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Ricky Danger’s Top 10 Grindcore Albums

danger
Author: Ricky Danger

10: Carcass- Reek of Putrefaction

carcassCountry of Origin: England
Years Active: 1985-1996, 2007-Present
Label: Earache Records
Official Site: https://carcass.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 1988

Let’s kick this list off with the godfathers of goregrind themselves, Carcass. Carcass are, in many ways, one of the most important bands for grindcore, both through their rejection of traditional grindcore politics for a brutal, ravaging, horrific take on the genre as well as their own contribution of normalizing vegan advocacy in the already rebellious, anti-authoritarian, punk rock political ethos of grindcore. The band would go on to change their style numerous times, break up and then get back together, and spark numerous imitators during their long, long career. Still though, this fast, violent, and gut-splattered debut still holds up as their best.

9: Wormrot- Voices

wormrot
Country of Origin: Singapore
Years Active: 2007-Present
Label: Earache Records
Official Site: https://wormrot.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 2016

Outside of that one Tom Waits song, the country of Singapore is painfully underrepresented in the world of music. Thankfully, though, we have Wormrot to bring an end to that. The band seem to have just torn through their discography, maintaining the same style of traditionalist grindcore and the same grisly form of aggression throughout, signing to Earache Records after only 9 years and 2 full-length albums. Musically the band aren’t exactly the most innovative by any real means, but that doesn’t make their discography any less energetic, heavy, or well executed.

 

8: Agoraphobic Nosebleed- Altered States of America

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}
Country of Origin: United States
Years Active: 1994-Present
Label: Relapse Records
Official Site: https://agoraphobicnosebleed.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 2003

“Altered States,” from my experience, tends to be written off as some kind of novelty record, the full length equivalent of “You Suffer,” due to it’s 99 tracks that take up 21 minutes altogether. In my opinion, though, if you stop looking at it like 99 ridiculously short songs and one, 21-minute composition, the Springfield MA band’s cybergrind masterpiece is actually quite the album. As brutal, fast, and pummeling as grindcore should be, Agoraphobic Nosebleed add another layer of insanity: by using a drum machine instead of a live drummer, they are LITERALLY able to have their music move at inhuman speeds. The band perfectly pair their dark sense of humor and knack for finding bizarre samples to use (I think about the phrase “thar she blows out my fucking dickhole” honestly more than I should) with their delightfully over the top and overblown cybergrind sound.

 

7: Painkiller- Guts of a Virgin

painkiller
Country of Origin: USA
Years Active: 1991-1995
Label: Independent
Official Site: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/pain-killer-mn0000744399
Year of Release: 1991

On the topic of weird things, this next album basically epitomizes them: a combination of free/avante garde jazz and grindcore should be, in theory, gimmicky bandcamp bullshit at best. However, like virtually anything John Zorn touches is, it is some fantastic, experimental, and genuinely surreal music. This album is almost like the audio equivalent to Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “House,” which for me makes the bad acid trip that is this album all the better. Perfectly melding the chaos of free jazz and grindcore into a dynamic, merciless, and constantly jarring 24 minutes of music, this is a perfect album for all crate-digging connoisseurs of the musically surreal.

6: Nails- Unsilent Death

nails
Country of Origin: USA
Years Active: 2009-Present
Label: Nuclear Blast
Official Site: http://abandonalllife.com/
Year of Release: 2010

 

Nails are without a doubt one of my favorite modern metal bands overall. Despite only having been active for about 9 years, I feel as if the band has cemented their place in extreme musical lore already. While all of their albums are absolutely fantastic, my personal favorite is their explosive 2010 debut album “Unsilent Death.” Featuring 10 tracks and only clocking in at about 14 minutes, Nails made their mark on the grindviolence scene from the second this ravaging instant classic hit shelves. One of my greatest writing crutches is refer to an album as the “musical version” of some other piece of media or an experience, a habit I am trying to break. However, I will allow myself this one: this is the album version of being killed by some cheap mask-wearing, drill-wielding killer in a straight-to-vhs 80s horror movie that was made by the Church of Satan and features actual death.

