Monday, January 30, 2012

Grindcore Bracketology 2: Week 3 Results/The 4-5 Matchups

I'm sorry to tell you all, but every single vote you've cast so far has been completely wasted. We're going to have to start over completely from the beginning because we all missed one guitarist who will run away with the whole competition. I don't know how we missed her in the beginning, but bow before your queen.

8-Year-Old Guitarist Makes Us All Look Bad - Watch More Funny Videos

While you sit there looking ashamed over your inability to remember the complex chord progression of "You Suffer," here's the 3-6 results.

The Old Guard
Gurn ran away with it, squashing Toshimi a perfect 10-0.

The Innovators
We're all going to infinity and beyond with space grinder Papirmollen, who edged out Talarczyk 7-5.

The Punks
No contest, Insect Warfare's Beau ran the table against Kill the Client's Richardson 12-0.

The Technicians
Another blowout with Erik Burke taking a 9-0 lead over the Creation is Crucifixion dudes.

So, we're moving on. As always you can check out the updated bracket here. Meanwhile, here's the last batch from round one, on to the 4-5s.

The Old Guard
4. Pintado (Terrorizer/Napalm Death/Resistant Culture) v. 5. Habelt (Siege)
Habelt had no clue he was inventing grindcore with Siege. Pintado helped perfect it over the next two decades.

The Innovators
4. Johnson (Enemy Soil/Drugs of Faith) v. 5. Borja (Maruta)
I've said this a lot, but Richardson has done a buttload to drag grind kicking and screaming into the future with drum machines and grindcore swing. Borja invented an instantly recognizable guitar tone that perfectly encapsulates grindcore's grizzly edge.

The Punks
4. Aalto (Rotten Sound) v. 5. Rasyid (Wormrot)
Finland and its Scandinavian kin represented the best grindcore had to offer during the first decade of the century. The next decade belongs to Southeast Asia. Who rules right now?

The Technicians
4. Rokicki (Antigama) v. 5. Arp (Psyopus)
I don't have the foundation in advanced chaos mathematics to keep up with either of these guitarists, but I recognize the insane talent involved.

As always, you've got until Sunday to make your best arguments.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: Blondie

One of punk's finest drummers wrapped up in one of New Wave's worst suits. Don't you dare talk shit about Blondie. Deborah Harry and guitarist Chris Stein had sex in CBGB's infamously disgusting bathroom. That's way more punk than your shitty garage band's split 7-inch with Agathocles. Stein also had a unique finger picked style that you didn't see in any other punk band. In fact, Blondie was my soundtrack when the time came to sit down and actually write Compiling Autumn. Them and Adele. Go ahead, rip me to shreds.

Friday, January 27, 2012

You Grind...But Why?: Population Reduction

The time has come to wind this series down for at least a little bit, and I can think of no better way to send it in to the great beyond than with one of the smartest guys to ever play retarded metal.

Everybody's got "that album." That one that you blew off for a number of years but would eventually totally change the course of your musical life. Mine was Repulsion. I was completely late to the Horrified party, blowing it off as just another lame gore record (despite being all about Reek of Putrefaction, figure that one out). It was discovering "that album" that set Justin "Dr. X" Green on the true path of grind, culminating in thrashazoid weirdos Population Reduction.

"I got into grind from the death metal side of things as opposed to the punk side," Green said. "I had been into death metal for years and was looking for something different around 1997/1998, when death metal was starting to be all about ultra-technicality and sterility. My favorite death metal bands were more in the early Entombed/Autopsy vein, and I wasn't hearing that sound in the death metal scene anymore. I knew what I was looking for, but I didn't know what it was called- I even asked this one punk kid in my high school, 'Is there a death metal band that kinda plays like Helmet, with no solos and just riffs?', and he replied, 'I dunno... maybe Terrorizer?' I saw the CD at a record store but didn't buy it because Pete Sandoval's hair was too big on the back photo and I thought it was going to be Thrash. (!!) When I heard that Terrorizer record years later, I knew that was the exact sound that I'd been looking for. Stripped down, fast, tight, and with really catchy, memorable riffs. I still wonder how my life would have been different if I'd bought that record at age 16 instead of 22. I would have gotten into punk a lot sooner for sure. What I figured out years later was that my favorite death metal bands were the ones that had the most punk influences, so when I started listening to the more punk-influenced grind, everything just set into place for me.
"To me, grind is like death metal with all the fat trimmed off. It was kind of like taking the best parts (mosh parts, blast beats, thrash beats, d-beats) of my favorite death metal songs and putting them all in the same short song. When you're playing a 5-minute-plus death metal song, it's ok to have longer transitional passages or put in some filler-type riffs here or there, but with grind you have to get the most out of every riff in the shortest amount of time. Instead of writing one good riff and then thinking, 'Ok, I'll build the song around that', you have to think, 'Ok, I've got one good riff. Now I need about 3 more really awesome riffs and I'll start arranging the song.' Grind to me is 'more killer, less filler.'
"Also, when I started getting into grind and then crust I really appreciated the difference in lyrical content. I'd never really been 'politically active' but had a lot of very strong opinions about things, and was always really let down by the sexism and the posturing of the metal scene, and the sort of 'jock' attitudes and lack of intelligence that I saw. With grind and crust there were finally some bands that were saying things about the world I actually agreed with. When I read the lyrics to Dystopia's Human=Garbage record I knew I had found a scene with kindred spirits!
"In addition to playing drums, I also play guitar, but I'm not great. I can't solo and never have had any interest, which is probably why grindcore appealed to me so much. It's death metal played by punks! And everyone knows that punks don't take guitar lessons... so basically I realized I could continue to write grind riffs for all eternity with the fairly limited guitar vocabulary that I have, and that's what I've been doing."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Compiling Autumn: The Inalienable Book

This is why punctuation is important, people.

