When I'm out, I occasionally pick up issues of Decibel, Revolver, Metal Hammer and the like. I always regret it real quick, but I do it mostly in part to the fact that I want to read something when I'm taking a dump, and don't want to scald my bare wang with a hot laptop bottom. Also because I sincerely feel that a time when the metal magazine artform will all but die out is fast approaching, and I must enjoy the printed medium while I can. Glossy color pages bound by staples, will inevitably be replaced by the digital media format of blogs, webpages, mobile sites and all that other magical internet fairy dust.
I often skip over the interviews and photo shoots of the blowhard mainstream acts that grace the front of the cover with their douchey, overrated, overbearing presence, and opt instead to skim the multiple small paragraphs dedicated to the metal underground strewn about each magazine's content. These quips are usually overpowered by advertisements double their size, but it's sometimes nice to see some not-so-talked-about groups getting their recognition somewhere in an otherwise mainstream publication. Sometimes. About 92% of the time, these groups are of the grindcore variety. Grindcore bands to me are the water buffalo in the Serengeti that is the hard music underground. They number as far as the eye can see, it's impossible to differentiate them between each other, and they're all stupid as hell.
Now I've spoken out against grindcore in the past, and like with every opinion I've ever shared, ever, I've caught my share of flak for it. There are people out there that love grindcore, and I've just never been one of them. Sorry. The biggest reason why is because I'm a fan of music. Sue me. I love the sporadic, heavy, vicious metal as much as the next bloke, but if there's one thing the genre of grindcore has taught me, it's that it is possible to make a sound that's too vicious, too sporadic, and too heavy. There comes a point when you're no longer creating music, you're just making a lot of stupid noise. You can take a sledgehammer to a litter of puppies and call it a song, (and I might buy your album for the novelty of it) but it doesn't change the fact that you're just producing the sound of senseless mayhem that's horrible to listen to. This sounds metal in theory, but in the end, it really just sucks.
Despite this fact, I look at these magazines and all these different websites writing thought-out, broken down, in depth reviews of grindcore albums. Some grindcore albums manage to get dazzling reviews with 5 out 5's and are complimented for their "punishing speed" and the ability to "make [you] want to smash faces through windows". Then there are others reviled for their "repetition" and "unimaginative" noise. Why? What makes one grindcore album a must-own masterpiece, and the other something worth dismissing? It's like they're digging through a dumpster, and they find a half-eaten Big Mac covered in maggots, and another one covered in bottle flies. Even if for whatever reason the food critics find the caramel accents of crunchy maggots superior to the sour aftertaste of fully developed flies, it doesn't change the fact that they're still eating garbage.
I may be a cruel man, but I'm fair. I am perfectly willing to experience first hand with an open mind what it's like to sit down, listen to a grindcore album, and give it a chance to offer me something that I can appreciate as a long time fan of heavy music. Due to its positive reviews and being commonly advertised on my site, I turned my attention to the album "Cursed" by Finnish grindcore band ,"Rotten Sound". Let's see if the grindcore genre has a rotten sandwich in its back-alley trash can that can appease this metalhead's musical palette...
The grindcore formula is a simple concoction: scream, smash the drums, over-distort the low-tuned guitars and bass, play really fast, and do it all in a minute-long song. Rinse and repeat. At the beginning of Cursed, I immediately treat myself to an "I told you so" attitude, as Rotten Sound whips me up a painfully typical mix of instant grind brownies. The album starts with a 58 second opener, "Alone", (each song titled with only one word, as if to convey a single human emotion). I had no idea where the first song became the second, because the two tracks seem all but identical. I felt like I heard everything I needed to, in order to stop the album, get on my blog and tell everyone "this also sucks". Yet suddenly, I feel it happening. As Superior starts to approach its end, the senseless speed breaks and my head begins bobbing. Is this progression? Is this rhythm I'm hearing?
While each song is undoubtedly fueled with your typical grindcore madness, and the overpowering fuzz of their distortion can start to gnaw away at the migraine center of your brain, I can't help but feel carried by some underlying groove from track to track. Each song transitions seamlessly to the next, in an unmistakable flow and change of pace that I thought this genre was all but void of. The blistering speed parts, while the mainstay of the album, don't often wear out their welcome, and nicely compliment the breakdowns that follow them, as well as the slower, heavier tracks.
Yes, there are breakdowns and plenty of them. They're not as open-stringed and painfully simple as what we've grown accustomed to, but a breakdown is a breakdown. At its best, Cursed is unmistakably a core album, and this is music made to mosh to. There were plenty of moments in this album where I felt like two-stepping and doing moshpit ninja moves in my living room. Be that as it may, Rotten Sound manages to borrow what little there is good about the hardcore genre, and it takes it to a much deeper, darker place. I feel like anything that's able to take the blood-pumping, hair-raising moments of a semi-respectable hardcore sound, and successfully break away from the "do your homework, take your vitamins" attitude of the hardcore scene should be appreciated. I would consider including deathcore with that statement, but deathcore takes the worst things about hardcore, and combines it with death metal. Although is there anything really good about the world of core? This album, oddly enough, might make me consider that possibility.
Cursed has its share of guitar solos, which I was pleasantly surprised to hear. However, they are incredibly short-lived, and typically fail to cut through the mix of fuzzy noise. This is more a production problem than anything, but it really hinders the quality of the album as a whole. Some unbridled, Finnish finger-flying would have definitely set this album apart from your typical grindcore fare, and the fact that you don't get a solid chance to enjoy any of it really disappointed me. Some of the slower-paced tracks such as Declare and Exploit all but convince me that I'm listening to a bona fide death metal album. While I can definitely appreciate that, and it got me headbanging with the best of them, it's nothing a genuine death metal band hasn't done before and better.
For someone like myself who typically despises the grindcore genre, Rotten Sound's "Cursed" pleasantly surprised me. While it's a long shot from my cup of tea, and I doubt I'll give it another listen anytime soon, I certainly found plenty of things to enjoy about it. If you're a grind n00b like myself, looking for something to ease yourself into those scalding hot grindcore waters, I would give this album a glowing recommendation. Although it's not perfect, Cursed is a good, solid hard music album with plenty of ups and downs to raise you up and knock you back on your ass. Perhaps this pompous metalhead should get over himself and consider dumpster diving once in a while? The caramel accents of Rotten Sound's maggots definitely proved that much to me.