Thursday, May 31, 2012

G&P Review: Napalm Death (Post #666!)

We walked along Beaufort Avenue to the centre of the estate. The herb gardens, the cheerful children's rooms filled with sensible toys, the sounds of teenagers at violin practice, were given an odd spin by the notion of imminent revolt. Most revolutionaries in the last century had aspired to exactly this level of affluence and leisure, and it occurred to me that I was seeing the emergence of a higher kind of boredom.

J.G. Ballard
Millennium People

The suburbs dream of violence. Asleep in their drowsy villas, sheltered by benevolent shopping malls, they wait patiently for the nightmares that will wake them into a more passionate world...

J.G. Ballard
Kingdom Come

Napalm Death
Century Media
When it came time for Napalm Death to record their fourteenth album, Utilitarian, apparently not a single fuck was given the day they hit the studio. After 20 years together, the current lineup has enough confidence in their grind-inflected death metal to fully indulge every musical digression that came to mind. The result, surprisingly, is their strongest album since Smear Campaign, and possibly of their post-Earache oeuvre.
From the Swans churn of opener "Circumspect," the Dimension Hatröss vocals of "The Wolf I Feed" and the saxual assault of Everyday Pox," courtesy of avant-jazz nutbar John Zorn, Napalm Death spread their musical wings further than ever. But between all of that, they've set to tape the most concise and focused death-grind tracks of their last decade. The rollicking "Collision Course," a fulminating ball of spite, is destined to be a live set standard and the 65 seconds of "Nom de Guerre" is the most pointed we've heard these Birmingham bangers have been since Lee Dorrian decided to trip back into the '70s.
Utilitarian finds Napalm Death sounding punchier than they've been in years. There's a jaunty spring to the quartet's step you wouldn't expect from a bunch of middle aged guys who still cling to death metal so tenaciously. Particularly reinvigorated is Danny Herrera whose thumping is somewhat shortchanged by a production job that stifles the snare drum, but the toms shudder with brain-rattling force. Over top him, Mitch Harris has never sounded so catchy as he bangs out one great crust-inflected riff after another. Mark "Barney" Greenway's phlegmy roar is augmented and counterpointed by new screams courtesy of his bandmates. However, Napalm Death's recent fondness for chanting gets way overused on Utilitarian in one of the few false steps.
Even if Utilitarian violates the 30 minutes or less rule, Napalm Death do their best to earn every extra second of their 48 minute runtime with an renewed intensity that makes me think they might have another 20 years in them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gamefaced, Come On Down!

Having been chosen by a jury of your peers (Ok, Perpetual Strife nominated you and the other assholes couldn't come to a consensus [Seriously, three commenters, four nominations. That's not how consensus works, people.]), Gamefaced, you are the winner of the Great Wake Giveaway. To say thanks to you for your consistent streak of great comments over the years, I'd like to present you with a copy of Wake's Leeches for your enjoyment (I'm sorry it's not like a brand new Insect Warfare album that the secretly reunited band recorded on the sly that nobody has heard yet).
Please send me an email (available under my profile) and I'll make arrangements to get it into your hands.
Just remember, this is for YOU. It is not for Orfee. Tell him to get his own. *Rolls up newspaper* Orfee, put it down! Bad Orfee!

