Monday, January 31, 2011

Smoke, Grind, Sleep: Why Blastbeats and Bongs Are Best Buds

…what, man?
Admittedly, I am probably the worst person to even be asking this question because I know where Dave is, I don’t collect indigenous art and I’ve never seen my fingers go fing. What I’m trying to say is marijuana just holds no appeal for me, but I get its utility, especially if you’re jamming out super slooooooooow doooooooooooooom sooooooooooooooooongs. But I’ve always been fascinated by grind bands who have associated themselves with copious weed consumption. Given the drug’s effects include loss of focus and lack of coordination, it just always seemed an odd fit for a musical genre that demands speed and precision.
But maybe, given my limited experience, I’ve just been thinking about this all wrong.
“You have to relax to play. If I have too much coffee sometimes I can’t play,” drug crazed grindfreak Rich Hoak of Brutal Truth/Total Fucking Destruction said (half joking about the coffee thing).

Hash Smoking Grind Freaks

For all my misconceptions, grinders whose bands lay the weed imagery on thick as high grade resin, say marijuana definitely has a place in the creative process and when performing – especially drummers.“Drinking alcohol severely affects my drumming ability and makes my playing turn to absolute slop, even after only one beer or so,” Justin “Dr. X” Green, drummer for Population Reduction, said. “Ben [aka guitarist Peter Svoboda] and I have found that before a show, it's best if he doesn't smoke and I don't drink. If I drink, I can't physically play the songs. If Ben smokes, he can play but can't remember how the songs go. Weed doesn't affect my ability to play fast, but it increases the chances of forgetting where in the song I am if I get too ‘into’ a certain part or section. So I've found that moderation is really pretty key in using weed for its beneficial effects. If I get too stoned, then I'll play like shit, but light or moderate use can really help focus me and actually gives me energy before we play.”
Hoak and Green both said just the right application of THC allows them to relax, hitting what Hoak describes as a zen zone where muscle memory takes hold and he’s not so much consciously thinking about what he’s playing as flowing with the music.
“Things go by really fast,” Hoak said. To the point where he has to keep a set list at hand to mark his place in the music on occasion.
Beyond limbering up his performances, Green also said a good smoke helps him appreciate the music more, heightening his sensory perceptions.
“Another thing that weed has over alcohol for me is that it really makes the ‘texture’ and layers of music more apparent,” he said. “Certain riffs or distortion can sound or ‘feel’ like slabs of concrete, complete with microscopic grit. Maybe I just have a slight form of synesthesia, I don't know.”

Kill For Weed

Heeding Denis Leary’s admonition that “marijuana leads to fucking carpentry,” I can’t help but notice that plenty of bands that associate heavily with weed – Brutal Truth, Exit-13, Total Fucking Destruction and Cephalic Carnage – tend to take a more expansive view of grind’s potential. Not content with 90 seconds of blastbeaten fury, they sprinkle in free jazz and world music like seeds in a dime bag.
“Depends on what strain of weed you smoke! If you smoke some cherry lemon skunk you will be dooming out like Catheter, if you smoke pineapple or cheese you might be playing in a free form jazzy mood, if you smoke some piece maker you'll be grinding like Noiseear, smoke the new strain in Colorado called Cephalic’s Carnage you will not only be a little country you will also be rock n roll,” Cephalic Carnage’s Lenzig Leal said.
And Leal should know his shit. This is a band who had a dancing marijuana bush join them on stage at Maryland Death Fest for a rendition of “Kill for Weed.”“Brutal Truth party but we don’t have the connections to drug lords with truckloads of drugs like [the guys in Cephalic Carnage] do,” Hoak said.
As to the musical vistas sparked by blazing up, Hoak essentially invokes the scientific adage that correlation does not equal causation. He said the kind of people who are attracted to the weed lifestyle may already be self-selecting for more experimental strains of music.
“All the same sort of people have this same sort of attitude,” he said. “These are the people most attracted to smoking up and these would be the same people who would be more open to counterintuitive to the norm kind of music.”
Even for those who prefer their grindcore to adhere to more traditional conventions, marijuana can open up the doors of perception.
“Outside of playing live, I pretty much always write new material after smoking,” Green said. “Usually when I first smoke, within a couple minutes, grind riffs just start playing in my head, complete with drums and everything and there's all these new ideas to work with. For me though, the ‘instant creativity’ effect only works if it's the first smoke of the day, and only if I don't over-do it. If I've been smoking weed all day with friends and I come back to the house to write music, another bowl is just going to make me tired. So for me, taking one nice big hit in the afternoon gives me a bunch of energy and a lot of musical ideas (if I can remember them) but the more you smoke, the more tired and burnt-out you get throughout the day.”

