Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Onset Of Serious Problems - Oblivions EP

OOSP MySpace
Release: 2009
Type: Mini CD (limit 50) / Cassette
Label: Cantankerous Records

Where is the line of demarcation? Where does powerviolence end and grind begin? For me it has always been a matter of tone. A band that "sounds" punk is powerviolence; a band that "sounds" metal is grind. It obviously runs deeper than this, and being a sloppy band helps, but in a nutshell this has always been what drives my decision making process. Then again, it's all pretty much academic once the music starts. So while it may not liven up the conversation, maybe it's best to keep things simple: labels mean shit, just listen to the tunes.

Where am I going with this? Enter one of Indonesia's best kept secrets: (unless you've never heard of Proletar, in which case this is the second best kept secret) Onset Of Serious Problems. This two-man destruction unit fucking grinds. They know how write proper intros. They string together crust riffs like seasoned veterans. They know how (and when) to thrash. And they've got plenty of double bass. All the ingredients are in place to state firmly that these guys are a grind band. But two glaring things stand out to change my mind. The first is their tone. Guitarist/Vocalist Wahyu uses a tone that distinctly "sounds" like the brand of punk that evolved into mid-90's powerviolence. The second element comes from the vocals. Wahyu screams his lungs out like an Indonesian Issac from ManMadePredator era Leng Tch'e.

The EP is seven songs in eight minutes. Considering it's a mini CD from a band I've never heard of on a label I'm unfamiliar with, I'd say the production is stellar. In true EP fashion, track one, Mass Obliteration, sets the tone with a brief and familiar instrumental intro. This builds up through three different drum beats and then the Onset begins. OOSP never mess around when it comes to riffs. They seem to be always changing. Some are brought back later in a song, or exchanged verse-chorus-verse style, but nothing sticks around long enough to wear out its welcome. The drumming from Bondie follows along, constantly changing up between punk/thrash, blast and double bass. It's an old punk's dream come true. Those non punk, non-powerviolence fans among us might be a little bothered by what could be considered monotonous vocals. Anyone demanding variation in this regard will be disappointed. Those of you who can look past this will be duly rewarded. I absolutely love it. If Wahyu ever figures out a death growl, look out world. Either way, this is a band that with a bright future.

I'm not sure about the CD's availability. You will have to email/pester Cantankerous about this. You can mail order the cassette from Rescued From Life. In the mean time, check them out here. And definitely follow their MySpace for updates. They have a split in the works with Goner, who are another band worth checking out.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Tribute To Nasum

Nasum Space
Release: 2009
Type: CD/2 LP
Label: Power-It-Up

Someone far smarter than I am put it better. Anders Jakobson was no slouch either. Simply put, Nasum is the gold standard when it comes to penning quality grind riffs. Grab a random CD and see for yourself - all of their material speaks directly to this greatness. And you only need to play the Imitation:Flattery game for about 20 seconds to see the band's lasting contribution to the genre. I am also of the belief that you cannot fuck up a Nasum song. Go ahead, call me a fan boy. I truly hold this belief. Fealt this way going into the Tribute and that opinion has held through repeated listens. Of course I am not saying Depeche Mode would do a nice cover of "Worldcraft" or that Nine Inch Nails could do "Shaping The End" justice. I'm talking about metal bands with a punk vibe.

I will, however, be the first to admit that I have not listened to all the bands represented here. I'd never even heard of a few before getting the CD. One of the things I enjoy most though is that the bands played these songs in their own style. I can only assume the bands I am unfamiliar with followed suit. For example, Rompeprop preserved their march/stomp groove and pitch-shifted (to the point of indecipherable) vomit vocals on "Disappointed." In a way, it's kind of ironic, since Disappointed is lyrically one of Nasum's better songs - a scathing rant about something we all share in common: flaky friends we just have to turn our back on.

The main point of satisfaction for me comes in how well Inhale/Exhale is represented, it being one of my top five grind albums - something I find odd, seeing that I prefer double bass, thrash riffs and crossover bass lines in my grind. It's your classic "exception proves the rule" example. But the play list is broken up well, so it's not an Inhale/Exhale tribute, nor a chronological history of Nasum. It's 53 tunes laid out with the sole purpose of getting you up off your ass for an hour. Seriously, how many grind bands have you heard who don't even have 53 songs, let alone 53 good ones?

