Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Burn it Down: The Arson Project Believe in Slow Cooking Their Grind

The Arson Project seemed poised on the cusp of something spectacular in 2008 when they dropped their incendiary debut EP Blood and Locusts. The Swedes combined the best of their homegrown grindcraft with maybe a hint of North American punk bellicosity into 10 songs and 14 minutes of rampaging snarl.
The strength of Blood and Locust earned The Arson Project a split 7-inch on Relapse with critical darlings Noisear and an invitation to play Maryland Deathfest in 2008 (which they had to miss). But since then, the band has been quiet – a handful of tours through Europe and Asia but no new music. That’s about to change as The Arson Project ready their debut LP, which will hopefully ignite their phoenix-like resurgence to Scandinavian grind upstarts.
Here’s hoping this attempt goes better than the band’s first pass at recording a long player.
“In 2010 TAP was still only about touring and to stress out a debut full length wouldn’t have been something which we would have liked to put our names on. We tried it once in 2007 and it ended up with putting all the songs in the bin and starting from the beginning and that’s when we wrote Blood and Locusts,” vocalist and founding member Niklas Larson said. “In contrast with the MCD, we didn’t have enough time when we wrote the songs for the split, and we're not at all happy with the way the songs turned out. But we learned a lot by doing it, so we will without any doubts never release anything by deadline again. TAP songs only come when the inspiration is there.”

Fire Walk With Me.

Patience seems to be a defining theme for The Arson Project. Getting their start in tiny Oskarshamn on Sweden’s southeast coast – poised nearly equidistant between Stockholm and Copenhagen – the band  has never tried to force themselves beyond their comfort points, even if that means letting half a decade slide between releases or watching trends swirl around them.
“This band is my life. I have spent thousands of hours on the road, in our different rehearsal places and on shitty jobs just to afford going on tour or to record like five to six minutes in the studio,” Larson said. “Even though we haven’t been that active the past years, this band reminds me every day that it has made me discover so many great things which have affected me as a person. It doesn’t matter if we play a show every ten years or release albums every twenty. It's not only about being seen everywhere; it's more about not living an ordinary boring life with full time jobs, debts and lots of shit you don’t need. As long as the band exists, it lets me be who I am.”
After years of being spread around Sweden, the majority of The Arson Project is now headquartered in Malmö, which should jolt their productivity as 75 percent of the members are able to physically assemble to prepare new music several times a week. Larson in 2010 even quit his job to make The Arson Project a priority. He’s been chauffeuring other metal and punk bands around Europe the last few years since his own group has been temporarily sidelined from touring.
Larson is cautiously optimistic that The Arson Project’s upcoming album will be the band’s ticket to hit the road and see the world. Until then, it’s just a matter of deciding how they will deliver the new album to the masses once the quartet is satisfied. True to their hardcore punk roots, The Arson Project are considering handling the release in-house.
“We have many contacts and we already know a bunch of labels that are interested to put out TAP releases. But with the things we've been through in mind, we won’t give the recordings or promises to anyone before we're satisfied with the finished result,” Larson said. “We've already had discussions about releasing it ourselves as well, and it's something which I'm finding more and more as an attractive option. I don't care about being associated with respected labels at all. My only concern is that the people who want to get their hands on the vinyl should be able to find it easily without paying shitloads of money.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

G&P Review: Body Hammer

Body Hammer
II: The Mechanism of Night
The Path Less Traveled

Books and films revel in trilogies because the story follows the accustomed three-act structure. The first stage introduces the characters and sets them on the road to the second act in which they confront the antagonists and finally the resolution where all of the narrative threads are brought to a close. The second act will likely feature some of the best drama and action as the protagonist grapples with seemingly unbeatable odds, but by the same token it also can be the most unsatisfying phase of a story because there’s no resolution. That’s why the ending of The Empire Strikes Back sucks so much (that’s right I said it; it needed to be said).
Music is not particularly strong on narrative so these topics don’t come up often, but it makes a handy conceptual framework for appreciating Body Hammer’s second album, II: The Mechanism of Night, after one-man nightmare master Ryan Page revealed it’s the second installment in a planned trilogy based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Prior album, Jigoku, Virgiled us through hell as the songs were slowly eviscerated from electronic grind nightmares to free form, more abstract meditations on sin and punishment.

