Monday, February 28, 2011

Art Fucking Sucks (But Population Reduction Doesn't)

For all my cranky bitching, the friends with benefits relationship between grindcore and movies has been fairly productive. Whether it’s Graf Orlock’s artsy fartsy, copyfighting deconstruction of shoot em up trifles as modern mythology texts or garage goofs who just want to write a tune about their favorite flicks, movies —used properly – provide a shorthand for conveying themes, philosophical exploration and emotional depth. Or some movies are just really cool and deserve songs.
“Oh yeah, movies are a huge influence on this band,” Population Reduction drummer Justin “Dr. X” Green said. “Countless ideas for songs of ours have been directly or indirectly inspired by all the crap we like to watch. I wouldn't say they influence the music at all, but lyrically, we need all the help we can get and stealing ideas from other people's hard work just seems like the sporting thing to do! But yeah, sometimes it's a line in a movie, or a scene, or just the whole damn thing that we cannibalize. “
Population Reduction’s dynamic duo of Green and Ben (aka Peter Svoboda) marry a contemporary take on thrash with a movie collection that’s just as old as Ride the Lightning. If it’s low brow and high body count, chances are it might pop up in a Population Reduction tune some day.
“There are dozens upon dozens of things that we've filed away over time under the ‘This would make a fucking awesome sample’ label,” Ben said. “... We always write the music first, and lyrics second, but outside of that there's nothing resembling rhyme or reason. What I can say for sure is that we are both Corman fans, and the only movie that had more than one sample taken from it is Predator 2. I don't know what that says about us, but it's probably unflattering.”
“I love watching obscure low-budget 70s and 80s horror films and those are a gold mine for samples,” Green added. “I guess maybe our affinity for those kinds of movies comes from the fact that they, like our music, were a labor of love, have gone unnoticed or appreciated by most, and were characterized by a lack of monetary resources and a complete disregard of good taste.”
Their won perceived lack of good taste may be a reflection of the duo’s fractious relationship with art, as reflected by the songs “Art Fucking Sucks” and “Plague of the Artists.” Or something. Because they didn’t remember tackling art as relentlessly as they’ve opined on weed and zombies.
“Do we have more than one song about art?” Ben asked (possibly rhetorically, email is brutal to verbal irony). “Man, that memory loss shit is fucking real! Seriously though, art killed my father. Well, they hurt him real bad. Hurt his feelings, mostly.”
“Yeah, I don't recall having another anti-art song either,” Green said. “Actually, we're just jealous of those people who actually have artistic talent since Ben and I both still draw at about a 4th grade level: stick figures all the way. We know a lot of amazingly talented artists but that song isn't about them. It's about the people that have no artistic talent that think they are artists. A lot of the abstract art I've seen around the bay area could have been done by an 8-year old (or Ben and I) but is invariably posted next to a page long essay about how meaningful the painting actually is. It seems like as long as you can drop the correct art-world "buzz words", then you're in. So it's not an anti-art song, it's just anti-art-that-sucks.”
Population Reduction’s art (a term I’m sure will make them squirm) does not suck. In fact, it’s anti-suck. Unlike their contemporaries, Population Reduction are still riding the power of the riff while maintaining the blastbeaten intensity. And Ben also shares his riffs with thrash-violence outfit Voetsek, with whom he moonlights.
“It seems to be there's a difference between riffs that he writes for Voetsek and the ones for Population Reduction,” Green said. “To me, anything that sounds like it could have been a Megadeth riff goes to Voetsek whereas we keep all the Metallica riffs. Circa 1986 of course. I dunno, some riffs just sound like us. There's really only been one time where I heard Ben play a riff and was like ‘damn, I really wanted to play that!.’ Most of the time it's pretty clear which band a riff ‘belongs’ to.”
While Population Reduction’s relative profile has gotten a boost in the last 18 months from a (relatively) high profile split with death metal lifers Abscess and a well deserved slot on This Comp Kills Fascists Vol. 2, they’re in no danger of displacing Jay-Z from his bitches, hos and Cristal lifestyle just yet.
“Not so much, but we've really only been playing local shows recently,” Green said. “We're hoping to see a difference from the last time we toured when we hopefully hit the road in the spring or summer this year. The comp really was a great opportunity for us and hopefully exposed us to a lot of people (which is great since we can't actually expose ourselves to them; that would be illegal).”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Grindcore Alphabet: C

