Thursday, September 30, 2010

G&P Review: Sayyadina

Mourning the Unknown [Reissue]
Nerve Altar
We shouldn’t even be having this conversation. You know that, right? You’re smart people, so you already know Sayyadina hold the post-Nasum Swedecore crown for second album Mourning the Unknown. It’s an album you already know and love, so my work here should be done.
But on the off chance some of you are not among the converted yet [*side eye*], the nice people at Nerve Altar have pressed Mourning the Unknown on a lovely slab o’wax – with three bonus tracks.
While Nerve Altar tells me it hasn’t been remastered, some quirk of the vinyl format seems to have given Mourning the Unknown an extra pop, especially the drums that just explode off the wax. Also, the 12-inch format really highlights the album’s evocative artwork.
But likely the hook here will be the bonus tracks.
The most rounded of the trio is “Like Rhinos,” a whip snapped rip that turns poaching endangered species into a metaphor for human suffering. Unlike the other two bonus tracks, it’s easy to imagine “Like Rhinos” having been included on Mourning the Unknown originally. The remaining two songs, while decent enough, don’t stack up against a modern grind classic. “Come Visit Sometime” rides a loping riff up and down the stairs that could pass on a Victims album with no comment. “Just Like a God” is just a straight up ripper.
It’s been three years since Sayyadina gifted us with Mourning the Unknown and its status as a modern classic is being cemented every day. But if Sayyadina intend to stay at the top of the heap, they may need to hit the studio soon. Afgrund and The Arson Project are nipping at their heels.

[Full disclosure: Nerve Altar sent me a review copy.]

Ever Increasing Circles

I have a limited musical vocabulary. So much for all those piano lessons when I was 10, mom. But Mourning the Unknown features one the best of what I call “circular” riffs during the swirling maelstrom that is “I Dare.” It’s a vaguely black metal-ish round of tail-biting that circles like a shark-toothed Ouroboros before closing in for the kill. Like piercing, ringing guitar tones, it’s one of those songwriting tricks for which I’m absolutely a sucker. Like the aforementioned Sayyadina, Luddite Clone also uncork a circuitous ripper on “Oratory of the Jigsaw” while Swedish Discordance Axis disciples Asterisk* fast forward their way through the same slight of hand. Even Napalm Death and ASRA, neither exactly known for their commitment to flowery songwriting, have been known to toss out chunkier versions of the same trick.
Here’s a few of my favorites. Enjoy.

Asterisk* – “Dromology”
Cyness – “Lonely Planet”
ASRA – “Payload”
Napalm Death – “Next on the List”
Wojczech – “Superparadigma”
Rotten Sound – “Blind”
Sayyadina – “I Dare”
Luddite Clone – “Oratory of the Jigsaw”
Who’s My Saviour – “You March”

Monday, September 27, 2010

G&P Review: D.E.R.

Quando A Esperanca Desaba
Nerve Altar
If grindcore ever codified its equivalent of lofi black metal, Brazil’s D.E.R. would be running with wolves, standing backlit in foggy forests and generally trying to pretend the last 20 years of musical evolution just didn’t happen. Quando A Esperanca Desaba (roughly, When Hope Collapses) sounds like it was vomited forth from the bowels of Venom’s rehearsal space in Mantis’ mom’s basement somewhere back in 1977. Instead it’s being reissued on vinyl from 2008.
And for all I can tell D.E.R. (not to be confused with the derp) slapped the same song on this LP 16 times in a row, and I couldn’t give a shit if they did. D.E.R. are not a band overly concerned with niceties like dynamics, slow parts, vocals that are intelligibly human or making songs sound unique. They’re too busy grinding the shit outta your lower intestine to care. Every song starts in medias res and doesn’t end so much as just stop. A deep breath and it’s on to the next neck-cracker. The guitars are gristly knots of overdriven unintelligibility, the vocals indecipherable and the drums pound away, fighting not to be swept away by the noise.
Described like that, Quando A Esperanca Desaba sounds like a discordant mess (and to a certain extent it is), but there’s a spontaneity and intensity at work that shoves the music higher than it has any right to go. There are plenty of established grind bands that lack half the urgency these Brazilians are packing. Though it’s far from original or even acquainted with conventional definitions of well produced, D.E.R., in the immortal words of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, have guts, and sometimes that’s enough.
[Full disclosure: Nerve Altar sent me a review copy.]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

G&P Review: Wake

Surrounded by Human Filth
Hearing Aids
Canadian crushers Wake have staked out a comfortable niche in between Phobia and ASRA on five song EP Surrounded by Human Filth. Between the eerie spoken word-sampled, instrumental opener and the obligatory five minute slow motion kiss off, the band fillets grindcore with ragged edges of droning dirges. But when they do go for grind gold, Wake hit it and quit it with a fervid intensity. “Virulent” is an on-the-verge-of-intelligibility hardcore rager so vicious you can almost see the finger pointing through your headphones while Cavity would be more than happy to five finger the droning bridge of “Cannibal Design” as it winds its way up to a mid-BPM power drill drive. The best balance of the band’s alternating extremities would be the cymbal-clutching blaster “Defiler,” which shows off Wake’s aggression to scintillating perfection.

