Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Ignore the moldering moniker and Fulci-approved artwork, the only graves Wormrot seem intent on defiling are those housing dead political ideologies. Despite an amusing disparity between songs cataloguing the band’s hatreds and others calling for the world to come together in peace, Abuse is a Singapore slingshot of barbaric grind in the vein of Insect Warfare. And one that just might be better than World Extermination? (Did I say that out loud or did I just think that?) At least the scab-raw production is, anyway.
“Freedom to Act” jumps like a frog with a firecracker shoved up its cloaca, and “Fuck…I’m Drunk” boasts an involved, scuttering riff that belies the deliberate stupidity of the title. “Murder” fractures an Iron Maiden gallop over a 324 blast. And how many other bands would have the balls to Ginsu indie rock ingénue The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Rich” – boasting some of Abuse’s tightest blasts, to boot – on their debut fucking album.
The only word for Abuse is precision. It's a fractal infinity of craftsmanship that demands repeated, attentive listens. When’s the last time you said that about a grind album? Jon Chang bitch screams war with toilet busting turd grunts, trading off just before either manages to push a song into boredom and banality. There’s a precision involved that almost gets lost in just how familiar Abuse is, even at the first listen. You can anticipate the vocal changeups and Rasyid’s whiplash guitar stops and rubber ripping peel out assaults. And I could write a dissertation on Fitri’s astonishingly tight, stuttered drums on “One Round Away.”
With the end of the year rapidly upon us, I had been sifting through the year’s offerings. It’s been a year of good grind but I had not found an obvious front runner like in 2008. Until now?
Friday, September 25, 2009
Aztec Two Step
Aztec Two Step
The most remarkable part of Swedish hardcore band Aztec Two Step’s punk assault is how little they sound like a Swedish hardcore band. This is Swedish hardcore that doesn’t beat a d. I think I think my feelings on Swedish punk are pretty clear, but Aztec Two Step are a refreshing change from a nation that seemingly issues its citizens the Discharge box set with their birth certificate. Named for a line in a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem and not to be with a pair of folk rock choades who were last seen swinging from Simon and Garfunkle’s cock, this Aztec Two Step are all machine shop guitars and sheet metal spark vocal thrashings on jaunty red vinyl no less.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
In the Name of the Father and the Son
For a guy who’s been cranking out 8-minute drone pop doom jams for the last decade, young Justin Broadrick famously didn’t have a lot of patience, quitting Napalm Death after the first Scum recording session. Though classic grind tunes like “You Suffer,” “Siege of Power” and “The Kill” have his dexterous fingerprints all over them, fast and blasting just weren’t in Broadrick’s stars. But we all know the man’s true calling lay in meticulously crafted walls of sound, whether they crushed you with their iron shod shoes a la the mighty Godflesh or buried you in suffocating walls of ambience like Jesu. While Broadrick has never helmed what I’d consider a “true” doom band his coattails permeate deep into modern doom. I’m not going to expound on the obvious but will say few before Godflesh were that heavy and Broaderick continues to crack – and drop – jaws with his latest work.
Birmingham Dorrian and the Cathedral of Doom
If there were template for the grind to doom transition, it would be a cutout of Lee Dorrian. Having helped lay a corner stone for grind with Napalm Death, like the aforementioned Broadrick, Dorrian quit that band after burning out on punk and death metal. Of course, we all know what happens next. Dorrian channels his love of Black Sabbath and Pentagram by way of his love for really horrible horror films like Tombs of the Blind Dead (“Templars Arise!” on Endtyme), Witchfinder General (“Hopkins, the Witchfinder General” on Carnival Bizarre) and Hammer horror gems like Night Creatures (Caravan Beyond Redemption’s “Captain Clegg”). From its mouldering bones begin to its increasingly bell-bottomed later offerings, Dorrian and constant companion Gary “Gaz” Jennings pretty much defined the scope of doom in the 1990s and on through the new milennium.