Remember that time I joked about writing a grindcore novel?
About that...
See, it's not so much a novel, per se, as it is the longest single piece of journalism I've ever written in either my professional or recreational wordsmithing career. Let me explain. Shortly after he gave me an exclusive sneak peak at Orphan, Jon Chang approached me with an idea. He wanted to tell as completely and comprehensively as possible the story of The Inalienable Dreamless. He envisioned it as the grindcore equivalent of the 33 1/3 series of books about great records. Having never bothered to read any of them, I just nodded and smiled and went ahead and wrote the story I wanted to tell in my own way.
Six months and a dozen interviews later, the result is Compiling Autumn: Making Discordance Axis' The Inalienable Dreamless, available for order at Create Space and Amazon.
So I need to publicly thank the guys for asking me to do this. It's probably my proudest moment as a blogger. Compiling Autumn is a loving 13,000 word encomium to my all-time favorite record by my all-time favorite band. (For comparison's sake, the longest interview/think piece I've ever written for the blog was a runty 1,300 words.) It represents half a year out of my life and includes interviews with every single member of Discordance Axis as well as The Inalienable Dreamless' engineer and Hydra Head's ownership. For additional context, I also sought out musicians who were influenced by the record and cultural tastemakers who could place the grindcore masterpiece in the proper context.
However, I will tell you straight up I do feel a bit conflicted charging $8 for this (which kinda goes against my intentions as a blogger). Especially since the final version is only about 36 pages (think of this is a bound version of one of those self-absorbed, navel gazing douchebag articles in some magazine like New Yorker only with blastbeats). Part of the reason it's so short is because the publisher just couldn't handle some of the bonus materials we gathered (but don't worry, we'll get to that start next week).
If it helps, though we're selling the book, neither Jon nor I will see a dollar from this. I thought this would just be a series of blog posts, but Jon graciously offered to pay for the printing costs and he's pledged all the proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross for the ongoing earthquake relief efforts. So while it may be expensive for something you could probably read in a single sitting, the money is going to a good cause. We will not be absconding and spending it on sexroids or something.
But as a show of good faith (and like the intellectual crack pusher that I am), I want to give you the first taste free.

Compiling Autumn Preview: The Old Ball and Chang

Compiling Autumn begins as Discordance Axis return from their Japanese tour in support of second album Jouhou. Guitarist Rob Marton had abruptly quit the band before the tour, precipitating a two-year hiatus that nearly derailed the band permanently. Itching to grind, drummer Dave Witte managed to corral and reconcile Marton with vocalist Jon Chang, but the working dynamic in the band had shifted in the intervening time. As they prepared to record The Inalienable Dreamless, Discordance Axis had to develop a new working relationship between the three members that would ultimately make the album what it was.

The Inalienable Dreamless is the sound of three strong personalities — the uncompromising visionary, the quiet technician, the speed demon —pulling together for a common goal in ways Discordance Axis had not been able to achieve previously. In many ways, it’s the sound of a band truly becoming a united force for the first time.
Where previously “Sgt. Chang” had been the band’s taskmaster and arbiter, deciding how the songs should go, dictating the lyrical and artistic direction and handling their releases – often without any input from his bandmates – The Inalienable Dreamless represents the fullest expression of Marton and Witte’s musical vision for the band. For the guitarist and drummer, it was no longer “Jon Chang’s Discordance Axis.”
“The earlier stuff, when we first started Discordance Axis, it was Jon Chang’s Discordance Axis," Marton said. "We never had a problem with that. It was his project. He kind of directed the whole thing. We were cool with that. We were there to have fun. But at some point it took over.”
Marton and Witte's new confidence meant Chang no longer dictated song structures or arrangement via spliced together bits of tapes from rehearsals. For much of Discordance Axis’ existence, Chang would direct the band’s sound by chopping up cassette recordings of rehearsals, piecing together riffs until he had songs that satisfied his criteria. As Witte and Marton grew as a musical unit, Chang was willing to relinquish some of the control, confident his bandmates had bought into the vision he had for what The Inalienable Dreamless would ultimately be.
“When we started the band it was my drive and my money and my contacts and everything was me pushing that thing forward,” Chang said. “When Rob said it was my project, he was right. It was literally me ordering things. It was me saying, ‘I demand this. We need to play this fast. We need to have this structure.’ And being really tyrannical about it, honestly. I did that because I had a vision of what we could be. We weren’t going to get there unless we went through a lot of things to be there. By the time Jouhou was done, I felt we were there. Whatever was going to come next, I trusted the guys to understand it and accept the vision. It was a common goal of everybody to make music like this. I pushed everybody in Discordance and it was one of the reasons it was a stressful band. That stuff hasn’t changed.”
The Inalienable Dreamless, Chang said, demonstrated a band pushing for and achieving that desperate need for perfection.
“After we wrote that record I felt like I was a different person,” he said. “It really was what I was trying to get with for a lot of years.”
The songs that would become The Inalienable Dreamless were hashed out by Marton, who had been writing throughout the band’s hiatus, and Witte during weekend rehearsals. The two musicians would refine the songs for two or three hours before Chang joined them for the final hour of practice to offer his thoughts.
“I think he let us create more and there wasn’t any splicing," Marton said. "There was ‘maybe we could lengthen this part and maybe put this part before this part’ instead of just him splicing a tape. The whole process was different. That sort of thing just really wasn’t necessary at that point. There was a bit of ‘I’m going to do what I think sounds good’ and it’s going make it or not. Before we were writing fast, we were having fun, but it was more of a ‘Jon will like this, so let’s do this.’ We wanted to write grind. We wanted to be fast. We wanted to be in your face. We were trying to find out how to do it.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

