Monday, March 23, 2015

Album Review: Hivesmasher - 'Gutter Choir'

I get nervous about investing myself in new bands. There is many a genre out there where I've followed the formula of having merely a handful of groups I feel connect with me and represent that piece of the pie of what they do very well that I end up putting those self-stamped elite high upon a pedestal, and don't necessarily bother getting to know the other foot soldiers of that genre nor give them a fair shot. It's not that I'm trying to be snobbish about it, I've just been burned in the past with burnout... You find a band that does something so well that instead of just sticking with said band and accepting their sound as theirs and unique to them you dive headfirst into a pool of lackluster imitators to get that same fix that either don't do it as well or you just don't connect with for whatever reason. By the time you realize the mistake you've made by spreading yourself a bit too thin you've already watered down the sound of the original band that sent you down this path. I know I'm kind of a minority in this philosophy, but I still get the desired emotional results any of those genres are designed to deliver when I keep my cache elite. I often question if the guy blasting Gridlink in the car next to me (never happened by the way) on his way to lunch gets the same impact from it that I do when I selectively listen to said band whilst in the gym or punching a wall... Or the dude cleaning his garage on a summer afternoon while Pallbearer meanders in the background, is it moving him the way it moves me as I engage from the top of a wooded hill in the cold of late November? Or am I just an incredible snob plagued with tunnel vision? I just don't want to lose the rush that Grindcore delivers so well.

That being said, you have to take that risk when you want to find something new, because it's very rare that something is served your way in such an underrated genre - even with the internet's many degrees of bolstering. More than a few of my Grindcore elite have burned out, leaving me with fantastic back catalogues that will never be built upon, gaps in the future where I long to relive the experience of hearing one of my favorite bands deliver a beating I get to indulge in for a first time. I've found that the only fair way to sample something new from a band dabbling in the blasts and blur is to open my ears to an entire album from start to finish, an opportunity I'm able to revel in more easily thanks to Smart Phones and a recent subscription to Spotify. You have to accept the entire ass kicking before you can judge it's merit. Hivesmasher delivers...And the gap they fill? Bodies In The Gears Of The Apparatus.

For the six of us out there that really enjoyed BITGOTA it's a ballsy statement, but there is a familiarity to Hivesmasher's brand of technical clusterfuck-grind that I couldn't shake after the first full listen. Gutter Choir is body-chalk full of unpredictable palm-muted gallops collapsing beneath blasting grind surges that bridge brief driving hooks. The tracks barrel at you so quickly with barely a space to take a breath in between. The viscosity of the noise is rivaled by a sense of humor buried in the varying RPMs, as is obvious with track titles like 'Can of Awesometism' and 'Enroute to Meatland' - not to mention the same penchant for un-needed movie samples that potentially suck from the albums belligerence (the only true downfall I have these days with the aforementioned BITGOTA's Symian Hybrid Prototype). The production is better than most debuts in this genre, and the band even displays the same sort of  'do whatever the fuck we want' kind of disposition with a thirty minute brain-dump of samples and noise in the last track 'Send Me To Satan' that serve as a precursor to a tech-grind cover of Foo Fighters' 'Everlong'.

Whilst opener 'Bye Bye Baby' lulls you into an almost melodic ending after a powerviolent opening attack, it's follow-up 'Vomitouch' actually sounds like the swarming of insects likened to the band's moniker, with a similar vibe to serve as a trifecta in 'Strangled Beings and Vice Versa' that you won't even realize you've gotten through until it's over and you check the numbers. The entire album works as a collective fist here, and while the tracks are jaggedly stop and go, hold and release, there is a flow beneath it all that keeps you from tensing down until the break in the last song. A definite standout for me is 'And They Thought We'd Forget', which brazens an almost epic feel within it's chaos, the kind of the thing that feels like a bloodstained flag being hoisted amongst ongoing carnage.

I've listened to both Hivesmasher's Gutter Choir and BITGOTA's Symian Hybrid Prototype back to back after the lightbulb went off and feel pretty strongly about the similarities in sound. I don't feel like anyone is getting ripped off because Hivesmasher puts forth a really solid album here that I enjoyed right away, most likely because I'm still choking on the trail of smoke BITGOTA left when they up and fuckin' stopped being. I'd definitely be curious to see if anybody else ever felt/feels that way about the record and identifies a similarity. Because desperation can really fuck with the sense and senses. I dig the hell out of Gutter Choir, and am so glad I gave it a shot, because as far as I'm concerned I'm adding them to the elite.