Warrior of Ice
Extreme grindcore demands an extreme drummer and Brutal Truth’s Scott Lewis is a lodestone for extremity. Before being tapped to handle the 'Truth (and later Exit-13), Lewis was the servant of New York warsmen Winter, whose frigid ecological meditations were instrumental to shaping the death doom sound. About as far from blasted beats as you could get, Lewis plowed into the heart of Winter’s mix of To Mega Therion-era Celtic Frost atmosphere and gloom with Amebix-blasted apocalypse crust (that band, of course, had a song called “Winter” on No Sanctuary). So it turns out the planet is destined to fry rather than freeze, but Winter’s end of the world-isms are just as trenchant. That environmental awareness probably didn’t heart when Lewis made the transition to plant-powered Brutal Truth (though lore has it his penchant for byproducts of grain put him at odds with his bush baby cohorts). In a far too common story, Winter never seemed to get their due during their four year existence and Nuclear Blast has let their their sole EP and LP (conveniently collected on one disc) go out of print. But like Otzi the Iceman, Winter remain perfectly preserved in time, a crystalline fossil of doom’s early deathward trudge.
No Fear Before the March of the Eyes of Flame
If I asked to you tick off a list of premier grind drummers, I’d fully expect names like Sandoval, Harris, Witte and Fajardo to immediately come up. But I bet John Haddad would not be the first name to spring to mind, which is fucking shame because there’s not too many people who could ably step into Raymond Herrera’s shoes. After the Fear Factory drummer sat in as a session member on Phobia’s debut EP, Return to Desolation, the Cali-grinders tapped Haddad to man my favorite album from the band to date, Means of Existence. That would be his only outing with the band and after a 6 year period during which not much was heard from Haddad, he resurfaced with Dan Kaufman and Matt Fisher, the musical axis behind the godly Mindrot, in the grumbling and downtrodden Eyes of Fire. The guy seems to have a thing for kick-starting new bands and splitting before the credit rolls in because Haddad left after debut From Ashes to Embers. However, he did reunite with them as an engineer on follow up Prisons, and Haddad’s grind career came full circle in 2008 when he manned the producer’s chair on Phobia’s 22 Random Acts of Violence.
Cerulean Transience of all my Imagined Grindcore
Remember what I said about hipsters swinging from O’Malley and Anderson’s ball bag? What goes around comes around. In addition to fellating Earth’s Dylan Carlson for most the millennia, that pair has also been lovingly stroking Aussies Disembowelment’s shaft. Earth may have birthed the drone, but Disembowelment brought the atmosphere and gloom that shadow Sunn 0))). But before they transcended into the ambient peripheral, Disembowelment started out as a Napalm Death cover band (named Scum, natch) and death/grinders Bacteria. Apparently for drummer Paul Mazziota old habits die hard. Right off the top of the Transcendence into the Peripheral, their sole album from 1993 (available in awesome two- and three-disc versions via Relapse), Disembowelment open “The Tree of Life and Death” with blastbeats. I’m going to repeat that to make sure it sinks in: Disembowelment were a funeral doom band that wrote songs full of blastbeats. Disembowelment may be better remembered for their spooky reverbed guitars, chanted vocals and unique visual aesthetic but their willingness to shatter what by then were already fossilized doom conventions can’t be overlooked either.
Do Not Deny the First Stage of Grief
Disrupt was the greatest haHHdcore band from Boston not named Siege. Can we all agree with that? Despite its constantly shifting, rent-a-member line up, Disrupt cohesively melded d-beat, scabies-afflicted crust and flashes of grindcore impatience into a pissed bunny hugging kill machine. It was also home to Randy Odierno, who drummed on a bulk of the band’s discography (which if you haven’t purchased from Relapse, then you suck) as well as guitarist Terry Savastano, who was also briefly in the band for a few early EPs. But the duo were doomed to live miserably ever after in sludge mongers Grief, who, along with Eyehategod, pretty much defined crusty, junkie doom. Rather than the flights of fancy – or Lee Dorrian’s flights of Video Nasties – that typically defined doom, Grief never left the crumbling confines of their collectively miserable skulls. Addiction, dementia, misery and depression were the staples of the band’s monochromatic palette. Aptly named Grief, the band’s songs wallowed in such misery it was impossible for them to move at more than a shuffle.
