Wednesday, June 29, 2011

G&P Review: Looking for an Answer

Looking for an Answer
Eterno Treblinka

Eterno Treblinka, Looking for an Answer’s first long player for Relapse, takes its name from a quote attributed to Polish Jewish author Isaac Bashevis Singer in which he Godwinned the entire animal rights movement by likening farm critters to concentration camp inmates. And while being called a culinary Nazi is not likely to dissuade me from my carnivorous lifestyle, Eterno Treblinka is every bit as grim and grisly as the slaughterhouse floors and blood-crazed gods Looking for an Answer so despise. Following up on their stellar La Caceria EP, the band has dropped the album they have been building to from their days in their prior bands. There’s an elegant economy to every one of the 17 tracks. Not a moment is wasted; not a movement is superfluous. Looking for an Answer have simply turned in a flawless modern grindcore album that’s catchy, aggressive and instantly engaging. Everything that made Extincion such an enjoyable, tightly wound listening experience has been given a serrated edge.
The addition of second guitarist Makoko adds a stereoscopic depth as songs flow and snake like a 17 headed hydra. The six stringers churn like twin guitar Dismember goodness on fast forward over an impeccable rhythm section. Produced by the band, the album benefits from a superlative mix that hits that precarious balance between pristine and raw, allowing you to bask in every instrument individually without sacrificing the necessary adrenal jolt. Eterno Treblinka hooked me so hard I listened to it five times in a row the first day. The last album I could say that about was Abuse. Make of that what you will.
This is Looking for an Answer’s moment to stake their claim to top tier status. There’s been a quiet buzz building around the band the last year or so. Deep Six has collected their various impossible to find splits, Bones Brigade has put one of their early efforts back in circulation and now they have the backing of Relapse. Eterno Treblinka is exactly the kind of album they needed right now. If you haven’t already indulged, don't be surprised to hear their name come up frequently in conversation the next few months.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Multi-Cellular Organism: Cellgraft’s Grind is the Product of Natural Selection

Grindcore is no stranger to some really, wretchedly horrid band names, particularly from those who take their unabashed love for Carcass a step too far. Names so bad you almost assume they’re some sort of bizarre, meta parody-of-bad-grind performance art. Cases in point: Belching Beet, Toxic Bonkers, Urophagia. So I think we can all agree vocalist Matt McKamey and drummer Chris Wotring traded up when they ditched the name Piles Sufferers, swapped in a new guitarist, Ryan Zell, and rechristened themselves Cellgraft.
“I think that was in a Carcass insert or something,” Wotring offers in half-hearted defense of the rejected nomenclature.
While the Floridian trio seems to have exploded out of nowhere to wow the Internet cognoscenti with their Discordance Axis meets Assuck brand of awesomeness, their musical evolution has been a slow progression to grindcore perfection. Wotring said he and McKamey, who was a bassist at the time, were playing in “in a really terrible band” together when McKamey foisted Napalm Death on the unsuspecting drummer in a bid to lure him toward heavier pastures.
“He was trying to get me into heavier music, and a band he was insistent on was Napalm Death so I went out and bought Scum,” Wotring said. “A few weeks later we quit the band to find something better; I was hooked. He knew someone who was also into grind and played guitar so Matt sang and we called it 'Piles Sufferers’.”
Not the most auspicious beginning, but a few more practices and a guitarist infusion later and Cellgraft began to gel. What they would eventually become is one of the more intriguing, intelligent grind bands working. They’re all the more exciting because they have garnered so much praise and attention merely by word of mouth or tweet or text or email or whatever. Without a powerhouse label bringing PR support, Cellgraft has posted its music for free download on its website to survive or perish out in the Darwinian wilds of the internet.
“It seems most people in the hardcore/grindcore scene tend to identify with the ‘we will never sell out’ state of mind,” McKamey said. “Coming from my view point, we love to play, and having very little time and money to do it doesn't help when you want to get something out of it. We don't expect to ever get famous. We just like to let the community and anybody else who gives a fuck a chance to experience Cellgraft.”
Though Cellgraft has persevered through a largely DIY approach to date (friends at No Reprieve Records did issue the excellent Deception Schematic on 7-inch for the band), Wotring said they’re not adverse to garnering label support.
“I wouldn't say that we're 'successful' really but as far as being DIY goes, nobody knew us at fist so we had to do it all on our own,” he said. “If a label came at us and offered to release stuff for us then I think it would be a mistake to pass that up.”
What really differentiates Cellgraft from their “politics and religion really suck” peers is the intelligence hiding behind their songs. While the Revenge EP still showed off their earliest gore-soaked Carcass Jr. infatuation, subsequent songs have hinted at ideas rooted in biology and technology, digging at that nexus between our bodies and the external world. McKamey, who has written the bulk of the band’s lyrics, said he likes to approach his lyrical conceits “from different alchemical, technological, philosophical, and metaphysical angles.”
“We seem to cram all of our perceptions into blocks of noise that last but a few seconds,” he said.
McKamey won’t go into more detail than that, however, preferring to let listeners come to their own conclusions. That deliberate abstraction may be a byproduct of “listening to way too much Discordance Axis,” he suggests.
And about that.
It seems the band can’t make a move without the trio’s concision or distinctive black and white artwork being likened to Assuck or Discordance Axis. While I know a lot of young bands who have sweat blood in garages and basements to craft something that they can call their own chafe at glib internet assholes tossing out easy comparisons to their predecessors, Cellgraft embrace their influences with pride.
“Even being remotely compared to either of those bands is beyond a huge compliment. I couldn't tell you why someone would hate the comparison,” Wotring said. “Both bands are huge influences, so much so we even cover a song from each. We each had our own influences in the beginning but as we exposed ourselves to more grind it was all about finding the fastest noisiest shit out there.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grindcore Alphabet: X,Y,Z

