Friday, September 30, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: No Gang Colors

Grindcore’s Overton window has been shifting the last few years as exotic influences have been metastasizing through its blastbeat and punk routine as bands like No Gang Colors have been grafting new parts to grind’s creaky chassis. Parts like hip hop samples and attitude. Joseph Ohegyi, half of No Gang Colors, said it’s simply an extension of his broadminded musical palette seeping into and informing his grind outlook.

“It was a steady progression of taste from general metal styles to the varied extreme metal genres,” he said. “Finding out about new bands through my interest in other bands, leading me through a loose series of phases that amounted to something like: heavy metal -> nu metal -> metalcore -> grindcore -> death metal -> deathcore -> black metal (excepting the non-metal styles I am or was into). Excursions into grindcore introduced me to Pig Destroyer, who are arguably my favorite band, and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. These bands had a big influence over my then-maturing, slightly-drugged outlook. There's an aesthetic confidence behind both projects, a singular sound and style that I was also hearing in some of the older music I was getting into at the time (Brian Eno, David Bowie, The Beach Boys). I read some interviews with J.R. Hayes and he was mentioning his influences from all types of genres (Hank Williams, Geto Boys, Bjork), which was really inspiring. That he could be at the creative apex of his genre and have all these un-metal tastes and influences showed me that it was ok or even preferable not to be so focused on one style. Grindcore's lyrical style was also a crucial influence on me. Lyrically ANb and PxDx (and DxAx among others) were way beyond anyone not making rap. There's a directness and pragmatic meaning/intent in their lyrics that some of the more fantastical or allegorical lyric styles in metal just didn't compare to. They were grounded in the real world and their own experiences more than the escapist fantasies of other styles. I started experimenting with writing grindcore around the same time, more out of a fanatical impulse to mimic these bands (and others like Genghis Tron) than any type of creatively-driven impulse. Then the sound started developing and I found it integrated well with other styles I like, so I've stuck with it. Now it's more of a compositional tool, used to convey specific moods or themes, rather than a style I'm fully immersed in.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: Colombian Necktie

Colombian Necktie
Colombian Necktie
I’d wager your average hardcore dude or dudette is not really expecting a tidy 18 minute EP of raging rage to come slamming to a halt for four minutes of placid piano tinkling and atmospheric keyboard swashes like Colombian Necktie does with “Lirit." But it almost makes sense after the wrist cutting catharsis of shattered war vet ode “Joe,” a Tim Singer-style confessional rant full of elliptical lyrical repetition (“I’ve never had to kill my fellow man and I’ll never forget the soldier I watched die”). I don’t know if any of Colombian Necktie’s members have done time in the military, but the world-weary, deadpan delivery rings very true.
Following up on their prior three song EP, Colombian Necktie come roaring back more broad-minded but perhaps a tad less focused. The vocals have expanded to include Ryan Lipynsky black metal seething, the aforementioned Singer-esque rants and even the kind of weird clean vocal digressions beloved of many a post-Jupiter Cave In fan. While, musically Colombian Necktie feel free to explore musical digressions (again, “Lirit”) there are enough other improvements (the savage coming of age tale “Larvae” burbles with enough teenage bile and loathing to fuel nightmares of the abortion scene in Cronenberg’s The Fly) that this EP is a keeper. Hie thee unto their Bandcamp page for more.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Words From the Exit Wound

Andrew at 17 (perhaps facetiously): Pffft. Lyrics are sooooooo overrated.

Andrew at 33 (perhaps despairingly): Sweet Christ, these lyrics are just sooooooo awful.