As children, Cookie Monster taught many of us that C is for Cookie. Turns out it’s also for crushing.
Without further ado, your letter C mixtape [Mediafire]:

Capitalist Casualties – “Bad Habits” (United States)
Creation is Crucifixion – “Subversion as a Tactical Metaphor” (United States)
Crom – “Humiliate the Corpse” (United States)
Creative Waste – “Mind Pollution” (Saudi Arabia)
CSSO – “Mental Rape #1 and #2” (Japan)
Carcass – “Carbonized Eyesockets” (England)
Complete Failure – “Gross Negligence” (United States)
Collision – “Kill Phil” (Holland)
Crowpath – “Bastard City” (Sweden)
Catheter – “Doughnut Man” (United States)
Cloud Rat – “Vain” (United States)
Captain Cleanoff – “Mr. Serious” (Australia)
Cretin – “Walking a Midget” (United States)
Cephalic Carnage – “Litany of Failure” (United States)
Cerebral Turbulency – “Metyl Age” (Czech Republic)
Coldworker – “Heart Shaped Violence” (Sweden)
Circle of Dead Children – “The Buzzard Blizzard” (United States)
Cyness – “Much Too Late” (Germany)
Cripple Bastards – “Gli Anni Che Non Ritornano” (Italy)
Confusion – “Power, Lies and Hate” (Columbia)
Chainsaw to the Face – “Hating Life” (United States)
Combatwoundedveteran – “Christ, My Leg is Sore” (United States)
Cellgraft – “Revenge” (United States)

Total to date: 75 bands

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

G&P Review: Dephosphorus


Self Released

After much ceremony six maidens came in, each carrying a large trumpet that was wound round with a green, fiery, luminous material, like a wreath. The old gentleman took one of them, and after removing some of the lights at the head of the table and uncovering the faces, he set a trumpet in one of the mouths so that the upper and wider part came exactly to the roof-vent. My companions were staring only at the bodies, but I had other thoughts, for as soon as the foliage or wreath around the tube was kindled, I saw the hole above open and a bright stream of fire shoot through the tube and pass into the body. Then the hole was shut again and the trumpet removed, through which trick my companions were deceived into thinking that life had entered the image through the fire of the foliage. As soon as the soul was received, the body opened and closed its eyes, but scarcely moved. Again he placed another tube on its mouth, lit it, and the soul was let down through the tube; and this happened three times each. Then all the lights were extinguished and removed, the velvet tablecloth folded over the bodies, and the double-bed set up and prepared, on which the wrapped bodies were placed. They were taken out of the coverings, lead neatly side by side, and left to sleep a good while with the curtains drawn.

The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz

Greek grindcore alchemists Dephosphorus brew black-glazed grindcore goodness that nicks a recipe from the eyes of newt and toe of frog burbling in Who’s My Saviour’s kettle. Like their mind-melded German compatriots, Dephosphorus will not accept limitations of anything as quaint as genre in their pursuit of something transcendent. But for all of that, there’s an unwavering core of crust and grind that knots it all together even when the band is astral projecting their collective unconscious to the furthest reaches of space and benighted dimensions.
Opener “Collimator” leaves me pondering whether to calculate the trajectory of my future Mars mission or to lurk down in the basement lighting candles and palpating invisible citrus. The song’s guitars glissade from space grind freak out to tolling church bell chiming in a way that’s organic and arresting. The eponymous “Dephosphorus” invokes the hellish piping Lovecraft always said presaged an unpleasant encounter with an Elder God while “Indulge Me in Silence” teases out the blackened Amebix core that lurked in Hellhammer’s shadowed, frosty heart. There are other brilliant little touches, like the way the scything opening of “On the Verge of an Occurrence” pans from left to right, flickering through your brain, that prove this young band is in command of some very advanced, and wonderfully subtle tricks.
I’ve been spinning Axiom on a regular basis for about two months, but the band is already planning their full length follow up, which will also feature a song by Unearthly Trance’s Ryan Lipynsky. I don’t know if ritualistic grindcore is a thing, but it needs to be. In a year that looks to boast a bumper crop of exception grind, this is 2011’s first totally unexpected surprise.