G&P Review: Slaughter Slashing

Slaughter Slashing
Guilty Parade
You could spend half an hour listening to Akasha? or you could just randomly twirl your radio tuner and get the same effect much quicker. Quebecois noisers Slaughter Slashing seem to conflate randomness with originality over eight songs that sacrifice niceties like coherence or listener enjoyment in pursuit of their every-genre-at-once intentions. I can't imagine Slaughter Slashing's target audience, but I'm pretty sure either the band or their fans will be on some heavy-grade prescription mood medication.
There are flashes of traditional metal bordering on grind lurking underneath Slaughter Slashing's Mr. Bungle-oid, everything-but-the-synthesized-kitchen-sink self indulgence. However, knowing my audience, that won't be nearly enough to hold your attention once the intrusive horns and other stylistic detritus start getting heaped on top. Rather than being content at being really good at one thing, Slaughter Slashing instead dabble halfheartedly in half a dozen. There are flashes that they know what they're about, such as the thundering, moody horn opening of "Bastian's Challenge," but 48 seconds into a 3:22 song it becomes a bloated, sagging mass of competing styles as blastbeats and bad jazz war for supremacy. The cool Creation is Crucifixion guitars of "Tommy Goes to Memphis (The Chronicles Part 1)," Akasha?'s first true song, get buried mercilessly under more flatulent horns.
And that's, ultimately, Akasha?'s undoing because as soon as you find one element you can latch on to, it gets obliterated by funk bass, twitchy electronics or horn lines stolen from Kenny G's yard sale. It's one novelty piled on top of another. Nothing gets integrated. Nothing coheres. And every time I listened to the album, it just became worse and more distracting. Akasha may be Sanskrit for aether, but I think Slaughter Slashing are just blowing smoke.

[Full disclosure: Slaughter Slashing sent me a review copy.]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grindcore Bracketology 2: Week 2 Results/The 3-6 Matchups

I'm just gonna go ahead and say up front that I hate all of you. Every last one of you ingrate bastards. I know I deliberately rigged this round to have some of the most interesting head to heads. But damn, people. Seriously? Let's see if you can figure out why I'm so speechless.

Here's the 2-7 results:

The Old Guard
Though the anti-Carcass crowd came on strong early, Bill Steer ultimately triumphed over Mick Harris 10-5.

The Innovators
No surprise that Scott Hull got the first shut out of the competition, blowing out Pingdum with a perfect 15-0.

The Punks
324's Shinji now rates a 12-3 on the Misery Index after getting stomped by Heritage.

The Technicians
Rainwater by 8-7 over Marton.

Anyway, the updated brackets can be viewed here.
So, on to the 3-6 matchups. Not that you deserve them. As always, you've got until Sunday.

The Old Guard
3. Gurn (Brutal Truth) v. 6. Toshimi (S.O.B.)
Drug crazed grind freak v. sabotaged organized barbarian.

The Innovators
3. Talarczyk (Nasum) v. 6. Papirmollen (Parlamentarisk Sodomi/PSUDOKU)
A Scandinavian smackdown between the patron saint of modern grind and Norway's master of both cornholes and wormholes.

The Punks
3. Richardson (Kill the Client) v. 6. Beau (Insect Warfare)
Who is king of all Texas? This may be more divisive than the outcome of the Alamo.

The Technicians
3. Burke (Lethargy/Sulaco/Brutal Truth) v. 6. Unks/Nowoczynski (Creation is Crucifixion)
Burke has been tearing shit with little fanfare for 20 years. Creation is Crucifixion were 20 years ahead of their time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

You Grind...But Why?: Hip Cops

Will BSP is a grindcore renaissance man, juggling the (sadly defunct) Hip Cops, awesome Extreme Noise Terror name-checking Bullshit Propaganda Records and the excellent Don't Be Swindle blog/zine. It's an intense schedule for an intense guy. But Will's the kinda dude whose whole life seems to be caught up in a mosh.

"There's something different about me from most people I know," Will said. "I don't know if it's a problem or a benefit. Most people would feel good to be relaxed or well-rested, but I never stop. I purposely sleep less hours per night than the average person, and leap out of bed ready to do 10 things at once before the sun rises. I like to listen to different music on multiple stereos at the same time. I work three jobs. Everything is in my face, all of the time with the volume on life cranked to the max. When I discovered grindcore, everything clicked. The usual punk and hardcore was never quite fast enough, so that it was on par with the speed that I approached life. Sometimes the music just keeps up with me, and other times it's like a mental bulldozer while I stare at the wall without a thought on my mind five minutes before falling asleep. A slate-cleaner, if you will. I just got lucky that the lyrics that often accompany grindcore also fit the worldview that I already have in regards to social and political issues, sweetening the pie. That's why I grind."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

G&P Review: Coche Bomba

Coche Bomba
Vectores de la Muerte
Whatever evolutionary detour hardcore has taken throughout its existence, polyglot French punks Coche Bomba were happy to come along for the ride. Their discography record, collecting all of the band's output from 1995 through 1997, is an explosion of screaming, fastcore-to-grindcore beats, mic-passing choruses, the occasional whoa-oh-oh ("TRBNG") and even some halfassed reggae ("Le Sangre de Christo") just for good measure. These audio automotive explosives even reach back deep into punk's history when it was still recognizably anchored in swinging rock 'n' roll ("La Patria Es") and Ramones-style buzzsaw ("Tout de Suite").
That's a lot of different elements coming through Coche Bomba's corpus over 45 songs recorded over a three year period, and, ultimately, those elements are notable for how they accent the band's fairly standard Heresy-core. So don't expect them to explode your notions of hardcore/proto-grind despite their admonition to take these 45 songs and "annoy people//play loud." I'd be lying if I didn't say a million other bands were playing this exact same style, and Coche Bomba sit comfortably in the middle of the pack.
However, Revulsion did a nice job putting this package together, which features artwork like They Live glasses gone horribly wrong or a photo essay on Neo Tokyo after Akira came back to town. It's a nice cartoonish post-apocalyptic vibe when so many of their contemporaries are still ripping off Discharge's nuclear test and war zone style. So overall it's a cool wrapping around a fairly average band, but Coche Bomba can scratch that hardcore itch if you come across a copy somewhere.

