Monday, July 30, 2012

How Low Can a Punk Get?

Have you ever had this experience? You're rocking out to a killer punk song and then you start to catch the lyrics and you shudder because they're full of the most ignorant garbage imaginable. Suddenly, what was once a great musical moment becomes tainted.
My first experience with punk was finding a group of open minded people who were inclusive and cool. That's colored my expectation of what punk should be my whole life. So it disturbs me when otherwise intelligent bands writing songs that seem primed to insult large chunks of their audience. I've mentioned before I'm the kind of person who has a hard time separating my music and my politics, especially when the lyrics are insulting large chunks of your audience. I have a really hard time getting back into a song once the ignorant lyrics come to light. Here's what happens when three respected bands lose their fucking minds for a minute.

Slip Up

What makes this doubly frustrating is, from a musical standpoint, "Slip it In" is a fucking great song. Black Flag never sounded better than they did on the album Slip it In and the title track is one of the best of an overwhelmingly strong lot of songs (minus "Rat's Eyes" ewww). The band was tight and taking stolid, stale punk into new and incredibly exciting places. However, it starts with one of the most ignorant songs ever penned by a revered punk band with "Slip it In." Black Flag is better than this.
The sexual politics of this one are particularly noxious. Just because she says she "don't want it," that doesn't mean you can't fuck her any way, amirite guys? Even though the young lady in question tells us she "kinda [has] a boyfriend" and Hank opines she's "had too much to drink," he still fucks her. Ladies and gentlemen, that's called rape. And even though our narrator is whining and cajoling the girl to have sex with him, he still accuses her of being "loose" and a "whore." The rancid cherry on top of the shit sundae is the pathetically sexualized video that trades in just about every obnoxious jailbait stereotype you can name. If it's meant to be satire, it's failing spectacularly.
And I can already here the excuses: blah blah blah Kira Roessler played bass (and she kicked ass) blah blah blah a woman helped sing the song blah blah blah they tackled the obnoxiousness of the aggressive male libido next album with "Loose Nut." Doesn't change anything for me. It still comes off as obnoxious slut shaming and Black Flag should be better than that.
Mount up? More like fuck off.

White Whine

As far as I'm concerned, those preachy, self righteous fucks in Minor Threat have exactly one good song and that's "Filler." Maybe they would have had more if they hadn't spent the otherwise rocking "Guilty of Being White" spewing self-pitying whiny garbage. Oh noes! A minority was unjustifiably mean to me. My hurt feelings are just as bad as 500 years of slavery and systematic cultural oppression. Oh wait, no they're not.
I got news for you, cupcake, some members of minority groups can be assholes. That's not because they're minorities. It's because they're assholes. That doesn't excuse them being a dick, but, dude, let it fucking go. So even if some random black person tried to make you feel bad for being white and unfairly accused you of being complicit in slavery, their assholism doesn't mean to you doesn't mean you get to run around shouting "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" Because, at the end of the day, you're still going through life on the lowest difficulty setting.
To be honest, I've never been quite fucking sure what exactly Black Flag was trying to get at with "White Minority," even after hours staring at the lyric sheet. If it's satire, it's not coming through and let's all agree that any song that screams "white pride" during the chorus without any palpable sense of sarcasm or irony is open to bad interpretations.

Blow Me Down

Speaking of minorities who stand convicted of assholism:
Bad Brains seemed to have scrubbed all the videos of the infamous "Don't Blow No Bubbles" from the internet, so take a moment, if you will, to peruse frontman H.R.'s less than enlightened thoughts on the '80s AIDS crisis and homosexuality. Let's just say he briefly lost his PMA.

Don't blow no bubbles
Don't blow no troubles

In time before there was no cure
Now through his will it's healed for sure
It's not the weather, we've got P.M.A.

We know you can do anything
And no thought withheld from thee
So here I beseech thee
To always request and declare

Don't blow no bubbles
Don't blow no troubles
There's got to be a better way
Don't blow no spikes
Ask Jah and he'll make the change

We know you can do anything
And no thought withheld from thee
So here I beseech thee
To always request and declare

We know you can do anything
And no thought withheld from thee
So here I beseech thee
To always request and declare

Don't blow no bubbles (and we can stop the AIDS)
Don't blow no spikes
Don't blow no fudge buns
Ask Jah and he'll make the change

We know you can do anything
And no thought withheld from thee
So here I and I said to thee
To always request and declare
As you can imagine, that didn't go over so well with gay-positive contemporaries like MDC, the Big Boys and the Dicks and caused a huge rift between those bands. It's a real shame because, like "Slip It In," it's, musically, a very interesting song. With the album Quickness the Bad Brains were getting more metallic and experimental. They were taking their hardcore into new and more adept directions. Basically, everything Living Colour got praised for the Bad Brains did better. It's just a shame they wedded that open minded musicality to some of the most bigoted ignorance spewed this side of a Nazi skins show.
However, the band has grown since then and bassist Darryl Jennifer copped to his bigotry and apologized in a recent interview [thanks, Bill, for the heads up on this one]:
" You’ve got to understand that I’m a young man growing, getting into something. Now I’m 46 years old and I’ve learned that that’s ignorant. I’ve learned through the years that we’re all God’s children, regardless of your race, creed, color, sexuality, any of that."

