Thursday, May 30, 2013

G&P Review: Scum Guilt

Scum Guilt
Grindcore Karaoke/Mannequin Rein

Scum Guilt are exquisite technicians. I don’t mean they’ve spent long hours mastering obscure scales and modes in the name of pointless fretboard wankery. Rather, Scum Guilt show a flair for the very difficult art of composition. Over eight original songs (and a Napalm Death exclamation point), Enslaved takes unrelenting pounding and through sheer repetition and subtle mutation delivers a coherent musical experience that fully develops a single idea and shows it off in many different lights.
There’s nothing subtle about Enslaved: it aims to ram your head into the turnbuckle like you were some professional wrestling upstart taking a run at the title belt before you’ve really earned your shot. Scum Guilt show off the many moods of straight forward aggression, but from every angle their chunky grind hits like a battering ram. “Lung Ripper” takes things relatively slow, wearing you down with its implacable plod while “Gate Keeper” drills in like a diamond bit winding up to speed. The exemplary “Taxi Driver” takes what could have been a throwaway breakdown in any number of generic hardcore songs  and builds an architecture of complimentary moments around it until it’s a fully formed musical expression. But even amid the blunt force trauma, Scum Guilt have buried nuggets of careful composition. “No Trust” pulls a sneaky Discordance Axis trick of playing the blastbeats off of a slower tempo riff, creating dynamic tension in the song.
Scum Guilt can hold their own with the most aggression-focused of the their grindcore peers, but this band is already showing flashes of something more interesting going on behind their lashings. All of the elements are wonderfully familiar, but this is a band that knows how to keep the mix fresh. Of that, this scum is guilty as charged.

Monday, May 27, 2013

G&P Review: North Arlen Grind Society

North Arlen Grind Society

North Arlen Grind Society's incredibly rough demo-sounding  EP is probably cool enough to pass around to friends and maybe book them a weekend basement show over in neighboring McMaynerberry, but if this King of the Hill-themed grind duo is ever going to get the hell out of Heimlich county, they'll need to invest in a better recording session. A couple more months selling propane and propane accessories should put enough scratch in their pockets to show off their songs in their best light.
The duo's lowbrow homebrew recording has a trebly, frosty shriek about the swirling guitars and evil wizard howl that would probably bowl over the super trve black metal hordes, but this is billed as grind (sez so right in the name), so the distant drums and the lack of any low register oomph means North Arlen Grind Society just don't quite kick you in the nuts the way they should. There are the rudiments of some pretty good songs here if they weren't fighting the production. Somebody like thedowngoing could make magic with this kind of caterwauling, but a little more clarity would do Arlen Grind Society's songs a world of good. The keening middle section of "One Town Tour With Thunderhorse," smack dab in the middle of the EP, is a nice exclamation point, a searing breakdown that shows North Arlen Grind Society might have some range beyond factory ordered blastbeats and an anthill full of stinging riffs. Right now, they're not quite bringing the noise that will make Hank Hill kick your ass. What they need now is a production job to bring out the BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coffee Break

Punk and grind are hyped up music and it takes a lot to keep the adrenaline flowing to blast a beat and keep a mosh pit turning. It's something of an open secret that many of your favorite bands lean on the chemical crutch to keep them amped album after album and show after show. Despite Nancy Reagan's best efforts, drugs are just a part of the lifestyle. I'm referring, of course, to that black bitch, coffee.

I Take it Black, Like My Men

Is it really any surprise that Hank Rollins would extol the virtues of the caffeinated life, especially when you realize that excessive coffee consumption is linked to aggression and irritability? Nobody was more aggressive or more irritable than Black Flag and they delivered many of their finest tirades with coffee cup in hand. And they take it black. None of that sugar or cream bullshit. Come to think of it, that's pretty much how they delivered their screeds: no sweeteners.

The Young and the Restless

It's never too early to start a lifelong addiction and the smart ass punks Descendants were the '80s' best ambassadors of the caffeinated lifestyle. They advocate kids taking up the cause early and often. The Descendants' motto was "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll minus the sex and drugs." Fortunately for us, caffeine slipped past their definition of drugs somehow because they have multiple excellent songs singing the joys of coffee. Thanks to modern chemistry, sleep is now optional. Kickass punk rock is mandatory.

Friends Without Benefits

Mocking coffee house culture during the mid-90s peak of Friends' inexplicable popularity is not exactly stretching your satiric muscles, but Operation: Cliff Clavin, who piggybacked on Propagandhi's wave of political skatecore, would like to express their displeasure with the ubiquity of pretentious assholes lounging around their favorite espresso bar with poetry in hand while trying to out-cool each other. Operation: Cliff Clavin were hating on hipsters before it was popular.