Don’t Spare the Green Love

And maybe I’m just overthinking this because at the end of the day, a few bong rips can just be a bit of social lubricant.
“My drug use … had just been social use, what with it being such a good time getting together with the rest of the band and doing vocals, on those rare occasions when I'm in the same room with everybody,” Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Richard Johnson said.
Hoak said weed became the lingua franca for Brutal Truth and New York institution Disassociate (who had a logo called Splifford ferfuckssake) back when the young bands split a rehearsal space.
“We would cross paths with them and smoke out as one band came in and one band came out,” he said.
“It varies from band to band, some cats like to smoke a few bowls before they play so they can all be on the same mental wavelength, some folk for extreme concentration and relaxation, some to block out the crowd, others for writers block or inspiration, but for Cephalic it’s just to be recreationally stoned, just for the fun of it,” Leal said.


Can’t get enough hash smoking grind freaks? Proceed the following weedians to grindcore Nazareth.

1. Bastards – “Bong Rips”
2. Population Reduction – “Hash Smoking Grind Freaks”
3. Mindflair – “Green Bakery”
4. Total Fucking Destruction – “Grindfreak Railroad”
5. Cephalic Carnage – “Kill For Weed”
6. Brutal Truth – “Jemenez Cricket (Drug Crazed Grind Freaks version)
7. Exit-13 – “Legalize Hemp Now”
8. Disassociate – “Ice Bong”
9. Agoraphobic Nosebleed – “Bong Hit Wonder”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

G&P Review: Sakatat

Western European Tour Autumn 2010
Self Released
If Germany ever gets tired of bailing out their fellow European Union members, maybe the continental collective will finally sit down and get serious about Turkey’s desire to sign up. If nothing else, it would piss off those insolvent Greeks. As an added benefit, it would let the E.U. lay claim to Sakatat, bolstering their grindcore roster in the face of Southeast Asia’s recent ascendancy.
In good faith can I deem a four song CD-R meant to be a tour promo an essential record for the grindily minded? Yes, yes I can. Collecting tracks from their splits with Dispepsiaa and Mesrine, Sakatat just bring it hard with a palpable desperation. I’ve been saying for a couple of years now the locus of grind innovation and passion has moved from North America and Europe to developing nations where either cultural repression or economic instability have given them genuine cause for outrage and unease. Turkey may not be teetering on the edge of collapse like some, but Sakatat bring the kind of intensity that’s been lacking in bands that can kick off a tour and be pretty assured of getting a job when they roll back home to mom’s couch. These guys sound fucking serious; like grind is all they’ve got.
This is the sound of slavering madmen set loose; you can practically feel the spittle flying through the stereo. The songs burrow like boll weevils into your brain, often deploying a perfectly timed paused, letting you draw half a breath before sucker punching you in the solar plexus with their brass knuckled brand of tooth chipping grind. A lot of their songs are free for download on their website and you won’t go wrong adding them to your playlist.

[Full disclosure: the band sent me a review copy.]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sampler Platter