With The Mechanism of Night, the journey into purgatory is far more fitful and fraught. “The Iron Bough” sets the penitent tone from the outset with a flagellating wave of percussion, but unlike its predecessor, The Mechanism of Night gives play to full on grind catharsis. In fact the grind elements are sparse and widely spread out between tidal bashings of electronic waves of suffering and atonement. So that will be the first obstacle for the casual grind fiend looking for a quick blastbeat fix.
The second pitfall is inherent in the very nature of three-part story structure: the middle act is often the least satisfying entry on its own merits. But the nature of narrative, the second act ends with no resolution. Instead, our protagonists are usually left at the mercy of their foes, the promise of victory is still obscured by future obstacles. The Mechanism of Night has a similar shortcoming in that it works best when paired with its predecessor  – elements of “Body Blockade” and “Clawing at the Skin of God” nod back to themes and execution of Jigoku’s “The Bystander Effect.” The Mechanism of Night’s best elements are those that build toward tension but fail to release into catharsis such as the coven incantations of “A Presence” or the penultimate nihilistic hellscape “A Foregone Conclusion.” Where Jigoku’s primary musical tendency was from tightly wound chaos to bleeding out into noise, The Mechanism of Night is more sporadic and halting as it lurches from grind to noise.
 In the context of Dante’s controlling metaphor of a journey from Hell to Purgatory and ultimately up the mountain toward Paradise, it makes sense. But there’s probably a pretty good argument to be made that having to know all of that context in advance to enjoy a piece of music indicates a failure of execution, but once the connection is made the intention becomes clearer and the journey is rewarding, even if lacks resolution. To be continued.

[Full disclosure: I received a review copy.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Three’s Company: Reconfigured and Reinvigorated Backslider Are All About That Bass, Motherfucker

Photo by Suren Karapetyan
Sorry, two's company, and three's an adult movie.
John Turturro in Brain Donors, 1992

Philadelphia grind-violence dervish duo Backslider has brewed an exquisitely nasty racket since 2008 with the bare necessities of drums, guitar and throat-rending shrieks. And guitarist Logan and drummer Patrick were content. Early failed experiments in adding a third wheel only cemented the twosome’s desire to keep things concise. Anybody who braved the glass shard maelstrom of their audio assault would be hard pressed to argue otherwise.
Backslider could have continued cranking out immaculate music based on the binary concept and we all would have applauded slack jawed (just as soon as we recovered from the concussions they inflicted). But earlier this year Backslider unexpectedly rounded out their assault by bringing in bassist Jake.
“At first we were pretty much not willing budge on the topic. Jake was pretty persistent,” Patrick said. “I lived in Florida for a year in 06-07 and met Jake during that time. He's been in tons of bands, toured and recorded a bunch so he's no rookie. I can remember seeing him at a show before he joined in Philly, and him asking about it. I remember explaining to him that we were so used to operating as a two piece, it was more of an issue of that than anything and I had no doubt he could do it, but we would just jam and see how it went. Jake is a capable and great bass player so I knew he could do it no problem. After a few practices we caved.”
Jake was even more dogged about earning a seat in Backslider’s van after he heard the impressive Consequences album.
“I feel like at that point Patrick and I felt like it was time to branch out and start taking things more seriously,” Logan said. “We had a couple jams with him and it went really well. He's been doing this shit for years and he's no weakling.”
With Consequences, Backslider had broadened their repertoire, breaking up the speed freak brutality to repeatedly whack you upside the head with a sock full of Sacajawea dollars, taking their time to savor your pleas for mercy.
“I distinctly remember a conversation that Patrick and I had a couple of years ago, around the time that we were writing for the Nimbus Terrifix split 7-inch, that we decided we don't need boundaries and if we wanted to play fast, we were gonna play fast as fuck, but also if we wanted to play slow, we were gonna do that as well,” Logan said. “Since then, we've opened ourselves up to many different styles, and I think that we're better musicians now than we've ever been. It's more satisfying and fun, the world doesn't need any more 'powerviolence' clones.”
In that same spirit of no frontiers and no fucks given, adding Jake to the roster has also allowed Backslider to stretch their musical muscles and explore tones and timbres previously untested.
“As far as writing, his involvement and ideas have really opened things up for us, we're able to do things that we've never even thought to try before, and it sounds pretty unreal,” Patrick said. “The heaviness is more pronounced and the range of tones we're able to get balances out the sound, so much so that I wish we would've had a competent bassist all along.”