[Full disclosure: Revulsion sent me a review copy.]

Monday, January 16, 2012

Grindcore Bracketology 2: Week 1 Results/The 2-7 Matchups

Ok, so, class, what did we learn from the first week of voting?

The Old Guard
We learned the ratio of people who love grind and people who love Repulsion is essentially 1:1. The Michigan gravediggers win handily 10-1.

The Innovators
In a squeaker, Human Remains triumphed 6-5. You did your damnedest, Strife. You almost got Kapo over the hump.

The Punks

I was already worried about the gender disparity at work before we started, but now the only chick in the contest is already out as Phobia beat Cretin 7-3.

The Technicians
I don't think anybody is surprised Matsubara triumphed so easily. Even Page, good guy that he is, voted against himself. Japan's finest won 11-1.

As always, the updated brackets are available here.

So that sets us up for the 2-7 matchups. Here's this week's head to head. Once again, you've got until Sunday to argue your side.

The Old Guard
2. Steer (Carcass/Napalm Death) v. 7. Harris (Righteous Pigs/Defecation/Napalm Death)
Two Napalmers square off head to head. Each also has a significant repertoire outside of grind's first family. Who does it better?

The Innovators
2. Hull (ANb/Pig Destroyer/Anal Cunt) v. 7. Pingdum (Total Fucking Destruction)
Drum machines, nightmares and gay jokes. There's not much Hull hasn't riffed over. Flipside, Pingdum is the ringmaster of weird who gives substance and direction to the daydreams Hoak deems out of bonds for Brutal Truth.

The Punks
2. Heritage (Assuck) v. 7. Shinji (324)
Good ol' American ass beating squares off against a uniquely Japanese take on crustcore.

The Technicians
2. Marton (Discordance Axis) v. 7. Rainwater (Noisear/Kill the Client)
Will Marton grind forever alone as the best guitarist of the bunch or has an upstart weaned on his works overtaken the master?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: Subhumans

Ok, it's that Subhumans this time (not to be confused with that other Subhumans). I've been binging on old British '80s punk lately and outside of Rudimentary Peni, I can't think of a better example. Strident, scathing and uncompromising, Subhumans were a political timebomb of anti-religious sentiment, animal rights sloganeering and two fingers in the air anarchy. They were also pretty prescient, predicting the rise of the surveillance state. After a brief sojourn through the ska wilderness of Citizen Fish, the Subs are back and spitting more bile.

Friday, January 13, 2012

You Grind...But Why?: Dephosphorus

Panos Agoros has been a Greek grind stalwart with one foot in the strictly traditional (Straighthate) and the other stepping out to the cosmos (Dephosphorus), but when you settle down and ask the singer what keeps him grinding, it's like getting a snippet of a personal diary in musical form. Also, turns out the guy has some impeccable taste in music as well.

"I love listening and playing grindcore because this genre is the apotheosis of rhythm, and rhythm is what I like the most in music – more than melody!" Agoros said. "There is also something deeply paroxysmic about it that numbs my senses, deconstructing my perception then putting the pieces back together. I love the way the genre has evolved, matching my evolution as a person and music lover. In the '90s I was listening a lot to Napalm Death and Brutal Truth, then Discordance AxisThe Inalienable Dreamless came crushing down on me in the early '00s. It was one of these rare highlights as a listener when you discover some new music and feel with certainty that is what you were waiting for but didn’t know it existed! Finally, Discordance Axis’ and Nasum’s mostly screamed vocals fit with my personal taste and made me realize that this kind of vocals is amongst the most expressive and tortured ever to come out of a human throat… As Cornell West once wrote: 'Music at its the grand archeology into and transfiguration of our guttural cry, the great human effort to grasp in time our deepest passions and yearnings as prisoners of time. Profound music leads us--beyond language--to the dark roots of our scream and the celestial heights of our silence.' "

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

G&P Review: Brutal Truth

Brutal Truth
End Time
The Official Brutal Truth Album Reviewers' Guide (TM), a cheat sheet for lazy fucks like me, lists plenty of adjectives I can mindlessly bleat out for any new Brutal Truth album: innovative, unconventional, challenging, idiosyncratic, unorthodox. One you're not likely to see too often is formulaic, but that may be the most apt for End Time.
Formulaic is not inherently a bad thing, but we should at least acknowledge when the template is being followed and End Time certainly feels very familiar. Like Evolution Through Revolution before it, it's an amalgam of everything that made Need to Control and Sounds of the Animal Kingdom click, just distilled and smooshed together. You start with your lead-soled album opener "Malice" (see also: "Collapse"), blast a bit before you get a midpoint noisefucker in "Warm Embrace of Poverty" (recommended for fans of the first half of "Blue World," "Iron Lung" and "Semi Automatic Carnation"), grind a bit more and close it out with not one but two more doomed out farewells "Drink Up" and the superfluous, overly long "Control Room" (familiar to connoisseurs of "Prey," "Crawlspace" and "Grind Fidelity").
While that may sound negative initially, Brutal Truth rise above their self-imposed constraints to deliver what is easily the best sounding album of their career, regardless of era and lineup. End Time is all gnarled whorls and canines cracking gristle, powered by Erik Burke's dynamic Lethargian riffing style, which may be more engaging than Gurn's (there, I said it). He brings all new dynamics and shadings to Brutal Truth, fractal pools rather than jagged edges. And when the band does blast their way through comfort food grinders "All Work and No Play," "20 Bag" or "Addicted" it's with the assurance of veterans who don't have time to fuck around with half assed efforts.
Overall, I think I really enjoy End Time, but it would be nice to bust out those familiar adjectives again. Maybe next album if we all survive the end times.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Grindcore Bracketology 2: The 1-8 Matchups