Yeah, you got to mix it, child, you got to fix it, must be grind – it’s a bitch.

Examine your zipper, as my mom would say. Check your fly cuz we’re about to rock out with our cocks out (Or appropriate ladypart. We don’t discriminate around here) for the end of the alphabet. Well… we would if this wasn’t the weakest haul of the lot. While not as desolate as Q, it does feel a little anticlimactic. However, I am leaving you with an even 400 grind, power violence, punk, fastcore, hardcore, whatevercore bands to pick over and I know you’ve all (Shane, especially) added dozens more that slipped past me. All that’s left now is to tackle those pesky number bands next week...
So here it is: your XYZ mixtape [Mediafire]:

Xysma – “Pulverized Necrobrains” (Finland)
Zmajevdah – “Megastructure” (Croatia)
Yog – “The Frameless Stage” (Switzerland)
xBrainiax – “Witch Trial” (United States)
Y – “Zu Lang” (Germany)
Yacopsae – “Drahtseilakt” (Germany)
Zagio Evha Dilegj – “Tori” (Japan)

Total to date: 400 bands

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

G&P Review:Trap Them

Trap Them
Darker Handcraft

For the first three songs, I was paralyzed by uncertainty. The CD sleeve said Trap Them on it, but the title didn’t start with an S. Séance Prime. Seizures in Barren Praise. Sleepwell Deconstructor.... Darker Handcraft? Whaaaaaaaaa?
But then the trilling stairstep riff of “Evictionaries” seized (an S word!) my full attention and I didn’t care what Rhode Island’s ragers called their latest slab of crusty grindy punky. It’s like Discharge and Entombed splitting a mess of Motorhead’s sketchiest bathtub meth and I was content to just run around slavering and red eyed, grinding my teeth in an incoherent attempt to communicate with the world.
Like Converge with a d-beat fetish, the riffs skitter and slither around the album like the chestburster that got loose in the lab in Alien. While the production on Seizures in Barren Praise was steel wool fuzzy, Darker Handcraft boasts a much crisper tone while still being bass-heavy and abrasive. It sounds like a rusty bandsaw’s rumble caught in glorious Dolby fidelity.
Musically, Darker Handcraft is a logical outgrowth of everything Trap Them has shown us before. “Manic in the Grips” and “Sovereign Through the Pines” both blast and grumble like motherfuckers. Trap Them also put to lie the Misfits’ “Where Eagles Dare” on "The Facts" while Ryan McKinney declares “I am a goddamned son of a bitch.” “Drag the Wounds Eternal” is a strident, deliberately paced bit of beautifully scintillant guitar coruscation that sparkles like twinkling pinpoints in the sky. It’s a moment of transcendent beauty that was wholly unexpected and perfectly placed.
While Darker Handcraft is not a huge departure from the band’s prior output, Trap Them have proven again they are a quietly efficient masters of the modern hardcore ode. Old elements are made new again through spit and ferocity.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: Multinational Corporations