 

5: Napalm Death- Scum

113721428
Country of Origin: UK
Years Active: 1981-Present
Label: Century Media
Official Site: http://napalmdeath.org/scum/
Year of Release: 1987

What grindcore list would be complete without the grandfathers of grind themselves? It’s really difficult to talk about the history of grindcore (or metal as a whole, to be frank) without mentioning the OGs themselves: sonically relentless, and fiercely political,  Napalm Death took the pure sociopolitical rage of the hardcore scene and helped it take the next logical step, with a little help from the brutality of death metal. The band has never ceased their experimentation with other subgenres, but at the root of their sound will always be the phenomenal blueprint they lay out of the subgenre.

 

4: Discordance Axis- The Inalienable Dreamless

discordance
Country of Origin: US
Years Active: 1992-2001
Label: Hydra Head Records
Official Site: https://discordanceaxis.bandcamp.com/album/the-inalienable-dreamless
Year of Release: 2000

Artsy kings of the underground, Discordance Axis created a technical, chaotic, and refined spin on grindcore that no other band has ever truly been able to replicate. Almost comparable to what The Dillinger Escape Plan did with metalcore, Discordance Axis’ unique style and sound within their genre has earned them status as legends, even among people who aren’t typically fans of it. Notoriously elusive and camera-shy, the quintet’s mysterious and electric nature only adds to their draw and appeal, although to call it a clutch would be to lie: their music goes above and beyond on its own.

 

3: Contrastic- Contrastic

contrastic
Country of Origin: Czech Republic
Years Active: 1993-Present
Label: Independent
Official Site: https://contrastic.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 2000

 

Speaking of bands who have earned themselves the status of legend, in our number three spot is Contrastic, a deathgrind band like none other. Hailing from the Czech republic, Contrastic have always gained a fair amount of attention within the underground community, turning heads with their Disney coloring page themed album cover and getting fans to stay for their bizarre brand of deathgrind, complete with hyperactive energy, heaviness and brutality, a tongue in cheek attitude, and the occasional break for a  upbeat synth segment. Even though they could easily be written off as a gimmick band, Contrastic create some truly fascinating experimental deathgrind on this release.

 

2: Brutal Truth- Need to Control

brutal
Country of Origin: US
Years Active: 1990-2014
Label: Earache
Official Site: https://brutaltruth.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 1994

A criminally underrated album, this release is one of the few that I would truly feel at ease referring to as “artgrind” or “post-grind” or something along those lines. The sophomore release from Dan Lilkers (Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Stormtroopers of Death) oddball grind project, this album goes leaps and bounds beyond the group’s debut album released two years before it, this is really a project that’s artistic vision and musical prowess speak for itself- and I suggest you all let it.

 

1: Pig Destroyer- Prowler in the Yard

pig
Country of Origin: US
Years Active: 1997-Present
Label: Relapse Records
Official Site: https://pigdestroyer.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 2001

At the very top of our list we have grindcore giants Pig Destroyer, with their debut full-length album and, I would argue, magnum opus. This 22-track exercise in brutality matches it’s ferocious, violent, depraved vocals and instrumentation with equally depraved lyrics. The album centers on a short story of a young girl being stalked by a depraved lunatic told through brief but nauseating vignettes and introduced and concluded by strange tracks that paint grotesque scenes through some kind of text-to-speech. This album does exactly what a grindcore concept album should: it applies the grind mentality of heavy, ravaging, and extraordinarily brief to how it conveys it’s narrative, and because of this, the lyrics and music work together perfectly to form one horrifying piece of music.

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Musical Fission and Fusion: A Response

First and foremost, I feel the need to thank a peer and comrade at arms in the ongoing quest for intellectual discourse and discussion in the arena of metal and heavy music. Hornsofaradia wrote an excellent article detailing arguments for the inclusion of rock music in the metal family tree. Thank you very much for the kind words – I hope to continue to live up to them.

Rock v.s. Metal

So, this is a rather large topic to tackle – and I guess the best place to start is the beginning. I don’t believe there is a way to accurately include all of rock and roll into the metal family tree because of the incredible amount of diversity between the two genres.