Ok, you bitched, you moaned, you cajoled, you wheedled and you whined. The end result is a stronger faceoff structure. So now it's time to drop the gloves.
Just like the last outing, I'll post the matchups each week and you tell me who should win and, just as importantly, why. In the event of a tie or a really close decision or just because I'm a total dick and I feel like pissing in your eye, a well reasoned argument can carry the day.

So let's get down to it. You've got until Sunday to make your case.

The Old Guard
1. Olivo/Freeman (Repulsion) v. 8. Dickinson (Heresy/Unseen Terror)
Michigan grave robbers v. an English hardcore hooligan.

The Innovators
1. Procopio/Baglino (Human Remains) v. 8. Kapo (Swarrrm)
Unsung American innovators v. an artistic Japanese oddball. If Kapo loses, Perpetual Strife just might cry.

The Punks
1. Burda/McLachlan (Phobia) v. 8. Martinez (Cretin)
The premier punk duo v. the mistress of the grotesque.

The Technicians
1. Matsubara (GridLink/Mortalized/Hayaino Daisuki) v. 8. Page (Body Hammer/Robocop)
If Matsubara didn't exist, Studio Ghibli would have had to animate him. Page can make music out of toothbrushes and an electric fans. He's also a kick ass young guitarist.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: The Undertones

This a simple pop punk tune so perfect it reportedly made John friggen Peel burst out in tears when he first heard it. Irish upstarts the Undertones grew up during the infamous Troubles, but rather than wallow in the chaos (leave that to Stiff Little Fingers), they turned to sometimes sarcastic, sometimes earnest pop in punk clothing as an escape. As a result they churned out pop confections so good they could make your most leather-n-spikes, be-mohawked punker sniffle with bittersweet teen nostalgia.

Friday, January 6, 2012

You Grind...But Why?: Wormrot

Quite honestly, I don't care why Wormrot grind. I'm just eternally grateful that the Singaporean trio does (and that they're out of jail). From absolute unknowns three years ago, Arif, Rasyid and Fitri have become the standard bearers for traditional grind in the 21st Century. But to hear vocalist Arif tell it, grindcore really wasn't the plan when they got together. Luckily for us, Plan A didn't work out.

"We just love the adrenaline rush of the blast beats," Arif said. "Actually, our intended idea was to play something like death grind - gore grind a la Disgorge (Mexico). But it doesn't work out as Rasyid wasn't comfortable with the riffing or whatever. He's more into basic, straightforward punkish chords, whatever you call it. We're definitely and always a fan of grindcore and that's the closest other 'fast extreme' genre we can work on. We made the right choice. Always a fan of extreme pissed off noise. Everyone has gotta be comfortable with what they are doing. Fit was in a punk band back in the day, so it fits so perfectly and makes everything much easier. Over the years, we tend to learn and appreciate grindcore as we grew and never look back to what we were intended to be. We've been grinding proudly ever since."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Blast(beat) from the Past: Bloody Phoenix

Bloody Phoenix
Death to Everyone
625 Thrash
A spunky epigeneticist looking for an inside track on next year's Nobel Prize could throw the competition a curveball by sequencing drummer Michael Rarubin's DNA. Cuz I'm pretty sure dude is toting an extra arm tucked somewhere on his body or some other drumming-related mutation. That's the only reasonable explanation I can see for a guy who can roll a snare drum and smash a cymbal at the same time.
And Death to Everyone, Bloody Phoenix's second album (which eluded me all through 2010) is Rarubin's time to shine as he dominates songs like "No Conscience," which makes the case that maybe the dude's name should pop up in casual conversation more often when you're bandying around the best drummers in grindcore.
Not that the rest of the quartet is phoning it in. Two decades into a career that started with Excruciating Terror, I was floored to see Jerry Flores mix up the deck by stirring in bits of Neurosis, d-beat, Today is the Day and even some Killing Joke to his repertoire. The confluence makes this probably the strongest album in his unfuckwithable career. "Mast of Deception" is practically uplifting for all of its violence as it twines its way up an escalator guitar riff akin to Napalm Death's "When All is Said and Done."
Quivering vocal cord delivery system Aaron Ramos gets his Steve Austin on with the closing, eponymous song as he rants about the death of god with a single-mindedness you'd expect from one of Today is the Day's more violent revenge tracks.
This may have slipped through my fingers last year, but it's never too late to pay Bloody Phoenix their proper respect.

Through Silver in Bloody Phoenix

I love that Bloody Phoenix mixed up their influences on second album Death to Everyone. Guitarist Jerry Flores is a grindcore old dog and it's cool to see him bust out a few new tricks.
That said... of Bloody Phoenix's new influences sounded awfully...let's call it...familiar.
Let's start with opening number "Marching into a Bottomless Well." It's a wave of tolling bells, rolling and martial drums, implacable bass lurch and funereal guitars.

