Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Top Five Favorite Grind/Power Violence Albums Of 2016

I didn't contribute a whole lot here this year, for those of you paying attention I do apologize - life has gotten in the way a bit, but that doesn't mean I wasn't listening! I'm beginning to decipher my code and realize that I may be a tad more picky than I'd like to admit about the Grindcore genre, as for the second year in a row I just couldn't stand behind a solid ten picks to be released this year. As the five albums I've listed below easily stood out for me as the best, a latter half of this list would be forced passables that honestly didn't provoke a bulk of subsequent listens for one reason or another. Anywho, let me stress before you continue - just to clarify; I don't think these are the best of 2016, just some of my favorites; the best to me:

5. Venomous Concept - Kick Me Silly - VC III

I've often theorized and bullshitted about just how much I believe Grindcore is truly the not-so-new Punk music - extreme demands require extreme responses, and with internet and media outlets precipitating a systematic anesthetization to all things violent and depraved, we need a genre that martyrs it's very being as music by succumbing to it's own frenzied passion. While most Grindcore bands syncopate punk rhythms around the prioritized blast beats, Venomous Concept flips that equation, coming across more as a modern day punk band that occasionally leans on the very essence of it's members' collective roots in the Grindcore genre to punctuate it's sound. It works as both an anti-numbing agent to the beat down, as well as a possible gateway for those on the edge of the Punk tier who may in fact be intimidated by something even more extreme than that with which they are passionate about.

On Kick Me Silly - VC III the "supergroup" sounds like the perfect amalgam of it's parts. Herrera, Embury and Cooke (who has been playing live with ND for the past two years in Harris' unexplained absence) bring the latter day Napalm Death sound while the now defunct Brutal Truth-half utilize Lilker's feral bass and Sharp's incomparably recognizable roar to round out the band's d-beat focused punk fueled attack. While I'd still love to hear this troop get as batshit as they possibly can, it's the restrained doses of the full possibility of VC's frenzied vitriol that keep this thing coiled and popping from start to finish.

4. Wake - Sowing The Seeds Of A Worthless Tomorrow

On Sowing The Seeds Of A Worthless Tomorrow Wake don't give a hoot about dynamics, the stop and go strike, or anything that constitutes a casual listener's grasp of rhythm. It's all one constant, blasting dirge into dark hopelessness. The sound here throughout these eight tracks feels almost hypnotically monochromatic, which only adds to the feeling of being piled onto. It's as if somebody nasally force-fed Gaza with a half-ton of PCP (referencing one limited exposure band with another - nice). The infrequent lighter chords that are struck throughout the belligerent stampeding of blasts that provide a limited bubble for which to gasp for air in add such a depth to the music without sacrificing any of it's claustrophobic characteristics. One second longer and it would have felt like too much, one second shorter wouldn't have been enough - this tester of souls is just right.

3. Wormrot - Voices

It took two full lengths and an EP for Wormrot to really turn my ear. With time and exposure I've gained an appreciation for the raw straightforwardness of their delivery, and though that is an easy quality for to which find yourself blending in with the rest, Wormrot continue to surprise me with sporadic surges of brief experimentation in their sound. Their influences can be easily identified, but the fact that there are so many songs on Voices that dedicate their entire being to said influences and in turn different aspects of the genre, stepping away from the finality of the record deposes a dynamic and versatility in writing that really makes Voices a fun experience. The production is the best they've had yet, and I think that's a big cog to really making each instrument stand out on it's own here, giving it a very organic, plug-in-and-play feel without sounding too raw or muddled. I always thought the hype of Wormrot in the scene was focused on the wrong things, more the geographical origin of the band than anything else - the Noise EP made my dumb ass pay closer attention, but Voices has me proclaiming that the threat is real.

2. Nails - You Will Never Be One Of Us

Nails continue to astonish me in how they can produce music so tonally fucking heavy that moves so incredibly fast, I think Kurt Ballou may have had something to do with it. You Will Never Be One Of Us is a fitting third offering from the band, upping their own game in fact. Careening consciousness with sledgehammering power-violence and dizzying, Venturi-effect like blasts that succumb only to thick, slabs of crawling rhythms where strategically appropriate. Considering they're wisely sticking to the short-but-sweet M.O. of final running times under roughly 12 - 13 minutes (contractual obligations be damned), you'd think that those aforementioned qualities would make You Will Never Be One Of Us a forced, possibly contrived, convoluted mess. Instead however, the bombardments of sound are so well composed that the songs in fact seem longer than they are, and gratifyingly complete. Even the eight minute-plus closer doesn't feel out of place. Oh, and it's catchy as hell too!