They’re unique and distinct, with some areas that overlap. For example – it’s a genre that includes bands like Ghost, Rob Zombie, Godsmack, and Disturbed. Every single one of these bands has been referred to as a “metal” band at some point in their career – in fact the latter three self identified as metal until what is commonly referred to as the “New Wave of American Heavy Metal”. At this point there was a mass shift in the collective mainstream musical consciousness, and these bands were “relabeled” as hard rock. It was a slow process – and if you weren’t really paying attention it was easy to miss. An argument can be made, at the very least, that they all (to some degree or another) play what could be referred to as “metallic hard rock” or “hard rock with metal influences” – this is an area where the relative fluidity of genre labels can be a bit frustrating. Whatever you want to call them, there is at least a little bit of metal in the DNA of these bands.

On the flip-side you’ve got bands like Coldplay, Radio Head, Nickelback, The White Stripes, and other bands that have exactly zero overlap with metal – culturally or sonically. These are bands and cultures that are completely dependent on the music industry, and are more akin to pop (and other artificial art forms) than they are to metal.

Then there’s Metallica’s “Black Album”. If we were to include rock into the heavy metal family – it would negate the premise that Metallica sold out when they made that album. The big problem people had with that album is that Metallica was playing hard rock (and had abandoned metal). This, by itself, to me illustrates the relative difficulty of accepting rock into the metal fold. Actually, this scenario would perfectly illustrate the analogy of fission v.s. fusion. With fission – a large amount of energy is released – but it’s nothing compared to the destructive force of fission. The amount of negative energy released just in the realm of Metallica discussions would probably break the internet.

Regarding the Current State of Rock Music

You know, it’s funny. Hornsofaradia actually broached a few topics I’ve been mulling over in my head for a while now (with the intent of blogging my thoughts on them in the indefinite future). The current lack of a market in the rock category (specifically hard rock) and the reasons for it is a major one, as well as related topics (i.e. what caused it, what will happen to rock culture moving forward, etc).

Essentially, I think what made rock so huge ended up being it’s downfall. The relative simplicity coupled with incredible marketability made it a staple of the music industry. The inherent bureaucracy of the industry essentially slit the throat of rock and roll and slowly bled it out for all it was worth. This combined with the current trend of the “indie” rock bands playing feeble, weak, boring music and labeling it as rock are – in my opinion – why you don’t see a lot of “up and comers” playing straightforward, hard hitting rock music.

Metal Culture’s Silent Support of Rock

There are a number of reason I think that there shouldn’t be too much concern about the current state of rock.

First and foremost – as I outlined in my post about the two faces of metal, there is a certain vein of the metal community that already considers “mainstream” metal nothing more than hard rock. There is a lot of validity to this argument – especially when you look at it in terms of generations of music listeners.

Today’s “mainstream” metal is tomorrow’s rock and roll. Hair Metal, Grunge and Alternative, and a lot of Nu-Metal bands (including but not limited to Disturbed, Godsmack, The Deftones, and Linkin Park) were considered heavy metal while the scenes were active. However, in retrospect these are the bands currently on rotation on mainstream hard rock radio stations. I contend that these patterns will hold true in the future – and bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Deafheaven, Liturgy, and the like will be relegated to the “rock” category as time passes.

In regards to the cultural impact of rock music – I do agree that the position of societal rebellion formerly held by rock music has been usurped by metal. This, I think, is the greatest connection metal has to rock music. When compared to most metal, rock music seems rather tame – in large part because it has been tamed by embracing the music industry. Not entirely – but metal continues to push the envelope (musically, lyrically, etc) while rock and roll stands still and stagnates.

So, in regards to a lack of a viable pool of bands to be inducted into “rock royalty” – the model has changed since the 90’s. Most rock bands aren’t initially considered rock bands anymore. They’re referred to under the umbrella term of “hard rock and metal” put forth by the record industry.

Why is this? I don’t think there’s a simple answer. Partly because people from previous generations won’t accept newer “rock music” being categorized in the same group as Zepplin and Hendrix. Partly because mass perception of rock music (especially in the USA) is predominantly neutral to negative. People would rather identify as listening to metal than rock in most cases. I fucking hate it, personally.

Guns and Roses aren’t metal, Nirvana isn’t metal, Motley Crue barely makes the cut, Avenged Sevenfold aren’t metal, Disturbed and Godsmack aren’t metal, Rob Zombie kind of strides that line between rock and metal (but most of his stuff is just hard rock), KISS isn’t metal. These are all hard rock bands that were considered “metal” by the mainstream at the peak of their careers and their respective music scenes. Of course, my definition of metal is the music that, even 30 years later, won’t make it to mainstream radio. You’re never going to hear “Raining Blood” on KROCK, or any Slayer for that matter. So I’m not saying it to be mean, or an “elitist” in the derogatory sense that most people use it – I’m saying this because once a mainstream’s “metal” phase has panned out they get relegated to hard rock. This, as a rule, has held true since the fragmentation of metal culture in the 80’s (and in scattered instances beforehand – it’s hard to categorize metal bands before the thrash/glam split because they’re still very closely associated to hard rock).

