Friday, September 28, 2012

Demo-lition Derby: Syntax

Demo 2012

Jon Chang told me Discordance Axis wanted first album Ulterior to be the record Napalm Death should have made after From Enslavement to Obliteration. Syntax seem to be leaping into the breach to pen the songs that Discordance Axis would have recorded immediately after Jouhou had the band not imploded for two years.
Most noticeably, Syntax have shelled out for a better recording session compared to their 2009 demo. This outing is sonically strong even if the guitars occasionally get overwhelmed by the banshee screeching and wrist-wracking drumming, but that’s the most minor of complaints because the energy level is exactly where it needs to be with this kind of grind. With five songs in as many minutes, Syntax are not belaboring their point either. The songs are involved and memorable without wallowing in technique and the noisy, trebly sound gives it all a sharpened edge. The drum rolls that anchor “Silence” were a particular highlight. The chopping guitar keen of “Shape Shifter” nods back to Discordance Axis’ "Eye Gag" in a fun way, but it also highlights just how indebted Syntax are to that band.
Right now, the only limitation on Syntax is that their influences are just too obvious. If they can use Discordance Axis’ gravitational pull to slingshot themselves into the unexplored reaches of the cosmos beyond “Ikaruga,” then they’ll really be on to something powerful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Demo-lition Derby: Chemical Tomb

My attorney has never been able to accept the notion -- often espoused by reformed drug abusers and especially popular among those on probation -- that you can get a lot higher without drugs than with them.
And neither have I, for that matter.

Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Chemical Tomb
Promo 2012

At its most basic, life is just chemistry. We may be nothing but stardust, but the fun comes from all those little cosmic particles you call you colliding around space and time. For some, like the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, life’s particle interactions were made all the more enjoyable by taking, often illicit, chemical detours.
England’s Chemical Tomb, who dice up their latest demo with retrospectively hilarious samples from anti-drug ads of yore (including one that provides the band their name) pursue the high life with a lo-fi wad of blink and you’ll miss them grindcore darts. The production sometimes fights them (that snare is determined to drown out everything else), but Chemical Tomb take swipes at the Agathocles, Insect Warfare and Wormrot back catalogs while bringing in something blockier and more brutish.
However, these Brits have a tendency to get caught up in the all-blasting-all-the-time attack mode, which blurs some of their stuff together, lessening its impact. On a positive note, the middle and end of “Cadaver Dogs” sees them stretching their artists' legs a tad to create something more evocative. It harnesses a twisting riff to a driving punk beat and a singer gnawing at your heels like a pack of hungry dogs. Just that much of a tempo shift is enough to give the song breathing space and atmosphere. They manage to pull everything together best on the churning “Malfunction,” which strikes the perfect balance between aggression and art.
Chemical Tomb haven’t consistently put all the pieces together yet, but with better musical editing they have the tools to demonstrate their fear and loathing on the Thames.

Monday, September 24, 2012

G&P Review: Swamp Gas

Swamp Gas
Operation Frantic
Brute! Productions

Swamp Gas emanates from that murky, humid bog that muddles the taxonomical boundaries between grindcore and death metal. Straddling the border leaves the band free to draw from either side at will as songs demand. The result is a brutish noise that would not have been out of place in the Pittsburgh death/grind scene of 15 years ago. I could see them chumming around with Fate of Icarus in particular.
Swamp Gas’ riffs, which rely on an excellent guitar tone to add heft and menace, stop just short of tech metal wankery but have a bit more going for them than just three chords and the truth. They don’t indulge in samples or any other bullshit. Instead, they string together that strong guitar, a well balanced production and a concise attack and wield it like a mallet at your delicate nethers. The vocals are a bit of a weak spot, though. The screech ‘n’ growl approach is pretty typical and maybe doesn’t have enough personality to really put Operation Frantic over the top, but it’s not detrimental to the overall impact in any way.
I particularly liked the way the drums interacted with the guitars on a song like “Severed Lines of Communication.” They lock into a loping gait at the start before blasting everything off only to crawl across the finish line on bloody knees.  The blastbeats are deployed more tactically than your average grind band (though “Third Degree” is your traditional three second song) instead of being pounded willy nilly. That means songs are allowed to breathe and tempos and intensity shift, giving the songs more life and personality over the two- to three-minute runtimes.
The fun of Operation Frantic is that its various influences and stylistic nods lets you play contra-historical what if games to pass the time. What if Cattle Decapitation got down with grindcore concision? What if Rob Marton had more death metal in his soul? What if none of that really matters and instead you should just enjoy Swamp Gas for what they are?

