Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Grind in Rewind 2011: The 20 of '11

Where 2010 was a disappointing wasteland of blandness, 2011 overfloweth with awesome grind. Unfortunately, the attrition rate was also high as we lost Maruta, Defeatist, Ablach and The Endless Blockade. But let's focus on the positive: there was a hell of a lot to smile about in the last 12 months. And that was before my copy of the new Brutal Truth album finally showed up this month after a lengthy detour through the limbo known as "back order."

So let the arguments begin!

20. Total Fucking Destruction
Translation Loss
Take another trip on Rich Hoak et al's grindfreak railroad. Hater's crazy train isn't so much going off the rails as it is forcing everyone to reroute their travel plans. Total Fucking Destruction's bullet train battery meanders further afield than even Brutal Truth. Though Hater is the most straightforward of TFD's experiments, it still tap dances its way through musical minefields most other bands choose to circumnavigate. It's an approach that either means they're going to accomplish the unthinkable or somebody's going home short a leg. Possibly both.

Grindcore Karaoke
Scottish grindcore archeologists Ablach were inextricably tied to their country's storied history. Putting on Dha was like cracking a textbook on warring clans, witch panics and getting blitzed on whiskey. Good wholesome fun, all. Dha, which will be the band's epitaph, was a perfect step forward from flawed first album, Aon. Dha just did everything right, demonstrating the consummate skill that I knew was lurking behind their debut's craptacular production. With the kind of growth they've shown it's a shame they won't get to Tri.

18. Hip Cops
In the Shadow of a Grinding Death
Bullshit Propaganda
There's no one less hip than a cop. Unless your cop revels in classic first wave-style grind that
smooshes together the earliest output of S.O.B. and Napalm Death. Hip Cops are not progressive. They do not have technical chops. Their songs do not advance the grindcore cause or culture a single iota. All they do is thrash the joint any time their 7-inch hits the turntable. This is the kind of unpretentious, perfectly performed grindcore record that keeps the style rooted in its history and constantly vital.

17. Noisear
Subvert the Dominant Paradigm

More so even than GridLink or Wormrot, I'd say Noisear may be the most controversial and debated album of 2011. Some of you instantly latched on to their mixture of Discordance Axis and Human Remains, and it's hard not to be enthralled by their circus grind antics. And then there's "Noiseruption." Some of you can shrug off a 22 minute noise track that sucks up half the album's run time and has zero connection the preceding music. I had a harder time with that, but when Noisear were clicking, Subvert the Dominant Paradigm was still a grisly beast of a bitch.

16. Cloud Rat
Cloud Rat
IFB Records/Grindcore Karaoke
There's something brewing up in Michigan. Cloud Rat and The Oily Menace are picking up and carrying on the fastcore legacy left by xBrainiax and Threatener and turning it into something that straddles the current with the historic in a way the seamlessly blends the twin impulses. Cloud Rat just did everything right on their self-titled record, which boasts 11 songs of adrenaline pressed to wax (or bytes if you go with the download version). Cloud Rat chased their full length with a killer threeway with The Oily Menace and Wolbachia, proving the record was no fluke.

15. Trap Them
Darker Handcraft

Trap Them have pretty firmly established their M.O. at this point: grab bits of every wave of speedy hardcore and metal and chainsaw their way through them all. Not much has changed album to album but Trap Them keep refining their sound each outing, jettisoning what little detritus remains. That impeccable riff to "Evictionaries" remains one of the single best guitar moments of 2011. Darker Handcraft is worth the entry fee for that song alone.

14. Drugs of Faith
Richard Johnson added rock 'n' roll swagger to his grindcore grimace with Drugs of Faith's first full length album, Corroded. It was a moody, personal album that seethes through various shades of gray and washed out brown. Johnson has always been ahead of his peers as the cornerstone of Enemy Soil or Agoraphobic Nosebleed, but with Drugs of Faith he's blazing an even more provocative trail through his own mental landscape. Corroded bravely speaks to the personal and uncomfortable in us all.

13. Keitzer
Descend into Heresy

FDA Rekotz
Descend into Heresy is the sound of your concussed ears ringing as you stagger forth dazed and bloodied from the bomb crater in the aftermath of an unexpected rocket attack. Keitzer only have one gear: implacable. The Germans take the direct route, obstacles be damned, and plow over any bystanders in their wake. Bolstered by heaping helpings of death with their grind, Keitzer are brutal and none too specific about their targets.

