Friday, July 31, 2009

Fistfuck - Rock'n'Roll Nightmare

Fistfuck MySpace
Release: 2009
Label: D71 Records
Release Type: Full-Length

French-Canadians Fistfuck have have an intentionally raw, old-school feel. The best way I can describe them is as a thrash band with a crust fetish and an affinity for blastbeats. Musically, their tone, and a good part of their approach, is virtually a cleaner, better-produced facsimile of Napalm Death's from the Mentally Murdered EP. Put all of this in perspective and you have to ask: why are they labeled Death/Grind? Some of their riffs are characteristically of a death metal persuasion, but for the most part, they not only have other intentions, they lack the death metal tone. Seems like a cop-out; like someone heard the growled, rasped and squealed vocals and said, "heck with it - Thrashing Crusty Grindcore is too much to type." Then again, this is their last album so it's a moot point, innit?

For Rock'n'Roll Nightmare the band was nice enough to dole out 10 new tracks, a new vocal mix for one of the better tunes on their previous album (7% Grind) and two covers. All totaled, that is a 13-song eulogy spanning a little over 31 minutes. The Disrupt cover, "La Dis" and “Crocko II” contain the most amount of consistent grind, hands down - albeit on the crusty/powerviolence side and primarily D-Beat. The rest of the track list offers a surely entertaining if not entirely original metal experience. It is called Rock’n’Roll nightmare, after all - anyone requiring originality deserves disappointment. What should be expected is a fun, thrash filled half-hour, preferably spent with your drink of choice in hand – and maybe a little head banging as well, if you should be so inclined or the passion take you.

For fans of and/or people who heard their previous albums, one of the major changes here is that the very long (and if you don't speak French, often pointless) samples are held off until the final minute. Literally. There are samples before and after a few songs but they are short and sweet, and in most cases, completely appropriate, if not completely traditional. The prime example is "Crocko II," which refers us right back to the album cover. Here we get a soundbite of Mean Gene interviewing Randy Savage before slamming into some Fistfuck goodness:
Mean Gene: "First of all, what happened tonight? Ultimate Warrior..."
Savage: "What happened tonight was already written, Hulk Hogan - It Was Written A Long Time Ago!"
Pretention, obviously, is not in Fistfuck's lexicon.

Fans of the olden days will readily enjoy this album, but I imagine it will be an "acquired taste" thing for modern grind fans. More than usual, it really depends on how it clicks with your musical background. I recommend at least hearing it once because variety is important, and you never know - just do yourself a favor and have an open mind. Fans of thrash who are fine with blast beats have no business avoiding this one.

Check out their MySpace or LastFM. Or you can just buy it. Before I go, I might as well plug it again: Listen to "Crocko II."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Super Fun Happy Slide - The Undislodgable Nugget Scenario

SFHS MySpace
Release: 2009
Label: Bizarre Leprous Productions
Release Type: Full-Length

Here it is: an album that is sure to separate the true grind fans from our unfortunate, and woefully numerous, fair-weather friends. This intentionally raw, Lo-Fi production (enough to misconstrue it as a Live recording) comes to us straight from the underground - EQ'd so the optimal listening experience is one decibel below the pain threshold. The poor production is its charm, really. And that is just how it was meant to be! Don't get me wrong, I can get snobby about production from time to time - I simply prefer turning an album up over turning it down.

SFHS draws their influence from each step of the evolutionary ladder from crust to modern grindcore. They also lean heavily on FETO-era Napalm Death and, just for giggles, toss in a splatter of gore. Interestingly enough, they manage to serve us this blend on each track - with few songs sticking to one distinct approach. This is the prime reason why poor production should not be a deterrent. Even through the chaotic blasts, the pitch-shifted vomit growls and the bass-heavy groove bits, you can make out 90% of the riffs. And the other 10%? Super fun, of course.

Never mind their name; just taking a quick glance across the track list gives the clear indication that these guys do not take themselves too seriously. The titles randomly evoke thoughts of powerviolence, goregrind and everything in-between. As if "It's Not Taboo If It Happens To You" and "Bohemian Sodomy" could be taken any other way than humorous...