Friday, July 27, 2012

G&P Review: Noisebazooka (With Bonus D.E.R. Goodness)

Humped World
Everyday Hate

Humped World sucks.
I'm sorry. There's just no nice way to say that. I can't really tiptoe around it. It's an excruciatingly bad album. I listened to it for weeks trying to find some redeeming quality to mitigate the crap aftertaste, but the tragic truth is Noisebazooka have created an album that is awful in just about every way a record can suck.
Humped World is less a bazooka of noise than it is grindcore vuvuzela: insistent, unrelenting and increasingly strident the longer it drags out. The Austrian twopiece's first mistake is shoving the generic and monotonous drum machine so far to the front of the mix. It smothers everything else going on with the album in a dense droning of unchanging mechanical beats. When you think about the insane effort and detail somebody like Scott Hull puts into his robotic drumming, it's almost insulting to hear something this amateurish. I don't know if drum machines come with a grindcore pre-set, but that's what Humped World sounds like. It's the most boring mechanical blastbeats churned out with at high velocity and with minimal variety.
The monotony of the drumming and the boring (if largely unintelligible) riffs and dull screaming only get more irritating as the 43 minute runtime just creeps on by. This album is just Way. Too. Fucking. Long. Maybe if they'd kept themselves to a five minute EP, Noisebazooka might have been tolerable but completely forgettable. But at 32 songs, each boring moment and musical mishap gets magnified as they are repeated and dragged out and proven to be intentional. Amateurishness can sometimes lend a wonderful, juvenile spontaneity to music, but more often than not amateurishness is just disappointing and embarrassing for everyone involved.
By the time Humped World farts itself out with 10 minutes of burbling noise nonsense (and you already know how I feel about that) in the shape of "Winterlandscapes," I've lost my capacity for outrage and disappointment.

Quando A Esperanca Desaba
Everyday Hate

Just so we don't end on an entirely negative note, Everyday Hate have also reissued D.E.R.'s Quando A Esperanca Desaba on CD for those of you missed out on Nerve Altar's very sweet vinyl version from a couple years ago. My opinion of this one hasn't changed in the slightest.
This Brazilian band is not breaking any new ground in the realm of speedy, traditional grind that obviously nods back to From Enslavement to Obliteration. However, taken on its own terms, Quando A Esperanca Desaba is a hell of a lot of fun.
Skip Noisebazooka and check this one out instead.

[Full disclosure: Everyday Hate sent me review copies.]

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

G&P Review: Sakatat

Bir Devrin Sonu
Everyday Hate

I blame GridLink for this proliferating notion that you can fob off less than 10 minutes of music on people as a full length album. Goddammit, Chang, how many more lives must you ruin? This is why we can't have nice things.
But setting aside for the nonce semantic arguments about the definition of a full length, Sakatat present you with probably the finest eight minutes of straight up, ripping grindcore you're likely to hear this year on debut *ahem* full length Bir Devrin Sonu. While they don't overstay their welcome, Sakatat just do all the little things right. They don't let their blasting obscure that the band is bringing genuine riffs to the table, like the latest iteration of "Adim Adim Enerki" (previously heard on their 2010 split with Dispepsiaa). Easily the finest song in the band's repertoire to date, it skips a tripping beat over an insistent, prowling guitar riff. Even when they end on the (relatively) slow song ("relatively slow" here means punk tempo) "Tahammul Etmek Kabul Etmek Demek," they still keep it to a tight two minutes that keeps its central riff piquant by surfing it over roiling waves of busy drumming.
The entire Bir Devrin Sonu experience is an exhilarating cannonball and careens ahead without a glance to the right or left for eight straight minutes. Don't expect to be surprised, but expect to thoroughly entertained. No experimentation, but no bullshit either. The best comparison to Bir Devrin Sonu is probably Wormrot's Dirge. In both cases the bands bust out simple albums that have a fun core, feel good grind that doesn't skimp on memorable riffs and an infectious energy.

[Full disclosure: Everyday Hate sent me a review copy.]

