Gridlink – Coronet Juniper

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Gridlink Coronet Jupiter review

Gridlink‘s 2014 album Longhena is a pinnacle of grindcore’s possibilities, driven by the searing intensity associated with the incendiary extreme metal sound but showcasing a uniquely progressive sense of melody and approach to songwriting. Their technicality is unrivaled, but with their third album, they proved more than ever how far they’d come in terms of the sheer craft of their music, showcasing a level of depth not often associated with grindcore (arguably unfairly). In parallel to the release of Longhena, however, the band broke up, in large part due to guitarist Takafumi Matsubara contracting a sudden and unforeseen illness. Diagnosed with a cerebral infarction, which disrupts blood flow to the brain, Matsubara didn’t know if he’d ever play guitar again, and Gridlink couldn’t continue on as they had.

In the years following the release of Longhena, the members of Gridlink took on other projects. Vocalist Jon Chang screamed in No One Knows What the Dead Thing, drummer Bryan Fajardo blasted through an album with deathgrinders Cognizant, and Matsubara slowly but surely worked his way toward being able to play regularly again, eventually releasing his own solo album, Strange, Beautiful and Fast, a set of grindcore whose title could just as easily describe the unique fusion that he and his bandmates craft together in Gridlink. After coming together for a series of reunion shows in 2021 and the intent to record some bonus tracks for a remix of earlier material, Gridlink took it a step further and committed to a full album of new music, Coronet Juniper, their first in nine years.

Tightening up slightly on Coronet Juniper, which runs a leaner 19 minutes compared to its predecessor’s 22, Gridlink maintain a stunning economy within their technically precise and intricate approach. In the 15 years since they released their 2008 debut album Amber Gray, the band’s ability to blend superhuman acrobatics with precision remain some of their most astonishing qualities—there’s no listening to an album like Coronet Juniper and thinking, whatever your take on extreme metal in general, that simply conditioning oneself to pull off such ironman feats is anything but an accomplishment in and of itself. But much like with Longhena, the band continue to explore their capabilities beyond sheer technical skill, expanding the musicality of Gridlink even as it remains a platform for masterful feats of instrumental stuntwork.

There’s an unmistakable grace to Gridlink’s music, even when razor-sharp at the edges and prone to detonation. And with the addition of bassist Mauro Cordoba lending his nimble fretwork, the blistering urgency of songs like leadoff track “Silk Ash Cascade” hew even closer to death metal. They leave little doubt about their ability to annihilate on more darkly menacing standouts such as “Anhalter Bahnhof” or the totally batshit “Refrain,” each of them stunning in form and subtle as a shrapnel tornado. But it’s in moments like the mesmerizing melodicism of “Pitch Black Resolve,” the escalating power chord surge of “Ocean Vertigo,” or the melancholic harmonization during the coda of closer “Revenant Orchard” where Gridlink stand apart not merely because of the fury of their playing but the strength of their songwriting.

Even at its most confrontational, there’s a sense of triumph to Coronet Juniper, and it’s an earned one—particularly given Matsubara’s own road to recovery. But while a reunion album can sometimes exist just for its own sake, Gridlink have never seemed like a band content with continuing business as usual, nor is that the case with Coronet Juniper. The group continues to build on what they started 15 years ago, rebuilding grindcore into astonishing new shapes and textures. They didn’t pick up where they left off, in other words—they’re well past that.

Label: Willowtip

Year: 2023

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