SHORT BUT SWEET: THE AMENTA, GADGET, RETALIATION, KONSENSUS
(DGR prepared the following trio of reviews for 2021 releases that don’t require a lot of your time but make a big impact nonetheless.)
It still feels strange when we get to use the “Short But Sweet” review tag for the purpose it was designed for instead of the usual ‘these reviews will be shorter than usual’ style that I favor, but when you combine the total time of the three releases we’re discussing here you wind up with a little under twenty-five minutes worth of music. Two are short because they’re the usual suspects – grindcore groups smashing out music with reckless abandon – and the other is brief because the whole release consists of only two songs, but serves as a fantastic addendum to an excellent album released earlier this year.
The Amenta – Solipschism EP
Solipschism is the newest release from Australia’s The Amenta, a two-song EP consisting of tracks that were initially part of the run for their earlier-in-the-year return album Revelator – in case the continued portmanteau in the song naming wasn’t enough to tip you off. It serves partially as an addendum to that previous release, unleashing one crushingly heavy almost song recorded during the Revelator sessions that seems to exist solely to ratchet up in intensity while at the same time burying vocalist Cain within an abrasive wall of sound, and one quieter experiment, both of which fall perfectly in line within that album’s current run.
As to specifically where? It’s hard to tell, but they currently do a great job stitching themselves right onto the end of an album that is already difficult to describe at times, given its tendency to murder its own momentum for the sheer fun of it and try to create haunting soundscapes out of the rubble left behind.
Where you land with “Solipschism” and “Labourinth” will likely depend on how you landed with Revelator’s centerpiece song “Twined Towers”. Where that song could be considered a whole of Revelator in microcosm – as bizarre as the disc is as a whole, drowning both band and vocalist amidst a wash of noise before cutting into heavier song parts and then sliding right back into the hauntingly macabre atmosphere they spend much of Revelator building – “Solipschism” and to a lesser extent “Labourinth” do much the same.
“Solipschism” especially, given that it patterns itself much like its siblings on the main album, so you have this weirdly empty atmosphere to start out before the ghoulish noise experimentation begins. Whereas one might guess that vocalist Cain, having made himself the central figure of a lot of the action surrounding Revelator’s visual pursuits, had a lot to do with that album’s direction, you could equally guess that the noise auteur Timothy Pope provided much of the guidance for moments like these. As mentioned before, the result is that “Solipschism” slots in perfectly with the rest of the album too.
Even when you consider that “Labourinth” is probably the most ‘peaceful’ bit of material to emerge from these sessions, it is the sort of quiet piano music one expects to hear emanating down a hallway pulsating with red light in the moments before it occurs to you that you might’ve stepped into a horror movie. The band themselves claim to have written the song around a coded message, but given the death mask obsession and the sort of unknowing-haze that colors much of Revelator, I’m not hunting for it.
Revelator is an album that exists behind multiple veils and even after the multiple listens required of it and its strangely avante-garde ways, such a shift from where The Amenta started out, or even the industrial machinations that colored releases like V01D or Flesh Is Heir, still refuses to fully reveal itself. Solipschism – from a completionist’s standpoint – does a bit of work in order to assuage that feeling, but not as much as you might expect. It’s hard to be the missing piece when the object being built refuses to conform to any sort of standard one might recognize, so instead it winds up as something bolted on so that it sits securely on an already amorphous form, extending its reach ever farther.
As someone who enjoyed that sort of bizarre hybridization that became Revelator’s hallmark, simply providing more of that is an exciting prospect, and thus Solipschism finds itself worming its way into the collection.
Gadget/Retaliation – split 7″
Like many grind bands, a large part of Gadget’s discography has existed over a series of splits, EPs, and singles, so it makes sense that even though the group’s album The Great Destroyer in 2016 represented their newest full-length in almost ten years since the release of 2006’s The Funeral March, the band would likely return to a series of singles and splits.
Of course, in that time the group’s longtime vocalist Emil Englund bowed out of the spotlight and the band have since focused on making music while pulling from their circle of friends to step up into the screaming role. The results have been a collection of songs wherein each track has a different vocalist. One of those snuck out previously with vocalist Johan Lundmark and is known as the 2020 single Funerary Rites. The other four have become part of a split 7″ release with grind co-horts Retaliation – a group whose own long-running career has been a seemingly endless series of splits and compilations, with their latest full-length The Cost Of Redemption having seen release circa 2008. The result, to put it politely, is a blinding assault where it seems like both groups are in competition with each other to see who can move fast enough and with enough force to launch themselves into orbit.
The Retaliation side of the split is the best sort of ‘haha fuck you’ that tends to happen in grind circles: seven songs, four minutes long, and about as raw and noisy as one might expect. The drums cut through everything here and the only thing that’s seemingly louder are the shrill highs emanating out of the vocalist. The first four songs are purposefully written to be one noise-filled blur, to the point where you don’t even notice that there’ve been multiple vocal attacks hitting you throughout that grouping of songs, a pleasant low growl proudly stepping in to reinforce the already percussive nature of the band.