I mentioned the pitch-shifted vomit growls. This is indeed the mainstay on the album. They are well placed within the mix; not overpowering, not so low as to cause bass issues; and more importantly, not sounding like a clogged, gurgling sink. Throughout the play list everyone gets into the vocal act, with a powerviolence screamer, a hardcore rasper and some death grunts here and there to keep the variety alive.

And that is the key word for Super Fun Happy Slide: variety. The first three songs give a great sign of things to come. Track one is a classic ramming-speed blaster; the second tune has a groove/grind intro that erupts into crusty powerviolence; while track three progresses and devolves from classic Napalm-esque grind to pure chaos and back.

But wait - there's more: Guitar solos! Well, decent snippets of guitar solos, with "Let's Thrash Metal" and "I Can't Believe It's Not Carcass" fittingly getting the longest stabs at the lost art of 6-string wankery. Unless you consider the new ANb grind, I have to search pretty deep to find a recent grind release featuring solos. Three cheers for SFHS!

Groovy goregrind fans will feast on "Gastrological Ventriloquist." Gore fans get plenty of moments throughout the album, but here is their song. (By the way, who is the voice from the sample at the end? Is it Robert Llewellyn - the guy who played Kryten in Red Dwarf?) Anyway, the rest of us grind freaks get to share the remaining 18 tracks with our gore brethren.

Yes indeed, friends, 19 songs in 24 minutes. Like I said, just how it was meant to be! The only disappointment I can think of is that they did not toss in the "Yes!" at the end of their "Retreat To Nowhere" cover. That's right - objectivity is key here on Chainsaw Justice. Seriously though, The Undislodgable Nugget Scenario deserves consideration in any Year-End-Top-10-List discussion. That means you better get your hands on it now before the Xmas rush kicks into full gear.

(Note: The band was nice enough to chime in on this one: "...And the sample on Gastrological is spoken by an Aussie actor called Shaun Micalleff (not sure about the surname spelling) playing a character called David McGahan (or that surname) on a 90's comedy show called Full Frontal.")

Monday, July 27, 2009

Antigama - Warning

Antigama MySpace
Release: 2009
Label: Relapse
Release Type: Full-Length

Ah, yes: Antigama. One of those bands people either love or hate.

For those who do not know the band, they indeed belong in the grindcore discussion. What sets them apart, or creates the confusion (depending on your attitude) is that their passion to grind can be overshadowed by their passion for experimental riffs and crusty hardcore. They have fused these genres together well and have no problem transitioning from one style to the next.

True to their roots, abrasive and dissonant riffing are Antigama's leitmotif. A definite clean break from the golden days however is the bands' overall speed and accuracy. Regardless of personal opinions about the music, the fact of their musicianship should be accepted without question.

How about the riffs? A signature aspect of the songwriting on Warning is choppy stop-starts - razor-quick palm muted riffs that "tactically pause" before crashing back into the music. Many bands use this at transition points, or for effect at the end of songs. Antigama use it stylistically. There is a tease used appropriately in the first song, but our first full exposure comes in the second track. This is used notably on "City" and "War" but should be expected throughout the album.

Sticking with the riffs: it comes as no surprise that the shorter songs tend to be the more focused and straightforward. It is here that we catch Antigama leaning toward grind. Still, they make time to toss in a dissonant riff or two. Prime examples are the scorching opener "Disconnected," and "You Have the Right to Remain Violent." The only song that fits the traditional grind bill is the Disrupt-esque "Not True."

Structure wise, many of the songs on Warning are designed around a thematic riff. They like to weave all their disparate sounds and styles in and out of that riff as the song progresses. In some moments, like in "Jealousy" and "Heartbeat," that riff is more high-speed indi-rock than extreme hardcore - and there are equal moments when the riff is blisteringly quick... And then there is "Lost Skull" - the groove number - which admittedly features some pretty creative, if not entirely "metal" segments in the middle of the tune.