LinkMultinational Corporations
Pakistan’s Multinational Corporations may hail from one of the genocided starving nations that so concerned Napalm Death, but that’s where the similarities end. This quintet – featuring two dedicated vocalists – flail away at three tracks of grindcore on their demo Equality, but nothing ever coalesces into anything captivating.
While I give demos a lot of latitude, Equality is severely lacking on the sonics: the reedy guitars sound like an afterthought in the tinny mix and the drumming is monotonous. The tempos may occasionally change but don’t go looking for a fill to break the stasis or an interesting pattern to hook your attention.
The biggest problem with Equality is that of the three tracks, only one is a traditional song. Opener “Presidential Castration” is five minutes of intrusive samples and spoken word bits that war with the overly reverbed pig grunt vocals. The competition between the song’s various elements really hinder its cohesion. Likewise, kissoff track “Pakistan Zindabad” is a plaintive ballad – all acoustic guitars and news samples about fatal flooding in Pakistan. It sounds like the kind of filler Acursed would throw between songs. However, the Swede punks always made sure they had plenty of crusty crushers to keep it company. That leaves “Immolating the Parliament” sandwiched between them. While its downtempo riffs are much more engaging than its cohorts, it's swamped under a buzzing guitar that sounds like Unseen Terror on a bad day.
Multinational Corporation’s broadminded approach to grind would stand them in good company if they were able to harness and train those impulses toward some unified goal. As it is, their demo sounds like a bunch of competing ideas in desperate need of an editor and a better studio. Multinational Corporation's web presence is pretty much nil, but you can check out Equality for yourself here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Grindcore Alphabet: W

Yes, I have previously bitched about bands slapping Dubya’s simian mug on albums to score a cheap “political” point, so I assume that makes me a flaming fucking hypocrite now. But c’mon. It’s W, and there is a point to this. This time out we’re treated to the martial madness of both Warscars and Warsore, which reminded me of Get Your War On, possibly the only good thing to come out of eight years of the Shrub’s misrule. Too fucking bad half of comic’s jokes could just as easily apply to Obama.
And that’s really fucking depressing. Ever get the feeling you're being cheated?
On a happier note, your letter W mixtape [Mixtape]:

Wire – “Reuters” (England)
Wojczech – “Superparadigma” (Germany)
Wormrot – “Born Stupid” (Singapore)
Warscars – “Killing Rate: Complete” (France)
Worlds – “I.M.O.H.C.” (Germany) (United States)
Word Salad – “Take it Back” (United States)
Who’s My Saviour – “Annihilated Motivation” (Germany)
Warsore – “Six Millions Slaughtered” (Australia)
Weekend Nachos – “Sink to Your Level” (United States)
World Downfall – “Fuckup False Charge” (Germany)
Wasteoid – “Drink N Hand” (United States)
Wadge – “Demon Dogs of Waikiki” (United States)
Wage Slave – “Chambered” (United States)
Wake – “Defiler” (Canada)
Watchmaker – “Infidelity’s Eyestabbing Unease” (United States)

Total to date: 393 bands

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blast(beat) from the Past: Into the Gore

“Finally, there are the idols of the market place.”
This was the easiest of all to imagine: an alabaster idol towering over the swarming crowd in a market place.

“The idols of the market place are the errors which result from the communication and association of men with each other. They are the errors a man commits because it has become customary to use certain phrases and formulas which do violence to reason. For example, ‘Enemy of the people!’ ‘Not one of us!’ ‘Traitor!’ Call a man one of these and everyone will renounce him.”