Maladapted Motherfuckers.

Backslider’s new configuration will get its first in your face work out soon once the newly minted trio puts the final touches on the upcoming album Motherfucker.
“As of right now we're about 75 percent finished with writing for the LP, it's going to be called Motherfucker and it's going to be just that,” Logan enthused. “There are a lot of things going on in these songs that are completely uncharted territory for us and they seem more like actual songs that move and grow as opposed to fastcore farts. There's still plenty of blazing fast hardcore but the arrangements are more prolonged and abstract. I don't recall a lot of the writing process for any of our records, except for the heated arguments during the Consequences practices. I can say that, for me at least, this is the most fun it's been to write for Backslider.”
After some personal and intraband turmoil leading up to Consequences, Patrick also said Motherfucker sees Backslider at their most focused. Not only has adding Jake rounded out the band’s sound, but his voice in the practice space is also pushing Backslider to be their best, the drummer said.
“I just put together a ‘discography so far’ of all of our material, and I like all of it. But, I think what we've got coming is crushing it all,” Patrick said. “Yeah, the Consequences writing period was a rough spot for us. We were busy as a band and also had a lot going on personally at the time too. It was our first longer release and we beat the crap out of ourselves getting it together. We were satisfied with the result. I think not only having a bass to pull the low end together but, having a third voice and opinion also is refreshing for us. The writing process has been fun so far, and coming together really well.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

G&P Review: Kaiju Daisenso

Kaiju Daisenso
Kaiju Daisenso
Tokyo Fist

The writers of the upcoming Godzilla and Pacific Rim sequels should sit down and take notes after a few spins of New York megafauna Kaiju Daisenso’s rubble shaking record: get straight to the fucking monsters. Nobody drops a 10-spot at the local cinema to listen to a bunch of whiny humans blather on. We’re there for the hot monster-on-monster action, so don’t fuck around and get right to the carnage.
It’s a lesson Kaiju Daisenso, featuring former members of Unearthly Trance, Serpentine Path and Helen of Troy, have indelibly seared into their souls with atomic breath. Their self-titled EP is a Rodan divebomb of no-bullshit, Ghidorah groaning grind. At 10 tracks (including a couple brief scene-setter pieces), Kaiju Daisenso lasts about as long as the King of the Monster’s screen time in the latest Hollywood reboot. But unlike the film, Kaiju Daisenso don’t pad it out with a bunch of bullshit nobody wants to see, so you’ll definitely be coming back for more.

Their EP may be short, but Kaiju Daisenso wring every monster moment out of every second with a master’s class in economical composition that honors just about every incarnation of Godzilla and friends from the horrific to the goofy (Just not Godzuki goofy. We all have our limits.). Just as they settle into a sweet grind groove, Kaiju Daisenso close out the EP’s first side with the UFO warble of “Hedorah Attack.” Flipping the record finds one of the many Mothra songs repurposed as a side two intro in “Infant Island Blues” before being nuked away by the major chord chaos of a rampant Godzilla on “Atomic Breath.”
I may have mentioned my love of kaiju eiga a time or two before, and Kaiju Daisenso hit that perfectly sweet spot between the campy rubber suited matinees of my childhood and the visceral darkness of the original Gojira. The only thing holding the EP back from perfection may be a bit of mud clinging to the guitars that blurs the riffing, but it’s the pickiest of nits because Kaiju Daisenso will lay your inner Tokyo to waste.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy.]