In this light the whole CD passes my test. Given the degree of hype surrounding the release from it's inception I would argue that all the bands did a great job. The songs are as varied as the bands so I'm pretty sure everyone will have their own favorites. Some classics get the lo-fi treatment while others are over produced to the point of using static as an extra instrument (won't spoil the surprise by giving examples). I particularly liked Poostew's rendition of "Doombringer" and Dead Infection's "Think" in their Swedish meets Bolt Thrower tone. Never heard either band before this.

I can only think of two complaints. Neither one really bother me, nor would having knowledge of them prevent me from buying this in the first place. Number one: How is it, with such a vast discography to choose from, that two bands ended up covering Corrosion (The Arson Project and Sanity's Dawn)? Couldn't one of them do The System Has Failed Again or Burning Inside? The other is regarding the inlay card: It folds out like a 7" split. The inside is a map of the Earth, in red, with your standard black and white death and destruction artwork around the edges. The continents are littered with falling bombs with band names written on them. At first I thought it was all fancy, with each bomb falling on where the covering band is from. But no, it was just thrown together.

Those two points aside, did I mention the songs kick ass? Check it out here. Buy it here. Do it for Johnny. Wolverines! Whatever your mantra: go get it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Martin Luther King Jr. was born January 15th, 1929. The youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize, and one of the most important figures in American history, Dr. King became the figurehead of the civil rights movement in the 50's and 60's and was instrumental in the destruction of widespread segregation and legal racism. Assassinated in 1968, Dr. King remains to be a martyr, a man who lived and died for his ideals. "I'd rather die on my feet, then live on my knees" Zapata said it best and unfortunately for King this was the outcome.

Nothing's given, everything is earned and fought for. While my views on violence differ from King, he is a figure I hold in high regard. Today is no different then 50 years ago, racism, class divisions, and all other conflicts still exist. The patriot act, lack of unions, high unemployment, poor education, outsourced labor, prisoners deprived of habeas corpus, pointless wars... I could go on, but this all goes on and look how we react? There's no solidarity, what movements towards unity and knowledge exist are quashed in media coverage and struggle to get their voices out. The face of capitalism prevails, and if individuals are deprived of rights, tricked into killing and robbing each other, and completely amiss, CEOs reap the benefits and act as they wish.

While steps have been made from King's days, there's still so much ground to cover. A white male still outclasses any other minority and the common image of a black male is that of a prisoner, criminal, or thug; just watch t.v. Action must be taken, not deferred. Rarely today do we see a man ready to die for his ideals. The labor movements at the turn of the century, the civil rights movement, the anti war movement; these were such times of challenge and controversy where lives were on the line for bare necessities. This generation, however, blindly puts whatever brain power they have into a presidential candidate that is just another tool for our bipartisan system. Dr. King would be disgusted with Obama, as am I. Years of abuse, futility, and utter carelessness have created probably the most apathetic country in the world. Every action has a consequence, it can't be denied. So change must come and the only way that is to be is action, remember King, as well as other fallen comrades, those who died, so you, me, all of us may have a better life.

In 1992, the fallout of Reagen, the years of Bush Senior and terrible economy, New York based Brutal Truth debuted with Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses; a hallmark in grindcore and an outcry for change. I offer it here in hopes that whoever might've missed this phenomenal release will take some time to listen, and for those who already know the album to remind themselves what the heart of grindcore, as well as much of extreme music is: to illicit a response, to create change.

Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses

Friday, January 8, 2010

Actions Speak Louder Than Words... or maybe just gurgles do more than words?

Swarrrm, one of the many enigmatic Japanese bands that remains beyond the West's reach due to limited distribution and language barriers, are truly one of the most unique bands in existence. A large claim to make, I stick by it, as labeling them with a genre is a moot point as they're something beyond grindcore. It still surprises me to find relatively no buzz around this band in the extreme music community; yes here and there a distro might carry an odd split of theirs, but frankly it's nothing too good. Golden releases (full lengths, excellent eps) remain to be collector items and a sign of this band's obscurity. I for one, have had little luck with claiming their releases. A subpar split with Embalming Theater seems to be of easy reach, as does a split with Dimlaia, but these really don't show the band off as they deserve: Enter Nise Kyuseishu Domo.

