illuminatus! Trilogy, page 250
Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

I don’t know if Rich Hoak has read up on Wilson (I suspect he has). But if he hasn’t, there’s no need because the drummer and his band of merry pranksters are living the counter culture icon’s admonition to engage in bizarre sex rituals while indiscriminately devouring whatever chemical substances are readily at hand and prying those chakras wide open on Peace, Love and Total Fucking Destruction.
Album closer “Last Night I Dreamt We Destroyed the World” is a Lynchian, delightfully meandering spoken word romp through Hoak’s damp, dank id that evokes Rudimentary Peni circa Cacophony before giving way to Minutemen-style woodwind fetishism. Though TFD have jettisoned the acoustic grind that closed out last year’s equally awesome Zen and the Art of Total Fucking Destruction, the nine minute closer shows that the creative well has not yet run dry for the Philly fanatics.
Even at its most relatively tame (and I do mean relatively), Peace is larded with the kind of infectious songwriting sorely lacking in a lot of other blastfests. “Non-Existence of the Self” (this album’s answer to Zen’s awesome “Corpse Position”) pries open your third eye with a corkscrew riff that slithers like the serpent kundalini.
In case you’re totally friggen obtuse, TFD remind you they’re seriously funny guys on the immaculately titled “Seth Putnam is Wrong About a Lot of Things, But Seth Putnam Is Right About You,” a battering ram drum assault paired with a sinuous bass that belies the intentionally stupid title.
Add in updated versions (Hoak has said he intends the remakes to be mantra-style repititions) of “Boxcutter,” “Nihilism, Emptiness, Nothingness and Nonsense” and “Bio-Satanic Terroristic Attack” and you’ve got 20 minutes of holy fool insanity.
Stock up your armory and light up your bong because Hoak’s apocalyptic circus is back in town.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

G&P Review: Kill the Client (The Class of Oct. 28)

Kill the Client
Anybody with the privilege of being Kill the Client mouthpiece Morgan’s MySpace friend will tell you that he’s a prodigious sender of bulletins and he took it particularly hard when (small L) libertarian upstart Ron Paul failed to conquer the Republican primary, ignite a guns and torches in the streets uprising or generally alter American existence in any kind of meaningful or noticeable way.
With Paul’s blimp in drydock and the rEVOLution currently on hold, Morgan and his co-conspirators channeled their election year frustration into a second vicious full length chapter in their elite grind journal. If you’re looking for the down tempo respites that broke up Escalation of Hostility, Cleptocracy will bodycheck you like Scott Stevens catching a forward crossing center ice with his head down. Produced by bassist James Delgado, Cleptocracy is a circular saw assault on the senses that offers little quarter from the relentless blastbeat mugging and even relatively tame tunes “Downfall” and “Evidence of Injustice” stomp along at mosh pit speeds.
The explosive “Christian Pipebomb” is practically onomatopoetic, a concussive detonation that sends out indiscriminate waves of shrapnel rending flesh and bone. “False Flag Attack,” debuted on the This Comp Kills Fascists disc, posits 9/11 was an inside government job to accrue more power to the Bush administration (which is not really surprising, Morgan straight faced dropped references to Illuminati conspiracies to rule with world in conversations with me) while “The Lies” condenses Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great into a minute long high speed diatribe.
In-demand drummer Bryan Fajardo must be making his bid to be the next Dave Witte cuz in addition to back stopping Kill the Client, the guy has also anchored GridLink this year and just joined Phobia fulltime as well. It only takes a few measures into lead off song “Divide and Conquer” to see that Fajardo is worth whatever these bands are paying him.
With that kind of anchor propelling their ferocious second album, Kill the Client are staking their claim as one of grind’s leading voices, and I, for one, am not going to dispute that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

G&P Review: Maruta (The Class of Oct. 28)

In Narcosis
Dr. Josef “Angel of Death” Mengele carved himself into the modern psyche with a few flicks of his cruel scalpel, but his Japanese counterpart, Dr. Shiro Ishii, conveniently seems to have avoided the same well deserved notoriety. As commander of the infamous Unit 731 in Manchuria, Ichii and his staff performed all manner of vile experimentation on Chinese peasants and Soviet P.O.W.’s – dehumanized as maruta (“logs of wood”) – by their sadistic captors in their quest to perfect chemical and bacteriological weaponry.
In the interest of journalistic thoroughness, this weekend I subjected myself to back to back viewings of notorious 1988 Chinese exploitation film Men Behind the Sun and Andrey Iskanov’s often tedious four and a half hour shockumentary Philosophy of a Knife, two of the few representations of Unit 731’s savagery in popular culture. While neither strive toward academic levels of historicity, they bear graphic witness to World War II’s second Holocaust.
More than just another monicker to shock and evince some notion of extremity, Maruta’s potent admixture of offhand brutality and clearly thought out attack sonically channels the charnel atmosphere of one of the worst – and least discussed – atrocities of the 20th Century, painting a portrait of pain and casual sadism with a palette of curdled blood, purpled contusions and gangrenous yellow.
But it’s not all blunt force trauma experiments. Maruta also know how to wield a scalpel.
After being clubbed over the head with a blunt instrument for three straight songs, “Demise of the Humanist” sees these grindcore Neanderthals whip out slide rules and begin lecturing on the finer points of trigonometry in a song laced with enough pinch harmonics and technical snazzy to light up fans of Lethargy and Creation is Crucifixion. It’s those kinds of moments when tempos slow to let double bass work over take the incessant blast beatdowns and guitarist Eduardo Borja carves out enough space to prove he’s more than just an adrenaline junky punk banger that Maruta truly come into their own as a grind force to be faced and feared. “Rise of the Iron Moth” sounds more like a swarm of Africanized titanium bees on a kamikaze run with your face.
Add in production values thick as a week old puddle of bodily fluids on a surgery floor, and Willowtip have a sure fire winner on their hands. And this is just Maruta’s debut.

