Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Panic! at the Discography: Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer
38 Counts of Battery

Pig Destroyer achieved the nigh-unthinkable on early career compilation 38 Counts of Battery: it's a discography record that easily stands on its own as a contained album experience. That's largely because the first 18 of the eponymous 38 tracks come from Pig Destroyer's debut album Explosion in Ward 6. When you tack on an extra 20 songs corralled from the band's various splits and demos it still feels seamless and coherent. Even with all that, 38 Counts of Battery still comes in at a hair under 40 minutes (a tad long maybe), which keeps everything listenably concise. Despite being culled from disparate sources, the production remains largely uniform. Pig Destroyer's trademark heavy and overblown sound feels seamless and coherent.
Scott Hull probably ranks as the single best grindcore songsmith active right now. Every song is anchored in a distinctive hook. Every riff serves a purpose to advance the theme. Pig Destroyer's choice covers of The Melvins, Carcass and Dark Angel are a nice summation of the various influences that have driven Pig Destroyer creatively (add in covers of The Dwarves, Stooges and Helmet from Painter of Dead Girls and everything the band has done suddenly snaps into perfect focus). So 38 Counts is a wonderful peak behind the Great and Powerful Oz's curtain, letting you see how he grew and experimented as a songwriter, leading up to the perfection that is Prowler in the Yard.
38 Counts also represents vocalist J.R. Hayes' larval stage before he'd explode from the cocoon as a venomous, carrion-yellow butterfly on Prowler as one of the most intelligent and evocative lyricists in grindcore. Songs like "Yellow Line Transfer" and "Unwitting Valentine" are early examples of his obsession with obsession, stalking, toxic relationships and aloof, casually violent women. Others, the warped pro-choice savagery of "Treblinka," show Hayes being far more political than maybe we've come to expect from him.
I always enjoy when compilations include explanatory liner notes to fill in a band's history or illuminate where they're coming from musically, and that's lacking here. However, 38 Counts of Battery is so astonishingly coherent despite being Frankensteined together that it's easy to forget it even is a compilation. Instead, it just serves as another great album in Pig Destroyer's legendary career.

Monday, November 28, 2011

G&P Review: Guilty as Sin

Guilty as Sin
Self Released

Guilty as Sin commit subtraction by addition on latest effort Psychotronic. Their reliance on really bad hardcore barking for the first half of the album distracts from the Massachusetts trio's otherwise thrashing blend of DRI and Voivod. Guilty as Sin lives or dies on the strength of their twisty instrumental mystique and the vocals do nothing to contribute to the music's effect. Luckily, by the stronger second half they shut up and just let you enjoy the expansive weirdness. The rhythmic tension and release of "Addicted to Cyanide," with its dark night of the soul introspective interlude and its spiraling toward enlightenment conclusion, shows just how effective Guilty as Sin can be at conjuring emotion without the crutch of vocals.
Otherwise, Psychotronic is like a curated museum of the last 30 years of punk and metal evolution, revolution and convolution. "Frothing at the Cunt," as its deliberately stupid name may suggest, could have been slapped into the set of just about any of the bands on the infamous Rock Against Reagan tour while the horn section of "Into Dust" would go unremarked on a Total Fucking Destruction record.
Vocals aside, there are a couple of other clunkers that distract from Psychotronic's better moments. The Middle Eastern shuffle of "Godekli Tepe" is too much of a rehash of the similarly-inflected "Before the Flood" from prior album III and the 12 minute title track, which shuts down the album, is meandering to the point of being inert.
So once again, as with III and Led to the Slaughter, Guilty as Sin show flashes of inspired thrashy genius but fail to deliver a concise, complete album. However, editing the best parts of all three records into a single album would make a tidy little experimental thrash extravaganza.

