Friday, March 29, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 7: From the End of the World

You were never noticed in life
It was the wrong time
It was the wrong place
Now that you're gone, you live in my dreams


Photo courtesy of Scott Kinkade

    Anodyne were probably the best band you never heard of around the turn of the century. Though they grew up alongside some of the most popular bands of the Boston boom of the late '90s and shared labels with a who's who of noise rock contemporaries, Anodyne were a band that just never seemed to find its niche with the music-buying masses.
    "We've never really had an audience the way other bands had an audience so kids who like Blood for Blood will like us," guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill said. "We've always been sort of like a square peg in a round hole in whatever scenario we were in. The Level Plane kids were open minded. They weren't really exposed to extreme music like we were doing. We were never a major band. We were never able to draw more than 50 people anyway."
    If Anodyne were never able to connect with a wider audience, it certainly wasn't from a lack of trying. The road dogs would play just about anywhere with just about any band.
    "We would play with all sorts of bands on tour, black metal, crust, grindcore, that weird electronic spastic shit that was popular then, tough guy shit, all kinds of bands," bassist Joshua Scott said. "We were less concerned about the bands we played with than we were with just being gone and playing shows. There would usually be one or two kids who were into it."
    Critical darlings like Isis championed Anodyne, taking them on the road several times, but it never translated into the same level of material success.   
    "That connection with them helped us a little bit. Aaron and those guys would always try to help us when they could," Hill said.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 6: Into the Outer Dark

Too far I want
Too much I fell
From grace disappear
I wish I knew why it
Felt like ice picks

"Lucky Sky Diamond"
The Outer Dark

    After eight years and three full lengths, the members of Anodyne went their separate ways after they failed to find an audience for their idiosyncratic take on hardcore and noise rock. Nearly every record label the band worked with has since gone out of business, leaving the bulk of the band's material out of print and minimizing their shot at posthumous underground glory.
    "Anodyne was an obscure band," guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill said. There was only really a few people who remember the band. We weren't like Coalesce who were selling out huge places and selling huge records. Re-releasing things by them makes sense. Us, you'd get my mom and two friends, maybe. I wouldn't even sell a copy to my mom. I'd give it to her."
    But Anodyne's legacy lives as its DNA filtered down through the various musicians' new projects. Anodyne alumni have taken stabs at grindcore, shoegaze, sludge, indie rock and electronic music in the years since they crawled out from under a Lifetime of Gray Skies.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 5: Infernal Machine

I read your diary
In the top drawer
Next to your bed
You lie awake at night
I know what's on your mind

"Carnot Engine"
Lifetime of Gray Skies

Photos courtesy of Scott Kinkade

    For their third and final full length, 2004's Lifetime of Gray Skies, Anodyne, like peers Lickgoldensky, made the leap from Escape Artist to Level Plane Records looking for a change of musical scenery. Level Plane owner Greg Drudy was looking to expand his label's niche beyond screamo to include other offshoots of the punk family tree.
    "Around that time Greg was working with bands like Coliseum as well. Coliseum is further away from being a screamo band than we were," guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill said. "I feel like at the time Greg was trying to expand away from emo and that kind of trip. His musical interests were expanding."
    Though Anodyne had leaped to a new label, the songwriting process remained consistent. Riffs and songs were intensely workshopped and improved through intensive and laborious rehearsals.
    "We approached writing the same as the previous two records, just trying to create something we were into, always attempting to build something more expansive," drummer Joel Stallings said. "By this point we had been touring like crazy, so I think that lifestyle fed into the writing, and our strengths as players."
    Lifetime of Gray Skies was recorded at Telefunken Studios in Connecticut in 2004 as Anodyne were gearing up for their first European tour.
    "It was a fairly intense time," bassist Joshua Scott said. "My job was winding down. We were trying to find the best place to record, playing shows, screening record covers, and getting ready for Europe. I think we left for the European tour a week or less after we finished recording and mixing the record. I also was called for jury duty somewhere in there. As usual, the studio situation was fucked up. We had chosen a studio in Connecticut on the advice of our friend and because of their tape machine. The studio manager didn’t even have it set up when we got there. We wasted a day straightening that shit out, and then were told we had a 10 pm curfew on noise, not what we had been told when we were scheduling shit. Joel and I finished our takes the next day and took the bus back to [New York] to finish out our jobs. When we returned later in the week, Mike and the other engineer had pretty much mixed it, and we just listened to the finals, which is fine with me. It’s a process I have little tolerance for."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 4: Finest Craftsman