Albums like Scum, Horrified, Reek of Purification, World Downfall, and Anticapital really defined grindcore, but from album to album there's little in terms of progression, or anything strikingly different. Brutal Truth developed a unique sound and mixture with Need to Control and grindcore seemed to delve into further chaos with electronics and noise. This sort of progression seemed natural as something harsher, something uglier seemed to be an unatiable apex in the grindcore scene.Striving to out gross listeners we got goregrind and pornogrind, to create something heavier we see deathgrind, and for those just trying to create audio torture we got noisegrind (or whatever you'd call it) Yet how many grindcore bands moved towards melody? Moved towards the soothing, the melodious and the coherent to create something captivating and emotionally moving? I'm sure they exist, but I can't think of a single band besides Swarrrm which encapsulates the serene and beautiful, with the chaotic and fervent, the painstakingly powerful, with the frightful, and all of that in between. There's two sides to every coin, and a heaven for every hell, and it is with Swarrrm that grindcore may embody something outside its sphere, something more.

I offer you Nise Kyuseishu Domo, Swarrrm's second proper album which bridges the more grounded grinding of Against Again and the withdrawn, almost post like quality of Black Bong. The simple opener, Scilence (a band not immune to engrish) epitomizes Swarrrm as the mandolin intro serves to offset the listener before a horrid gurgle of a voice spills from your speakers like an overturned meat grinder and much like a heavy piece of machinery falling, the guitars shake your senses. Six minutes into the album and we've gone from a solo mandolin, to blasting chaos, catchiness, then to the somber beginnings of Gobblegegook; a lone wavering guitar which leads to Swarrrm's trademark vocals, pounding percussion and a bottom heavy guitar/bass attack. Dynamic is an understatement when it comes to trying describe whole of Swarrrm's sound and Nise Kyuseishu Domo.

Swarrrm stays away from typical metal/punk guitar playing, sure there's plenty of tremolo picked riffs, power chords and the like, but there's plenty of moments with bluesy leads (Don't Mess With Texas) and many moments that come off with a flavour much akin to something like alternative or post rock (the blusy solo which starts Herzog that fades into huge walls of post rock like distortion which are completely overwhelming). This heightens the mood of the work, much like the frenzied vocals which are often acting as a paradox to the beautiful guitar work (see Parasite). It's a hard album to talk about, but dynamic defiantly fits.

Free jazz like sections melt into cohesive and simply pleasing sections all juxtaposed with insane vocals and a varied amount of riffs and guitar playing styles. The band itself is astonishingly talented and proficient. The drummer alone deserves a large amount of praise, as simple slow sections are garnished with an abundance of accents, fills, little tricks here and there, constant cymbal and snare play, complicated and intricate bass drum work which effortlessly shifts to blast beats then back to it's free roaming style. Obviously the drummer's jazz trained and this free, yet defined and strong sounding, backbeat machine provides for a overall complex sound. The bass has a pronounced and unadulterated sound which follows the guitar many times, and also counters both the guitar and drums to provide a steady beat and melody and sometimes just gets its own thing done (listen at 1:45 in Putrecence for quiet the workout). Far from the typical 30 wonderful seconds we'd hear of an Assuck song, Swarrrm jumps from all kinds of lengths and speeds and moves at its own pace never filling space or wasting time, I kid you not, not one second of filler on this album.

And of course, you can't ignore the vocal performance. Regardless of whether or not Hatada's act involves actual words or not it's amazing what he accomplishes. What some singers hope to accomplish with lyrics, Hatada does more adeptly with a wide range of screams, strings of gibberish, growls, yelps, gurgles, and whatever other noises can come out of one's mouth. Almost like a skat singing of metal, Hatada aptly conveys more emotion in the ending of Putrecence then almost any other singer I can think of (of course it helps that the rest of the band performs a quite forelorn and sad sounding outro). The vocals are really under the spotlight, but Kapo's guitar work is astonishingly moving as well as the bass work all moving in a very very swinging manner.