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Seventh Seal

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer [it] with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, [which came] with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.
And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast [it] into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

Revelation 8:1-5

Happy seventh blogaversary, G&P.
Like Barry Bonds and Mark Maguire’s homerun records, this blogaversary will always come with an asterisk (unfortunately not that Asterisk*) next to it since I basically took half a year and just fucked off. And since I’ve decided to give this yet another go, no one could accuse me of being prolific. But G&P keeps creeping along as I find the time between work, family and a toddler who seems to have skipped a grade and jumped straight to the terrible twos and then taken up permanent residence there. While I don’t have the time or energy to bang out three or four posts a week like I used to (at this point three or four a month would be a triumph), I still have this weird urge to scribble the words about the grind and send them out to the interhole in the hopes of reaching likeminded mutants who have this insatiable need to grind and the analytical compulsion to take the music apart, poke around in its innards and figure out how it all works. Setting out to write the greatest grind blog on the internet is a bit like aspiring to be the tallest guy in Munchkinland, but that’s my dream and fuck it I’ll give it a shot.
I’m genuinely grateful that you guys have stuck around despite all the ups and downs and long silences lately. I hope never to lose appreciation for the fact that all of you take time out to stop by to talk about this stuff with me. It’s a privilege to find a community that shares my interests and has provided me the support and feedback necessary to keep going. So, as always, thank you to all of you. I really do appreciate it all.
So hopefully things can pick up a bit in the next year.  I’m balls deep in my next in-depth project story (and it’s slowly kicking my ass) and I have a couple of interviews up my sleeve coming in the not too distant future (i.e. between now and the inevitable heat death of the universe). Mostly I hope I can keep finding new ways to look at grind that spark my interest and hopefully yours too. I’ll keep plugging away at G&P as long as I can find the time and energy because the interest is there on my part and hopefully yours too. I’ll write some more just as soon as I beat this pasty guy in chess. Or maybe Battleship.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mimetic: Attack of the Discordance Axis Clones

If The Inalienable Dreamless were a child, it would be old enough to start high school this year.
In the nearly decade and a half since Discordance Axis gifted the world a masterpiece and then summarily retired, the New Jersey trio has gone from that band that few had heard of and even fewer liked to a significant touchstone in grindcore. A whole generation of grind musicians has grown up with Dave Witte’s tendon-testing speed, Jon Chang’s upper register screech and pop cultural fixations and particularly Rob Marton’s uniquely phrased guitar parts as part of the musical heritage they have inherited. That influence is coming to fruition as a recent of wave of Discordance Axis clones.
“I think that we identified with Discordance Axis because they're different from other grindcore bands,” said Jonathan Thompson, whose band, Vertigo Index, cribbed both their name and style from one of Jouhou’s songs. “Despite the fact that they do adhere in some sense to the sort of the grindcore blast-heavy template, they really managed to do so in a way that was forward thinking. Rather than rehashing the bands that came before them, they took their ideas and morphed them into something that was wholly their own. That is, they were able to write short fast songs that still feel like songs rather than simply bursts of aggression. Their song writing skills, specifically on The Inalienable Dreamless, are unparalleled in grindcore. While the songs are still ferocious in their own right they contain more interesting tonal characteristics than the simpler fast power chords and blast beats of their contemporaries.”
But for Discordance Axis, after years of being marginalized, seeing other bands adapt their sonic template is a bizarre reversal.
“I have always found it surreal that DA has any kind of following today given how completely people were disinterested with us when we existed,” Chang said. “It seems like the music has influenced people in the form of bands, individuals or other artists who have nothing to do with music.”
Cloning is intrinsic to musical evolution. Nobody would be grinding now if it weren’t for shamelessly ripping off Siege, Napalm Death and Repulsion. Hell, Carcass has been cloned more times than a Mandalorian bounty hunter. Indeed, Discordance Axis’ first album, Ulterior, owed a significant and obvious debt to From Enslavement to Obliteration.
“In the case of clones or cover bands, I hope those people are getting their sea legs and working to eclipse what we did. I know when we started we were very influenced by the Scum, SOB-split era of Napalm Death, SOB, Assuck and Anal Cunt, but we found our own voice in time,” Chang said.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