[Full disclosure: The band sent me a download.]

Friday, September 21, 2012

Compiling Autumn Part 8: Our Last Day

This pain worse than death
I just ran away
Yes lonely
But you can't always rise from the dead
“The End of Rebirth”

A Broken Tomorrow

    For all the accolades Discordance Axis enjoyed in Japan, the trio of drummer Dave Witte, vocalist Jon Chang and guitarist Rob Marton had never toured the country together. After The Inalienable Dreamless came out, the band began making preparations for the first Japanese tour of the integral lineup. However, as with the Jouhou tour, Marton was forced to drop out at the last minute as a result of his health.
    “After the recording we were prepping for another Japanese tour that didn’t pan out for me. That was the point where I said enough was enough,” Marton said. “I had to put my health first. I really wanted to do it, but I couldn’t.  I just felt I was going to impact my health too much and I stopped.”
    As before, Discordance Axis pressed Human Remains guitarist Steve Procopio into service as Marton’s last minute replacement. Though he capably stepped into the guitar role, Chang said Procopio created a different dynamic for the band, bringing in different shadings to the songs.
    “That was going to be a big thing because we had never done that as a band before,” Chang said of the tour. “[Marton] basically dropped out and we brought in Steve Procopio. … Steve was a great guitar player. He’s still a great guitar player. He’s got his own sound. It’s not the Rob Marton sound. It gave it all a different sound when we played it live.”
    Marton’s decision to quit as a result of his tinnitus signaled the end of Discordance Axis. Though he dropped off the tour, the trio reunited for one last recording session, banging out “Ikaruga” which would be released as part of the Our Last Day collection, comprised largely of bands covering Discordance Axis songs as well as the first new track from Chang’s new band, GridLink.
    “Everybody just went and did their own thing and just forgot about it,” Witte said. “Rob needed a break.”
    At the time Discordance Axis recorded The Inalienable Dreamless, Witte, who always has several projects going, was also playing in Major Burns, Burnt by the Sun and Black Army Jacket.
    “I was an idiot,” Witte said. “I always had multiple pans on the stove. I was restless. I had so many ideas I had to get them out of me.”

The End of Rebirth

    Discordance Axis  was effectively over when the band returned from the Japan tour, but they played what would be their final show in New York City on Mother’s Day in 2001. After grinding to full houses in Japan, where Discordance Axis had always found a receptive audience, playing to 50 people on a slate of seven bands was an anticlimactic denouement to the band’s career.
    “Honestly, I didn't even want to do the last U.S. show,” Chang said. “We had come off an amazing Japan tour that we were not going to top with a U.S. performance, but Dave wanted to do it and I was sick of arguing. In retrospect, I'm really glad we played for the five people who came (not including the other bands). That way we could lose at least some of the money we made on the Japan tour and still come out broke in the end.”
    Chang said that final show was “an unfortunate ending” for Discordance Axis.
    “It was over when Rob said he was done. I think Dave and I agreed that without Rob, we couldn't write any new songs that would be DA songs,” Chang said. “Throughout the years, with guys stepping into/out of roles in the band, it was only the chemistry and sound between the three of us that made DA what it was. There were a lot of talented people who came/went as second guitar, touring guitar or drums, but it never sounded right unless it was the three original members.”
    Witte agrees the band would never have been able to carry on without Marton in tow.
    “Rob’s the total unsung hero in that band,” he said “People like my drumming and my beats and go apeshit over Jon’s screaming, but Rob anchored that band. He made it what it was. He’s a great blues guitar player. He wasn’t a full on metal guitar player. He’s great at it. His down picking is unbelievable. His combination of elements made him who he was.”
    The Inalienable Dreamless’ reputation has only grown after the band’s demise and the two songs they recorded for Our Last Day brought a sharper, more knifelike tone to Marton’s guitar, adding a new dimension to Discordance Axis. Our Last Day also leaves fans—and the band—wondering what would have become of a fourth album, whether they would have been able to maintain or even exceed the bar they had set for themselves with The Inalienable Dreamless.
    Ultimately, recording two final songs rather than a full album of material was a relief for Witte.
    “It was fun going in there just to be able to focus on one song,” he said. “Let’s just bust this out. It was the same thing. Rob sent me the song and I added the drums.”
    Discordance Axis has halfheartedly discussed reuniting since The Inalienable Dreamless, but the conversations have never come to fruition. At this point the trio doubts a reunion would be feasible as they’ve moved on to other musical projects and new interests.
    “That’s our definitive moment for sure,” Witte said. “Could we get any better? We don’t know. Did we care? We don’t know. Then we did ‘Ikaruga’ and that song held its own.  We would have still strived to do what we wanted to do.”
See You Next Life, Thrash Cowboy