Monday, July 23, 2012

G&P Review: thedowngoing


We always boast about grind being wild and unpredictable music that thrives on chaos on spontaneity. But the shameful truth is grindcore is a highly formalized, very rigid--practically formulaic--music style. Too often grind albums fall into that comfortable lull of the familiar and predictable. Beats get blasted, larynx are stress tested and old punk riffs get sped up. You know what you're getting into in advance and plenty of bands are not ashamed to give you exactly what you expect.
And then there's thedowngoing.
The Australian duo have earned every worn out cliche like "brutal" and "overwhelming" and "unrelenting" that get far too casually tossed out by lazy ass reviewers (myself included). For their third album, ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS, thedowngoing give lie to all of grindcore's posturing with a record that genuinely embodies the notions of chaos, aural violence and a predatory unpredictability. ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS continues thedowngoing's single-minded pogrom against safety, sterility and comfort in grindcore with a noisy, frighteningly raw sound of incoherent screaming and musical instruments wielded as weapons.
The Australian dervishes may be a tad less frenzied than on their self-titled album, but that still puts them square in the center of the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep's domain. In 10 minutes (and even a single minute more would be overwhelming), thedowngoing put to shame most of their contemporaries and plenty of their forerunners with a continuous battery of sonic abrasions. When they do give you a five second breather between penultimate song "snakecharmer" and farewell "aching," it's just further cruelty, giving the victim long enough to process and prepare for the next torture.
ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS forced me to really rethink what I say about albums and how I describe them to others. It's easy to break out my well thumbed thesaurus of metal-appropriate terms, but very few bands earn adjectives like "brutal" and "violent" and "unrelenting" the way this band does. There are only a handful of bands working right now that deserve to be mentioned in conjunction with that thedowngoing are bringing to the table.

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

G&P Review: Afgrund

The Age of Dumb

Let's just dispense with the most glaring issue off the top: that title. Yes, for their third album and their first primarily in English, The Age of Dumb is the best Afgrund could come up with, apparently. It's terrible; let's just acknowledge that and move on because, title aside, The Age of Dumb doesn't give you much reason to otherwise question these Swedes' judgment. Simply put this is yet another really good grind album.
The guitars this time are kissed with a touch more of that classic Swedish death sound, but otherwise it's the same propulsive grind you've come to expect from their first two outings. Afgrund hurtle bodily forward, never stopping to catch a breath and (mercifully) not indulging in the halfassed stoner doom excursions that gummed up the middle of Vid Helvetets Grindar. "Repaint the Truth," in particular, is a nice example of the Swedish grind arts, a wound up run through a minefield of blastbeats and razor wire screaming.
At this point in their career, Afgrund have very comfortably mastered their style and sound, and that may be one niggling complaint about The Age of Dumb. Afgrund have not advanced so much as refined their sound over three albums. What you hear with them is pretty much what you get. But I think they're capable of more. Afgrund have given us a series of really good albums, but I believe they are one of those bands with a truly great album lurking in them if they just push themselves. The refining is nearing its completion. The metal is pure. It's time for Afgrund to start forging lasting weapons.
In the mean time, The Age of Dumb will keep them firmly ensconced on many an end of year best of list. Even if that title is just plain dumb.

[Full disclosure: Willowtip sent me a download.]

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Leaden Stride to Nowhere: A (Not So) Brief History of Ending on a Slow Song

Grindcore is hit and run music. Its strength comes from an unrelenting campaign of musical shock and awe, dispensing with songwriting conventions like verses, choruses and all that other assorted folderol to boil tunes down to their atavistic core. And then it pummels you with a dozen songs in a row, often with no pause between to catch your breath. It's that synergistic adrenaline rush that gives the style its power.
So why do so many bands muck it all up by ending albums with drawn out slow songs? What is this inexplicable compulsion to tack on an unnecessary slow song at the end? It doesn't have to be this way. Discordance Axis made "A Leaden Stride to Nowhere" the penultimate song on masterpiece The Inalienable Dreamless, stabbing you in the earholes with the brutalizing "Drowned" as you limp off spent and bloody. Nasum probably wrote the single greatest slow song ever penned by a grind band with the poignant "The Final Sleep" on Helvete, but they recognized the power of what they had in the tune and stuck it in the middle rather than relegating it to the end.
I've mentioned bands throwing unexpected bits of musical failure at the end of albums before, but this ending on a doom song thing is so pervasive to have become a cliche. How did we get to this place, you ask? Here's a quick jog down memory lane.

Don't Fear the Reaper

Probably the first instance of the phenomenon can be traced to arguably the first ever grind album, Siege's 1984 demo Drop Dead. The length and contents have Drop Dead have shifted and grown over the years as bonus tracks have been added and deleted, but one constant remains: it always ends on the seven minute sax-laden freakout that is "Grim Reaper." The band took the training wheels of fast hardcore and set it on the path of the one true grind, but they also inadvertently established the ending on a doom song cliche as well.

Cursed to Crawl

As with any good grindcore cliche, of course Napalm Death has to factor into the script. Though they set into stone what Siege had pressed into clay, Napalm Death took their time to leave their mark on this one. In fact, the Side A Scum lineup went to the opposite extreme, closing out their half of the album with the two second bliss of "You Suffer." No, it wasn't until 1988's From Enslavement to Obliteration that Napalm Death caught the slow song bug, capping off the album with three minutes of fake Swans plod in the form of "The Curse," which served to bookend the album with slow motion starter "Evolved as One."

Another dozen albums and a whole new lineup later, Napalm Death are still pulling this trick out on occasion. In fact, for The Code is Red...Long Live the Code in 2005 Napalm Death pulled the double whammy, closing out with a pair of slow songs (and again shamelessly stealing from Swans) in the shape of "Morale" and "Our Pain is Their Power."

