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.]