PICK OF THE WEEK: Cretin’s sick grind, repulsive storytelling make ‘Stranger’ disgusting fun

CretinHere, on this day, when we run the final review of the calendar year before we get into a few weeks’ worth of 2014 in review, we bring you the most disgusting, perverted, disturbing of records. This one should put a smile on your face, and if it doesn’t you may have no capability to feeling the sheer glee of a band rolling in filth and chaos. Yeah, we saved the sickest for last.

Cretin are a long-standing death-splashed grindcore band. But even though they’ve been together for more than two decades, we only have two full-length records from the band—2002’s splattering “Freakery” and their brand-new opus “Stranger.” It’s not that the band hasn’t had inspiration or plenty of horrific stories to tell, but its members have been plenty busy with other ventures. Plus, the story of guitarist/vocalist Marissa Martinez-Hoadley’s coming out as a transgender woman and continuing to defy anyone who stands in her way not only was a major step for the closeted, macho, often unaccepting world of metal, but for her personally. She has been an inspiration to so many. Maybe some meathead out there wondered if Cretin would retain their savagery and sick sense of humor after all of this—and if you’re one of those people, perhaps consider wallowing in embarrassment—but that was pure silliness. This is Cretin. This is a grindcore force, and on “Stranger,” they’re more than willing to rip a hole in your chest and piss in it.

Cretin coverWe’ve covered Martinez-Hoadley, whose vocals are even deadlier and full of bloody character than they were on “Freakery.” She’s an absolute joy to hear rage on these tracks, and I can only imagine how great they’re going to sound live. Along with her are longtime bandmates Matt Widener, who plays bass and also pens the horrific words you hear barrel out of Martinez-Hoadley’s mouth; destructive drummer Col Jones; and new secret weapon Elizabeth Schall, one of the most impressive and dynamic lead guitarists in all of metal, who fronts the scathing Dreaming Dead. This formation of Cretin is a monster, with each member contributing to the muck, and “Stranger” is a record that will haunt and taunt you long after it’s done.

A nice thing about Cretin’s work is their songs are longer and more realized than most grind acts. There are very few 30-seconds-and-done cuts, and that begins with “It,” complete with dizzying playing, Martinez-Hoadley’s grunt-like growls, and maniacal thrashing that wastes no time getting you into the bruising. “Ghost of Teeth and Hair,” a pretty gross title, opens with dazzling soloing from Schall that lets things burn before the track hits its guttural, deathly glory. The track is muddy and ugly, and when that weird bicycle bell rings at the end, you’ll feel a little uneasy inside. “The Beast and the Drowning Bucket” absolutely mauls, with mucky vocals crawling out and drums being obliterated. It’s hard to keep your head above water on this one (fitting, right?), and the fierce shrieks that erupt toward the end should rip your skin apart. “Knights of the Rail” is another nasty one that starts with a hefty assault but then hits another gear part of the way through, like they’re blasting into hyperspeed. “We Live in a Cave” rampages from the gate, with total heaviness, spat-out growls, and a lightning-fast chorus that blows by so fast, you won’t know what hit you. “Sandwich for the Attic Angel” is one of the most memorable, creepy songs on the record, with Martinez-Hoadley blasting through a volcanic chorus that puts a knife right in the heart of this ghost story. The title cut is speedy, raspy, and violent, with Martinez-Hoadley howling, “Stranger!” over and over, while the rest of the band plows through frightening power. Schall stabs her way in with another stellar solo, adding a sense of classic metal to this mangy crusher.

“Mr. Frey the Janitor Guy” is uncomfortable, bursting with rage, and pretty damn disgusting, and surely the band would have it no other way. The track is grossly fast, with Martinez-Hoadley howling the story about the underappreciated, sadly mocked mop man who gets his comeuppance in the most self-destructive manner possible. Seriously, don’t be eating while reading the words. “Mary Is Coming” is gory and mangling, just crushing everything in front of it, leading into “Honey and Venom,” a track that makes me a little uncomfortable due to my bee sting allergy. The drumming is rapid-fire killing, and the band hits a thrashy groove that might be designed to get you maimed live. Who’s to say? Or complain? “Freakery” follows, which also is the title of their debut record, and it is mashing, smashing chaos. The story is forced out of Martinez-Hoadley’s mouth, and Schall’s guitar work tears through like a sword looking to draw blood as quickly as possible. This thing’s just mean. “They Buried the Lunchbox” has a vicious tempo, with speedy vocals that rage out of Martinez-Hoadley’s jaws, and the bulk of this assault is soaked in rotting meat. “Husband?” is the shortest and one of the most disturbing cuts on the album, a blast of total carnage that gets an extra hint of creepiness with the closing whistling. Yikes! Closer “How to Wreck Your Life in Three Days” actually starts with a calculated pace, making it seem like Cretin might let you down a little easier. You should know better than that. This sucker rips apart, with more guttural growls that destroy, an awesome dose of thrash goodness, one final razor-sharp solo, and everyone chanting, “Fire!” as the record reaches its end. As does the main character’s existence.

Hopefully Cretin’s studio output will become as little more common after this head-ripping second album “Stranger.” This is a deadly, vicious lineup, and this record is the best grind album that came out in 2014 by a long shot. Remember to keep the buckets nearby in case the stories get to be too much and some analgesics for your pain, because you’re going to need both once you spend a trip letting Cretin destroy your body and psyche.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Cretanic

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

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