Wake – “Defiler”

Grindcore, death metal and power violence get all gruff and growly in Wake’s hands. They keep things short and sharp and don’t wear out their welcome. Just a quality beating.
[Full disclosure: the band sent me a download.]

Monday, September 20, 2010

G&P Review: M.E.H.

Song Titles Are for Assholes
Self Released
Listening to two man South Carolinian band M.E.H.’s single song EP Song Titles Are for Assholes is like five minutes of flipping channels through a videodrome programmed by a young, sadistic Agoraphobic Nosebleed. The drum machine driving lashings flicker by in barely recognizable saccadic bursts that never stick around long enough to cohere. It’s all barely intelligible lyrical nihilism thrashed with a choice selection of cinematic samples.
As an actual song, it tends to lag. Riffs never quite seem to climb above the sea of static and the vocals don’t offer much in the way of purchase either. The samples are impeccably chosen and placed, but they’re also the most memorable aspect. Since Agoraphobic Nosebleed seem to have permanently abandoned the sound they pioneered for something more song-oriented, I’ve been waiting for someone else to come fill the gap. M.E.H. certainly aspire to it, but for now they’re just meh (you know I couldn’t resist that).
But don’t take my word for it. It’s free for a download here.

[Full disclosure: the band sent me a download.]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blast(beat) from the Past: Bolesno Grinje

Bolesno Grinje
Od Nesvijesti Do Grinda
Cryptas/Endless Brutality of Men
Translation is never an exact science. For instance, Metal Archives tells me this Croatian band’s name roughly translates to “Sick Mites” in English. After several years of intensive study and consultation with the foremost experts in the field, I’ve determined a more accurate translation would “Scrotum Snapping Terrorizer-core of the Highest Order.” Or something to that effect.
If they bring a mite (ha!) more hardcore to the proceedings than the Terrorized ones, that just adds piquancy and shields Bolesno Grinje from the charge of being clones. The Max Cavalera roaring also separates the Croatians form the grinding hordes as well.
Though the blasts may not be as fast as some of their European contemporaries, but Bolesno Grinje can rock it with the lightning strike guitars of “Proljev,” the counter-clockwise pit-winder of “Uvijek Ista Prica” or the rasping metal-file-on-bone bass tone of the gruesome “Error.” For those who like a little booty shakin’ with the blastin’, there’s the grind’n’roll shuffle of the wolf-howled “Jebenise.” Front and center to it all, though, is the trepanning with a d-beat drill bit “Jedan Dan.”

Bolesno Grinje – “Jedan Dan”

I may not have a damn clue what Bolesno Grinje are talking about, but their music speaks my language. Grindcore: the Esperanto of the metal world.

The Silence is Deafening

I generally loathe mp3s, but I hadn’t realized the queasy accommodation I had made with them until my laptop met an unfortunate fate involving a leaking water bottle and my work bag.
That’s right. I did it again.
Both my laptop and my mp3 player took a bath and it didn’t end well. I guess it's time to start another sticker collection.
While I was smart enough to back up my blog files this time, I hadn’t really bothered with all the music since I still prefer CDs. However, I forgot about all the cool downloads people had been sending me (luckily I never delete an email so I should be able to painstakingly recover all that again).
More importantly, I’d never realized that every time I opened my laptop I’d fire up the media player. Every time I rode the train to work, I had my mp3 player blocking out the inane tourist conversations. Now, I actually have to block out time specifically to listen to music when before it had become my constant background soundtrack. It's been a very disconcerting transition.
While it won't impact my posting, I had been getting ready to review the new mp3-only albums from Gigantic Brain and (yes, by popular demand) Cellgraft, both of which are fanfuckingtastic. (See what the always excellent Zmaj, Orthodoxyn and Deathgrind Freak had to say in my absence.) Those will have to be postponed for a bit because for some reason my wife doesn’t seem thrilled at the idea of grindcore rubbing elbows with Etta James and Bjork on her laptop. I think she’s secretly scared of that much awesome infecting her computer. That and she thinks I’m a total jinx now.
Also, two posts with cat pictures in a row! The internet, it’s made of cats.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Jester Race