Monday, May 28, 2012

G&P Review: Priapus/Old Painless

Priapus/Old Painless
Proving last year's best demo was no fluke, Priapus come rising out of the muck like an avenging Swamp Thing with three more songs of their pig grunt grinding and North Carolina's Old Painless in tow.
Priapus' side is three more songs steeped in gastric acids, a roiling nausea of gut-burning bile and stale vomit aftertaste that finds the band taking another run at Maruta's vacant throne.
Priapus don't go easy on newcomers either. There's nothing as familiar or reassuring as a build up or introduction to lead off track "$12.50," a double kicked stampede of moshing beef and bad attitude screaming that gets right up in your face from the get-go. There's no reprieve waiting in "Tongue Splitter" or "A List of Unwitting Assholes" either, though the latter rope-a-dopes you with a mid-EP, mid-song, mid-tempo riff that lets you suck down half a breath before jacking you in the chicklets.
Flip side, like uni, Old Painless is an acquired taste. It's the singer, who must have a charred bit of gristle where the rest of us have vocal chords, who may take some adjustment. At one point I expected him to start screeching about my mother's predilection for fellating demons in hell. But once that hurdle is crossed, it's hard not to be enchanted by Old Painless' lawnmower guitars and grave robbing ghoul bass. The songs are a holocaust of pop culture diatribes suffocating under waves of screeching noise and the psychotic exhortations of a mad man on a day pass from the local psychiatric hospital.
Old Painless' angular, loose jointed songs are pretty much the diametric opposite of Priapus: loose rather than locktight, scattered rather than driven. It makes a great contrast from one side to the next. The one time Old Painless step too far off their short and sweet reservation, closer "Designer Trashbags," an anti-Kardashian/Hilton set rant, stretches out too long for the song's modest ambitions.

[Full disclosure: Priapus sent me a review copy of the 7-inch.]

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: Sex Pistols

I wore out my cassette copy of Never Mind the Bollocks eons ago and for whatever retarded reason, I never bothered to get a replacement. Somehow in the intervening years I became something of a Sex Pistols denialist, largely because I hate everything about Sid Vicious. However, I am a fucking idiot. I recently watched a documentary about the recording of Bollocks, and while I still fucking hate what Sid Vicious did to punk, yes, it's a fucking classic record. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go order another copy of the album.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Namesake Series: "Mass Hypnosis"

You are NOT getting sleepy. For all the talk about "Mass Hypnosis," there's just no way you can nod off when Nasum and Sepultura, both in their prime, start screaming at you for attention. Thrashin' and grindin' and hypnotisin' your ass with the power of the almighty hooky riff. Two different bands, two different eras, two differing genres, one common objective: your undivided attention. Mass hypnosis!

Monday, May 21, 2012

G&P Review: Dephosphorus/Wake

7 Degrees
Wake and Dephosphorus are like grindcore Diet Coke and Mentos on this excellent split, featuring three songs from each. The unexpectedly volcanic pairing pushed the Canadian and Greek bands to excel, friendly competition bringing out the finest in both for the best split you're likely to hear all year.
Dephosphorus' three new songs are less spacey than their Axiom material. Instead, the Greek trio comes with a handful of more concise and single-mindedly aggressive songs. However, "The Cosmologist" retains some of the wormholed, time sliding twistiness of old. If they can marry this newfound intensity to Axiom's ethereal nature, Night Sky Transform will easily be 2012's most unbeatable album.
Panos Agoros' vocals and Thanos Mantas' guitar shred are both outstanding once again, but the biggest quantum leap forward comes from drummer Nikos Megariotis, whose snare work, in particular, is much improved and propels the songs with a newfound urgency. The blasting passages of "The Final Computronium" are things of beauty on par with a grindcore Parthenon. While the drumming on Axiom was competent, this split finds Megariotis driving and defining the songs in ways he never has before.
For their part, Canada's Wake continue their tradition of snapping up great producers. They roped Scott Hull behind the boards for last year's Leeches, but this outing they enlisted the knob twiddling efforts of Colin Marston. For all that star power though, Wake's half of the split sounds squashed and muddy, particularly in comparison to Dephosphorus. But it's far from fatal. While I would have preferred more definition, I can't deny that "Veil of Odin" is probably the finest, most dynamic song they've ever penned. The opening frame lopes forward like a wolfpack catching the scent of a bleeding deer, just a heedless, headlong rush. Sliding toward the end, the song downshifts into a midtempo jam, giving everything space to breathe. The interplay between the pounding toms and churning bass upheaval, garlanded by single guitar note feedback, might be Wake's finest moment.
Like there was ever any doubt, 7 Degrees has paired their two finest artists for a teaser platter, playing them off of each other in a way that shows off both Wake and Dephosphorus' finest attributes and set them up with a package to best show off their quality. These are two great bands that deserve all the accolades they've earned.