But doesn't it sound a lot like Neurosis' "Through Silver in Blood," opening song to the essential album of the same name. Same plod, similar tempo, same crushing chin shot.

Am I the only one hearing this?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Grindcore Bracketology 2: Guitarmageddon 2012

It’s been far too long, hasn’t it?
If the Mayan kooks are more accurate than Harold Camping, we don't have much longer to live. So what better way to commemorate the end of the world as we know it than with a second bout of Grindcore Bracketology?
This time out, I’m asking you to pick the best guitarist grind has to offer and, unlike last time, I’m throwing the doors open to all eras past and present in search of the six stringer you think best typifies grind or has done the most to proselytize for the blastbeat lifestyle. As with the last go-round, I’ve arbitrarily selected 32 guitarists who I think best represent grindcore in four categories: The Old Guard, The Innovators, The Punks and The Technicians. We'll winnow each division down until the last men standing go head to head: Old Guard vs. Innovators; Punks vs. Technicians. Then the survivors go mano-a-mano (fingers-a-fingers?) for fretboard dominance.
I’ll kick off the voting next week. Meanwhile, pore over the list and let me know who needs to be added, deleted or reordered.
For the more visually inclined, you can peruse the upcoming matchups at Guitarmageddon.

The Old Guard
The Geezers of Grind (or, AARP-core as 206-Grind once brilliantly put it). Here are eight guitarists from that first and early second wave who were instrumental in defining what fast-hardcore-with-screaming would later be.

1. Matt Olivo/Aaron Freeman (Repulsion)
Matt Olivo is the protypical grindcore guitarist. His Slayer on a meth bender guitar stylings laid the foundation for pretty much everybody who would come after. Every guitarist who has riffed over a blastbeat has stolen a page from his playbook. [You've convinced me. Freeman gets his due too]

2. Bill Steer (Napalm Death/Carcass)
To grind over a single classic album is more than most guitarists will ever achieve, but Bill Steer was riffmaster general on two in a single year, shepherding both Carcass and Napalm Death to career highlights. What’s even more amazing is how different the two albums are, proving Steer was not just an innovator but a chameleon.

3. Brent “Gurn” McCarty (Brutal Truth)
Grindcore had barely taken its first few toddler tumbles when Brutal Truth were forcing it to run in new and unique directions. Brent “Gurn” McCarty’s frenzied, askew guitar curveballs were the perfect foundation for a band determined to dynamite musical preconceptions that had already grown stale. Through three albums with Brutal Truth, his playing grew increasingly abstract, avant-garde and unconventional. His playing is still instantly recognizable more than a decade after he retired.

4. Jesse Pintado (Terrorizer/Napalm Death/Resistant Culture)
No other grinder’s career has taken such a tragic arc as that of Jesse Pintado. From the stone classic of Terrorizer’s posthumous World Downfall, he jumped to Napalm Death in time to try to live up to the legacy of what many consider to be the band’s best album. His Napalm Death tenure was marked by the band’s meandering low point (though I’ll still sing the nostalgic praises of Utopia Banished, the most Terrorizer-ish of the post-Mick Harris albums). His unceremonious ouster from Napalm Death and the ill-starred Terrorizer reunion would have been a depressing epitaph were it not for his contribution to a great Resistant Culture album as well. Despite the ignominious end, Pintado’s earliest work earned him immortality.

5. Kurt Habelt (Siege)
At the time Siege were terrorizing Boston basement shows, grindcore didn’t even have a name. They were just punks kicking out the jams at terrifying speeds and Kurt Habelt was charged with keeping it up all in line. While drummer Rob Williams may get more acclaim for his contribution to the proto-blastbeat, Habelt wrote the riffs that just seemed to fit the hyperspeed hardcore freakouts.

6. G. Toshimi (S.O.B.)
Though S.O.B. helped invent grindcore, it was never enough to contain the organized – if sabotaged – Japanese punk barbarians. Evolving through thrashcore and a few questionable dalliances with experimental music, guitarist G. Toshimi kept things crusty and concise on classic albums like Gate of Doom. While defining grindcore, Toshimi et al also made sure the nascent noise wouldn’t box itself into too small of a space.

7. Mitch Harris (Righteous Pigs/Defecation/Napalm Death)
Napalm Death’s other Harris, Mitch got his start with Las Vegas’ Righteous Pigs, collaborated with his Napalmed namesake in Defecation, and yes, has been holding down the guitar fort in Napalm Death for the past two decades, providing a semblance of stability amid the rotating carousel of cast members. He’s a punky, metally performer who has quietly just done his thing with aplomb regardless of trends of collaborators.

8. Mitch Dickinson (Heresy/Unseen Terror)
Mitch Dickinson embodies grindcore’s earliest punk and hardcore roots, first with the seminal Heresy and then later tag-teaming with a drummer named Shane Embury and a sometime singer named Mick Harris (I know, it’s like having all the right pieces but putting them in the wrong order) in Unseen Terror. Nothing Dickinson ever did would ever wander too far from its Brit punk hardcore roots, which would always come blaring through his riffing. But as the originator and (as far as I can tell) sole purveyor of Garfield-core, the guy deserves a nod.

The Innovators
Some guys just aren't content to leave well enough alone. These new jacks shook up grind for the better, forcing their square pegs into the scene's round hole, often with explosive results.

1. Steve Procopio/Jim Baglino [Since I'm adding duos, Baglino needs a shout out too] (Human Remains)
Nobody before and nobody since has ever wrung the kinds of bizarre sounds out of their instruments as New Jersey’s Human Remains. Human Remains was just plain weird. Fifteen years after the band’s demise, people are just now beginning to hip to what guitarist Steve Procopio was up to with his six string shenanigans. Slanting, bouncing, unsettlingly askew, Human Remains lurked in the uncanny valley of death-grind. You think you know those instruments, but something just isn’t right. Where were any of us when Human Remains were laying down a template for the future?