Shulubin emphasized each of these with exclamations by throwing up first one hand, then the other. Again he looked like a bird with clipped wings making crooked, awkward attempts to fly.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Cancer Ward


LinkInto the Gore
Bureau of Disgust

Blastbeat Mailmurder

I’m sure you’ve all heard the hoary bromide about legislation being a lot like sausage – nobody wants to see either being made. While I have yet to secure my dream job running the stun line at the local slaughterhouse, I have been exposed to the legislative meat grinder at the municipal, county, state and federal levels (occupational hazard). Yeah, you’re probably better off not knowing the full depth of the venality, petty grudges and craven horse trading involved.
While Greek gross-out artists Into the Gore’s monicker and aesthetics may suggest they’re preoccupied with squishy innards, it’s actually sleazy politicians that get teed up for their death-inflected grind lashings on second and final album Bureau of Disgust (the band split up shortly after the album when vocalist/guitarist Michael-Alexander Xidas died in an accident).
Musically congruent with someone like Sweden’s Sewn Shut, Into the Gore is a band that knows how to punctuate a song with little moments that jar you out of complacency: a double kick drum fill, a pick slide scratch or a shifty riff switchup. Opening bid “The Sculptured Disparity” is an excellent howdy do, showcasing Into the Gore’s M.O. and nifty bag of songsmithing tricks. It interweaves grind rashness with death metal physicality. Those death metal flecks may be the secret spice in their sauce that gives them their own verve and flair from a crowded grind field. There’s a double bass drive (think Keitzer) to Into the Gore that gives them a restless propulsion not typical of grind. The call and response quality to the vocal switcheroos gives both the screechy screams and very Vader death rattles their own distinctive quality, deploying them with purpose and precision.
And since we accept music as a physical article is swirling the toilet bowl, I also have to single out the impressive digipack packaging for particular praise. The puking man logo on the cover has been cut out, given the packaging a unique pop and visual depth and intrigue that reminds me (sadly) of what digital musical lacks.
Altogether, Into the Gore were practitioners of a sturdy, admirable death grind grumble with packaging that justifies the purchase.

[Full disclosure: Blastbeat Mailmurder sent me a review copy.]

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blast(beat) from the Past: StraightHate


Blastbeat Mailmurder

Nicking a name from a great song from the last album Sepultura ever recorded before breaking up forever is a great way to weasel your way into my good graces. If one of you so much as whispers the name “Derrick Green” I will gut you and feast on your raw spleen. Go ahead. I dare you.
Prior to their involvement in Greek grindonauts Dephosphorus, vocalist Panos Agoros and guitarist Thanos Mantas were the backbone of the more traditionally grinding StraightHate. (On a somewhat related tangent, Dephosphorus have hooked up with 7 Degrees records [run by Keitzer bassist Simon] for a vinyl pressing of the incredible Axiom EP. Get that shit.)
Indigenous is not nearly as unmoored from terrestrial concerns as Axiom. In fact, its mundane grievances about church and state are certainly familiar (but bonus points for “You’ll Never See Heaven,” which purports to relate a private conversation with “that motherfucker Jesus”), and the music slots comfortably within the mainstream of contemporary Euro-grind with flashes of the Scandi-sound (the thorny prickle of the Nasum-ish “Isolator”) and more continental fare. The screeches border on black metal’s demesne and tag out to guttural grunts.
It’s all very comfortable and very enjoyable, a warm, rough-edged production cradles the songs, but then there’s the nearly 12 minute, half acoustic closer “Which One of Us Dies First.” That’s where things get interesting. Closing an album with the longest, slowest song of the album, typically a half assed attempted at dirgey doom, seems to be an irresistible compulsion for grinders (seriously, what's the deal with that?), but StraightHate’s indulgence hints at the unhinged majesty that would follow four years later. At its heart, yes, it’s another grind band playing a slow song, but “Which One of Us Dies First” smashes together Amebix crust and Neurosis atmosphere in a crust punk super collider before giving with to an acoustic halflife
Indigenous is a cool enough album on its own, but StraightHate is far more interesting for its hints of what was to come with Panos and Thanos’ next endeavor.

[Full disclosure: Panos, who runs Blastbeat Mailmurder, sent me a review copy.]