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

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Red in the Grind is Ours

How fucking awesome is this? Violinist Joey Molinaro of Indiana band Basilica has set large chunks of The Inalienable Dreamless ("Sound Out the Braille" through "Loveless") to violin, complete with foot percussion. The mutation makes the songs almost unrecognizable but flashes of the original do come through on occasion, making for a fascinating listen. I'm floored hearing an album I know so well interpreted so differently. Kick back and enjoy.

Big h/t to Mitchell Maruta for the find.

Monday, February 21, 2011

G&P Review: Robocop

Grindcore Karaoke

I eased myself on to the dusty vinyl seat, tipped back by the bowing of the floor. The steering column had reared forward six inches toward my chest. I lifted my nervous legs into the car and placed my feet on the rubber cleats of the pedals, which had been forced out of the engine compartment so that my knees were pressed against my chest. In front of me the instrument panel had been buckled inwards, cracking the clock and speedometer dials. Sitting here in this deformed cabin, filled with dust and damp carpeting, I tried to visualize myself at the moment of collision, the failure of the technical relationship between my own body, the assumptions of the skin, and the engineering structure which supported it.

J.G. Ballard

There’s a benevolent psychopathology driving Robocop to obliterate that illusory, ephemeral boundary between Meat and Machine. The collision of the twin powers – violence and electronics – is a fertilizing and not a destructive event. It's all sex and car crashes and 90 second shots of intelligent, composed hardcore histrionics.
Anyone who flipped to Robocop’s demo will find II superficially familiar, but the songs have gone through additional destructive bodywork. You can run your fingers down the chassis of “I Hope All Your Friends Die” and “Feminism Uber Alles” and read the most recent dents, dings and abrasions the way a blind man reads Braille. “Feminism Uber Alles” has wrenched metal and fiberglass into something more Slayerly while the titanic cymbal crashes that collapsed “I Hope All Your Friends Die” have been left on the rust heap.
New songs like “Maine is the Bastard” clip a car battery to Man is the Bastard’s signature stomp jolting it into the next decade. The electronic interludes – including a channel changing stutter step wash leading up to a faithful rendition of Napalm Death’s “You Suffer” – are a perfect distillation of modern information overload society. Half heard bits of cinema dialogue are ripped from context, flashed along before you can orient them, get smashed by white noise and immediately discarded. Authorial intent is dead; nothing has inherent meaning. Even when it’s not as successful – the nearly eight minute “Aftermathematics” just doesn't have an emotional payoff – the point comes pounding through.
While the retro power violence style has blossomed in recent years, too many bands are content to simply rehash the ’90s. Robocop are the first nu-power violence (yeah, I hate that term too, but you know what I mean) band I’ve heard that’s made a legitimate case that the violent hardcore sound has a 21st Century future. This is the brave new world of hardcore.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Grindcore Alphabet: B

Man, I really want one of those.

So what did we learn in week one of our alphabetical mixatology? Well for starters, there’s a metric shit-ton of grind/fastcore/what have you bands with names that begin with the letter A. Turns out the letter B is for blastbeat as well.
Here’s your letter B mixtape [Mediafire]:

