Quarterly Roundup: The Nasty, Brutish, and Short
I don’t care how often that Hobbesian adage is used, it’s still useful. No epic doom journeys, meandering prog, or long-form black metal to be found here; the following are compact, no-nonsense and no-holds-barred numbers that will rip off your head and shit down your neck. No ratings here either, as they’re all well worth your time and money. Q1 of 2018 has graced us indeed.
Six Brew Bantha – Blight
Six Brew Bantha are not only fast (most unlike Banthas), but nimble. Start-stop rhythmic shifts and fluid, precise chordal work lend order to otherwise-labyrinthine song structures, all laid over notably erudite lyrics (see below). Yet as bizarre as the song structures may be, Blight doesn’t come across as particularly deranged. Rather, a sense of deliberation is present throughout its concise, sub-20-minute runtime. Influences can be heard ranging from Wormrot’s most recent opus, to Death circa Human. The production is clear, loud, but not particularly sterile, and the vocals occupy an area closer to the back than the front of the mix. Blight isn’t exactly light on the social commentary, either; the lyrics for “They Talk, We Die,” for instance, read as follows:
“Oppression of the poor correlates directly to the so-called “war on drugs”.
Drug laws are deliberately enforced against the marginalized to offer the all seeing eye an excuse to chain down and execute innocent people en masse. Seeking an escape from the brutal conditions they’re born into, people are led to addiction and literally left to die on the street, be it at the hands of police or the substances themselves. Studies have offered countless effective treatments to this widespread ailment but for all the talk governments claim to be doing about how to combat this problem they simply watch as bodies of those they no longer need to house pile higher and higher.”
Groups like Antigama may label themselves as cybergrind, but Six Brew Bantha make a case for being thought of as cerebral grind. Blight is out now on To Live a Lie Records. Stream and order here.
Wake – Misery Rites
The Achilles’ Heel of reviewing is that one must be motivated to review, and the more motivated, the more one is prone to using foolish superlatives, whether positive or negative. Still, a case can be made that Wake have dropped the gnarliest piece of deathgrind you’ll find since this year oozed forth from The Void. The production is deep and organic, neither raw nor sharp, and practically invites you to crank the volume (a trait that brickwalled production jobs do not share). It’s short and to the point, its songs- with one exception- averaging about two minutes; the riffs, while not outstanding, are executed with an appealing confidence, as is the drum work; the vocals are throat-rippingly satisfying but don’t amaze. From those observations you’d think it a middling album, but it’s precisely because no one element tries to stand out that Misery Rites cashes in in a big way. Its strength is holistic rather than virtuosic. Each element, each instrument, knows its role and never attempts to break out of it, intent more on execution than on showmanship, and because of that and the superbly balanced composition, the result is an album that not only rips your head off, but does so properly and with panache.
The capstone is the juxtaposition between “Burial Ground” and its eight preceding numbers. A seven-and-a-half minute number coming after an onslaught of two-minute blastfests might seem a recipe for disaster, and poorly executed it would have killed the album- but it’s brilliant, sucking the listener into a spiral of repeat listens with no regrets. It’s the combination of a long-form, deliberate performance with psychotic short-form blasts that gives this album a structural similarity to Nails’ most recent, but in my opinion Wake pull it off far more successfully.
Misery Rites is out now on Translation Loss Records. Stream and order here.
Martyred – Dawn of Terror
In Soviet Russia, deathgrinds you. With a lineup bordering on supergroup, Dawn of Terror largely reflects its constituent musicians; it’s a short, heavy, and violent hybrid of Misery Index, Suffocation, and a little Hour of Penance and Napalm Death. Or maybe a logistically complicated hatefucking session between the four. In any case, it’s a one trick pony but its brevity dodges most compromising effects that might have. Aggressive, unrelenting chordal work is the backbone of each song, with leads and flashy drums largely relegated to- counterintuitively- supporting roles. While the vocals are a bit humdrum, aside from Sven de Caluwé’s guest appearance, they’re perfectly adequate, as is the mix- loud and not inclined toward subtlety. As an EP it stands well on its own, or works equally well when thrown into a playlist with the likes of Misery Index (duh), Afgrund below, and Murder Construct.
