Extreme Noise Terror – A Holocaust in Your Head

January 26, 2014 –

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Avoiding the pitfalls of repetition that normally afflict later punk-derived albums, A Holocaust in Your Head is a fire spitting, unhinged, high speed high intensity crust album. That is, if you ignore the first and last tracks, which are a political statement not a song and an insult track to the band S.O.D., respectively.

Extreme Noise Terror rip thourgh hardcore punk and primordial death metal riffs with reckless abandon. Dual singers give some variety to the vocal patterns. Though the political rhetoric in the lyrics can be tiring on some tracks, the music speaks for itself, portraying something quite like the album title suggests: a droning of madness with explosive texture within suggesting a writhing, disturbed and out of control chain reaction just under the surface.

Admittedly none of the musicians here demonstrate great instrumental prowess, but the sheer force of the music and performance makes this entirely irrelevant. It’s as if these fellows channeled their entire frustrated essences into this album; most punk albums get boring half way through, but by sheer energy alone A Holocaust in Your Head remains intense throughout. For the most part this album uses simple song constructions, but interestingly enough there is deviation from verse-chorus-verse format in some songs, which is rare for punk music.

Bands following and contemporary to this group were heavily influenced by Extreme Noise Terror’s hyper speed crust, which became a primordial influence on the rising grindcore movement. Even years after that genre branching and the death of hardcore, A Holocaust in Your Head remains not just essential listening from a historical perspective, but a thoroughly enjoyable musical experience that reveals a world of insanity lurking all around us still.

Assück – Anticapital

January 8, 2014 –

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Grindcore requires some magic to pull off convincingly in the first place, but it’s doubly hard because 95% of grindcore bands confuse music and message in importance. Grindcore is music first, message second. When the message comes first, grindcore becomes an incoherent advertising campaign, not art.

Assück’s strength is that they do not let the messages of the songs (which are often from a leftist angle) eclipse the power of their music. The music is the most important thing here. The first album from Florida’s purveyors of supreme grindcore is also their definitive work.

Few are capable of mastering a distinct fusion of styles, fewer still are able to take that fusion and lay it out coherently. Assück are one of those few. Hardcore, crust, death metal, thrash, and grindcore all register as present here riff­wise. Riffcraft is dissonant, harsh, constantly shifting in tempo (sometimes irrespective of the drums), and at times even catchy. There’s a sort of looseness to the playing that sometimes reminds of jazz improvisation, but not nearly as random.

Though a cliché, this album does evoke an aura of “organized chaos.” Assück are also masters of building and releasing tension, not just in songs but throughout the whole album. There are three distinct climaxes, one being “Feasts of War,” the next being the last section of “Civilization Comes, Civilization Goes,” and the third being the final track.

Assück know precisely how much material to pack into an album, as the album maintains its exertion of power throughout the fifteen minute run time. Anticapital is in the upper echelon of grindcore and deserves the highest recommendations.

Hellbastard – Sons of Bitches EP

April 5, 2013 –

hellbastard-sons_of_bitchesThe limitation of metal is that it has such a strong identity that it can easily become repetitive. The danger of going the opposite direction is that with no sense of identity music loses its own character in an effort to be open-minded.

Hellbastard hover on the lintel of that conundrum. Famous for their mid-1980s crustcore (and possibly for coining the name of that genre) the band detoured into metal on 1990’s Natural Order, but return here in a blur of distorted power chords and hoarse vocals.

The first four songs are relatively straightforward Amebix-style crust with interesting time changes. Vocals are searing and impressively aggressive. In addition to some ideas borrowed from rock, many riffs bear the stamp of middle-period Slayer.

Sons of Bitches mixes in the jaunty rhythms of late speed metal, conveyed mainly through the vocals but causing all of the music to be pulled by the catchy, repetitive chorus phrases. If you can imagine later Destruction fused with Pantera, embedded into a crust band, that’s the rough idea.

There are two outlier tracks. “We Had Evidence” starts a metal-styled instrumental that acquits itself quite well and then veers off into jazz fusion technique while recorded loudspeaker voices play in the background; then becomes a chanty metal-crust hybrid. Then “Throw the Petrol Bomb” comes on, which is some form of reggae lite with lyrics taunting the anger and frustration of political protesters.

The strength of this EP is its pure crust orientation. While the Slayer-style riffs give some power to the underlying material, the speed metal chant-vocals and assorted odds ‘n’ ends tossed in from rock and metal distract from the power of these songs. Perhaps on a full-length the band will focus more on its strength and slash out a slew of crust anthems.