Monday, June 28, 2010

G&P Review: Circle of Dead Children

Circle of Dead Children
Psalm of the Grand Destroyer


An open letter to Scott Hull:

Dear Mr. Hull,
We’ve never spoken, but I just had to take a brief moment to thank you for not being Steve Austin.
To the best of my knowledge, sir, you have neither stolen a drummer from Circle of Dead Children to further your own musical aims nor have you hellaciously fucked up the band’s sound on an album from the producer’s chair, rendering it flat, stale, lifeless and a groaning diarrheal disappointment (see also, Comfort Margin, Zero). No, Mr. Hull, I just wanted to thank you for the thunderfucking crack of doom bass that dredges through Psalm of the Grand Destroyer opener “Avatar of Innocence.” While the Pittsburgh band’s last couple of albums have been serviceable, even fleetingly enjoyable amalgams of death metal brute and grindcore windshear, Psalm of the Grand Destroyer played to Circle of Dead Children’s strengths as the last men standing of the Steeltown scene, an incestuous merry go round of characters who would man CoDC, Fate of Icarus, Creation is Crucifixion and Sadis Euphoria in the name of brutal fucking noise. And given frontman Joe Hovarth’s mano a mano bout with a near fatal staph infection, just seeing a new album from the band is reward enough for now, Mr. Hull.
Though the band proudly proclaims they “Refuse to Kill the Same Way Twice,” Psalm will be comfortably familiar to anyone who flipped their shit over The Genocide Machine. Revisiting “Ursa Major” from debut album Starving the Vultures, likewise, adds nothing new, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it, sir? Mr. Hull, you’ve cleverly just let the band do what they do best with minimal interference as they ravage songs like “Obsidian Flakes,” letting the tinkling, almost subliminal introduction build until a photonegative storm front rains a black-flaked blizzard of ravaged death metal over a grim, lightless underworld.

Circle of Dead Children – “Obsidian Flakes”

No, Mr. Hull, you’ve simply primed the canvas for Circle of Dead Children, whether it’s deft touches like the funeral march lament of the grave weary “Germinate the Reaper” or allowing Hovarth’s multiple personality vocals – a veritable galaxy of death rattle gargles, bone gnawing rasps and hellacious underworld groans – to take their rightful place in front of “Last Words and Warning Signs.”
So, in closing, Mr. Hull, again I wish to thank you for not being Steve Austin.

Yr obt. and faithful svt.,
Etc. etc. etc.

[Full disclosure: Willowtip sent me a review copy.]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Decibel’s Lack of Journalistic Standards is Appalling

This is probably an occupational hazard given my day job involves the asking of questions, collecting of facts, disseminating of information and the other folderol that generally falls under the rubric of “professional journalism,” but I feel compelled to call Decibel on a glaring journalistic lapse in their August issue. Now Decibel is easily the best metal magazine on the newsstands by a country mile and a couple furlongs on Sundays for good measure. That’s why I was absolutely floored to see the sort of parasitical asshole they give credence in an otherwise spot on interview with G&P faves Wormrot.
See for yourself:Who in their right fucking mind would for one minute give that shameless, typo-ridden hack’s masturbatory internet dribblings the most fleeting of glances, let along the dignity of being mentioned in such an otherwise laudable publication? Now, far be it from me to advocate any form of censorship, but taste and respectability should dictate some reasonable limits. I will, of course, be composing a letter to one Mr. Mudrian posthaste expressing my absolute disgust at his momentary lapse in judgment.

Honestly, I can only give Cosmo Lee at Invisible Oranges sincere appreciation for the opportunity to spread the holy word of grindcore, in general, and Wormrot, in particular. And thanks to Atanamar for the heads up on the Decibel article. This ranks right up there with being mentioned in the thank you list of a Parlamentarisk Sodomi album as a beyond-my-wildest-dreams triumph for the blog.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Corporal Copycat Quandary

I feel as though Carcass has been getting short shrift around here lately. Since I ran out of Carcass Word of the Day Calendar material more than a year ago the band’s name just hasn’t been popping up with any kind of regularity, which is a damn shame and a serious oversight on my part. I can’t seem to go a week without referencing Napalm Death or Nasum, but Carcass have been falling by the wayside as far as grindcore reference points go. And despite their later forays into questionable death metal and questionabler death ’n’ roll, Carcass remain a grindcore touchstone despite single handedly afflicting us with the plague of shitty copycats who labor under the misapprehension that tired porno samples and casual misogyny stack up against the moldering gods of jet black humor. But we cannot hold the fathers responsible for the sins of their sons.
Ponder, if you will, this grindcore impression under which I have been laboring pretty much my entire adult life: no matter who was behind the kit, Napalm Death always had superior drumming (sorry, Ken), but Carcass could be counted on to bring the superior riffs, particularly after Justin Broadrick jumped Napalm’s ship to get his gloom on. Carcass’ riffs were so awesome (even if not the most popular riff of all time) they’re still being rehashed and rewritten to this day.