It's an album where the vocals are the deal breaker, those who can't see past them will miss the wonderful riffs, melodies, drum workouts, bass lines, etc, and those who only focus on the vocals and enjoy it as a gimmick bastardize the complexity of the music. A beast unto its own Swarrrm painstakingly create one of my favorite albums, of all time. Trailblazers in grindcore are rare, as a band like Insect Warfare or Wormrot are excellent, but in truth are a pebble's toss from Anticapital, whereas Prowler in the Yard and The Inalienable Dreamless sprout like an appendage with it's own goals and notions, it's own concept and ideals, building, and creating something very different; Swarrrm finds its place amongst, if not beyond, such works. Of course this is on HG fact, good luck finding it, or maybe I just haven't looked hard enough...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beyond Mind-The Wrath of the Dead Tongue

Offical Myspace
Label:Self Released
: Oct 2009
Release Type
: EP, CD-R lmt 100
: Down Tempo Black Metal

New Zealand, verdant plains, terrible acoustic guitar comedians, sheep, and well... more sheep; not the kinda place you'd expect black metal to take root. Well lo and behold, Beyond Mind, one of the only bands I know of from New Zealand (besides Black Boned Angel and Ulcerate, here look for yourself). Regardless, in my eyes, they are worthy flag bearers to this young scene.

Interestingly enough, black metal has proven to grow (and thrive) in the most unlikely places (San Francisco, I'm looking at you) which of course is due to such a dedicated fanbase. Similarly to many offsets of punk, black metal proves easy for the novice to walk into, yet as we've seen with the Myspace era, bedroom black metal has become one of the worst things we've had to deal with. Quorthon set the mark, one which no one could ever reach, but it was Varg's attention to minimalism and isolation that proved to be every black metal kid's wet dream. Uninspired, and downright awful guitar riffs run through artificial distortion paired with a poorly programmed drum machine and vocals with more distortion and reverb then you'd ever think possible and you've got the blue prints to a significant portion of black metal out there. To make my point, maybe a good anecdote would be that cat that poops the most expensive coffee bean, Beyond Mind may just well prove to be one of those poop beans, lost amidst some stupid animal's shit.

A pleasant surprise for me, and big plus was the thick and strong production, something that's far from the tepid waves of static and anonymous cymbal crashes that have become a mainstay as of late. The thick and robust production works so well, I really can't stress that enough. The bass drum really punches and the bass even does a good job in the super slow dismal sections. I was surprised to realize it was a programmed drum kit, as they sounded pretty good. The strong, clean, yet ominous production is the kind that any black metal purist shouldn't scoff or vilify as it works oh so well.

My affinity for the production aside, Beyond Mind couples a slower and more pensive sound which excels when juxtaposed against blazing blast beat sections and riffs to match. Straying from languid exercises in monotony, Beyond Mind emphasis slower sections which harsh contrasts and effectively moving song structures. Personally, the shifts from quarternote bass thuds and distant drumming, to full on cacophony are some of the best parts of the album. The interplay between the guitar, drums, bass, and vocals works surprisingly well as they all drop out at times to highlight another, keeping an effective juggle going of textures atmosphere and mood. The quiet clean picked guitar, to an addition of vocals, then drums is a common trick, yet Beyond Mind utilizes it in such an effective way actually creating a sense of excitment in the listener as to what might come next. The variance of tempo, rhythm, riffs, vocal patterns, and mood make this EP an exceptionally enjoyable and an easy listen.

As mentioned earlier, the drum programming is pretty good, in fact, it's miles ahead of most bands. Accents, interesting and varied fills, ordination to highlight vocals, or guitars, as well as shifting beats and a decent sound create solid ground work for the vocals, guitar, bass, and even piano to wander on their own. The vocals are very throaty, drawn out whispers, screams, groans, and everything in between, yet they remain quite decipherable ( and the same tone). They, as well as the band itself, remind me a lot of Silencer(Swe), luckily for them the vocals aren't as ludicrous and the the production and variation's a bit better. One of the highlights for me is the lonely bass line that begins "Caressed by Cold" (which is probably my favorite song, excellent motif), setting the theme for the song. There's good use of the bass throughout this EP, something I can't say for most black metal. The intro could be shortened, but interestingly enough, the very similar outro is great.