The cookie monster vocal was the greatest thing to happen to metal, hardcore and grind because (let’s all be honest) most metal lyrics are absolutely terrible. They're full of pathetic posturing and insincere braggadocio. It’s often better not to know what they’re screaming at you. Metal and grind have become a tired mish-mash of completely interchangeable pablum, recycling a miserly handful of topics – religion, politics, horror flicks, gore, hatred – that have been denuded of any meaning by 25 years of repetition. Those topics, enjoyable in their own right if done well, can be frustrating because there’s no emotional honesty involved. Listeners are held at emotional arm’s length by safe and conventional abstract topics. There’s no vulnerability and no risk involved. It bothers me because I find the older I get, the less tolerant I am of shitty, moronic lyrics. So that must mean lyricists are getting worse because clearly I’m exactly the same person that I was at 17, right? I’m left craving someone who has something fresh and honest to say.

And I know exactly what you’re going to say next: But, Andrew, you’ll say, it’s only mindless entertainment. Stop being such a picky, arty farty douchenozzle.

That’s the same defense I hear on film blogs when somebody points out Michael Bay is not fit to direct a kindergarten Christmas play. But entertaining doesn’t have to mean vapid. If you’ll indulge me as I turn to my muse, Roger Ebert, one more time, I was reminded of something he said in a tribute to Pulp Fiction.
“Watching many movies, I realize that all of the dialogue is entirely devoted to explaining or furthering the plot, and no joy is taken in the style of language and idiom for its own sake,” he said. “There is not a single line in Pearl Harbor you would want to quote with anything but derision. Most conversations in most movies are deadly boring—which is why directors with no gift for dialogue depend so heavily on action and special effects.”
Too many times grindcore lyrics are the equivalent of Pearl Harbor’s dialog. The blastbeats and riffs become the equivalent of Michael Bay’s explosions and jump cuts, pretty distractions from the central hollowness. There’s no reason grindcore lyricists can’t aspire to something better, more lasting, more insightful. I’m longing for musicians who can connect lyrically on an emotional level, lyricists who have something interesting to say about the human condition. I don’t want grind bands to start pretending they are Sartre or something, but I would like to hear more lyrics that at least have some depth and insight.
Too much of grind is outwardly focused: it’s really good at telling you what’s wrong with you and everyone else. It’s never been so good at self examination or vulnerability. So when you find lyricists who are willing to tackle the spectrum of human emotions – and in less than 90 seconds! – it’s worth taking a moment to praise them.

Domestic Power Violence
While I manage to enjoy recent Agoraphobic Nosebleed offerings for what they are, it does bother me that they seem to have bought into their own lyrical shtick. Instead of honestly capturing the dinginess and despair of contemporary existence, they’re too busy trying to shock and provoke for no other reason than to get a reaction (I call this “Seth Putnam Syndrome;” look for it in DSM-5). It’s doubly disappointing because I know how clinically incisive ANb’s various component parts can be. Take one of my personal favorites, “Blind Hatred Finds a Tit” from early touchstone Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope. It’s a horrifyingly causal and – most disturbingly – accurate vacation in the skull of an abuser. While J. Randall’s lyrics eventually become more “J. Randally” with digressions into toddler abortions and the like, the opening two lines are the most chilling snapshot of an unthinkingly brutal psyche:
“You let me hit you, so I won’t touch the children/ So how hard do I have to fuckin’ beat you to have a crack at the kids?”

Roses are Red, Hyperviolets are Blue
Prowler in the Yard is not only one of the two greatest breakup letters ever set to music (Jane Doe being the other, natch), but Pig Destroyer open it with what might be best first line in grind history: “Semen tastes like gunmetal, she said smiling.” (Wait, what?) I can’t tell you the hours I’ve spend pondering the first line of “Cheerleader Corpses,” but it’s later in the album, “Hyperviolet,” where you get a sense of why J.R. Hayes may have taken the split so hard. The song is a loving (relatively speaking, this is Pig Destroyer after all) ode to a special lady friend. Though the accustomed menace lurks in the lyrics, Hayes also manages to conjure up a striking tenderness:
“Traced in wet sand her name in perfect cursive/ a love letter to the crescent moon/ by tomorrow it will be gone, I told her/ there is no tomorrow, she said/ I can feel her in a bikini of coiled snakes dancing to the hiss of the wind/ postcards from a paradise in flames/ she used to be so right/ so right about everything.”