We all know metal is SRS BZNESS otherwise it wouldn’t be filled with endless photos of identical bands in identical black shirts making identical SRS faces at the camera. Oooh, scary.
Sometimes I just feel like telling the entire metal community to “lighten up, Francis.” Punk and metal are supposed to be fun, dammit, but it seems like only grindcore remembers how to crack a goddamned smile anymore. Despite the lingering influence of the No Fun Club, even fastcore punks and power violence nerds have been spotted sporting the occasional goofy grin.
If the Dead Kennedys taught me nothing else in my life, it’s that sometimes ridicule can be the most effective form of protest. The powers that be, from your local scene queen douche at a basement show straight up through the big Jehovah himself, hate being mocked. So with that in mind, I pulled together a collection of songs whose titles never fail to make me giggle. This is in no way an indication of how good the songs themselves are. It’s merely a representation of my bent sense of humor.
Feel free to offer your own suggestions in the comments as well.

Population Reduction – “Yuppie Assault Vehicle”
Voetsek – “WWLD [What Would Lemmy Do?]”
Squash Bowels – “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Ass”
Spoonful of Vicodin – “My Idea of Anarchy is Taking a Shit on Company Time”
Guyana Punch Line – “Home Fucking is Killing Prostitution”
Psycho – “Carnation Instant Death”
Total Fucking Destruction – “Seth Putnam is Wrong About a Lot of Things, But Seth Putnam is Right About You” [ed.: best song title evAR.]
Anal Cunt – “Our Band is Wicked Sick (We Have the Flu)”
xBrainiax – “Lenny Kravitz is His Answer”
Spazz – “The One With a Goat has an Orgy Up His Sleeve”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

G&P Review: Blockheads/Mumakil

Put me in front of a keyboard and I’m normally a pretty verbose dude, but I’ve been sitting on this second meeting between these two evenly matched Eurogrind pulverizers for about four months now trying to figure out what to say about an album that’s serviceable, a nice snapshot of two decent bands doing what they do decently and is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from them with no frills or frippery. Can you see why I’ve been stumped? What do you say about that? So thanks to Impure Lard for prodding me up off my ass.
It’s seven inches of France’s Blockheads colliding with Switzerland’s Mumakil. They play fairly similar styles of straight ahead grind. They both do it pretty well. Relapse put their coin behind this EP so the sound is clear without being pristine and sterile.
I don’t know who pissed in Xav’s ratatouille but dude sounds like he’s ready to cram Freedom Fries under your finger nails as rails his way through Blockheads’ “Famin,” bellowing until his lungs damn near burst. Where the French institution really shines, however, is on the anthemic “Follow the Bombs,” which rocks martial tempos and triumphant guitar arrangements.
Flipside, Mumakil have once again been chugging the blastahol on their three selections, like the scathing “Wish You the Worst.” For anyone who was disappointed in Behold the Failure’s lack of songwriting variety, unrelenting blasts of “No Warning” and “Doomed” work much better in this limited format.
Of the two, I’d definitely score Blockheads as the better band, but over all this is a perfectly enjoyable split. If you’re unfamiliar with either, this makes a great taster platter to familiarize yourself.

Monday, September 6, 2010

G&P Review: Psycho

The Grind Years

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The geezer of your acquaintance – usually a Baby Boomer, perhaps a parent or grandparent – subjects you to an endless tirade about how much more awesome music was when they were young and how everything today sucks ass. Safely ensconced on a throne of gauzy nostalgia and perhaps the early onset of Alzheimers, it’s easy to pretend everything used to be so much better way back when (thanks, Christianity, and every other religion with a fall from grace story). Hell, I’m sure we’re all guilty of it too, pretending every first run grind band had been knighted with a tap from Mick Harris’ drum stick.
Luckily, Boston’s early ’90s punks Pyscho (whose credits included a spot on the infamous Bllleeeeaaauuurrrrggaaah! comp) are back with a discography that sounds like a fuzzy Xerox of Repulsion’s early, Genocide-d thrashy grind to disabuse us of any misplaced nostalgia. There’s nothing wrong with Pyscho’s loose-limbed attack in and of itself. It just happens to be thoroughly forgettable in spots and suffers from the inconsistency inherent in most discographies. The vocals have an odd GWAR tinge at times and whammy bars get thoroughly abused. When it works, as with the bass-lead “Equality-Ecology,” it’s an enjoyable stroll down memory lane.