Semper Grind Fidelis

The stylistic tick didn't take long to embed itself in the second wave of grindcore royalty either. Brutal Truth have never had a problem mixing and matching styles and tempos, but they never really fell under the spell of the last song doom phenomenon until 2009's comeback album Evolution Through Revolution and its end piece, the decidedly non-grinding "Grind Fidelity."

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

While I keep saying Phobia's 1998 album Means of Existence is my favorite album of their extensive catalog, the longer I keep writing about it, the more I keep picking up on irritating little quirks. Like the seven minutes of stumbling doom slumber that are album finisher "Ruined." Obviously, I need to stop thinking critically about this record before I ruin it for myself. However, this does help put drummer John Haddad's later jump to doomsters Eyes of Fire into perspective.

In fact, Phobia pulled the exact same stunt three years later on follow up full length Serenity Through Pain. This time they kept last song "Sovereign" to a more concise four minutes of ambient drone and spoken word mumbling.

Go, Go Gadget

If there's a formula to Gadget albums, it would be this: slam listeners in the face with a crazy intense song off the bat and then chill it all out at the end with a slow song. It's a remarkably potent formula that's apparently served them very well because they've done it twice now. Starting with 2004's Remote, Gadget said fare thee well with the rolling bit of ambient unease that was "Tema: Skit."

They clearly thought the formula worked because they did it again at the end of 2006's The Funeral March. Once again the plodding dirge of " Tingens Föbannelse" calmed everyone out on their way out the door. Unfortunately, this one's not available on YouTube and SoundCloud won't let me upload it. So you'll just have to take my word for it on this one.

Mess With Texas

Kill the Client have a well deserved reputation as unrelenting grind maniacs, but they've also succumbed to the seductive allure of getting all down in the dumps at the end of an album. For 2005's Escalation of Hostility, the Texas chainsaw massacre crew departed from their frothing mouthed style to slow everything down like a sizzling, lethargic Texas panhandle summer on "Negative One." Interestingly, they've not gone back to that move since their first full length. The subsequent two long players have been all grind all the time instead and are probably the better for it.

Rotten to the Core

Rotten Sound are fond of shoving the longest song on the album to the end, but they usually kept it grinding. They never went for the full slow song closer until 2008's Cycles. Five albums in, that's when the Finns decided to mix the formula up a tad and get their doom and gloom on with the four minute plod that is "Trust." This is not what Rotten Sound are known for or what they really do best, but if they keep it to one album out of every five, I'll let it slide.

You Suffer...But Why?

I'm going to say it. It needs to be said. If you're in a grind band, your strength is probably in writing great grind songs. Doom is not your thing because otherwise you'd be in a doom band. Case in point, Suffering Mind's "Ostateczny Pogrzeb," which puts paid to At War With Mankind. Now Suffering Mind are an excellent grind band and you won't catch me disparaging their way with a blastbeat, but "Ostateczny Pogrzeb" finds one slow motion riff, rides it to death and then takes it out back and pokes with a stick for a couple extra minutes just to be sure. In a shorter, tighter incarnation, I wouldn't have a problem with it. However, I think as is it ultimately deflates the end of At War With Mankind a tad.

Blasphemy Made Flesh

Baltimore's Triac actually pulled off one the better slow song finales on short album Blue Room. The band's signature brew of blasting grind and scrungy power violence came to a nicely fermented hardcore head on last song "My First Blasphemy." Unlike a lot of other grind bands, Triac actually have a way with a slow song that doesn't completely negate the preceding album experience. Ending on a slow song may be a tired cliche, but I wouldn't be as irritated by it if more songs were this good.

Bloody Hell

The slow final song shows no signs of fading into grindcore history, either. Bloody Phoenix got into the act in 2010. The title track of album Death to Everyone, which opened with a rip on Neurosis, closed out with three minutes of slow rolling drums and jabbering about god being dead. Band mainstay Jerry Flores has been kicking around grindcore for 20 years, but as far as I know, this is the first time he's resorted to this particular genre trope.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

So after all that bitching, I don't want to leave you with the impression that I'm opposed to ending on a slow song entirely. In fact, quite the opposite. Done well, a good slow song at the end lets an album's ideas simmer in the brain, slowly seeping through your cortex to embed themselves in the stuff of your nightmares. Tusk very effectively pulled off that move at the end of 2004 masterwork The Tree of No Return with not one but two slow doom songs at the end. It works largely because the band's cross breeding of Pig Destroyer and Neurosis give them the musical palette to explore wider vistas and the EP's central narrative -- a man gets lost in the wilderness, goes crazy from hunger and thirst and is subsequently eaten by bears -- demands a musical arc that bends from initial grindcore panic to doom metal delirium. So Tusk left us with the twin desolation that was "Starvation Dementia" and "Ursus Arctos -- Walk the Valley." This is how you do ending on a slow song properly.