    Though it was essentially Marton’s decision to end the band, the guitarist has not remained idle in the 12 years since he wrote a grindcore masterpiece in The Inalienable Dreamless. He said he’s constantly tinkering with new music, perhaps a little more traditionally metal than what Discordance Axis fans may be accustomed to. One day, he said, he may pick up the phone and, like he did in 1999, dial Witte’s number to discuss a new batch of songs.
    “I’m always writing, and I have a bunch of material,” Marton said. “I’m always threatening to send Dave stuff. I have a whole range of music I’d like to unleash on him. Life always intervenes. I’m getting close.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

G&P Review: Amputee/Nimbus Terrifix

Amputee/Nimbus Terrifix
PiggIron Sound

Amputee obliterate the world in a squall of mushroom cloud white noise from the second the need drops on first track "Collapsed Lung." From there every song is laced together by keening walls of amp feedback, stringing them along like a six song grindcore chain gang. From release to release, Amputee just get nastier. This is a band that loves to get down dirty-nailed in the grindcore muck with perfectly shitty production that spews abraded emotion and an ill-tempered outlook on our collective human existence.
Though they mix up the tempos a bit on this split, Amputee deep down only know one speed: balls swinging in the breeze. The vocals are almost too guttural for the album, sounding more death metal than grind, but that open throated maw is just there to devour everything in Amputee's path. The drumming is particularly effective over the six songs, pounding their way through the delightfully noisy mix at shoulder cracking speeds. These Jersey boys are on the verge of out-Assucking the almighty Assuck.
Along for the ride, Nimbus Terrifix are an OK band but lack some of the pitbull tenacity that power Amputee. Their six amphetamine-driven songs rest on the singer's bug-eyed, tooth-grinding delivery, a slavering madman stalking around scratching through a coke-sweat detox.
While his shrill delivery is spot on, the rest of the Pennsylvania trio's songs tend to blur together. And not blur together in that awesome gestalty way that elevates great grind albums into a zen-like beating. Rather, sometimes Nimbus Terrifix blur in a "has this song been going on for five minutes" kinda way. But it's not entirely their fault. There are not too many bands who could so much as hold their own against the rage Amputee are bringing.

[Full disclosure: PiggIron Sound sent me a review copy.]

Monday, September 17, 2012

G&P Review: AXT/Bluthuf

“I must admit,” Ivan began, “I have never been able to understand how it was possible to love one’s neighbors. And I mean precisely one’s neighbors, because I can conceive of the possibility of loving those who are far away. … If I must love my fellow man, he had better hide himself, for no sooner do I see his face than there’s an end to my love for him.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov


