Sunday, 24 July 2016

Top 10 Grindcore Bands

If this post were written in the true spirit of grindcore it would be about 5 lines long - but grindcore is a suitable soundtrack to what's happening in the world at the moment.

Here's the standard journey (and it is very much a journey of self-destruction) towards grind :

You start off listening to rock bands with an edge to them. Next, you might move on to some of the more radio-friendly metal bands like late-era Metallica or Black Sabbath – and most would be happy to stay there. The next level for those who want something a bit heavier would be the old school thrash bands. When bands like Slayer sound too soft for your new found tastes you go even further down the rabbit hole towards black metal, death metal, doom etc.

When you're a suitable candidate to push the boundaries of what music actually is, waiting for you at the end of a dark corridor - ready to shove knives into each ear - is grindcore.

It's an "acquired taste". If you were to compare it with spicy food : normal mainstream metal would be a tika masala, black metal would be a vindaloo, grindcore is like downing one of those hot sauces with skulls on the bottle. It's an overwhelming sensory experience, while many grindcore bands - having been inspired by hardcore punk - often tend towards the political than the nihilistic.

As grindcore often ranges from thrash metal or hardcore punk played at breakneck speed to pure noise it's often difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between songs. That's why I'm doing bands instead, as the style of the musicians is what makes grindcore bands stand out from each other.

10. Pig Destroyer

Grindcore bands generally fall into three broad categories – those who want to scare (aka. goregrind), those who want to shock (aka. pornogrind, noisegrind), those who want to make political points. Pig Destroyer are very definitely in the "horror" group, specialising in story-based gore. They were also one of the first band to introduce the grindcore trope of sampling from horror films.

9. The Berzerker

Yeah, it's a bit noisy, but this Australian band have a highly unusual background for a metal band having originated from DJ-ing and industrial music rather than punk or thrash metal. They clearly had a sense of humour, but despite being hailed by the underground the band split circa 2010, with one of the members going on to become....a glamour photographer.

8. Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Legend has it no drummer could keep up with the rest of the band so they were replaced with a drum machine – something that's incredibly rare in metal. A typical song is under a minute

7. Terrorizer

Very influential in helping to define the grindcore sound, if having an on-off history as a band.

6. Dying Fetus

Perhaps they're more a death metal band than grindcore due to their song lengths. Started off with adolescent horror-inspired lyrics but those lyrics became more anti-capitalist, anti-religion and anti-racism in later years. Famously part of an internet campaign to headline Download in 2014. Sod Download, why not Glastonbury? #WhyNotDyingFetus?

5. Cattle Decapitation

When it comes to music, vegetarianism and animal rights are perhaps stereotyped as being all about twee folk music on acoustic guitars at hippy festivals. Cattle Decapitation pull no punches – as you might expect from the name - and take the theme of animal rights to its logical conclusion, which is pure misanthropy. To them we're all meat.

4. Brutal Truth

Very straightforward, no nonsense brutality but with elements of technical sophistication within the noise. One of the first American pioneers of grind along with Terrorizer.

3. Anal Cunt

You can't have any discussion on grindcore without mentioning Anal Cunt. They barely qualified as music but they're arguably the most (in)famous grind band. If you want a fair description of Anal Cunt's back catalogue, take every single racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, homophobic comment on the internet, then condense it into 30 second rants screamed over a hairdryer. So in some respects they were pioneers, and you can see their influence on Reddit and other imageboards.

In a genre that's all about pushing music to the very extreme and beyond, in terms of "satirical transgressive repulsiveness", Anal Cunt lead the way. If you get the joke, they're hilarious. If you don't get it or are a bit hyper-sensitive - you can't really blame anyone - they're worse than Hitler (they'd take that as a compliment).

2. Carcass

Liverpudlian forefathers of the "goregrind" microgenre – though they seem to get overlooked in favour of other bands from that particular city. Can't think why. Instead of going for political lyrics, they opted for shock value (a lot like Anal Cunt). As a result, one of the more prominent urban legends is that Carcass were actually medical students as their bloody lyrics – accompanied by a wall of noise and often focused on the digestive system - were straight from medical and pathology textbooks.

1. Napalm Death

The Godfathers of Grind from the outskirts of....Coventry. Famous for having the world's shortest song at just over 1 second long (You Suffer). As much inspired by anarchist punk bands as they were metal they created a fused sound that eventually became grindcore.

Their debut album Scum - famously picked up by John Peel - is widely considered a classic despite having 28 songs whilst being only 33 minutes long. Within the noise, their lyrics would be considered quite progressive for any band let alone a metal band, being outspoken in support of pacifism and anti-fascism. 2016 marks their 35th year.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Euro 2016 Round-Up

Portugal won it, so now it's time to look back at some of the highlights of Euro 2016.

The football itself wasn't great. Take away the novelty of having Wales and other debutants there and Euro 2016 will be remembered as a poor tournament both on and off the pitch, with hooliganism raising its head outside the grounds and negative, defensive tactics dominating the games themselves.

