Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Migration, For the Forseeable Future

Hey everybody! Wanted to write a brief post to let you all know that Karlo over at Cephalochromoscope has started that project back up, and I'll be helping him with that for the forseeable future. You'll still be able to see my writing, and hopefully it's going to occur more frequently, at least for a bit.

You can check out my first post for the site, about Gall's excellent 17:21 MIN album from last year, right here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

No/Más- Last Laugh EP

Washington, D.C.’s No/Más make blasting grindcore blended with a strong strain of d-beat and crust punk. Those influences manifest themselves in a few key ways. In the case of a song like “Rabia,” it’s that the first 36 seconds ride a d-beat, until a moment’s silence is cut by a freight train blastbeat. Or in a song like opener “Claustrophobia”, it’s a mid-tempo breakdown near the halfway mark that channels grinding kinetic energy into raw punk fury.

These are common influences in grindcore, to the point that it would feel unnecessary to mention them save for the fact that each element of the band’s style is so distinctly articulated and well-integrated. While the way the band deploys its more overtly punk influences is a big part of this record’s sound, don’t expect a punk record with some grinding parts. This release is all forward momentum, and every breakdown is just seconds away from the next full-bore grind section.

This EP signals a sonic leap forward for No/Más. The songwriting on the Last Laugh EP is tighter and more confident than on 2018’s ten-track Raíz del Mal. The production differences in the two releases are notable as well. Last Laugh is a thicker, fuller sounding record without sacrificing immediacy or bite. The guitars sound heftier, the growls deeper, the drums crisper.

No/Más have been growing rapidly as a band since 2017, and they show no signs of slowing down. This release has rightfully attracted more attention to the band, as has a recent support date with Pig Destroyer in Baltimore. These songs feel engineered to be impactful in a live setting, and playing shows with this material is sure to continue to grow their fanbase.

Last Laugh is a notable release in the world of grindcore, and seems likely to appear on a number of year-end roundups of the best releases of 2019 despite stiff competition from releases by Cloud Rat and Discordance Axis offshoot No One Knows What the Dead Think. If their next major release can capitalize on the improvements made on this one, expect to hear a lot more from No/Más.

Last Laugh is available digitally and on CD from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Gate- Resurrection of Relentless God

Grindcore innovators Discordance Axis dissolved in 2001, shortly after the release of their now critically-lauded final LP The Inalienable Dreamless. 4 years later, Hydra Head released a collection called Our Last Day. It’s referred to as a Discordance Axis compilation, but it’s best described as a grab-bag; what it actually contains is two previously unreleased Discordance Axis songs, a number of videogame music-style instrumental  reimaginings of Discordance Axis songs, the first released song from vocalist Jon Chang’s new grindcore project Gridlink, a Merzbow remix of the entirety of The Alienable Dreamless, a cover by former split-mates Melt-Banana, and covers from 3 nascent grindcore bands that Discordance Axis admired: Mortalized, Noisear and Gate.

Gate had been around for 5 years at the point of Our Last Day’s release, and had a demo and a pair of EPs under their belt. After the collection’s release, they had developed some buzz in grindcore circles, and released a 3-way split LP on Blastasfuk Records a year later, called Crushing the Grindcore Trademark. They released a number of splits and a 7” called 希望=絶望, but never managed to release a full-length album.

That’s where this album comes in. Put out 5 years after the last Gate release, a collection called Early Works, Resurrection of Relentless God is the first full-length album in the band’s discography. With an historically erratic release schedule and varying audio and performance quality across their catalog, it’s hard not to ask: after almost twenty years, what can we expect a Gate full-length to even sound like?

Turns out, pretty damn good. This is the Gate that fans of that first decade of material will remember: almost constant, lightning fast drums, growled vocals, dry, buzzsaw-tone guitar. However, this incarnation of Gate is like a well-made videogame remaster: faithful to the source material, but adapted to modern sensibilities. Gate sounds better than ever here, while still retaining a significant layer of grit and rawness.

Resurrection of Relentless God consists of 21 barreling tracks that average out to a minute and 20 seconds per song. What that adds up to is a briskly paced record, with songs that still have some room to breathe. Save for the album being bookended with samples from what seems to be the 2010 remake of I Spit on Your Grave, there’s almost constant forward momentum.

Despite being a step up in audio quality and production value from other releases in the Gate catalog, this is a timeless-sounding example of classic Japanese grindcore. These songs could sit effortlessly next to favorites from Rise Above’s I Love to Relax or Mortalized’s Absolute Mortality #2 on a playlist. Jagged, twisting riffs, pummeling drums and relentless vocals are everywhere here, with songs like “女神ノ天秤” and “Emancipation of Yourself” exemplifying the style.