Dawn of Terror is out now. Stream and order here.
Concede – Human Epidemic
I don’t hear much that these fellows are conceding to here. Quite the opposite. Opening with a feedback-laced intro yielding straight to hyperspeed blasting, Concede display all the subtlety of a wrecking ball with their grind-powerviolence hybrid that puts early Nails to shame. While riffs are present, they’re so drenched in noise that in context of the song lengths they’re practically superfluous; you’re here to be bludgeoned for 7 minutes or so, and if you care to sit back and analyze you may as well go listen to Cormorant instead. The lyrics are unremarkable but fittingly abrasive; “Try reduce it all to ash / We find out we can’t eat cash / No such thing as gaining wealth / All we do is kill ourselves” is indicative of the overall tone you’ll find. And that’s exactly where Human Epidemic’s value lies, as does so much of grind’s appeal. You can fit its entirety into the length of a coffee break, and come back from with a replenished disgust for the human race and your own complicity as a member thereof. Concede know the value of concision and, that in mind, it’s hard to see how they could have pulled this one off much better.
Human Epidemic is out now on Disposable Culture. Stream and order here.
Afgrund – The Dystopian
Ah, a full length! And one opening with that old chestnut of an Oppenheimer quote! Off to a promising start. If Concede’s a little noisy and Six Brew Bantha a little too spastic, this may be more to your taste; Afgrund’s latest offering is ten tracks averaging a little over two minutes apiece (practically luxurious by comparison), with an approach rooted firmly in Swedeath and nodding as much toward Paganizer as it does toward Nasum. Song structures are of the conventional verse-chorus-etc variety, which works to Afgrund’s credit when they do step out of thrash stylings and back into blastbeats. It’s a pleasing blend of a familiar structural approach with flourishes particular to each track, whether they be sociopolitical commentary in the form of sound bites, gang vocals as heard in “Smasher of Skulls,” the blitzkrieg of “Ruttna,” or the glorious chug-versus-blast aesthetic of album closer “Demise Strategy.” This is a worthy addition to any Napalm Death-centric playlist, and a handy counterpart to Galvanizer’s latest as well.
The Dystopian is out now on Selfmadegod Records. Stream and order here.
Neolithic and Martyrdöd – Split
If anything can convince you to spend $5 on two songs, it should be this. Neolithic, relative newcomers to the scene, spit forth a filthy, ragged scrap of death-infused d-beat with such confidence that you’d think they’d been on the scene two decades. The execution is precise but feels effortless and relaxed, not at all clinical, and is benefited by a beautifully clear, deep, and balanced mix that especially shines in the song’s slower, cavernous second half. Granted, it’s just one song from them, but if it’s any indication of what’s to come, Neolithic probably have a real banger of a full-length in them at some point.
Neolithic’s half may have ended slow, but Martyrdöd bring it back full speed and full force with what might be the single best song of their career thus far- which says a lot for the Swedish crust-lords. “War of Worlds” is nothing but a few killer riffs, a climbing chord progression, some insistently repeating sweeps, and vocal chords tearing themselves to pieces, but arranged and reprised to the point where even a halfhearted performance would blow the roof off a venue. Crust this catchy is the foundation of Martyrdöd, Trap Them et al’s success and careers, and more power to them.
These fuckers’ split is out now. Stream and order here.
Fetid Zombie – Remnants of Life
Given that Toby Knapp and James Malone contribute solos on this quick and dirty three-song EP, you can probably guess what Fetid Zombie are getting at here: OSDM with a heavy emphasis on guitar acrobatics. The OSDM element of the songwriting is an even split between Leprosy and Human, if you will, with a bit of the meatier riffing of the former but the progressive influences of the latter. Vocals are mid-range, heavily reverb-ed rasps, as befits the early 90’s vibe. Riffs are infectious, and plenty of time is devoted to extended soloing. As good for moshing as it is for air guitar, I think that Chuck himself would be most pleased with this one. Stupidly catchy, and highly recommended.
Remnants of Life is out now. Stream and order here.
That’s all for now. Go play nicely, children.