G&P Review: Keitzer

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Matthew 24:6

The Last Defence
FDA Rekotz

A Midwestern town is in flames after cops dolled up in surplus military gear stormed out in force to put down protests after an unarmed black kid was shot by the police. America is easing its way into yet another war in the Middle East with an incremental build up that should make anyone with a passing familiarity with the history of Vietnam queasy. Israel and Gaza’s millennia-old internecine squabble is on again. Russia seems to be determined to reunite the old Soviet Union with Ukraine being first on the agenda.
It’s a fraught and violent time. Keitzer’s latest, The Last Defence, is a fraught and violent record that reflects its era. It may just be fortuitous (if that’s really the word) timing, but the downer news cycle synchs up perfectly with the Germans’ latest missive of relentless, bellicose negativity. The Last Defence is a single-minded beast that moves with the implacability of armored battalions cresting a battlefield. Every song rumbles along with the same Bolt Thrower chug by way of Nasum blast, and while the album may lack for variety, each of the 14 songs is like an incoming artillery round. From the sinuous, Nile-ish opener “Bellum Indicere” straight through the final shock of “…Before Annihilation,” Keitzer mine the sorry state of the world for inflammatory material. Just reading the song titles is likely to provoke PTSD in anyone who has spent time in a war zone: “Exist to Destroy,” “Forever War,” “Next Offensive” and “Glorious Dead” are dispatches from realms where bomb craters are more common than elementary schools with a soundtrack to match.
Musically, Keitzer do not deviate from the death-grind nexus that they’ve honed on past albums. If you’ve heard and enjoyed them in the past, then will offer up another 40 minute cluster bombing of the sound that’s served them so well. 

[Full disclosure: I received a download for review.]
The Last Defence

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

G&P Review: Vertigo Index

Vertigo Index
Posthuman v1.1

They’re named Vertigo Index. Do I really need to explain where these information snipers are coming from? On the off chance it’s not obvious, this carcass lottery from the remains of Bastards and Scum Guilt come apart together come together alone to worship at the altar of Jouhou. But in a refreshing twist, their damage style hews close to the Discordance Axis template without slavishly recapitulating the past.

Rather than going for another reincarnation, Vertigo Index shine brightest when they dial back the mimetic elements and take the Discordance Axis influence in new directions. Their best riffs indeed bathe in Rob Marton’s love of odd tones and musical tension, but through attrition Vertigo Index deliberately slow them down, putting one of this century’s fastest bands on a ruin trajectory with ominous sludge slog. EP standout “No Fate But What We Make” slows down a Marton-style riff to allow you to savor the odd interplay of the notes and the way they warp and bend through repetition and sustain. It’s a great, smart use of an influence without straight up mimicry. That’s not to say they can’t blast when needed. “Mother Boxx” tries to shove a Witte-grade blast beat through a 57 second aperture of pinholes, squeezing a career of acceleration into a super dense minute and it works splendidly.
In the increasingly crowded realm of Discordance Axis tribute acts, Vertigo Index are probably better than The Parallax View, about on par with Syntax but not quite as good as Asterisk*. Still, it’s a solid 3 out of 5 on the Kim Novak scale for a promising first effort.

Friday, August 8, 2014

G&P Review: Jesus Cröst

Jesus Cröst
Bones Brigade

The worst aspect of the quadrennial World Cup feets-ball tournament is suffering through that one coworker who has suddenly declared him- or herself grand poobah of all soccer, loudly pontificating on the arcane advancement rules gleaned from Wikipedia. I’ll never understand how the United States was able to lose its way into each round. (And quite honestly I don’t care because, duh, it’s soccer and I’m an American [USA! USA! USA! USA!]). But for those of you with fond memories of Paul the Octopus and a quarter hour to kill, Rotterdam soccer hooligans Jesus Cröst penned an ode to the 1986 World Cup on their third album.
Musically, the dynamic Dutch duo has not advanced the powerviolent arts significantly with 1986. In fact, there’s a monochromatic quality to writing on the 22 songs that blurs them into a somewhat long and confusing whole (Hey, just like a soccer match! Perhaps it’s a meta commentary on the experience of watching the game?).
Taking a cue from Macabre, each song is dedicated to a different footballer of yore, shining 50 second spotlights on players that give the album a strong narrative quality even if the music is frustratingly lacking in diversity. It’s a great idea, but one similar song careens into another. It’s like watching a game from way up in the nosebleeds where you can’t see jersey numbers, so the action all becomes a formless smudge of people milling about way down on the field. Jesus Cröst’s past two albums were hacked from the same blast, pause, scream, blast foundation but they felt more invigorated and propulsive than 1986. So it kind of sucks that this is their farewell effort knowing that they have so much more to give.
America’s periodic, herpes-like flare up of soccer fever has passed, but if you’re a football fan with a passion for powerviolence then Jesus Cröst have the (oddly specific) cultural crossover you’ve been waiting for. 1986 is not a bad album, but you’ve heard this done better, even by this band. 