[Full disclosure: 7 Degrees sent me a review copy.]

The Great Wake Giveaway

Thanks to the generosity of Wake and their label 7 Degrees, I have been graced with an extra copy of Leeches, one of the best albums of 2011 (regardless of what Decibel's insane, out of touch grindcore columnist may say otherwise).
So that means one of you lucky ducks could add this quality bit of Canadian grind/violence vinyl to your collection. In the spirit of giving back to all of you who make blogging so much fun, I'm asking you to name the most valuable commenter here. Whose thoughts do you think bring the most insight to the joint? It can be one of the regulars or it could be a one timer who delurked long enough to say something that you found really insightful. If we can reach some sort of consensus (or if I find your argument particularly insightful) that nominee will win all the marbles.
You've got until Sunday to make your case in the comment section. May the best commenter win, and thanks to Wake/7 Degrees and thanks to all of you.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Grind Part, Slayer Part, Garbage to the End: "Pattern Blue"

Another Discordance Axis tune that draws heavily from the Evangelion mythos, "Pattern Blue" is a swirling, mid-album pivot that swings wildly between moments of restraint and chaotic shards of flaying glass. It's a song that plays with tempo, pitting the musicians off of Chang's implacable screaming. Regardless of the band's bpm, he just keep wailing away at a constant, single minded pace.
Protip: when the pattern turns blue, you know you've got an angel present.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

G&P Review: Burn Everything

Burn Everything
Last Run Through the Ruins and Hollow Victory
Bandcamp/Dullest Records
Burn Everything are proof that a first class singer can really elevate a band, maximizing its potential on these two EPs. In the case of this Rochester metallic hardcore crew (comprised of ex-members of Fallguy), the screamer carries this band on his back, willing them to greater heights of hardcore with cries that erupt from straight from the lower intestine on songs like "Directed by David Lynch." This is confrontational, confessional purgatives in the vein of any band featuring Tim Singer (and that Burn Everything's singer sounds a lot like Mr. Singer is the highest honor I can bestow). The backing band even sounds a tad like Deadguy to me.
Not that they're musical slouches, but Burn Everything realize what they have standing at the mic and they fashion their instruments into a platform to display his spleen. The production gets the whole ensemble up in your grill, letting you feel the spittle flying and sense the fading twang of the strings. While a lot of what's at offering here will be familiar with anyone who's put on a random hardcore record from any time in the last 20 years, Burn Everything will themselves to a higher level of performance; they clearly mean this with every fiber of their slashing pick hands and every rattle of rubbed raw vocal chords.
While the vocals are a clear standout, Last Run Through the Ruins gives the band the space to shine on "Crumbling Monolith," a largely instrumental ditty with a cinematic tracking shot sweep overtopped by wordless female vocals. The song could be swapped in for the Toto score to Lynch's Dune for a climactic fight scene and it would only make it better.
There are a lot of hardcore bands but very few rise to the excellence of Burn Everything; this is a band that is simply doing all the little things right.

[Full disclosure: the band sent me downloads for their EPs.]

Monday, May 14, 2012

G&P Review: Hiroshima Vacation

Hiroshima Vacation
Hiroshima Vacation
While Fukushima Holiday would have been far more topical, I'm not going to fault Hiroshima Vacation for their name because the Ithaca, New York, two piece (featuring VII of Built to Blast/Operation Grindcore) has a particularly scruffy charm to their eight songs and an intro of loose jointed grinding. You could probably slot this fairly comfortably somewhere next to Vulgar Pigeons or possibly Benumb.
Hiroshima Vacation, who have a fondness for punctuating their blastbeats with swampwater sludge power violence passages, smartly keep things concise, about a minute on average. When they do wander a tad bit long, all 109 seconds of "Inevitable Commute," things drag, particularly a muddled down tempo middle section that flounders the song before the grinding kicks back in at full force. But that's a rare blackeye on the EP because Hiroshima Vacation do know how to weave together the fast and the slow into a coherent whole as witnessed by the very next song, "Saviours Anonymous." In a whole 75 seconds that song races like Speedy Gonzales on a crystal meth holiday before sliding organically into a cough syrup downer closeout that's spiky and snarled like the best of Grief or 16.
Overall, the sound is appropriately rough and ragged, emphasizing the raw throat screaming and overdriven guitar shrieking. Hiroshima Vacation, who also have a split with Standing on a Floor of Bodies, don't include lyrics so I have no clue why they want to "Fuck the Bad Brains" at the end, but overall this is a pretty tidy EP.