The Invention of Ruin
Self Released

Splits are tricky. You have to carefully pair up your bands to keep things balanced. If two bands' talents are mismatched, one will end up looking weaker by comparison. That's what happens in this tag team between German crusties AXT and Bluthuf. Think of this as the grudge rematch between the hare and that uppity tortoise. And this time that arrogant testudinae gets what's coming to it. This is a pairing that plays speed off of sloth and speed will win every time.
Bluthuf's three slow motion crust punk jams just drag in comparison to AXT's six thrashing bangers. Where AXT's side of this 7-inch is played with reckless speed, by contrast Bluthuf sound enervated and weighed down. The unhealthy girth of their songs only serve to make the side by side comparison more glaring.
Instead, AXT's fastcore is everything you ask from the genre: the guitars buzz nicely and chop up the songs like saws, the drums sound like the flailing of a madman and the vocals are all raw throated passion spit from overtaxed vocal cords. The lyrics check off all the expected boxes: war, guilt, self-loathing and society's corruption. It's none too original, but it keeps the songs moving.
Bluthuf start off strong on "Programm23," but they rapidly lose steam. The songs are looooooooong and suffer from a lack of variety. Tempo changes could have kept things fresh as they plod along one-dimensionally. The close of "Programm23" comes to shaking things up is a cool stutter step beat before an all too brief guitar solo, but then the band is back banging away at the same old riff. If they weren't paired with somebody more interesting like AXT, perhaps Bluthuf would have come off better. As it stands, they caught the short end of the pairing.

[Full disclosure: 7 Degrees, which is helping distribute the record, sent me a review copy.]

Friday, September 14, 2012

Compiling Autumn Part 7: The Third Children

Touch me oh please I want to know that it's real
And if it's not it's better just to pretend

“The Necropolitan”

Mind Seduction Aftermath

Discordance Axis’ members may rank The Inalienable Dreamless as a personal milestone in their various musical careers, but that is not what made that record a transformative grindcore landmark. In the decade since its release The Inalienable Dreamless has become a life-changing touchstone for a new wave of musicians who have internalized that album’s influence as they craft their own art. A misunderstood anomaly in their day, Discordance Axis are now considered grindcore pioneers who opened the doors to new modes of expression.
“More and more people talk about it as the years go by,” drummer Dave Witte said. “I think it really appeals to the musicians as well.”
Noisear guitarist Dorian Rainwater said The Inalienable Dreamless represented “pure adrenalized, unadulterated grind,” influencing his own band’s development.
The Inalienable Dreamless is a landmark release and the pinnacle of their career,” he said. “It was at the height of their existence and a beautiful display of artistic audio violence.”
Noisear was one of the first American bands to overtly draw inspiration from Discordance Axis’ sleek, technical grindcore, as well as lifting influences from Witte’s former outfit Human Remains. In addition to contributing a cover of “Mimetic” to Discordance Axis' farewell collection Our Last Day, Noisear would also include six Discordance Axis covers on 2007 album Pyroclastic Annhiallation.
That appreciation flows both ways because vocalist Jon Chang would later poach Noisear drummer Bryan Fajardo for his post-Discordance Axis band GridLink.
“Bryan’s emphasis on single pedal blast beats and Dave Witte’s style has been a huge influence on his growth a drummer throughout the years,” Rainwater said. “He, Thomas [Romero, Noisear guitarist] and Angelo [Perea, ex-guitarist] were constantly learning a variety of DA songs and eventually the dissonant chord voicings, hyper blasting, unorthodox patterns bled into our music. For me, personally, DA has always been an influence as well. Chang’s high pitched screaming vocals, raging guttural violence and Rob Marton’s unique guitar playing has an effect on grind unlike many others in the genre who struggle to get this effect with little to no progress.”
Body Hammer's Ryan Page only sought out The Inalienable Dreamless after his 2009 album, Jigoku, was repeatedly compared to Discordance Axis for its fixation on Japanese horror films and its DVD packaging. While the similarities were coincidental, Page said he discovered The Inalienable Dreamless as a result.
"I was extremely impressed with the album, especially the purity of it," Page said. "I enjoyed that the music was all timbrally very similar, and yet carried very distinct songs. That's a something quite difficult to navigate, and even bands I really enjoy like Insect Warfare start to sound samey at album length. Jon Chang's lyrics have always impressed me. It's not particularly common in grindcore or in any other sort of music for abstract, personal lyrics to communicate with the clarity and emotional impact of his writing. Oftentimes lyrics are either solipsistic or they're these cliches that isn't really representative of anything."