[Full disclosure: I received a download for review.]

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Devil’s Horns: Exploring Grindcore’s Ongoing Fascination With the Saxophone

“And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods—the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.”— H.P. Lovecraft, “Nyarlathotep”
It’s time we talk about grindcore’s dirty secret.
For 30 years—literally from the very first moment—grind musicians have been cheating on you with the must un-metal of instruments: the saxophone. (Yes, I know, literally, that's it made out of metal. You know what I mean, smart ass!)
Saxophone is that instrument your parents tried to foist on you when they misunderstood what exactly you meant when you told them you wanted to join a band. It’s probably not the instrument you picture yourself shredding on a stage in front of throngs of panty-throwing fans.

However, it’s probably got more of a grindcore pedigree than you’d credit it at first blush. Its reedy wail has been adding an extra frisson to the wonted arsenal of slashing guitars and thumping drums for decades. If nothing else, dabbling in odd instrumentation will probably get you street cred as a serious musician who’s not afraid to test barriers. Also expect lazy reviewers to drop the term “jazzy” a lot when describing your song.
“Any band with a saxophone that doesn't play ska will eventually be described as jazz,” Dead Neanderthals saxophonist Otto said. “I'm really not into traditional jazz but love free jazz. Maybe we're a little jazz in that sense.”
Saxophone grind is still a bit of a novelty, and I’m certainly not advocating making it a full time thing, but maybe it’s time we recognize it’s not as incongruous as it sounds at first blush.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

G&P Review: P.L.F.

Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration

Growing up in Tornado Alley, storms were a form of entertainment. I remember sitting on the porch with my dad as a kid watching the sky turn a queasy green right before a really ripping front would tear through the town. Black clouds would build over the horizon and we’d sit there as long as possible, waiting to catch a glimpse of a twister touching down before running inside for shelter.
P.L.F.’s Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration channels some of that onrushing Great Plains thunderstorm vibe as the guitars brew up whirlwind riffs that chart dangerously high on the Fujita scale. “Rejection of Pathos” lashes and snarls with the playful, arbitrary malevolence of a tornado, the way it flays about at random destroyed some neighborhoods and leaving other blocks untouched. Paired with the high winds of guitars, the drums rain hail down in icy, pelting chunks. But once the initial welts fade, the drums will occasionally fade into the murky production, becoming the background patter of a thunderstorm on the roof.
And if Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration has one flaw (and that’s a rare misstep for a P.L.F. who have consistently delighted), it’s that in nearly 25 minutes, the band doesn’t make room for any variety. Anybody who’s ever hunkered down in a storm cellar to wait out a tornado can tell you that eventually that frisson of danger from the storm sirens fades into a gray monotony as the wind’s unceasingly shrill howl becomes more background noise straining to capture a childhood imagination. A good peal of thunder and a flash of nearby lightning every now and again (the Assuck cover is a good start) would have could have foisted Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration into storm of the century contention. Instead, it’s just one more good thundershower that spices up a hazy, humid summer and fades like a crack of heat lightning.

[Full disclosure: I received  a download for review.]

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

G&P Review: Dråp

En Naturling Dod
Embrace My Funeral

First off, there’s not much here that you probably didn’t pull out of Anti Cimex’s raped ass 30 years ago. That said, like a high calorie, low nutrition fast food fix, there’s something about Dråp (Manslaughter) that just hits the spot. En Naturling Dod is the Swedish crust punk version of drunkenly plowing through Taco Bell’s drive through window for a quesarito at 2 a.m.
Unlike a lot of their crusty contemporaries, Dråp aren’t appropriating death metal tropes to bulk up and refurbish their punk rawk. They closest these heavily bearded Viking punks come to extra-genre exploration is a nod to thrashtastic chug-a-lug and the occasional squealy guitar solo. So everything barrels along at a more or less consistent head banging nod that makes En Naturling Dod a pretty good driving record. From the black and white artwork straight through the familiarity of the music of itself, Dråp will live and die by how well they can get one more good go-round out of a style that doesn’t lend itself to musical innovation.
With that in mind, the 10 songs on En Naturling Dod are uniformly tight and uniformly ... uniform. (In a rare nod to variety, “Horstmorker” slows down and probably drags out more than is needed.) Dråp have a solid foundation to work with and injecting some solid hooks and a more commanding vocal style could have them nipping at Victims’ heels. What Dråp may lack (or simply not give a fuck about) in originality, they make up for with energy and brevity, pounding through 10 songs in under 25 minutes, playing like the world might end before they finish. It makes En Naturling Dod a head rush of a record and one that can flipped back over for repeated spins. And if you’re asking for more than that from your crust punk records, you’re probably doing it wrong.