12. Defeatist
Tyranny of Decay

Self Released
Facing the extinction they've so long prophesied, Defeatist left it all on the table for final album Tyranny of Decay. Self-described "apocalypse kook" Aaron Nichols howled his way to near-perfection, finally bringing some much needed variety to his throat work. Everything else, Defeatist simply turned up their already impeccable assault, led by the concussive battery of drummer Joel Stallings. Perhaps a touch slower than their past efforts, Tyranny of Decay allowed Defeatist more room to explore and expand. It's the band's most varied and expressive record. It makes for a quality tombstone to a trio of lifers' bloody career.

11. Rotten Sound

Rotten Sound churn out quality albums just about as often as the San Jose Sharks choke in the playoffs. It's such a regular occurrence that sometimes it's easy to take the Finns for granted. Cursed continues their career-long streak of great records, emphasizing their crust punk roots more this outing. Songs get more space to breathe without the compulsion to snap every neck in Helsinki. Instead, plenty of Cursed's best offerings are nod-along headbangers that build to a slow burn climax.

10. Wake

7 Degrees
In their wake: That's where these young Canadians are leaving many of their contemporaries. Following up an EP that was a clear 2010 standout, Wake make their second trip to the year end countdown with their first full length, Leeches. Second time out, Wake are sounding more comfortable in the hobnail boots they use to stomp craniums. Leeches is a wonderfully huge sounding album curated by Scott Hull and he lets the boys root around in his cabinet of grind, death and power violence oddities. There's plenty they seem to have picked up from the foot of the master.

9. Robocop

Grindcore Karaoke
Robocop cooked up the clear winner of the hometown shout out race with power violence piss take "Maine is the Bastard." But the band's cleverness is not limited to lyrical snark. A postmodern, postindustrial, post-power violence romp through a world where the membranes between man and machine are becoming dangerously (intriguingly?) permeable, Robocop are the high priests of J.G. Ballard-core. "Aftermathematics" felt a little clunky and disjointed for my taste, but that's really nitpicking at this point. This is a band that's more on the ball, intelligent and articulate than many of the their better acclaimed predecessors.

8. Cellgraft
Deception Schematic
No Reprieve
Cellgraft are the epitome of the internet band. Their success among the grindcore masses has largely been attributable to glowing blog praise and good old fashioned word of email. Florida's premiere grindcore trio slapped us upside the collective noggin with Deception Schematic, a knotty, snarling 7-inch worth of bile, broken resisters and collapsed civilization debris into songs that (all but on one of which) never crack a minute. I prefer Deception Schematic's grisly guitar tone (some of you were more partial to External Habitation's tinny table saw buzz), but regardless of your preferences, Cellgraft never disappoint.

7. thedowngoing
Untitled EP

Grindcore Karaoke
Not only do those sneaky fucks in Australia claim Christmas and the New Year are mid-summer holidays (seriously?) but they've been plotting grindcore domination while we've been distracted by Foster's beer commercials and old Paul Hogan movies. We were convinced the Aussies are a bunch of smiling, benevolently sloshed blokes right up until the point thedowngoing decided to extrude our souls through our nostrils on the harrowing Untitled EP (recently snagged by Grindcore Karaoke). Mathias Huxley gives the vocal performance of a lifetime, fully committing himself to his finest Linda Blair impersonation. I'll never look at the land of kangaroos and koalas the same way again.

6. Wormrot

By Wormrot standards, Dirge was a safe, slightly flawed record. By every other band's standards, Dirge would have been a career-making album. Hewing a bit too closely to the mold established by 2009 champion Abuse, Dirge found the Singaporean trio reveling in the same cross pollination of Repulsion and Insect Warfare they've claimed as their own patch of grindcore terra. Rasyid and Fitri have reached a level of musical simpatico you'd expect only from performers who have been playing together for decades and the shared joy of their performance elevates Dirge from its humble ambitions. I fully expect Wormrot to take another run at the top spot with their next album.

5. Dephosphorus

7 Degrees
Nothing prepared for me for the journey Greek grindonauts Dephosphorus had planned with debut mini-album Axiom. Nothing excites me more than to stumble across a never before heard of band that totally kicks my ass, and I'm still walking around with a bruised rump courtesy of Dephosphorus several months later. Easily the biggest surprise of the year, Axiom is also one of the best albums. It stitches together grind, crust, atmosphere and bits of black metal's obsession with things unworldly; Axiom is one of the most compelling records I heard in 2011. The 12-inch gatefold put out by 7 Degrees is also ABSOLUTELY STUNNING and the best packaging to be found this year. Dephosphorus started the year as unknowns but they close it out with upcoming full length Night Sky Transform lodged at the top of my most anticipated list.