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Punk Pick: The Sonics

The Sonics were inventing punk back when John Lydon was swimming blissfully in his Irish pappy's balls. At the same time the Beatles were crooning about holding your hand to legions of 12 year olds, The Sonics were screaming about blue balls ("Psycho"), slurping poison ("Strychnine") and evil chicks ("The Witch") while destroying covers of '60s staples such as "Do You Love Me" and "Have Love, Will Travel." The songs were simple and played with blunt force brutality, driven by ridiculous pounding of drummer Bob "Boom Boom" Bennett and the crotch-level sax sway of Rob Lind. The little Seattle band never had much success in their lives, but they influenced what would inevitably become punk. The compilation The Ultimate Sonics includes a interview with befuddled bassist Andy Parypa who's absolutely oblivious to the band's influence and astounded anybody would bother to interview him about his 40-year old garage band. He may not get it, but a whole host of rockers who came after certainly did.

Friday, November 25, 2011

You Grind...But Why?: Gate

Gate grind. It's what the Japanese duo does. Toshinori Otake doesn't mince words when I ask the Discordance Axis-inspired guitarist and vocalist why he itches to blast. For him, it's an innate drive and the sense of [synaesthetic?] achievement that comes from it.

"I think the grindcore is an ultimate music," Toshi said. "I have to work hard [so] I can play it. I can taste a great sense of achievement. Of course, I love fast musics!"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Namesake Series: "I Abstain"

To keep himself occupied during those tedious tour bus rides (when the keyboardist wasn't playing video games, at least), David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap fame subscribed to the Namesake series of cassettes. The hook was that a celebrity would read the works of some author with the same last name (though why Dr. J was reading the works of Washington Irving remains a mystery).
More than just a throwaway gag during the credits of a 30 year old flick, the notion of namesakes really resonates with me. When you come from a general musical world that revolves around hate, misery, death and pain, it shouldn't be a surprise when two different bands strike at the same image or idea. It's a pretty limited pool you're working with. Nonetheless, I'm always intrigued to see two divergent groups of musicians reach the same point from different directions.
Case in point, in a three year span both Napalm Death and Converge hit upon songs titled "I Abstain." I can't see any other correlation between the two bands and two songs other than that they both decided on the same phrase at about the same time. One doesn't seem to be a reference to the other, as far as I can tell. Intriguingly, both bands slotted it as the second track on their albums
First out the gate in 1992 was Napalm Death with Utopia Banished. After a pointless bit of noisy/industrial folderol, Napalm get their death on with "I Abstain."

Short of my personal favorite, "Dementia Access," I'd say "I Abstain" pretty much typifies both the album and Napalm Death's better post-Mick Harris output. With the only consistent presence and principle songwriter on their first thee full lengths defenestrated, guitarists Mitch Harris and Jesse Pintado shook off the deathly (but respectable nonetheless) rust of Harmony Corruption and started penning pretty much the kinds of songs you'd expect from the guys who anchored Righteous Pigs and Terrorizer, respectively. Just ignore that run from Fear, Emptiness, Despair through Words From the Exit Wound and dive back in with Enemy of the Music Business and the continuity seems to make more sense.
Two years later sickly talented Massholes Converge were lighting the fuse on a hardcore powder keg with their debut Halo in a Haystack (conveniently collected on Caring and Killing with bonus goodies for those of you who don't want to spend a rent check on a piece of hardcore trivia). There at track two is old faithful, "I Abstain."

The plodding menace of the song's deliberative tread is about as anti-grind as you can get short of going all drone doom on our asses. But from the start, "I Abstain" flashed the poise, creativity and pure technical chops that would define Converge, especially once they encountered a young lady who will forever be known as Jane Doe.
Two very different bands within the space of three years write songs with identical titles. So who owns it best? Don't ask me. I abstain.

