Godflesh Streetcleaner: triumph of industrial grindcore

godflesh-streetcleaner

Sometimes great albums happen. Multiple forces converge — influences, musicians, leaders, ideas, opportunities — and everyone involved becomes more than they are. They rise above their mortal lives and create something profound enough to live in, a musical world we want to inhabit and take up its struggles and make it turn into the full potential we see nascent within its objects.

Streetcleaner falls into this category. After a stylistically-inspiring but somewhat deconstructive first EP that never really created a direction of its own except aesthetically, the three individuals who comprise Godflesh returned with a new energy. They combined influences from their fledgling industrial grindcore, indie rock and death metal, and came up with an album resonant with layers of potential. Instead of aiming to destroy melody, they built it from the smallest elements so that it could only be seen when those overlapped and only then often by implication, creating a haunting album like an ancient mansion full of unexplored pathways and secret rooms.

Slowing down their attack, Godflesh carved time into a space through the selective introduction of sounds which then received an ecosystem of other sonic fragments with which to interact, creating an atmosphere that also had form and narrative. From indie rock they borrowed melancholic but affectionate melodies, from death metal complex song structures, and from industrial the sound that genre had always desired to express, namely a machine crushing human hope like a Charles Dickens novel. Together these influences formed a sound like Killing Joke accelerated into apocalyptic nihilism with the raw sonic experimentation of death metal.

Streetcleaner came together like an impossible dream. It borrowed from many musical traditions but the band kept both its own voice and a style specific to the album. What really distinguishes this album however is the content. Streetcleaner captures a range of human emotions in response to the disaster of human emotions that creates our modern world: individualistic selfishness leading to herd behavior empowering vast evils. In putting this into sound, Godflesh opened a dialogue with the darkest parts of our souls and the reason those souls are dark, which is that we know the possibility of light.

The band never concentrated its energy in such a way again. The following album, Pure, went back to a higher concept version of their first EP, but never managed the emotional intensity that the interwoven melodic streams of Streetcleaner brought out among the crushing noise and abrasive battle robot rhythms. They swung back the other way toward indie rock for a few more albums, but those went too far into face-value emotion and lost both intensity and honesty. Eventually the band faded out into a series of projects pursuing influences as most senior underground efforts do. However Streetcleaner remains as the apex of industrial music and the album every dark topics band wishes they could make, as well as a profound influence on the rising black metal movement and the second wave of death metal.

Grindcore: origins of a genre

repulsion-horrified

Very few people have any idea what grindcore means at this point because of the high degree of crossover between grindcore and death metal. Not just one way, but both: grind bands becoming deathy in the Napalm Death style, and death metal bands becoming grindy as happened from Suffocation onward.

But what wasgrindcore? History might show us that punk and metal were birthed in the early 1970s and spend the next three decades crossing over. This resembles a quarter-century negotiation as to what aspects of each to keep in the hybrid with the other. Early hybrids included speed metal, which used uptempo punk rhythms, and thrash, which combined metal riffs with punk songs. Grindcore was a logical extension of thrash.

Thrash — exemplified by Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Cryptic Slaughter and Corrosion of Conformity — grew out of the “thrasher” community which was composed of skateboarders. These were a 1980s movement that existed in the abandoned areas of modern cities where skating was undetected if not permissible. Anarchistic, but also pragmatist, they were like the ultimate hybrid between the individualistic and hierarchical impulses behind human politics. Thrash bands as a result tended to direct their criticism toward society itself and were less likely to hover on one side of the political spectrum or the other, despite having a huge background influence by the almost-universally anarchist punk movement. We can only assume the additional influences on thrash came from metal, which was more likely to take a historical and impersonal view of life, where punk was much more personal and present-tense.

Where the bands that prompted the early speed metal and thrash hybrids were punk hardcore (The Exploited, Cro-Mags, Black Flag, Minor Threat, GBH) and early crustcore (Discharge, Amebix) bands, thrash in turn spurred hardcore on to become faster and more extreme, resulting in shorter songs with more metal-like (more chord changes, more internal texture) riffs. The later punk hardcore bands like Void, Faith and Siege prompted a gnarlier sound, picking up on the distorted vocals which has become a staple of the previous punk generation, perhaps prompted by Motorhead and Lemmy Kilmister’s incomprehensible gargled-glass screaming.