Throughout Discordance Axis’s career Chang drew much of lyrical inspiration from Japanese entertainment and pop culture and the band always seemed to resonate there more than it did in the United States.
“Even if you count the Steve Procopio shows, we played more shows in Japan than we did in the U.S. in the history of the band,” Chang said. “We didn’t play a lot of shows in the U.S. at all because nobody would come. There were shows where literally two people were there. Nobody showed up.”
Chang’s interest in Japan was reciprocated by boisterous music fans who were the first to glom on to Discordance Axis’ unique musical and lyrical style. Japanese grinders were among the first to recognize and incorporate Discordance Axis influences into their own music as well.
“Discordance Axis had already been famous in Japan when I [found] their music,” Mortalized guitarist Takafumi Matsurbara said.
Though Mortalized’s technical, relentless sound was not directly influenced by Discordance Axis, Matsubara said he was naturally drawn to another band that was blasting and lacked a bass player.
“We have no bassist in our band, so I was interested in them,” he said. “And Dave is a one foot blast drummer, Rob likes Voivod, those are similar to us. Those are the reasons why I was interested in them.”
Matsubara, who would later join Chang in Hayaino Daisuki and GridLink, called Discordance Axis “one of the greatest bands.”
“I will love DxAx forever,” he said.
Gate guitarist and vocalist Toshinori Otake called The Inalienable Dreamless “the most favorite of my favorites.” The Japanese grindcore duo have covered Discordance Axis extensively, including contributing covers of “The Inalienable Dreamless” and “Radiant Arkham” to Our Last Day. As a band, Otake said Gate was immediately influenced by Discordance Axis. He felt pushed to write faster and more complex music after discovering Jouhou.
Jouhou, this is the first one I listened to,” he said. “It was in 1999 or 2000, Gate was just formed. My first impression was like, ‘What the fuck!’ I'd never listened to this kind of grindcore music. I had started writing some songs for Gate, like our first demo and Soon to be Sodomized 7-inch, just after listening to Discordance Axis. I wanted to play [in a] faster and [more] complex way.”

Killing Yield

Many grind bands cite Discordance Axis – particularly Marton’s guitar performance – as an important influence, but Marton said he’s reluctant to take any credit for inspiring other musicians.
“I do hear stuff that I think, ‘Oh yeah that could totally be an influence.’ Maybe it could be, maybe not,” Marton said. “I never want to think it was our influence. Maybe. Maybe somebody did. I don’t have the feeling we were that influential. Maybe we were.”
Though Discordance Axis never meshed with the grindcore and metal scene during their life, posthumously the band has found champions among cultural tastemakers who tout The Inalienable Dreamless as an important musical milestone. In March 2009 Decibel selected The Inalienable Dreamless for its Hall of Fame as part of its all-grindcore special issue, further cementing the album’s legendary status.
“To that point we had done a lot of the no brainers, Repulsion Horrified, Napalm Death Scum,” Decibel Editor in Chief Albert Mudrian, author of Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore, said. “We were doing a special grindcore issue at the time, and I was thinking of what great grindcore records hadn’t we included to that point.”
Inducting The Inalienable Dreamless into the Hall of Fame was “a logical next step for us,” representing the second wave of important grindcore bands that included Nasum and Pig Destroyer, Mudrian said.
“If anything at all, it’s still horribly unappreciated,” Mudrian said. “When people roll out the Mount Rushmore of grindcore, I don’t think for the most part they include that record. They’re picking one of the early Napalm Death records, they’re picking Horrified, they’re picking Symphonies of Sickness. Maybe they’re throwing in Brutal Truth. If they’re searching for credibility, maybe they’ll throw some S.O.B. in there. I think there’s some romanticism of the '90s and late '80s. … It’s going to change. It’s going to take time for that stuff to be fully accepted and appreciated. I’ve got friends who are my age who still love extreme metal and classic records and I feed them stuff to check out. I guarantee the majority of them haven’t heard that record.”
Hydra Head co-owner Aaron Turner said there’s an authenticity to The Inalienable Dreamless. Discordance Axis was unwilling to bend artistically to accommodate what was accepted and conventional at the time. The honesty and emotional integrity are what elevate The Inalienable Dreamless from the grindcore masses, attracting a new wave of fans and admirers a decade after the band’s demise.
“One of the things that made them able to do what they were doing with a single-minded approach is they didn’t care what scene they were a part of. They weren’t trying to keep up with their peers,” Turner said. “[Chang] is very determined to get things done the right way. I totally respect that work ethic and that creative focus. It wouldn’t seem that unusual for that kind of thing to exist if it weren’t for the fact that a lot of people seem content to do things to the point they’re good enough.”
For Discordance Axis “good enough” was never good enough.
“With The Inalienable Dreamless we had a common vision, a common goal,” Chang said. “It was three people bringing their A Game to the plate. At that point we had an A Game because we’d been doing it for 10 years. We never took a step back. We never made a Harmony Corruption or ‘Greed Killing.’ ”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