Monday, November 21, 2011

G&P Review: thedowngoing

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

Luke 8:26-32

Untitled EP

In the near future, what passes for law enforcement in Australia (which I understand is mostly made up of half-naked guys with football pads and mohawks in souped up cars screaming across the desert fighting over "juice", according to a trio of documentaries I saw in the '80s) will track down duo thedowngoing to find out more about that exorcism they surreptitiously taped and tried to pass off as their Untitled EP. Because I guarantee you no healthy human can/should be able to make those kinds of noises without demonic assistance.
Guitarist/exorcisee Mathias Huxley turns in what is easily the vocal performance of the year, and his spiky, chaotic, just-short-of-random riffing seethes and swarms like a herd of suicidal Gadarene swine. Then suddenly the chaos will smooth, however briefly, and a Pig Destroyer- style hook will breach the surface of the chaotic noise soup just long enough to impale your ear holes just before diving back to the lightless depths of the id. Not to discount the drumming, which is the adrenaline-jacked beat of a full-blown fight or flight trip, but Untitled EP rides on Huxley's dynamism as a guitarist and singer.
At a tidy nine songs and 10 minutes, the adorable little 3-inch CD is perfectly proportioned. Anything more would have defeated the effect by diluting the chaos with sheer repetition. However, this is a perfect example of perfectly balanced economy in action. Previous offering I Am Become was a perfectly serviceable outing, but Untitled EP shows the band reaching new, dizzying artistic heights. There's something demonically magical going on in the land of Oz.
[Full disclosure: The band sent me a review copy.]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Punk Pick: Minutemen

Brutal Truth already did a fine job ripping through "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs" on Evolution Through Revolution, but "Joe McCarthy's Ghost" is a tune just begging for a grindcore cover. I kicked back to watch We Jam Econo, an excellent documentary about the Minutemen, a few weeks ago. If you've got even the slightest interest in this much-missed band, it's a mandatory watch. Very few bands were as astute as the Minutemen in analyzing the language and economic structures that were stacked up against the little man.

Friday, November 18, 2011

You Grind…But Why?: Wake

For Wake’s Sergey Jmourovski, grindcore has been a lifelong, bi-continental journey through sonic oblivion, culminating in the Canadian band’s impressive death/grind/violence brew of brutality. As he tells it, grindcore is something that has traveled with him from his native Russia, evolving with him as his musical aspirations matured.

“[F]irst of all, I'm a firm believer that music should always be an expression/extension of what one is going through in their life, anything but that comes off contrived,” he said. “My first encounter with grindcore with hearing Napalm Death, off the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, back in 1995, at 13 years old, right before I left Russia. As you can imagine, grindcore wasn't all that readily available in the middle of Siberia, so it definitely left an impact on me. However, it took me awhile to really get into it. I didn't begin grinding until I was in my mid-20's (I'm 29 now). Having ‘done time’ in punk, thrash/death, atmospheric sludge metal bands prior to that, I was always looking for something that was more true to what my vision of uncompromising heavy music was. Guess I was growing older and becoming more and more frustrated with the state of the world, my own personal failures etc. Grindcore, to me, is the purest expression of whatever dissatisfaction I have; it is a way for me to channel my hate, stay sane if you will. In an age where music is mass produced, this is one of the few genres that is still full of passion and without compromise. I don't imagine any grinders get into it to get rich. As a matter of fact, it is a point of pride for me to be a part of something that I know will never be accepted by the ‘norm.’ At this point in my life, I want to keep creating crushing, fast music that combines my love of punk, metal and hardcore. I think, in the end, grindcore chose me.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