Nutless WonderAs with J.R. Hayes, Discordance Axis’ Jon Chang was able to convert interpersonal failures into penetrating, incisive art. Though it’s shrouded in layers of metaphor and striking visuals, Chang’s “Castration Rite” was a purgative self-flagellation that set the tone for the remainder of The Inalienable Dreamless. It manages to blend self-mutilation with nods to both William Faulkner and the Bible in way that stands as both honest and individual. Maybe we shouldn’t let Chang handle sharp objects for a while:
“An axis in motion distributing ran/ Into the poverty of my ego/ Distortion screaming streaming sending/ Eurhythmic continuity skips no double taps/ Split open my chest and cut out my lungs/ Sew me back up just the same/ A stigmata a mutilation/ Your blood dies with me I can’t help but laugh/ I can’t help/Help but laugh/As I take/ Knife in hand/ And castrate my fucking self/ Would god I could die for thee/ O Absalom my son”

From the outset, Richard Johnson has grounded Drugs of Faith in concrete realities. That’s never so apparent as on “Never Fail,” leadoff tune from the band’s eponymous debut EP. In yet another tale about a failed relationship (I’m starting to question grinder’s social skills), Johnson performs an impressive bit of lyrical legerdemain by positing it from the perspective of the guilt wracked rejecter rather than, as is more typical, the miserable rejectee. It’s not you, it’s me, but it hurts just the same:
“I remain under the covers forever reliving the curse of that elusive outcome which inside I cherish so much/ I’m the one with whom you haven’t a chance/ I have to respect my feelings/ And at the end of the night I return to my bed alone/ At the end of the night I’ll return to my bed alone.”

That’s Not a Knife; This is a Knife
Taking the Silent Hill games as a controlling metaphor, Body Hammer’s Ryan Page penned an impressive ode to isolation and despair on Jigoku’s midpoint song “Greatknife.” A deft blend of arresting imagery wrapped in oblique metaphors, Page manages to mimic the deceptive mix of brevity and simplicity that undergirds the haiku tradition (complete with a leftfield lyrical twist at the end). In just a few words he so evocatively conjures emotions out of listeners:
“Running through the darkness/ girls are pretty colorful/ one room leads to more of the same/ if I traced my footsteps you could/ follow my eyes/ a rusty iron gate shuts”

Friday, September 23, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Jerry Flores

Some men are born to grind. Some pursue grind. Others have grind thrust upon them. That's pretty much the tale of Excruciating Terror and Bloody Phoenix guitarist Jerry Flores.
Excruciating Terror was one of those transitional artists in my life. Along with Phobia, they represented my first forays into grind beyond the obligatory Napalm Death/Carcass axis. Divided We Fall helped plunge me down the rabbit hole of grindcore, sparking a lifetime addiction. After Excruciating Terror’s dissolution, guitarist Flores kept the grind coming with current outfit Bloody Phoenix.
When I ask Flores why he chose the path of blast beats, his answer is just a pithy and concise as his songwriting.

“I didn't choose grindcore,” he said. “What I was playing was considered grindcore once the term was coined. I just had a need for speed growing up listening to music. Always seeking faster music. You just end up playing what you like.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

G&P Review: Truth Be Known

Truth Be Known

Mourning Sound
I, apparently, have a bit of a potty mouth because at least once or twice a month Blogger’s stat tracker informs me that somebody searching for “punishment fuck” mistakenly finds their way here. But not even my prodigious proclivity for profanity can compete with Singapore’s “beer grinding death” band Truth Be Known who devote a good chunk of their 18 minute EP to telling people to fuck off and how to go about doing it.
I was able to ponder their four letter acumen because, unfortunately, my mind wandered throughout their nine song trip through Bolt Thrower’s back cataloge by way of rock and roll swagger. Things start off strong with the thrilling sustained guitar notes and martial pounding drums of opener “Men in White,” and all 25 seconds of “Sucks to Be You” is a stilettoed goose to the kidneys. But I never felt like Truth Be Known ever showed me more than those early flourishes. Take for example, “Rock and Roll Baby,” a death-vocalled stab and ’80s styled punk rock complete with declarations that “I’ll live my own life with no fucking regrets” (because it had been at least 30 seconds since they’d carpet F-bombed you) that degenerates into an overly familiar drum breakdown married to a riff that sounds like it was lifted from “Caught in a Mosh.”
Truth be known, I’m sure Truth Be Known would probably do a great job whipping up a pit while you wait for the headlining bands to play, but Keitzer already rules this turf this year.
[Full disclosure: The band sent me a download.]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: Extreme Mental Abuse

I let him run on, this papier-mache Mephistopheles, and it seemed to me that if I tried I could poke my forefinger through him, and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt, maybe.

Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness

Extreme Mental Abuse
Extreme Mental Abuse
There’s an unfortunate hollowness to both the conception and execution of Extreme Mental Abuse, a side project of Mark Magill of the band SSS. The 20 songs, banged out in 18 minutes, feel rote, as though this were an exercise in genre rather than an honest expression of some innate emotion. Combining Unseen Terror’s infamous bumblebee guitar tone with Excruciating Terror-style attack, Extreme Mental Abuse rail against “Corrupt Government,” “First World Tyranny” and “One World Government,” falling back on conceits that have grown contemptible with familiarity, passed through the hands of several generations of likeminded musicians.
I could forgive well worn lyrics if the music gave me that necessary adrenal jolt, but Extreme Mental Abuse just lack any sense of urgency. While the occasional tune like “Global Stratospheric Obliteration” slams crust into grind like a punk-based Large Hadron Collider, releasing sparks of energy, the rest of the album largely feels monotonous and one-dimensional, lashed to a rickety sounding drum (machine?).
There’s a lot of grind getting banged out all across the globe these days, so it’s going to take a lot to stand out from the slavering hordes of blastbeaten barbarians. This just isn’t lighting up my mojo. You can check it out for yourself at Extreme Mental Abuse’s Bandcamp page.

Friday, September 16, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Richard Johnson

When people call Richard Johnson the Grindfather, they’re not bullshitting. The guy kicked off the drum machine grind phenomenon with the legendary Enemy Soil (midwifing two-thirds of Pig Destroyer in the process), helped drive the sound to perfection in Agoraphobic Nosebleed and can also be spotted getting his grind ’n’ roll on with Drugs of Faith. Johnson has been a pretty integral fixture in modern grind’s evolutionary sweep and ensures its vitality by quietly mentoring young musicians as well. So I was especially interested in hearing his back story.

“I started getting into metal, HC and punk in high school,” Johnson said. “I was less into escapism like comic books and more into the extremes, and I felt that grindcore was more extreme than anything else. I also had a love for HC and punk that was a different love than for metal (death metal), and I could see grind was rooted in the former. Napalm Death became one of my favorite bands—well, in the top five, anyway.
“I used to have the Live Corruption VHS tape in my VCR more than any other video. Nuclear Blast, I think it was, had a cassette bootleg of the audio that they were selling in their catalog. Not the official live album, but the audio of the home video, interviews and all.
“The way I like to put it, and I think I took this from Wadge when that guy said it in my zine, is that sometimes you need a kick in the pants, and World Downfall by Terrorizer will do it for you. I love the feel of the blast beat married with crunching the three-string power chord.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blast(beat) from the Past: Nuclear Winter