G&P Review: Mutant Supremacy

Mutant Supremacy
Rotting Season
Blastbeat Mailmurder

Death Metal grave robbers Mutant Supremacy have looted a whole cemetery stocked with festering corpses named Bolt Thrower, Entombed and Cannibal Corpse. They're redolent of their obvious influences' stench just in case you couldn't seem them printed on their longsleeves. Mutant Supremacy's morbid tales and everflowing streams of aggression are not going to blow away anybody who's been paying attention to death metal at any point in the last two decades, but the performances are spot on and Rotting Season nails the scrappy, maggoty ambiance of a bygone era.
The four song EP, which was actually recorded back in 2010, states its intention off the bat with "Kill Without Question." The song divebombs onto the scene with full whammy bar abuse before chugging along in familiar Entombed mode. Mutant Supremacy ride that wave of retro classic death that puts more emphasis on hook and sepulchral atmosphere than the ability to play a gazillion notes a minute. "Memento Mori," which, naturally, closes out the proceedings, pulls that morbid creepy crawly opening before blasting up the remainders of the song. You can tell the tempo shift is coming, but it's still a fun moment when it happens.
While (judging solely by their promo photos) most of Mutant Supremacy where probably pooping their Pampers back when Death, Morbid Angel and Dismember were pooping out classic records, the quartet innately understood what made that era of metal special and do their best to recapture that vibe. While your nostalgia could probably be more adequately addressed by playing those classic records, Rotting Season is an adequate stopgap in a pinch.

[Full disclosure: Blastbeat Mailmurder sent me a review copy.]

Monday, September 10, 2012

G&P Review: Teething

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
1 Corinthians 13:11


High school fucking sucked. We can all agree about that, right? Being surrounded by hordes of the hormonally unbalanced, the insipid jock-o-rama culture and good teachers forced to dumb down their classes to accommodate the stupidest of students was pretty much my very definition of hell. There was not a single redeeming thing to be said of the entire miserable four year experience. So it was a bit disconcerting to hear Teething wax nostalgic about high school on the song “1996,” which has got to be the least punk thing a punk band could do. Sure they say it sucked, but the song also romanticizes things like smoking in school bathrooms and getting good and underaged wasted. I remember 1996; I was in high school in 1996; 1996 can kiss my ass.
Not to pick on that one ill-conceived song, but I think “1996” underscores the broader problem I had with the Spanish punks’ rough-throated hardcore. For all the spit and pissing, I just don’t get the feeling Teething really mean any of their generic punk sloganeering. Some of the songs sound almost like a middle aged scriptwriter’s fantasy of what teen punk rebellion feels like for some lame-ass weepy teen flick. Case in point, sour-note starting point “Hell Song” is all “I’m a worthless piece of shit” and chants of “666,” which to Teething’s ears are probably meant to sound bad ass. I just don’t get the feeling they really mean any of it. It’s more punk pose than something heartfelt. It borders on parody. Teen self-loathing is certainly a punk-worthy topic that would be instantly relatable, but “Fuck This Face,” which leaps out with blastbeats and then fizzles to mediocrity, doesn’t convey any real human connection as the singer talks about how much he hates his features and his parents.
My problem is Teething seem to be mouthing the words without delivering the emotional substance. They very well could be deadly serious about this stuff, but their approach just doesn’t convey sincerity. I get the feeling Teething very much want to their songs to be meaningful, but that’s the area where their music needs the most work.

