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Nise Kyuseishu Domo, Swarrrm's second proper album which bridges the more grounded grinding of Against Again and the withdrawn, almost post like quality of Black Bong.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...


206 said...

Fantastic post! I will read your history lessons any day. More people need to enjoy this band.

King Cripple said...

Well written, sir!

I had never heard of this band, but between this write up and my appreciation for experimentation in metal, I really look forward to diving into this soon.

With all the independent labels out there and all of the trading and wholesale purchasing between those labels, it is hard to imagine a band can still find it difficult to get distribution, especially a band with something completely new to offer. I am surprised no indie extreme label has contacted the band and, at the very least, offered a cassette release of their material over here.

Aaron said...

Distribution problems in this case are probably attributed to HG Fact. They are pretty notorious for refusing to do any sort of licensing or distribution outside of Japan.

Andrew Childers said...

i have been hunting for swarrrm for years. i'm woefully behind the curve on japanese grind.

Flesh Monolith said...

I managed to get a lot of their stuff in mp3, if there's a want, I can post a whole lot more.

Took me awhile to find a bunch of this shit. But an upload would probably do this band and people right.

Zmaj said...

Kudos for the post! Hell, people started coming to Cephalochromoscope 'cause we had all the Swarrrm splits and EPs. :) Well, except for that goddamn Dying An Honorable Death Broadcasting EP. Get me that and I'll tattoo "FLESH MONOLITH" on my chest.

Nise Kyuseishu Domo should be considerably easy to find, unlike Against Again. I mean, even if you do find AA, it'll be a disgustingly expensive deal.

ALSO, there are actually two vocalists on the album: Hatada on 1, 2, 6, 8, 12, and Oka-Z on 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11.

Flesh Monolith said...

Oh, thanks for the info, never know who's who as i could never find info. i'd like info on Muga too, as they're horribly annoying to get information about.

I believe i got a good deal of stuff from your wonderful blog when i deiced I needed more.


Zmaj said...

Hey, it's great to see more people spreading the Swarrrm. :)

As for Muga, here's their site: Also, there's the Road of Asura demo on crust-demos with scans of the covers (then bandmember info and all):

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

agreed swarrrm def deserves a lot more recognition than they get. good shit and gotta love the awesome cephalochromoscope rips! thx!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You have really great taste on catch article titles, even when you are not interested in this topic you push to read it

Anonymous said...

You have to express more your opinion to attract more readers, because just a video or plain text without any personal approach is not that valuable. But it is just form my point of view

Anonymous said...

You have tested it and writing form your personal experience or you find some information online?