I’ve used and abused the Grind My Gears column for a few years now, writing blast blurbs while taking the hits and shits of life as they come. There have been fistfuls of scuzzy riffs and eardrums perforated by ringing snare hits in tow but I’ve been guilty of neglecting my sweet baby over the last twelve months. Thankfully the festive period is as great a time as any to make amends and, with a bag full of presents and a pedalboard made entirely of HM-2s under my arm, I’m going to come down your chimney and piss on your Christmas tree, eat all of your good biscuits (not the gravied kind), and wake up your neighbours with a slew of extreme music’s finest noisy geezers. Then we’re all getting matching face tattoos. 2019 has been just that kind of year.
Ultra Mega Grind Album of the Year Uber List
Die Choking – IV
There you have it. The culmination of one year of work. One entry.
I jest, of course, but I might as well have thrown every other record into the Forth River after hearing the Philadelphia trio’s superlative grind release. IV is a record that is so hard for me to accurately portray my love for, even after using an entire GMG post last month to try doing exactly that. Manic performances and sheer audio terror work hand in hand on the band’s most pummeling release yet, shifting entire vehicles rather than gears in the pursuit of that wild euphoria that really overwhelming extreme music can simulate. It’s divine. Spiritual. Godly. All of this coming from a self-confessed non-believer. The next time I’m asked what I believe in, I’ll hold up a hand to stop whoever is asking, give them my headphones, and press play on the planet-levelling combo of “Wires” and “Chronic Hypervenalation”. There’s something about music that unsettles as much as this, much in the same fashion as an act like Dillinger performing live, the danger of what could happen is almost as pleasurable as the actual strings, skins, and synths that dance through the ether.
Head here to listen. The regular Bandcamp page isn’t streamable. But you should probably just buy it anyway, without listening first. Trust me. Panic inducing, palette cleansing, soul-filling grindcore for fans of not being entirely attached to the physical plane at all times.
Grind legend Takafumi Matsubara‘s couldn’t have come up with a more perfect title for his globe-spanning, who’s who of extremity – Strange, Beautiful and Fast. A tribute to a lost friend, the record shares dozens and dozens of extreme musicians from around the world, with a list of personnel that stretches from the halls of niche appreciation to far more recognisable names within grind and death metal. With so many different performances, styles, and tastes to work with, Matsubara could have been swamped and lost sight of his goal. He was not swamped, and he never lost sight. What we, as an audience, are left with is one of the most eclectic grind records of all time. One sentimental heartbeat, a million snapped strings and broken sticks.
Now is the part of an end of the year article where I normally gush heavily about a new Cattle Decapitation record, but that’s not the case this year. Deathgrind’s most notorious practitioners rode on the back of a SoundCloud rapper’s botched attempt at plagiarism with the late in the year release of Death Atlas; a record that all of the promotional materials promised as their most expansive, extreme yet. But nah. The formula established on Monolith of Inhumanity hasn’t been altered enough. It’s like here in Scotland with Irn-Bru (our nation’s answer to Coca-Cola, except it’s ginger) when producers reduced the sugar to avoid a hefty price increase. Looks the same, sure, but it just isn’t quite as satisfying as anything like “A Living Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat”.
Another band who’s name has been lifted to the highest pedestal of extreme music did not disappoint whatsoever with their 2019 release. Full of Hell are always Heavy Blog and Grind My Gears worldbeaters when they release music and Weeping Choir continues with this same tradition. I hope I won’t get in trouble for spilling beans earlier than beans were intended on being spilt, but it places quite well in our collaborative, collective year-end list. I didn’t think I could love the band more after Trumpeting Ecstasy. I was wrong. Innovative and intensely decadent death and black metal influences over sweaty, viscous grind. But I’ll leave someone else to really get into it below.
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WTF? And Other Abbreviated Responses
There is never enough time for all of the twenty-minute grind releases one year has to throw up at a fellow, and even less time to write about them. That’s why the next one missed an entry in Grind My Gears through the year, not because I didn’t enjoy it. Even if that was the case, how foolish an admission would it be to talk shit about No One Knows What The Dead Think and their Discordance Axis adjacent, laser-focused grind sound. Gridlink without Matsubara (and a few other alterations), the past, present and future of the genre are all represented by the shifting tides of maniacal mechanical metal on this self-titled release. You are forgiven if you saw the name and artwork and thought it was your cousin’s new instrumental post-rock band.