If you enjoy black metal at a slower pace and dreary, then this is for you. A nice surprise, being the cynic I am, Beyond Mind come off very promising with this one. Proving to have compelling riffs and widgets as well as an effective atmosphere, Beyond Mind get the job done. Buy it on their myspace, and take a listen there too.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Protestant- Antagonist

Official Myspace
Label: Halo of Flies/ Blindead
Released: March 2009
Release Type: 7" Ep
Genre: Hardcore

So on the heels of our top tens, the plastic puddle aftermath of my neighbors nativity scene, and the ash of the Yule log, there's only one outcome: a shit ton of records and tapes. Beyond all the horribly obscure black metal I'm sure our regular readers would roll their eyes at, there is one standout out from this holidays season that I can't find a fault with. What release do you ask? Protestant's Antagonist.

Recently I've just been buying on a whim, and I'm batting a thousand so far. I really don't know much about this band, but wide-eyed me was enticed by the promising packaging of the release and its startlingly affordable price (5 bucks I believe). Sturdy cardboard jacket which wraps around the 7" vertically, beautifully printed cover and an enticing booklet makes up the physical representation of this work. The cover, what looks like some classical engraving of Cain culling Abel, on the cardboard with the quality ink raising off the surface is truly impressive.

As I've pushed before, when the product matches the quality of the music I am deeply appreciative and can't applaud them enough. Protestant churns out three tracks of honest to Odin hardcore. Similar to stalwarts like Tragedy and Integrity, Protestant produce fist pumping tracks with catchy and powerful progressions, all of which at the center lie an abundance of great riffs ("Lost"'s refrain is a perfect example). Vehement and emotionally charged, Protestant employ mid ranged rasps female shrieks and an all around excellent vocal delivery. As noted earlier, there's a great deal of progression as d-beats lead to slower breaks, to faster outbursts and what have you. The production is strong, thick, and clear, I couldn't think of any other way to compliment their sound.

A marriage of visual representation and the tonality of the urgent and the dismayed, Protestant produce a work that I can't find fault in. The furious beating of drums, the voracious vocals, the riff work which enthralls me further, all of it encapsulates a band that has a vision and has executed it perfectly.

"we either drown complacently in all the bullshit or spend our whole lives swimming in search of meaning."

An expression of disdain, disgust and repugnance at our culture, our society, our world and our creation, Protestant acts as an outlet not just for these honest musicians, but a listener in the same boat. Genuineness is not something to be underestimated.

Buy from many different distros, the band's myspace, or Halo of Flies.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gravemarker's Best of 2009

I rather dislike doing "best of the year" lists. When I post a list like this, my "best of 2009", it sends the message that what I have written here is absolute. The order is laid out, no wiggle room, no margin for change. Because I put Album X at 1 and Album Y at 10, I consider Album X a superior piece of music and will always prefer it over Album Y. Because I didn't include Album Z in my list, I disliked it/consider it inferior to my top 10/etc. Now, I very well realize that most people reading this list (hopefully) have enough common sense to not jump to such wild conclusions, but I'm not the sort of person who is comfortable dropping statements that leave enough room for people to make assumptions that are wholly incorrect. The albums I have chosen for my top ten are all ones I enjoy immensely, to be sure, but the "rankings" are all entirely temporary. If I were to write this list again in three months, I would be very surprised if my top ten picks were identical to this one. It's inevitable that my opinion of these album will change as I listen to them, and that I will later discover great albums released this year that I had missed earlier. In reality, this list should be titled something along the lines of "Gravemarker's ten favorite albums from 2009 as decided during mid-December 2009", but even I'm not meticulous enough to engage in such a worthless endeavor.

