Coming to the end of a year that has been bursting at the seams with grindcore releases (many of which can be found on Heavy Blog Is Heavy, just saying), there were always going to be a clutch of records that arrived too late for album of the year consideration. That’s not necessarily to say that Ernia‘s self-titled debut is a top-tier contender, but the Spanish deathgrind act deserves far more attention than they are currently receiving. Not since Hivesmasher‘s Gutter Choir has a grind record been so forthcoming with playful percussive pummeling and, much like that very same record, been so pleasingly removed from the genre’s more caveman adjacent tropes. All of this without a single flamenco guitar too.
For the uninitiated, deathgrind is the evil, facially scarred, but better dressed cousin of grindcore. However, Ernia don’t sound like an evil band. Instead, this group does for grindcore what their Mediterranean brethren Destrage have done for mathcore. Injected with more sudden shifts of pace and turns of groove, this debut is a hyperactive beast that isn’t afraid to bring back that riff you loved but slower, and then faster, and then slower again but this time with the kick drum changing pattern underneath. Woof. “Free of Avidya” and “Time to Find the Broken Days” both burn through more riffs than a thousand Primitive Man records and when the band is ripping full-force with thick, growling bass and hoarse, angsty vocals, the chaos is immensely satisfying. The death part of the grind attack is well represented too – “Sabbath for the Zionist” contains a huge, stinking death metal riff that will blow out speakers and start a chain reaction of headbanging, horn raising moshers pulling their very best “ooo, that’s a riff” face.
Cutting through the treble-heavy guitars and wonderfully balanced drum kit – every cymbal hit on this record is punchier than the last – is a careful and attentive nod towards actual songwriting. Yes, unlike many grind bands who throw shit at the wall and go with whatever sticks, Ernia have a fully functioning mega EP on their hands with their debut. It’s not simply down to the sequencing of the tracks, the flow and motion of their aural attack careens through so many stops and starts that they’d be forgiven for flooding the engine a few times, but no. “Heroes of Withdrawal” skies down a black run on one broken leg while the other taps out kick patterns in mid-air, barrelling between grooves and motifs with the kind of reckless abandon that teachers have been warning children of ever since James Dean wrote, directed, and starred in the very first Fast and Furious movie. Other times, it’s as simple as “The Limits of Purity” using the same progression as the short introduction track. It’s not big and dumb but it’s not exactly that clever either, it’s just really satisfying on the ear. And that’s what we’re here for, at the end of the grindcore day.
Naysayers of grind need only to run through Ernia’s sharp, scything debut record to get a taste of just how ripe the genre is in 2018. Without ever veering too far from their gameplan, the Spaniards condense a thousand ideas into a dozen tracks, and at no point does their sound become a victim of confusion or calamitous over-thinking. Some parts deathgrind, some parts math metal, all together this furious debut shakes two angry fists at the world – all while wearing a snazzy beret and flirting with jazzy licks and progressions. Considering the sheer volume of notes and fills contained within its thirty-minute length, Ernia still leaves just enough space between the lines for the listener to be able to sit back and enjoy each and every performance. Plus, if you’re buying the record in the States, all the proceeds go to an animal welfare charity. Muy bien.
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Ernia is available now can be purchased via the Bandcamp link above.