Psycho – “Equality – Ecology”

However, memory lane is in desperate need of a repaving job because the cracks are fairly evident. The band’s pop culture targets – Led Zeppelin, Garth Brooks, and assorted ’70s and ’80s cock rockers – seem dated and, let’s be honest, too easy to be worth the effort. The two second scatology bursts of “Sore Scrotum,” “Crushed Genitals” and “Sore Rectum” just don’t pack the shocking punch they once may have held, either.
The Grind Years is a decent, if rather average, compilation by a band that I’m sure was probably decent, if rather average, during their prime. I’m not going to pretend it’s some lost classic, but it kills an hour and it’s a piquant reminder that grindcore was not immaculately conceived. There were a lot of casualties and a lot of also-rans along the way.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

This is Their Community: Showing Resistant Culture Reverence and Respect

You can’t dip your metatarsals in the pool of punk and metal anymore without coming across someone blathering about how corporate rock really sucks. But for all the DIY posturing is it really any different? Basement origins aside, aren’t Century Media, Relapse and Earache just the corporate media model writ small? When your newest, professionally shot video was being introduced on MTV2 by Jamey Jasta, just how underground were you really?
However, the same digital demons that are flaying the professional recording industry alive have also democratized the means of production (if you want to be textbook Marxist about it) for bands, meaning going the DIY route is easier than ever.
In their nearly two decade existence trolling the seedy underside of Los Angeles’ punk and metal scene, Resistant Culture have picked up a trick or two about doing it themselves while honing their grinding crust and crusty grind. They run their own label to release their own records as part of their commitment to keeping everything in-house.
“We all come from DIY backgrounds and have a strong DIY ethic,” the band said (questions were answered collectively, they told me). “It goes back to the punk ethic of taking responsibility to make your dreams come true, whatever they may be. It also resonates with the modern multimedia technology landscape. Now that the tools exist, there's no excuse for a band that's passionate to share their music with the world not to take full advantage. We do our own recording, art, web development, e-commerce, booking, promotion, accounting, and we've developed partnerships with other indie labels for global distribution.”
Sounds like fun, right? Don’t forget the band slipped the word “responsibility” in there as well. That means nobody’s going to be able to blame label meddling if things go wrong either.
“Because we record ourselves, it can be hard to let the final mix go as you're always trying to keep tweaking the tracks to make them better, but the triumph is that by the time you're finally done, you're happy with the product,” they said.
What struck me recently during a Resistant Culture binge is just how damn positive the band remains, particularly on All One Struggle, despite drawing on several centuries of European oppression of indigenous culture for lyrical inspiration. And while that’s certainly a focus, the band said, their vision is far more inclusive than you may first imagine.
“What shaped the vision for the album was the idea that all life in today's world is engaged in the struggle to survive,” according to Resistant Culture. “The illusion of separateness makes it easy for people to ignore the voices of different ethnicities, species, genders, etc., while at a deeper level of being, we're all connected and we all require the same clean air, food, water, etc. to survive on this Earth. Our intention is to promote the idea that in order to survive in this toxic world, we don't all have to become homogeneous and lose our identities and subscribe to a single ideology or carry the same flag, rather as Subcomandante Marcos said, we'd like to see 'a world where many worlds fit.' In other words, we can recognize and respect our differences, but work together when/where ever possible to create a better future. By recognizing that all struggles for liberation, autonomy, self-determination, justice, rights, etc. are one, we can foster an attitude of solidarity that will strengthen all movements.”
I’ll not deny my early interest in Resistant Culture was driven at least partly by Jesse Pintado’s participation post-Napalm Death. Whether as a guitarist on Welcome to Reality or drafting Resistant Culture’s Tony Rezhawk to front a reunited Terrorizer, Pintado — just by virtue of who he was — helped raise the band’s profile significantly.
“Jesse's style blended well with the direction of the band,” Resistant Culture said. “He was stoked to be doing some d-beat, crust, and punk mixed with brutal grindcore and metal. And of course, he added his signature style of guitar playing to the some of the songs. Unfortunately for the most part, all the work we did with Jesse including the live shows went unnoticed by the metal establishment, but for some reason all this is being unearthed now, which is a good thing.”
According to the band, Pintado also melded well with Resistant Culture’s unique take on indigenous issues that undergirds the grind.
“We also shared a spiritual bond as he was able to connect with and express his indigenous roots through the tribal aspects of the band. We actually got to talking about bringing him into RC at a traditional native bear dance ceremony. After playing a few gigs we actually did a tribal ‘unplugged’ set with him at an anti-war protest. It was awesome to bring the spirit of metal into the spirit of community and social/cultural consciousness. It was an honor to work with him, and he'll always be with us in spirit and heart.”
It's all one struggle. Reverence and respect.