So, in this sense, metal has been silently keeping rock and roll on life support for over 30 years. Every generation or so the “gateway bands” (mainstream metal) are used as an organ transplant to keep the hard rock machine alive and ticking (along with legions of new fans who never progress to the harder stuff) – while metal reaps the benefits of an ever expanding base.

Moving Forward – the Future of Rock and Metal

Also, kind of an interesting aside is metal artists who have hard rock side projects. This seems to be more of a European phenomenon (I notice they make much less distinction between rock and metal, or at very least embrace a ridiculous amount of diversity on a tour/festival ticket). Bands like the Gentleman Pistols (with Bill Steer from Carcass) or Spiritual Beggars (Michael Amott, ex-Carcass/currently in Arch Enemy) demonstrate metal artists love of rock. Labels like Nuclear Blast have a strong rock catalog, and continue to sign new rock artists from around the globe.

So, while I understand (and agree with) your concern regarding the apparent death of rock and roll – I think it might be helpful to take a step back and look at musical patterns throughout history. The industry has raped and pillaged hard rock for decades – so there is a necessary “incubation period” where rock and roll needs to go back underground and reform as an organic culture. It happened with metal – after the “thrash revolution” extreme metal went almost fully underground (with a few bands like Pantera carrying the flag through the 90’s) for nearly a decade. It re-emerged, slowly at first, with the “New Wave of American Metal” – which in turn sparked a metal revival. We’re still feeling the effects of this revival – with a lot of the classical forms (death, doom, black, classic, etc) experiencing revivals across the world. I hope rock will experience a similar pattern of revival – but even if it doesn’t, they get to draft a new swath of yesteryear’s mainstream “metal” bands into the fold with regularity.

Considering the often symbiotic relationship between hard rock and metal, I don’t think metal culture will ever allow rock to die out completely. Something a lot of people don’t talk about is the fact that becoming a metalhead is a multi-faceted process, not just a black and white event. You don’t just pick up a CD and suddenly become a metalhead – (almost) nobody starts off listening to Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth. You start off with rock, and eventually that doesn’t “do it” for you any more. Then you step up to hard rock, and get a taste of mainstream metal bands. I call this the “coffee drinker” model – you start off with a lot of sweetener and (generally) lower levels of caffeine, and then over time you adjust and start drinking stronger coffee – until eventually you’re drinking double-stuff black coffee with a shot of espresso.

In this sense, rock and metal will always be linked – because you have to start somewhere.

Conclusion

In keeping with the elderly relative analogy – I completely understand the comparison to with rock and metal. And I agree wholeheartedly with the components of the analogy. Rock, for all intents and purposes, is the elderly parent of metal – and is in trouble right now. But I disagree with the concept of needing to adopt the parent on a few levels.

First, I think that the baggage that comes along with rock music (fanbase, relationship to mainstream media, etc) is more than metal will allow – in fact, it’s a big part of the reason they split off in the first place.

Secondly, I think it’s a disservice to the inherent dignity of rock music. Like a proud, accomplished parent – the inherent independence of rock music is one of the qualities that keep it going. And for metal to adopt it into the fold would be to remove this sense of independence and dignity, and in the process would accomplish the exact opposite of the original goal. It would make rock music completely dependent on metal culture.

Like relatives that don’t get along (mostly because they’re so similar) – I think metal and rock are akin to family members who occasionally badmouth each other in public, but maintain a subtle relationship. Rock keeps sending new fans to the metal scene, while metal silently supports rock in subtle ways that allow rock to save face and retain a semblance of independence. If rock needed an organ transplant, metal would be the mysterious “anonymous donor” – they’ll save rock and roll, but won’t take the credit for it. Thus, the relationship can be viewed as a form of mutualism – a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties (as opposed to parasitism, which I feel would be likely to happen with the induction of rock into the metal family tree).

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