I feel sorry for the French. They've gone through a torrid 18 months and in spite of all the security concerns stepped up to the plate to deliver a successful competition, ruined by the idiots who went there for something other than watching football.

For once my predictions were accurate apart from over-estimating Austria and under-estimating Wales. The teams I said would do well did do well, those who I expected to flop flopped.

Wales at Euro 2016

Well, what can you say? Heroes to a man.

Wales are now amongst the smallest nations to ever reach the semi-finals or beyond of a major international football tournament, joining the likes of Uruguay, the famous Hungary team of the 1950s, Denmark in 1992, Bulgaria in 1994 and Croatia in 1998.

I don't think I'm being biased by saying Wales played some of the best football of the tournament and produced two of their best ever performances against Russia and Belgium. The teamwork, tactics and discipline was incredible, though after the poor warm-up games I feared the worse.

In the end, Wales went out to two soft Portuguese goals, having under-estimated the impact of Aaron Ramsey – one of Wales' "Three Musketeers" alongside Joe Allen and Gareth Bale. Although as a unit the team play well, if any of those are absent or below par, the team noticeably lacks something.

The most exciting thing is many of these players are still yet to hit their peak and could well become even better – only Ashley Williams and James Collins are older than 30. The "superstars" aside, many of them also struggle to get games for their clubs, Hal Robson-Kanu infamously having no club (but for how much longer?). I hope a few of them can now secure moves to clubs that will offer them more game time.

The supporters also deserve a bow. They've been exemplary ambassadors for Wales, making new friends in France and beyond by all accounts – something that can't be said of supporters of certain other nations.

The focus will almost immediately switch to World Cup qualifying, which starts in September. Looking again at the group, I've never been more confident that Wales can qualify for a World Cup - 60 years after our last appearance.

Wales have proven they can do it at a European level, now let's do it on the world stage.

Best Of

My Team of the Tournament :

Honorable mentions go to : Joe Allen (Wales), Hugo Lloris (France), Giorgio Chiellini (Italy), Alvaro Morata (Spain), Kamil Glik (Poland), Mesut Özil (Germany) and Rui Patricio (Portugal).

Player of the Tournament : It was Cristiano Ronaldo's tournament, no question. You only had to see his reaction to going off injured in the final and on the touchline towards the end of the game what it meant to him. Yes, he's an egotistical prick on the pitch but he practically got Portugal – one of the worst teams to ever win a major tournament – to the final single-handedly and propelling him towards the top of the "Greatest Ever Players" list.

Goal of the Tournament :

It was a tough choice, but I opt for Xherdan Shaqiri's (Switzerland) goal against Poland in the last-16 ahead of Hal Robson-Kanu's Cruyff turn against Belgium. Bicycle kicks are hard enough to attempt closer to goal and to successfully pull it off outside the box is dreamland stuff. Sorry, Hal.

Breakthrough Players : Antoine Griezmann (France) was already considered one of the brighter talents in Europe but that status was cemented – though he had a poor final. Renato Sanches (Portugal) secured a big money move to Bayern Munich before the competition and I can see why he's highly-rated but I'm not entirely sure he proved it. Joshua Kimmich (Germany) – a raw talent with clear potential though he'll have to choose between defence and midfield as I'm unconvinced he can do both.

Biggest Surprise : Wales, obviously. Iceland can probably take the ultimate crown there though – they weren't pretty to watch, but they provided some of the more memorable moments of the competition, particularly the "ooo" chant. Hungary proved they were there for something other than making up the numbers as well.

Biggest Flops (Team) : Jack Wilshere may be Arsenal through and through, but his reaction ^ to England's unceremonious dumping out to Iceland was one of my highlights of the tournament . How England managed to fuck things up so badly will be discussed for years to come, but I suspect it came down to a lack of leadership on the pitch and too many egos trying to make a name for themselves but failing to live up to the hype. When you have so many Spurs players, expect to play like Spurs, I suppose.

Russia were abject. After the behaviour of their supporters I doubt any tears were shed when they were sent home. As I said before the tournament, Belgium proved to be all hype and seem to have suffered from a similar problem to England. Factoring in the talent at their disposal, they should've got to the final at least. Considering their world ranking, Austria failed to live up to the hype as well.

Biggest Flops (Players) : Take your pick from England, but aside from Joe "Pasta Wrists" Hart, Harry Kane stood out. He scores bucketloads of Premier League goals but couldn't hit a barn door; his free kick against Iceland was, as others have put, "so far right it joined Britain First".

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
is a genuine legend of the game, but whenever he came on you could see he was struggling physically; considering he's only a few days older than me that's a sign of how short a career at the top of football can be.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's (Sweden) international career ended with a squeak. Paul Pogba (France) didn't live up to the hype, neither did Bayern's David Alaba (Austria) and Robert Lewandowski (Poland).