Two sides of a coin that isn’t entirely round or even the same material on either face, the one-man project The Sound That Ends Creation, and the Transatlantic domination squad Fawn Limbs both had great 2019s too. The former released the most intense dose of MySpace grindcore heard this side of the platform’s collapse while the latter only went and dropped yet another HUGE EP in time for year-end lists to implode upon consideration. The acts are separated by style, format, and just about everything other than their inclusion in reviews and lists curated by yours truly, but both require another formal offering of gratitude for the tunes created, moods heightened, and atmosphere’s ruined – The Sound That Ends Creation with an absolutely bananas blast of twisting riffs, vocals, and tempos, and Fawn Limb’s with Their Holes Aroused by the Splinters Carved From Their Teeth; as intricately titled as the music is terrifyingly tense.
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European Into The Wind
One noticeable shift in Grind My Gears traditions has been my propensity for European powerviolence and grind(ish) bands. It makes sense though. Pushing thirty, some of my youthful lust for rebellion has resurfaced – possibly as my body’s own subliminal way of trying to pretend that my body isn’t cracked, leaking, and dying. Grind and punk have always been charged by political and societal minds working together, but I’ll often eschew that stuff for something fun instead. The Zombie Beaver band from Belarus who’s name I can’t recall, for example.
With activism boiling through the mainstream cracks across Europe, and in particular France, it would be negligent to not shine a light on some of the bands grinding and violence-ing from the continent. France’s Haut&Court. and Chiens both apply liberal dashings of adrenaline-injected punk to firmly rooted beliefs – turning any notion of the French as peace-preferring people on its head. Haut&Court.’s INEFFABILIS was one of the records that I could have written up for a Rotten To The Core, with its twisted, jarring shifts and snaps. Germany’s Moral Bombing do much of the same with a more “oi” twist. Their 2019 LP Echo Chamber made for a wild listen, dipping in and out of grimy dub influences and street trash style grindcore. It hasn’t left my playlist since July. Neither has Italy’s PEEP. Their brand of “anti power powerviolence” might have last appeared in 2018, but I’m making an exception and including it here out of spite. What even is a year?
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The Inevitable Rise and Subsequent Dominance of “False” Grind
In the insular world of extreme music fandom, a great meme page can absolutely WRECK your favourite band/turn your grind duo’s disastrous live performance viral/show you the depth and strength of the familial bonds made through heavy music appreciation. There are three bands playing grindcore in a variety of manners, all from roughly the same area (probably, I’m uneducated), and all from communities I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to online over the years. New Jersey’s Ground, Long Island’s Blame God, and New York’s Wreath of Tongues all had or have, in Wreath of Tongues’ case, sublime drops of extreme metal in 2019. This is my last chance to write about “wee” bands for the year, so I’m going to use it to write about friends and friends of friends. Sue me.
Ground’s churning hurdy-gurdy of riffs and sludgy, cable thick grooves sound like the songs smell of old beer and sticky floors and on Mourn Innocence the young band really dialled into the stop-start of grinding powerviolence. Truly a band that could unite the warring factions of grind and ‘core, in a possible future where being allegiant to both is deemed heretical. Blame God’s surprise release of Power and Control in the summer just about blew the last of my hair off, succeeding only in making me soil myself through already slightly soiled underwear. With caveman death metal and caveman hair (Oh, hi Mark), Blame God have the best name and the best brief releases. The Trevor Strnad cameo is just a massive cherry on top of an already gloriously grim cake. Lastly, and without a hint of leastly, the new Wreath of Tongues full-length is online now, finally, and it’s dynamite. Groovy, twisted grind with a clinical edge, the sheer heft of each track on Penance will be enough to make some reconsider their year-end lists. Those who have already committed can do nothing but raise a glass or a fist in the air and bop their fucking head to this – the last great underground release of the year. According to me.
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There we have it, another year is down the shitter and I’m still writing about nice folks playing nasty music. It’s not just a phase, mum, it’s THEE phase. Maybe I peaked in 2007 with my Black Dahlia Murder shirt and Converge playlists, maybe I only began to peak in 2013, at 23, when I really shoved my face into the world of grindcore. All I know is that the most satisfying music that arrives between my ears will always have blast beats, wretched vocals, claustrophobic passages of feedback and gloom, and real sweethearts behind the sounds. Personally? It’s been a pretty good year. Professionally? Meh. But in terms of the pleasure I’ve received from purveyors of grind and every subgenre it holds close to its teet? Sacks. Sacks of pleasure thrown all over my naked, writhing body.
Another decade is about to begin yet Pig Destroyer‘s Terrifyer is still the best record ever. Nothing ever changes.