1. Gendo Ikari - Unit 1

What the? Who the? Huh? Yes, I stumbled onto these guys whilst prowling the seedy underbelly of Bandcamp some time in early October, and in the time since - to my delight (thru no influence of my own) - have seen other blogs and social media sites begin to sing their praises. Hailing from Glasgow, UK, Gendo Ikari's 7-track debut does everything right for me. It's got the jagged, unpredictable blasting that isn't too above itself to break into wonderfully brief, groovy strides - all along maintaining a singular aural onslaught. The tones are sharp but still weighty, with a shitload of jarring, sudden brake application before projectile-like surges of straight up Grind come violently tumbling forth. It's awesome, and maybe it's because they seem so off the radar right now, or the production standard comes across as somewhat DIY (I do wish it was louder), but there is an antagonistic virulence driving behind it that feels just slightly more palpable and genuine than most right now to me, and I just can't ignore that. They ain't the first to do it, and admittedly it's not breaking any new ground, but Gendo Ikari have taken almost all of my favorite aspects of the genre and managed to put them together comprehensively into a short and caustic exhibition of appreciation for the fundamentals of the millennium's new wave of Grindcore.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Top Five Favorite Grind/Power Violence Albums of 2015

I wasn't all that impressed with a lot of what 2015 had to offer. I could have probably extended this list to a top 10, as I initially planned to, but I feel like the latter half would have really just been passable releases that I enjoyed but wasn't really blown away by. Maruta's Remain Dystopian, Fulgora's debut Stratagem, Agents Of Abhorrence's Relief, and Antigama's Insolent all most likely would have helped round it out; but there would have been that thick line of demarcation between the records released this year which I thought were really good, and some other stuff that I just listened to a couple of times and was never really moved by; So here are the top 5 albums that I thought deserved specific attention:

5. Beaten II Death - Unplugged

I haven't looked too much into what the consensus is on this album or this band; but I have this weird feeling that it has the potential to act as a bit of a gateway to those who don't regularly tread in extreme waters all that often. Heard of Deafheaven? For those that haven't they're a band who take the cold, swarming and often dissonant sounds of Black Metal and shape it into something warm, groovy and almost uplifting - thusly pissing off legions of narrow-minded Black Metal elitist fans who just can't accept the attention it seems to be drawing from crowds who have never bought a Marduk CD or debated the merits of influence Emperor had on the new wave of BM forged outside of Norway. Beaten II Death's Unplugged could be that same black sheep within the Grindcore genre (perhaps the track title "Death To False Grindcore" - in quotes -  is another giveaway). What that means to me is that it's a band that's actually doing something different, and kind of daring, and I like that. Everything on Unplugged is something I could easily slip into a playlist for anyone of my friends that would consider a band as lame as Lamb Of God as borderline "too heavy" and maybe even win them over with it (though still doubtful). It's accessible, and doesn't take itself too seriously either - both in it's content (based mostly on the song titles) as well as some of the over-the-top porngrindish guttural wretches that carry themselves on too long - possibly a downside to the overall experience. But never-the-less, Unplugged is a welcome breath of fresh air, and damn enjoyable.

4. Evisorax - Goodbye To The Feast...Welcome To The Famine

Teetering the line somewhere between the thin treble-heavy veil of Blood I Bleed and the jagged technicality of Discordance Axis, Evisorax's third full length Goodbye To The Feast...Welcome To The Famine floats like a butterfly and rips open throats like a roided up Cujo. With zero breathing room and flash-in-the-pan running time, Evisorax harness the perfect Grind concoction whose nitrous-like high feels like an audio vaporization of your essence happening right between the ears. A thicker, lower production on previously Scott Hull mastered releases is abandoned for a razor like sharpness that bleeds itself into riff changes keeping the over-all sound raw and almost garage-like; the songs bulk up enough to get the point across on more rhythmic breakdowns here and there without ever really killing the over-all momentum.  This is fast swarm-of-insects type grind done very right.

