Such a strange and terrible mania one must be so deeply inflicted with in order to make oneself be able to enjoy grindcore even in the most amused passivity. The genre itself was created, or at least refashioned, by Napalm Death with an end of days political abandon in reaction to desperate times of sheer waste and the rise in tolerance of sheer brutality that the human race was allowing. Sound itself was taken to the logical extreme as if these bands were declaring and end to the idea of rock. Based on that assertion, grindcore has limped on into uselessness with only a few shining innovators to come and go. Some bands share Napalm Death’s abandon all hope aesthetic (Brutal Truth), some simply blast a similar nihilism at 500 beats per second but with a humor so black it would bring Jonathan Swift to tears (Anal Cunt), some test the boundaries of sonic sadomasochism (Pig Destroyer) and some are, quite simply, more enigmatic, like Discordance Axis. The bassless three-piece from Hoboken included screecher and designer Jon Chang and America’s most inhuman drummer Dave Witte. They packaged their CDs in DVD cases, they barely played live and blew people away with their conceptual and technical prowess. In the wake of the legendary band — which Pitchfork once compared to Sonic Youth, mind you — there has been talk of a project of Chang’s called Gridlink.
Amber Grey clocks in at less than 12 minutes long, with 11 songs, the shortest of which is just over half a minute, the longest just under a minute and a half. Chang, whose high-pitched rape whistle vocal style makes even the listener’s throat go crimson, leads the project with three other musicians, which includes bass this time. The combination of these musicians shows what direction Chang wants to take grindcore. An astute listener can, in all sensibility, catch the basic structuring of thrash which, and astute listener can also deduce, is far more complex than the fast-forwarded hardcore of the grindcore of yore. Yet speed is no object for the band. Guitarist Mastubara, while not nearly as acrobatic in his playing, has the skill and tenacity to keep him in running with the likes of Ben Weinman. And it goes without saying that the rhythm section is one of the most formidable in the genre. The drumming is played at a near-vibrating pase, while the bass adds a welcome layer of muscle to the music compared to Discordance Axis which, without the bass, sounded more primal in its delivery whereas this sounds more polished and full.
If one has eleven or so minutes to spare out of the day, and excruciating grindcore is something that would be useful in providing catharsis, one will not find a better contemporary example. Gridlink pull off the feat of being simultaneously abusive in its aesthetics and dazzling with its technical skill and showmanship. These seasoned players have created a project that has all the elements one would expect from such a band, but with a that added dose of imagination that makes a wonderful chemical fire out of your standard minute-long symphonies of evil.
Discordance Axis – Our Last Day
Pig Destroyer – Phantom Limb
The Power & The Glory – Call Me Armageddon