G&P Review: Wake


Hearing Aids/7 Degrees
It's fun watching young bands grow up. Case in point, last year Calgary's Wake were like little hyperactive grindcore puppies, all boundless energy, floppy ears and too large paws on surprise 2010 standout Surrounded by Human Filth. A year later on debut full length Leeches and suddenly the band has grown into those oversize paws. Now that nipping puppy has some bite in his jaws when he uses your fingers as a chew toy. And play more often than not means putting on a seminar in grindcore drumming.
There's nothing overtly flashing about the drumming, but it's just so pinpoint and tasteful, shoved to the forefront so that it shows off Wake's growing confidence as a band. The drummer beats the toms on "The Means to the End" like they owe him money. It's a pounding reminiscent of Napalm Death's "Dementia Access." The tight snare roll of "Recycle the Sickness" is a small touch, but snaps through at the perfect point.
Otherwise, Wake are back with the same brew of death metal, grindcore and power violence jumble, just with more room to sprawl over the course of 14 songs. Set off by pristine Scott Hull production, Leeches sounds superb without being sterile. Hull allows the band to simply play, letting raw energy carry the commotion. When he does step in, like shoving the uvula-shattering screams of "Cult of War" into the limelight, it's a subtle but potent touch.
Less obvious than the precision drumming, however, is just how mature Wake's songwriting has become. They showed off an impressive array of skills on Surrounded by Human Filth despite only having four five tracks at their disposal, and with Leeches they demonstrate they know how to play with texture and tempo across a full length, whether it's the sneaky melodies that seep into "Aversion," obligatory slow song "Leeches" or the way "Dive's" corkscrew riff slithers between hammer of Thor cymbal crashes. At nearly three minutes and poised at about Leeches' midpoint, "Dive" is an expertly placed breather that sets off Wake's more aggressive fare.
These grindcore puppies may be growing, but I hope nobody housebreaks them too soon.

[Full disclosure: Wake sent me a download.]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thirty Minutes or Less

GridLink can keep banging out 12 minute albums until the sun flames out as long as it means they keep things tight and ruthlessly eviscerate any fat. Perhaps the greatest thing I could say for the death of physical music is that artists are no longer chained to the limitations or expectations of the format. Albums are now free to be as long or as short as the music demands without being beholden to a delivery system.
Anybody who grew up during the great CD boom of the '80s and '90s will remember every artist suddenly felt pressured to make full use of a format that would allow them to inflict up to an hour of music on their fans. So we got Metallica songs that clocked in at a bloated eight minutes on average. Now, I have a huge doom collection, and I can appreciate excruciatingly long songs if done well, but you have to earn the right to put out 75 minute albums. It's not something just anybody should be doing. You are probably not Neurosis. Especially grindcore bands. However, some of my favorite artists and even my favorite albums, if I'm honest, are absolutely way too fricken long. With very few exceptions, no grindcore album should top half an hour.
Here are five good reasons why.

Anal Cunt
Everyone Should be Killed



If no grindcore band should write more than 30 minute albums, that goes doubly for Anal Cunt. I'm gonna go ahead and establish a new iron clad grindcore rule: Seth Putnam should never have been allowed to record anything longer than the infamous 88 Song EP. Morbid Florist, tops. But in 1993 Putnam et al dropped the hefty 58-song, 58:40 behemoth Everyone Should Be Killed. Many of the songs were recycled from Morbid Florist and easily could have been axed in the name of economy. Nearly an hour of blurcore insanity that...ummm...blurs together is too much to ask of even the band's most dedicated fans.

Napalm Death
Time Waits for No Slave

Century Media


Time Waits for No Slave was a respectable Barney-era Napalm Death album, but in no rational world should it have clocked 50:22. Especially for only 14 songs. (By comparison, predecessor Smear Campaign was a punchier album over all but still a gratuitous 45 minutes for 16 songs). Lopping a good 15 minutes off of Time Waits for No Slave could have made it a ferocious beast of an LP. The From Enslavement to Obliteration days are never coming back, but a pitiless editor could have checked the band's bloat and turned in a record that would have done the Napalm Death legacy proud, regardless of lineup and era.




Before the flaming starts, I abso-fricken-lutely love this album. Inhale/Exhale was my first exposure to Nasum back in college and it holds fond memories for me. But it's just too damn long at 45:11. Shortly after Mieszko Talarczyk died, Decibel asked drummer Anders Jakobson to look back over the band's catalogue and something he said about Inhale/Exhale really struck me. After years of struggling, scrimping and saving up to record 7-inches that forced the band to keep things tight, he said Inhale/Exhale was Nasum's first chance to leave a little fat on a record. While Jakobson admitted the record is overly long, anyone who watches Food Network as much as I do will tell you fat=flavor. However, fat is also not always healthy. Judicious pruning would have made an excellent album doubly explosive.