Monday, July 16, 2012

G&P Review: Robocop/Detroit

They swept her on into the ballroom, where she was seized about the waist by a handsome young man in a Harris tweed coat and waltzed round and round, through the rustling, shuffling hush, under a great unlit chandelier. Each couple on the floor danced whatever was in the fellow's head: tango, two-step, bossa nova, slop. But how long, Oedpida thought, could it go on before collisions became a serious hindrance? There would have to be collisions. The only alternative was some unthinkable order of music, many rhythms, all keys at once, a choreography in which each couple meshed easy, predestined. Something they all heard with an extra sense atrophied in herself. She followed her partner's lead, limp in the young mute's clasp, waiting for the collisions to begin. But none came. She was danced for half an hour before, by mysterious consensus , everybody took a break, without having felt any touch but the touch of her partner. Jesus Arrabal would have called it an anarchist miracle. Oedipa, with no name for it, was only demoralized. She curtsied and fled.

Thomas Pynchon
The Crying of Lot 49

Dead Language, Foreign Bodies
Grindcore Karaoke
A great split requires a synthesis of disparate musical visions, an unspoken simpatico that's difficult enough to achieve within the competing personalities of a single band, let alone multiple. But 2012 has proven to be a banner year for synergistic tag teams. Dephosphorus and Wake have already made productive musical congress and Priapus stepped out with Old Painless. Now Robocop and Detroit up the bar with one of the most balanced faceoffs you'll hear. This long awaited split finds both bands moving toward a common center. Robocop has cleaned up their sound while Detroit follow up Pusher with another handful of more impassioned songs.
The most intriguing transformation is Robocop, who have never sounded this clean and crystalline. It adds new shadings to a signature song like "Feminism Uber Alles," which gets reinterpreted as a largely instrumental tune with John Zorn-style sax wailing standing in for vocals. I think I miss the loud, violent sound of their past efforts where it sounded like the songs only held together by dint of an anarchist miracle, but nonetheless it's absolutely fascinating to hear the band through new ears. The cleaner production gives more prominence to all the subtleties at play, like the constant background hum that unsettles "Psychic Transferal." Otherwise, Robocop once again indulge in their wonted obsession with how the frighteningly permeable meat we call our bodies interface with the 21st Century.
Detroit's half meshes perfectly with their Pusher material (the song "Pusher" closes out their selections, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear these songs come from that same recording session). The guitars are reedy and needling, insistent and uncomfortable. It provides the perfect platform for the all in conviction of songs like "Day After Day," which captures and embodies the relentless march of time that must drag at and wear down the genuinely depressed. Elsewhere, the mournful, clean-toned dirge of the primarily instrumental "Into You" shows real maturity as it slides into a brief spat of distorted rage and ranting defiance.
Detroit and Robocop are not just two bands thrown together for the sake of mutual promotion. Rather, this is a great pairing of two modern power violence bands take similar routes to entirely different, but still complementary, destinations. This one is a must hear.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: MC5

Brothers and sisters, it's time to testify. Testify for the punk forefathers who paved the way (with younger siblings the Stooges) for every garage band with three chords and a vision. Brothers and sisters, this is the sound of revolution, leaving Motor City burning in its wake in the course of the single greatest live album ever set to tape. Brother Wayne Kramer's guitar was pyrotechnic. Reverend Rob Tyner led the masses in holy reverie. Can you dig it? Can you get down with it? Can you KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKER!

Friday, July 13, 2012

G&P Review: Catheter

Southwest Doom Violence
Unlike forerunners/contemporaries Phobia, mile high grind trio Catheter have never given into the sheeny, shiny modern production impulse. Southwest Doom Violence, their first full length since 2005's Dimension 303, is a time capsule of that big, burly '90s grind sound, before everything became sleek and overcompressed.
There are still potholes and jagged edges to Catheter's sound that serve their appropriately titled album well. Grindcore, doom and power violence get frapped into 17 songs of dismal, gray misery laced with occasional crimson skeins of vein popping outrage. Perhaps the one nod to the 21st century is the fantastic snare drum sound, a nice, solid snap gets its moment to shine on "No Harvest," which briefly spotlights the percussion. With "Doom to Grind" Catheter also snag one of the greatest samples to ever kick off a grind tune.
Catheter are one of the few grind bands that know how to dig into a good down tempo tune without making it sound like a half-assed afterthought too (hence the "doom" in their Southwest Doom Violence). Part of their prowess is that they keep their dreary impulses in check rather than dragging the album to a drug stumble halt (though they do succumb to the five minute doom closer cliche). At their best, Catheter give us great songs like the 90 second "Can't Change Existence," which blasts in the front and then wiggles like a sidewinder on the way out. It's like a grindcore/doom mullet.
Overall, Southwest Doom Violence is a stubborn reminder of what grindcore used to sound like back in an era when its conventions were first being solidified.