Bandcamp page:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Album Review: Fiend - 'Derailed'

Fresno outfit's debut 9 song E.P. is like a six minute slow motion punch in the stomach sped-up - if that makes any sense. Sonically these brahs have it going ON, I dig the heavy-on-the-low-end Nails/Kill The Client power here with the old school high-and-tight snare to kind of counter it. The tracks rumble and burst through in gloriously monochromatic fashion, leaving the listener wondering if they're still hearing the same song they have been for the last 26 seconds or Fiend has bulldozed them further down the tracklist, and I always enjoy that quality in a Grind EP - when the whole thing is over before you know it by only the sound of the suffocating silence they've turn-tabled onto your cochlears. The vocals do leave a bit to be desired on a personal level, they teeter 50/50 on the extreme pursed-lip guttural bottom, and the high pitched scream at the top of the spectrum with no in between. Both ranges are completely indecipherable and the low vox almost kind of slow down the dark and beautiful shit-bonanza happening behind them with their dragged out Cannibal Corpsey brooootality. I just found myself wanting them to sing faster as the album progressed and it never happened. It's unfortunately almost somewhat comedic at some points. When Fiend do consciously slow down into a groove, as on the beginning of "Display of Insecurity', and 'Suffer In Silence' it works just fine (and what a groove it is). They cover the gamut here and don't paint outside the lines but the pummeling is still delivered.  'Derailed' sounds like grade-A professional quality grind, and while you could argue that it is a more than a bit run-of-the-mill it's always nice to have a band like this in your back pocket given the brief life-spans of so many other outfits out there and the ocean of mediocre nonsense that doesn't have the sonic anvil to the spine that these nine tracks bolster. I'll be keeping my eye on you, Fiend.

Here's their bandcamp page you sons of bitches:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Concert Review: Napalm Death / Voivod / Exhumed / Iron Reagan / Ringworm - "Of Space and Grind Tour" @ Reggie's Rock Club - 02/10/2015

Didn't get there in time....stupid traffic.

Iron Reagan:
These guys were a blast - not that kind of blast. I only knew of their reputation as being a bit of a hardcore/thrash throwback band consisting of a couple of members from Municipal Waste - and that was enough to  make me not interested in buying any of their albums, because I have this ridiculous notion that people who love that 80's thrash are stuck there - and wind up being ridiculously close minded about everything else, ummmm - hypocrite much? Their sound was great, and their riffs were catchy in all the right places (just like 80's thrash!), and when they sped it up and knocked out five tunes in under four minutes in the middle of their set I couldn't help but liken their more punk-rooted songs to 'Sick'-era Extortion, and that's really, really alright. They didn't take themselves too seriously, and seemed to be having a genuinely good time on stage. I'd be interested in checking out more of these blokes.

I own a couple of Exhumed albums but the phase of my life where I was actually listening to them was really short. It kind of happened as I was teetering on the edge there just before totally falling into the indulgence of Grindcore. I always dug their chaotic sound but the gore-theme was something I could just never relate to. I don't mind it, I'm not turned off by it - I mean, I sat through the uncut version of 'A Serbian Film' (I'm not even going to link that) and work with that kind of shit all the time. I just don't relate to it in real life, and that relation to something emotive in the music is what really makes the purge for me, and that's the same reason I never got into (prepare to gasp) Carcass. I guess I just missed my window with it. Exhumed's live set was a bit muffled in comparison to Iron Reagan, but like a snuff film - it worked for them. Pretty impressive how both the bassist and rhythm guitarist share lead vocals whilst canoodling all over the guitar neck like it was the finger olympics, there is no doubt that these guys are talented songwriters and performers. Halfway through their performance some dude came aping onto the stage in full-on blood spattered surgical scrubs wielding a chainsaw and dove into the crowd, loved seeing that - I always dig when a band like this shows that they ain't takin' the whole thing too seriously and are just having fun with it, not to mention that smell of exhaust and gasoline that came lofting in over the audience only added to the ambiance.  I can't take anything away from Exhumed here, as their performance seemed pretty flawless.  I'm sure if my neck beard was in full bloom and I had all of the Guinea Pig movies at home on VHS I would have really enjoyed them a bit more, I keed, I keed.

