(In this post DGR reviews the new album released last month by Austria’s Distaste.)
Distaste are one of those bands I can only claim to have gone into recently. Probably the fault of Man Must Die, Mumakil, Afgrund, and a few others, but I’ve found myself really digging into the short-song/blastbeat-filled/punk-riff segment of grind recently. Basically, it has started to boil down to where if a band puts a circle pit riff over some blasts and some dude starts screaming about how much of a wreck the world is, then chances are my adrenaline has shot through the roof.
I came upon Distaste rather randomly, just surfing through Bandcamp and coming across the three-piece Austrian group’s album Black Age Of Nihil just a little over three weeks after it saw release in early October. Coming off of about a million spins at that point of Afgrund’s Corporatocracy and its predecessor The Age Of Dumb, Black Age Of Nihil immediately grabbed me. At first, I couldn’t quite figure out why, until it came to light that Afgrund’s front man as of 2010, Armin Schweiger, is one-third of this band, playing guitar and doing vocals in this troupe as a founding member of the band rather than simply being the voice behind all the yelling.
Distaste is one of Armin’s first bands, and they have been able to consistently put something out every two or three years since 2008, with Black Age Of Nihil being their second full length in five years after Of Abyss Hearts and Falsity — so if you weren’t able to check out anything by these guys on their split with Bastard Peels, then Black Age Of Nihil has been a five-year wait.
The current lineup consists of three people: Armin and two bandmates from GodHateCode, Phillipe and Lukas (who also plays in Underground Groove Front, making this whole thing an incestual band affair). Despite playing in a ton of other bands that blast out great death metal and grind at a pretty fast clip, on Black Age of Nihil these three still manage to sound incredibly angry with purpose, blending together grind, hardcore, and death metal into a swirling beast formed of rage – as if they hadn’t been able to get it all out in the other projects they are involved in – and it works out all the better for us listeners.
At the very beginning of Black Age Of Nihil, Distaste hit you with a curve ball. After reading about their pedigrees above, you’d expect that the band would be dishing out about fifteen or twenty songs, none of them seeming to get past the two-minute mark (although many do, they just move so damn fast) – yet the band begin the CD with the slow build and dirt-soaked grind of “At War With Ourselves”. It opens with a simple churning bass riff and slow, methodical drums that just build, and build, and build. Spliced in are samples of news footage, tv shows, movie samples, and various arguments as if they’re being heard for the first time, steadily becoming more extreme before the band finally kicks in with a massive yell and simple chugging riff.
The song itself doesn’t move fast but it does mark an interesting dynamic on Black Age, which is that it’s a loathing-filled disc in comparison to any of the group’s prior work on Abyss Hearts and Falsity. It actually co-opts a little bit from doom simply because it feels hopeless, stacked on top of a genuine rage. It’s like a whole different band are starting off the disc (a more groove-oriented version of this brand of music, with longer songs, would have potential) before Distaste suddenly crash into them like a wave slamming up against a coastal cliff, destroying everything that was laid out during “At War With Ourselves” and dragging the wreckage with yhem back into the ocean.
After that, things become more familiar as you descend once again into the tumultuous frenzy of buzzing guitar and insanely fast playing. It’s the sort of sound that rooting your group in grind’s DIY ethic and making it a three-piece can produce. Everything feels pared down to its core – if a song has no reason to last longer than forty or so seconds, it won’t. The group will crank out a solid groove, bash away at it like forging a weapon, and as soon as they’ve made their pass, the song will end – usually in a flurry of screaming and drumming, the guitar and bass stopping suddenly to signal that the specific track is done.
Since Distaste are only a three-piece, it feels like this is Armin’s show, running both the guitar and vocal work on Black Age. It’s not flashy but it is fast and gets to the point as quickly as possible, the sense of speed becoming exhilarating enough to cause any crowd to spontaneously combust. Phillipe and Lukas have been with the group since 2009, and the one thing that really differentiates Distaste from the many other grind and death metal projects that its members are involved in is that Distaste really let the bass guitar dominate in the mix. Everything is tuned pretty low so it makes Distaste feel grime- and dirt-soaked, conjuring images of sweating masses trying valiantly to work their way to the front of the stage so they can have their moment yelling lyrics at people in fire-hot venues.
Oftentimes the guitar is indistinguishable from Phillipe’s playing, and the band sounds like a solid mass propelled forward by drums that switch from blasts, to beats borrowed liberally from the Discharge playbook, to one-two hardcore riffs, to full on gallops. Lukas tends to stick heavily to the blasts, and considering the music that he’s backing, it isn’t too difficult to see why. It grounds Distaste in some heavy death metal roots. While the band parlay Distaste as having a blackened hardcore feel on top of the grinding riffs that they tear out, when all the grooves are stacked on top of one another and Lukas layers another four million blasts into the span of half a minute – they become a band churning out really good death metal alongside their chosen genres.
For instance, the two-minutes of “Force-Fed Lies”, which has proven to be a personal highlight, opens with starting and stopping riff before they drop into another bombing run of punk riffs and thrash-worthy grooves, making the song one of the best expulsions of anger since Misery Index’s “You Lose!”. It even ends in radio static, lending an air of ‘the revolution will (not) be televised’ to the whole ordeal.
There is nothing fun about Black Age Of Nihil. This is not a happy disc. It is one of those albums that make you want to go out and riot, one that makes you angry about causes you may not even be familiar with, or hell, you want to be angry about something. 2013 has had quite the harvest of those types of discs, which feels like music that is turning a mirror back on the society that produced it, and Black Age Of Nihil slots in comfortably right alongside those. It has an overarching narrative, beginning and ending with bass-heavy songs, churning forth into massive riffs. They dirty up what would otherwise be a clean, precise, and white-hot bit of grind, adding the finest layer of filth to the proceeding and making Distaste feel like a raw band, scars still fresh from recent battle.
Black Age Of Nihil sounds great, and given that there are only three instruments and a vocalist, it comes across incredibly clear. It delivers short, quick hits to the system, as you would expect from any band in this field — chief amongst them the ones whose titles are written in foreign tongue — yet there are also the two-minute, groove-oriented tracks that actually choke some life out of the riffs, the songs existing as condemnations of both characters and situations.
To repeat, Black Age Of Nihil is not happy. It is one of the good raw, hatred-fueled, angry-about-everything discs that have hit this year. It is one of the ones that will cause you to go out and fight things, flip cars, and cause havoc, and by the time it is done, you’ll awaken from your blacked-out state, shirt torn in half, wondering what the hell you just did… before going for round two.
Note: As it stands right now, the band are asking for 4 Euro funny dollars for a digital copy and 10 for a pretty good looking physical one on Bandcamp. Amazon has the download for $6.99 American monopoly moneys, which is where I bought it, if you don’t feel like going through Bandcamp. The band’s 2008 release Of Abyss Hearts and Falsity, however, is available on Bandcamp as name your own price. I highly recommend you grab both.