On all fronts, even before Scott Hull got his hands on it, Svarta Dagar was a fine album. Any time a band gets mentioned in the same breath as Nasum and Rotten Sound without the "clone" modifier, it's safe to say they've written quality material. For Afgrund the issue instantly boiled down to one simple question: how can they avoid the dreaded Sophomore Slump?
Lucky for us fans, Afgrund seems to have planned ahead. Adopting the Less Is More approach, they slimmed down to a three-piece act, toured just about every where (except my home town) and then wasted little time knocking out one of the better follow-ups in recent memory: Vid Helvetets Grindar. In the process they bucked the mounting three-some trend and kept a bassist on the roster. Which is a good thing. No matter how successful certain bands may be, bass should be an essential part of grindcore, not an accessory.
Grindar is an easy album to sink into. Dual-action guitarist/vocalist Andrea Baier screams his raspy, quasi-decipherable scream to the delight of every throat surgeon in Europe. His riffs consistently deliver across the crust, grind and death metal spectrum. And if that's not enough, over the course of 27 minutes Panu Posti pounds his kit into kindling just like any proper grind drummer should. There is plenty of bass. It's so deep that even when it stands alone it's hard to distinguish the notes. But at least it's there, right?
The first two songs set the tone, acting like engineers braving the crossfire as they set up the siege works for General Afgrund's master plan: A Burning Cross on Your Perfect Lawn. There is no point even trying to describe it. Just give it a listen. Myspace, LastFM, it doesn't matter. This one will earn plenty of airtime. And here you are, not even five minutes into the album before the message is received loud and clear: Afgrund have taken one giant leap forward. Where Svarta established them as an up-and-coming band, Grindar establishes the Afgrund Sound.
A little later comes a pleasant, head-nodder of an interlude: T(h)rash Vortex. True to its name, this is a verse-chorus-verse thrasher with a main riff lifted straight out of the Birdflesh playbook. I imagine the band tossing darts at a wall full of Peace Punk inlay cards when they were writing the lyrics. Add a Burn After Reading sample to open the tune (I thought you might be worried... about the security... of your shit) and you end up with one appropriately named song.
But my favorite, by far, is the blistering Maskin-Manniska. On the surface it's your standard full-steam-ahead grinder. Training your ears a little harder, you hear a fair amount of Gadget-style dissonant harmony. On one channel the guitar double-picks away while on the other the guitar uses mid-paced chords. Both riffs collide to create a third, that, layered with some vicious drumming results in a wall-of-sound that is nearly epic. Between the energy and the punishing drum work you get the sense that the album is building to a finale. And honestly, this would have been the perfect tune to end on.
It doesn't end there. Everything works on Grindar. Compared to Svarta, Afgrund has matured in leaps and bounds in song writing, presentation and passion. That reason alone makes it hard to pass up on. If it wasn't for an album by a certain band from Singapore, Grindar would be at the top of the 2009 Grindcore chart. But you are welcome to decide for yourself. Check it out here. Then buy it. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your friend. Buy it for that cute metal chick you want to hook up with. Either way, the Good Times, they will flow.