Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Against The Grain: Magrudergrind - S/T

(Note: the opinions expressed here are mine and probably do not reflect those of Chainsaw Justice as a whole. Please direct your hate at me and not the blog. Cheers.)

There are people who read books and those who simply look at the words. Naturally, those who like to watch words scrawl across the page tend to prefer movies based on books than the books themselves. Case in point: Fight Club. This is one hell of a book with ideas and imagery that cannot be captured in a movie. It's still a good movie; it's just a far better book.

Socrates, through the hand of Plato, had a saying that applies here: "What goes for one thing goes for all things." So we can logically assume that the analogy holds for music. There are people who listen to powerviolence and those who simply hear the music. Those who listen like the punk tone, the feedback before and after songs, the shrieked vocals and the general sense that the songs were all recorded in one take - in short, everything we have come to expect from what is predominantly a DIY genre.

In this regard, Magrudergrind's S/T on Willowtip surprised me - in a bad way. It's the equivalent of a movie based on a novel. Everything has been upgraded in the need to appeal on a commercial level. In place of the punk tone we get a Swedish one. Feedback before and after songs has been traded for a clearly distinguished track list. And instead of a DIY feel we get a level of streamlined production expected more from fans of Death Metal. When you expect powerviolence, a guitar tone like Rotten Sound vs. Phobia isn't just shocking, it's tantamount to selling out to Willowtip. Songs like 'Pulverizing Hate Mongers' and 'Bridge Burner' encapsulate this. Admittedly, the riffs would lack punch in their original tone. That's also the point. They're good songs - that would sound better on Exit. Even the vocals have changed: the signature screams are pushed back well behind the guitars. All that's left is Phobia-like rasps. Is this Rotten Phobia's new album "22 Random Murder Works"?

Established bands create a certain expectation among their fan base. That expectation is simple: consistency. Here we have a band that proclaimed in one song that "Powerviolence is back" ("The Second Wave" from their split with Sanity's Dawn for those keeping score.) They have spent years preaching, practicing and writing songs about DIY values. So signing on with Willowtip was seen a way to give Mainstream exposure to a predominantly Underground sound. Instead, the band turned off DIY Avenue on to Mainstream Boulevard, took a big look around and said, "heck with it... let's upgrade." The end result: other than frequent sample use and the feedback intro, the closest sound to the Magrudergrind of old is a two-song stretch: 'Excommunicated' and 'The Price of Living by Delinquent Ideals.' Tone aside, this is Magrudergrind. The rest just teases here and there.

You put any unknown band on the cover and I love this album. I really do. For average metal fans S/T is probably popping their Magrudergrind cherry. If you hear this first, and like it, it will take an open mind to enjoy the real Magrudergrind as much. It's different music, a different feel, almost a different band. The closest example would be when Napalm Death followed up FETO with "Harmony Corruption." But at least Napalm Death had an excuse: with all the roster turnover they were essentially a new band carrying an old flag. The only change with Magrudergrind is a record label. I can see this creating a rift in their fan base, with the old guard lining up on one side of the aisle and all the new kids filling out the other - with both sides turning their collective back to the stage depending on which songs are being played.

In closing, just like the Internet tells the ignorant that Godflesh is essential grindcore, so S/T tells the ignorant that sounding like Entombed is powerviolence. The can of worms this opens is reason alone to prefer the novel (62 Trax of Thrash, Split EP with Shitstorm) to the S/T movie. But at the same time, the story line was kind of interesting and the actors did a fine job filling out the roles - so the movie was all right. Just like Fight Club: It's a good movie but the book is better. Far better.

14 comments:

Andrew Childers said...

wow. i actually enjoyed it because of all the local d.c. nods in the songs, but i can definitely see what you're saying as well. it's definitely one of those albums that polarizes people.

Flesh Monolith said...

A+ review, wouldn't be surpised to see this in the Voice or something. I agree that they've left a lot behind, and doing the same thing over and over gets tired; hopefully this means the next album will fuse both of their sounds and create something fierce.

It'd be nice to get Axel's perspective...

206-grind said...

A fusion would be interesting. But if they are going to go pure grind I am fine with it - they just need to come out and say it.

206-grind said...

G&P: I *know* you were being general, but liking an album because of it's "local shouts" is lame :)

Gravemarker said...

Point me in the direction of the misguided mothafuckas that are calling Godflesh grindcore so I can slay 'em. Great review, by the way.

Flesh Monolith said...

The connection between Justin and Napalm Death seems to be a big enough reason for some sites; let's hope Jesu stays out of the conflict. Although on the grindcore radio via last.fm i've encountered Britney spears and paris hilton.

No Funeral said...

I love you guys but I had to respond to the charges levelled against Magrudergrind. Read them here:

http://no-funeral-zine.blogspot.com/2009/09/chainsaw-justice-rules-but.html

Remember, I respect you guys and I'm not picking a fight. As the defenders of this music, we have an obligation to debate this in the public forum and to get it right, especially for the kids. Have you seen this Brokencyde nonsense?

206-grind said...

You didn't read the disclaimer - this is my opinion, not the opinion of Chainsaw Justice.

I read your post. I like Harmony Corruption. I like S/T. I am simply noting that HC sounds nothing like FETO and S/T sounds nothing like early M/G. And in both cases, the change in sound corresponded to a change in record labels.

Cheers.

206-grind said...

Shit, I'm sorry. ND were still on Earache - theirs was a turnover issue.

Andrew Childers said...

lame? aww cmon the foundation of every lousy, two-bit hardcore basement scene is the hometown hero. pig destroyer aside (since they pretend they're from northern virginia), d.c. doesn't really have much to hang on to.
but yes, not the whole of my opinion.

No Funeral said...

@206 Grind:

I thought you would infer that I was addressing you. I'm sorry that I wasn't clear. My bad.

Yeah, we seem to agree on this basic issue. It's only taste that divides us. That's the beauty of living in a free country.

Cheers, back at ya.

206-grind said...

At least your region has more than Seattle when it comes to extreme metal. I think The Accused dye their hair at this point ;)

NF: Right on \m/

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Anonymous said...

I don't see the "adaption" comparison in your argument. In what way does Magrudergrind adapt something that already exists, and in what way wouldn't they have done it in the past? As I see it, all they did in the past was make awesome fastcore/grind; same as what they did on the last album. The use of a distortion pedal similar to those utilized by Rotten Sound does not interfere with their riffing. The songs are arguably faster, have more grind influence to them; but let's not forget that their main spirit has remained. The anti-scene and hiphop culture is still in there. Rehashed was still recorded somewhat professionally. And so what that they try something different? Would you rather a band that makes two identical albums?

Furthermore, I don't see the whole Phobia comparison. Phobia's guitars are not anywhere near Magruder's. And as far as the whole sellout thing is concerned, some bands do want the opportunity to reach out to more people. Or perhaps sign to a label that does the promotional work for them, at the expense of their former album's sound. There's a step in a band's carreer that is taken logically when they decide to develop a new approach to their former ideas and concepts. You should respect that. I really don't see any Death Metal approach whatsoever. It's just guys making what they like.