Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top 5 Splits of 2012

5. Robocop/Detroit split: Dead Language, Foreign Bodies

Robocop has emerged as one of contemporary powerviolence's more interesting voices, and part of the reason for that distinction comes from their willingness to experiment with the form. What's normally a down-and-dirty genre gets the audiophile treatment on Robocop's side of this split, and the result is a twitching, mutant punk that incorporates saxophones, echoing noise and whatever else it can wrap its tentacles around into a strange, satisfying experimental powerviolence gestalt. The Canadians in Detroit, while opting for a more traditional approach to powerviolence, ramp up the violence and anger with a moshing, throat-bursting kick-in-the-teeth of a B-side that occasionally gives way to 90's post-hardcore sincerity ("Day After Day," the second half of "Pusher"). All that, plus a Jennifer Lopez cover. A well-made, varied split that also happens to come with some of 2012's best cover art and packaging.

4. The Afternoon Gentlemen/Suffering Mind

The boozegrind/slackerviolence of The Afternoon Gentlemen is a stinking ball of fastcore, grind and powerviolence pickled in cheap alcohol and crust punk. Pissed-off, irreverent (and in moments like the Fukushima Daiichi disaster-referencing "Nuclear Terror," truly funny: "Leaders speak to calm our spirits/Crust bands write piles of new lyrics") blasting for the burnt-out crusty in all of us. Suffering Mind, arguably this year's king of splits and per-volume one of the most consistent bands working in their genre today, blast out four shots of Insect Warfare and Discordance Axis-inflected shrapnel (one of which is an Assück cover) with the ease of true A-list grind lifers. Together, these two keep the grind alive on ten tracks of low-stakes but highly enjoyable punk noise.

3. Sete Star Sept/Rotgut

Among the year's most controversial extreme music releases was the sprawling, uninhibited noisegrind omnibus that is Sete Star Sept's Vinyl Collection 2010-2012. For most listeners, it was a hard piece to approach because of its sheer size alone, and many walked away from it as perplexed as when they started. As the enjoyable-ness factor of SSS's side of this split (featured on the aforementioned collection) shows, in small bites, the unhinged and left-field nature of these Japanese grinders can be immensely satisfying. On the flip side, Malaysian grind 'n' roll newcomers Rotgut serve up a classic-sounding set of nasty, lo-fi Asian grindcore heavier on attitude than speed (and surprisingly enough, all the better for it). The perfect 2012 split to satisfy your inner Neanderthal noisehound, these tracks sport a sound that would fit in chronologically anywhere from the mid-90's to last week.

2. Gripe/Diseksa: Indefinite Detention

Politically and socially conscious grindcore, by its nature, rests on one side or the other of the line between pertinent and painful, depending on its execution. Thankfully, then, the overtly socially charged Indefinite Detention (and with a name like that, how could it not be?) sits comfortably on the former side—and happens to rule musically, as well. Gripe's outraged, high-caliber grind is one of my personal favorite recent examples of the form, and the lyrical content of songs like the anti-rape "Ballbuster," the title track and "You Can't Spell Dead Without D.E.A." prove that all that griping comes with some very solid arguments. Diseksa (the second set of Malaysians on this list, further illustrating South Asian grind's continued ascendance) smash out raw, boombox-in-a-room-fidelity crust-grind that does fun as well as it does fuck you (and so well that I'm willing to forgive their use of the first "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" sample that I've ever heard). An effortless-sounding grindcore tutorial that, especially at the impossible-to-pass-up price of a free download, is a must-have blastbeat-fest for this year.

1. Cloud Rat/Republic of Dreams

I've already said a lot about this split, but considering how much I love it, I'm willing to say a bit more. Cloud Rat might be my single favorite recent grind act, and considering the fact that they seem to get better with each release, stand to hold that honor for the foreseeable future. The mixture of punk, doom and memorable grindcore riffs on their six tracks stuck with me like nothing else did this year (I liked this record enough I almost considered saving it for my top LPs list instead of top splits) and each track oozes emotion and energy in a manner I've mainly encountered on Pig Destroyer's strongest material and Jon Chang's Discordance Axis and Gridlink releases (and the lyrics are at least up to par with the ones from those records). I'll admit that's it's the second side, by screamo newcomers Republic of Dreams, that was the real surprise for me. Every bit as cohesive as the Cloud Rat side, RoD's side made me love a genre I don't usually pay a lot of attention to, and while I'm too much of a Cloud Rat fan to say that this is the superior side, Republic of Dreams is going to be on my new release radar from here on out. Long on atmosphere and emotionality (and longer on catchy riffs), these tracks swing from one polarity to another with more blasts than you'll find in your typical screamo album. This is a split that's determined to avoid any limitations conferred by the form, and if it isn't sitting somewhere in your record crates/on your shelves, do yourself a favor and buy it as a late holiday/early New Years present. No split even came close to this one this year, and if either of these bands' 2013 releases are anywhere as good as this (Moksha already has a tentative place on HaaSL's Best LPs of 2013 list and I've only heard one song from it) expect to see them both on my lists this time next year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Violent Restitution- Self-Titled LP

One of grindcore's greatest casualties of the last 10 years (and for a genre with an attention span like this, there have been scores of excellent ones) is unquestionably the noisy, grinding Texan powerhouse that was Insect Warfare. And since its passing in 2009, there have been more than a few bands pegged as the second coming of IW (Wormrot and Cellgraft being the two most notable examples).

The latest band to receive this questionable compliment is the Canadian grind trio Violent Restitution, and from the cover art of this debut LP to the band name itself (really a Razor reference) the surface comparisons are obvious. However, beyond sharing a noisy, no-nonsense approach and a violent, confrontational sound, on a deeper level the two bands are no more similar than any other two old-school-inspired grind acts; to stereotype Violent Restitution as little more than an Insect Warfare tribute band means missing the full scope of what they bring to the table.

Violent Restitution deal in ugly, old-school patterned grindcore of a fast, noisy character. What is immediately apparent about the songs is a sense of militant social consciousness and the anti-oppression attitude that permeates most aspects of the record. For fifteen angry, neck-snapping minutes, vocalist Mya delivers missives against animal cruelty, vivisection, racism, colonialism, genocide and patriarchy in shrapnel bursts of screams and growls over guitarist Sarah’s nasty, mangled-sheet-metal riffing  and drummer Pierre’s frenzied blasts.

“Evisceration” is a brief, vital shot of pure grind that doesn’t get mired in pleasantries. Barring a 2-second intro and an equally short breakdown at its end, the track remains locked into blasting gear with a satisfyingly single-minded sense of purpose.