[Full disclosure: SMG sent me a download.]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Demo-lition Derby: Occult 45

Occult 45
Grind Funk Railroad
Were I the director of television marketing for young grind bands (and were that actually, like, ya know. a real thing), I would round up Billy Dee Williams for a series of commercials spoofing his Colt 45 ads to pimp Philly three piece Occult 45. Unfortunately, I think Lando's smooth-ass delivery would maybe overshadow Occult 45 because too much about Grind Funk Railroad reminds me of better bands. With only four songs in the offing, that's concerning.
First up, Occult 45 hit me with the same "I am a false prophet, god is a superstition" sample that thedowngoing already made their own (and which may need to be added to my list of verboten samples). Occult 45 rock a nice buzzy guitar tone, but they are no thedowngoing. The simplistic (in a good way) "Tehran Desert Vampire" has an almost Discharge hop about it, but again that pulls me away from Occult 45 and into the realm of someone else.
Even the title is a double whammy, naturally bringing to mind the ultimate American Band and also Total Fucking Destruction, who've already punched our tickets for the "Grind Freak Railroad." (But apparently lampooning better bands is Occult 45's things because their next demo is called Grind the Lightning).
I don't want to give the impression that there's anything inherently wrong with Occult 45. They do their thing well and four songs is barely enough to make sweeping statements about them as a band. I'm just waiting for them to find a voice. To be fair though, they are probably the first non-pornogrind band to start with a sample about the joys of eating pussy and asshole. I guess that's something to build off of.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dick Move: Priapus Grind Out a Hero's Journey

Every great hero has a signature weakness, something to help ground them and humanize them in fans' minds. It makes them relatable. Superman has kryptonite. Dustin Penner has delicious pancakes. For North Carolina bulheaded grinders Priapus, it's drummer Kevin Hedgecock's herniated spine. The painful injury has slowed the trio but with the drummer on the mend, the band will storm the stage for a string of live dates this month and is planning to hit the studio in August.
"I just had another injection in my spine this past week; yep, that was fun," Hedgecock said. "This whole ordeal is holding us back a little bit and it’s pretty aggravating. I/we can’t practice as often as we would like to. I’m used to practicing on my own 5-6 days a week, and I have to take it day by day. I can’t push it because I may set myself back. I still have another couple of months of dealing with this nonsense, but we’re going to remain as active as possible."


But like any good hero's journey, that spinal setback is just a speedbump on Priapus' inevitable march to grindcore glory. A key early step on the hero's pathway is meeting with a supernatural agent who sets our raw protagonist on his way. In the musical context, that would likely be where a deep pocketed label swooped in to foist Priapus on the grind-starved masses.
But here is where the metaphor breaks down. Guitarist Jeremy Shaffer said the band is "definitely not opposed to working with anyone - mainly because I’d love to have some shitty record of ours on a label that has released killer albums that I’ve been listening to for years." However, Priapus also doesn't necessarily feel the need to go the label route to bring their racket to the people in this socially networked world, largely courtesy of their Bandcamp page.
"To be honest, we haven’t really pursued any labels - 10 years ago, we’d probably be a lot more aggressive about it. This is the first band I’ve been in where we haven’t considered label support to be a major goal," Shaffer said. "But yeah, a big reason is that we really don’t need a label right now. Our expenses are fairly low: we record here in town for a suspiciously low price, thanks to Kris at Solo Sound Studios being an awesome dude and the wondrous advances in soulless digital recording. We don’t tour because we’re all office drones during the day (and telling your boss that you 'have to take off a few days to play basements with punx' sounds really dumb when you’re wearing slacks). The computer tubes have been great in terms of getting our shit out there, so we don’t have to rely on physical distribution (and all the expenses it entails) to annoy people in far away places. It’s been really cool to be able to do this for cheap and without having to worry about bugging labels to help us out...definitely wouldn’t have been possible until pretty recently."