If, from my perch as a cranky old guy, I could offer you young bands a word of advice, it’s this: I know you think Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now are, like, totally awesome movies ‘n’ shit, but all of the rest of us already know that, too. Please stop sampling them on your albums. I’m just saying Netflix boasted about having 65,000 titles a few years ago, so why not give another movie a try?
I don’t object to samples on albums; I often enjoy them. I just think they’re mostly used haphazardly. I often play the fantasy sampling game when I’m watching a movie. I’ll hear a great bit of dialogue and I’ll ponder how I would apply it to a song. What would it say about the music? Would it influence the lyrics or performance? How would it work in an album context? I don’t think enough people ask themselves those questions when they pull a bit of dialogue from their favorite movie. [Ed. Note: I’m not talking about somebody like Graf Orlock. Their shtick is so total as to place them in a whole ’nother realm.]
I can think of very few examples of bands using samples thoughtfully or for more than a superficial rhetorical point. The first would be Who’s My Saviour’s “Save Your Breath,” an album-closing 90 seconds of sludgy psychedelia that deploys creepy flat toned HAL 9000 from 2001 with expertly counterpointed music to perfectly claustrophobic effect. It’s the kind of song I end up listening to three or four times in a row because it’s so well constructed. The second would be Damad’s second album, Rise and Fall, which trickles bits of dialogue from Swimming With Sharks throughout. The choice to go with a single film and to highlight Kevin Spacey’s relentless asshole boss built a misanthropic theme that jibed with the band’s southern crust style.
I wish more bands were that thoughtful when they reach for their DVD collection. Extreme Noise Terror pretty much admitted the samples for 2010 2009’s return to form Law of Retaliation were largely chosen at random and had no bearing on the songs themselves.
I read an interview with Pig Destroyer’s J.R. Hayes a few years back (I think it was circa Terrifyer) where he talked about why the band decided to stop using movie samples and start creating their own theatrical bits. He said when you hear a sample and identify it, it pulls you out of the music. It adds in other associations that maybe the artist didn’t really intend to be there. I’ve often gone back and thought about that quite a bit since then. Especially after I hear the same samples or the same directors endlessly used to augment a band’s song or aesthetic.
Do I really need to hear the exact same "pain has a face" quote from Hellraiser: Bloodline from both Kataklysm (not a grind band, I know; but they’re a repeat offender so bear with me) and Suffering Mind? Are they trying to imply that their music will cause me pain? Because last I checked I thought they wrote songs for their and my enjoyment.
Maruta and Abstain have both used the – thanks to Glenn Beck – no longer farcical Howard Beale rant from Network in their music. Beale’s character was supposed to be satirical rip on the inanity and venality of television news. Are they asking me to seriously identify with his frothing about being mad as hell and scared of the world? If so, why? According to the FBI violent crime has plummeted over the last decade.
Some movies are just overused to the point of painful cliché. Means of Existence is my favorite Phobia album, but even I have to groan at “Snail,” a midtempo, mid-album instrumental meltdown built around samples describing Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. Audio Kollaps have also pillaged Coppolla’s cursed jungle epic (at least they do it in dubbed German), borrowing the Col. Kilgore hitting the beach scene (but mercifully not "Ride of the Valkyries") on an album that also pays visual homage to the movie. If there’s some sort of take home message from either, I’m not sure what it means. Is there some special commentary about the futility and madness of war (Coppolla’s intended themes) I’m not getting from them.
David Lynch is also a popular target for bands looking to boost their arty, intellectual cred. Remember Hayes said Pig Destroyer decided to stop using movie samples? Cuz they sure didn’t have a problem nicking a line from Twin Peaks for the song “Elfin” on the Explosions in Ward 6 (later 38 Counts of Battery) album. Ditto Circle of Dead Children who decided a bit of the Cowboy’s dialogue from Mulholland Dr. would make a fitting opener for Human Harvest. While the “Let’s get down to it” line does make for a nice bit of intro, am I supposed to glean anything else from their choice? Do they identify with Lynch’s vision or artistry in any significant way? Is Human Harvest informed by the themes of duality, identity and delusion that pervaded the movie? How about the Destroyers of Pigs and Twin Peaks?
So I say this as both an undying fan of film and grind: I get tired hearing the same samples on every fucking album. You wanna surprise me? Next album, sample Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment instead and do it in a way that’s honest to the spirit of the music.
I’ve collected some of the more egregious offenders and Who’s My Saviour’s sterling example here. Give it a listen and tell me if I’m completely off base and just a grumpy old man.