BruceXCampbell – “Drenched in Blood” (United States)
Bloody Phoenix – “A Brother’s Betrayal” (United States)
Black Ganion – “Corpse” (Japan)
Biovore – “Digital” (United States)
Beyond Terror Beyond Grace – “Fading Light” (Australia)
Blood I Bleed – “Insensible We Are” (Holland)
Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus – “Big Bad Mean Nasty” (United States)
Burnt by the Sun – “Forlani” (United States)
Bangsat – “Kingdom of Hypocrisy” (Indonesia)
Body Hammer – “MPD Psycho” (United States)
Black Army Jacket – “Saccadic Eye Movement” (United States)
Biolich – “Unfortunately They Don’t Let Us Store Bodies in the Dumpster at Work” (United States)
Butcher ABC – “Crime Against Humanity (Carnage cover)” (Japan)
Bolesno Grinje – “Jedan Dan” (Croatia)
Burned Up Bled Dry – “Below Zero” (United States)
Battletorn – “Terminal Dawn” (United States)
Bolz’n – “666 Hektopascal” (Germany)
Birdflesh – “After Ski Obliteration” (Sweden)
Breed – “Insanity of Grandeur” (Japan)
Blockheads – “I’ve Been” (France)
Bastards – “You’re Not Entertaining” (United States)
Brob – “Insane Scream” (Japan)
Boltstein – “Abnormal Weather” (Japan)
Benumb – “Statistics” (United States)
Brutal Truth – “Forever in a Daze” (United States)

Total to date: 52 bands

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

G&P Review: Hip Cops

Hip Cops
In the Shadow of a Grinding Death
Bullshit Propaganda
Hip Cops’ In the Shadow of a Grinding Death has been floating around the interwebs for quite a while now after their relationship with a prior label soured. But the quality folks at Bullshit Propaganda have stepped in to give craphounds like me another 7-inch slab of lovely wax to clutter our lives.
These spunky young gutter punks like to pretend music hasn’t stumbled a step forward since From Enslavement to Obliteration as they worship at the altar of Lee Dorian’s screechy scream and guttural gurgle and Bill Steer’s repurposed punk riffs played at a quick time march. In a testament to songwriting economy, Hip Cops hit it and quit it (with one exception) in a respectful 60 seconds or less. They’ve sheared off any extraneous protuberances that might cut down the music’s aerodynamic sheen, leaving behind a lean baker’s dozen hits of blasting shrapnel that are out the door in nine minutes. There’s plenty of ambient guitar noise; crispy, crunchy bass buzz; squealing, squalling leads and subliminally tattooing snare drum thuggery to fill up that 15 percent of an hour.
Like a leaner version of Suffering Mind, with whom they’ve shared a label, Hip Cops are an unpretentious distillation of nearly 30 years of grindcore history, a tribute to the simplicity that has stood it in good stead for all that time. This is not the flashiest band in the world, though the pyromaniacal shred of “Grind Life” is a welcome multichromatic moment, but Hip Cops encapsulate the frenetic, free form energy that keeps the style plugging along.

[Full disclosure: BS Propaganda sent me a review copy.]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: After the Death of Man

After the Death of Man
Live Demo 2010
I’m just crushed with pity for Tempe, Arizona’s After the Death of Man. A young band faced with the age old quandary of scraping up the cash necessary to record a demo, the death metal mongers opted for a live recording – only to have a loose soundboard connection obliterate half their six song demo in unlistenable white noise.
That’s really a pity because the band – when you can hear them without inducing tinnitus – can craft a decent tune, sounding like a more recent and more technically adroit Kataklysm (the vocals are pure Maurizio Iacono impersonation). The live setting proves the band can pull off their churning, mid-gear death metal lashings, but it may not be the best format for showcasing the songs’ intricacies. After the Death of Man’s musical M.O. is whipsawing from molasses slow parts to army ant bursts of dexterous guitar lightning. Which is all well and good, but that loose connection starts injecting white noise into the mix during the third song, building to an ear splitting crescendo halfway through the fifth song. The good news is somebody on the soundboard caught it in time before momentous closer “Locus of Control,” the best song of the bunch which shimmers through washes of clean guitar glitter before exploding into crunching death metal obliteration.
You can check out Live Demo 2010 here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Grindcore Alphabet: A

