Although the sub-genre has its tentacles all over the place now, when I think of grindcore, I always think of Relapse Records. It’s just where I expect all the stuff to be, never mind that labels such as Earache, Willowtip, and Hydra Head all have had their hands in the game for years now.
I just always lean back into bands such as Brutal Truth, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Pig Destroyer, Fuck the Facts, and so many others that Relapse have helped champion that I designate them the home for quality grindcore. And it’s not like this is some great revelation of mine, and many other metal listeners surely feel the same way. So when Relapse sends me e-mails containing promos with new grindcore goodness inside, I’m usually pretty excited to hear what they drummed up this time.
It’s only fitting then that Relapse have kicked off 2013 with, you guessed it, two grindcore albums that offer quality and relentless punishment for your listening needs. One comes from a socially conscious French band that hasn’t had a new full-length in seven years, while the other is a Finnish act (apparently it’s Finnish metal week at MMM) that’s tiding us over until their new album arrives with a stop-gap EP. If you decide to invest your time and money in either (or both) of these, you’re bound to have a violent good time and maybe need some pain relievers when you’re done taking on all this grinding madness.
We’ll start with the shorter one first, that being the new six-track, eight-minute EP “Species at War” from Rotten Sound, their first new music since their crushing 2011 album “Cursed.” These Fins have been making chaotic, unforgiving noise since their formation in 1993, and with six full-lengths and countless mini releases under their belts, they’ve made plenty of quality noise over their two decades together. And apparently aware their audience was hungry for some new stuff, they answered the bell with this EP that’s blink-and-it’s-over short but satisfying.
The band’s remained half in tact over their years together, with vocalist G and guitarist Q members of the fold from the start, being joined by drummer Sami Latva in 2006 and bassist Kristian Toivainen in 2010. The unit sounds well-oiled and ferocious as the EP opens on “Cause,” a blast-filled mangler that’s made even crustier with G’s horrifying growls. That blends into “The Game,” which has elements of groove and thrash and gives you some swagger in which to sink your teeth. “War” follows, and it blows shrapnel everywhere, leaving you with a bruised body and psyche, while “The Solution” is grisly and grinding, standing as an example of what Rotten Sound do best. “Peace” sounds nothing like its title, with fast, violent, and sludgy emissions taking over, and speedy screams delivering their diatribes. Closer “Salvation” is like a lightning bolt of sound, striking before you have a chance to catch a breath.
An eight-minute EP might sound like a weird buy for those not accustomed to grind, but that shouldn’t deter Rotten Sound fans or grindcore enthusiasts as a whole. We’re used to short, direct assaults from our grind acts, so an eight-minute EP will be just up most of our alleys. Plus it’s only two minutes shorter than the last Nails full-length.
French death/grindcore manglers Blockheads have been making noise even longer than Rotten Sound, having formed in the late 1980s and who put out their debut full-length in 1995. They haven’t exactly been the most prolific band of all time since their first album, only releasing four more since that time, their latest being the new “This World Is Dead,” a 25-track, 40-minute effort that is grind through and through but also spills in some death metal melodies and powerviolence explosions. They’re more than just a mowing-ahead band and keep things interesting and fresh, splattering one song after another at you. It’s pretty damn explosively fun, and I found it’s quite useful for getting your ass moving when you’re on the treadmill running.
It’s hard to go blow by blow through the entire record like we generally like to do, because it’ll take all day and we’ll be up to 1,000 words just discussing this album. So let’s hit the highlights. Xav handles lead vocals for the band, though his bandmates Fred (guitars), Erik (bass), and Niko (drums) also pitch in. They’re a punishing unit, with their years of experience behind them, and they launch into this thing on “Already Slaves,” a bone-crushing, brief number. “Deindividualized” is one of the longer songs on the disc at 2:09, and then it’s kind of off to the races with lightning-fast “Born Among Bastards”; the insane cloud of dust kicked up on “Final Arise”; the thrashy groove of “To the Dogs”; the drum blast madness of “Crisis Is Killing the Weak”; the 16-second explosion of “Sell Your Flesh”; the precision assault of “Look Down,” where the vocals are menacing and, at times, deranged; meaty, sludgy “Pro-Lifers,” that should get things whirling out of control live; and the epic of the set, the seven-minute-plus closer “Trail of the Dead,” that’s both ultra-heavy and bathed in slow-driving doom metal. It’s an impressive display that drags your mangled body across the finish line.
That’s a really quick summary of a very involved album, and it’s hard to sum up the whole thing in just a paragraph or so. Blockheads are a group of experienced veterans who have been going at it longer than some of today’s younger grindcore bands have even been alive, and these guys are deadlier and more dangerous. Relapse scored again bringing this band back into wider focus, and they remain one of, if not the, bastion of grindcore. These records makes great investments for longtime grind fans burned out by the tidal wave of similar-sounding younger acts and even would be great source material for kids hoping to blaze the trail for the sub-genre but need a reliable place to start.
For more on Rotten Sound, go here: http://www.rottensound.com/
For more on Blockheads, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blockheadsgrind
To buy either album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/