Monday, March 4, 2013

Grinding Halt / Suffering Quota- Split 7"

Grindcore's Internet-era globalization, while maligned for disintegrating the thrill and discovery of organic networking and tape-trading within the punk scene, brings the unquestionable advantage of leveling the playing field for bands outside of stereotypically accepted scene loci like North America and the UK. A non-US or UK band no longer has to be attached to a prominent label (or any at all) to gain international exposure, which, scene politics aside, is nothing but a great thing.

All this to say, then, that had the Internet never existed, I would never have heard this pair of Netherlands bands (or seen their satisfyingly colorful 7" cover art). Grinding Halt and Suffering Quota feel like children of that globalization, both in the musical styles they integrate into their sounds and because of the still-amazing fact that I'm listening to their music hundreds of miles away from where it was made, not thanks to label plugs or tape trading or letter-writing, but simply because of the magical musical equalizer that is Bandcamp and services like it.

Grinding Halt’s side opens with the lacerating “Kaaskopen,” a shrill-vocaled, heavy-riffing piece of grinding fastcore that morphs into a rich, Southern sludge metal after a mid-song bass break. Initially unassuming, repeated plays reveal the sophistication it takes to blend the whole thing together so effortlessly. While these sorts of structure aren’t new, the track feels organic, and each section would work as well on its own as well as it does as a part of a greater whole.

The standout track from either side, it is also a blueprint track for the duality in Grinding Halt’s approach. Their other two contributions (“Knuffelverzet” and “Bedrog”) are predominately in a groovy, Southern sludge style à la Thou, with a hardcore punk accent to the vocals and instrumental performances.  The punk hybridization is also present in the tracks’ lengths, as only one exceeds 2 minutes (and then just barely), and their shrewd songwriting gives the tracks a sense of being well-honed song nuggets rather than stunted throwaways.

“Bedrog” is pulled straight from the closing song handbook, as it is heavy, driving and feels like a recapitulation of the side’s previous sounds. With groovy Southern progressions and impassioned, frantic shouting, it shows a glint of that mournful, end-of-the-world quality found in many of the best album-ending songs.

Grinding Halt’s approach is upon first listen unusual, as the switch from grindcore to sludge metal (but never, on this release, back to grindcore again) seems to defy conventional wisdom. However, after some time spent with the songs, the progression feels natural, and a well-curated continuation in a similar direction could yield exciting results.

A batch of thick, mosh-ready grindcore songs from Suffering Quota occupies the B side. “No Lust For Life” is a beatdown masquerading as a thrashing hardcore song, and the singer sounds like he’s screaming the title in your face, with veins popping out on his neck and spittle flying from his mouth. Once the song reaches its stride near the 50 second mark, the whole affair picks up considerably, abandoning the mosh for the blast until a repeat of the opening “chorus” finally melts into a closing vocal sample.

“Goodbye Self Awareness” is both the shortest and the tightest track among their offerings here. It recalls, while considerably less outré, Total Fucking Destruction’s most straightforward and punishing moments, or a genetic experiment between Noisear and PLF. Its barreling pace and frantic vocals mark it as a standout among Suffering Quota's tracks and a worthwhile starting point for those put off by the sometimes mid-paced, meaty sound of the band's other songs. 

These are songs that sound manufactured for the pit veteran, not the BPM fiend, and those looking for innovation or alienating speed would do better searching elsewhere. However, those seeking well-produced, tough-sounding grindcore for those “I want to break stuff” days that we all have will find a lot to like about Suffering Quota's andrenalized death-thrash grind.

The transition from one side to the other is neither perfect nor overly jarring, and this certainly isn't the most unlikely pair of bands to share a split. The contrast between the two bands' production styles (Suffering Quota's sound is fuller and better-produced) makes the switch from one to the other noticeable, but in a few seconds the change is a non-issue.

Overall, this 7" is a fair introduction to two Dutch bands previously unknown to me. Neither band's output here has made me rush out and fill myself in on their back catalogs (I am, however, eyeing this pretty hard), but it has most definitely put the pair of them on my radar.

Stream or download Grinding Halt and Suffering Quota's Split 7" below or purchase the 7" from Give Praise in the US or Parade of Spectres in the UK.

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