Playing Favorites

Sete Star Sept want you to know that this is how we sound when we don't get our vital caffeine. So fill the fucking cup, shut the fuck up, and the back the fuck away slowly.

Monday, May 20, 2013

G&P Review: Terrifyer

Self Released

At first blush, you'd be forgiven for thinking some enterprising Sherpa had humped a load of Pig Destroyer records up Mt. Everest. However, throw on this Nepalese band's four song EP and you'll get lacerated by the rough edges of songs that sound like they could be long lost Excruciating Terror demos redone with guttural death metal vokills. There's that same jagged edge metal sound and snotty punk soul that underlined the Californians' early efforts.
Wreck is all about bass, guitar, drums and rasping/grunting vocals hovering in perfect punky balance, slamdancing into each other but still giving each the floor space to make their individual impact felt--the opening drum artillery and the bass break that trawls the downbeat midpoint of "Urban Wasteland" are both particularly choice. And each of the four songs is some variation of that, dive bombing across your speakers in two minutes or less and delivering tactical strikes to the grind-oriented pleasure centers of your brain. Terrifyer's compositional chops also remind me a skootch of Sakatat, though they're nowhere as amped and frenetic as the Turks were. But give it time. This is definitely a band I'd want to hear again with a little more growth and some confidence in a studio.
Wreck is available free for all from the band's Facebook page and it's certainly worth the five minutes it will take to invest in grindcore's very own Tenzing Norgay; hopefully Terrifyer are the first of many Nepalese bands to reach their particular summit.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

G&P Review: Antigama


Antigama's Meteor crashes through your speakers like that Star Destroyer that eclipsed the screen at the start of the first Star Wars film. The band's implacable intergalactic oddball-core just grows and expands until its futuristic sheen obscures your vision, burning out your retinas with the flare of its receding ion drives.
While Meteor is less immediate and aggressive than immediate predecessor Stop the Chaos (that said, "Prophecy" stalks the feral urban predator vibe sorely missing from Book Burner), it's still a varied, unpredictable skim across the whacko-grind event horizon that's on par with Antigama's better efforts like Warning. Once again the prolific Poles have crammed their space probe grind full of the kind of unexpected, off kilter excursions that will either leaving the marauding Martian hordes plotting our demise rolling with laughter or hopelessly paralyzed with confusion. No matter how well versed you are in Antigama's outré oeuvre, you're probably not going to see the scat breakdown and ZZ Top boogie shuffle of “Fed by the Feeling” coming, even after I just told you that. Ditto the space age keytar breakdown in the middle of  “Turbulence's” intergalactic belly dance gyrations. I also really dug the super reverbed vocals and Swans plod of “Untruth,” which sounds like it was salvaged from the rusted, derelict hulk of Red Harvest's industrial Death Star, that punctuated Meteor's final impact.
Antigama just continue to get better. Where I found their earlier material too scattershot and unfocused, Meteor continues their recent string of bizarre outings that still feel cohesive and purposeful. I may not have a clue where Antigama are about to take me when I hit play, but clearly they've got a course planned. Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star, or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it. And I wouldn't want to stop this trip short.

[Full disclosure: Selfmadegod sent me a download.]

Monday, May 13, 2013

G&P Review: Occult 45

Occult 45
Grind the Lightning

The law of the conservation of mass tells us that mass can neither be created destroyed, though it may change form over time. The grindcore corollary would be that a band's songs are neither created nor destroyed but simply change form when they're promoted from demo to album version. (The comedy corollary is I almost opened with the same Billy Dee Williams joke I used last time.)
Philly trio Occult 45 don't tempt the wrath of physics because they reduce, reuse and recycle all four songs from their Grind Funk Railroad demo for this eight song offering. The old songs aren't created or destroyed so much as festooned with a handful of new tunes that stripmine the narrow vein between Crom's sardonic Conan-core and Population Reduction's high resin thrash throwbacks.
That said, things get off to a worrisome start with the repetitive, overlong “Demonologist,” which takes the title phrase and rides rodeo on it for two minutes until it collapses exhausted. While the first track is the most egregious, it’s also indicative of the one area where Occult 45 repeatedly fall short. The album art boasts the motto “We Grind, You Suck, Get Fucked,” but there are too many times when I get restless waiting for the actual grind to kick in. Like the namesake its title apes, Grind the Lightning ultimately has more thrash in its soul than blastbeat. Occult 45 spend too much time – such as the lumbering (and grammatically worrisome) “The Farmers Daughter” – building up to an explosion that either comes too late or never comes at all. Bottom line, there are better bands to be found working a similar shtick (hello, Spewtilator) so it’s time for Occult 45 to step it and come hard with a batch of tunes that will separate themselves from an increasingly crowded pack.

