Ever since that orange lizard man who literally scrapes the toppings off of pizzas to save on calories (no, it’s true) inexplicably became the most powerful man in the world – we at Astral Noize have been fearing and anticipating the impending nuclear firestorm that is to cleanse the plague that is humanity from the earth in equal measure.
We live in times of political strife, of conflicts and political phenomena that nobody would have thought possible at the turn of the millennium – almost everyone is suffering from some sort of debilitating illness, physical or otherwise. Grindcore is a genre synonymous with mindloss, anxiety and apocalyptic levels of violence, and as such, we thought we’d rain down a playlist of some of the best grindcore to emanate from the psychic recesses of our disgustingly doomed planet. Grind ‘ur mind lads.
Full Of Hell
Although a brief glance at their impressive catalogue will reveal collaborative efforts with Japanese noise legend Merzbow and experimental NYC duo The Body, Full Of Hell‘s penchant for all things left-field is born of a desire to make the most thoroughly unpleasant and unpredictable music conceivable. And so, whilst perhaps not ticking the standard grindcore boxes, the extraordinary violence of the Maryland quartet’s most recent full length Trumpeting Ecstasy works as the most pertinent and unflinchingly feral soundtrack to the end-times as you are likely to hear. Ambushing the listener with nail bomb blasts of speed, submerging us in boiling sludge drudges before blindsiding us with the thrum and buzz of black-hearted electronica, there is little offered up that, whilst remaining as sonically intelligent as anyone in the game, isn’t steeped in scorched-earth ultra violence. Extreme times call for extreme reactions, and the unhallowed racket that Full Of Hell gleefully force down our lug ‘oles is the perfect accompaniment to the end of civilization.
Few can claim to have had such an impact on twenty-first century grindcore than Texan three-piece Insect Warfare. A glut of widely celebrated EPs/splits aside, it was the tooth-rattling intensity of 2007’s debut LP World Extermination which assured the band’s status of modern-day standard bearers, casually tossing forth twenty-two minutes of unremitting extreme metal mayhem which both captured the underground, basement show aesthetic of the scenes formative years and upped the ante in terms of sheer percussive destruction. Somewhat akin to being thrust into a real-life Texas Chainsaw scenario, this remorseless barrage of monstrous hypergrind is enough to send the uninitiated to their knees with a chorus of “Repent, the end is nigh!”. For the rest of us, battling the Four Horseman may not seem so futile with Insect Warfare’s adrenalized savagery cranked on the stereo.
Since forming back in 1993, Scandinavian grindcore savages Rotten Sound have been punishing audiences with one of the most intense takes on modern grindcore since their first record Under Pressure. With a career spanning over twenty-five years and eight albums under their belt, including a back catalogue of some of the most ferocious extreme metal songs in existence, such as their 2011, HM-2 worshipping, ass-beater of an album Cursed. Nearly tripling the lifespan of countless bands of this genre, yet never losing a single drop of intensity or integrity, Rotten Sound will be looked on as fondly as scene pioneers Napalm Death for years to come.
Wielding a brand of self-defined “astrogrind”, Greek outfit Dephosphorus meld themes of astronomy and cosmology with the noisy faculties of grindcore. Fans of non-stop intensity have nothing to fear, however, as the band’s brutal style doesn’t take ethereal pitstops to justify its sci-fi themes, nor does it try to haphazardly throw psychedelia into the mix. Instead, it wastes no time in doing the opposite. From the get-go, 2017’s Impossible Orbits brandishes a proclivity for a multi-faceted brand of grindcore and thrashy crust-punk, choosing to set a benchmark before going in search of more complex and inventive textures.
When taking time out from creating some of the slowest, depraved, life-threateningly doomed out sludge metal with Denver, Colorado’s evilest export Primitive Man, vocalist Ethan McCarthy also spends time pedaling more of the same but with the sickeningly fast and brutal grindcore mob Vermin Womb. Whilst some would lazily comment that it’s just the former group but sped up, there’s quite clearly more to them than what’s presented at face value. It only takes a couple of minutes of their latest release, Decline, to properly beat you into lifeless submission, with tracks like ‘Rank & File’ and ‘Disrepair’ pushing the boundaries of grindcore extremity to the edge of its fragile state.
When you see a band’s lineup featuring Pig Destroyer mastermind Scott Hull, you know you’ve got top tier, innovative grindcore coming your way. Formed in 1994 (before Pig Destroyer even existed) and backed up by a drum machine in place of an actual drummer, Agoraphobic Nosebleed reach new founded levels of speed and extremity. The band’s average record consists of 100+ songs ranging from anything from one/two minutes to five seconds of furious grind. With more recent releases featuring the banshee wails of ex-Salome vocalist Kat Katz, even branching into different genres (their sludgy three-track stoner/doom EP Arc is a career highlight), Agoraphobic Nosebleed continue to push the boundaries of extremity with each release.