Little Old Lady from Bergenfield, New Jersey
At this point James Plotkin is so well known for his bpm-challenged work with Khanate and Khlyst younger ’heads may not even know the guy was tooling around the Earache stable at the dawn of grind and speedy punk. While not necessarily a grind fixture, musical visionary Plotkin was not averse to speed, whether it was with Old Lady Drivers, who scored a spot on the classic Combat/Earache Grind Crusher comp nearly 20 years ago, or when he recruited human drive shaft Dave Witte to back up slantwise spazz freakazoids Phantomsmasher. Armed with a bent sense of humor and a willingness to challenge grind and punk’s self-imposed limitations, the only constant in Plotkin’s career is his protean willingness to constantly explore new vistas whether it was the punk and industrial poundings of O.L.D., the spazzercized DJ-driven downbeat of Phantomsmasher or the slo-mo meltdown of his recent drone work. Regardless, Plotkin’s work has consistently crushed with the force of a Florida geezer mowing down a farmers market with his car.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Otto: Don't call me stupid.
Wanda: Oh, right! To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I've known sheep that could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it.
Where else other than black metal would you find a swath of humanity that simultaneously claims to possess the sole true embodiment of Nietzche’s will to power, triumphing over the slave morality of conformist society, while loudly decrying any other of the armchair ubermenschen with the temerity to flaunt their ever so rigid rules?
On the rare occasions I’ve looking for something blackened, a couple spins of Hellhammer or reservations at Acadiana are generally enough to set me straight. So Infernal Stronghold’s second long player (vinyl!) of blackened crust charred flesh is not the kind of thing I would have picked for myself. Infernal Stronghold’s second full length is a freezer burnt batch of horror punk with wall of ice vocal screeches that sound like they were recorded a county over from the rest of the band. It’s a distillation and celebration of the crusty Amebix punk grime that soots the inner linings of black metal’s soul. The
Everything on the Christ-punching Godless Noise (check out songs like “Crashing Trucks into Churches” and “Fuck ‘Thou Shalt Culture’”) chugs along at the speed of Satan with heaps of malevolent feedback shearing at the double picked guitars distant drums and howled vocals, but Philadelphians sport no corpse paint and wear nary a spiked bracelet in band photos. In fact, their bedhair and ragged shirts would pass unremarked if they were your run of the mill Assuck cover band.
Infernal Stronghold’s one nod to being kvlt seems to be their unwillingness to label side A and B on their LP, so I have no clue which song is which. That said, there’s a Conan-core tinged riff during a slow song in the middle of one of the sides that Crom would sell their autographed Robert E. Howard originals to have written. Fenriz probably approves, but there’s enough of that squatter soul to Godless Noise that even an unrepentant black metal mocker such as myself actually had the urge to throw the goat and go running shirtless through the forest on a moonlit night.
[Full Disclosure: Forcefield kindly provided me with a copy.]
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Named after a bag-in-a-box drink company (and why not?) NoVa-Richmond, Va., fastcore quartet Juice Tyme! take me back to my college days trolling Rebound Records’ (RIP) overflowing punk section and randomly grabbing a handful of punk 7-inches. Which would be taken back to the dorm and carefully sorted and filed in a shoebox, natch. Juice Tyme!’s fastcore/chugging hardcore eight-song plastic platter spurs that kind of nostalgia.
Everything is appropriately punk sloppy with heaps of feedback, dollar store production and the added drama of guessing whether the band will be able to finish the song together. If you suspect there’s nothing new here, you’re right. But “Human Being” hits that Jason Voorhees stalker stride that Apartment 213 perfected and Juice Tyme! motormouth Kasper even has a twinge of the Steve Makita to his grated uvula declamations. Even when a song like “Bloody Hands” throttles back to a menacing chug, you just know it’s the looming thunderhead presaging yet another quick time lightning burst that will shatter trees and splinter phone poles. Punk scene piss-take “I’m So Hardcore’s” mynah bird mimickry lampoons the tuff guy/Boston Beatdown mentality with the kind of subtle sarcasm Seth Putnam seems to have lost in his couch cushions.