[Full disclosure: Teething sent me a download.]

Friday, September 7, 2012

Compiling Autumn Part 6: I Will Live Forever. Alone.

There is death in everything
We are connected without reason at all
You have your way with me like a lover
But I spite you because I just want the end of the world

“Oratorio in Gray”

Inalienable Rights

The posthumous popularity of Discordance Axis, particularly The Inalienable Dreamless, came as a bit of a surprise to the band. Though their third album garnered much better reviews than either Ulterior or Jouhou, which were dismissed as pretentious at the time, Discordance Axis’ existence was plagued by only moderate success and often empty halls during their infrequent live performances.
“The record was a really mixed reception,” vocalist Jon Chang said. “Maximum Rock N Roll really shit on it. I remember reading some other reviews. We got some very positive response, Terrorizer magazine, specifically. I think it was the best-selling Discordance Axis record, the best received Discordance Axis record.”
Coming with Hydra Head’s imprimatur may have also given The Inalienable Dreamless more legitimacy than Discordance Axis’ past albums, drummer Dave Witte said. The label had already established a reputation for fostering musicians willing to sidestep metal and hardcore’s artistic limitations.
“A lot of people actually liked this. It was kind weird,” Witte said. “Everything with that band, it was late for people to catch on. People got it later. People are dying for us to play a show these days. I don’t think it will happen. When it came out, it was kind of shocking. ... It was definitely different because it was Hydra Head, and it reached way more people than the others did. The reaction was immediately different. It took people a little while to catch on, I think.”
Though Discordance Axis have often been dismissed as pretentious for the eschewing the accepted grindcore formula, Decibel Editor-in-Chief Albert Mudrian, author of Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore, said the band’s artistry was focused and deliberate rather than intellectual affectation.
“I don’t see pretense,” he said. “I do see a willful artfulness about what they were doing. They weren’t trying to be willfully exclusive for people. They didn’t want to say, ‘You don’t get this.’ It was, ‘This is what we’re doing and if you get it, cool.’”
Hydra Head co-owner Aaron Turner said The Inalienable Dreamless has had a significant impact on the musical landscape. It was the right record to harness a brewing change in musical and artistic tastes, he said.
“The presentation and the album itself had a really big impact,” Turner said. “It was an undeniable record. … Maybe by the time Inalienable came out people were ready for that. It seemed like one of those records that clicked.”

Human Collateral

The Inalienable Dreamless’ enduring popularity largely mystifies Discordance Axis, who never reaped the benefits of that recognition during their time together. It was only in the last four years when Chang found a MySpace page for Discordance Axis (masquerading as an official site that has since been taken over by the band) that he began to understand the band’s influence and legacy.
“I was really shocked that not only anybody remembered the record, but liked it and knew about it,” Chang said. “Maybe because the reception at the time was ‘Assück was cool; Discordance Axis were not.’ We were not what people wanted to hear. We never were in the States.”
Though The Inalienable Dreamless is now regarded as a grindcore classic, guitarist Rob Marton still can’t help feeling some disappointment with how the record sounds and how he played some of the songs. Though his performance is one of the most praised aspects of the album, the guitarist is critical of his playing.
“It was really difficult to play some of these songs. I muddled through some of it. We couldn’t go back and redo that. There were some subtle things that drive me absolutely bananas when I hear it that nobody would really hear,” Marton said. “There were some songs I had to fast forward through; I couldn’t even hear it. We had an experience playing those songs. There was time when we were so on and we couldn’t wait to record that and that’s not what we recorded. We had to take what we had.”
For all of his concerns, Marton has since made his peace with what The Inalienable Dreamless is and how it’s since been received by a new generation of grindcore fans, even if he remains mystified by the response.
“I listen to it now and I enjoy and I do like it,” Marton said. “I still hear what I heard. I understand now why I felt like I did. I’m surprised by the legacy. I thought it would be a flash in the pan. It’s been how many years now? I’m still talking about this album. I didn’t think I’d be interviewed about it 11 years later.”
Witte, who has since anchored dozens of cutting-edge hardcore and metal bands, ranks The Inalienable Dreamless as his favorite record in his extensive catalog of work.
“I’m really proud of that record. It had a lot of passion and a lot of energy and lot of dynamics,” Witte said. “A lot of people would give us shit and say we’re pretentious at the time. We didn’t give a shit. We were just writing what we liked. Our influences were what we liked.”
For his part, Chang is still unsure what it was about The Inalienable Dreamless that provoked such a reaction from fans because his current band, GridLink, is also no stranger to playing mostly empty halls, despite being critical darlings.
“I’ve never really talked to anybody about why they like the record other than people in interviews asking me questions about it,” Chang said. “I’ve never really thought about it that much, I guess. I don’t know what people attach themselves to. … There isn’t this big want or need for this kind of music. That’s my feeling at least in my neck of the woods.”
Unlike the band, Hydra Head immediately recognized Discordance Axis had created something unique and enduring.
“I felt like it was a really special record right from the get-go,” Turner said. “It had a unique air about it. It did feel like one of those landmark records. I feel like there is a lot of homogeny in grindcore where people are trying to adhere very closely to a set of requisite ideas and parameters in which you can operate and still be grind. One of the things about Discordance Axis was they completely defied that at the time. That’s the definition of a trendsetter.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