2001: A Space Odyssey
Who’s My Saviour – “Save Your Breath”

Dark City
Luddite Clone – “Oratory of the Jigsaw”
Kataklysm – “1999:6661:2000”

Abstain – “Discriminating”
Maruta – “Replicate”

Hellraiser: Bloodline
Suffering Mind – “Dead Part of Cause”
Kataklysm – “Il Diavolo in Me”

Apocalypse Now
Phobia – “Snail”
Audio Kollaps – “Aussent Welt”

David Lynch
Pig Destroyer – “Elfin” (Twin Peaks)
Circle of Dead Children – “A Family Tree to Hang From” (Mulholland Dr.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

G&P Review: Smoke

Hair on My Food
Smoke may need to reconsider this whole grindcore black metal [thanks, anon] thing because the best parts of their woefully unGoogleable album Haze are when the band backs off and just lets the drummer kick out the jams, motherfucker, like in the better parts of the interminable, nine minute “VI.” And that right there will likely be the biggest problem most of you will have with this album: Trying to ape the grind’n’roll experiments of CSSO, Smoke’s songs are just too goddamned long. The tidiest tune on this 10 song collection still weighs in at a hefty two minutes, but the bulk of the material is patience testing three to six minutes. I’m just not sure the band’s musical ideas are strong enough to warrant that kind of girth.

Smoke – “II”

Largely instrumental , all you’ve really got to work with is Smoke’s endlessly repeating musical movements. Some bands, like Orthrelm, can turn repetition into something hypnotic and psychedelic, but even they can make a misstep (I own OV but it’s not exactly an everyday kinda listen). In Smoke’s hands, it’s just monotonous. The songs blur together and when they do find a hook, they ride it into the ground. At about 40 minutes for the album, Haze just becomes excruciating to the point that even highlights, like some pretty sweet garage rock drumming, can’t hold your attention very long.

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

G&P Review: Rakus/Exacerbacion

Hair on My Food
Malaysians Rakus get a relative boost just by sharing a split with South America's Exacerbacion because compared to that band’s grindcore equivalent of elevator music, Rakus sound almost spontaneous. Simply put, neither band is going to jolt you out of your chair, but Rakus, at least, bring a small shot of energy to bear on their half of this split even if “Bush Loves War” is not the most original sentiment two years after the guy left town.
There’s absolutely nothing intrinsically wrong with either band, but I keep yearning for something a little more: a sense of passion, an earworm of a riff, a neck snapping drum fill. Instead, they both seem to go through the motions of banging out blasts and screaming away at the world. It's all so lifeless and uninspired at times I wonder if either band could successfully pass a Voigt-Kampf test.
When Rakus does mix things up, as on “Police Terror” and “P.P.,” even those songs fall into a formula of downbeat opening slowly building to blast-tastic crescendo.

Rakus – “Police Terror”

Exacerbacion’s half of the split is a more bloodless outing with uninspiring blasts, unintelligible riffs and angry Muppet garbling. The songs clank by a like a distant train, smothered by the rickety production. All of the factors that left me feeling restless with Rakus' side - the lack of focus and spontaneity - are just *ahem* exacerbated here. I'll let a lot slide in the name of grind if you've got the intensity to overcome your limitations. Exacerbacion just need to decide whether they're really all that pissed off at all.

Exacerbacion – “Asfixia Colectica”

There could very well be a solid band lurking under this unlistenable murk, but you’d never be able to tell by this split.

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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Death by “Manipulation:” A Sneak Peak at Wormot’s Impending Dirge

[Update: I've heard three other tracks from Dirge now, and frankly I'm mystified Rasyid thinks they'll lose fans. While the songs are uniformly awesome, I'm left wondering if it's not too much of what we expected. Is that something on their end, or a function my of sky high expectations. I'm still pondering that, but I guess we'll all hash it out in May. Meanwhile, discuss amongst yourselves.]