As long as there are pissed off, pimply teens who can’t quite hack high school, there will always be bands like Juice Tyme! The kind of band whose shows either feature people in the pit picking up change or picking up teeth.
[Full Disclosure: Forcefield kindly provided me with a copy.]
Friday, September 11, 2009
As the World Burns
Cynical bastards that we are, there’s an old axiom among working journalists (old in that I made it up a couple of years ago when I was still working in newspapers): If it happened to an editor, then it’s a trend. Back in my newspaper reporting days I wrote my share of bogus trend stories about Crocs, Twitter and Second Life simply because a clueless editor somewhere stumbled upon them – generally well after the cultural cognoscenti had already moved on.
So with that glaring caveat, I will say I’m noticing a trend among recent Germand grindcore bands, a tendency to push the boundaries of songwriting into new and more adventurous territory. Despite the dubious metalcore qualities of their logo and art, Keitzer meld the same bold vision that characterizes countrymen Who’s My Saviour (who I just realized feature members of Wojczech and Cyness) with the subliminal melodies of Splitter.
Keitzer’s earliest output, collected as Suicide Anthology, lashed the blood and thunder of Mastodon’s churning dynamism to a huffing Euro-grind chassis. On As the World Burns, those dynamics get further refined and honed, dead weight has been sheered from the body of songs like “This Life” and “Severe,” making them more aqualine and predatory.
The dynamo powering Keitzer is weapons grade drummer Tim who stomps out commanding double bass lines when he’s not blasting beats into submission, giving serpentine guitarists Micha and Nicolai a fortress foundation for the twining early At the Gates gone grind melodies of “Corporation” and “Throw the Bolt.” For all the shifting moods on display (“Mode 3452’s” cock rock strut, “Intro/Duction’s” big band reenactment or the emotional bulldozer “Drifting) everything coheres with Keitzer. The band adheres to a unified mission to grind and that does not get lost among the outside influences.
As the World Burns is by far the most intriguing album that I inexplicably missed in 2008.
Sound the Alarm – Nothing says you’re serious like starting your album with air raid siren samples.
War, Misery and Pain
Sounds of the Animal Kingdom – Animal names Attack of the Mad Axeman wish they got to first.
The Scum Also Rises – I may not be any good with titles, but even I noticed this.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Means of Existence
Ok, so 22 Random Acts of Violence and Cruel didn’t light my fire, but I submit that Phobia are likely America’s greatest gutter grind band. Where the earliest British grind was hopped up hardcore and continental Europeans trended toward a sleeker, more refined attack, it was that initial wave of Americans who were responsible for the burliest, street level grindcore and Phobia lead that pack.
While plenty of pixels have been spilled in praise of Phobia’s awesome debut, Return to Desolation, Means of Existence’s tighter, more visceral attack has always had the pride of place in my heart, partly for being my first Phobia record. It all starts with Paul Miner’s engineering and the band’s production efforts. Means of Existence sounds huge, elephantine, dinosauric, colossal, cyclopean even. Everything is panned to the lower registers and you can practically feel the reverberations coming off Steve Burda (guitar) and Luis Pereya’s (bass) amps. It’s a monstrous, violent, physical wall of rough faced-brick grating across exposed flesh. Shane McLachlan spits and snarls a litany of the world’s sins, his righteous indignation elevating him to the post of pitiless judge, unsympathetic jury and enthusiastic executioner. Backing it all up are John Haddad’s steam hammer blasts.
Means of Existence is From Enslavement to Obliteration filtered through Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Response’s recording session. “Scars” stalks your stereo like a caged feral animal biding its time until a careless zoo keeper forgets to lock the dog. Much mauling will ensue. The spiraling, sample-heavy “Snail” is yet another fine example of the Apocalypse Now principle of metal.
Two labels have fallen out from under this album, and it and its successor, Serenity Through Pain, are both currently out of print, which is fucking travesty because this is a looser, less polished Phobia than what you’ll hear on the Willowtip albums. There’s a sense of impending calamity and danger you just don’t get from the current generation of super clean, click tracked precision of modern production values and I think we’re all the poorer for it.