Straight out of the darkened alleys of Nottingham, new kids on the block, two-piece grind-freaks FilthxCollins come straight off the back of an excellently received demo and a split with fellow UK grinders Skinlover. Made up of current and former members of Shrykull and A.S.B.O., FilthxCollins manage to cram thirteen songs, chock a block full of riffs, blasts, grunts and the odd bit of noise all in the space of ten minutes. How a band manage to cover so much ground in the space of a twenty-second song like ‘Dog End’ remains a genuine marvel. For those who like their grindcore short, sharp and in the Scum-era Napalm Death-meets-Spazz powerviolence style of things, this lot will be your new favourite band.
Corrupt Moral Altar
Quite possibly the UK’s extreme metal crown jewel, that seldom few are only aware of. Forming back in 2012, combining an extreme mix of grindcore, sludge, powerviolence, death metal, crust and everything in between to create a staggering behemoth of extreme proportions sporting a “fuck you, die slow” attitude. With an arsenal of riffed-out bangers at their choosing, Corrupt Moral Altar can always decide if they want to punch you in the face repeatedly with grind-epics like ‘Engineering Consent’, mosh your skull off your shoulders with Trap Them-styled epics like ‘Whiskey Sierra’, or drag your lifeless body to beat of the sludged-out stomps of ‘Five Years’. Corrupt Moral Altar are the extreme band everyone should be screaming about from the rooftops.
From the underground of Nepal, Chepang released one of the most overlooked albums of last year as well as one of the most furiously brilliant grind records this decade. Dadhelo – A Tale Of Wildfire pumps out succinct obliterating tracks at the rate warmongers pump out drone strikes, with the only chances to catch your breathe being samples of old Nepalese pop. Jokingly dubbing themselves “immigrindcore” and spewing lyrics of contempt and hatred about the class war and political corruption in their home country with shades of powerviolence and crust punk, politically charged doesn’t even begin to cover it. If the world’s going to end, we might as well go out angry towards those responsible for its demise and Chepang are the perfect vessel for that rage.
It’s virtually impossible to have a discussion about grindcore without mentioning death metal innovators Carcass’ debut. Whilst they would go on to help perfect melodic death metal, their debut on Earache Records saw a horrific hybrid of the heaviness of extreme metal and the speed of extreme punk. Rumbling out of speakers comes filthy and fast death with a beautifully horrible sound job (seriously, listen to the truly rotten mixing on ‘Fermenting Innards’), with lyrics featuring more gore than a splatter film (the sort that would become the driving force behind the goregrind subgenre within a subgenre), and that would make Cannibal Corpse sound like 14-year-old Rob Zombie fans in comparison. “Your pulverized torso languishes in its pool of pus. Minced, cancerous viscera – gore seeps from the guts. My fetid fetish is to excavate the moulding rot. I drool my gastric juices as I chomp on you blood-clots”, that shit is poetically putrid. Any end of the world playlist needs lyrics like that to truly prepare people for the forthcoming cannibal dystopia.
Way up in the gloomy, northern depths of Glasgow, Scotland resides a slumbering but very volatile beast, known by the name of Dark Habits, who take a HM-2 Trap Them-meets-Rotten Sound punk/crust-grind template and inject it with a much-needed overdose of adrenaline, aggression and speed. Their debut EP Cave Paintings serving itself as a six-track educational book on inflicting suffering upon oneself, ranging from the doomed-out bang-your-fucking-skull dirges of ‘Wildwood Spires’ to the d-beat blast marathons of ‘Wishful Thinking’. With new vocalist Darren Nolan of UK skramz-mob Charlotte Light And Dark taking up the mantle and presenting a whole new violent beast of a band in brand new single ‘The Milk’, Dark Habits are going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2018. Consider this a warning.
Fuck The Facts
Fuck The Facts are from Canada and they’re really really fucking angry. That’s the best way to some up their blast of vicious vocals and great grind riffs featuring a sleek production so you can actually hear how stellar Topon Das’ playing is. The band also push themselves out of the genre’s sphere when they can – on ‘Endless Emptiness’, there’s a solo which screams of 80s thrash, and, whilst there’s a lot of other metal influences on the Abandoned EP that track is taken from, their latest album, Desire Will Rot, has much less fucking around and just delivers the grind for 38 minutes. If you wet yourself over Employed To Serve last year then you owe it to yourself to give Fuck The Facts a spin before we all get blown to bits.