Raw-throated, unaccompanied growls open “Acculturation,” before guitar and drums kick the track into overdrive. Eventually it finds a thrashy, speed punk groove that is occasionally abandoned for vicious bursts of grinding, finally giving way to a sludge-drenched breakdown and a final burst of speed punctuated that’s punctuated by a tortured high scream.

After the b-side is opened with an animal-liberating audio sample, it is followed by the face-smashing, limb-swinging grindthrash of "Murderous Colonialist Assimilators." Besides being vicious sonically, its lyrics decry colonialism and the slaughter of indigenous peoples with bite-sized, highly screamable couplets like "Mutilation, colonization/Disgusting human greed" and longer lines such as "Ancestral practices of a colonialist regime/Built a nation of shame and deceit." There's nothing like well-placed outrage to get the blood pumping, and this entire record has that by the bucketful.

While the LP’s most notable trait is its speed, Sarah’s jagged tone is periodically trained on slow, heavy
 riffing, like the pit-forming assault of opener “Intro/Liberate” or the second half of “Burning Rage of a Dying Planet.” This technique occasionally comes off as a songwriting crutch when breakdowns drop in out of nowhere, but otherwise serves to add variety in a structurally homogenous genre like grindcore.

This refreshingly dirty chunk of Canadian grind, while far from revolutionary, manages to be one of my favorite pure grindcore experiences of 2012 and almost unquestionably holds the title for this year's strongest debut. Sonic similarities (or lack thereof) to deceased Texan grindcore bands aside, this record rips, and I've been itching for more material since my first dozen or so spins.

The LP is available on vinyl from Mercy of Slumber and Black Banana Records, or as a free download (split into its A and B sides) from Violent Restitution's Bandcamp.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sete Star Sept- Vinyl Collection 2010-2012

"I remembered a friend who'd died of a bad liver, and what he'd always said. Yeah, he'd said, maybe it's just my idea, but really it always hurts, the times it don't hurt is when we just forget, we just forget it hurts, you know, it's not because my belly's all rotten, everybody always hurts. So when it really starts stabbing me, somehow I feel sort of peaceful, like I'm myself again. It's hard to take, sure, but I feel sort of peaceful. Because it's always hurt ever since I was born." - Ryū Murakami, Almost Transparent Blue (1976)

If you thought explaining the appeal of grindcore to the uninitiated was a headache, try it with noisegrind some time: "Well, everyone tries to play as fast and as loudly as possible, like last time, only now everything's as shrill and as blown-out as possible and the recording quality is terrible. It's great!"

In struggling time and again to sheepishly explain why I love this garbage, I've stumbled into a rough sort of theory that comes close to defining exactly what it is that's so exciting about noisegrind, grindcore and extreme music in general.

Life seems to vibrate at a certain speed, and music in general is pleasant because it matches that vibration. Melodic music is pleasurable because it mimics elements of that vibration in simple, emotionally-resonant figures and recycles them in equally pleasurable variations. However, the beauty of extreme music is that it eschews the derivative qualities of melodic music and seeks to purely mimic the speed and intensity at which our lives operate. The inspiration for grindcore is all around us, just waiting to be tapped into.

That purity of focus is exactly what drives this record, a collection of Japanese bass-and-drums noisegrind band Sete Star Sept's vinyl output from the last two years.

A few months ago, I reviewed Sete Star Sept’s Revision of Noise LP (which, interestingly enough, continues to be one of the most popular sources of traffic to the blog). While the tracks on that record were certainly noisy, those songs were downright mannered compared to the violent, freeform output collected here. The tracks on this collection are of a splintered, grinding avant-noise character that makes it a for-noisegrind-heads-only affair, excepting grinders who enjoyed Revision of Noise and are willing to branch farther afield into a truly alienating space.

The sonic disconnect that traditionally occurs between material from multiple releases is softened by the fact that, while differences in approach and recording technique are evident upon repeat listens, everything is so mercilessly blown-out that nothing sounds incongruous or polished to the point of conspicuousness.

Still, the noisiest section of the collection is easily (and appropriately enough) the split with Noise. Sequenced from tracks 26 to 38, these songs are little more than bubbling geysers of drums, overlaid with a constantly vibrating and barely intelligible low-end and shot through with an occasional vein of vocals. While certainly not unlistenable as noisegrind music, it lacks the punch of much of the other music collected here, and is immediately upstaged by the release sequenced after it.

The split with Penis Geyser, which occupies tracks 39 to 46, contains some of the best material on the album. From the opening blast of "Big Issue," the sheer focus of these tracks is evident: no "exploding song structures," no improvisational hiccups, only sweet, aggressive grinding. While still wonderfully abrasive and dirty, it's mixed well enough that no elements bleed over onto any other, and the structures are tight to the point that the only feedback present is at the end of songs. Of all the releases collected here, this is the one that I most wish that I had picked up on vinyl, and a great starting point for those daunted by the massive volume of music on this collection.

Sete Star Sept are at their most unrestrained on the 50-song Gero Me EP, sequenced here from tracks 64 to 93. A number of these are specks of single-digit blipcore, and many of them have been bundled into omnibus tracks with anywhere from two to eight micro-eruptions contained in a single shot. Songs from Gero Me burst and re-form, splinter and fade, tumbling with the drums into buzzing masses that roll into one another. These songs especially carry with them a sense of free jazz experimentation, and make a case for noisegrind as an extreme music cousin of the improvisational free psychedelia of bands like Sunburned Hand of the Man and Jackie-O Motherfucker.

In many ways, this record sounds like a marriage of two of noisegrind's original classics, Sore Throat's Disgrace to the Corpse of Sid and Fear of God's Pneumatic Slaughter, delivered with a twisted avant character that counts coughs and feedback as elements as integral to the music as drums, bass and vocals.

As a 100-song, 76-minute noisegrind collection, Vinyl Collection 2010-2012 inevitably has its daunting moments, but those who delight in extreme music's experimental tendencies will find a lot to love here. Anyone with more noisegrind than one Gore Beyond Necropsy record in their music collections is going to need this.

Vinyl Collection 2010-2012 (FY40) can be ordered from Fuck Yoga. Sample tracks from the collection can be found on Soundcloud here, here and here, and some of the releases collected here, as well as other Sete Star Sept material, can be found on their Bandcamp.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Atomçk- Never Work

When it comes to music, never write anything off. I hated hip-hop in middleschool, and just a few years ago, couldn't quite “get” Gridlink's Amber Grey upon its release. Whether it's a musical style, album or band, it sometimes takes the right moment before something you didn't get or downright hated finally clicks.

With this new LP from Welsh grinders Atomçk, whose earlier material left me wanting more, that something finally clicked like none of their material had before, and in a way that I would have overlooked entirely had I not given them a third chance after my lukewarm receptions of the split with Paucities and Yes to Alien Victory.