Space Grind

Parlamentarisk Sodomi was one of my favorite bands to emerge in the last several years, churning out ass kicking albums almost effortlessly year after year. Then solo, misanthropic grindmonger Papirmollen crossed up Parlamentarisk with Parliament-Funkadelic and blasted off into the cosmos to sodomize Uranus. Piloting a neon-pink Super Star Destroyer named PSUDOKU, Mollen added weird keyboards, odd noises and space special effects to his already prodigious grind arsenal. This was the only album released all year that can compete with Orphan on a purely adrenaline basis. This atomic dog has learned some new tricks.

3. Maruta
Forward Into Regression

Forward into Regression was the most grisly sounding album afflicted upon the grindily minded in 2011. Maruta's (sadly/frustratingly/disappointingly) final album gnawed at your femur and sucked out the marrow inside. Hopscotching between grind and power violence is a pretty standard trick in most bands' bags these days, but nobody mixed them with the flair of Maruta. That snarling, nasty guitar tone is instantly recognizable as a serial killer's trademark flourish. It's a shame to see a band as promising as Maruta, still on the upward swing of their young careers, implode, but they left behind two excellent albums, especially Forward into Regression.

2. Looking for an Answer
Eterno Treblinka

There is nothing flashy about Eterno Treblinka, but Looking for an Answer very quietly and skillfully turned in a flawless grindcore record. Every song is catchy and perfectly crafted. Every riff, fill and Sylvester the Cat gone grind scream serves to advance the whole. There is not a superfluous second to be found. Looking for an Answer's ideology is just as uncompromising as their music; religion, politics and carnivores all go under their knife over the course of 17 bright line political statements. Spanish grind is one of the most exciting European scenes going right now and Looking for an Answer just proved they're at the head of that pack.

1. GridLink

Hydra Head
Helen Keller could see this coming. I think I've made my feelings about Orphan fairly clear. We all know where we are on this album, so rather than rehash past debates, I'm simply going to shamelessly quote something fellow Chang fanboi Da5e of Cepahalochromoscope fame once told me:
I'd go so far as to say it's grindcore 3.0... Napalm Death's early stuff was the initial release (their Crass soundalike demos being an alpha), TID was grindcore 2.0, Amber Gray was a beta release and Orphan is a new beast, fully HTML5 compliant, demonstrating that the genre has stagnated and needs to evolve and move forward. I'd stick my neck out and say Matsubara is the greatest songwriter working in extreme music.
I find it hard to disagree with any of that. How many other grind bands can claim their music was used to violate the UN Convention Against Torture in an episode of Homeland?


gamefaced said...

>Matsubara is the greatest songwriter working in extreme music<

this should be in bold, 48 pt font, for emphasis.

jeremy said...

Really good list dude. the top 10 looks pretty damn close to what mine would be (though I might throw Cellgraft in there).

great call on Dephosphorus too! that shit came out of nowhere and fucked me up.

Andrew Childers said...

uhhh jeremy, my friend, cellgraft is right there at number 8. no way i would leave that off the list.

jeremy said...

i r gud reader :(

Perpetual Strife said...

I want to like that Drugs of Faith more than I do; although it's definitely grown on me.I feel like the band's mid-paced sections all sound the same which makes the album have this repetitiveness feeling, but also an awesome thematic tie in between every track. In the end I think it just gets tired after 27mins.

I knew I wouldn't see eye to eye with you on Wormrot, because I actually enjoyed this way more than Abuse. Feels like they dropped some of their death metal approach (mostly in the production) and took a huge helping of Rehashed era Magrudergrind, which I love. The stop n'go parts, avalanche breakdowns and whatever else made me really come around to this band.

Passed off Maruta's boring Malignancy styled effort, but I'm taking time to see what I might've missed (although I'm still glassy eyed).

As always, whether I agree or disagree with you, your list has some great stuff and beyond that I feel as if I've been Incepted and must take a look at everything I glossed over.

Call Orphan Grindpoint, it'll be compatible with all OS's and will be the standard of the industry.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

Good work, as always. FINE, I'll go check out that Trap Them album. If you twist my arm.

The only big change I'd have made: TFD at number 1. Yeah. Repeat REPEATEDLY!

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

Also, was Brutal Truth left off just because you didn't get it in time?

I really dug the album, but if you haven't had time enough, that makes sense.

Unknown said...

