(DGR has surfaced from what sounds like some hellish recent weeks in his non-NCS life, and brought along with him some mean and explosive music, courtesy of the three bands whose recent releases he reviews below.)
The death and grind side of the heavy metal world is one that seems to be continually spinning no matter what people do to try to stop it. It’s become a machine that is always absorbing new bodies for energy and unleashing it in violent bursts that could make astronomers and physicists take note. The ferocity that is unleashed by such groups is often unmatched, and if they’re not moving in pure, bludgeoning force then it is a series of strikes that are happening so fast you don’t even notice the ground that has been razed alongside you.
The three gathered here come from different corners of the musical world as well as having some actual physical distance between them, with the one unifying theme among them being an unmatched fiery energy, and that they had releases hit in February.
In fact, the releases here get longer as you travel further down the list, but still manage to keep things around twenty-five minutes. February: Short month, short songs, short reviews – let’s party.
Endorphins Lost – Night People
Seattle’s Endorphins Lost have had a productive few years in terms of releases. One of a handful of groups out of an underrated punk-and-grind scene from an area more often known for its avante-garde and doom groups, Endorphins Lost have managed to make a science out of the pocket explosion of music, like someone throwing a firecracker into your face.
It’s an experience that is loud, bright, and over in an instant, likely to leave you confused as to what the hell just happened as the band tumble into the next batch of songs with the demarcation point between them being either a count-off or a single breath. When people compare metal to sounding like dudes yelling over their instruments being kicked down the side of a hill, it’s tempting to point them to a band like Endorphins Lost, nod, and proclaim ‘yeah, but it still sounds awesome’.
On the many-pronged line of genres that is grind-punk hybridization, Endorphins Lost throw their lot in with a few different areas. They’ll just as easily slot in with the ‘half-finished, fully finished, who the fuck knows put it out there’ ethos of the powerviolence world as to the explosion-energy that grindcore proper has mutated into. With plenty of punk-riffs and excuses to circle pit bleeding in around the edges you have a pretty good idea why it’s easy to look at Endorphins Lost and describe them as a ball of roiling fury and a whole ton of noise.
Their most recent release Night People comes in a hot six months after their previous Head Sick EP, and the distinction between the two remains the fun blur it has always been. If you wanted, you could treat the two as being of the same release with a half a year’s breather between them and you’d still likely finish both before you hit the end of a standard-length album. Much in the same way Retaliation‘s half of the Gadget/Retaliation split from a few years back felt like a ‘haha, fuck you’ in the way they wrapped up more songs in less time than it took Gadget to blast through four of their own, so too does Night People sprint its way through its songs.
With their most recent two, Endorphins Lost have accomplished the rare feat of not allowing us to make any specific song recommendations because in reality it’s easier to tell someone to just hit play and let the whole release whip by you – which it will. When your two longest songs are barely scraping the three-minute mark and most are comfy at being around one – with the shortest being the twenty seconds of ‘what the fuck was that?’ that is ‘Remington Right’ – the entry bar is so criminally low that you feel like you’re doing the group a disservice by highlighting specific songs.
Night People is just as much mood as it is a specific collection of songs. You’re here because you know the thing is short and explosive, and the moment you hit play that’s exactly what you get, ferocity converted to noise and the process between unleashing enough energy and heat to thaw out cavemen.
Horrible Earth – Weakened By Civilization
On the other end of the United States is the grind group Horrible Earth and their release Weakened By Civilization. The Boston-based grind band makes one yearn for the yesteryears of grindcore when songs were likely to be more movie-sample than song and the chaos within was as punchy as could possibly be. Horrible Earth‘s songs are a little bit more cohesive than the group directly above – the focus is more on molding some of that energy into a targeted form as opposed to a room-clearing annihilator – but the songs are just as quick and as blast-happy as you would expect, gleeful ‘fuck you’ energy in tow right alongside it.
It’s been a decent gap betwen full-lengths for the Horrible Earth team as well, as Weakened By Civilization is only the band’s second one, the previous having hit all the way back in 2016. Of course, lineup changes and the garbage time of 2020 will do that to just about any group, but if you’ve been on the hunt for a bunch of east-coasters to yell at you then the drought has been on the brutal side.