Brutal Truth
Sounds of the Animal Kingdom



Shitty production aside, Songs of the Animal Kingdom remains my favorite Brutal Truth record because it's so weird and unexpected, even 15 years later. However, at a whopping 74:16, it's a hell of a slog to get through in one sitting. Yes, the infamous "Prey," which may be one of the most skipped tracks in metal history, comes in at just a skootch under 22 minutes, but even without it, that still leaves more than 50 minutes of grindcore to absorb. Serial long album offenders Brutal Truth packed up a whole Noah's Ark of animal insanity on their then-swansong record. Now, it just feels like a tad like the Marx Brothers' crowded stateroom.

Subvert the Dominant Paradigm



Noisear turned in album that will surely dominate many top 10 lists in a couple of months with Subvert the Dominant Paradigm. But then they had to go fuck up a tidy 25 minute album by tacking on the 20 minute annoyance that is "Noisearuption" (for comparison, the whole of Pyroclastic Annhialation was less than 22 minutes despite a half dozen Discordance Axis covers). "Noisearuption" is an absolutely awful, grating noise kissoff that nearly obliterates any good will the band had accrued up to that point. It should serve as an object lesson on screwing up a perfectly good album with an uncharacteristic and unnecessary assault on listeners' expectations that doesn't really have any payoff other than pissing people off and making a great album too damn long.

Funny how so many of them are from Relapse, innit?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekend Punk Pick: New York Dolls

Despite stage diving face first into punk in high school, I backed into New York Dolls in college via Poison Idea's cover of the excellent "Vietnamese Baby." When I went and hunted down the original, I was shocked to find out the darkness and menace of the song were not something the Oregonians brought but instead was inherent in the music itself. Here's a band that predicted both punk rock and '80s, sashaying and strutting through stale '70s rock cliches with a sly camp wink. As one reviewer once said, the Dolls were the Rolling Stones in drag and with way better heroin.

Friday, November 11, 2011

You Grind...But Why?: Ablach

Why did English explorer George Mallory climb Mt. Everest? "Because it's there," he said. Why do Scottish sextet Ablach bust out exquisitely crusty grind tunes that stripmine their culture for inspiration? Because they can, guitarist Bazz said.

"Personally, I got into grindcore before it was called grindcore. When everything heavier/faster than Slayer, was dubbed Death Metal. When the six of us got into a room, we had no thoughts on what genre we'd emulate. The decisive factor was having a drummer who could play blastbeats. Various types of blast for that matter. So, In short... because we could. It's no deeper than that really."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

G&P Review: Ablach

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom

Remember us—if at all—not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men

The stuffed men.

T.S. Eliot
"The Hollow Men"


Grindcore Karaoke
Scotland's Ablach no longer reside among the pale shades of the hollow men, having escaped the hollow, reedy production that was first album Aon's only misstep. The crusty grind sextet easily walk away with 2011's most improved award with second album Dha, a burly beast that revels in ferocious guitars and rasping Jeff Walker screams.
As if compensating for the tinny sound of Aon, Dha thrives on that essential sense of desperation -- that rush to make it through a 90 second song without losing the audience's attention -- that makes grind tick. Dha is a fat-free 13 songs (two are covers); all adrenaline, no filler. Right off the hop, "MacPhee" tattoos Scottish lore right across your cranium. But Ablach have also mastered the Terrorizer swing on songs like "From Tillydrone to Obliteration," which not only snarks Napalm Death but tells the tale of an impoverished swatch of the band's native Aberdeen.
Ablach covered Terrorizer last outing and this go-round adds faithful renditions of Phobia and Extreme Noise Terror. Ablach make no bones about being the sum of their influences, but their craftsmanship excuses any overt nods to bands of yore, and their much improved studio presence already has me excited for the inevitable Trí.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blast(beat) from the Past: AmTerrorXp