I don’t know, realistically, how much you can extrapolate about a new album from a single tune – especially one that falls just shy of the minute mark – but Wormrot’s “Manipulation” has had me grasping at straws for a week now, tossing out poorly founded conjecture as to what the upcoming Dirge may have to offer.
The song whips you around like Jason Voorhees hefting a sleeping bag, and I've dissecting it like a Cold War Kremlinologist poring over Politburo photos vainly trying to discern who’s in Khrushchev’s good graces this week ever since Earache honcho Digby Pearson sent the track straight from the band’s marathon two day, 30 song mixing and recording session.
Dirge was recorded, mixed and completed in 2 days. This little fact tickles me no end,” Pearson said.
Guitarist Rasyid breaks it down by the numbers for you:
“For those of you who likes statistics, Fit and I recorded our parts on the same day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” he said. “Fit did his drums in 2 hours 30 minutes (no breaks), I recorded 2 layers of guitars in 6 hours (minus 3 hours because of a recording setback which led me to re-record 11 songs, plus a 3-cigarettes smoking break), and Arif did his vocals sparingly at home in a total span of 2 days if I’m not wrong.”
Since Pearson and I talked, Earache has posted the song for all to enjoy (which some of you with sharper eyes already noticed), but let me walk you through my first listen or 12:
  • The first 15 seconds, well shit, this is kind of boring. Why did Wormrot slow down to skipping skate punk? I guess the sophomore jinx caught up with them. Oh shit, that’s just a prelude…
  • From 0:16 to 0:20 blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast. Why is that steam shovel pounding pylons into my noggin? And why do I like it so much?
  • From 0:21 to 0:25 sweet merciful Shiva can Rasyid write a ripping, galloping riff. It’s like the best parts of “Born Stupid” condensed.
  • From 0:26 to 0:30 Wormrot make the case for forming a killer sludge band under another moniker if this whole grind shtick doesn’t work out.
  • From 0:31 to the end, yet another sweet ass galloper of a riff over a giddy-up, hiyo-Silver bit of drum gymnastics. A lesser band would have made two or three songs from the bits Wormrot stitched together, which they toss out like a newly minuted rapper's benjamins at the strip club.
What all this may augur for Dirge, coming this spring, the band isn’t saying.
“Personally, I do not want to reveal anything about how the album would sound like cuz i want it to suckerpunch you like how Abuse did,” Rasyid said. “All I can say is that this is unlike Abuse. We’ll lose some listeners with this one, but I’m sure it’ll please many grindheads. But fuck yea 'Manipulation' is a fun song to write!”
The band you guys named the fourth best in the world (and they’re humorously annoyed at losing out to GridLink, btw) is not shy about admitting to feeling the pressure when the time came to ready their second album. Where Abuse exploded out of nowhere, Dirge will come burdened by everyone’s expectations as well as the imprimatur of Earache shoving them out into the public eye.
“Dude, we started feeling the pressure the first second Earache knocked on our door,” Rasyid said. “Abuse was a labour of almost a year of finding our own feet with the band and writing at our own pace. We can never recreate Abuse or the painful yet memorable journey it took us three. It was almost the case of the right release at the right time for the right people.”
As the hoary musical adage goes, bands have their entire lives to write their first album and about a year to write the second. Coming off their first taste of international touring, Rasyid said the band faced the prospect of hitting the studio without an album’s worth of songs in hand. Where the guitarist would previously hash out songs at his leisure, later working over the parts with drummer Fitri, Wormrot took a more collaborative approach to crafting Dirge.
“We tried this new approach whereby we come into the studio with nothing and the first question we’ll ask each other is ‘so how do you want this song to sound like’ and we’ll pick a reference song or two from any band, throw in as many ideas and try out as many possible riffs and drums patterns,” Rasyid said. “Maybe I’ll start with a riff and Fit joins in, or vice versa. It turned out to be more organic and personal: each of us talking and listening to each other, having fun creating a song from nothing, a better flow and transition in song. I realized that we had captured the true meaning of ‘jamming’ in the short period of time we had. I have to be honest that when we were writing, I was skeptical cuz I am not used to letting the steering wheel go and see where it brings us, but after hearing the final product, I’m so proud of what we had accomplished.”
Dirge is due this spring and the first run of CDs will also come packed with a DVD that includes footage from their North American and European tours as well as in-studio footage, including Rasyid’s impressive command of Malay profanity.
“Yes, I will teach you a Malay profanity,” Rasyid said. “It’s good.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