[Full disclosure: I received a review copy.]

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Namesake Series: “War Pig(s)”

I’ve mentioned before that it takes some serious confidence to jack a Black Sabbath song title because the inevitable comparison will probably not redound to your honor. Swedish noisecore dervishes Breach tried it before with Black Sabbath’s namesake song. But they’re not the only ones to give in to the temptation. But here we go again.

“War Pigs” is inarguably one of Black Sabbath’s greatest songs. You love it. I love it. It’s a doomy, moody, apocalyptic masterpiece. Its hastily rewritten lyrics (it was originally called “Walpurgis”) straddle Sabbath’s twin obsessions with the occult and the fucked up state of modern society, blending black magic and the Vietnam War into a single tale of a society tumbling on the verge of satanic anarchy.

So of course repetitive Japanese mash monsters Zeni Geva singularized the song as “War Pig” and flayed it into a seven minute slog of a riff that smashes against your brain like a bunker buster of noise rock. K.K. Null is the most accomplished master of entrancing repetition this side of Michael Gira and “War Pig” is a relentless Godzilla rampage of stomping drums and multiheaded King Ghidorah string strangling. All in all, Zeni Geva hold their own against the undisputed masters of metal misery.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blast(beat) from the Past: Defecation

Purity Dilution
Nuclear Blast

Defecation is Mitch Harris’ personal Tiktaalik. It’s a transitional fossil that unites the malformed punk of his earliest efforts in Righteous Pigs and the death-grind hybridization of Napalm Death. Harris closed out the ’80s by roping in his brother by another mother, drummer Mick Harris, and the duo churned out Purity Dilution, a tidy little half hour from an era when two and three minute blast fests were not unheard of.
Purity Dilution was a huge step forward for guitar Harris’ songwriting after Righteous Pigs and he has a palpable chemistry with drum Harris (amazing what a drummer who can actually keep the beat will do for you). Given their simpatico and the way Defecation blended their two prior bands, it must have been a real shock for music fans the next year when Napalm Death went full on death metal on Harmony Corruption.
That anomaly aside, Purity Dilution was a distilled dose of Harris’ songwriting sensibilities. There are the familiar riffs that would populate Napalm Death’s third wave albums once Harris and Jesse Pintado settled into the riff duties. “Scrutiny” is one Barney growl away from slotting without notice on Utopia Banished. Even the pastiche  artwork evokes Napalm Death’s sensibilities. Produced by Danny Lilker, Purity Dilution’s warm, low slung chug sounds like a Napalm Death album put through a Bolt Thrower filter.
Mitch Harris played all of the instruments on a second Defecation album in 2003, but part of Purity Dilution’s charm is hearing two Napalm Death conspirators rip out a fun album that has a strong core without the baggage of their bigger band’s name hovering over the project. There’s a looseness and a freedom to the first Defecation record that makes it a charming artifact of a bygone era.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Into the Throat of Berserk

My "GridLink broke up" face.

Extreme metal vocals are largely just another blunt instrument – one more unintelligible weapon in a band’s arsenal of noise. For the most part, that’s all they really need to be, another tool in the mix. There’s not exactly a lot of down time in grind songs. So when the band gets rolling, singers are left to try and keep pace and fight for space in the mix.
But occasionally savvy musicians will know when and how to pull back. Putting the vocals forefront and providing a moment of clarity can really punctuate a song both lyrically and musically. Slamming the music to a halt to let the vocals stand on their own is a great attention grabber when done right.
Here’s a handful of ways it’s been put to good use.

You Scream, I Scream

Southern crust punkers Antischism were pissed off. They wanted to scream. They wanted you to know that they wanted to scream. So on the song “Scream” they built in space for vocalist Lyz to make that point readily apparent. The result is a musical pause that gives Lyz the space to “SCREAM!” She’s screaming about the need to scream which is all kinds of cathartic and meta at the same time.