Audible Animism

Self Released

A psychedelic Godzilla on the cover and music awash in hip-hop accoutrements may unearth long-repressed memories of Denver the Last Dinosaur for many of you in the right demographic. Somehow Cephalochromoscope's very own Orfee and his comrade in grind pile all that and a shitload of other pop culture detritus in a Cuisinart and punch liquefy under the guise of AmTerrorXP (aka American Terrorism Experience, as if a couple of overly polite snowbacks can tell good old Americans about terror. What do they know about American Exceptionalism, hmmm? USA! USA! USA!). The insane smoothie they pour out is a blend of Asterisk* introspection and early Agoraphobic Nosebleed insanity (Zmaj went with 324, Discordance Axis and Swarrrm, if that helps). The guitars bite and snarl with a lovely mid-range crunch, forming the foundation for the attendant blasting and screaming.
The Canuckleheads' audio chop shop rips parts from disparate bits of Godzilla, Dracula, hip hop and '60s pop. With all that going on, the songs themselves can occasionally get lost in a mish-mash. However, when the seconds-long bursts of audio shrapnel do hit, they snap and snarl with impressive dexterity and focus. They're good enough that I wish the duo would have left off all the heaps of frosting so I can enjoy the spongey cakey goodness inside. A straight up album of their spastic flechette grind would kick you a new ice hole.
If I've piqued your interest, you can get your own hot little hands on this one over at Cephalochromoscope.

[Full disclosure: Orfee sent me a copy.]

Friday, November 4, 2011

You Grind...But Why?: Sakatat

Turkey's Sakatat rule and rule hard. That's really all you need to know. The trio won me over on the strength of a four song tour promo CD that destroyed your average band's most polished effort, and now I'm a slavering fan for life. For a band that writes some of the most amazing, concise grind perfection around, vocalist Semih O. will wax rhapsodic about the style at great length given half a chance. If you don't want to blow of holiday plans with your family and thrash in the basement with friends after this, you probably don't have a pulse.

"We barely had any access to decent metal where I grew up, so during my childhood I would listen to basically anything I could get my hands on, whether it be some local metal band or first two Carcass albums on a dubbed tape which is how I got to know grindcore," Semih said. "However, it would take me a while to actually appreciate it. I think I was in high school when I got this Napalm Death VHS from an older metalhead, and I remember watching it back to back, over and over again. Around the same period, I happened to receive tapes and records of bands like Agathocles, Grossmember, Rot and plenty of other obscure underground bands, and all of a sudden grindcore has become the thing. Until then I (and everyone around me) was mostly into death metal and other genres of metal (which I still am) but all those bands introduced me to the other side of the fence which, in a way, was rather punk than metal. So, it is safe to say it was actually grindcore that made me aware of the fact that there is also a huge punk/hardcore scene out there to dive into, but that is another story. I don't remember actually thinking about it back then, but I guess grindcore has had everything I liked about metal (extremity, brutality) minus pretty much everything it lacked of (political awareness,some kind of sloppiness that I actually enjoyed, the DIY attitude etc...).
"Back then I'd been playing the drums for years already. However, all I have been doing since the 6th grade was to spend my weekends rehearsing with local metalheads of my age just for the sake of doing it. So, as soon as I graduated from high school, I spent the summer working and eventually bought a drum-kit and the first thing I did (even before tuning the drums, haha) was to convince my high school desk-mate Onur to record the four punky grindcore tunes I had came up with down in our basement of which two ended up being on our spontaneously formed band's demo that would be called K?sa ve Çi? (Short and Raw).
"Getting into and playing grindcore for me was a pretty spontaneous occasion, however what kept my interest fresh in this humanly non-normal and occasionally lo-fi and raw noise have been the feeling that made me wanna tear my clothes off and smash my head on the monitor, the politically-aware attitude that came up with the noise and the fact that I could even release my outrage against the social and political oppression of the daily life through the bullshit lyrics that we would bury within the short and fast tunes we came up with. Throughout years, all the people we've met during our tours in faraway countries, the bands I've got to see at DIY shows and listened to on the black wax also proved that this wasn't a fad but more of a life-style or at least what would eventually become a big part of my life. And I guess that explains why I [would] rather meet my bandmates to record a new 7" (and consume whole lot of tea before, during and afterwards) than spend the weekends with my parents in my hometown, went on tours in fuck-knows-where [rather] than go on a vacation or more recently, cancelled my trip to the seaside so as to save some cash for the new records that came out this year."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