G&P Review: Greber

Hometown Heroin
When he’s not forcibly fucking your facts, bassist Marc Bourgon (and his collaborators from The Great Sabatini) must be getting down to old Man is the Bastard records because Greber, their new project, is all about the power and the glory of the bass. In fact, the four stringer elbows every other instrument to wings on debut EP Hometown Heroin.
Jettisoning the obligatory intro/outro, you’re left with six songs of low end aggression that sounds like the bastard child of the power violence progenitors and Australia’s bass-heavy experimental sludgesters Halo. Even if the some of the songs, like the mercurial “Cavedwelling,” which 1s and 0s between half time blasts and troglodyte trudge, could have used a trim, it’s still a tidy package. When Greber is on, the songs are ponderous monstrosities that dominate the landscape. The serpentine, sinuous “The Saddest Joke” knits in plaintive guitar drones with the bass, briefly letting another instrument grab the spotlight. “Carriers,” the strongest groove of the lot, slowly winds down to entropic stillness like a clock with a broken spring.
While there’s a bit of sameness that creeps in to some of the songs, Hometown Heroin powers through with incredible sound and a singleminded commitment to the bass-forward sound they doggedly pursued.

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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Orphan Land

You know that segment of The Animatrix “World Record” where sprinter Dan Davis literally runs until his muscles rend and he destroys his body in pursuit of an untouchable 100 meter record, leaping from the Matrix through to reality in the process? That’s pretty much the sensation of GridLink’s Orphan, a relentless 12 minute amplification of everything that made Amber Gray the greatest album of 2008. It's a transcendent, boundary shattering nugget that’s one minute longer than Amber Gray so kwitcherbitchin, clock watchers.
Mark it down on your calendars: at 9 p.m. Eastern time Jan. 5 the race for 2011 album of the year began – and possibly ended – when Jon Chang gave me an exclusive sneak peak at Orphan.
As with Hayaino Daisuki’s transition from Headbangers Karaoke Club Dangerous Fire to Invincible Gate Mind of the Infernal Fire Hell… Or Did You Mean Hawaii Daisuki?, Orphan is also a refinement of what GridLink had already been doing so damn well. It’s an intricately layered album that boasts a bigger sound, faster tempos and more melody in one emotionally wearying package. Some of these songs are almost hummable.
“I don’t want to say I really want to make a catchy record, but I really do,” said Chang, who said Deathspell Omega is the first band to really capture his attention since collaborator Takafumi Matsubara’s Mortalized. (And may I just say, meatspace Chang is an exuberant personality whose opinions aren’t quite as … let’s call them … impassioned [that’s a good word] as one would assume from internet interactions with him. I hope I didn't ruin some of your preconceived notions by humanizing him.)
“Takafumi said the first GridLink and Hayaino Daisuki were all brutality and he wanted to add intelligence,” Chang said.
For all the hubbub about Steve Procopio (ex-Human Remains, sometimes Discordance Axis substitute) and Ted Patterson’s (ex-Human Remains/Burnt by the Sun) addition, I listened to Orphan three times before I even remembered they had joined up. So don’t expect too many changes in that direction. Rather they just lay a foundation to for Matsubara to push what he was already doing in even more aggressive and intricate directions.
Just listening to Matsubara fillet his fingertips and drummer Bryan Fajardo crack tendons on the bullet train “Scopedog” is enough to set my joints to creaking with incipient arthritis. The songs are so unrelenting in their tempos (and the band insists everything must be recorded live with no punch-ins later) that Fajardo had to master a two footed blast to provide the requisite intensity, but the payoff is in the organic aggression that forms the album’s foundation.
“This record was a huge challenge for him,” Chang said. “This was a grueling record to make. Making any record like this is miserable.”
Vocally, Chang has broadened his repertoire to keep up with his cohorts’ demanding performances. Yes, the low end grunts are back, but so is and the same alleyway mugger come-on that graced Hayaino Daisuki’s “Shibito.” That means one of the finest lyricists in grind is screaming with enough clarity that you can occasionally hear what’s on his mind.
“The high vocals didn’t fit with everything I wanted to do. I went back and changed some of the parts out,” Chang said.
And what’s on his mind these days is more political than albums past. Inspired by his recent work on “real world military stuff” at his game developer day job, Chang said he wanted to attack issues like Islam (opener “Dar al-Harb,” “Flatworlder”[sorry for the original typo]), militarism and war (“The Last Red Shoulder”), the dislocation of technology and traveling (“Red Eye,” the title track) and other splinters of our shattered millennium.
But beyond that, interpretation is up to you, he said.
“I try to come to this with no expectations of what people will take away from it. What it meant for me isn’t going to be the same thing it meant for someone else to take away from it.”
Orphan is still slated for a late February or early March release. The first pressing will be vinyl, including a remixed version of Amber Gray that adds bass by Patterson. It will also come with a download of karaoke versions of the songs so you can stop embarrassing yourself in those Justin Bieber lip synch videos you’ve been posting to YouTube. A “very limited” run of CDs – possibly as few as 200 – will come later. And if you didn’t catch the band at Maryland Deathfest (which pretty much paid for the recording sessions for Orphan), don’t look for GridLink on your local bill. The combination of a sagging economy and the reality of being bi-continental means the band probably won’t venture beyond the confines of New York City.
But while you’re still absorbing Orphan, GridLink are already talking about the next album. Inspired by Red Dead Redemption’s soundtrack, Chang said that could involve acoustic grindcore – complete with blastbeats and death screams if Matsubara can get his head around the concept. Early experiments in that direction haven’t gelled as of it, Chang said.
Until they work that out - even if they never do - Orphan will provide plenty to dissect and explore for now, demanding repeated listens to tease out its subtle mysteries. If I didn’t already have a decade of emotions invested in The Inalienable Dreamless, this could have been my favorite album of all time. For some of you, it probably will be.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blast(beat) from the Past: Uphill Battle