The Death Toll 80K and Feastem albums were also pretty good, both would be in my top 20

Andrew Childers said...

hey bill. yeah i haven't really processed end time just yet. however, i feel conflicted about it. erik burke's riffing is oustanding, but overall, the whole thing just feels a bit too familiar. i know BT have this whole rep for being crazy and out there, but starting albums with a slow jam, having a noise bit midway through and then closing with an overly long second noise bit feels a bit like a rut. is BT's rut better than most bands' career arcs? probably. but i feel like maybe we should acknowledge it's a bit of a rut.

i have a feeling that once i get my thoughts about it straight it will be far too late to even bother blogging it.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

Yeah, it was basically a rougher, meaner version of the last album. I'll forgive it, but the next one should be different, fo sho. It rips ass.

Related: the new Sulaco? Makes me think Killing Technology-era Voivod playing grindcore. Very cool.

Andrew Childers said...

since you brought up BT, bill, i gotta say i really love that list year's list is dominated by young up and comers. it feels like there's something of a generational sea change happening around us. bands like cloud rat, oily menace, cellgraft and priapus all seem to be less shackled to grind's gore/religion/politics history. things are about to get really interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I really hate to say this; as sick as Matsubara and Farjardo are, this is some posergrind shit. Thanks Chang.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, don't mean to anonymous, this was Ed from Rogyapa.

Crotchburger said...

I disagree on Gridlink. Lyrics are good for sure. Poetic even. However, the music just sounds like sped up thrash. I like it, but it doesn't sound like it's pushing grind forward like 3.0 would suggest.

I am eargerly anticipating Pig Destroyer's new album. They are pushing grind out of it's lazy shell.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend to anyone who is a fan of real grind to listen to Dethroned Emperor from NJ. ( Halfway down the page you can hear some tracks. Most of the albums here are over-produced bordering on novelty grind records, and if that's what does it for you, that's cool, but I think you need to take a step back and remember what the point of grind actually is.

Anonymous said...

-Ed, not at all affiliated with that band.

Andrew Childers said...

i get uncomfortable when people start talking about what grind "should be." as though there's only one way to do it. that way lies stagnation. grind is what you make of it. leave the rules and regulations to the black metal clowns.

thedowngoing said...

good list andrew.
heaps of _different_ sounding records on there, each unique.

think i'd tip my hat to cellgraft this year though for the number one spot. so crushing.


eva05 said...

"But I think you need to take a step back and remember what the point of grind actually is."

I can't tell if this comment is trying to be ironic or not, but if it's not, I'm going to go out on a limb and say this person is a glam fag poser. I kid, I kid. Well maybe not. "But why?", you ask (not to be confused with "You Suffer"). Let me explain...

Well let's take a step back. What grind really is, comes down to: Napalm Death Peel Sessions 1+2 and Repulsion "Horrified". These are the first two records that are pure grind records.

We'll start with the I Ching of grind, "Horrified". This record invented the genre and set the standard in one fell swoop. Opening with 10 seconds of rock, it didn't stop blasting for the next 29.4 minutes with 3 exceptions, 1 minute 28 seconds in Festering Boils, 47 seconds in Driven to Insanity and 2 minutes and 18 seconds in Black Breath. Derived to a forumla, the math for that works out to be no more than 15% of the record should be anything but blast beats and maybe Slayer speed thrash parts.

It's also important to remember Repulsion started around the idea that they could play stuff like Slayer but even faster, but back to that later (as in some other day).

Napalm Death FETO is a masterpiece but it was taking it's lead from the Peel Sessions, which were taking their lead from the B side of Scum but as a whole record, it was ND Peel Session 1 that had the sound start to end.

Almost no bass in the mix, cymbals crashing off everything, screaming and growling cutting the distorted guitars, it's a defining moment that sets dozens of other bands in motion around the world.

In the 6 minutes that was Peel Sessions 1, there is 12 seconds that is not scorched earth blast beats or thrash beats. The math works out to be a 3% cap on slow or what I used to like to call, "poser" parts.

eva05 said...

On Peel Sessions 2, there is about 2 minutes of sell out in the form of a Swans cover aka Multinational Corporations and the end of Instinct of Survival. This 14.5 minute ass kick a thon has about 13% poser beats - note, almost same as Repulsion Horrified.

How do I know all this crap? Aside from being a sarcastic bastard thought it would be funny to cite empericial evidence and define a golden ratio of grind(a ratio both Dethroned Emperor and Rayogopa do not actually measure up to based on MySpace and BlogSpace tracks)...well I bought all these records when they came out.

I never got to see ND because I never had $ to go to England(though I saw them with Barney, Mick, Shane and Jesse at CBGB where Barney's fly kept falling down and they sucked because Barney didn't do any high vocals) and I never saw Repulsion until 2-3 years ago (in Brooklyn where they fucking destroyed) because they had broken up, but I got their vinyl and CD on Necrosis day of release. If I am not mistaken, I drove to Rhode Island to a store called Fast Forward, where Ben from Drop Dead/Hellocaust(who I first met when his band played with SoCal grind crusties Apocalypse in Providence in 1990) worked because they were the first store in the US to get those records.