This is an album that felt like it would never happen. What makes the fact that it did even more bewildering is that this is the best material Gate has ever released. Only time will tell whether Gate will release another album after this, but this one is more than enough to cement their place in the esteem of grindcore fans for years to follow.

Resurrection of Relentless God is available digitally on Gate's Bandcamp, or on CD from Obliteration records with a bonus cover of 324's "Lowestlevel" from Obliteration's Japanese-language store or via Hells Headbangers. [Digital download edition was used for the purposes of this review.]

Monday, September 16, 2019

Needle- Needle

Needle is grindviolence three-piece from Washington, D.C. This self-titled second EP is a brief, expertly-realized slice of exactly what it sounds like.

Opener “Shattering Retinal Matter” wastes no time laying out exactly what you’re in for on the rest of the EP. Seventeen seconds of fretwork, blasts, mid-range screams and low growls, plus a King of the Hill sample, it offers the ideal tone-setting intro. “Sonic Terrorism” rides a loping intro straight into a wall of blastbeats and grunting lows for an adrenalizing minute of grinding punk. “Extinction Blast” is the one you’d put on a label compilation, if that was a thing you were doing, because it’s a ferocious, sub-one-minute, middle tempo blaster that sums up the band well and would slot in nicely alongside a range of styles.

While Needle certainly has its share of blastbeats, it doesn’t prioritize speed over all else. “Reaper Descends” and “Flagrant Display of False Hope” showcase meaty thrash riffs and pit-opening tempo changes, and “Inter-Dimensional Game of Suffering” features a hip-hop outro of the style you might find on a Spazz record. Rather than speed, Needles focuses on a sense of sheer propulsion, making it an ideal soundtrack for a skate session or a bike ride to work.

This is well-made, high energy grindcore with a healthy dose of riffy punk, and if there’s any shortcoming I can find, it’s that this description sums up most of what I have to say about this release. It gets in, blasts hard and gets out, and while it truthfully has more tricks up its sleeve than some records that I’ve reviewed on this site in the past, it isn’t trying to reinvent its chosen genres. However, if “grindviolence EP from To Live a Lie” is a phrase that gets you excited, this EP comes highly recommended.

Needle is available on cassette from To Live a Lie here or digitally from Needle's Bandcamp page.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Blast Eats: Closet Burner Late Night Snack

Bloomington, Indiana's Closet Burner are a queer/pro-queer hardcore band with a blistering, bordline-fastcore sound and refreshingly pro-queer/anti-oppression ideologies. In this edition of Blast Eats, Matt, the band's vocalist, fills us in on his short, fast 'n' tasty solution to a day of greasy, unsatisfying utility eating.

xMattx's "Get Your Fuckin' Greens After A Long Day of Eating Greasy Garbage On the Go" Late Night Snack

What you'll need:
Your choice of greens

A piece of lightly toasted bread with veganaise and sriracha folded around a fat mound of greens. Nom.

Check out Closet Burner's Bandcamp to hear their excellent self-titled 12" from last year and grab yr. own copy.

Agents of Abhorrence- Relief

For some time now, Australia’s Agents of Abhorrence has been a part of that post-Discordance Axis pack of grindcore bands extrapolating the game-changing New Jersey band’s melodic innovations into strange new forms. Now, for the first time, with new album Relief, Agents of Abhorrence expands past that and other influences into its own skin, and to say the results are the best thing the band has ever released only scratches the surface.

The somewhat tinny, hyperactive band of former releases has reshaped its component parts into a full, mature force. Blastbeats abound, as always, but rough, earthy warmth pervades this new material. Relief has a warmer, more naturalistic, fuzz-toned sound in contrast with the brittle, icy quality of 2007’s Earth.Water.Sun. Space is a commodity in limited supply here, but the buzzing tone that fills it between notes sounds surprisingly great.

Since its last release, 2010’s split with Roskopp, vocalist Grant Johns left the band, to be replaced by Roskopp bassist/vocalist Jacob Winkler. Winkler’s voice is a gruff, ground-level affair, but he still manages the occasional texture change and acrobatic maneuver. At first, the absence of Johns’ higher-register screaming takes some adjustment, but the vicious mids and lows delivered by Winkler suit the new material so well that Johns is barely missed.

Ben Andrews’ riffs swarm and divebomb, occasionally embracing the odd groove. On the second portion of Relief’s title track, he even give in to some pulsing, deliciously Rob Marton-esque repetition. “Bad News” and “The Mistake Again Made, the Proof Again Put,” both from the album’s back half, also find Andrews mining Marton’s circular Discordance Axis playing style, the latter containing some of Andrews’ best writing of the album.