I'll create you
Erase the parts I don't like
I'll destroy you
Like everyone you've ever known

"Like Water in Water"
The Outer Dark

Photo courtesy of Scott Kinkade

    With powerhouse drummer Joel Stallings in the fold, Anodyne entered their most intense and productive phase of the band. The trio's stability allowed them to reel off a series of defining EPs and a pair of well received albums, including the band's farewell masterwork, Lifetime of Gray Skies in the span of three years.
    "That was pretty much the beginning of that era of the band, probably the most well known version of the band, the lineup that was more singular in its approach," guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill said. "We were all on board with touring and rehearsing. We had a pretty rigorous rehearsal schedule. That was the most productive era of the band. It felt like an unlimited creative pool. Everyone's playing was at a really high point at that point. We were constantly writing."
    Anodyne would schedule marathon rehearsal sessions, spending three or four hours at a time working over their music. Anodyne was Hill's whole world at the time, and he poured out everything he had and felt into his music and lyrics.
    "I didn't have anything else to do," he said. "I was living this sort of lean existence. The band was everything I had. That's the way I wanted to approach it at that period. As a result, we were able to write a lot, come up with a lot of material, hone our skills as musicians. There's a lot of chemistry between us as musicians. We get there from rehearsing."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 3: Start With Subtraction

Erase these moments
Erase these wasted years
Sometimes I wish I could disappear
Sometimes I can't

"Our Lady of Assassins"
The Outer Dark

Photos courtesy of Scott Kinkade

    Short a drummer and second guitarist, Anodyne went through a "weird hiatus period for a couple of months" in 2001 that saw the band ultimately relocate to New York, guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill said. Once there, Hill and bassist Joshua Scott would recruit a phenomenal new drummer in Joel Stallings and usher in the band's most stable, focused and creative era.
    "Moving didn’t seem like a big deal to me; I was prepared," Scott said. "I was surprised when [previous drummer Ira] Bronson quit (which happened as we were loading out from the Enemymine show we had just played), but I knew we would find someone. Any confidence came from the fact that we had been playing in bands for a while, and I knew I could play in a band wherever we were. It was the normal state.  My concern was finding a job and a place to live. Luckily, Mike put me up until I did find a place."
    Once they settled into New York, Anodyne started the search for a second guitarist to take Ayal Naor's place. One of the prospects was Black Army Jacket's Andrew Orlando. The two bands had met and bonded at shows and Black Army Jacket drummer Dave Witte chipped in as a session drummer for Anodyne, so it seemed like a natural fit. Anodyne pressed Orlando into service when they played Hellfest in 2001.
    "I was very familiar with their music, loved the hell out of Quiet Wars, and the new material they had was so amazing. I was a big fan of it all," Orlando said. "We practiced a couple of times, and all I can say is that when it came for the day of the show, I felt completely overwhelmed. Listening to what Mike plays and then trying to actually play it are two completely different things. Mike is an amazing player on a very different level than me and it kind of showed. I was hanging on for dear life. But, it sounded noisy and chaotic and kind of cool."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 2: The Great Assimilator

Only you can give
Give me what I need
It was always you

"Portable Crematorium"
Lifetime of Gray Skies

Photos courtesy of Scott Kinkade

    Anodyne stood at the fringe of Boston's hardcore boom at the turn of the century, coming up alongside acts like Isis, Converge and Cave In. Though all of those bands had overlapping musical interests and shared a common love of hardcore and noise rock, each was able to spin that into distinct and unique sounds.
    "There were a lot of good bands coming out of Boston at that time," Isis drummer Aaron Harris said. "I remember thinking the same thing. Why are all these bands from Boston? We were all friends and toured together. We all rehearsed in the same crappy rehearsal complex in Allston. Isis shared a practice space with Cave In for a while, and Anodyne rehearsed down the hall."
    "Boston was definitely having a good moment," Anodyne guitarist and vocalist Ayal Naor said. "I was around a little earlier than that. There was a feeling that something was happening, and it was an exciting time to make music. ... There's a kind of feeling that something is happening and you're playing with these bands and you get excited to play with them. We'd tour with Isis and see them 30 nights in a row, and I would stand there and see them every night."
    However, guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill always felt out of place compared to close-knit relationship shared by those other bands.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 1: Form is Emptiness

