Saturday, August 22, 2009

On A Night That's Made For Love



They said we'd gone away. But then they said that about TB. So yeah, welcome back for now to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine that prefers the Fat Boys to the Beach Boys, Franz Schubert to Franz Ferdinand and the Dick Coppock Cup (happy memories) to the Champions' League.

It was Darkthrone's disarmingly-titled "Fuck Off And Die" LP, relatively recently, which showed the way forward for contemporary black metal: that ideally, you should sound like Motorhead covering Thrilled Skinny, except with all the lyrics about carpets and floorboards and shelving replaced by stuff about how generally ace all things Mephistophelian are. This year (particularly given Behemoth's somewhat unremarkable return) it's the turn of New Orleans' majestically-named Goatwhore to step up to the plate for some similarly no-nonsense BM, with an album ("Carving Out The Eyes Of God") on Metal Blade at least half of which rings with a rollicking, rampaging *urgency* you just don't seem to get when Satan (or, alternatively, Lemmy), isn't involved: even if the rest of it gets a little bogged down in trad-metal / detuned bumble-bee DM phrasings. Opener "Apocalyptic Havoc" ("who needs a god when you've got Satan ?") is especially breakneck and vibrant, but there's much fun to be had from the southern fried production and hammer n' tongs riffing on "Reckoning Of The Soul Made Godless" and "The All Destroying" too. Perhaps the real secret to this record is that, whatever they might claim, we think Goatwhore still put rock n'roll first, and devil worship only second.

Less diabolic, in-your-face realpolitik is the order of the day for Rochester, NY girl / boy duo Spoonful Of Vicodin's "Bursts Of Rage At The Speed Of Hate", on Broken Bones. The stats tell you much of the story: 27 tunes in 13 minutes (as they've warned us before, "Our Explanations Are Longer Than Our Songs"), with a fair chunk of those lucky 13 mins consisting of snatched snippets of dialogue rather than the music. As aptly-titled as "Apocalyptic Havoc", "Bursts Of Rage..." is not an album proper so much as a compilation of the not-so lovin' Spoonful's numerous outings on 7" and tape to date, which means that there is a progression (of sorts) from virtually unlistenable to fairly unlistenable, as the superscratchy trebly rotcore of earlier songs eventually elides into some more obviously grind-influenced creations. If you're unsure, even nervous, of where to start, "Paved Paradise" is possibly the best 'in', as a blastbeat barrage usurps a steal from the icky "Spoonful of Sugar": but there's also joy to be had from the meatier grindcore of "Controlled by Fear (Fear of God)", "Library Grind Freaks Reunite" (the best bibliophile-themed tune since "Young Adult Friction") and the (non-rhetorical) "Whatever Happened to FUBU ?"

If, like us, you were left a little colder than you liked by infamous Belgians Agathocles' perhaps too-rushed, too lo-fi "Grind Is Protest" LP, but still hanker after a healthy continental supper of what we're tempted to christen Borstal-grind (y'know, "short sharp shock" and all that), you need look no further than "Luxusvernichtung", a smartly-packaged 10" artefact by hyper-prolific German sextet Japanische Kampfhorspiele, and the debut release on their own Unundeux label, via Cargo's "we bring the guts" distribution boutique. The product is so grand it even has a subtitle: "Vierundfunfzig vertonte Kurzgedichte". Twenty or so minutes long, this EP yields some 54 tracks (as the keener German students amongst you may have already spotted) which gravitate from virtual one-liners through to more substantial offerings ("Vernetzte Welt Geht Unter" even allowing itself the admirably pointless luxury of both a fade-in and a fade-out) though it's songs like "Vorort" or "Konfekt" which get the balance between the music and the desire to lyric-cram just right: think Napalm's "The Kill". And while our GCSE German doesn't stretch from beyond "schallplatten" and "schwarzwaldenkirschtorte" to understanding quite what JaKa are on about, there's a full lyric sheet (and occasions where little translation is needed, such as "Der Sozialphobiker": "mann kann nicht smalltalk"). Oh, the other thing that really struck us about this record is how, we are 100% sure, it would have been receiving daily play were the great JP still around. We trust that Dandelion Radio are on the case.

Magrudergrind's second and self-titled album is a thing of some wonderment. The Washington, DC trio (this not-having-a-bass-player being the in thing since Pig Destroyer, music's belated attempt to make up for double bass monstrosities past like Ned's Atomic Dustbin, perhaps ?) deliver 16 shortish nuggets that comprise not only gleefully mayhemic old-skool grind of the highest order ("Fools Of Contradiction", "Heretics") but also chugging, Obituary-style thrash ("Burning Bridges"), lo-fi pseudo hip-hop ("Heavier Bombing", featuring the sort-of-legendary Napalm Def), thoughtful if not positively moving post-hardcore moshery (the closing "Martyrs Of The Shoah", a treatise about the horrors of the Holocaust) and any number of quickfire interludes and samples. Better still, the lyrics are keen-eyed, sharp as any syringe you'll find in your local park, taking down everything from the 'gentrification' of DC ("the decline of estate comes with racial ties / liquor stores, corrupt police and mothers' cries") to the fuckwittery of the far right ("constantly speaking words / based on your own insecurities... you hate because you can't conceive intellect"). Building on their fine contributions to "This Comp Kills Fascists" (which had included the original ode to graf, "Heavy Bombing") and their earlier split with the excellent Shitstorm (who now have a tantalising-looking cassette compilation, "Paranoid Existence" readied for action on RCP Tapes), "Magrudergrind" is a sterling achievement.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed's "Agorapocalypse" sees Scott Hull, the man who secured SoV, JaKa and Magrudergrind (amongst many others) spots on last year's bitchin' Relapse comps, oversee the return of his own scene stalwarts. While Hull drums like a man possessed, the machine-gun rounds flying out faster than even the Berzerker's full-pelt 909 kicks while a sheer wall of guitars makes a punchbag of your ears, "Agorapocalypse" is somehow a little too relentless, partly as a result of the no-let up screaming of J. Randall and his new partner in crime, Katy Katz. Tracks like storming opener "Agorapocalypse Now" and the concise "Ex-Cop" are still great, mind, but over the course you do start to feel your own space getting seriously invaded, the songs whizzing past your ears like meat cleavers flung by a mad butcher. Exciting, but (especially for a veggie) a little intimidating.