Case in chronological point: the introduction to "Ruptured in Purulence"

“Ruptured in Pur
Symphonies of Sickness


Jeff Walker and Ken Owen perfected the grindcore equivalent of the Vulcan mindmeld during the first 22 seconds “Ruptured in Purulence” as the steady state drumming and festering bass line slime across each other like banana slugs fucking before Bill Steer crashes the party with his bone saw guitar and the song ruptured into a purulent death-grind maelstrom. But it’s that opening half minute that has always stuck out in my mind: the patient Jason Voorhees-stalking-errant-camp-counselors drum pace being beaten by Walker’s rotten sack of meat bass tone.

Brutal Truth

Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses


Well that sure didn’t take long. Just a scant three years later New York weedians Brutal Truth were generously lifting from the Carcass template on “Regression/Progression.” Oh sure, Scott Lewis added a few extra double bass kicks to the layout, but tell me that doesn’t sound like the same slow build drum ’n’ bass between Lewis and Danny Lilker. Extreme conditions demand lifting material from the masters of extremity and on occasion originality will just have to be, ahem, collateral damage.

“No Love Lost”

Wake Up and Smell the Carcass


Consummate pranksters that they were, Carcass weren’t above dipping back into their own well either. Witness the fake out opener to “No Love Lost” during a BBC Radio 1 Rock Show appearance in 1994. Just before they figured out corporate rock really does suck, Carcass shed the gore and got all major labely, but as a buttress against the inevitable accusations of falsity the then-quartet reduced, reused and recycled their signature riff with Mike Amott adding additional guitar squiddilies to the proceedings.

Expose Your Hate
“Appreciate the Dying Planet”


Here it is again, set to this slab of Brazilian wax. If thieving from Carcass was good enough for Brutal Truth’s debut, who’s to begrudge Expose Your Hate from five fingering old faithful for their own first album. Perhaps recognizing that lifting this hoary bit of grind lore is not the most original move left to an aspiring band, Expose Your Hate keep their homage to a respectable 11 seconds. I guess some people appreciate the dying art of writing memorable riffs.

Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation
“Studeny Kilh”
Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation

Now at the time I reviewed their self-titled mouthful of an album, I complemented bassist Kanako for her brass-bound ovaries for having the gall (if you will) to ape the Limey masters. Of all those collected here Kanako’s ping pong bouncing bass tone is perhaps the best modern updating and interpretation of Walker’s classic suppurating wound sound. Along with drummer Tomoko, she’s also not afraid to ride that sucker for all it’s worth. The pair of them clock a respectable 75 seconds of collective grooving before being interrupted by the guitars and being told to get on with the song.

Don’t believe me? Judge for yourself, and maybe some of you with sharper musical acumen and a better grasp of notes, scales and all that claptrap can explain the subtle differences that will stay Earache’s army of winged monkey lawyers from suing the the polyps out of the copycats' colons. However, I think there’s enough similarity there to help a couple of copyright attorneys pay off that second mortgage.
Zipped for your pleasure.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

G&P Review: thedowngoing

I Am Become

Self Released

Physicist Robert Oppenheimer is what you’d call a glass half empty kinda guy. Reportedly the supervisor of the Manhattan Project during World War II turned to the Bhagavad Gita to sum up his thoughts following the first successful test of an atomic bomb, declaring: “I am become Shiva, destroyer of worlds.”
Welcome to the atomic age, boys and girls. Try to wear a happy face.
Australian two piece thedowngoing am become Shiva, destroyer of stereo components on self-released noise/grind holocaust I Am Become, a 13 track walkabout through an Outback of rusted cars, burnt out radios and decayed bits of a collapsed civilization.
“Thus Spoke” is a 38 second jab of musical nihilism and lyrical dissipation, but when two out of three of your top MySpace friends are Nietzsche and Charles Bukowksi, I’m not exactly expecting sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. The vocal devastation on the electro-jolted Khanate-meets-grind amalgam “Motionless” builds a fairly convincing case for demonic possession amid its wasteland death march. However, the deadite tinge to some of the vocals is certainly what we call an acquired taste.
The only weakness I could find is the drums tend to get lost in the production on occasion, particularly during the blast beat sections, but thedowngoing show their strengths as they stretch grindcore’s tempos and boundaries as with “29:23,” a snow blind blizzard of white out noise that recalls Body Hammer, and “Sunken Deep,” the album’s most composed and engaging song with its swarming snare and cymbal strikes buzzing like hornets around a trepanning drill guitar tone.
The band has made several tracks available for download here, and it’s certainly worth giving their Mad Max gone digital roadtrip listen or two.
[Full disclosure: the band sent me a download for review.]