Vocalist Linus' delivery shifts between a deafeningly shrill cricket-chirp high vocal, a cornered-panther mid-high (high enough to be considered some vocalists' high-range scream) , a snotty, tortured midrange vocal and a raw-throated, vomit-flecked low, with gradations in between as deemed necessary. This rather dizzying array of styles is one of Atomçk's chief draws, though at times the shrillness of Linus’ highest vocals flirts with the annoying.

Luke Oram's guitar work on the album is a technical splatter of traditional grind riffs and out-there skronk that will put a smile on the face of modern grindcore fans not afraid to jump down the rabbit hole with bands like Maruta and Psudoku. While still heavy as ever, his tone has lost the too-chunky metalcore sound of their older material, which lends some badly-needed nuance to his bludgeoning guitar performances.

Aptly-named LP opener “Desert Blast” leads in with spacey, stoned desert-rock riffage that wouldn't feel out of place on a doom record.  Progressing in intensity as it adds elements, the track builds into full-fledged desert doom, complete with death growls, before morphing even further into a blast-capable force of grind. With a last harkening-back to its principal musical theme, the song shifts into a thirty-odd seconds blaster that abandons the subtlety of the first section for a vital, Insect Warfare-esque grind assault. This is one of Atomçk's most impressive tracks to date, and it showcases a surprising strength for the band in its grasp of both the atmospheric and destructive elements of its sound.

“If This Peace is Fictitious… I Will Destroy It” follows a rather unconventional structure to its close at the 34-second mark. From a heavy, grinding opening five seconds, it rides over a speedbump of four micro-pause sections, the first three of which are broken by a short, death-growl-accented blast 'n' grind. The fourth pause is broken instead by a drum fill, followed by one of Linus' cricket-high screams and a riff that starts out as conventional and dissolves into an alien heat ray of Asterisk-style wonked-out fretwork.

Positioned near the middle of the album is “No Sleep Til Trutnov, a mutating, nearly-4-minute track that serves as a sort of center point for Never Work. Beginning its life as a bile-spitting grinder, it downshifts into sludgy repetition after about 30 seconds. As it rides this newfound groove with a krautrock-esque determination, elements of noise creep in until, by around the last minute, the only remaining signifier of the song’s past is the breadcrumb trail of drummer Marzena's percussion, which keeps us from getting lost in the dark forest of the song’s structure. The fact that this track works as well as it does is testament to what seems to be an improvement in the band’s curatorial skills. “No Sleep Til Trutnov” is the kind of song that most bands would sequence at the end of an album, but as track 8 it offers a respite from the intensity of the preceding tracks without derailing their momentum. [See that, every other band ever? Slower-paced songs don't have to be bookends. I promise.]

The aforementioned noise on the album is created by Oram and Chicago experimental act Winters in Osaka, and is presented in a more smooth and organic way than on past material. Noise fans will still get their harsh, abstract kicks, but in a way that's not going to freak out more vanilla grindcore fans.

This LP is a splintering, left-field art-grind collection for those who like a little adventure in their grindcore, as well as those who like a lot of grindcore in their art. On this outing, they continue to differentiate themselves from the grind masses while sanding down some of the more awkward edges in their sound.

Atomçk manage to make Never Work both their most varied and cohesive offering to date, and it's the perfect place to start paying attention to their brand of shrapnel-laced grindcore.

Never Work is available as a pay-what-you-want download from Atomçk's bandcamp.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Monomaniac Volume One

It’s easy to forget how awesome compilations can be. Most of them that any of us bought would be more useful as coasters, but for every 10 hastily-assembled, all-album-tracks wastes of space, there’s one thoughtful, well-curated collection that features the right balance between exclusive tracks from well-known bands and pleasant surprises from lesser-known acts and manages to further our experience as fans of the featured genres.

This compilation, put together by Panos Agoros from Dephosphorus/Blastbeat Mailmurder and created as a split 7” collection of compilation-exclusive songs that total a minute each per band, (spoiler alert) sits comfortably in the latter category.

Opening side A is the always-excellent Cloud Rat, who delivers a scorcher called “Finger Print v1.” A perfect way to begin the festivities, the song spends most of its runtime in destructive, hateful blasting mode, leaving around 20 seconds near its end for a sludgy, deliberate and equally destructive finale.

Next finds thedowngoing in a typically off-kilter mood, with three blistering noise-grinders that together clock in under a minute. The relatively mid-tempo “Littered” is the first of their contributions, and serves as a nice transition from the sludginess of Cloud Rat’s track by waiting until its second half to gear up into full-on grinding. Following that is an alternate version of ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS track “Floorboards” that is only 1/3 as long as the original but every bit as intense with its shifting, technical aural abuse. Closing out thedowngoing’s contribution is “Hibakusha (Reprsise),” a brief, distorted number that shifts from death metal vocals and heavy, metallic riffing to piercing shrieks and a circular, Discordance Axis-style riff that ends the song.

Detroit’s angry powerviolence comes next, with a track by the deceptively-cheery name of “Birthday Party.” This is the kind of song that destroys live. After a tension-building opening riff, a tom-centric roll around the drum set transitions into the song’s main riff, which is shortly buoyed by blasting drums and then the band’s pushed-to-the-limit shouted vocals to create a circle pit perfect storm.  After a few seconds, that gives way to a minimal combination of blasts and shouts, punctuated by the occasional stab of guitar, and a brief punk section rounds the whole thing out. It’s all over in a little over 30 seconds, but this brief taste is a pretty good indicator of what you can expect from the band’s other material.

The Noisiest Track of the Comp award goes to Sete Star Sept for their typically blown-out, screeching noisegrind as featured on “Why Not Intersect.” The track is a seething, rolling wave of abrasive noise out of which traditional instrumentation occasionally floats, and if you told me that Kae’s bass was a noise synth I wouldn’t think twice about believing you. Kae’s vocals are the track’s most distinct feature, and the growls and shrieks exhibited here poke their heads highest above the noise. This brief, abrasive track puts Sete Star Sept more in line with Japan’s legendary guitar-less (and bass-less) noisegrind act World than I’ve ever heard them, and this track should cause interest in both their more noisy material (such as the recently-released-on-Fuck Yoga Vinyl Collection 2010-2012) and their more formalistic grind-noise (last year's LP Revision of Noise).

Ryan Page’s Body Hammer project makes its triumphant return here with “Dog Star Man,” a track that exhibits that project’s dual focuses, namely brief pulses of intense grindcore and moody, atmospheric patches of doomy ambience. This track manages to blend the two better than 2009’s Jigoku, and it leaves me itching to hear that album’s followup, which Page is reportedly working on.