In all seriousness, one of the longest moments on their half of the EP comes during the song “No Exit”, which mostly consists of a looping sample repeating the titular phrase over and over until the band proceed to scour it from the face of the Earth like trying to burn out an infection. Having been well-practiced by existing since 1993, Retaliation unleash one of the most ‘grind’ – as pure as they can make the descriptor – segments of a split possible on this one here. It’s four minutes and then the band is fucking out and likely already loaded back into the van, a surgical strike made as loud as possible so you notice the moment when the bands shift, and then after that initial blink you are likely already three-to-four songs in.
Gadget – actually the openers of the event here, but wow does that Retaliation side stick with you – issue out four new songs here, each one with a different vocalist. On this split the group have invited along the services of Ethan Lee McCarthy, Emilia Henriksson, Ufuk Demir, Robin Hansson and Johan Lundmark for a batch of tracks that were recorded around 2019/2020.
While it seems rote to describe stuff like this as some of the best material a band has done, Gadget really do come across apocalyptically mean this time around. If The Great Destroyer wasn’t enough of a conflagration of sound, Gadget give these new tracks some teeth and each is a minute-long explosion on its own. “C.O.N.T.R.O.L” was one of the earliest released songs from this split and serves as a great opening number to the affair as a whole, but each song after is not only shorter, but faster and with just as much bite. “Intenso” proves to be an early highlight and “Failing At Life” is a thirty-six second mess of a song that is just perfect for closing their section out. That song just seems to bumrush the stage even before “Ur Askan” prior to it gets a chance to close.
Even though the time spent with each group here is short, this is one where we’ll take all we can get. Both Gadget and Retaliation put forth material that these sorts of splits are made for – it’s just one loud expulsion of fury after another. The whole thing is eleven songs and a smidge under eight minutes long and if that isn’t this style of grind by definition then what the fuck is? This may be one of the most perfect applications of our ‘short but sweet’ tag that we’ve gotten the chance to use in some time. Ever since its mid-June release date, the Retaliation/Gadget split has been a constant listen-to – and often repeated due to not noticing just how quickly this fucker flew by – and it is one definitely worth spinning a few times.
Konsensus – New Age Of Terror
There are few things as reliable as death and taxes out there but one of them is that there’s a certain allure to the one-man project hitting a fork in the road and choosing between two bigger options, and a third that holds equal power but stands off in a completely different direction, like launching oneself into a forest: the basement black metal project or the gurgling gore-grind death crowd. This is something that holds such powerful appeal that it has become an eye-opening surprise whenever you land on something that isn’t either of the first two; as if someone looked at the fork in the road and elected instead to just leap off the side entirely.
Greece’s Konsensus is one such project, playing the punk/hardcore fueled grind that gained prominence amongst groups like Rotten Sound instead of the bathed-in-blood atmosphere of its contemporaries. Gleefully awash in grind-riffs and tropes, the project’s first release New Age Of Terror is an excellent execution of an already firmly laid-out blueprint. While much of what is happening throughout New Age Of Terror will be recognizable to genre fans – or folks who read this site given my own favoring of the style – the fact that this is the path chosen instead of the two larger artistic bastions mentioned above can almost seem like Konsensus saw the activity there and proceeded to leap in a different direction of spiteful defiance.
New Age Of Terror hit in mid-April and it is surprising that more people haven’t caught on to it yet. Of course, there is the aspect that much of New Age Of Terror is well-worn, well-polished grind stalwarts but wow, this release hits like being struck by a freight train anyway. It has the relentless song pacing, the rapid-fire drumming and the constant lyrical battering one expects from a release like this. In fact, having it follow the Gadget/Retaliation split in this article is fitting because it is almost like transferring buses in public transit to keep going the same direction.
Hell, it even pulls a little from the Misery Index playbook of deathgrind during its opening two songs, “Eyes Full Of Blood” and “Everyone’s Guilty”. This is clearly the sort of release where a two-minute song might as well be a funeral doom march, so most of the meat here is about a minute-thirty and two of the songs don’t even bother with clearing the minute mark – “Scars” especially, given that it is mostly ambient noise before it dumps you into the final song.
Given that crossing paths with Konsensus was the result of falling down a million different genre rabbit-holes, Bandcamp recommendations, YouTube mixes, and Metal-Archives trawling, it’s pleasant that there was a gem at the end of that whirling maelstrom of blastbeats and musicians throwing fits about whatever was bothering them at any particular moment – if they’re not splashing around in entrails the same way a dog will with mud. We can own up to the fact that New Age Of Terror is about as red meat as they come for the slavering grind fan, but damned if it isn’t delicious anyway.
There are reasons this genre works for people the way that it does and Konsensus do a damned good job nailing every single of those checkpoints along the way. As a first release, it is impressive and thus serves as an early signal that this may be a project to keep an eye on.