2. Scott Hull (Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Pig Destroyer/Anal Cunt)
Scott Hull is the first true grindcore auteur. With Pig Destroyer, he draws from classic grind, Melvins insanity and unsettling atmospheres to cradle the insalubrious spirits being descanted by frontman J.R. Hayes. Hull writes Hellraiser riffs that can unsettle you on their own. Adding in Hayes’ nightmare fuel is only adding to the exquisite torture. If that weren’t enough to earn him some serious accolades (and it surely is), Hull also dragged the early Earache guitar sound into the modern era with Agoraphobic Nosebleed. He gave it a post-millennial sheen by pairing it with abused drum machines and frayed FX boxes, penning Ballardian odes to a fragmenting society.

3. Mieszko Talarczyk (Nasum)
Nasum were one of the first true 21st Century grindcore bands. While Mieszko Talarczyk’s influences were no secret, he developed a riffing style that seemed fresh and vibrant at a time when grind was in danger of going stale. His other innovation came from behind the mixing board where Talarczyk made sure that all the care and craft he put into his songwriting could be set off to maximum effect.

4. Richard Johnson (Enemy Soil/Drugs of Faith)
There has not been a facet of grind where Richard Johnson hasn’t made a contribution from mixing punk and drum machines with Enemy Soil through bringing the rock to the grind with Drugs of Faith. In between you can find him shredding tonsils and morals with Agoraphobic Nosebleed. From his earliest noise assaults, Johnson has grown as a master musical craftsman who knows a great hook is the backbone to a quality tune.

5. Eduardo Borja (Maruta)
Maruta’s guitar tone is infinitely recognizable – Eduarda Borja’s slouching, slurring scrape is completely unique among their grind-violence peers. That tone is pressed into service lugging along some of the sickest modern grind misery. That tone has so much definition and physical presence that In Narcosis was one of the heaviest albums not to feature a bass.

6. Papirmollen (Parlamentarisk Sodomi/PSUDOKU)
Norwegian nihilist Papirmollen could have easily taken a run for the top of The Punks for his crusted, crepuscular work with Parlamentarist Sodomi. But anyone who astral projected to the sonic acid trip that is PSUDOKU knows that would be selling his oeuvre far too short. It turns out he’s not only punk as all fuck but no slouch with thinking outside the usual four musical dimensions. The one man musical menagerie is responsible for several of the best albums of the last several years, regardless of his chosen musical identity. I predict now we’ll be discussing them for several more years to come.

7. Pingdum (Total Fucking Destruction)
Only the most psychically unmoored of guitarists could keep up with Rich Hoak’s grindfreak railroad side project Total Fucking Destruction. In Pingdum, Hoak has found a musical foil whose guitar strings come in a chromatic spectrum of neon jazz, fit to flesh out TFD’s purpled grind haze.

8. Kapo (Swarrrrm)
Alright, Perpetual Strife, you got your wish. Kapo's in. Now you've got to convince everyone else. Here's his pitch:
"There is not a single grindcore band I know of that's as emotionally complex, musically varied, and openly influenced as Swarrrm. Kapo's guitar work is central to the band's unique style because of his seamless marriage not only in styles, but songsmanship as rarely does anything in their whole discography feel out of place or sound bad."
Ryan Page moves to The Technicians as a result. Poor Karel is out on his ass.

The Punks
Any good hockey sniper will tell you he wouldn't be able to do his job without a big bruising body out there making space. The punks don't play the prettiest game, but they leave bodies flying in their wake.

1. Steve Burda/ShaneMcLachlan [If you think McLachlan is getting shorted, he's in too] (Phobia)
The be-dreadlocked Steve Burda is the embodiment of punked out grind guitar. And anchoring Phobia with constant companion Shane McLachlan for 20 years through all the band's ups, downs and constant lineup turmoil has cemented his status as a grind lifer. Simple and to the point, his riffs are prototypical grind. Nobody's done it better for quite so long.

2. Steve Heritage (Assück)
Assück were always a rough and tumble sounding affair and Steve Heritage was a defining characteristic of the band's gnarly, grizzled sound. He chunked and chopped his way through two crucial albums and a handful of splits that defined early American grind. Heritage was one of the progenitors of that thick, chunky riffing that typified early '90s blasters.

3. Chris Richardson (Kill the Client)
Don't fucking mess with Texas. Or Kill the Client, who have built up an impeccable curriculum vitae riding Chris Richardson's consistently strong guitar performance. A little Terrorizer, a little Brutal Truth; Richardson is all grind.

4. Mika Aalto (Rotten Sound)
Equally adept at channeling pure grind and crust punk Mika Aalto (aka Q) has built a career out of to the point blasts of railgun shrapnel with Finnish grind institution Rotten Sound (your second favorite band the last time we did this). How do you say "punk as fuck" in Finnish?

5. Rasyid (Wormrot)
The superlatives start to pile up fast whenever Wormrot's name enter the conversation and Rasyid's ridiculously adept way with an unforgettable riff is one of the chief components of the Singaporean band's remarkable success. With two confident albums under his belt, Rasyid's no frills assault is quickly climbing the staircase to the grind throne.

[New addition] 6. Beau (Insect Warfare)
HeroinJesus caught me. Leaving out Insect Warfare's Beau was a pretty big oversight on my part. It's impossible to tell the tale of modern grind's evolution without at least namechecking the shortlived but extremely influential Texans. Beau's frenzied playing was a huge driver to that band's success. Beau helped bring the punk back to grind. He was pinpoint sharp, twisting like a knife in your guts. Sorry Jerry Flores, but somebody had to get cut.