The track list shows 16 songs with a playtime of 35 minutes. In my amateur opinion, this album should be 11:30 shorter. The best way to accomplish this is to leave out three "songs." The first is "Sequenzia Dellamorte," an electro-ambient track that only serves as an interlude. The big issue here is that creating bathroom breaks in the middle of an album destroys continuity. The second is unlucky number 13, "Paganini Meets Barbapapex." This is an electronic mashup of smooth piano jazz and breakbeat glitch that goes on for 1:54. And finally: "Black Planet," a 7-minute effort to bring down the curtain on Warning - when the speedy "Orange Pills" would have done nicely.

I happen to like the other 13 songs, so I ripped the CD and burnt a copy without the offending titles. Problem solved: irritation abated, album thoroughly enjoyed.

Newer Pig Destroyer fans will like this, as Lost Skull goes well with Gravedancer/Loathesome. That and many Antigama riffs are similar in style and structure (if not in length) to everyone’s favorite "Hyperviolet." In the grand scheme of things, Antigama is a good band who are just not for everyone - so check out as much as you can before making a financial decision.

You can buy it here and pay for shipping, or buy and download the MP3s. Depends on whether you want those three songs...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Insane Assholes - Grindzilla

Insane MySpace (in Italian)
Release: 2006
Label: Subordinate Productions
Release Type: Full-Length

I know, "this album is three years old." If I have learned anything about grindcore it is not to make assumptions about another's knowledge of bands. So after receiving a blank stare every time I mention these Italian grinders, they are overdue for a proper review.

Most intelligent grindcore debates inevitably break down into two groups: those who prefer the raw days of yore and those who enjoy the precision and production of today. In this continuing and untiring discussion, Insane Assholes act as our mediator: they offer a modern approach to classic grind. Even their tone/distortion gets into the act, striking the middle ground between crossover and classic death metal.

Grindzilla contains 29 tracks, including an Intro and a bonus "Outro." Packed in-between we get over 35 minutes of everything a fan of the genre has come to expect at a production level that, like their approach, is right down the middle. The vocals are pushed far back in the mix, with the guitars in the foreground and the drums/bass right behind, adding depth and filling in the gaps.

On the classic side, along with their tone, we get a steady diet of the 2-30 second songs the industry was founded on, humorous song titles and (of course) we get the staple: grind riffs a-plenty right from the word Go. The modern side is primarily noticed in their many 2-3 minute songs, each loaded with riffs, riff variations and tempo changes. Insane Assholes cover all the bases, borrowing riffs from across the metal spectrum while never straying from the structure and overall feel of grind. Represented here are hardcore punk, powerviolence, thrash, death metal, brutal/slam and a fair number of abstract/experimental riffs reminiscent of Assuck and Pig Destroyer. And if this is not enough, they offer up one groove'n'grind song and a six-minute sludge/groove number.

Seeing that they are not tuned to mud, it should go without saying that you can hear the bass throughout the album. It is not as apparent, but compared to most bands with bass you can only feel and the trend of doing away with the bassist altogether, we have to take what we can get, don't we? The drumming, like the riffs, are across the board. Just about everything but D-Beats are found here, with nice use of mid-tempo and full-speed double bass. My only complaint about the drum work is that I would like to hear a little more creativity in the cymbal and drum-fill department. (Note to self: write a review for their 2009 split with Suppurated, which has greatly improved drumming with authentic, more audible Crossover bass.)

What we get from the vocals is in line with the industry standard: screams, shouts, grunts and growls. This is really fine by me - I prefer creativity to come from the instruments. But in the interest of fairness, the guy can speak pretty damn quick - at times he sounds like a rabid dog barking out grunts and growls as fast as the drummer can blast. These moments make for interesting rhythms and simply add to the Insane Assholes experience. They are ostensibly "Insane", so a tame vocalist would be inimical.

As for myself, I prefer unadulterated grindcore. Gore, Porno, Noise and the lot are great - no complaints from me - but if I get to pick what goes into the CD player, I want today's precision and technicality with yesterday's attitude. Insane Assholes fit the bill. I would not be surprised at all to see this album on everyone's "Top 10" lists if they got to play the role of revisionist grindcore historian.