Uphill Battle
Uphill Battle


If we were to sit down and hash out who should be crowned the best drummer in grind – perhaps through some sort of tournament system – a cagey bettor may place a wager on Danny Walker to walk away with it all, counting on partisans for both Dave Witte and Bryan Fajardo to cancel each other out.
The guy’s been everywhere; Walker’s probably the best drummer working whose name you may not know despite anchoring Intronaut, Exhumed, Phobia (granted, on the disappointing albums) and even getting an invite to play with Jesu. Most recently you’ll find him backstopping Murder Construct.
You don’t get that many high profile phone numbers in your Rolodex by being a slouch at what you do. And Walker, who is a master of the timely fill and screw tight blast, honed his chops in California’s hardcore/grind/thrash with a glaze of black metal frostiness amalgamators Uphill Battle (nee Crawlspace) where ringleader Adi Tejada’s twisted riffing provided a platform for his drum workouts on songs like “The Stench is Spreading” and “Ripped off Face.”

Uphill Battle – Ripped Off Face

Like contemporaries Burnt by the Sun, Uphill Battle specialized in metallicized hardcore sans sappy choruses, focusing instead on short rabbit punches of jacked up noise. While second album Wreck of Nerves would get a little too thrashy for my tastes, their eponymous debut is a nice little time capsule of a great drummer’s entrée to the scene. Now please do him the courtesy of remembering his name.

Monday, January 3, 2011

G&P Review: Cloud Rat

Cloud Rat
Cloud Rat

IFB Records
Cloud Rat’s Infest-ed hardcore shenanigans are like finding a sweet vintage muscle car – say, that beautiful white 1970 Dodge Challenger from Vanishing Point – lurking in a used car lot for a steal of a price (free in this case). Sure, it may not be the newest or most fashionable whip on the block, but there are a lot of good miles left under the girl’s hood.
So if I could offer myself up as a humble Super Soul to Cloud Rat’s Kowalski (to continue a metaphor), let me kindly point your attention in their direction as they thrash about and yowl for your pleasure. This is a band that gets by on a driving dynamo core of youthful energy over 11 tracks of blastbeats (all 38 seconds of “Canine”) and then, just for a change of pace, near blastbeats (the moody, mercurial – and of course, lengthy – closer “Complex to Break.”).
The songs all follow pretty familiar musical patterns, but they’re rescued by an authenticity of vision and commitment. “Yama” jangles through clean art rock chords and dramatic Celtic Frost-brand female spoken word while “Mouse Trap” dials back just enough to really shove the vocals to the fore. With lyrical content dealing with loneliness, longing and abandonment, Cloud Rat are a band that’s confident enough that their songs may have something worth listening to that they’re not afraid to shove the vocals in your face. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” the singer wails on “Sinkhole.” That’s an understatement. You can download an unmastered version of the album at the band’s website (linked above), and it’s certainly worth checking out.

[Full disclosure: the band sent me a review copy.]