My empty whining notwithstanding, I believe that my list covers well enough what material from 2009 I've been listening to and enjoying the most. Considering the fact I've barely written anything as of recent, this is the least I can do for you, the readers of Chainsaw Justice. Enjoy.

10. Afgrund - Vid Helvetets Grindar
With Vid Helvetets Grindar, Afgrund deviates a bit from the standard swedegrind sound and adds a bit more originality to their musical formula. Vid Helvetets Grindar goes somewhat like this: Begin with the original sound of Svarta Dagar. Take more outside influence from other genres and a bit less Nasum influence. Add some melodic tendencies and punkish energy to top it all off, and you’ve got another great Afgrund album, and a much more unique one to boot.

9. Scrambled Defuncts - Souls Despising The God
Scrambled Defuncts’ latest has left some fans severely disappointed. While Souls Despising the God did introduce the inclusion of synths to the Scrambled Defuncts sound (to the aforementioned disappointment of many a BDM fan), the foundation of their sound mostly remains otherwise unchanged from that of their previous and paramount album, Hackled In Gore. Make no mistake, Souls Despising The God is still a fine piece of brutal death metal, and a worthy successor to Hackled In Gore.

8. Hatred Surge- Deconstruct
Hatred Surge’s first full-length outing is a successful one, to be sure. Deconstruct features the same brand of pure, unadulterated powerviolence that Hatred Surge have presented on their previous splits and EPs. As always, the brevity of Hatred Surge’s output leaves fans wanting for more, but with this level of maintained quality, it’s hard to complain.

7. Necrovile - The Pungency Of Carnage
Obscure as they are heavy, Necrovile unfortunately seem to be virtually unknown. It’s a real shame, considering Necrovile deliver a raw, hard-hitting, and unique brutal death metal experience that needs to be heard. The raw, murky production will alienate some, but the majority of BDM fans will dig this one.

6. Denial - Catacombs Of The Grotesque
Denial boasts a well padded roster that includes members of established bands such as Pulverized, Shub Niggurath, and Cenotaph. Fans of said bands should know what Denial have in store: dark, crushing, old school death metal. The veterans in Denial obviously know what they’re doing, proven by the tight execution and simple yet effective songwriting present on Catacombs of the Grotesque. A very solid performance all around.

5. Super Fun Happy Slide - The Undislodgable Nugget Scenario
One of the forerunners of the ever growing Australian grind scene, Super Fun Happy Slide takes cues from all our old school favorites to whip up their brand of relentless grindcore. Extra points for the surprise addition of guitar solos and the sick, septic tank gutturals. Grind fans should be all over this.

4. Insidious Decrepancy - Extirpating Omniscient Certitude
Extirpating Omniscient Certitude is the third offering one man extermination engine Shawn Whitaker has produced under the name Insidious Decrepancy, and boy, does it slay. With EOC, Whitaker takes the best elements of his previous output (the outright technicality of Decadent Orgy Of Atrocious Suffering and the superior songwriting of The Inerrancy Of Profanation) and masterfully blends them together for ID’s best album yet.

3. Human Mincer - Degradation Paradox
My favorite album by the Mincer to date, it’s got everything you would expect from the same Spanish BDM freaks who starred on Wormed’s “Planisphaerum”. On Degradation Paradox you’ll find the usual: insane amounts of gravity blasting, intense riffs, groovy chugs and puke-your-guts-out vocals that all blaze by in a short half hour. Excellent work, gentlemen.

2. Wormrot - Abuse
It’s been said a considerable amount of times already, but it very well merits repeating: Abuse is just plain awesome. Everything from the presentation to the execution of this finely crafted grindcore opus reeks of old-school in the best way possible. Grindfreaks, this is absolutely mandatory.

1. Human Rejection - Decrepit To Insanity
It was a tough call for my top spot of the year, but I believe that Human Rejection truly have earned it this time around. Remarkably powerful riffs, criminally catchy slams, and a thoroughly exceptional performance on all fronts help to grant Decrepit To Insanity my top spot for 2009. Hailing from Greece, a country that isn’t exactly known for brutal death metal, Human Rejection have put themselves on the map and earned themselves a spot in the scene. Anybody who even slightly enjoys slam/BDM needs to have this.