Honestly, the songs over two minutes make this album, but if I had to select some "Standout" tunes:
Sound of my Hystericaaargh
Holy Scum
The Revenge of Uncle Brutal
Il Sabba Degli Ignoranti
Sadakos Eye
L'Inferno di Ash

Need a pet? How about a Grindzilla?

Jesus Ain't In Poland - Holobscene EP

JAIP MySpace
Release: 2008
Label: Self-Released
Release Type: EP

It only takes a modified syllogism to describe this EP. Let's start with the sound/vocals established by Nasum on Inhale-Exhale. If you like that sound, you will like this band. Now let's look at how that sound was successfully employed by the likes of Rotten Sound, Afgrund and Gadget, etc. If you enjoyed how they used the sound, you will enjoy this band. And finally, if you can acknowledge that, in reality, all of those bands have their own unique vibe (thus making Nasum not the foundation, but the point of departure) then you will both like this EP and be just as eager for a full-length as I am. It really is that simple. But logic does not work on everyone, so I will continue...

Italian grinders Jesus Ain't In Poland do not mess around. They rip through 10 songs in just under 15 minutes. And they do it so well that the track list cycles through before you even notice it. Not that, mind you, all the songs sound the same. This goes beyond their tone; beyond the riffs or the moments that remind you of the great grindcore bands - it's their intensity that keeps you listening. This is the intensity of a band that understands grindcore, as opposed to the intensity of a band that plays beyond their ability in an effort to sound "brutal." The moment when this rings true for me is track three, "Cyclop." It is not the best tune on the EP; in fact it is only 25 seconds long. It's the beginning, the vocalist's raspily growled "Cy-clop!" that lets me know I was too busy enjoying the first two songs to notice I just heard them 15 minutes ago.

Of course, I can see you now, staring at your media/cd player waiting for track 10 to end. Don't worry - you are the exception to the rule. This EP is eminently listenable, much like Mumakil's early EPs - which were so good they reappeared on Customized Warfare and no one complained. JAIP are welcome to do the same once they get enough material for a full-length together.

In their MySpace blog is a link to the site hosting a free download of their EP. I recommend the songs "Infibulation", "Habemus Napalm" and "Saft, Blut Und Scheisse" so you can get a good idea of where these guys are going. But you might as well grab the whole thing.

Let me say that another way: They not only want you to download their music - they went out of their way to provide you with the link. Makes me like them even more.

(Axel Sikth: Because the download was so stupidly messy I took the liberty of correcting the tracklist and songtitles, and reuploaded it on Mediafire. Here's the link. )

Saturday, July 25, 2009

ComFail MySpace
Release Date: 2009
Label: Self-released
Release Type: Full-Length
Genre: Grindcore

This is without a doubt one of the better DIY grind albums I have heard, especially coming from a band that is not already established. Anyone familiar with their first release, Perversions Of Guilt, will be greatly (and immediately) impressed with the production. Those unfamiliar with Perversions would never think this was recorded and mixed in a house. HealNoEvil realizes all the potential hidden in the travesty that was the production of Perversions - and the band made no effort to mask their anger at the music industry for doing it to them. Note to Complete Failure - stay pissed!

The band's tone sounds a little lower than standard thrash tuning, so one of the more noticeable benefits in the production comes from the bass. The tone/distortion allows the bass, on one hand, to remain audible, while on the other hand to cover its duties both in adding necessary depth to each song and serving as an all-important backbone. Just to clarify, do not expect 80's crossover basslines - but do expect that added punch of being able to hear what you are feeling.

So, what about the music? Over 12 songs covering 30 minutes they offer up a nice slab of unpretentious, hardcore-influenced grind. For those familiar with the band, the major difference this time around is that Complete Failure sound much more focused as songwriters and musicians throughout. The songs have purpose and are well presented - they are not just blasting to blast or sludging along for the sake of hardcore. As to be expected there is plenty of plodding, dissonant hardcore, plenty of the requisite straightforward grind and their signature full-speed-ahead assaults. What ties this all together is how well they transition from one style of riffing to the next. This is where their focus and comfort kicks in.