G&P Review: Cellgraft


Cellgraft put paid to their all too brief career, amusingly, with the song "Genesis," rasping the band to a close with a pretty awesome scream. There's probably some profound philosophical notion to be extracted from that metaphysical tangle somehow, but right now I'm too bummed that Florida's finest band have flamed out already.
For such a short run, the trio leaves behind a pretty impressive catalogue of material and their eponymous final album does the band proud, seamlessly building off of the awesome Deception Schematic. Cellgraft doesn't deviate far from the band's accustomed influences from Discordance Axis, Assuck and maybe a splash of Insect Warfare. The only real, and surprisingly welcome, difference this outing is the most robust bottom end we've ever heard from them. It adds an incredible new dimension to their twitchy grind. Otherwise, Cellgraft do not jumble a winning formula on this record, playing again to their strengths.
There wasn't any grand artistic growth with Cellgraft. They burst on us seemingly fully formed. Their debts to Discordance Axis and Assuck were obvious but without resorting to outright cloning or riff appropriation. However, their influences do burble up, like the vocal patterns to "Amelioration Lapse," which are cribbed straight from the Jon Chang playbook. That title even has more than a whiff of Discordance Axis about it. That said, Cellgraft's biological, metaphysical and philosophical musings attacked the human condition from angles previously denied to grindcore.
Cellgraft blossomed for too brief a season, but they've left an indelible mark. Hopefully their influence will slowly transform grindcore convention the way their idols did before them as the musical cognoscenti absorb their unique perspective. I had barely processed my grief at Cellgraft's untimely demise when the good people at No Reprieve records informed me that two-thirds of Cellgraft have already moved on to Faith Addiction and have record a new EP's worth of material. All is right with the world again.

Monday, September 3, 2012

G&P Review: Blighted


Blighted spare you the annoyance of having neighbors blast late night music through your bedroom wall by offering a seven song album that sounds like it was recorded in a neighboring apartment. Once you accept and get over the fact that the performances can be a bit muffled at times, you realize your annoying neighbor actually has some pretty decent taste in music.
Musically, Blighted blend the tactical nuclear strikes of Backslider with the lightning flash melodicism of Wake into a compact batch of rough and ready grindy hardcore songs that are to the point and don’t give you too much downtime to digest. Deliberate’s songs are uniformly bluff, blocky and not shy about pushing around your eardrums. However, Blighted does whip out one musical surprise in the shape of “Cycle,” which throws down slow motion heaviness glazed with an almost chiming guitar just to show they have more artistic chops even if they don’t choose to flaunt them.
So the only real knock on Deliberate is that the production forces all of the instruments and the vocals onto a single musical plane. So the album is missing some depth and interplay between its constituent parts, but that also gives Deliberate a mallet-like quality about it. Put Blighted in a decent studio with a modestly more generous recording budget and they just might surprise some people.

[Full disclosure: Blighted sent me a download.]