3. Cloud Rat - Qliphoth

It's place as a Grind album is questionable, but fuck all that, Cloud Rat are on a roll. 2014's Blind River was a dark, grinding and emotional experience - palpably visceral and desperate. 2015's Qliphoth enhances every aspect of it's predecessor, including upping the melody and beauty that seem to gestate beneath the punky hardcore riffs that break up the blasts, and sometimes even holding it up high for all to gaze upon (i.e. the wonderful opening of a fist that is 'Thin Vein', or ambient 'The Killing Horizon'). Things slow down a lot within the crippling journey that is Qliphoth, but it never takes away from the album's momentum, as that momentum isn't based on speed or even aggressiveness, but a longing desperation for a breathable atmosphere above a surface that is just out of reach. Cloud Rat dangles hope in front of the listener like a loaded syringe, which Qliphoth's experience has us violently jonesing for.

2. Napalm Death - Apex Predator 

I didn't want to do it but I have to be honest with myself, I love Napalm Death; and quite honestly I really love what they've done with the second half of their existence thus far since Enemy Of The Music Business - sorry Jon Chang. I know that putting a Napalm Death album even in the number two spot of top Grindcore albums of the year is to most elitists the equivalent of talking about Metallica anywhere, anytime, to anyone whose delved deeper into more honest/intense bands within the heavy metal genre, but we shouldn't let their flagship status take away from their uncompromising tenure, and their earned position as veterans and/or poster boys for the Grind genre (and I should learn to heed my own advice). Considering their style in the grand scheme of anything played with distortion, ND still eviscerate without an agenda. Apex Predator is yet another evolutionary step towards an unknown destination within the band's impressive catalogue; how the fuck do you manage to remain so vital, invigorated, and fresh sounding in such an infested space? Especially when one of the biggest adversaries to overcome is your own discography? Dissonant chords, goth-like reverberating vocals, industrial percussion, all added to a familiar formula of rabid barking over blurring riffs that toy with comprehensive song structures and - hooks! I can always argue that 90% of every song on every album in the second half of this band's career has parts that could be cut out to bring each piece's over all running time to a more handicapping punch to the gut; but given that that glaring issue is easily ignored because of the quality of the song itself speaks volumes to this band's talent. The fact that Apex Predator arguably out does every album that's outdone every album they've done before it in the last 20 years is impressive and awesome. And that last riff...that closing stomp of 'Copulating Snakes'...c'mon.

1. The Kill - Kill Them...All 

Kill Them...All, The Kill's second full length effort amongst an ass-ton of EP's, splits, and demos is - and forgive the redundancy here - a beefed up wad of really pissed off Grind.  The sound of the production, writing style, over-all instrumentation, as well as the Richard Johnson-like vocals are very much akin to Agoraphobic Nosebleed's 2009 straight-shooter Agorapocalypse (though maybe not as loud), fronting seriously strong structures whose power feels all the more amplified by the heavy bombardment of bass drum in-the-red sonics that add that pulse-rifle-like throbbing to the already pummeling tracks here. There is many a spot on the album where it even seems to suck the riffs happening in front of it into it's sound like a temporary Venturi Effect, thus creating a dizzying yet satisfying synchronization of chaos that feels like it's sucking the oxygen out of your living space and is over just a few milliseconds after you realize it's even happening at all. With strategic slow downs that never drag on too long and sudden singled-out guitar riff changes to reset the berserk, The Kill's sound on this record never get's tired nor hypnotic. It's characteristics like that which make this record truly top notch. Punk riffs propelled by constantly recharging blast beats brings forth a bit of a likeness to fellow Aussie's Extortion, though it all just seems twice as grindy and powerful than anything they've spat forth (to take NOTHING away from Extortion).  Kill Them...All is chalk full of jagged right, left and diagonal turns that go places beyond where you expect them to go, sometimes even just taking the option of barreling through and knocking you back further than you'd thought they would.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Album Review: Coffin Birth - 'Necrotic Liquefacation'