Name Dropper

A Napalm Death play in one act:

“Gee, Barney, what’s the name of the next song?”


“Thanks for clearing that up.”

Mother Goose vs. the Grindfather

Drugs of Faith mastermind Richard Johnson made potent use of the musical pause on Corroded’s ode to rationality over religion “Age of Reason.” To punctuate his point about the value of freethinking, the song holds its breath long enough for him to scream out his intention to live “WITHOUT. THE. FAIRY. TALES.” From there, the song chooses to slowly spool out, as though all of the rush had built up to that single, powerful moment and then gave up in exhaustion. It makes the point that much more powerful.

You’re Hot Then You’re Cold

Jesus’ favorite grinders Rehumanize turn the book of Revelation’s tale of the lukewarm church at Laodecia into a grinding nightmare of vengeance and dismay on the song “Planet Loadecia.” While the song doesn’t come to a full stop, clearly its centerpiece is the relatively clean middle section where the band, personifying God, announce that “I WILL SPIT YOU OUT OF MY MOUTH.” Taken as a tale of divine retribution, that’s the moment when the implacable deity has passed judgment and only doom will follow. There can be no appeal and no reparations. Justice from that point on is swift and merciless.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus: How Assück’s Anticapital Defines Grindcore Imagery

I submit to you that Assück’s Anticapital is the greatest album cover in grindcore. There may be images that are more iconic, more striking and more artistic. But Anticapital manages to perfectly embody and define everything that grindcore’s first and second waves stood for.
Anticapital boasts a deceptively simple image for a no-frills band that believed in the power of grindcore’s to the point aggression.
First, the 1991 album’s black and white aesthetic is a throwback and nod to the crust punk that birthed and defined the earliest grindcore practitioners. It harkens back to Crass, Discharge and a whole wave of Scandinavian imitators who wore sketchy lo-fi, DIY visuals as a badge of honor. It’s also a refinement of Napalm Death and Siege’s aesthetic, adding a compositional balance and refinement to grindcore’s earliest visual cut and paste, home sketched lexicon.
The image is also conceptually weighty; it’s got the artistic and intellectual chops to stand next to Assück’s lyrical bile. The man lashed to a gear, slave to the industrial processes that dominated the 20th Century and its rush to prosperity, is also a metaphor for how the common man feels in the face of those faceless, implacable, unrelenting forces. Industrialization lifted much of the world’s population up from nothing and gave them a prosperity they could never previously attain. However, it also threatened that existence as processes became more refined and automated. Humanity saw itself become obsolete as more jobs were taken out of its hands and transferred to machinery.
Whether intentional or not, the image also calls to mind Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times as workers try to keep up with the insatiable demands of the industrial line. Eventually, their very bodies are sucked into the machinery, human grease for the wheels of progress.

That unease would only grow throughout the late 20th and early 21st Centuries as modernization and globalization meant that not only machines but cheap labor a globe away could snatch back that very same prosperity they proffered. It’s the uneasy relationship between man and the means of production that give him the life he craves that makes the visual work. Like good political dissidents, Assück's art turns Marxist agitprop on its head, questioning the value of the very same industry that promised the workers a new life of ease.
Revolutionary firebrands that they were, Assück’s imagery also evokes ’60s political activist Mario Savio’s famous “gears of the machine” speech where he exhorted student protestors to stand in the way of the forces that were arrayed against them. Students’ very bodies needed be the protest that called faceless power to account for its actions.

All of those associations feed into the rage that fueled Assück. It’s an image that not only perfectly encapsulates what made Anticapital amazing; it also strikes a visual tone that embodies the spirit that motivated grindcore’s progenitors. It’s an image that perfectly assembled and balanced all of the elements that were in play at the time, creating a striking amalgam. Grindcore is full of indelible imagery, from The Inalienable Dreamless’ stunning seascape and Drop Dead’s skulls to Reek of Putrefaction’s meat collages and Sounds of the Animal Kingdom’s man-beast hybrid. Each image is the first portal into the music within. But very few images, such as the Anticapital art, so precisely define not only an album but a whole wave of musical innovators.