Nuclear Winter
Abomination Virginborn

Blastbeat Mailmurder

Greek duo Nuclear Winter sound like they’ve been slinking up the same left hand path and chanting the same ultimate incantations that have long driven Entombed and Vader on this 7-inch of old style death murkiness. Another shoot growing off the StraightHate/Dephosphorus family tree, Nuclear Winter paid tribute to the past masters of dismal death over the course of three songs.
Unlike a lot of death metal, which insists on unremitting brutality and technical acumen, Nuclear Winter recognized that atmosphere was often a more important component. The band is perfectly comfortable cranking along at cruising speeds with the top down, enjoying the feel of the wind in their hair. They up the tempo to an organic blastbeat only as an accent rather than the spine of the song. That means they rely on the authentically charnel old school guitar tones to carry the songs. However, there’s a thinness that make the lack of a second guitar or bass palpable. With the added texture additional instrumentation would have provided, these three songs would really crush. But Nuclear Winter make do with what they have available. There are no drum triggers, the blastbeats sound human, the riffs chainsaw, the art is suitably Hellhammered and the guitars are full of those pinched squealy sounds. This is death metal the way I remember it.

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

Monday, September 12, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: Gozer

WARNING: Product May Contain Gozer
As with Mumakil’s Behold the Failure, the title of Gozer’s demo may be all the warning some people need, depending on their taste preferences. The Ohio band starts with an admirable conceit: there’s not nearly enough Bill Murray in grindcore. So they lard their 17 songs with a rash of choice sampled Murray-isms (amusingly, given the name, none from Ghostbusters). It’s a clever enough proposition that further underlines my dismay with how most other bands interweave movie bits into their songs.
So Gozer tee up what should be a fairly fun romp through grinding silliness, but their concept got lost in the execution. Unfortunately, the guitars sound like the demos I used to make by running my amp head straight into a cassette deck and hitting “record.” It’s a buzzy, blurry swamp that wars with the drum (machine?), making it hard to enjoy the music. That’s a shame because Gozer do pull a few neat tricks, such as the hopscotching panning pranks on “When Sweetmeat Met White Trash.” Additionally, Gozer are far too reliant on a tedious, stuttered chugging move to carry their songs forward from one musical idea to the next.
Overall, Gozer is amateurish but inoffensive. It’s a clever conceit that screams for better execution and a little helpful editing. You can check out their demo and a few other efforts for free at their Bandcamp page, but warning: the product may contain Gozer.

Friday, September 9, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Digby Pearson

There’s a pretty good chance that none of us would be here getting our grind on if Digby Pearson hadn’t stepped up to get the blastbeaten ball rolling. The Earache majordomo is directly responsible for bringing the first, defining wave of grinding goodness to the BPM-starved masses. Napalm Death, Carcass, Terrorizer and Brutal Truth all owe their careers to Pearson’s backing. Regardless of what you may think of his post-grind forays into other musical niches and the public falling out with many of those early bands, the guy was there and played a crucial role at a time when nobody thought there was even a market, let alone a name, for this stuff. So what got his grind gears growling nearly 25 years ago?

“The motive for what the bands created and what Earache supported in the early days was pretty much just to inflict the maximum NOISE possible onto the general public,” Pearson said. “Maybe even cause the demise of all ‘normal’ music, that would have been a bonus. I had some lofty, crazy ideas back then, to be sure, and was very single-minded and obsessive about it, even with scant resources.
“At no point was a recognised genre that would become highly popular envisioned. That was a laughable concept in 1986-8.
“People forget it was more or less avant-garde, highly experimental music during that explosive first couple of years. From Godflesh to Carcass, the motive was to warp minds.
“There were some ‘noisy’ atonal anarcho/HC punk bands around, even some extremely noisy indie acts...but Earache encouraged its bands to push the envelope way further into extreme metallised noise --and to hell with the consequences.
Scum itself was described as ‘hyperspeed thrash’ by me on its release in 1987 (because thrash was the then-current most extreme form of metal).
“ ‘Grindcore’ first appeared as a genre description in September 1989 on the sticker on Earache’s Grindcrusher comp.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Demo-lition Derby: Per Capita