Following in the arterial spray of way awesome Australian powerviolence/grind peers like Extortion, Agents of Abhorrence, Manhunt and (less awesome) Captain Cleanoff, comes the next great export Coffin Birth. Though they share a paragraph and continent with good company, their sound is more akin to the aural battering of Insect Warfare, with the striding hooks and groove of Abuse/Noise-era Wormrot surgically stitched in. Goddamn that's a lot of name dropping. Their 2014 nine track / nine minute collection of vitriol titled Necrotic Liquefacation is as fucking enjoyable a pummeling as a pummeling could be. The production is dense and impellent, never really allowing itself to indulge in the cliche' ulterior of the genre which would be taking full advantage of their thickness and slowing things down to doomy crawls - by NOT doing that they really keep things interesting and make every minute count. Not to mention the fantastic catchiness of actual rhythm breaks used sparingly enough to make the whole record stand out from what could otherwise be misconstrued as another almost mediocre gore-grind act at first and second listens (in sound not visual format) . One could eeeeasily lose their shit half-way through either or both 'Pixelated Beyond Recognition' and '101 Ways Not To Become A Martyr'... There's even a triumphant battering of riffage in the middle of closer 'Avian Anthrax Terror Attack'. Necrotic Liquefacation is belligerent, driving and playful all at the same time; like being sexually assaulted by a Grizzly Bear - so I've heard. If I'd had known about it and was making best of lists at the time this fucker would have wound up somewhere at the top of the heap back in 2014 (somewhere between Gridlink's Longhena and Cloud Rat's Blind River - more name dropping!!!). It's really good, and I'm not even all that huge an Insect Warfare fan (gulp)! No new ground being broken or boundaries being pushed, but a good execution and revitalizing of a sound that some of us may be growing numb to. Check it out hither: https://coffinbirthgrind.bandcamp.com/album/necrotic-liquefaction

Monday, January 25, 2016

Concert Experience: Fuck The Facts with Nequient and The Ox King @ The LiveWire Lounge - 09.03.15

Sorry for the delay here, I've had this one in my queue for some time just never got around to the proof reading. Fuck The Facts; I've wanted to really be into Fuck The Facts for a long time, but there was always something in the way. I totally dig their approach, their sound, their diversity and experimentation, but they've never come out with something I've been able to sink my teeth into from start to finish. As with most Grind bands I think they shine brightest in an EP format; but that's not to say that their full lengths aren't wickedly entertaining to indulge in. Yet - to be annoyingly vague - while I think their songs are well crafted and propulsive, I think there is a lack of punch to their music. Fuck The Facts take their songs to unpredictable boundaries of the Grindcore blueprint and often beyond, but there is never that moment where the whirlwind synchronizes into a solid impact. Perhaps it's there and I'm just not hearing it in the production, which often highlights other aspects of their sound amazingly like this. Their latest (respectable) DIY effort Desire Will Rot is a fantastic and furious journey into all of the aforementioned characteristics that Fuck The Facts toy with successfully, the only negative to it is that the album just isn't loud enough - or I'm just going deaf, which is also a legit possibility.

This theory was personally justified when they brought their A-game to the LiveWire lounge last week. FTF sounded twice as thick and 'punchy' than they do digitally or on wax - as is no surprise, but music this technically precise and layered is often a troubling feat to duplicate live. Fuck The Facts sounded amazing - and presented as a foursome rather than the five articled to have recorded their latest LP - not that the fifth member's absence (Johnny Ibay) was noticeable audibly - because they treaded forth like touring veterans who truly enjoy the experience they've been able to grant themselves all these years and every song purged forth was a roided up rendering of it's original studio form - which in turn changed my perspective on their discography - live show = success.  Fuck The Facts came across as a band unconcerned with the size of the room or number of people that they play in front of - the performance felt as though it would have been the same being televised nationally as opposed to playing second fiddle to a man named Gobbo whose birthday seemed to be the reason for the season that night (the entire evening was billed as such). I didn't look behind me all that often during the show, but there seemed to be more people buying shots for the birthday boy back at the bar than there were paying appropriate attention to the catharsis happening on stage - their loss.

When the set was over the group cleaned up and ran on back to the front to unpack and man their merch booth - road dog style. I hadn't picked up the new album yet as I was waiting for the show so my money could go directly to them, and when I offered them the $30 for their $10 CD and told them to keep the change for gas, lead vocalist Melanie Mongeon was cool enough to throw a whole bunch of other shit my way to make sure I got my monies worth. I walked out that night finally converted to a Fuck The Facts fan; as my brain now seems to be able to fill the gaps of what was previously lacking on their LP's with memories of their live performance sound. It's all the more awesome because being a fan of FTF is a rewarding reap; as they're a band that truly enjoys making new music, and making it often and making it accessible - with ten full lengths and nine EP's and compilations I'm going to enjoy catching up on what I don't already have.

Openers The Ox King sounded huge and major label with their mix of Early Graves meets Converge hardcore/crust, and Nequient - who treated the evening as their record release party - leaned a bit heavy on Death Metal stylings for my taste - though their sound tracked on the actual Infinite Regress album is way more Weekend Nachos-esque than it came across live, so - my bad.  Check out their bandcamp sites below:




And this is bad ass: