Sunday, September 2, 2012

Syntax- Syntax 2012

I never know how to feel when listening to a new band’s demo material. It’s not the fact that demos are never perfect; demos are cool for what they promise as much as what they deliver. My reservation toward demos lies exactly in that promise. Just like I’m never sure if a band I love is going to follow up on a great LP, I’m never sure if a demo band I like will make it to one decent LP before they break up or change so drastically that I’ll wish that they had.

California's Syntax is the perfect band to speak on this occurrence about. Their Demo from 2009 was quite promising, if derivative of Discordance Axis, and the fact that I liked it worried me as much as it excited me, for fear that whatever they filled in the blanks with once they discarded their grind hero worship would make me wish that they’d just remade The Inalienable Dreamless.

Syntax’s 2012 material is feedback-scarred, destructive stuff, and a definite step up from the 2009 Demo. Gone is the overwhelmingly Discordance Axis-lite aesthetic, along with the thin, clean guitar tone and the Damage Digital trashcan drums of the first outing. In its place is a looser, more mature set of songs that pack a lot of noise while still retaining the angular, tech-flecked style that made them an exciting find a year ago. This Syntax has more in common at first glance with a band like Cellgraft than Discordance Axis or Assück, and as back-handed as that sounds from a pedigree standpoint, it’s meant as high praise.

The science fiction aesthetic of the demo is still present, though this record  trades the thin, cerebral quality of something like Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot for a dirty, intense and visceral tone reminiscent of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon or William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

From a vocals standpoint, it’s hard for me to not love this band. Vocalist David’s main approach is a high, gasping shriek that sounds like he’s putting every ounce of himself into the performance. That trick is hardly the only one at his disposal, however, and this release finds David hitting gut-churning lows more often and deeper than found on the last one.

Never is the sonic shift from 2009’s Demo to Syntax 2012 more noticeable than in the opening of first track “To Forget.” The shrill feedback and bashing drums of this song are firmly grounded in earthly pursuits, and the airiness of the early demo is barely a distant memory. “To Forget” is an immediate, snarling cocktail that shouts “This the new shit! at you like an ad-lib on a rap single and then blasts into the ether.                                                                                                                                               
A slow, emotive, eyes-downcast riff floats through the feedback that opens “Glitch,” gaining intensity until it chugs itself into full-fledged blasting halfway through. The guitar and drums toy with several riffs, stop-starts and tempos over its run, a technique that assures that the song stays exciting while never getting tangled in the convoluted vines of math metal.

“Shape Shifter,” the definite “single” if grindcore had or needed such a thing, resurrects the Discordance Axis staple of half-time riffs over blasting drum patterns. Guitars stab and flail around seismic, rolling drums, screams emerging from every direction; the three players ride shifting cyclical patterns around one another, three interlocking cogs in the same grinding piece of machinery. Some moments find them perfectly at pace with one another, while others find them at angles with each other in ways that only seem asynchronous until you look at them twice.

This is the sound of a band coming into its own. It’s the point where you can stop saying, “This is really cool because it sounds like:” and start saying, “This is really cool.” Now is the time to start hoping for a Syntax LP, because the band that I’m hearing on Syntax 2012 has the chops and direction to actually pull one off.

You can download Syntax 2012 from Grindcore Karaoke. You can also find the 2009 Demo there in a version that's oddly missing two tracks, or grab the full version from Karlo at Cephalochromoscope.


  1. Dude if you love Syntax you have to check out Atomck, basically their transcontinental clone:

  2. Yeah, I've got the Paucities split, didn't realize they had a new one. My main problem with them is that the guitar's too chunky a lot of times, and they tend to weave breakdowns in a bit too much for my liking. Some of their stuff I'm down with, but some of it's a bit chuggy for me. I've got a phobia of that since I listened to a lot of faux-grind bands in early highschool.

  3. Personally I love the stuff, its whacked out grind but with a backbone of progression, their forthcoming material which I have been granted various sneak peeks looks to be better still. It would be fun if both Syntax and Atomck did a split but didn't label the sides, only true fans of either could tell whose is whose

  4. Haha yeah, that'd be sick if they did a split. I should see if they'll hook me up with the new whatever-it-is when it's all done, I'd love to check out their progression.

  5. You got an email address pal? Spoken to the authorities in Atomck and can send you a super secret link to their upcoming material.

  6. Nice, man! Yeah, my email is, hook me up!

  7. I like them A LOT. Glad there's a whole lot of awesome bands on GxKx, too. By the time they sent me Syntax 2012, I knew Randall would like it.

    1. Yeah, I am very excited to see what they'll do with a full-length. And yeah, Grindcore Karaoke has really come into its own now, I'm impressed to see how far it has come.