6. 7. Shinji (324)
Another band that's not content to abandon crust wholly in favor of grind, 324's Shinji busts out tune after tune that can just as easily support a blastbeat as it does a gang chorus. The Japanese "darkness grinders" never take a detour when a direct riff will get them where they want to go, which is usually upside your head.

7. 8. Marissa Martinez (Cretin)
What may get lost in all the hullaboo about Marissa (nee Dan) Martinez's protean genitalia, is the fact that the chick rips out the best Repulsion songs the Michigan band just never got around to penning. Erring on the thrashy side of grind, Martinez's riffs build off of a chlamydia-cathy simplicity that lodges her Tod Browning-core praise of all things twisted and bizarre.

8. Jerry Flores (Excruciating Terror/Bloody Phoenix)
Another lifer who just keeps grinding along with no end in sight, Jerry Flores and Excruciating Terror were part of that early Los Angeles grind scene that also gave us Terrorizer. When that band imploded, he took his signature punk-on-speed riffs to his next band Bloody Phoenix, picking up right where he left off: simple, direct, devastating.

The Technicians
The geeks of grind, these guys are the ones who dazzle us with higher level mathematics workouts in guitar form. Why use one riff when 12 will do? Why play at human speeds when you can force everyone around you to keep pace with your V-8 powered metronome?

1. Takafumi Matsubara (Mortalized/GridLink/Haiyano Daisuki)
Regardless of which band he's anchoring, Takafumi Matsubara makes the impossible sound effortless as he forces every musician around him to step up their game. With one foot in the redonkulous fretboard gymnastics of Japanese speed metal, Matsubara has demolished traditional grindcore in the pursuit of something more physically and emotionally demanding.

2. Rob Marton (Discordance Axis)
Rob Marton could dazzle with his technical acumen, but he never got showy with his skills. All of the guitar pyrotechnics were bent in service of a memorable and powerful song. There are a horde of technically adept musicians, but not many of them really understand what makes music really tick. Prof. Marton has been quietly trying to educate lesser lights for years.

3. Erik Burke (Lethargy/Sulaco/Brutal Truth)
When Brutal Truth reunited in the new millennium, it was a tall order finding a guitarist outre enough to step into McCarty's place. Enter Erik Burke, an upstate New York guitarist who made his mark in the three ring grind/death/hardcore circus of Lethargy (with half of Mastadon in tow) before moving on to the technically demanding Sulaco. So yeah, hopping into Brutal Truth makes perfect sense.

4. Sebastian Rokicki (Antigama)
I need a calculator to balance my checkbook. Sebastian Rokicki of Polish cyborgs Antigama is sculpturing high order wave forms with six strings and an extra-dimensional imagination. Antigama never walks a straight line when they could be slingshotting their way around the sun and back again. Rokicki is the twisty, slippery ringmaster of their outer space excursions.

5. Chris Arp (Psyopus)
I’m pretty sure “Chris Arp” is actually the code name for some DARPA-funded experiment in super powered computer processing transmitting data through musical form. Though commercially less palatable, his original plan to name his band Stranglefuck was probably a more accurate summation of the sliderule-core he's been churning out. This is the soundtrack to all of those non-Euclidean dimensions H.P. Lovecraft kept warning you about.

6. Ryan Unks/Paul Nowoczynski (Creation is Crucifixion)
A twofer this time out, but it's hard to separate the work Ryan Unks and Paul Nowoczynski jointly undertook for the still-underrated, way ahead of their time Creation is Crucifixion. The hacktivists soundtracked the rise of the digital era with circuitry-shaped riffs that rode that vanishing membrane between humanity and its tools. This is where technology and anarchy fuck.

7. Dorian Rainwater (Noisear/Kill the Client)
Shhh don't tell, but I'm pretty sure Noisear guitarist Dorian Rainwater is Erik Burke's genetic clone or possibly a long lost child. Like the New Yorker, Rainwater is a carnival sideshow in audio form, giving musical voice to all the bearded ladies and crocodile boys who never got their due. He never seems more comfortable than tumbling from the heights of the big top, operating without a musical net.

8. Karel (Cerebral Turbulency)
The T-1000 of Czech grind, Karel and Cerebral Turbulency assimilated every musical innovation that came along: industrial, technical death and freaky experimentation and welded them to a chassis of brutish grind. Somehow Karel always made it work even though every Cerebral Turbulency album sounded different from its predecessors. This is the soundtrack to Sarah Connor's nightmares.

8. Ryan Page (Body Hammer/Robocop)
Ryan Page is probably my favorite guitarist (and electric toothbrush-ionist) of the young crop of up and comers. As though combining a love for horror movie soundtracks and grindcore nihilism in the electronic nightmares of Body Hammer were not enough, Page also kicked power violence into the 21st Century with Robocop. Where his contemporaries in the power violence revival are largely content to recycle their forefathers, Page has found a new musical lexicon steeped in horror, information overload and violent body/machinery interactions.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: Descendants

It's not too many bands that can boast having both a Phd biochemist and Black Flag's drummer among their alumni. The Descendants were one of the greatest '80s punk bands simply because they didn't pretend to adhere to lame punk cliches. With a motto of "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll minus the sex and drugs," the Descendants bust out immaculate songs about suburban angst and confusion, impending college, life choices, and, of course, girl problems. If you don't think "Clean Sheets" is one of the greatest pop tunes ever penned, you have problems. It's either that or "Sour Grapes."