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blood In, Blood Out: Dutch Grinders Ask, What’s In a Name?

You know that Shakespeare quote about names and roses? Yeah, that one. Well, I will not be breaking that out because it’s trite and overused, and that would just be fucking lame on my part. Because for the last 15 years Shantia, Rosco and Bert have consistently been banging out music so awesome – no matter under what appellation or backed by what drummer – that they deserve something better than a tired cliché.
Whether the beats were blasted by Ype or Henk under the name My Minds Mine or Blood I Bleed, the Dutch outfit(s?) have been playing some of my favorite grind, especially of late. In fact, the growth and continuity between the bands is no coincidence, guitarist Shantia said.
“To start this off, I must say that MMM consisted of four mates with no important jobs, no kids or other time consuming factors. This led to lots of practicing, gigs, some tours and some recordings,” he said. “At the time we were quite close and all I can say about MMM quitting is that in a later stage there were tensions between some people which led to disbanding MMM. Also Rosco was out of the picture for a while as he had problems with his vocal cords (what a coincidence, heh?), which led to a temporary break for him. We continued MMM under a new name and with a new drummer. As you will understand this was all out of respect of our old drummer Ype, who we've known since we were 15 years old. For me BIB is basically the same band with the same ideas and plans and I wonder that if we have to make this decision ever again we will do the name change again or stick to the old name.”
Considering the musician carousel that characterizes Napalm Death or Extreme Noise Terror in most people’s minds, that’s an amazing act of loyalty in the face of a single changing member.
Whatever they choose to call themselves, like Nasum before them and Wormrot after, Blood I Bleed have that rare gift of crafting actual grindcore songs. You know, songs that actually stand out, have memorable hooks, definable characteristics rather than just a 20 minute blur of blasting noise. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Again, Shantia said that’s by design.
“The riff, hook, bridge, start, ending are all looked closely at to make one song ‘different’ from another,” he said. “Indeed this is tricky, as we are just playing grind/hardcore, right? And I don’t think people expect too much experimental shit from a band like us. Lately we try to bring in Bert's vocals as well to make things a bit more hectic. As far as the hit-score; you never know until you play songs live or get feedback after you made recordings. From crowd reactions we understood that a song like ‘Bring Me His Head’ is quite popular. You know, slow starting, 1,2,3,4! and all hell breaks loose.”
Given the clear craft involved, I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite aspects of My Minds Mind/Blood I Bleed songs – the use of feedback as a songwriting tool – was not as deliberate as I imagined given how much it complements a tune like “Insensible We Are.”
“I love this squeaking tone and it just fits good in some songs,” Shantia said. “If it was up to me I would start one song with feedback and let it run all through a 30 second song. It is not a deliberate part of the songwriting, it just happens/gets added when we rehearse new songs.”
Shantia might get his 30 second feedback song chance in the near future because Blood I Bleed are steadily writing new music for a slew of upcoming releases.
“At this point we are writing new songs and lyrics,” he said. “We have 9 or 10 songs ready and the intension is to record about 20 songs again after summer. We have been asked to do a split record with Lycanthropy and we will probably do that after the new record.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

G&P Review: Blood I Bleed/Massgrav

Blood I Bleed/Massgrav

What happens when you strike when you strike Swedes Massgrav’s flinty crust grind off of Dutch masters Blood I Bleed’s steely grindcore chops? You’re going to cast enough sparks to set Northern Europe ablaze.
Though constrained by a more muffled production job than on Gods Out of Monsters, Blood I Bleed still circle a carcass like a school of starved bull sharks. Shantia’s songwriting is still leagues ahead of his peers and the white noise scrawls I immediately associate with his work are deployed to devastating effect. “Slow Motion Apocalypse” detonates 30 opening seconds of atonal feedback that screws the song’s tension until it vibrates like a single twanging nerve that has to explode or burst into flame. And “Downfall of the Common Man” bleeds out on the pavement in an arterial spurt of amplifier anguish.

Blood I Bleed – “Downfall of the Common Man”

The band also drills down into their prior incarnation as My Minds Mine, exhuming a trio of oldies but goodies to brutalize all over again.
Over the second half of the 20 minute confab, Sweden’s Massgrav unleash another round of napalm over Stureplan with a multi-throated crust-grind rampage aimed at people who though Anti Cimex were just too damn slow as harrow through hell on “Vagan Till Helvetet.”