Per Capita
The Damage Done
Bands like Germany’s Per Capita are the reason I keep blogging. This band has its shit nicely together on demo The Damage Done. They lead with a chipped-tooth bass that rocks a distinctive, crusty Vulgar Pigeons kinda vibe. It’s a perfect pinpoint that comes flying out the gate on the Dawkins-checking “The God Delusion.” It both propels and defines Per Capita’s brash confrontation.
But what makes me happiest is that just as soon as you think you’ve got a handle on Per Capita, they start tossing in d-beat theatrics stolen from any number of bands that may have once counted Tomas Lindberg among their membership. “Resignation” liberally borrows from Skitsystem while the gang choruses of “No White Supremacy” could have been lifted from “Dead Weight” on Disfear’s Live the Storm.
Mixing up d-beat and grind is not going to win any prizes for originality, but Per Capita have a firm grasp on what makes each sub-genre work and how they can best be blended. With 10 rocking originals and a spot on Dropdead cover, The Damage Done is definitely a demo I’d recommend downloading.

Monday, September 5, 2011

G&P Review: GROG

Women’s lack of rights has nothing to do with not being allowed to vote or to be judges – those matters don’t constitute any sort of right. No, it has to do with the fact that in sexual relations she’s not the man’s equal. She doesn’t have the right to avail herself of the man or abstain from him, according to her desire, to select the man she wants rather than be the one who’s selected. You may say that would be monstrous. Very well. Then the man shouldn’t have these rights, either. The way things are at present, the woman is deprived of the rights possessed by the man. And, in order to compensate for this, she acts on the man’s sensuality, forces him into subjection by means of sensuality, so that he’s only formally the one who chooses – in actual fact it’s she who does the choosing. And once she has mastered this technique, she abuses it and acquires terrible power over men.

Leo Tolstoy
“The Kreutzer Sonata”


Scooping the Cranial Insides

Murder Records
I’m always am/conf-used by porno/gore bands that thank their wives and girlfriends in the liner notes. I try to imagine how I would react to having songs about gang rape and bukkake dedicated to me, but it’s a wonderfully bizarre world and I’m sure there’s someone out there who finds it flattering. Assuming the Sofia that GROG-ster Alexandre Ribeiro thanks “for what was, what is, and what shall be” in the liner notes is the same Sofia who contributes orgasmic groans to the rectal violation tale “Anal Core,” I’m just going to concede that Rule 34 is still in effect and then try to scrub that image from my cortex.
Portugual’s GROG grind with a brutal death edge (the chestburster vocals and unrelenting/monotonous double bass) and they wouldn’t be half bad if they weren’t perverting all that talent in services of songs named “10 Cummandments,” “Sphincterized (Materialized in Shit)” and “Hanged by the Cojones,” which comes closest to something identifiable as humor.
Because the band clearly has the chops to aspire to better. Witness the opener “Toia Mai,” a Maori tribal chant/percussion number that sounds like something Sepultura or Neurosis would have experimented with in the 1990s before exploding into first true song “Beyond the Freakish Scene,” a slippery sinuous slash of grind and death pounding. But the retardedly juvenile lyrical detritus and a bit of same-iness to the songs (just about every one ends with the same resonating cymbal crash) does wear over 37 minutes.
GROG can blast with the pack and can bust out a decent tune (“Acephalic Meatgrind Orgy Hibernation” sneaks and snarls in a way that sets it apart from the album’s all-blast ethos) and that best that can be said about their lyrical content is that the vocals render them completely unintelligible.

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

Friday, September 2, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Takafumi Matsubara

No guitarist in recent years has proved more challenging, more intriguing and generally more awesome than Takafumi Matsubara who made a name for himself in Mortalized before tag-teaming with Jon Chang for GridLink and Hayaino Daisuki. His playing is relentlessly technical and endlessly intricate but never loses sight of the musical endgame. This is the musician Chang, a notorious perfectionist, told me has pushed him further and more relentlessly than any other in his career. The guy has also given one of the most insightful and inspiring odes to grind and all of its possibilities you’re likely to hear.

“I love speed,” Matsubara-san said. “And grindcore is free music for me. So it is the best way for me to make something. I hope my songs are art. I cannot write novels and cannot make movies. So I write songs and play the guitar.”