We don’t know if anyone has ever put the words psychedelic and crust together in a sentence before, but it would be appropriate for Agathocles’ 1995 album Razor Sharp Daggers. They may be grindcore’s (or even metal’s) most prolific artist with over 450 releases, but Razor Sharp Daggers stands as their best, a magnus opus of how left-field the genre can go. According to them, they play a brand of grindcore called “mincecore”, which takes the ferocity of classic d-beat and tunes it up to eleven whilst making it weird. Although the album clocks in at around 40 songs, there’s enough variation throughout to warrant an entire listen. Each song shows off the versatility of the grindcore template, switching from songs reminiscent of Discharge to 40-second death metal riffs. It’s on the tenth song on the album, ‘Throwing Away the Crap’, where they let their hair down (to headbang, presumably) and let out a four-second guitar solo. It’s on their longer cuts such as ‘Lunatic’ and ‘Fear Not’, however, where they really show off how far grindcore can go. Both songs would not sound out of place from Converge circa 2002-2007, or perhaps a thrashy interlude to a Sleep or Godflesh song, and because of that, it’s a shame more grindcore bands don’t cite this album as an influence. 20 years ago, they teased us with how progressive the genre could be and in what directions it could still go, and still no one has taken them up on that challenge.
Operating in the middle of a Venn diagram between grindcore and sludge, Pennslyvania trio Secret Cutter conjure a cacophonous noise that merges the frenzied nature of Nails with the claustrophobic atmospheres of Eyehategod. As you’d expect, the result is strikingly heavy, but their sound retains a latent progressive vibe, managing to form a coherent sound out of two genres that would seemingly share only a fondness for hazy brutality. The band’s second full-length is out this July through Deathwish in the United States and Holy Roar in the UK. Listen to the lead-single below.
The 2000s ushered an era of experimentation and technicality into extreme music, with odd time signatures and chord patterns becoming the norm throughout. Discordance Axis preceded this trend by several years and went on to influence countless bands from that period. Unusually for a grindcore band they chose clean production on their later work to show off how disjointed and complex their riffs were. 2000 album The Inalienable Dreamless best exemplifies their approach, and remains one of the most boundary pushing metal albums of the period. In 23 minutes they churn out 17 one-two minute tracks which, although always awe-inspiring in complexity, offer some of the prettiest melodies in the whole genre. It’s fitting then, that the most notable influence on them is science-fiction and anime, with their second album Jouhou referencing Phillip K. Dick and their third, The Inalienable Dreamless, the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. With that in mind, their approach to songwriting makes sense. Whereas bands who focus on technicality can sound impenetrable to listeners unfamiliar with music theory, Discordance Axis were able to forge a sound which was accessible but, upon further inspection, rewarding and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, they broke up in 2001, however member Jon Chang is the vocalist for the band Gridlink.
Progression as a metal band often entails an influx of melody, prog, or experimental flourishes, but on this year’s Alterity, Oregon riffmongers Knelt Rote have grown in a natural but effective way, innovating by ramping up the heaviness. Any more atmospheric touches create an ominous aura from behind the trio’s core strain of volatile blackened grind, aiding in the creation of a sound remarkably more hypnotic than one could anticipate from a style so ruthless. Taking the genre to its outermost limits, their sound is spear-headed by gut-punching riffs that constantly teeter on the edge of descending into a wall of impassable noise. Were it not for the drums blistering away underneath it all, these tracks would be almost formless, but as it are, they’re a testament to the thrilling capabilities of grindcore.
This may appear an odd choice at first, and, unless you’re familiar with 1990s emo, you may have never heard of the term “emo-violence” before. However, between 1998 and 2002 it was a very real genre, with Orchid being the sole representatives. The short-lived band released two albums; Chaos Is Me and Orchid, alongside a range of splits, including ones with Pig Destroyer and EPS. They took influence from early emo bands such as Moss Icon and Drive Like Jehu but infused their experimentations with a rawness and longing, palpable on each song. Now they are often cited as pioneers of that period’s screamo scene, but upon listening the resemblance is difficult to hear besides in the lyrics, which are often literary in nature. It’s that literary nature which would go onto make one-time collaborators Pig Destroyer grindcore’s cross-over darlings. If anything, though, Orchid will always be known for allowing a degree of vulnerability into their music, something which metal is desperately in need of. As the mid 00s emo scene becomes a dirty word, Orchid remind us that you needn’t be predatory and misogynistic to be romantic. Their songs are fast but never aggressive, often their melodies and lyrics imply a sense of regret over the past, a self-reflectiveness which is often lacking in today’s extreme music scene.
Words: Richard Lowe, Dan Hallam, Joe-Julian Naitsri, Tony Bliss, Jack Richard King and George Parr