Friday, June 10, 2011

Grindcore Alphabet: U,V

If I can paraphrase Alex and his psychedelic droogs: it’s time for a bit of the ultra-violet. Get groovy with the U,V as we tick off the next two letters of the alphabet. The end is in sight and I’ve already tossed you one new band for every day of the year – before I lob this batch in your lap. This time out we hunt feathered rats with a post-Benumb outfit, rock out to Shane Embury on two unaccustomed instruments: guitar and drums, and, of course, declare ourselves to be Against Terrorism! with one of Japan’s finest exports. Of course, it's only appropriate to include Unruh's "Mercitron" after Jack Kevorkian died. While he seemed to be a bit of a pompous and megalomaniacal asshole who occasionally only had a passing familiarity with medical ethics, nobody in my life has done more to shove the dignity with death conversation into the public sphere. So in the words of Kurt Vonnegutt: God bless you, Dr. Kevorkian.
Here’s your letters U and V mixtape [Mediafire]:

Uprise – “Clash of the Genders” (Czech Republic)
Uphill Battle – “Ripped Off Face” (United States)
Venomous Concept – “A Case of the Mondays” (United States/England)
Unruh – “Mercitron” (United States)
Unsane Crisis – “Definitive Failure” (Spain)
Uzi Suicide – “Weird” (United States)
Violent Headache – “Coma” (Spain)
Unseen Terror – “In a Shallow Grave” (England)
Unholy Grave – “Shameless Bighead” (Japan)
Voetsek – “Mucho Macho” (United States)
Vulgar Pigeons – “Aggro-Culture” (United States)
Unbiased – “Buster Halter” (Japan)
Utopium – “Undermatch” (Portugual)

Total to date: 378 bands

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

G&P Review: Wage Slave

Wage Slave
Wage Slave

Wage Slave the EP, if you were lucky enough to find it at the time, was Kill the Client’s clarion call in defense of the old school, a manifesto that grindcore was still vital and bruising and about to demand its pride of place after the fallow years that were the late 1990s. Wage Slave the San Diego band sound nothing like Kill the Client. That just needs to be said.
While they may share economically minded nomenclature, this Wage Slave is less blue collar than Texas’ finest. Instead, this quartet, graphing calculator in hand, is restlessly roaming the fringes where Antigama have staked their claim with this four song self titled EP. Looser and less focused than the Poles, Wage Slave lets their songs slowly spool out over three or four minutes. Concision takes a backseat to atmosphere on songs like “Street Sweeper.” The band seems to revel in spiraling, swirling riffs and angular, askance snare drum patterns. A straight line will never do when a zigzag detour will take you there by a more scenic, circuitous route.
But like a lot of detours, longer is not always better. Wage Slave’s members have spent time in other acts such as As Hope Dies and Nuns With Guns, but this feels a bit like a young band still refining its voice. The past its shelf life breakdown at the center of “Vestige” feels as though it was lifted bodily from a late '90s math rock/metalcore album and transplanted a decade or so into the future rather clumsily. But when you try to cram so many ideas into a song, the occasional clunker has to be expected. It took Antigama several albums to hit a groove that really grabbed me, and I don’t see why Wage Slave couldn’t get there with some patience as well.

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

Monday, June 6, 2011

G&P Review: Chulo

Odio a Primera Vista
Grindcore Karaoke
At this point, to proclaim oneself a drug crazed grind freak is not exactly a novel proposition. Plenty of bands have appropriated drug tropes either in praise of their preferred pharmaceutical or to acquire a second hand edge by posing as a latter day Hunter Thompson. But being from a genuine narcostate like Colombia does give Chulo’s “Narcosarcasmo” a cred that their first world peers lack on Odio a Primera Vista (Hatred at First Sight in ’Murican). And like your favorite misused medication, a little bit of Chulo goes a long way with 11 songs of Man is the Bastard filtered through early Agoraphobic Nosebleed dished up in eight minutes. There is zero subtlety to the band’s weapon of choice: it’s blunt edges and relentless in a way that will leaving you craving variety.
I believe a great bass tone can take you far, and Chulo will leave you missing some dentition, but that power never gets harnessed toward any clear goal. The songs, in isolation, have a great suffocating atmosphere, but even in eight minutes they begin to blur into a faceless wall of smashing bass and screaming as each song body slams into the previous. “Puertas” and “Society” are notable simply for easing back the tempos enough to break through the brick wall of noise Chulo has erected.
Odio a Primera Vista is nasty and noisy but ultimately one dimensional. If Chulo hopes to get regular customers hooked on their product, they need to promise a more varied trip next time out.

