Monday, November 7, 2011
Get Into: Grudges
A lot of people bitch and moan about the propagation of subgenres in extreme metal and hardcore, complaining that definite musical parameters are "too restricting" and wondering why people can't just loosen up and enjoy whatever, "cause it's all just heavy metal, you know, man?" I may be in the minority about this, but I disagree. For me, the fertility of the aggressive music scene is closely related to its tendency towards fragmentation--there's something to be gained from bands having very specific ideas about what it is they want to do, and there's much to be lost from treating cross-pollination as an end in itself. But powerful as it is, genre allegiance is certainly a double-edged sword: it encourages tunnel vision. All too often, it never occurs to band X to incorporate riff Y into their music because riff Y has a "sound" associated with another scene, even though that riff would work beautifully in the context of band X's songs.
Grudges don't have this problem, and that's one reason they're fucking sick. They're a fairly new grindcore band on the Brooklyn scene, and my favorite local metalpunk band that isn't All Pigs Must Die. Though they're around my age (early 20s) these dudes are scene vets, and their music encapsulates lifetimes of listening. Loosely speaking, Grudges belong to the lineage of Scandinavian crustgrind, but what they're doing is a far cry from trendy Nasum-worship. What sets them apart from the pack is that they really, really like Hatebreed. Their combination of reckless Swedish propulsion and brainless American stomping is devastating. And this isn't just a cool idea, it sorta took balls--the crust kids and DIY punx who listen to this kind of grind tend to look down on working-class metalcore, damning it as "tough guy bullshit" or laughing it off as a "guilty pleasure."
Grudges clearly don't give a fuck, and their music speaks for itself with deafening volume. Crushing pit riffs and neckbreaking midtempo thrash are central to their songs, working in conjunction with the usual tremolo blasting and d-beating to inflict maximum circle pit damage. On "Net Worth," the third track off this year's demo, Grudges reach deep into their bag of tricks and pull out everything including the kitchen sink. They get nasty from the start with some Converge-esque convulsions, and then at around 00:30 they drop in a chug breakdown at the same as the drummer blasts away beneath it. It's total compression, sound becoming denser even as it strains outwards. The instruments seem to scrape against one another in grotesque tension. I don't think there's a page for this sort of thing in the standard grindcore playbook, but there's only one word for what it does: it fucking grinds.
This blast-chugging gives way into something even more unexpected--a straight-up slam, something out of brutal death metal or deathcore. It's gruesome. And finally, at 1:04, the blasting. But that's not a grind riff! Instead, it's a towering tremolo lead, something that a black/death band might place at the heart of a song. Grudges don't even bother repeating it, they just hurtle headlong into a d-beat that drives the song home. I fucking love this band, and if you love music that makes you want to mosh/fight/set cops on fire then you will love them too.
"Cool it Pavel," you might say, "it sounds like Grudges aren't even a proper grindcore band!" And to that I'd say "Of course they are, you mothar-fucker!" Very few genres and subgenres are actually defined by a "sound"--a certain style of riffing, typical drum patterns, signature vocal delivery, etc. Grindcore certainly isn't one of them. It's a scavenger genre, preying on the stylistic gestures of hardcore and death metal. What it's really about is a particular musical effect--GRINDING--and it uses whatever it can to get the job done. Grudges get it done and then some. So according to my definition*, they're truer to the spirit of grind than the many bands who have "the grindcore sound" but fail to actually do the grindcore thing.
GET. INTO. IT. And buy the demo tape, way cooler than mp3s.
*My definition is always objectively correct.