Massgrav – “Vagan Till Helvetet”

Courtesy of a slightly more animated production job, Massgrav actually come off a touch more desperate and frenzied than even Blood I Bleed, raving like the Tasmanian Devil on a weeklong crack bender.
While they’re generally more comfortable cruising along at sub-Mick Harris speeds, the blasted, blighted and bastardized 16 seconds of “Lonesamtal – Legal Valdtakt” suggest the band recently pillaged a Stockholm dentist’s office and decided a drill bit would make a valuable addition to their musical repertoire.
Selfmadegod really outdid themselves roping together these two paragons for this split. This is where the 1337 m337 to blastb347.

[Full disclosure: Blood I Bleed sent me a review copy.]

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blast(beat) from the Past: Thousandswilldie

A Carcass is Only Dead Once


Now this shit is why I love grindcore. In most contexts, 25 songs would be a double album, probably some lame conceptual piece about the plight of Honduran coffee farmers or some other stupid shit. But this Rhode Island trio crammed all that on to a single 7-inch of early Anal Cunt-style blastcore goodness. Are there actual lyrics? Are there breaks between songs? Does any of that even matter? Fuck if I know, and I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this. What I do know is A Carcass is Only Dead Once is a loving shout out to a time when Seth Putnam was still funny and those kinds of questions just didn’t matter.
Thousandswilldie is all gnashing tooth bass grumble and poorly soldered fuse box guitar crackle for its scant runtime. A slavering madman flicks spittle all over your mug as he gnaws his way through 21st Century decay and decadence. Shit, the frontman’s band photo is like a bald, shirtless anthropomorphic throbbing vein screaming a litany of your myriad sins at you for an eternity [See also: PKD's A Scanner Darkly]. With songs like “Bleeding Venom,” “Betrayer,” “Abandoner” and “Sister Gomorrah” you could be forgiven for mistakenly assuming you’d wandered into another tired hardcore finger point fest where some self righteous douche does his best (worst?) Ian MacKaye impersonation. Luckily, first impressions are furthest from the truth.
The tactical nuke up Thousandswilldie’s hoodie sleeve is their classic Agoraphobic Nosebleed grade sense of maximum outrage and sarcasm paired with musical concision. A sampler, the totality of “Hive Mind’s” lyrical observations: “It’s all a big pissing contest. Why don’t you just 69 it and gag each other?”
Ridiculously short songs that are well conceived, strongly executed and slathered with biting, ironic social observation – sure you can beat that dead horse a few thousand times, but A Carcass is Only Dead Once.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Personas para el Tratamiento ético de los Animals: Looking for an Answer Grind for a More Humane Society

Looking for an Answer’s late 2009 surprise 7-inch La Caceria was a minor revelation for me and not just for the joy of seeing the Spaniards win Relapse’s backing. All well and good, but the true pleasure was listening to the band loosen up their assault, making it more feral and unpredictable over three new songs and a Repulsion cover. Extincion had been masterful bit of extrapolation on Nasum’s need to control – that precision that defined the Swedes – but the 7-inch was far more loose and rangy like early Napalm Death’s punk shocks.
In fact, guitarist Felix called the 7-inch “the best stuff we have recorded ever until now, music, lyrics and artwork.”
All of that gets even better when you learn La Caceria was essentially a demo for the band’s pending full length for Relapse. They band forwarded the four songs to the Pennsylvania major label after learning from friends in Suppository Relapse was scouting out new bands.
“Well it is the demo, but it was re-mastered for the 7-inch EP version,” Felix said. “The sound of the original demo, it’s rawer than the 7-inch EP for sure. But we really love that kind of sound, raw and intense. That´s 100 percent grindcore.”
The deal only runs through the upcoming longplayer for the time being, but Felix said the band intends to maximize the shot Relapse is giving them by building on the intensity and aesthetics of La Caceria.
“I think we have improved in some facts like the intensity, velocity, dirty sound and lyrics written,” Felix said.
Looking for an Answer’s blend of gore grind imagery, vegetarian sloganeering and whipcrack grindcore intensity should also make them a natural fit for the Relapse stable.
“Definitely. We are not a gore grind band. We play grindcore and we have lyrics about animal liberation and veganism, that´s all. We are not an animal rights org just a band. We feel [it’s] necessary to write about we care.”
As a stubbornly carnivorous volunteer for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I’ll be the first to admit I have certain respect for the purity of Looking for an Answer’s ethical vision even if I won’t follow as far down the same path. However, where far too many grind bands are too content to spew invective without backing it up in fact, Looking for an Answer put grind to deeds.
“We are three vegans and two vegetarians in LFAA and we have not any other connection to the animal protection world,” Felix said. “I am also a volunteer in a humane society (feeding people from the street with no resources, homeless etc) and I also was a meat eater years ago, but I think that [it] never is so late to get the compassion as life style.”