Friday, November 7, 2008

G&P Review: Phobia (The Class of Oct. 28)

Oct. 28, 2008, was a fucking awesome day for grind with five high profile releases all dropping on the same Tuesday. So for the next few days I'm going to plow through the single best album dump of the year.

22 Random Acts of Violence
Phobia and Scott Hull should have been like grindcore peanut butter and chocolate on 2006’s Cruel: two great tastes that taste great together. Instead of the grindcore fusion of permanent spinal injury inducing headbanging proportions, the two seemed to be working at cross purposes to each others’ strengths turning in a faceless, unremarkable half hour of music.
While Hull still gets a mixing and mastering nod, it’s former Phobic John Haddad (drummer on Means of Existence) who helms the board for the band this outing and while he scuffs up the production some, taking the gloss off the band, but it’s still just not quite enough for a sentimental old fuck like me (new bassist Leon del Muerte’s near-inaudible performance just may be in the running for the 2008 Jason Newsted Memorial Trophy for Irrelevance).
Don’t get me wrong, aside from the horrifically lame title (Pig Destroyer and His Hero is Gone have already done the number-of-songs-on-an-album-as-list-of-criminal-charges crap and it was stupid then, too), 22 Random Acts of Violence is a head-snapping affair from a veteran organization that knows its way around crafting a catchy blastbeat laden tune, such as Bolt Thrower-style opening chugger “Bring the War.” “Rise Up’s” gang chorus and dervish solo are punky goodness straight from the Disfear playbook and Office Space-sampling “Depression is a Killer” shows the band widening its sonic palette to include hints of churning melody that rush to a close before straying too far into retread Gothenbergisms.
I don’t begrudge them the backing of a solid label (poor bastards watched both Slap-a-Ham and Deathvomit go the way of the dodo, taking half their back catalogue with them) and the financial stability that comes with it, but for someone who grew up listening to Return to Desolation, this glossier, well heeled Phobia just doesn’t pack the same urgency and street level honesty that past albums have brought.
For all their lineup turmoil, the California collective, anchored by Steve Burda and Shane McLachlan, have never received the A-list kudos they deserve as America’s consistently finest grindcore practitioners for the better part of 15 years, but I’d rather see them get praised on their own merits than win acclaim while slowly evolving into just another grind band.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Carcass Word of the Day Calendar: Nov. 5, 2008

While we make much of Carcass’s innovative take on gore and grind and the band’s lingering reputation for over the top gross out humor, far too often we ignore the potential educational value lurking in songs like “Splattered Cavities.” Now you could lead your middle school anatomy class through yet one more repetition of “Dem Bones,” or some daring teacher could grow a pair and get creative and hum a few bars of this Reek of Putrefaction retch fest to acquaint eager young minds with the wonders hidden in their own viscera. Educators, if you truly think the children are our future, you owe it to them.

Erupted thoracic savies - serum, pus and offal
Perspiring ulcerous chancre - splattered on your wall
Necro-cellular lesions - the stench of staining scabsS
craped up by medics, and wrapped in plastic bags
Exploding pus and bile, abdominal saliva sprays
Coughing out your intestines, and rubbing them in your face
Carbuncles oozing sanguous, mortified entrails and rot
Pieced together for autopsy, in your wooden box
Frantic pelvic gut-wrench
Splattered guts and gore
Seeping disembowelment
Mopped up off the floor
Pelvic insides now rest in your perineum
Splattered gore seeping from your orifices like hot sebum
Pancreatic juices
Internal digestive mess
Acidic dripping spittle
And squelching moist flesh
Pulverized thoracic cavity
Your rib-cage is snapped
Rupturing internal organs
Crushed in your diaphragm
Your lungs are collapsed
As your abdominal cavity is splattered
Terminal back-ache paralysing
As your spine is shattered

Thoracic – adj. pertaining to the chest cavity.
Savies – once again Carcass has stumped me. Medical community, feel free to jump in on this one.
Chancre – n. a syphilis lesion.
Carbuncle – n. a painful subcutaneous inflammation.
Sangous – not actually a word, but sang is the Latin root for blood so I’ll assume that’s where they were heading with that one.
Perineum – n. the area in front of the anus. You affectionately know it as the taint.
Sebum – n. the fatty secretion of the sebaceous glands.