Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ryan Page's(Robocop/Body Hammer) Favorite Releases of 2011

In keeping with the ubiquitous preamble and qualification before every year end list in 2011, let me to briefly pretend that most Operation Grindcore readers are not intelligent, understanding people and pander to the "I can't believe you left _____ off the list! what the fuck?!" crowd:

This is not any official list, and it is not intended to represent OP's take on the best albums of the year. If you see any glaring admissions, take comfort in the fact that not only do I not care, but the internet exists, and it is begging for numbered lists.

Without further justification for the fact that I was only barely aware of new music this year, I'll thank Andrew for asking me to do this, and get around the arbitrary ordering.

8. Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Despise You: and on and on…

While I am generally more of, for lack of a better word, a traditional ANB fan (my favorite release is still 'Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope'), of the recent crop of releases my favorites have been decidedly mid tempo. This l.p. and their split with Insect Warfare display interesting, self contained concepts, and, to a certain extent, a sense of theatricality that becomes more difficult at faster tempos. 'And on and on…' is not particularly different from Agorapocalypse, but, I have to say I was much more interested in this material. Maybe I am simply getting weaker of stomach but Agorapocalypse becomes too much for me to take as a full length (which is not to say I don't respect the album). I also felt that with this split the production became a bit less sterile; there seems to be less compression and processing.

Despise You's career I've followed less closely than that of ANB, but everything I've heard previously has impressed me. With that said, I quite enjoyed the changes to their sound on this release. I actually feel like both bands came a little closer to each other's style, adding consistency to the split. Both of the bands vocalists assert wildly divergent styles that compliment each other well. I especially liked the high pitched vocals occasionally bursting through, it serves as an aural dead ringer for the squealing whammy bar slayerisms of ANB's side.

7. Wadge: Grindcore Luau

Wadge is a great example of humor in extreme music done well. Grindcore Luau is a perfect distillation of this. The album opens with ANB vocalist and (excellent/underrated) Drugs of Faith frontman Richard Johnson tearing through the first of many Napalm Death tributes/parodies. I think part of the reason this album stuck with me is that it seems like a degree of care was taken with the lyrics, art and music, so that the theme was executed in a fairly clever way, with minimal emphasis on the usual misogynist/gore/br00tal stupidity that often substitutes for humor in post carcass/internet extreme music.

6. Weekend Nachos: Worthless

Weekend Nachos have consistently, despite what is perhaps the worst moniker in extreme music (yeah, I know 'look who's talking') have consistently delivered as heirs to Infest. Its the kind of music that gets termed jocky that no jocks would ever listen to. While their previous releases were less contained and much more jagged in tone, this album offers another interesting variation on what is perhaps the greatest concentration of pure mongo anger in hardcore. It doesn't hurt that much of the finger pointing happens to be pointing in the right direction.

5. Gridlink: Orphan

This is a release that I probably should have liked more than I did. The album blends together some of the best elements from Discordance Axis and Hayaino Daisuki and contains the fastest, most articulate performances in grindcore in many years. The dynamics are great, and the album is considerably fuller sounding than 'Amber Grey'.

With that said, I honestly haven't listened to it that much. I hasn't really stuck with me in the way it has for others. For a period, I thought it was simply because of the hype surrounding it (not to mention the general shittiness of GrindToDeathGate), but now I am not quite sure. Regardless of my personal relationship to the album, I felt that it would be foolish not place Orphan somewhere on my list.

4. Autopsy: Macabre Eternal

Someone once told me that compared to Despised Icon and Suicide Silence, Autopsy sounded like lounge jazz. That person was a fucking idiot.

3. Toxic Holocaust: Conjure and Command.

I can see this as somewhat of a controversial choice considering that everyone is back to hating thrash metal. I'm not going to apologize for it, but if it helps, think of it as a d-beat record (if Deathwish/Southern Lord hasn't soured you to that particular genre tag yet).

I've always liked Toxic Holocaust and main man Joel Grind's unassuming nature. I've come to think that the contrast between the exaggerated misanthropy in his lyrics and his affable nature in person makes the self aware absurdity of his lyrics easier to take. I also find that it is apparent when someone is having fun in a genre they care about, rather than using pastiche to deflect insincerity.

All of which would matter very little, except that while ignoring trends for over a decade Grind has consistently improved with every release, peaking with this release or An Overdose of Death. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the use of a full band on the recording (previous albums were almost entirely recorded by Grind). This allowed for a greater range of tempo variation, a trait immediately apparent in the speed of album opener "Judgement Awaits You". The guitars also underwent a major improvement tonally, and in general the record sounds more natural than the occasionally dull sounding "Overdose".

2. Yob: Atma

I only recently picked up (read downloaded) this release, but Yob deserves all of its current (read overdue) acclaim. There are not many metaphors left to describe the album's sound, so I will simply point to the numerous glowing reviews and its high placement on numerous year end lists.

1. Column of Heaven: Ecstatically Embracing All that we Habitually Suppress

One of the difficulties in creating this list was that, as many records as I liked this year, few have drawn me in to repeated listens. There is a sense with many albums that everything that is contained is apparent on the surface. After listening to thousands of grindcore/metal/power violence tracks the form becomes fairly obvious, and far too often the the content becomes a matter of connecting dots.

By contrast (and poorly constructed dichotomy) Column of Heaven's debut e.p. has rewarded numerous listens and revisitations of the themes and concepts. Much like The Endless Blockade (the band from which COH is derived) Column of Heaven utilizes noise and power violence, along with intelligent lyrics and carefully considered artwork to create a gestalt of musical ritual evoking unease and paranoia that fragments into complexity upon close examination.

What was particularly interesting to me, as a musician within similar genre confines, was the massive leap towards the synthesis of influences. No longer do we have what has become (at least partially in the wake of TEB's influence) the nearly cliched organization of "hardcore song, noise track, etc." where the styles merely contrast each other. Instead the entire release blends together, with various elements disappearing or bubbling to the surface throughout the tape's short, but well-suited nine minute running time.

It is perhaps odd that my top album for this year is a band's first release, especially one that is shorter than most of the songs off my number 2 pick, I can only offer that it I personally consider this the first step beyond the confines of power violence that other bands (including my own) have only hinted at.

~Ryan Page


  1. ok the autopsy thing made me snort all over my laptop screen. i'll send the cleaning bill to you.