Perhaps a more enjoyable parlour game is listening to Brutal Truth's "Evolution Through Revolution", twenty tracks of biting, scything shoutcore on Relapse (but of course) that set about your shins like a more-than-vaguely riled Nobby Stiles, but aside from "Branded" (2009's best sub-five second tune, we'd venture) and a new version of "Turmoil", it's the more rounded tracks, namely the three-minute (gasp) treats of "Sugar Daddy" and the title ditty that actually come across best, allowing structures and switches of pace to intrude. Elsewhere, though, the sheer speed of the Brutal Truth machine, without the benefit of the huge hooks that Kevin Sharp was spitting over on last year's Venomous Concept record, can make things seem a little too shrill.

We sounded the reveille on the Stupids' return in the autumn and they've now gone and done a whole comeback album, again on Boss Tuneage. "The Kids Don't Like It..." contains two of the three numbers from the (ace) "Feel The Suck" 7" inamidst a fizzing cavalcade of hurried, hurtling popthrash. And while they themselves suggest, that "there's no point in changing, cos' all they want is the same old shit", that's not quite right: in corners this echoes the brilliant melodic rush of classic American hardcore ("Remember Me, Dismember You" is a pop gem, despite its title; "It's Not My Fault" comes complete with buzzing new wavey backing harmonies), and the production is probably the best they've had, outside of their numerous trips to Maida Vale in the late 80s. Much here is still throwaway (y'know, like bubblegum, when the flavour's gone, you might as well), in the best (worst ?) Stupids tradition: at times (titles like "Beach Dick" and "Drum Shop Arsehole" refer) you wonder whether they've grown up at all since their heyday, and the lyric sheet tends to lessen, rather than complement, the punchiness of most of the actual tunes. But with too few groups in 2009 caring to mix thrash, punk and sixth-form comedy as accessibly, it would be a crying shame if the kids really didn't like this.

Now. Tampa vets Obituary, seemingly one of the few Stateside metallers who can actually be relied on to fulfil their UK tour commitments, have delivered "Darkest Day", the second album since their comeback and possibly their mightiest yet, if we ignore the compiled delights of "Anthology". It leads with the spirited, unusually fast "List Of Dead" and the quirky single "Blood To Give", a semi-experimental nu-grunge drone with at least three drum-only sections, which we like to imagine as a riff on the Field Mice's "Alone Forever" (imagine Bobby crooning "like anyone / I've blood to give"). But of course in the mad, bad & sad world that passes for workaday reality Obituary are a step or two removed from the FM in style, if not in greatness.

Um, anyway, "Darkest Day" takes the ingredients that have made Obituary the least trebly band in the history of the solar system - the flayed-throat Tardy growl, the lumbering, low-end bass, the thudding drums and the fuzzing, detuned guitars - and melds them into what is probably & accidentally the best *grunge* album ever made, as well as being a highpoint in recent death / thrash workouts. Even the fact that their employment of Ralph Santolla (a free transfer from Deicide) now obliges them to throw in guitar solos every so often doesn't detract: most are short, sweet and blisteringly, um, "tight", with thankfully none of the extended epic diversions that slightly derailed their last live turn. Indeed, the galloping breakdowns and 'proper' guitar solos throughout are mercifully more restrained than some of those that decorate / decimate (delete as applicable) the Tardy Brothers' recent "Bloodline" set. So yeah, Ralph shreds, everyone else keeps things muddy, and all us punters can go home very happy.

We've already mentioned General Surgery's "Corpus In Extremis - Analysing Necrocriticism" ("You won't need a feverishly over-exercised imagination to know what it sounds like: the title track, a "Symphonies" [of Sickness] throwback, is a peach"), but we're going to mention it again, seeing as we're still listening to it an' all. 15 tracks, you know, arrayed from the short-burst grindmath of "Necronomics" and "Adnexal Mass" through to the joyous five-min sludge of album pivot "Virulent Corpus Dispersement" yet perhaps peaking in sheer excitement with the fierce higher-tempo riffing of "Exotoxic Septicity" and "Restrained Remains". Stepping out of the shadow of Carcass, GS have proved that they are major music-makers in their own right, the dead wood now at a minimum. And, like Carcass, remember that much of the humour in the lyrics ("Unwitting Donor / Cadaver Exchange" is a case in point) is intentional. After all, if you can't play pathology for laughs, you end up with Silent Witness. You can find "Corpus In Extremis" on the modestly-named French label, Listenable Records.

We don't seem to have the time to tell you of the bracingly good things we've heard this yr from Sanctification, Devoured, Vomitory - especially - and many more (for our somewhat resurgent Bristol branch is presently repping Pestilence, Suffocation and Hatesphere too) but if they pass you on your travels let's just say it's worth flagging them down. Shame about Megadeth's new single though: before we heard it, we'd been childishly keen to inform you that it was any good.

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