That was one of the first record shops I found selling Sore Throat records, Anal Cunt split 7" eps and other UKHC bands like Doom, Electro Hippies, Ripcord, Heresy, etc. Note most of those bands were hardcore punk bands, not grind bands. I had tape traded some of these over the previous 5-6 years but this was the first time I got to buy the actual releases.

Anyways, the point of this is before anyone tries to go telling everyone what is and what isn't "grind" they should probably realize that they don't have a fucking clue and should probably not post their righteous douchery onto the Internet because it will come back to haunt them. Trust me, 10-15 years from now, you'll be downloading some awesome porn when it will hit you, "Wow, I was such a LA Rocker typing that crap. What was I thinking?" And it will ruin your porn and you will feel like a douche bag.

Why do you think everyone hated my guts in the 90's :P


Perpetual Strife said...

^put out 200 more pages of this and you've got a good autobiography.

and good point, no one wants to listen to War Sore forever, do they?

Anonymous said...

Oh man, Ed here again and I must say, I was quite drunk and attempting to be playful with my poser this and poser that comments above. Reading it again I realize how dickish it sounds. In reality, I like the list and haven't even heard a number of these albums yet, so thanks for the heads up.

Ted said...

I <3 when Chang posts...

Anonymous said...


Vegas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sean said...

the noise ep was def better than dirge

bilegrinder said...

This is a pretty excellent and varied list. The albums I'm familiar with are held in very high regard and a good portion of them also made my year-end list. As for the several I either overlooked or missed all together, I'd like to thank you for bringing them to my attention, as I'm constantly seeking out new grind acts in order to get my daily fix of sonic madness.

I do, however, feel there is an absence of some absolutely essential records from 2011, none of which have even been discussed in the comments section (much to my surprise)...

Anaal Nathrakh - "Passion" - I only "discovered" this band (in terms of actually giving them a thorough listen, as opposed to simply hearing/reading their name in passing) in 2009 when "Constellation" was unleashed. I was instantly awestruck by the sheer, relentless apocalyptic mayhem blasting my ears into oblivion. Never had I experienced such a flawless execution of combining the best elements of grindcore, black metal (a genre I'm typically turned off by), industrial, and death metal. It didn't take long for me to acquire Anaal's entire back catalog and none of it has disappointed me in the least. That said, from what I've gathered the band's fans - generally speaking - tend to fall into one of two categories; 1) purists who only truly enjoy the earlier, more black-metal focused compositions; 2) those who prefer the sound exhibited later on in the band's evolution. Personally, I feel that "Passion" is the best metal/grind album to be released in 2011, as well as being Anaal Nathrakh's most impressive and complete offering. When I envision what the soundtrack to end of the world would sound like, "Passion" is it.

Elitist - "Fear In A Handful Of Dust" - I had an incredibly difficult time choosing between this album and "Passion" as my first choice for best of the year. Elitist previously released a few EPs that I thought were decent enough, but nothing overly special. Upon listening to FIAHOD, Elitist went from "just another decent grind act" to "holy fuck, this is one of my new favorite bands!" This album epitomizes perfection. Playing some of the most vicious and genuinely hostile music ever laid to tape, Elitist manages to capture the essence of grind and accentuate it with the brooding insanity of sludge, the diabolical wickedness of black metal, and the brutality of death metal. If you haven't heard this, their debut full length masterpiece, do yourself a favor and get it NOW!!

bilegrinder said...

Needful Things - "Tentacles of Influence" - this album ended up at the #3 position on my year-end list. I knew the band had immense talent - and a host of untapped potential - after hearing their previous album, released in 2005. Fast forward six years and find the band having come into their own, transforming into a legitimate powerhouse. "Tentacles of Influence" starts off with what seems like a fast paced intro track, that is until the first "proper" song kicks in at seemingly inhuman speeds. From then onward, the album never lets up in frantic intensity and chaos. I'd honestly have to say Needful Things are one of the best grindcore bands in the world right now. The Czech grind scene has been consistently spawning creative & original acts for at least the past decade, and 2011 is no different; attend a local underground metal show in any city within that small Eastern European country and you're almost sure to come across an amazing grindcore band (and chances are, they'll have a ridiculously strange moniker). Needful Things need to be recognized as the leader of the pack!!

blasting D said...

cool list!

and for those interested in Dephosphorus (and everyone should be!!).here's an interivew from them on Blasing days :