I do not alphabetize my albums. No thank you very much. I’ve got a genre/subgenre/related artists/artist/album/year released system that works just fine for me. That way whenever I’m in the mood for a particular sound, I’ve got plenty of albums right there to choose from.
But I’m prepared to acknowledge the potential benefits an alphabetical approach has to offer. Because I’m about to school you on the ABCs of grind. Essentially, if all goes well, each Friday for the next six months, I plan to drop a new mixtape of grind, hardcore, fastcore, power violence and whatever else passes my fleeting fancy on your screen-tanned asses based on each letter of the alphabet (at the end I may go back and do something about those pesky numerical bands).
I’ve actually been obsessively thinking about this ever since Cosmo Lee at Invisible Oranges asked me to make him a modern grind mixtape. He probably had no idea the can of obsessive worms he opened up with that one. I spent a good couple of weeks combing my collection. At an hour, I’m sure that was longer than he anticipated, but I still stewed over the stuff that got left off because I thought it was too obvious (hello, GridLink! Seriously, I was surprised to find out some people don't consider The Inalienable Dreamless to be a life changing album.) in favor of something slightly more obscure (at the time, Wormrot). I’ve pretty much spent the 14 months since thinking about this because there were so many more bands past and present I thought deserved a second look by the larger masses.
Essentially, my friends, there’s so much grind in the world -- and new bands keep making more -- that I can’t keep up. So I’m going to wrangle together everything in my collection and everything I can scrounge off the interhole and shove it down your greedy gorge each week in the shape of a new mixtape. This is not to say they’re all gonna be gems (so, Bill, that means you can’t hold this against my streak). Instead, I’m trying to paint as wide a picture of what grind et al have to offer as I possibly can.
Hopefully all goes well because there’s some scary looking letters lurking at the end of the alphabet. I don’t wanna drop a comp of nothing but XXX Maniac songs if you know what I’m sayin’.
Invariably, I'm gonna overlook somebody. So feel free to add additions in the commenets. Anyway, I present you with the letter A mixtape [Mediafire]:

Arsedestroyer – “Untitled” (Sweden)
Abstain – “My Generation” (United States)
Apartment 213 – “Kill For Christ”
Archagathus – “No Help” (Canada)
Afgrund – “No One Gives a Fuck Anymore” (Sweden)
ATKA – “14” (Germany)
Agenda of Swine – “Decimation of World Trade Through Organization” (United States)
Agents of Satan – “Kill for Baloff” (United States)
Anarchus – “Creation of a Religion” (Mexico)
Abcess – “Red Eclipse” (United States)
A.C. – “Siege” (United States)
Amputee – “Nothing” (United States)
ASRA – “Exploiting the Dead” (United States)
Audio Kollaps – “Squadrons of Death” (Germany)
The Arson Project – “Unbreakable” (Sweden)
As the Sun Sets – “Borderline Sarcasm” (United States)
Ablach – “Confessit & Declait Furth” (Scotland)
Agathocles – “Porcelain A” (Belgium)
Antigama – “You Have the Right to Remain Violent” (Poland)
Assuck – “Reversing Denial” (United States)
Attack of the Mad Axeman – “The Philosophy of Rudiger Nehberg” (Germany)
Asshole Parade – “As Nails Rust” (United States)
Antischism – “Greedy Bastards” (United States)
Asterisk* -- “Green Eyed Angel in My Dream” (Sweden)
Agoraphobic Nosebleed – “Blind Hatred Finds a Tit” (United States)
Agents of Abhorrence – “Sick Disguise” (Australia)
All is Suffering – “Siege Warfare” (United States)