Priapus seemingly came out of nowhere in 2011, exploding out of the gate swinging a prime-time ready brew of power violence murk and grindcore grit with Air Loom.
And yes, Priapus kinda sound like Maruta.
The Maruta comparisons are pervasive and inevitable. (But to be fair to the chattering classes, the band has not exactly been shy about ripping off better bands, either.)
"It's usually quite surprising for us if we see a review that doesn't mention Maruta," Shaffer said. "Of course, I totally understand the comparison - we didn't set out to sound that similar to them, but I think we have a lot of commonalities with them, in terms of influences. From a guitar perspective, I've always loved the weirder, dissonant kind of stuff you hear in bands like Gorguts, Wormed, Discordance Axis, Malignancy, and Assuck. That background comes through in the riffs I write for Priapus, and I know that the Maruta dudes are super into that kind of stuff, so I'm not surprised that the two bands sound so similar. Priapus is, of course, much worse. We just can't compete with their sultry brown skin and Latin passion."
But our pasty white heroes in their oh-so-stylish Dockers live up to the Maruta comparison thanks to that signature grisly guitar tone -- that swampy, syrupy snarl that helps define the Priapus sound. The secret sauce is a mixture of death metal and neglected technique, Shaffer said.
"Some of it might come from the fact that when Kevin and I first started jamming, we were both in death metal bands - he was in Malebolgia, I was in Atrocious Abnormality - that were both playing fairly technical, clean-sounding brutal DM. Subconsciously, I think, we wanted to do something different - something looser, more aggressive, and less precise, so the low-end murkiness of Priapus is probably a response to what we were doing at the time. Also, I’m a very sloppy player, so that probably helps nail our signature 'can’t play guitar' sound," he said. "I don’t think we really hit our stride until [vocalist] Jordan [Noe] joined. He had never been in a band before and had no fucking idea what he was doing, which we thought was awesome and is probably why his vocals sound so grumpy. I basically see the drums & guitars in our songs as structures to support the vocals - I think grindcore should make people get angry, and I don’t think we had that until we got Jordan on vocals."
Noe not only brought the anger, but he gave Priapus' songs some lyrical and intellectual heft as well. The initial inspiration for Air Loom came from the history of James Tilley Matthews, the first recorded case of paranoid schizophrenia. Matthews, committed to the infamous Bethlem hospital in London (source of the word bedlam), thought he was being tormented by a gang of spies zapping him with a giant ray gun called the Air Loom, as detailed in the book Illustrations of Madness.
"We thought that was sick and could also be a cool analogy for how mass media works these days," Noe said. "All of that is awesome, but unfortunately I got lazy and wrote hardly any lyrics based on that concept. The only song that ended up being about the Air Loom is ‘Where Is Everybody’, which was the last song we wrote for the EP, and I actually wrote the lyrics in our hotel room the morning we went to record vocals. The lyrics are either directly lifted from or are references to The Air Loom Gang, which is another book about JTM and the Air Loom. Everything else on the EP has song titles that reference Illustrations of Madness, but the lyrics are all based on real life shit."
While Noe may not have completed the concept album, his bandmates do credit him with one of the most important decisions when it came time to record Air Loom: scrapping Shaffer's pitch shifted low vocals.
"We recorded the whole EP and then listened to it at the end of the session and it sounded really silly, so I grumpily agreed to re-record all of the low vocals myself at the last minute," Noe said. "It sucked at the time because I was belligerently drunk and exhausted, but I’m glad we did it, otherwise the recording probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day."
"There are a lot of stupid things about Priapus, but the idea to do pitch shifted vocals is probably the most stupid," Shaffer said.


The final stage of the hero's journey finds our protagonist returned to his own domain, wiser for the experience and free to live out his life without the fear of death or failure.
With Hedgecock on the mend, Priapus are looking get back into full swing, booking a handful of shows as time, family and job commitments allow and making preparations to become the new lords of Splitsville.
"As far as shows we’ve got some shows coming up at the end of July and sporadically throughout the summer," Hedgecock said. "We’re aiming to go into the studio in early August to record 3-4 tracks for an upcoming split with InTheShit that I’m pretty stoked about."
After pairing with InTheShit, Priapus are talking about a series of splits and EPs over the next year that would do Agathocles proud.
"Yeah, once we are done with the Intheshit split, we’re going to keep working on new music and play the occasional local gig," Noe said. "We’ve talked about doing splits with The Communion (NY) and Hedorah (MI) -which are both great bands that everyone should aware themselves of - and then we’d also like to eventually put out a 7” of our own. With the time it takes us to write, that should take us well into next year. We’d also like to make a few long weekend treks up and down the East Coast if we can schedule it around work and family obligations. We’ll see!"
Until then, Priapus are content to have set off along the hero's path.
"Honestly, it’s just fucking cool that people dig listening to music that we think is fun to write and play," Shaffer. "We all love grindcore, so our original idea was just to get drunk, play fun riffs and shamelessly rip off Nasum. We still do all of those things, but now we rip off other bands too."

All photos courtesy of Ian Tuten

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Weekend Punk Pick: NoMeansNo

As though inventing puck rock as the Hanson Brothers weren't enough to win my everlasting affections, the Wright brothers' day job is the awesomely weird NoMeansNo. The most punk thing about NoMeansNo is how they just never gave a fuck about punk conventions. Instead, these Canadian freakzoids explored whatever weird-ass whimsy that crossed their fancy. The result is a series of jazzy, spaced out, free form bits of musical insanity that dance around the edges of the modern world, pointing, laughing and flinging poop like a champ. And one of my personal NoMeansNo favorites, "Approaching Zero" is the kind of song that had all the splicers jitterbugging in Rapture right before things went to shit.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Grind Part, Slayer Part, Garbage to the End: "The Inalienable Dreamless"

It was inevitable. It is inalienable. We've come to the end of the journey we began five months ago. This is the last tab to share, and what could be more fitting then the title track to the greatest grind album ever recorded? A shorty but a goody. Behold, "The Inalienable Dreamless."
I hope the tabs have shed some light on Discordance Axis' dark arts. Sorry there wasn't any "Jigsaw." Don't blame me. Blame Jon Chang and Rob Marton's inability to work and play well with other children.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Blast(beat) From the Past: Orthrelm