The last track on the A side, “The Weapons of the Proletariat,” comes from the heavily death metal-influenced (if not entirely death metal) Greek grindcore band Head Cleaner. Vocals are predominately a commanding growl which is occasionally punctuated by harsh screams, and are the most forward element of the track. While starting on a brisk death lope, the track locks into a groove built around a circling riff and headbangs its way to near-conclusion until the bpms pick up slightly for a layered-vocal finale. Though I would consider it the least successful addition to a stellar compilation, this is a track that is engineered to fit right in the sweet spot of certain groove-oriented extreme music fans.

Diocletian’s blackened death metal opens side B with “Traitor’s Gallow,” a dirty piece of extreme music which, with a shortened runtime to fit with the Monomaniac series’ theme, comes off like blackened Repulsion. The compact format suits the band surprisingly well, and means that a Horrified-esque slab of cemetery deathgrind could be quite a good look for the band’s next LP.

The Howling Wind lives up to its name with “Bewilderment,” an echoey, occult gust of US black metal with vocals so low in the mix that it’s not 100% clear whether they’re there at all or just a trick of the aesthetic. While one guitar shreds along with the drums, another solos for practically the whole track, which makes this black metal duo in line with the genre’s classic tradition of creating a soundscape independent from the sum of its parts. The atmosphere they conjure on this track is enticing enough to make me curious about what their material is like in longer form.

Newcomers Sempiternal Dusk, whose only other output is a just-released cassette that boasts 2 tracks over 24 minutes, serve up a tidy minute of fast, aggressive death metal that boasts technical riffage and is lithe enough not to get bogged down in structural woes while changing up its game several times to keep things interesting.

Despite the length constraint, diversity is Monomaniac Volume One’s greatest asset. This is Past close out the compilation with “Catatonia,” a ritualistic sub-minute chunk of what is ostensibly black metal but consists of Liturgy-esque chant-singing, buzzing picked electric guitar and some ominous cymbal work. Though certainly an unusual submission on the surface, it’s a perfect way to round out the collection.

Agoros’ Monomaniac Volume One fulfills its promise, with a slew of short, exciting tracks that will cement old loyalties and most likely forge new ones.  It delivers a jolt of adrenaline to the dying art of the compilation, and we can only hope the already-announced Volume Two lives up to the successes of this first installment.

Monomaniac Volume One is out now on Blastbeat Mailmurder, and available digitally through Bandcamp as a pay-what-you-want download.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blast Eats: Violent Restitution Lunch Party

This Blast Eats feature has been one of my favorite things I've done with the blog in recent memory, and the coolest part about it has been, unquestionably, the variety not only of the recipes submitted but also in the points of view of the people who have submitted them. People and food both rule for basically the same reason: there are just so many different kinds, and they're all equally cool in drastically different ways. This installment is further proof of that, as Sarah, guitarist for Vancouver grinders Violent Restitution, walks us through a lunch of some of the band's typical eats while on their most recent tour.


These are the items we mostly ate while on our 6 week cross-Canada tour. Items can be dumpstered, some bought. Bread and some produce should be garbage-available, though and we managed to dumpster a half full container of flaxseed oil and that shit is expensive, so score.

Chickpea Grind Sandwich/Kale Wrap
Carrot-Hot Sauce Blast-wich ( Pebbles' specialty)
Iced Mincer (Obviously not for van eating! But when you can take over someone’s kitchen. )

What you need -

Canned chickpeas ( unless you aren't on the road and would rather soak vs canned )
Nutritional yeast
Salt + pepper packages stolen from fast food restaurants
Kale (optional)
Flaxseed oil (optional)
Apple Cider Vinegar (optional)
Pickles (optional)
Tofurky Italian sausage (optional)
Large Carrots
Hot sauce of choice
Dairy Free Iced Dessert of choice
Oreos of some sort

Chickpea Grind Sandwich/Wrap – Beat-by-beat breakdown

-Open and drain canned chick peas onto sidewalk and place into large bowl. You can try to wash them if you want, if not the left over goo-water should make for a farty ride.
-Mash with fork, if you don't have a fork like we did sometimes, you can attempt to use a spoon but it really sucks.
-Add some flaxseed oil
-Add finely minced Tomato
-Add finely minced avocado, or mash into it
-Add Nutritional Yeast
-Add salt and pepper
-Add apple cider vinegar
-Add optional pickles  ( we had pickles towards the end of tour and it was the coolest )
-Grind and mince together

Put a slice of kale on the sandwich, add mash and if you’re so lucky to have tofurky sausage, slice up and place on bread.

For kale wrap, obviously just wrap it in some kale.

Carrot-hot sauce blast-wich, Specialty of Pebbles the drummer.

1 slice of bread wrapped around a carrot. Add Hot-sauce to desired amount. Ingest.
More enjoyable if you have not showered since tour started (actually).

Iced Mincer

1 Container of Dairy alternative frozen ice "cream" emptied into a saucer.
Grind up the Oreos using a potato masher, hammer, fist or whatever you have.
Finely mince banana into mixture.

Mash together, put in container and return to freezer for 20 minutes.

Serve with Oreo cookie, and a slice of strawberry if you’re so lucky to have access to one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cloud Rat/Republic of Dreams- Split LP

As a writer, it’s hard not to fall into patterns, especially when taking as specific a focus as “extreme music blogger,” an emphasis that deals in often-similar styles and textures. While these patterns are evident in the writing of me and others in many places, one of the worst might occur when writing about split albums.

For whatever reason, splits tend to be more or less glossed over by music writers, reduced mostly to a competitive structure that assesses which band out-performed the other and whether the loser is an outclassed upstart or an old fogey that simply lost its mojo. This approach ignores the fact that splits, when done right, can be more like full-length albums with a different set of performers on each side (sound familiar, Scum fans?) and it takes an excellent example of the form, like this split LP between Cloud Rat and Republic of Dreams, to jar me and my compatriots from debilitating reviewer lethargy.

Michigan’s Cloud Rat opens its side with the sludgy post-metal of “Burning Doe,” a move that simultaneously bucks expectations and accentuates the strength of the band’s songwriting. While an example of the “slow opening song” trope found on From Enslavement to Obliteration and scores of albums after it, the song is remarkable for two things: firstly, with its Isis-indebted quiet-loud structure, buoyed by blasts near its middle section, it is the rare instance of that trope that doesn’t crib stylistically from early Swans; secondly, it’s one of even fewer examples that has re-playability tied to its own merit and not simply the notion that, “Hey, it’s a grindcore band playing slowly!”