[Full disclosure: Hiroshima Vacation sent me a download.]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: Dead Kennedys

Many, many moons ago, I set out for college with a different Dead Kennedys shirt for every day of the week. So yeah, this band is kinda important to me. The DKs were a crucial link in my musical growth, my quest to find music that hit hard and had some intelligence behind it. And while Jello's lyrics are very pinpoint and hit on a host of '80s villains by name, the overarching themes of questioning authority, fear of governmental overreach and trying to keep the punk scene honest and relevant are just as applicable 30 years later.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Grind Part, Slayer Part, Garbage to the End: "The End of Rebirth"

One of the factors that set Discordance Axis apart from their peers was Rob Marton's ability to crap out immaculate riffs pretty much on command. The Inalienable Dreamless was choc-a-bloc with riffs that permanently imprint themselves on your cerebral cortex (hello, "Jigsaw"). One of the most infectious outings on an album full of them was the sliding, slashing assault of "The End of Rebirth."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Blast(beat) from the Past: SMG/Carcass Grinder

SMG/Carcass Grinder
Split Tape
Mieszko Talarczyk was not only Nasum's soul and principle songwriter, but he was also a studio wizard whose work drastically advanced the sonic form of grindcore, introducing bigger, punchier sounds. Talarczyk's studio work bolstered not only his band's sound, but gave full life to albums by Rotten Sound, Disfear and Expose Your Hate.
That's all well and good, but sometimes the shitty, tinny, punky sounding albums scratch that grinding itch better than the most pristine, big budget record. That's where albums like this 2010 split between Japan's Carcass Grinder and SMG from Malaysia come in. Each side of this cassette sounds like the bands skipped fineries like tuning and checking sound levels. Instead they set up in a big room in a cut rate studio, plugged in and just banged their shit the fuck out.
Carcass Grinder's side is so raw you can hear the amp humming in the background when the instruments cut out. It's a great trick because the guitar, itself, is completely buried under an avalanche of blown out, pounding snare and face first screaming. But it really works against the head-nodding thrash attack of "NFCB" or the Napalm Death-snarking "CG of Power," which may be the best song of the lot, is a staggering cheap shot straight to the jaw that leaves loose teeth and pooling blood in its too brief wake.
SMG are still raw as skinned knees after a skateboard wipeout, but their attack is more balanced. Each instrument stakes out its own space in the tornadic swirl of noise. When I start up a new blog in my next life, I'm totally stealing "Speed Shit Sayonara" for the name. It's just a bonus that it's actually a pretty kickass little song that entropically collapses in on itself in a wash of yowling guitar feedback, slamming shut the door on the album.
There are big name metal bands who probably spent more on catering than these two spend recording the whole album, but I doubt they achieved half the spontaneity and energy to be had here.

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

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Banger's Embrace

Consider this the spiritual flipside to my Punk'd post. While it's hardly remarkable for grind and metal bands to cover punk songs, there's not much traffic the other direction. However, it has been known to happen. And punk bands really have a fondness for Judas Priest for some reason. Here's four examples of punks who harbor secret feelings for the heshers.

A Venom Well Designed

Anyone surprised by Propagandhi's increasingly metallic bent since John K. Samson split for the Weakerthans either wasn't paying close enough attention to Chris Hannah's double picked riffing on the first two albums or is unfamiliar with Todd "the Rod" Kowalski's history in short lived grind band Swallowing Shit and seminal (heh) Manitoba punkers I Spy. The band telegraphed their love of '80s metal on the early efforts collection Where Quantity is Job #1 with a straight faced version of Venom's "Stand Up and Be Counted."

