Thursday, March 08, 2012

Coldworker "The Doomsayer's Call" (Listenable): Slash Dementia "Wheels Of Babylon" (Torn Flesh)

Can it really be nearly four years since the last Coldworker album ? Little wonder that this, their third, begins with a rousing ditty called "The New Era", as the Orebro quintet mark a move from stateside corporate behemoth (sort of) Relapse to Listenable Records from sleepy coastal France, the label that gave us that hugely commanding "Corpus In Extremis" album from Coldworker's even less-prolific compatriots General Surgery in 2009. Reading between the lines, it seems that Coldworker's departure from Relapse was one of those which tend to get described in the football world as "by mutual consent", no doubt on the heels of a boardroom vote of confidence. Overall though, we're pleased to report that this is Relapse's loss, because once you get past the unfortunately prog rock-ish album title and cover art, there is much to admire about "The Doomsayer's Call".

While Coldworker's brand of deathgrind has p'raps matured a scintilla, it was always more measured and methodical than say, the definitive d/g album of last year, Lock-Up's outstanding "Necropolis Transparent": and you can understand why Coldworker founder Anders Jakobsson remains keen to maintain a respectable distance between his new band and the heady, full-on blastbeat barrage that was Nasum in full flight. Unusually, all five band members have a hand in both composing and lyric-writing duties, but "Doomsayer's Call" never sounds fragmented: it's more consistent than "Rotting Paradise" and in our minds, at least, there is no doubt that the lyrical references here to "realm of chaos" and "mental murder" are knowing glances to the great forbears of this kind of thing, Bolt-Thrower and Napalm Death, the very bands you're reminded of by the peaks of this album.

As others have observed, "The Doomsayer's Call" is not chock-full of memorable melodies as such (a shame, as one of the reasons the likes of "Chapel Of Ghouls" or "Homage For Satan" will echo into death metal posterity is precisely because they had hooks you can hum), but when Coldworker do hit their stride they can be as lean and savage as any of their peers. Proof comes via our favourite track here - and the longest - "Monochrome Existence": a bleak glimpse into a looming nuclear winter that boasts a riff of frankly elephantine proportions and which, much like GS's "Virulent Corpus Dispersement", operates very much as a centrepiece to the album.

Elsewhere, there's fun to be had with the DM stylings of "Fleshworld" (not a Wedding Present cover, mind); the way that "Pessimist" and "Murderous" scurry with considerable purpose between relentless higher-tempo drum bashing and heavy chordscapes that lash and pound; the punchy and belligerent "Living Is Suffering" and "Violent Society", which unsurprisingly tend to the punkier, less death-oriented side of the Coldworker sound; the rising drama of "The Reprobate", an examination of the art of manipulation that features guest vocals (and lyrics) from Misery Index's Jason Netherton; and the fierce, surging "The Glass Envelope", a study of the pernicious internet surveillance culture that Swedish society is struggling with more than most. Memo to Coldworker, though: it would be great not to have to wait until 2016 for the next record.

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If you'd prefer something altogether faster and more direct, then hop over the border to Finland, which reinvented itself a grindcore hotbed in 2011 with terrific albums from Vaasa veterans Rotten Sound ("Cursed") and, spectacularly, the youthful vigour of the Lappeenranta's wondrous Death Toll 80k ("Harsh Realities"). Slash Dementia, despite presumably being named after the Carcass number, clearly have no truck with monolithic breakdowns, tinges of DM, occasional guitar solos or four-minute songs: these eight tracks from the Aanekoski-based quartet are a fair shout at combining the pace and hunger of DT80K (if sadly not their ripping Insect Warfare-ish moshes) with the fuzzy growl of RS even if, for now, the quality falls just short of either.

The EP begins with a Mr Cholmondeley-Warner sample (we confess that Finnish grindcore wasn't the first place we expected to hear that) before "Violence, Act 5" sets off at predictably breakneck pace, inevitably imploding around half-a-minute in. Next comes "Wheels", possibly the best song here, singer Lassi Pollari spewing out feverish bile ("you fucking piece of shit!") over a *crunching* riff which is a dead ringer for the twisted groove at the heart of Rotten Sound's "Power". Almost tremblingly austere, "Vaajaamattomaan Itsemurhaan" then builds a brief but thrillingly unrelenting 'wall of grind' before "Not Too Hard" brings something a bit more punkish, but just as razor-sharp, to the party: almost as much Sotatila, say, as traditional Scandinavian grind.

"Start Breathing" introduces a welcome two-speed approach: an initial machine-gun assault mutates into a groove-laden breakdown, following which Pollari's heartfelt growls ("when you stop breathing, you stop believing") as the guitars fall away are again reminiscent of "Cursed"'s more sanguine moments (think of Keijo Niinimaa's voice echoing into the void when "Scared" spluttered to a halt). After the murkier "Break Away" has turned "Start Breathing"' into a rockier sludge, injecting into it some not entirely welcome 'serious' axework, it's time for "Valheet" and "Do It Again" (sadly neither JD "Glass" tribute nor Korova Milkbar cover) to take it to the bridge: with plunging riffs and melodies, both songs feel at least as influenced by crust / hardcore as by grind. Still, whatever you call the noise Slash Dementia make, there's no doubt we have been landed with (yet another) new name to watch.

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