 I wear an iron mask to hide the ugly truth
Lifetime of gray skies

"In the Desert Sight Precedes Sound"
Lifetime of Gray Skies

    There were no press releases announcing Anodyne's breakup in 2005. The band did not hit the tour trail for one more victory lap. Burned out and creatively spent, the then-New York trio quietly canceled their plans for a European tour and laid to rest one of the most abrasive and aggressive hardcore bands of the young millennium.
    "I'm super critical of the fanfare people put on these things like 'This is our last show,'" said guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill, the band's sole constant through its eight year existence.
    It's probably a given that Converge will go down as this generation's equivalent of Black Flag, but Anodyne make a perfect Miss Congeniality to the other Boston hardcore institution's Prom Queen. Anodyne reeled off three vicious records, including apotheosis Lifetime of Gray Skies, and the requisite van-full of EPs in an eight year period, honing and perfecting their sandpaper scrape brand of hardcore. Unlike Converge, though, Anodyne fizzled partly because they were never able to identify a demographic hungry for their angular, driving, emotionally cathartic hardcore. Though Anodyne, itself, was never able to connect with a wider audience, it should be remembered as a proving ground for a series of musicians who would spin off into a host of creatively challenging bands as varied as Tombs, 27 and Defeatist.
    "It's something we all did together and it's something important to us," Hill said. "It made us grow as people and as friends. It helped us achieve the things we're doing now. It was a building block."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

G&P Review: The Black Coffins

It would perhaps be more accurate to state that we Necropolitans know more of the ways of the living than the inhabitants of their cities do. We know more of their funeral customs, at any rate.  And those we have forgotten are stored in the library of Letharge. Mortality can be a signal for festivity and drunkenness; for mourning and sobriety; for feasting; for fasting; for remembrance or forgetting.

Neil Gaiman
Sandman Vol. 8 Worlds' End

The Black Coffins
Dead Sky Sepulchre
Black Hole

Though it's spent 30 years growling about the cessation of life, death metal has rather narrowly confined itself to the mechanistic processes of death both in and out of the grave. Very few bands have mustered the wherewithal to muster more insight into what the end of life actually means. Brazilian death metal quartet The Black Coffins get a bit more philosophical with a handful of songs that consider not what death means for the corpse, but how those left behind process its ramifications and the rituals that ease the passing for survivors. They also bang out a bunch of tunes about hate and destruction and bombs and all that other stereotypical death metal folderol, but they're at their best when they think a little deeper.
So it's kind of a bummer that Dead Sky Sepulchure sounds so flat and lifeless, especially considering it was mixed and mastered by William Blackmon of Gadget who has always done a stellar job of pulling the best sound and performances out of his own band. The Black Coffins' death metal won't bowl over with originality anyone who has heard the first two The Haunted records, but that still doesn't excuse a tepid performance. Even throwing in stolen Motorhead riffs in "Below the Roots" doesn't spark that primal urge get up and rage.
I can cheer on a totally generic album that's delivered with verve and bashed out with panache, but there's just something embalmed about Dead Sky Sepulchre. It's a shame to hear an album that strives for something original lyrically be dragged down by a forgettable recording.

[Full disclosure: Black Hole sent me a review copy.]

Monday, March 11, 2013

Grindcore Bracketology 3: The King of the World

Anybody else barely sleep last night, giddy with anticipation? It's like Christmas and the Oscars and the NHL trading deadline all rolled into one! It's the most important day of the grindcore calendar. Right? ... crickets.
Ok. Moving on.
We're about to crown the best grindcore record in history with two of the genre defining records vying for the honor. But first, let's take a quick trip back to see how the standings broke down so far.