I admit... Initially this was another band that was just in the way of seeing Napalm Death, shame on me. I know about Voivod, but I know very little. There are two bands that I've kind of always wanted to really sink my teeth into, that I think if I gave it a real chance and dove in I'd really get a lot out of it - I've just been intimidated by their discographies, and that's Neurosis and Voivod...It's like, where do you begin? The beginning? The best? How do you even know? Voivod was wickedly impressive live. I'm very rarely won over by a band I've never heard first on a record like I was with Voivod. Their sound was hard and clear, and their stage presence was a lot of fun. Proggy in spots, thrashy in others, other-worldly all around - I'm sure to all the salty Voivod dogs out there I've just described every album they've ever done. The band performed their new single 'We Are Connected', and for me it was one of the more memorable songs of their set. This performance definitely gave me the kick in the arse I needed to stop making excuses and start digging in.

Napalm Death:
I'm a tad biased here because I think Napalm Death fuckin' kill, but guess what? Napalm Death fuckin' killed. ND took the stage beneath 'Utopia Banished''s sample-driven 'Vision Conquest' and in good form opened with 'I Abstain'.  They then jumped forward without missing a beat romping into 'Time Waits For No Slave's 'Brink Of Extinction' and 'Smash A Single Digit', the "single" off of their latest release 'Apex Predator: Easy Meat'. They did a great job of covering the gamut here jumping all over their discography; all the while still fronting tracks from their latest release, which seemingly had the least crowd response - indicating either people just hadn't gotten around to digesting the new album yet, or the majority of the crowd was rooted in the earlier phase of their writing. Judging by the variety of age in the audience I'd wager it was a combination of both. I'd say there was about a 50 - 60% turnover in the crowd after Voivod left the stage, altering the ratio of guys to girls from 20:1 to 450:1.
Unfortunately guitarist Mitch Harris was not on tour with the band this time around due to an illness in the family - but fortunately ex-Brutal Truth axeman Erik Burke was taking his place and not missing a beat (and there were a lot of them - grind humor). The set list, however, was noticeably steered away from the songs that feature heavily on Harris' trademark shriek. Totally understandable, but I would have loved to hear the likes of 'Sink Fast, Let Go', 'Beyond The Pale', 'The Silence Is Deafening' and etc. Frontman Barney Greenway took a few of the high notes here and there, and sounded as ferocious if not more so than he does on the wax everywhere else. Which left me pondering how the frack that brummie doesn't just eviscerate his voice box every night. While bassist Shane Embury's hand became a blur over the strings, Greenway jogged and spastically jerked all over the stage, keeping the stagehand busy untying the knots in his mic wire on more than one occasion - to which the English gentlemen gratefully apologized for. How old are these guys again? And what a pleasure it was to hear tracks like 'Scum', 'M.A.D.', and 'Suffer The Children' with the modern day punch of sound vibrating behind your ribs. Even 'A Plague Rages' packed more of a bunch than it's bass-grinding original. The band ended with 'Adversarial/Copulating Snakes', the closing track on the new album and I couldn't have been happier with that. What a ridiculously powerful riff to wrap things up with. Good show, good sound, good songs - I was impressed.
On a personal note, I'd love to see Burke maybe added to the line-up as a second guitarist; not that I think they need it - because the anvil is destroying with the weight it's at just fine. But given the fact that ND's line up is already completely different than the one that started the band, and they've gone through so many changes throughout the years before really riding steady with where they're at - I'd dig it if Napalm Death became a sort-of musical force, or entity more than a mortal band with an expiration date. I'd love to see the torch slowly handed off over the next twenty years or so to another group of musicians who would be capable of carrying on the carnage and evolutionizing the sound.  I know I'm probably the only one out there that feels this way, and nobody wants to have somebody else either take credit for, or tarnish the legacy that they built - but after damn near thirty years and fifteen albums - plus EP's, live records, and cover discs - Napalm Death, at least in my eyes, has become a symbol for the extreme, and I'd love to see them become immortal (not Immortal). They've already got the record for the shortest song, how about they out-live the Stones.... Just throwing that out there. Here was the headlining set list:

Vision Conquest
I Abstain
Brink Of Extinction
Smash A Single Digit
Walls Of Confinement
The Kill
Nazi Punks Fuck Off
Everyday Pox
How The Years Condemn
Timeless Flogging
Suffer The Children
Plague Rages
Unchallenged Hate
You Suffer
Adversarial / Copulating Snakes