And bit by bit I add to this photo the new scenery I keep seeing, and finally in the photo I have people talking and singing and moving around, right? You know, I have them moving around. And then every time, you know, every time, it gets like this huge sort of palace, there’s this thing like a palace in my head, with lots of people getting together and doing lots of things.
Then it’s really fun to finish this palace and look inside, just like looking down at earth from above the clouds, because there’s everything there, everything in the world. All kinds of people talking different languages, and the pillars in the palace are made in lots of different styles, and food from everywhere in the world is all laid out.
It’s so much bigger and more detailed than something like a movie set. There’s all kinds of people, really all kinds of people. Blind men and beggars and cripples and clowns and dwarfs, cannibals and blacks in drag and prima donnas and matadors and body-builders, and nomads praying in the desert – they’re all there and doing something. And I watch them.
The palace is always by the sea and it’s just beautiful, my palace is.

Ryu Murakami
Almost Transparent Blue

Notions of being good, bad or merely intelligible as a musical experience become increasingly quaint and irrelevant as Orthrelm shred their way through all 45 minutes of OV, a single-song album that is less an expression of artistic invention than it is an instrumental decathlon that tests the limits of both performers' abilities and listeners' patience. And that comes from a band whose prior EP, Asristir Vieldriox, is a 13 minute, 99 song affair that makes Agoraphobic Nosebleed Hulk green with jealously.
Tech metal whatsis duo guitarist Mick Barr and drummer Josh Blair capture the space debris left orbiting the event horizon after Voivod slid into the greedy maw of the black hole. This is the nightmare lullaby that rocks blind idiot god Azazathoth to sleep as he gnaws on your sanity in the blasted gulfs between time and space.
Barr's bloody fingers shred out an endless parade of short, shrill riffs. He just finds a spot on the upper part of his fretboard and picks and prods at it, playing with riffs like a cat with cockroach until he's bored. Then he bounds off to another riff shape, mutating the music into strange new effigies. Behind him, Blair doesn't blast. Instead the iron-thewed percussionist keeps up nearly 45 minutes of continuous surf rock drum rolls that swell and crest underneath the maelstrom riffing, punctuating the mayhem. While Barr's performance is rightly the insane highlight of the whole affair, don't overlook Blair's contribution either.
Constructing OV must have been a studio nightmare, a logistic perdition, but the end result is the kind of album that puts smiles on the faces of people who think GridLink shreds too goddamned slow. OV is not an album I'm sure I enjoy as music (or if such a thing is even possible). However, it's something that, if you fancy extremity, must be experienced. The album's interior art features an insanely intricate hand-drawn maze. I couldn't think of a better metaphor for Orthrelm's music.
is available in its entirety on YouTube if you're up to the challenge.

Monday, July 2, 2012

G&P Review: Tragedy

Darker Days Ahead
Darker Days Ahead finds Tragedy in that awkward adolescent stage, something akin to Neurosis' transition 20 years ago from generic crust punk band to Lords of the Cosmos and All Time. Time will tell whether Tragedy's metamorphosis will be as fruitful, but Darker Days Ahead represents that acne-spotted, cracking-voiced phase everyone was so eager to leave behind.
It also continues the transition from high voltage punk toward something more sprawling and atmospheric. I thought Nerve Damage suffered from a dearth of urgency, but Darker Days Ahead is almost comatose instead. Rather than tight d-beat punk jams, this outing Tragedy spin out a series of lengthy (four to five minute) songs played through a cough syrup haze. "The Grim Infinite" sounds like Bolt Thrower played on a Walkman with dying batteries (and couldn't you just see that song title slotting nicely on War Master?).
Where previously Tragedy broke up their albums with acoustic or more ambient interludes, for their fourth album they've stretched those lulls out into full songs, turning in 40 minutes of music that teases -- but never achieves -- a cathartic crescendo. The title track comes closest to catharsis, melding the biker odes of Amebix with the gutter glam of Anti Cimex. But every time Tragedy seem on the verge of an explosive bout of fury, they pull back and sulk off in a resigned depression rather than rattling at their cage. The suffocating production does the album no favors either. Billy Anderson does to Darker Days Ahead pretty much what he did to Sounds of the Animal Kingdom, only stonier.
Ultimately, Darker Days Ahead is a frustrating listening experience. It's not the logical extension of their early d-beaten fare and they haven't evolved far enough beyond their roots to truly let their melodicism take center stage either. Instead we're left with an awkward transitional fossil that hasn't crawled beyond their roots but has yet to grow into its full potential either.

The Namesake Series: "Darker Days Ahead"

Is there something about the name Darker Days Ahead that's cursed, that causes otherwise great bands to churn out disappointing albums? Because the name has soured both Terrorizer and Tragedy. So here are the title tracks from each, which surprisingly, taken in isolation, don't make for bad songs. So maybe my curse hypothesis needs further refining.