Second track blast-force “Parachute” opts to skip the subtleties and stomp the accelerator out of the gate, offering a memorable, no-nonsense 51 seconds of sweet-spot grind. The song is equally tight instrumentally and in terms of construction. This is what well-made grindcore does: take whatever time it needs to prove its point and then stop. There’s no dignity in wearing out your welcome, and stretching ideas farther than they need to go is as painful to the listener as it is the song structure.

Cloud Rat’s range within their chosen form never ceases to impress me. The stuttery opening riff on “Moving Mouths,” the sludge-courting heavy punk of “Keba” and the transition from blasting grindcore to vocalist Madison's acapella singing on “Stench of Sage” interact side-by-side perfectly without so much as a raised eyebrow. For some time now, Cloud Rat have been among the best active groups in modern grindcore, so the fact that this is their best material to date should indicate something pretty significant.

Republic of Dreams, who occupy the other half of this split, are a German and Polish screamo/emoviolence  three-piece with a focus on the fast and intense side of that spectrum. Grindcore fans looking for a screamo gateway drug will find it in this band, who serves as an excellent foil to the emotional, nuanced grinding of a typical Cloud Rat release.

The contribution from Republic of Dreams is a lean, frenetic bunch of songs, keeping an average length around a minute-and-a-half.

“There’s No Bullshitting Here” opens the side, and begins with a disturbing, minute-long soliloquy seemingly plucked from a horror film (though I can’t place its origin). The sample’s wracked closing scream blends into feedback and punishing chords that dance in off-kilter, disorienting patterns befitting the foggy streets and howling, feral inhabitants detailed by the sample’s breathless narrator. The track plays out like a harrowing chase, complete with pauses, backtracking and an abrupt, violent conclusion.

One of the screamo genre’s most striking features is its marriage of melodic sensibilities to hardcore punk’s standard unrelenting noise. “An Enlightened Macho is Still a Macho” is brimming with noodly earworm riffs but kept grounded by snappy hardcore drumming and emotive, varied screams.

Closing number “(Your) Banality is Evil” slashes out of the gate for its first 20 or so seconds, before sliding into a meditative-but-energetic instrumental section that builds the requisite tension for a final burst and subsequent collapse. Through use of minimalism and repetition, the track builds a beautiful end-of-record momentum that doesn’t suffocate the listener and the band uses just enough negative space to mandate an immediate repeat listen to the whole record.

In the case of both bands, there is more happening lyrically than your typical freeze-dried political straw man arguments or overdone, consequence-exempt violence.

Cloud Rat’s lyrical focus is deeply personal, and sometimes it’s possible to only grab snatches of meaning from the poetry. It seems almost like prying to dissect these songs in a review, but many seem to deal with painful experiences having to do with religion and spirituality, abuse and gender issues. Yet while clearly packed with underlying significance, it’s possible to simply enjoy the lyricism of lines like these from “Burning Doe”: “The leaves have this curl to them; / Racing past, golden hues like wisps of a horse tail not yet fenced in.” There is always more to unpack and discover in these songs, and vocalist/lyricist Madison is quickly proving herself as one of grindcore’s finest writing talents.

For Republic of Dreams, most lyrics are some combination of social and philosophical musings, with an alternately broad and personal bent. Songs from their side deal with machismo, impartiality, social change and a range of other topics, and include the added bonus of commentary on each song from the band’s lyricist. One of the more interesting is the economics-focused “(Your) Banality is Evil”: “Your ‘invisible hand’ is a force of regression / (Taking from the many, giving to the few). / Your ‘trickle down’ is (drop by drop) killing people. / Can you still believe all that nonsense?”

The LP’s packaging makes this a crucial release not just as music but as an artifact. While the individually screen-printed cover means that every copy won’t be an exact replica of the above digital image, it serves as a healthy reminder that this record is made for no one but you and the people who produced it; no intermediaries, no compromises. The booklet is beautifully laid out, and besides the lyrics contains a number of striking visual art pieces. Everything (the covers, the booklet and even the stickers that designate the sides) displays the same amount of care and it feels important. Punk is feeling like something matters and this is punk to its eyeballs.

Because of the quality found across its 20-minute runtime, this split feels truly collaborative. “Winning” or “losing” the record doesn’t apply here, because these artists feel like they’re on the same team. As a result, they manage to produce what is one of the best releases of the year and a must-buy album for dedicated extreme music fans.

You can purchase the split from IFB Records in the USA or React with Protest Records in Europe, or on Cloud Rat's upcoming US tour with thedowngoing.

[Note: Cloud Rat sent me a copy for review.]
[Edit: In the original version of this review, the phrase "vocalist Madison's acapella singing" read "(sampled?) singing" because I was unsure of the origin of the vocal that came after "Stench of Sage," and the phrase "effects-assisted stuttery riff" in the same paragraph was changed to "stuttery opening riff" in reference to the guitar work on "Moving Mouths" because I was unsure how the effect was produced. Guitarist Rorik has graciously informed me that the vocal on "Stench of Sage was Madison performing "Gloomy Sunday"("Szomorú vasárnap"), or "The Hungarian Suicide Song", and the guitar effect that opens "Moving Mouths" was produced not through an effects pedal or other artificial means but through an alternate picking technique.] 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wretch- The Senseless Violence EP

"To love a murderer. To love to commit a crime in cahoots with the young half-breed pictured on the cover of the torn book. I want to sing murder, for I love murderers. To sing it plainly. Without pretending, for example, that I want to be redeemed through it, though I do yearn for redemption. I would like to kill." - Jean Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers (1943)

Grindcore does not mean the same thing to everyone. When meeting new people, in the real world or online, a discussion of taste expected to yield a high degree of common ground can quickly find you at angles with your discussion partner on what grindcore should sound like, what makes it great, and even what it fundamentally is and is not. This shouldn't suggest a clear one-up, one-down, right-or-wrong situation; rather, it’s a question of experiential data, and, like more aspects of music than most critics care to admit, largely a matter of personal tastes.

Take this Wretch EP, for example.

Fundamentally, it scans as some amalgam of death metal and grindcore. However, someone with a more or less exclusive interest in high-speed grindcore could have a tendency to read it as death metal or goregrind, while a metal fan with a casual interest in Pig Destroyer and Nasum might find it exactly in keeping with their definition of grindcore.

The death metal and grindcore signifiers in Wretch’s sound share a fairly equal amount of weight in their vocals. Their pitch is for the most part binary and split between low and high patterns. Low vocals are a guts deep (but not pitch-shifted) marriage of death metal’s growl and gore music’s gurgle, while the highs are spat out in a raw, violent manner that values emotion over sheer height (vocalists: to translate that criticspeak, “emotion” means that it’s going to hurt—a lot).

Lyrics on The Senseless Violence EP haunt classically gore territory, with hatred, violence and grotesquery dominating the subject matter. The taboo and disturbing are common fodder here, and songs like “(Dis)located,” with its focus on sexual violence, might warn off some potential listeners outright.

Guitar tone and recording fidelity both rest around the midpoint between 80s extreme music demo-trading and the height of major label metal in the 90s. Mid-fast death metal is roughly the band’s cruising speed, and blasting grindcore serves as a counterpoint to that principal tendency.

The first of 6 gore-soaked tracks, “Purveyors of Senseless Violence” splits open the EP in fitting fashion. A sample from Australian Nazi skinhead flick Romper Stomper sets a violent tone that is matched deftly by a fast, metallic intro riff, the call of which the rest of the instruments rush to answer. An energy builds around their playing for a few seconds until Joel, the band’s vocalist, brings that energy to a head in a long, hate-filled high scream that serves as one of the track’s high water marks. The rest of the song rolls along at a deathgrind churn, and later sections lock into some especially head-nodding death metal grooves.

Death-thrash grinder “Shit Shovel” performs some gut-level satisfying maneuvers and is one of the faster numbers on The Senseless Violence EP. It’s a track with the most chocolate-and-peanut-butter moments of any found here, and a good one to play to a mixed room of death fans and grinders. With both an intro that recalls a schlock-horror foggy graveyard and an energetic later half, it’s a pretty good example of where the band’s interests extend musically.

The material’s overall metallic proclivity means that, as expected, Wretch is stocked with a talented cast of players. However, talent without savvy editing can lead to flaws in song structure, as found most notably on “Gorging.” A destructive drum fill transitions into a tasty groove that buoys the song, until that groove becomes mired in an errant breakdown that sees the song slowly collapse onto itself, dissolving into a disoriented pause/count-off that briefly restores order before an unfocused dual guitar exercise leads the song to a somewhat puzzling, abrupt end.

Wretch will especially appeal to the listener who identifies first as a metal fan and a grindcore fan second. Fans who tend to be hardline toward either metal or grindcore might tend to focus more on the musical notions that they’re unfamiliar with than the ones with which they are, but someone whose graph meets somewhere in the middle of that continuum will be right at home here.

You can purchase/download The Senseless Violence EP from Wretch’s Bandcamp page, either as a name-your-price download or as a physical cd.

[Note: The band sent me a digital copy for review.]

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blast Eats: Rape Revenge Vegan Fudge

Samantha, vocalist of the powerviolent Canadian feminists in Rape Revenge, brings us the sort of vegan treat that even the most snobbish carnivore can't deny: good, old-fashioned fudge. No matter your diet or culinary philosphy, blast Rape Revenge's newest 7" Paper Cage, whip up a batch of this goodness, and while it's cooling, destroy something oppressive in your neighborhood. (And don't forget to respect those around you). Then dig in.

My favorite recipe is for vegan fudge, it goes like this:

1 cup peanut butter (or any other nut butter, almond works well too)
1/2 C Carob powder or chips
3/4 C Cocoa powder
2 C Agave Nectar
1/3 C non-dairy milk (almond is awesome)
1 tsp Vanilla extract

Combine everything in a pot on the stove over low/medium heat, stirring regularly.  Once it thickens, remove from heat and put in greased pan and throw in the freezer.  Let cool for an hour or more.

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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blast Eats: The Oily Menace TEN FUCKING SKULLS Hot Sauce

The Oily Menace's Kevin has kindly offered this weapons-grade habanero-based hot sauce recipe for your tastebud-eradicating pleasure, along with what is bar-none the funniest recipe I've received thus far. Even if you're a complete wimp and don't eat anything "spicier than ketchup" (I actually have a friend who defines her spice limit this exact way), read this recipe, because it rules. Also, please note: If you're preparing this recipe, DON'T FORGET A PAIR OF GLOVES. Never underestimate the habanero's power to permeate EVERY ORIFICE IN YOUR BODY.

Hardware:  Blender, pot or pan.


1-10 habaneros, depending on heat level (1 pepper for ONE FUCKING
SKULL, ten peppers for TEN FUCKING SKULLS). Stems removed and cut in half.  Leave the meat inside the pepper, it's got a lot of flavor that only posers throw away.  These are the same people who wave a 7a drumstick over a snare to dust it off and call that a blast beat. Sorry, even Rich Hoak can’t get away with that any more.

Cumin seeds (anywhere from 1 tsp to infinity, but start small).
Hopefully raw because we want to toast these.  If you’re using ground
cumin, consider getting  a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle
because fresh seeds are cheaper and have a lot more flavor.  Anyway,
start at ½ tsp with ground.

1 medium onion, chopped.  I like a red onion, but some may prefer a
large shallot.

1-2 stalks of celery, chopped.

1-1½  cups of carrots, ripped to shreds.  More carrots for a slightly
sweeter result

A whole head of real garlic.  Hard neck garlic.  Real garlic from the
farmer’s market that has some purple or red on it.  Strong garlic.
Garlic that doesn’t use triggers.  Peel ‘em all and coarsely chop.

Juice of 3 small or 2 medium limes.  You can roll the limes under the
palm of your hand before you cut them to soften them up.  It's okay if
some lime pulp gets into the recipe too.

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  White vinegar is NOT THE SAME,
just like the reformed Terrorizer.

One tablespoon of salt.  This is a lot of salt for this sauce, so you
don’t have to use it all, but don’t use more than this.

Oil, about a tablespoon

Water, about 3 cups.

Start with a dry pot or pan that is big enough to hold everything.
Turn the heat up to med-high and once the pan is hot drop the cumin
seeds in.  As soon as one or two of them pop, or you smell them
toasting then turn off the heat, and dump them into your grinder or
mortar…and grind. They should be done toasting by the time you get
through the long version of Metal Attitude Sucks by Larm, or
Starvation by Siege.  If you’re using powered cumin skip this
altogether but you should still listen to Larm.

Next place a small amount of oil in the pan, return to medium heat.
Once the oil is hot place in the onions, celery, and carrots.  Do you
know what a sweat is?  You probably do after this insanely hot summer
we have had, but in this case it means to soften the vegetables and
concentrate flavor.  Do this with a pinch of the salt to help draw out
moisture.  Kitchen veterans might note that is a mirepoix, but with a
bit less celery.  This will take longer than the Thin Lizzy song Cold
Sweat, but should be done in a Whiskey in the Jar, or a Remembering pt 2.  If it starts to brown, it's too hot.

Next add the habaneros and ½ of the garlic.  If you happen to have
started Defeatist’s last LP when you added the peppers, they will
probably be done somewhere near the start of Choking the Light, or
Lament.  If you don’t have that LP…get it.

Okay, let's blend.  Put the lime juice, vinegar, and remaining raw
garlic in the blender and spin ‘til it's smooth.  Then add the hot
stuff and blend ‘til it's super smooth.  If you need to learn about

Once the sauce is thick and smooth, you can thin it out to the desired consistency with some water.  I usually add about a cup, but some people want a much thinner sauce.  This will only thicken a small
amount when cooled.

Add salt to taste, and bottle!  If you use a canning jar it's usually hot enough to make a seal.  Once opened it keeps for about a month.

Acid Shark- Bombs Away Demo 2012

Genre conventions are a funny animal. We, as music fans, will at one time or another all complain (to anyone willing to listen) about the strictures of genre and how its stifles creativity. Yet skew one element in a way we’re not expecting, and we balk instantly.

Enter my introduction to Acid Shark. Drummer Lee sent me the standard e-mail asking if I’d like to review the record, along with the equally standard links to some contextual info. After browsing their bio and finding a comfortingly familiar blend that included Repulsion, Terrorizer, 324 and Napalm Death, I mentally agreed, deciding to hit YouTube before answering back only to make sure that they weren’t some cleverly camouflaged bedroom e-grind band.

I decided upon one of the three demo tracks (“Anger,” I believe), and the instrumental racket that first met my ears was of a similarly familiar and comforting nature. Around 30 seconds into the track, I was prepared to find some variation on a screamed vocal. However, rather than this genre standard, I met with something quite different.

Acid Shark’s vocals take the form of a shout-speak snarl so well-enunciated that practically all of the lyrics are discernible without reading them.  While this approach would sound common enough on a crust-punk record, its presence on something touted as grindcore was enough to give me pause before responding to Lee in the affirmative.

Some reference for former vocalist Matteo’s surprisingly clear bark can be found in 324’s Masao, an obvious influence. Other similarities can be found in Mick Harris’ vocals for Unseen Terror, minus the blurring speed-rap delivery found on some UT material. Still, even compared to these, the degree of clarity in the vocals is arresting; Matteo lacks the gruffness of Masao or the aforementioned speed of Mick Harris, so when lyrics fall flat, as the average grindcore lyrics are wont to do, that fact becomes painfully clear to all but the most unobservant listeners.

Firmly anchored in the old school, Acid Shark’s guitar work recalls the consummation of the 80's teenage gropings between punk and metal that would eventually beget grindcore.  The band packs tone and riffage so middle-grounded between the two that I had to scrap a potential lead for this paragraph because I simply couldn’t choose which genre signifier to pin on it. Their grind stays militantly planted in the linearity of something like Terrorizer’s World Downfall; out of the many early grind touchstones that inspired the songs on this demo, I can say with a degree of certainty that Sore Throat’s Disgrace to the Corpse of Sid and Unhindered by Talent probably aren’t two that feature prominently.

Title track “Bombs Away” opens the set, and while it’s the shortest to be found here at 1:37, it doesn’t bring the blistering speed expected in most shortest-song grind tracks. Instead, it introduces another unexpected twist along with Acid Shark’s grindcore: choruses. While all three tracks follow a verse/chorus structure, “Bombs Away” (with its chorus consisting only of the words “Bombs away!” repeated six times) comes up short on ideas (if long on energy) and winds up a bit repetitive.

“Anger,” the 3rd and final track on the demo, comes off as the most successful cut of the bunch. The track opens with a headbanging, old-school groove that it rides until a half-second jolt of silence ushers Matteo in. At that moment, the whole band surges forward, the vocals taking on a thrash-indebted urgency  thanks to the song’s longer line structures and wordier (in a good way) lyrics. Besides containing some of the demo’s fastest playing, the song also contains its most complex chorus, meaning that you don’t mind hearing it repeated 3 times. This is the song to hope future AS efforts sound like, and it’s the best indication that they’ve got something exciting to offer on their next releases.

Convention will probably keep most fans of modern grind at arm’s length, but crust-lovers and open-minded modernists will discover a skillfully-delivered demo outing that forecasts good things if the band continues to refine the blueprint laid out on these tracks.

The Bombs Away Demo 2012 is available here for download and streaming.

As touched upon within the review, vocalist Matteo has split amicably with the band, and they are currently seeking a replacement.  Any interested parties can record a demo over this karaoke version of “Anger” and send it to for consideration. It's probably a good idea to be in the UK if you actually want to be considered, but either way, send 'em a demo, 'cause extreme music karaoke rules.

While Delaware isn’t anywhere close to being in the UK, I couldn’t resist recording my own vocal demo, so if you’d like, check it out here

[Note: The band sent me a digital copy for review.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blast Eats: thedowngoing Nachos

This is the first post I'm writing from my new apartment in Delaware, so I hope that there won't be too much lag between this post and the next one. The Aussie grinders in thedowngoing just released their newest full length ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS last month, and it turns out that grind isn't the only thing that they do extreme. Drummer Muzz (who Mathias tells me is a huge fan of insane food shows like Man v. Food and Epic Meal Time) brings us a killer plate of nachos perfect for your next party (or to dare your friends to finish in one sitting).

Muzz Makes Nachos

Ingredients: Ground Beef/Mince meat ~500g =$5
             Mozzarella cheese (shredded) ~500g =$5
             Seasoning mix ~30g =$1
             Corn chips ~200g =$3
             Sour cream ~300ml =$2
             1 Spanish/red onion
             1 Capsicum/pepper
             1 shallot/spring onion =$2

Nachos are the undisputed champions of taste. If you do this right it will offer you a temporary state of contentment which is all too rare to find these days. First get ~$20 and go shopping (Sydney prices here, I assume its cheaper everywhere else) There's potential to feed an army so either go all out (party)or save some leftovers. Cook up the meat, and season in a fry pan, Add some Tabasco? for spice. Get a baking dish (or 2) and stack Corn chips, then meat, then cheese. 2 layers is optimal. Cook that shit in the oven, should take about 15 min. While this is happening dice up the veggies into a pile. Pull out your Nachos when golden, top with chopped veggies and sour cream.
So that's pretty much it. I recommend consumption while listening to thedowngoing's new CD ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS, and your favourite bottle of beer or cola. Respect each other and enjoy.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blast Eats: Wretch Slow Roast Pork Belly with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

I knew I'd find people in bands that loved to cook as much I do when I started this feature. I just wasn't prepared for how good they'd be at it. For this installment, Duncan from Australia's Wretch brings us this wretchedly fantastic-sounding recipe for roasted pork belly that I'm dying to give a go as soon as I can scrape up the cash. (Also—truffle oil in scrambled eggs? I might shell out the arm and a leg for truffle oil too, just so I can test-drive that concept for myself.) 