For the most part, if a song's length is under 2:30 it will be grind focused. The longer songs start off with (and feature) their dissonant/hardcore influences but also show off their skills in the aforementioned transitioning department. By looking over the playlist you can see how much of it grinds as well as how they spaced everything out. And they did all this in a house... Amazing.

I'm impressed by this effort. There were many moments on Perversions that I enjoyed - and just as many that left wondering if they were going to be another band that turns about- face instead of realizing their potential. Complete Failure came through. I recommend this to any grind head, but especially to fans of "Black Army Jacket" style powerviolence acts, since they will better appreciate the blended genres. Anyone with little to no interest in hardcore should still check this out as it definitely does grind and is also a great alternative to whatever you prefer.

Good luck buying this - there were only 100 limited edition copies made, and those were distributed on a brief tour. But do not fret: you can least listen to all of it in hi-def on their website, here. I cannot imagine they will horde this for long...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Holy Cannibalism - Grinding Blackened Thrash of Death

Release Date: 2008
Label: Self-Released
Release Type: EP

For all those concerned, I have not died of cancer nor have I fallen off the face of the Earth. I merely suffered from a severe case of laziness and video game-addiction. Still am suffering from both, but at least I'm back posting now. Chainsaw Justice is still alive and kicking. Hide your children.
Anyways, here's my latest review. Enjoy.


Grinding Blackened Thrash Of Death is a very apt title. In this 15 minute EP, this Californian duo serves up eight seriously demented slices of metal that take from each of the aforementioned genres.

The basement-recording quality of the production values smears the songs in a glorious mess of barbwire static and noise. Gorehammerithius’ bellows, growls, and shrieks are all drenched in distortion, stripping away what little humanity that was in them to begin with. His maniacal blasting propels the songs at a frenetic pace. Blastbeats, cymbal crashes, and double-bass stampedes, run rampant. The Reaper, other half of the duo, wields the guitar. The tone is slightly lean, but raw and vicious.

With such a damn good production, it’s a shame the songs themselves aren’t as great. Structure-wise and length-wise, there isn’t much to complain about. The songs are longer than the minute-long bursts of noise in grind but slightly shorter than a standard death or thrash offering. Concise and straight-to-the-point while still having development. The drums are perfect. Gorehammerithius bashes his kit with incredible command, power, and speed.

The disappointment here, the only disappointment really, are the riffs. The riffs aren’t sleep-inducing, nothing near that. They’re quite potent with the speaker cranked up to an appropriately antisocial level, but just not memorable enough. There are moments in several of the songs where they almost descend into pure fucking headbanging armageddon, but it just doesn’t quite get there.

“Atomic Storm of Genocide” starts off noisily and furiously, and more than maintains its thrashing speed through its entire 2 and a half minute length, but it just doesn’t hit that perfect riff.

“Operational Horrors” and many of the other tracks (“Consumed By Flames”, “Strangled and Mutilated”) suffers from a similar case. It’s never downright disappointing, but that glorious headbanging moment never comes.

There are, of course, some saving graces. “Rotting Autopsy” locks into a great thrashing riff, riding atop a pummeling stampede of double-bass midsong, but the moment is short lived, as the song clocks in at 54 seconds.

Closer “Richard the Goatworshipper” just teases neck-snapping, back-aching headbanging chaos with the breakdown towards the end (not the E-string wanking kind, but the more general, tempo-change kind, so relax) but the bomb just doesn’t drop.

It’s a shame really. Keeping in mind though that Grinding Thrash of Death is only the band’s second release, I can see good things in the horizon. Even great things, possibly. Sure, Holy Cannibalism probably won’t become legendary, they probably won’t break any new ground, probably won’t be hailed as lyrical or musical geniuses, and probably won’t start a new trend in the underground. What they probably will do though, is put out a new release with more than enough headbanging riffs to shut me up and give me (and whoever else gets their hands on it) neck damage. And that’ll be enough to satisfy me, and many others, I suppose.

I’ll get my hospital fee ready.