32. Unseen Terror-Human Error 
31.Cellgraft-External Habitation (tie)
31. Sakatat-Bir Devrin Sonu (tie)
31. S.O.B.-Gate of Doom (tie)
28. Liberteer-Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees
27. Enemy Soil-Casualties of Progress (tie)
27. Mortalized-Absolute Mortality 2 (tie)
25. Extreme Noise Terror-A Holocaust in Your Head (tie)
25. S.O.B.-Don't Be Swindle (tie)
23. Agoraphobic Nosebleed-PCP Torpedo
22. Nasum-Helvete (tie)
22. Carcass-Reek of Putrefaction (tie)
20. Siege-Drop Dead (tie)
20. Agoraphobic Nosebleed-Altered States of America (tie)
20. Suffering Mind-Suffering Mind (tie)
17. Napalm Death-From Enslavement to Obliteration
16. Dephosphorus-Night Sky Transform
15. Kill the Client-Cleptocracy
14. GridLink-Amber Gray
13. Disrupt-Unrest
12. Brutal Truth-Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses (tie)
12. Wormrot-Abuse (tie)
10. Assuck-Misery Index
9. Brutal Truth-Need to Control
8. 324- Boutoku no Taiyo
7. Pig Destroyer-Prowler in the Yard
6. Napalm Death-Scum
5. Terrorizer-World Downfall
4. Insect Warfare-World Extermination
3. Assuck-Anticapital

You could put together a pretty damn good grind collection using that as a template.
So with that trip down memory lane behind us, let's get down to business. It call came down to two albums, Repulsion's genre-defining (literally!) Horrified and Discordance Axis' new millennium game changer The Inalienable Dreamless. Would you go with tradition and nod back to the festering zombie that started it all or would you crown an anime-core classic as the greatest grind that ever ground?
C'mon. With my readership? We all know where this is going. The Inalienable Dreamless swept to a commanding 22-11 win, doubling up on Horrified to take the title as the single greatest grind album ever as chosen by you, my intelligent, charismatic, wise, dexterous, strong and ... ummm.... constitutional readers (D&D Second Edition 4 Lyfe, bitches!). I hope you can live with your choice.
Thank you everyone for participating. Until next year.

Friday, March 8, 2013

G&P Review: Phylum


Phylum live by the hoary adage that if it ain't broke, keep whacking it with a hammer until it shatters.
Divisions is the complete package: five songs of troglodytic brutality that snarl along like a chunkier Insect Warfare or something closer to Backslider. The whole EP is poised on the knife of gloriously shitty production that's just clear enough to keep everything listenable but still rough enough around the edges to leave papercuts in its wake.
This Alabama trio has packed every second of their eight minute EP with dynamite and spend five songs flicking cigarette butts at the fuse just waiting for the ka-boom. It's a great explosion even when you know it's coming. The buzzing guitar noise threatens to swallow the drums whole, but occasionally the percussion will rise out of the murk like a great white breaching to smash everything in sight.
Probably the most interesting aspect of Divisions is the way Phylum have built a strong experience through smart sequencing. The slow motion apocalypse of "Fuse Blower" chains directly into the building momentum of "Prophet Margin." Additionally, the pit of hell vocals mutate over the EP, phasing into thedowngoing-style caterwauling. Everything gets nuclear vaporized at the end with a full minute of white noise eruption that capstones "Assimilate." They're all small moments, but taken together they give Divisions a real sense of purpose and direction. And it all just begs you to push play once the eight minute hatefest has reached its end. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

At Cold War With Grindcore

Scoff they who lack the illumination to see the machinations behind the facade of the 21st Century. For those accustomed to piecing together disparate signs and portents, they elucidate the true powers that manipulate our lives like pawns. In place of bread and circuses our shadowy despots gave us pre-packaged rebellion and soporific entertainments meant to lull all who questioned the construct we call reality. While we feared their efforts to immanentize the eschaton, the Earth's true masters had discovered the ultimate transcendental armament: they had weaponized grindcore. Draw near and see the auguries revealed.

Let's Play Operation

In 1961 the CIA attempted to infiltrate Singapore's secret police (hilarity ensued). The Southeast Asian nation decided to bide its time for nearly 50 years, retaliating in 2009 by enslaving the globe's gullible grind-loving children through a clever counter attack dubbed "Operation Grindcore." The vessel for this retaliatory strike was a three man commando team of subliminal musical specialists dubbed Wormrot. In less than 30 seconds, Singapore brought the right thinking grind world to its knees with its initial tactical strike.

Hash it Out

Singapore's unexpected surge for global domination was remarkably successful because first world grindcore audiences has been lulled into a pharmacological coma that left them helpless against Southeast Asia's most wicked riffs. Population Reduction lamented this indolence in their portrait of the strung out, incoherent grind masses with "Hash Smoking Grind Freaks." Befuddled by the rallying cry of "smoke, grind, sleep," Europe and North America had grown complacent, unprepared for the attack.

War is Hell... of a Good Time

The United States had actually gotten wind of Singapore's dastardly plans a few years in advance and attempted to develop appropriate counter measures.  Fearing for the very survival of American grind, the nation's finest engineers (the good kind; not these assholes) gathered together along the Gulf Coast for the blastbeaten equivalent of the Manhattan Project. Because Wormrot's riffs buzzed like subliminal wasps, the United States' retaliation was known as Insect Warfare. Despite their best intentions, the researchers feared grindcore had been irrevocably infected with Wormrot's awesomeness. The only answer was to burn it all down. They declared they were "At War With Grindcore."

If You Build It, They Will Grind

What these scientists and assorted eggheads quickly realized is that no organic drummer could stand in the face of Fitri's insane thumping. From a dark corner of the DARPA budget government spooks are loath to even acknowledge exists came Agoraphobic Nosebleed and "Built to Grind," 22 seconds of digitized terminator noise that would stand as the United States' last hope. Some men are born to grind, others have grind thrust upon them, but motherfucking Agoraphobic Nosebleed were built to grind. Now go have sex with Jesus Christ, you faggot.

Sixth Extinction

The clandestine grindcore skirmish between Singapore and the United States eventually left the globe a charred cinder set upon by roving gangs of blastbeat bandits in jerry rigged cars and football pads. The last men standing at the end of the universe, Gripe said farewell to all that came before with their lamenting "Grind into Extinction." It's the end of the world as we know. Nobody feels fine now.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Grindcore Bracketology 3: The Whole Enchilada

Mmmmm...tastes like burning.
So this is what three months of planning and voting and debating have led up to. Two albums enter. One albums leaves. Thunderdome. You've cast your votes, you've left me with innumerable ties to break, but no more. This is it. This is for all the grindcore marbles. This week we decide the greatest grind album of all time by that most scientific of methods: the anonymous internet poll of self-selected readers of one obscure blog. I don't see how anyone will ever be able to dispute the validity of your choice. Because if there's one thing the internet is known for it, it's amicably reaching a decision after rational debate.

Here's how the penultimate week's matchups went down.

Assuck started off strong, but we're talking about Horrified here. Repulsion are one of the foundational bands. They may have been milking one album for 30 years, but that's a pretty damn good one. Horrified advances by a vote of 19-17.

I wouldn't have faulted you for voting for Insect Warfare in this one (and for a while there it looked like an upset was in the offing), but The Inalienable Dreamless kept its perch at the top of the heap by 21-16.

So that brings us to the final battle in our little farce. The best of the oldies up against the greatest album the new generation has produced to date. As always, voting is open until Sunday either here or at the Facebook page.
I give you your final battle:

Repulsion-Horrified v. Discordance Axis-The Inalienable Dreamless

Friday, March 1, 2013

G&P Review: Will Destroy

Will Destroy
Will Destroy

Even on an MP3, there's a hiss and crackle between Will Destroy's songs that sounds like a record on a turntable that set the tone for this Venezuelan band. But be warned, this isn't a band for anyone who appreciates the lower registers. Their demo is mixed hot and violent, with a serrated treble edge that makes even the drums sound like the clank of broken machinery. It also swallows the pig squeal vocals. Not that that's exactly a band thing, depending on how porcine you prefer your vocals.
But there's that occasional moment-- like "Cesium 137"--where the band slows down just enough that they're not fighting the mix and it sounds like you've stuck your ear right up against their amps and you feel like you're right there in the rehearsal space with them. But those moments, unfortunately, are fleeing. Will Destroy sound like they pulled their demo together over a series of sessions in a basement studio because the sound quality varies between songs. "T.H.C." is drowning in less noise, but it's still trebly and the drums have a sharp pinging tone.
This is another EP that's not terrible, it could just use some TLC to bring out its best attributes. If Will Destroy are serious, it's time to make the jump from the basement and invest in a real recording session with professionals who can make the most of their sound.