Seventeen songs delievered in rapid-fire cadence is the order of the day when it comes to Weakened By Civilization. Replete with a smorgasbord of samples, the musical assault at times never ends with Horrible Earth, save for one purposefully goofy moment midway through the album entitled “Jazz Odyssey”, which arrives after the breathless delivery of the song “Surround By Obsceneties” and segues right into “Jerk Oracle”. Keep in mind, the song just before this grouping is the grind-standard of having a track that challenges Napalm Death‘s “You Suffer” for the throne, with an eight-second blast of “Endless War III”.
Songs on Weakened by Civilization will start and stop, start and stop, check to see if you can breathe – the answer likely being no – and then catapult you back into the start and stop dynamic once again. Horrible Earth are playing to the strengths of grind, and they are definitely well-versed in it here. The subject matter is even comfortably nestled in the genre’s chosen ‘holy hell the whole planet is fucking doomed’ stylings.
Is it likely that Horrible Earth have a release here with plenty of crossover appeal? Will it grab people from well outside the grindcore genre and drag them in? Probably not. Weakened By Civilization is the sort of single-minded, purpose-oriented release that sets out to achieve one thing. It knows damned well what sort of release it is going to be from moment one, and Horrible Earth are more than happy to play well into it.
It is, simply put, about as grindcore as you can make an album. There are times on Weakened By Civilization where the band are surgically tight and could challenge someone like Rotten Sound on the blastbeat-guitar-fusion front, and then just as equally they are as sloppy as they come. Weakened By Civilization is the prototypical ‘hits hard and fast’ grindcore album, measured to within a milimeter of its genre-blueprint and as violent as they could make it.
Teeth Marks – Humans Are The Virus
Finally we leap across an ocean all the way to Hungary and along the way we kick a few genre-conventions in the crotch in exchange for a few new ones, trading out the grind ethos and keeping the ‘core’, trading chaos for precision and ferocity for at times outright bludgeoning, as we land with the group Teeth Marks and their album Humans Are The Virus.
Song lengths here are a little more standard than the eight-to-twenty seconds of the two prior to these guys, but the desire to cave a person’s skull in remains firmly intact. Teeth Marks hybrid a few styles together here, as Humans Are The Virus plays a deft hand between death metal and some speedier thrash moments, alongside the occasional short-song in the grind world, yet just as happy to let a few arms-crossed hXc punk style influences bleed in around the edges. Is it a lot of word salad and equal genre-melange to describe? You bet. Can you shorthand it to a release just generally sounding ‘mean’? Oh yes, my children, yes you can.
You could easily recommend half of Humans Are The Virus to people who like Misery Index and the other half to people who really enjoyed the Abaddon Incarnate release from last year. Teeth Marks are just as comfy in death-and-grind world as they are in straightforward death metal world as well. Instead of launching surgical strike after surgical strike at you, Humans Are The Virus delivers things often by the force of pneumatic hammer.
Containing some of the nastiest bass guitar tone in some time, Teeth Marks are more rhythmically punchy than the two they’ve been paired with here, but you’re just as likely to circle-pit with the band anyway as they pull from many a death and grind trope. There are songs here built around a solid groove, a few that have some glorious d-beat thumpings, and even the occasional ball of chaos that blurs right past you, enough to make you think it was still part of the song prior to it.
Humans Are The Virus is about as knuckles-punching-concrete ‘mean’ as Teeth Marks could make an album. Teeth-gnashing is just a common sound here. This is a world where things are permanently bleak and the sky is constantly grey. When you think of music emitting from the concept of a concrete wasteland, Humans Are The Virus could easily be the thing that comes to mind.
This is one of those you come to because you know it’s all earth-shaking fury and depth charges being set off in the moment-to-moment run. It whips from song-to-song with enough force to fuse your spine together and really, you’re just holding on from segment to segment at times so when the band go for one of the most gloriously pig-ignorant chugging hardcore style breakdowns and guitar-divebombs – of which there are many here – midway through the album, you’re still caught on the back foot.
We weren’t kidding when we said this one is purposefully mean. That is its sole focus and it is what you come to the album for.