Sabbat, Weird Ass Sabbat

And just for good measure Propagandhi snuck a cover of Black Widow's 1969 psych-metal oddball "Come to the Sabbat" on to the end of Supporting Caste as a secret bonus track. That's just plain fuckin' weird.


I barely blinked when New Jersey punks Buzzkill covered Adrenaline Overdose's "Rock 'n' Roll Gas Station" on 1996 debut Up. I mean, sure why not? But I wasn't really prepared for an is-it-serious-or-is-it-ironic cover of Judas Priest's "Hell Bent for Leather." Not quite the same without the twin guitars, but an admirable effort nonetheless.

Breaking the ... Terms of Copyright Law

Finally, Meet the Virus, which formed out of the rubble of Naked Aggression, hid a cover of Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law" as a bonus track on their self-titled debut album. Jump to the 4:20 mark for Priestly goodness. It's an unexpected outing from a band whose members exemplified mid-90s gutter punk aesthetic.

Also, I need to say a quick public thanks to Albert from Know Records. That's the label that put out the Meet the Virus album. SoundCloud had originally blocked my attempt to upload the song because it said I was violating his copyright. I contacted Albert and with his kind permission I was able to get the song uploaded. Thanks to him for being very cool.

And Another Thing

Hopefully you're not totally Propagandhi-ed out at this point. "With Friends Like These Who the Fuck Needs Cointelpro?" isn't a true metal cover, but pay close attention to the 1:36 mark where Chris Hannah screams "You've got another thing coming." With all the metal influences Propgandhi's already shown, try and tell me that's not a deliberate Judas Priest reference.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: The Stooges

Punk rock pretty much begins with the Stooges (them and the Sonics). And while Iggy may have become something of a geriatric joke in the last several decades, what he created with the Stooges was something powerful and enduring. Bits of everything that would become punk can be found here -- and more, like weird jazz interludes. But the Stooges never lost sight of the importance of a simple, powerful song structure. With their big brother band the MC5, the Stooges proved Detroit rock was way more than lame Bob Seger and Ted Nugent.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Grind Part, Slayer Part, Garbage to the End: "Radiant Arkham"

Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is the best Batman story ever written. Sorry, this is not open to debate. Don't come at me with Year One, The Long Halloween or Knightfall, fine tales though they may all be. Morrison's symbolic, psychologically rich tale is the deepest Batman story ever penned and it was an obvious influence on the excellent Arkham Asylum game. Morrison's Arkham is almost ... radiant. Meanwhile, here's a serious song on serious Earth.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

G&P Review: Brain Famine

Brain Famine
The Brain Famine EP
There was a lot to hate about the '80s for anyone unfortunate enough to remember that fell decade: the shoulder pads, Ronald Reagan, the Cola Wars. But putting on Brain Famine's six song EP reminds me that not all of the era is in desperate need of a good Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style purge. The Brain Famine EP is a party thrash love letter to an era of flip-brimmed hats, board shorts, skateboards and moshes worthy of being all caught up in.
This Weymouth, Mass., duo, featuring ex-members of Kevorkian's Angels, Today is the Day and Anal Cunt, hit all the classic thrash elements from chugging pit-stirrers to more languid jams filigreed with twisting sinuous leads. Everything is kept crispy and crunchy by a nice, sharp production job.
In a nod to modernity, they pair their thrash with more contemporary grunts'n'growls, but on balance, The Brain Famine EP will feel very familiar. In this instance familiarity doesn't breed contempt, but it doesn't engender any overwhelming excitement either. This brand of retro thrash is getting to be a crowded market and it takes a lot to mark your turf. Outside of a couple of standout tunes like "Die Off" or "Citizen Solution" (the strongest of the lot with its lightning strike guitars), a lot of the EP just evaporates the minute it is over. Instead, the band's choice selection of samples leaves more of an impression. If Brain Famine had a more barreling sense of reckless abandon like contemporaries Spewtilator, the EP would probably have more lasting power. But it won't be a waste of 22 minutes to give it a listen.

[Full disclosure: Brain Famine sent me a download.]