Max Kohane turns in a tight, crisp, exhilarating drum performance. As with many of grindcore’s drumming greats, his playing is adept enough that he could just as easily find work with a jazz ensemble as he could a hardcore outfit. While I’ll admit that his is a name that hasn’t come up in my past conversations about grind drumming, the blastbeat Max Roach act he pulls here means that is likely to change.

Relief is a dirty, fiery blast of a record that catapults Agents of Abhorrence from another great Australian grindcore band to one of the country’s best. The album’s success puts AoA second only to The Kill in terms of furious, tight, grindcore for grindcore’s sake blasting, and those bands, along with thedowngoing and a growing handful of others, continue to prove that Australia is a major player in the ongoing global arms race for louder and faster that is grindcore. 2013’s album-of-the-year candidates are numerous (see Cloud Rat, Sick/Tired and Cara Neir’s albums from this year for starters, as well as the looming possibility of Gridlink dropping Longhena before the year is out) but if this album doesn’t at least make your list, you haven’t been paying attention.

Relief was released by 625 Thrashcore and Psychocontrol, and you can still find vinyl copies from A389, Ebullition, Interpunk, and others.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

MERV- Demo 2012

MERV, a sludge and grindcore band hailing from Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, is part of an increasing group of British Columbia bands (including Six Brew Bantha, Violent Restitution, Mass Grave and AHNA) that offers compelling evidence of the province as the next go-to destination for creative (and often destructive) extreme music worldwide. Musically, MERV sits on a continuum somewhere between many of these bands, and serves as a key piece to anyone interested in understanding (if such a thing even exists, or needs to) the BC extreme music "sound" at this point in time.

The four songs on this demo are sludge metal stretched out over a grindcore framework, resulting in one of the more synergistic examples of this pairing of styles in recent memory. Sure, it's stoner fuzz propped up next to eardrum-popping blasts, but with both halves fully formed and shouldering the weight of the songs equally. In the sludge and doom sections, MERV is a band fully committed to that style, but, more importantly (because so many bands get this part wrong), their grindcore counterparts are of the highest speed and intensity. Where so many who dabble in melding fast and slow splice their sludge with midpaced Nasum-isms, the band differentiates itself by making many of its "fast parts" truly fast, allowing for a sharper contrast between the two speeds.

"Baptized" opens as a classic grinder, exhibiting a bludgeoning singularity of purpose straight out of the Insect Warfare playbook. As artful pauses and swung notes start to creep in, the song becomes an agony of Southern riffs and phrasing, channeling misanthropic greats like Grief and the untouchable Eyehategod. Enter the song at either its first 30 seconds or its last minute, and you'd think it was either a grindcore song or a sludge metal song, respectively. This is MERV's real strength, and one that could make them great if expanded upon in the future.

Aside from several brilliantly brief, pace-adjusting breakdowns, "Wrought in Depths of Time" is a 47-second stampede of barks, riffs and blasts. Here, pace-adjustments are a strength, rather than a copout: the song melts triumphantly into its final lurch, using the sudden change's drama to augment the moment.

The band ditches the stylistic point/counterpoint of the previous songs for stoned, swampy closer "Runes," the demo's sole moment of complete sludge metal subsumption. Led by a catchy Southern riff, it's a believable Eyehategod impression that works independent of the hybrid style of the rest of the material. While enjoyable, however, it's not one of the strongest moments featured here, highlighting the fact that MERV's biggest draw is its exploitation of extreme music's in-between places. Remove themselves farther from this conceit, and the band risks losing our attention.

Laid here are the building blocks for a weedgrind band of the highest potency. The buzzy stoner rock guitar adapts remarkably well to the Salt Flats trial that is grindcore. The band's other members show an equal flair for musical diversity; vocals (delivered by new Violent Restitution vocalist Jessica) run effortlessly through growls, barks, high screams and black metal-styled shrieks, the drumming sounds equally natural attending to time-keeping and atmospheric needs as it does jumping hurdles in search of the perfect blast or fill, and the bass rumble rounds out the slowed-down heaviness while keeping its tone from muddying the attack of the fast parts.

At the bottom line, this is an excellent demo, but a demo nonetheless. This is a highly listenable taste of what the band is capable of, but it will take a crystallization of that promise on future releases to prove that the band has the staying power of its British Columbia contemporaries.

Stream or download MERV's Demo 2012 below from Bandcamp.