From this inspiration, a movement caught on in the late mid-1980s. Fronted by bands like Repulsion and Napalm Death, it quickly diversified and spread worldwide. However, like punk before it, grindcore did not have much staying power. The more one streamlines and simplifies, the fewer variations exist, until most things can be described as a modification to an archetype. At that point, bands lose the ability to distinguish themselves and thus realize their talents are better applied elsewhere if they wish to distinguish themselves. Nevertheless, between 1986 and 1990 the foundational masters of grindcore emerged in the form of Repulsion (1984), Napalm Death (1985), Terrorizer (1989), Blood (1989) and Carbonized (1990).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r83Ox0-GFk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=323jnOT-SSo

Grindcore

A further evolution of the sound hardcore punk created and thrash developed, grindcore slams together abrasive riffs in order to achieve a release from intensity at the end of each song. Its name comes from that grinding, caused by fast alternation between chromatic notes and the contrast with rigid whole note patterns that lift the listener up from the directionless thrashing. Where purest, grindcore celebrates individual life and rejects social mores by reminding us that we are mortal, frail and the clock is ticking, so we need to cast aside the pointless and frustrating (grinding) in life and replace it with open spaces of our own imaginations.

House recommendations: Repulsion, Bolt Thrower, Carbonized, Carcass or Godflesh.

 

Deconstructing USBM’s Deviation from the Golden Path

As America’s conservative renaissance thrives through its flourishing Alt Right movement, the time is ripe for a full fledged rebirth of its black metal identity.

With the genre having reached rock bottom in recent years due to pop punk and screamo influences, beta male journalism, communist ideologies, and a faux transcendentalist philosophy, we can begin to right the ship by exhuming and examining the cadaver of its formative age.

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Bill Steer Admits Making Arena Rock

Bill Steer, the guitarist of sell-out grindcore legends turned butt rock turkey Carcass, did an interview with hipster social justice warrior rock website Vice Noisey last week where he ranked Carcass’s albums in order of his favorites. Bill Steer admitted that Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious was pretentious death ‘n’ roll instrumental wank and that continuing in that style would not have provided any future for the band so they started writing heavy metal for arena rock fans on Heartwork as only about three hundred people at every big show Carcass played actually liked death metal at all. Bill Steer finally dropped all pretense of Carcass’s later material being traditional heavy metal and admitted it is actually written as arena rock in order to please the most people.
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This Ends Here / The Conqueror Worm – This Ends Here / The Conqueror Worm (2017)


Review contributed to Death Metal Underground by Jon Browning.

This Ends Here / The Conqueror Worm is a not totally godawful, self-titled punk split from the bands of the same names. You won’t want to shoot half of them after listening to it if you’re that bored you know. This Ends Hear’s a-side consists of atmospheric d-beating crossover similar to Discharge crossed with Celtic Frost to create punk with the same tempo as 1990s post-hardcore and atmospheric sludge with none of the outright guitar wank and junkie idiocy. While listeners have probably heard the standard d-beat rhythms, the influence from the stranger, melodic side of speed metal (Sabbat and the Brazilians) and later post-hardcore gives them strength beyond the robotic machine punk guitar wank of bands like Martyrdod. This Ends Here would do well to get rid of most of their bluesier attempts at atmosphere in future material or better integrated it into flowing compositions similar to the better Celtic Frost influenced death metal like Autopsy and Obituary – Cause of Death you know.

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Inquisition of the Unworthy

Burn them all!

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: Defile the Inferior

Death Metal Underground’s staff makes great personal sacrifice to ensure that we degrade the unworthy, the inferior, and the charming. We show no mercy and will defile your corpse.

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Cathedral’s Creeping Death

Death metal had been well established for years by the early 90s. The genre was rapidly becoming an arms race of technicality with many bands attempting to use studio trickery to make records far beyond their musical ability in attempt to compete with their best contemporaries, e.g. Morbid Angel. Many brought in hired shredder studio musicians like James Murphy with drum tracks copy and pasted together onto tape from drum samples and “played” live with triggers activating those same pre-recorded samples at the slightest touch. At the same time, good grindcore bands were turning into second-rate death metal ones or worse, lame “melodic hardcore” which turned hardcore punk aesthetics into slit your wrists whine pop.

Lee Dorrian, vocalist of Napalm Death on the b-side of Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration, was disgusted by Napalm Death writing material incorporating the worst, bouncy hit people aspects of death metal in an attempt to reach a wider audience and quit the band in 1989. He soon formed Cathedral with Gaz Jennings and Mark Griffiths over a shared love of older heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Candlemass, and Witchfinder General. Demos and an album on Dorrian’s old label Earache quickly followed.

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