May 082010

If you visit this site for more than a few days, you’ll realize that our interest in extreme metal spans a pretty broad range. On any given day, if we happen to be writing about a style of metal that isn’t your cuppa tea, just wait a day or two, because we’ll have moved on to a band that plays in a very different genre.

But sometimes in the course of listening to new music we coincidentally find ourselves in a groove. This week, by random chance, we’ve stumbled across bands that play in the chaotic sandbox of grindcore. Yesterday we wrote about Early Graves, a Bay-area band whose music includes grind among its influences. Today our fixation is a band from Portugal called Utopium, and their sound is even more strongly rooted in grind — though they’ve also added some other elements to the mix (just as their name appears to be an amalgamation of Utopia and Opium).

We first heard Utopium a few months ago on a A Tribute to Nasum, a compilation of Nasum covers by bands from all over the world, including the likes of Coldworker, Misery Index, Leng Tch’e, Rotten Sound, Mumakil, and Total Fucking Destruction. Within the last month, Utopium self-released their first album, Conceptive Prescience, and they’ve just made it available for download on that marvelous Bandcamp platform that we wrote about here.

Conceptive Prescience has some rough edges — though some would say that’s exactly what grind is all about — but Utopium has definitely got enough raw talent on display that we’re going to watch their future trajectory with interest.  (more after the jump, including a song to hear and info about where you can download the album . . .)

Even in the world of extreme metal, grindcore is extreme music. Even some pretty serious metalheads we know won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. Even your faithful NCS collaborators couldn’t subsist on a steady diet of grind (because, among other things, our brains would rapidly liquify into a putrescent goo).

But the very extremity of grind is what I like about it. It takes many of the characteristics of extreme metal that made me an addict in the first place — the cathartic rush of energy, the speed, the distortion, the bestiality of the vocals, the “we don’t give a fuck about what you think” attitude — and pushes them all further out into the jagged edge of the frontier. Plus, it’s the place (to my way of thinking) where punk rock’s influence on metal is still most vividly on display, and for me, punk music was the first turn on the path that eventually led to metal.

Well, enough musing about the generalities of grind. On to the specifics of Conceptive Prescience.

Much of the album is just what you’d expect from a grind band: Eight songs running a total of about 19 minutes, with four of them hovering around the one-minute mark in length; slashing riffs; hammerheaded drum blasts; demented shrieking — in essence, plenty of blisteringly sweet, balls-to-the-wall headfuckery.

But Utopium isn’t completely stuck in that electrified hurricane where grind typically lives. At times, the band drops into old-school punk rhythms marinated in crushing heaviness. At other times, they switch the tempo from the usual frenetically mad dash into a dead crawl, with sludgy guitars and death-metal gutturals. “Slumber Edge,” in particular, is a down-tempo bit of heavy distortion — a funereal dirge as sung by a drooling madman, but punctuated about half-way through by some seriously ramped-up intensity.

And from time to time, the haze of blazing power chords is briefly pierced by pulsating bursts of guitar noise and some inspired shredding.

Like we said earlier, the music is rough around the edges in more ways than one, but we do like what we hear. Make your own call. Here’s a track from Conceptive Prescience:

Utopium: Sever the Root

And if you want more, go to Utopium’s Bandcamp page at this location, where you can download the whole album for free — or for whatever monetary contribution feels right to you.

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