Total to date: 27 bands

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

G&P Review: Bastards

An End in and of Itself
Self Released

I watched Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H about once a week in college just on general principle. It got to be damn near a religious experience. That and Casablanca were pretty much my go-to films when I had to write a paper in either history or film classes. I bring that up because listening to Columbus, Ohio’s Bastards calls to mind the scene in M*A*S*H where Robert Duvall as Frank Burns starts screaming at an unqualified private to bring him a CC of adrenaline in a cardiac needle when a patient codes out on him and then bitches out the private when he fucks up.
I just wish I could jab Bastards with it. They’ve got a decent name and a handful of equally decent sounding songs, but I’m just not getting that hormonal jolt that’s so vital to making grind work. I don’t wanna make An End in and of Itself sound worse than it is. The quicksilver hornet’s nest “You’re Not Entertaining” shows the band knows its way around a standout song and the wonderfully spidery “Punk Rock Bush Lite” sends arthropods skittering under your skin.
I just with the production was working with the band and not against it. While the guitars have a decent bumble bee buzz, the drums are just so thin and rickety that there’s no oomph from the backline. The bass is pretty much a nonfactor except in the obligatory overlong doom song “A Clock Without a Clocksman” which boasts some subtle four string work when it’s not busy riding a riff into the ground.
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, there’s nothing fatal about An End in and of Itself, it’s just not going to displace your Discordance Axis albums any time soon. But don’t take my word for it; the band is giving their album away for download here. [Link has been corrected]
[Full disclosure: the band sent me a download.]

Monday, February 7, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: Face on Fire

Face on Fire
Mr. Cruel’s Bedtime Lullabies
About 75 percent of what you need to know about Australia’s Face on Fire you can glean from the titles of “Cum Drunk Sluts,” “My Wife in Your Cock’s Pussy” and “Lick a Dick Day.” I’m betting about half of you stopped reading right there.
But if the adventurous among you were to keep going, you’ll find a band that’s not nearly as incendiary as their name may suggest, but not as deliberately retarded as some of their song titles may lead you to believe. Face on Fire bang out inoffensive, if unoriginal, grind with a vaguely Birdflesh kind of vibe to the song structures. And that’s a problem more immediate than their sophomoric attempts at humor. The upper register screaming is so monotonous in tone, tempo and delivery that it begins to sound like Dino’s yapping. The guitars often lack tone and distinction and the drums are just a background buzz, with the exception of “God is Fake, Wrestling is Real,” which rumbles with a nice intensity.
Face on Fire haven’t been able to cohere the pieces just yet, but there are flashes that they could get it together. Saving the best for last, “William H. Macy’s Mustache” boasts some ingenuity with its whipsawing riffs and curveball beats. Some time and maturity may work wonders on this young band.
You can give it a listen for yourself here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: The Fevered

The Fevered
Those of you who were crapping your Pampers at the time may not really appreciate just how revolutionary the whole Gothenberg sound was now that it’s been endlessly rehashed by eleventy-billion creatively bankrupt hardcore bands. Let me set the scene for you: Sometime around 1997 my college roommate comes flying into the dorm room gibbering incoherently about some band named In Flames and their latest album The Jester Race that I just had to hear. Keep in mind at the time brutality reigned uber alles and any hint of accessibility or a catchy tune was strictly verboten. To write albums larded with hummable melodies was almost an act of treason. We had literally heard nothing like it before and it would send us spiraling into the melodic depths of Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates and Sentenced.
I dredge up all this pointless get-off-my-lawn reminiscing because Australia’s The Fevered sound a tad like Dark Tranquillity.
Ok, they sound exactly like Dark Tranquillity.
Like if somebody was cloning Mikael Stanne and Niclas Sundin at some secret Outback facility, forcing them to write melodically-charged Swede-metal tunes as some bizarre Boys from Brazil-style experiment. While I can’t really recommend this six song EP for any other reason than pure nostalgia--the songs are defiantly 15 years out of style--the tunes are well written and performed with aplomb. “To Frailty” is a perfectly composed time capsule of the era, the growled chorus shines, the melodic leads are sterling against a bouncing rhythm. Then there’s low key eight minute kiss off “Sever the World,” which is exactly the kind of choice Dark Tranquillity would have made in the same place – and that will either be the selling point or the flashing warning signal, depending on your preferences.
You can check it out for yourself as a pay what you want download on Bandcamp (linked above). Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to dig out my copies of North From Here and Whoracle.