European Disunion: Keitzer Scream as the Continent Burns

It seems as though several months of pronounced economic instability may be enough to unravel Europe's 13-year experiment with a unified currency as the populations of solvent countries like Germany and France grow increasingly contemptuous of their broke-ass partners in Greece and Portugal. The disparity between the fiscally sound ants and their over-leveraged grasshopper partners may be enough to bring it all tumbling down. But if there's band that can pull a Hasselhoff at the Berlin Wall and reconcile Europe's divergent factions, it would be Keitzer. The 80 percent German-with-a-Portuguese-singer fivesome is a neat cross-section of the European experience and latest long-player Descend into Heresy is a slavering snapshot of these economically and politically unstable times.
Just don't ask bassist Simon (proprietor of the excellent 7 Degrees Records) why they're so pissed off.
"We didn’t print a lyric sheet because we honestly don’t have lyrics!" Simon says. "We never really had some. It’s more some word/noise fragments that come to our singer's mind, in the Obituary tradition, you could say. That’s our response to the nihilist world we live in. And it’s our message."
Quoting my own damn blog back at me, Simon acknowledges most grind bands (possibly even his own) come up lacking in the lyrical department.
"Good lyrics are hard to find, so if you can’t write ’em just, leave it," he said. "Everything of importance has been said already. Or maybe that’s just because we’re all lousy poets, and you wouldn’t understand the lyrics anyway. The music stands for itself. But you’re right, there are lots of things that piss us off. Just watch the 8 o’clock news. Or personal things. Or humanity. Or individuals. I, for myself, can say that I’m a little misanthrope, getting confirmed everyday in my opinions and feelings. All-day hell has a lot of subjects to get real mad."
Descend into Heresy, Keitzer's follow up to the excellent and just as nihilistic As the World Burns, found the band changing studios and, as a result, getting a bigger, deathier sound. Dirk Kusche, the band's usual engineer, quit the recording business, so Keitzer turned to Minion guitarist Dennis Rademacher. He coaxed new subtleties out of the band's performance, letting some of their other, hinted at influences shine. Bolt Thrower " has been a major influence and all time favourite" for Keitzer, and the venerable British institution's influence comes the to fore with panzer-tread guitar riffs and carpet bombing drums.
"Maybe the impression of a stronger Bolt Thrower influence is because we recorded for the first time in another studio because the mighty the studio work was a bit different this time, and the sound differs from our older recordings, too," Simon said. "The guitars sound thicker, and the drumkit has a more technical sound, so the whole album has a more death metal sound than the older ones, which to me sound a little more black metal, kind of. And with all the double bass blasting, it surely has slightly a more Bolt Thrower sound, I guess."
The bigger, burlier sound helps separate Keitzer from their peers in the increasingly crowded German grind scene. The Central European country also boasts Wojczech, Attack of the Mad Axeman, Cyness and Audio Kollaps, making it, per capita, one of the most vibrant grinding countries outside of Spain or Sweden. Though that may make for a crowded market, Simon said relations between the bands remain convivial and supportive. Europe's political leaders may not be able to rise about their petty feuds, but the grind population represents its own Eurozone. And it's not on the verge of collapse.
"Germany’s or Europe’s grind scene is pretty small, so everywhere you go, you meet the same people," Simon said. "It’s very familiar, and all those bands you mentioned above are personally known and appreciated. Having shared the stage for various occasions, some of them have become friends over the years. We just have a good time with each other when we meet on common shows or festivals. And I agree with you, that all those German grind bands have a very own style, their own approach to their music. I don’t know if it’s a German thing, though, but you’re right all these bands are outstandingly awesome."