[Full disclosure: The band requested a review.]

Friday, June 3, 2011

Grindcore Alphabet: T

He pities the fool who doesn’t grind.

As a deliberate insult to those whiny fucking Baby Boomer assholes who continue to ruin every political aspect of my adult life with their self absorbed bullshit, I declare this to be the grindcore T Party. Specifically the letter T party. Put away your damn Gadsden flags and Ayn Rand novels. It’s not that kinda party. This T is for tooth-chipping.
Here’s your letter T mixtape [Mediafire]:

Tusk – “The Rising Terror, the Setting Sun” (United States)
TR – “Preoccupied” (United States)
Triac – “Shell of a Man” (United States)
Trocki – “Ziemia” (Poland)
Trap Them – “Evictionaries” (United States)
Third Degree – “Where is the Consummation?” (Poland)
Thousandswilldie – “Blinding Light” (United States)
Thedowngoing – “Sunken Deep” (Australia)
Tragedy – “The Lure” (United States)
!T.O.O.H.! – “Ja Samaritan” (Czech Republic)
Trash Talk – “All the Kings Men” (United States)
Torture Incident – “Trapped” (Malaysia)
Top Breeder – “About the Sickest Island” (Japan)
Terrorist – “Enfermo de Mierda” (Argentina)
Threatener – “Bull Cult” (United States)
Terrorizer – “Dead Shall Rise” (United States)
Total Fucking Destruction – “Seth Putnam is Wrong About a Lot of Things But Seth Putnam is Right About You” (United States)
Three Faces of Eve – “Fuck Corporate Grind” (United States)

Total to date: 365 bands

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

G&P Review: Rotten Sound

Rotten Sound

Without devolving to Bolt Thrower or Motorhead levels of self parody, Finland’s Rotten Sound have essentially been releasing the same album every couple of years for the last decade. Oh sure, the band tweaks an aspect here, tinkers with the production quality or experiments with a new songwriting element , but it hasn’t varied too far from its post-Nasum Scandi-grind roots. Murderworks set the vicious template and followup Exit gussied it up with a prettier production. Then came Cycles, which boasted a huge, overwhelming guitar tone but didn’t stray far from familiar climes. 2011 brings us Cursed, which, per the usual, features more than a dozen songs with mostly single word titles of your typical grindy nasty. The hook there is Rotten Sound has slowed things down a tad. Think of Cursed as the Marvin Gaye of grind, the kind of album you throw on to (relatively speaking) chill things out. How you’ll react to Cursed will largely depend on how attached you are to Rotten Sound’s legendary rep for inhuman speed. Otherwise, the riffs are still as catchy as Chlamydia in the Playboy Grotto hot tub.
Like in his other band, Deathbound, drummer Sami Latva is parsimonious with the blastbeats, preferring to use them as adornment rather than a song’s foundation. So “Self” simmers along like Drugs of Faith’s grind ‘n’ roll, complete with borderline coherent shouts among the growling. Likewise, “Decline” gets pulled and stretched like a crust punk taffy until it snaps in a spray of gnarly guitar feedback. “Hollow” even spirals down a psychedelic rabbit hole courtesy of some freakout riffing.
When Cursed does kick out the blastbeaten jams, motherfucker, it’s a cathartic explosion of freeform atomic fission that snaps the low-BPM proceedings into an intelligent focus. The slow-mo one-two punch of “Terrified” and “Scared” develop new importance and urgency as they explode into the album-closing pyrotechnics of “Doomed.”
Production-wise, it also turns out the scuffed up, rough and tumble Napalm EP has proven to be a brief detour through Rotten Sound’s raging roots because Cursed is, courtesy of Relapse’s markka, another pristine album that sacrifices rough edges in favor of finely honed musical torture. It’s the difference between a scalpel slice through your cortex and a Louisville Slugger to the cranium.
So while Cursed may be much slower, far groovier than what you may expect (tolerate?) from Rotten Sound, there’s clearly an intelligence driving the shift that makes it a fascinating document in the band’s storied CV.