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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

G&P Review: Dead Again

Dead Again
Occultus Lake

Death-grind deadites Dead Again crawl forth from the crypt (of either Rays or the Keeper, take your pick) to raise a cyber-zombie horde that pays tribute to every failed space mission and righteously pissed off demon lord that boasts a body count worth noting. Occultus Lake draws from an admirable cross section of science fiction and horror such as Dune (“The Sleeper Has Awakened”), Alien (“Chestburster”), Starship Troopers (“Bug Hunt”) and the ubiquitous Hellraiser IV (“The Lament Configuration”) to pepper their B-movie broadsides.
Featuring members of Origami Swan and Anion, Dead Again rolls together death, grind and hardcore in approximately the same ratio as the most recent Napalm Death efforts but adds just a soupcon of NOLA sludge swagger to give their songs an extra layer of swing as they lurch from blasting biker grind to vein-opening trudge. In fact, the sludge may be Dead Again’s strongest suit. Opener “The Sleeper Has Awakened” swings a giant sandworm slither through a crusty hardcore groove that’s so captivating that it’s almost (but not quite) a letdown when Dead Again bring the grind. But that’s part of what makes Occultus Lake so compelling: the sheer diversity. With the exception of the extremely rare missed step (the plodding “Empty Burial” nearly derails the whole album early on), Dead Again has cobbled together a shifty little beast of a record that keeps coming up with new ways jump out of the shadows just when you think you've figured out their serial killer toolkit.

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

Monday, May 6, 2013

G&P Review: Rotten Sound

Rotten Sound
Species at War

As good as Rotten Sound’s long players are, after the Napalm EP I find myself looking forward to their short form efforts even more. The ferocious Finns seem to embrace the challenge of constrained running times, turning in some of their best and tightest material.  Like the 11 minute Napalm, Species at War gives use a six song snack pack, but this time Rotten Sound have shaved a whole three minutes off the run time. They sound even more hopped up on blastahol, and that gives Species at War a primal, troglodytic edge occasionally missing from their cleaner sounding full lengths.
Though they've shaved the songs down to the bone, Rotten Sound leaves just enough gristle to make each one distinct like the predatory groove of "The Game," the slouching "Salvation" or the multipart grind of "War." The blend of adrenaline and grit throws back to Rotten Sound's earliest, grimiest efforts. Their recent albums have been staggering waves of crusty grind, but they have also erred on the side of clean production. Species at War finds Rotten Sound riding that sweet spot between clarity and a needed atavism that gives them that perfect grind punch, jumping up through your speakers to hit you in the vertebrae with a sack of the Finnish equivalent of nickels.
I know this is probably intended to be a stopgap teaser for pending full length, but I'm really liking the way Species of War stands on its own. Unless, of course, the next record is t
his raw and raging. If so, count me in. Until then, I'm going to flip this one over and hit play one more time.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

G&P Review: Blockheads

The World is Dead

Calling Blockheads an old school grindcore band doesn't do them justice. Ye olde timey one room schoolhouse full of repurposed punk riffs and unrelenting blastbeats is the only matriculation these French lifers have ever known. Though The World is Dead is only their fourth album, the band formed before Barney Greenway got his shot at Napalm Death's mic but without racking up the same name recognition and cache. Relapse's might and wallet might be able to power them to a late career surge by broadening their footprint.
With all their accumulated years of experience, Blockheads make the most of The World is Dead. True to their vintage, they turn in 40 minutes of early-style grind that slots comfortably between Extreme Noise Terror and the earliest Phobia material. It’s not flashy or revolutionary, but Blockheads bring craftsmanship and temperament born of time and patience to the plate. The result is rip snorting ride through 25 songs of unrepentant agitprop boiled down to shoutable 90 second slogans (“Be a Thorn to Power,” “Follow the Bombs”) that, sadly, would be relevant to any political era in grindcore’s three decade lifespan.  Anyone who enjoyed Blockheads’ split with Mumakil (actually the second pairing for those two bands in the space of three years) knows there’s more than a little bit of overlap in their sound. Blockheads may have a touch more of Rotten Sound’s gear shifting clank about them, but The World is Dead comes off as a more focused and intense take of Mumakil’s Behold the Failure (Mumakil’s vocalist Thomas guests on the record as well).
The World is Dead is a little on the long side and the plodding seven minutes of “Trail of the Dead” could have been shoved down the memory hole without too many tears shed. But when you go the better part of a decade between albums, you have to wring every second out of records when you get the chance.