You’ll need:

·         Pork belly (I’ve been using pieces around ½ kilo – 1 kilo in size, but it’s easy to adjust cooking times to suit)
·         Mushrooms (a cup or two)
·         Truffle oil (not strictly necessary, but is completely awesome if you can get it –a splash in scrambled eggs is fucking fantastic)
·         Garlic (a clove or two of the fresh stuff, or some of that minced stuff in jar)
·         Cream
·         Butter, one knob (tee hee)
·         Olive oil
·         Salt
·         Sage (ground)

Cooking the pork belly

Preheat your oven to 240° Celsius (which is 460° Farenheit or about 513 Kelvin).

Using a sharp knife score the pork belly skin and fat in a crisscross pattern (lines an inch or two apart).

Dry the skin with paper towel or a tea towel, and rub olive oil (about half a cup) and salt (a couple of tablespoons) into the skin. This makes the crackling awesome.

Put the pork belly skin-side up in a roasting pan (if you have one, put the meat on a roasting rack and put a cup or two of water in the bottom of the pan to keep the meat moist; this isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice touch).

Cook at this temperature (240° Celsius / 460° Farenheit) for 15 minutes. This high heat gets the crackling started nicely before we turn down the temperature to slow-cook the meat and render the fat.

Turn down the heat on the over to 160° Celsius (320° Farenheit) and cook for one hour. If you have a larger piece of pork belly, adjust the cooking time to suit. I’d cook 2 kg of pork belly for 2½ – 3 hours. The cooking temperature is very low, so you can afford to be imprecise and not worry about ruining the meat too much.

Take the meat out of the pan and fry it skin-side down on a high-heat BBQ, griddle or frypan with a good thick coating of olive oil until the crackling is good and crispy (takes about 10 minutes – if the crackling starts burning, turn down the heat a bit).

Allow the meat to rest while you cook the sauce.

Cooking the sauce

Heat up a saucepan (medium-high heat) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Fry up a cup or two of mushrooms (sliced thick or thin, whatever you prefer) along with some garlic (a clove or two of the fresh stuff, or a teaspoon or so of the minced stuff that comes in a jar) and add a few tablespoons of water if the pan starts getting too dry.

When the mushrooms are cooked, turn the heat to low and chuck in a teaspoon or two of ground sage, a knob of butter (about a tablespoon), a good splash of cream, and (if you have it) a dash of truffle oil. If you don’t have truffle oil and want to give the sauce a bit of zing, you can use a teaspoon or two of mustard.

Cook the sauce down a bit (you can thicken it quickly by mixing a teaspoon of plain flour with a small amount of water and gradually adding this to sauce) before serving.

Best served with roast potatoes, a stack of vegetables, beer and wine … then some scotch, maybe a scoob.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


“The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in a many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.” - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West (1985)

Some of the best grind bands can be described by such adjectives as “unrelenting,” “piercing” and “destructive.” Those words speak to some of the most intriguing traits of the genre, and epitomize what I love about some of my favorite records. Yet every so often, a band like thedowngoing comes along and makes those adjectives seem quaint.

thedowngoing are noisegrind for the Discordance Axis set: relentlessly distorted and punishingly abrasive, yet technically adept enough that the noise and chaos remains a conscious artistic choice. As much of a car wreck as ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS may at times seem, it’s all J.G. Ballard precision, not haphazard evening news violence.

“the nature of numbers” rides shifting, sideways riffing and blasting, always just short of being engulfed by a wake of noise. The brief “floorboards” opens on a tantalizing technical riff before stumble-twirling into a slower, heavy section that drunkenly moshes in and out of blasts before collapsing with one last scream of agony. That noise always nipping at the heels of other tracks fully submerges “untitled,” the record’s 8th track, instrumentation, vocals and samples rolling over each other and never quite gathering their bearings until they wash up onto the shore of feedback at the track’s end.

The duo weaves samples expertly into their already thick tapestry of grinding noise. Voices and sounds shamble into and out of focus like apparitions in dense fog, adding to the conscious discomfort of the band’s aesthetic. This sidesteps the worst pitfalls surrounding sampling, its use on songs like “Vacant Caves” rendering sampled material as elements of composition rather than filigree around the piece’s frame.

Much has been (justifiably) made of Mathias Huxley’s wall-climbingly insane vocal delivery by my fellow reviewers. Descriptions of its chaotic qualities, as well as its likeness to demonic possession, however apt, belie the Large Hadron Collider-like control required to sustain performances so seemingly unhinged and free of rational interference.

Cueing up Arsedestroyer’s Teenass Revolt or Swarrrm’s Nise Kyuseishu Domo (Thee Imitation Messiahs) or Black Bong next to tracks from this record will neatly underscore the difference between chaotic-sounding and truly chaotic, improvised vocal delivery. Those records sound chaotic due to the conditions they were written and recorded under; in contrast, Mathias’ vocals are chaos as a tool toward aesthetic cohesion.

Perusal of Huxley’s lyrics (included with the physical release or available on thedowngoing’s bandcamp) reveals a shattered, poetic, free-associative lyrical style that complements the insanity of his vocal style. On songs like “the nature of numbers,”  Huxley recalls Eyehategod’s Mike Williams and his beautiful, Burroughs-indebted insanity:  “a binary fascination scratching at the ones and naughts etched in my teeth and nails bleeding coalescent  / a tectonic love circles dates months away while i spend new years eve doped up with the dogs.”  Elsewhere, the seemingly relationship-related material on songs like “snakecharmer”  echoes the disturbed, lovelorn obsessiveness of Pig Destroyer’s J.R. Hayes: “breaching my skin adrift a desert sea singing the hymns of decay  / that charm the snakes that dance inside your eyes  / now i stand an ancient ruin a relic to mourning you.”

The album’s physical release comes in the form of a handmade slimline cd. Its artwork and liner layout, though leaning toward the simplistic, manages to come off as pleasantly minimal and sidesteps the rampant garishness that the meeting of extreme music and the visual arts too often produces. The disc itself looks fantastic. Though it’s nothing more than a simple white disc hand-flecked with black paint, the final product epitomizes how DIY the release is, and the lack of a title mirrors the obscure, disorienting sounds coded onto it.

While only 3 songs and a few seconds longer than last year’s impressive Untitled EP, everything about ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS  feels more full, more complete and more thought-out, and worthy of the title of LP. Tighter songwriting and aesthetic cohesiveness means that this is their best put-together release to date, and the tightrope walk that goes on between noise and musicality makes it a must for fans of truly insane experimental grindcore. 

The release can be found on the band's Bandcamp page in pay-as-you-want digital and as a physical release.

[Note: The band sent me a copy for review.]