Assück – Anticapital/Blindspot/+3 (Sound Pollution, 1994)

2009 was the year I accepted grindcore into my heart. I've always been a fan of Napalm Death and Nasum, but I never became a true believer of the genre. Thanks to the word of some righteous preachers and a wafer of Wormrot, I'm born again. Rest assured I'll be focusing my musical obsessions on grindcore this year with a religious fervor.

One of my first points of reference in exploring grind was Andrew Childers' Dirty (Baker's) Dozen. Assück stood out of this exegesis of grind canon for several reasons. First, the band's name is more than a little striking. Second, I've been seeing people at shows in Assück T-shirts for 15 years and never heard a minute of their music. I decided to rectify that situation.

Thanks to the wonders of Amazon wishlists, I was able to acquire ABS+3 as a holiday gift this year (along with Misery Index). The album is out of print, and that's just not cool. The songs on this compilation were recorded between 1990 and 1992. The album is comprised of the Anticapital LP (1992), the Blindspot EP (1992) and a trio of songs from a split and compilation (circa 1990).

ABS+3 was an immediate and immense revelation to me. The music bears obvious resemblance to Napalm Death of the same era. The 17 tracks representing the Anticapital LP alone are worth the price of admission. Anticapital derives grind doctrine from Mentally Murdered era Napalm Death, but lacks the spastic chaos that Bill Steer spewed on his last Napalm recordings. In many ways, Anticapital also distills the austerity that we get from Napalm's next generation on Harmony Corruption. The songs are imbued with the crushing guitar sound of “If Truth Be Known,” but also display some of the massive groove Bill Steer bestowed upon “The Missing Link.”

But enough about Napalm Death; Assück dance to the beat of a different drummer. Rob Proctor's performance on this album is nothing short of legendary. By eschewing Mick Harris' hectic obsession with speed, Mr. Proctor displays a patience and precision that casts this grind in a different light. There are, of course, blastbeats and speed a-plenty. It's just a different kind of speed. I'm no expert on drumming, but there's something organic, flowing and fierce here that you can't find anywhere else. Mr. Proctor's skills often makes me think of Keith Moon; I love the idea that you can suddenly be completely surprised by the drumming in the middle of a song. You have to stop for a moment and think, “Did he really just do that?”

The incredible drum sound is part and parcel with the production. Whereas Napalm Death recordings of this era feel compressed into a tiny and explosive sonic spectrum, Anticapital sounds wide open and free. There's a nice stereo separation to the instruments that gives the thing an intimate feel. I feel like I'm sitting in a room with these guys.

Steve Heritage is a grind riff machine. He squeezes an amazing diversity of ideas from the traditional grindcore palette. The guitar sound here is perfection – this is the bottomless and razor sharp tone I crave. There's an incredible synergy between the crushing guitar sound, atonal chordage and never ending plethora of rhythms. I don't think Assück deign to use the same riff pattern twice on the album.

Paul Pavlovich barks out these lyrics like a highly articulate canine. His perfect diction ensures that the righteous poetics get their due. Anticapital is the real deal, one of those rare metal albums you can sit and listen to while following along with the lyrics and not be embarrassed for humanity. I'm a lyrics guy; it's part of my schtick. I like to know what the music is about (see blog sub-title). It gets me in trouble sometimes. That said, Assück deliver an engaging treatise on the flaws of society, religion, government and politics. They hit up all the important talking points. “Along with the art of conquest and domination, we have developed the absolute science of ignorance and bound it in text for generations of the unthinking.” Right on.

The +3 songs come in the middle of the album, out of chronological order. These tracks are a bit more raw, but also have more stylistic range. “Suffering Quota” features an amazing descending riff that spins down a detuned toilet; it's a match for any demented Carcass riff. “Parade of the Lifeless” features some of the more amazing drumming to be found on the compilation.

The Blindspot EP rounds out the album with material that's just as strong as Anticapital, but it suffers from less articulate production. It's unclear, based on the liner notes, which parts of the compilation were recorded at Morrisound studios and engineered by Scott Burns. Based on the reduced sonic spectrum of Blindspot, I'm most inclined to suppose it got the Morrisound treatment. Nevertheless, tracks like “Blindspot” are still incredibly edible bits of grind.

It's always a good day when I can add a classic album to my music collection, and ABS+3 is every bit a classic. And it doesn't suck one bit of ass.

95/100

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Krallice and Crucifist – January 10th – The Knitting Factory, Brooklyn NY

I made another metal pilgrimage to Brooklyn on Sunday. When Jeanne Fury and I walked into The Knitting Factory, local grinders Humanity Falls were already playing. The venue was surprisingly full. In fact, I think there were already more people there than at last week's Revocation show.

Humanity Falls sounded great. Their demented Gorguts-meets-Scum take on grinding death was entirely entertaining. Front-man Eston Brown appeared to be having quite a bit of fun. Original songs were punctuated by at least one cover. If I'm not mistaken, Napalm Death's “You Suffer” made a brief appearance. Guitarist Ammo Diaz looked completely comfortable with the twisted and agonized cacophony he was producing. Ed Bednarek's solid drumming held the gnarly compositions together quite well.

Ammo Diaz of Humanity FallsWeirdly, Humanity Falls were the only band with a banner on stage the entire evening. The sound was so great during their set that Eston Brown took a chance to thank the sound person, and asked the crowd to follow suit. Folks were already headbanging to every song. It was definitely a different scene than last week. I suppose the trifecta of local acts helped attendance.

Eston Brown of Humanity Falls
Between sets, I picked up Humanity Falls' Promo 2009 CD. While perusing the merchandise, I realized there wasn't a single item for the next act, the mysterious Ancient Wound. When the three unassuming band members took the stage, the crowd reacted with a rowdy cheer. Evidently Ancient Wound are a legendary, well-kept secret. I can't believe I've never heard of the band before.

Ancient WoundAncient Wound launched into a preposterously awesome thrash instrumental. When the second song kicked in with screamed vocals, I finally made the connection; this band must have stepped off a time machine from 1985. They sound exactly like Seven Churches era Possessed, and that is a wonderful thing. Everything about Adam Hell's delivery seems genuinely archaic. The band's madly thrashing proto-death sound is fantastic.

Adam Hell of Ancient WoundThis massive metal experience was enhanced by near-perfect sound. The guitar was crystal clear and Pat Sorcerer's prominent bass was perfectly audible. Each song delivered compelling riffage with the utmost speed. I couldn't get over the way Adam Hell would introduce the songs in a mild mannered voice, explaining how each track was about zombies, demons, or Satan. His stage presence reminded me of Ronny James Dio, albeit with a guitar in hand. The crowd was going mad during Ancient Wound's set. Colin Marston of Krallice stood directly in front of the stage throughout the performance, headbanging wildly. Awesome.

Adam Hell of Ancient WoundI noticed around this point that the venue was getting packed. Unbelievably, I think almost half the crowd was female. Not only that, there were many extremely young females in attendance. I still haven't reasoned this out, but perhaps Krallice have some sort of teen-idol status in Williamsburg? Maybe Danny Lilker has some bestial attraction I don't understand?

Danny Lilker of CrucifistI hadn't taken the opportunity to get acquainted with Crucifist's material. Now I know I was remiss. The band have distilled the raw roots of death metal, doom and black metal to form a wickedly powerful moonshine. A corpse-painted Danny Lilker (of Brutal Truth and S.O.D. fame) came out on stage to join guitarist John Gallo and drummer Mike Waske for a short instrumental ditty. Ron Blackwell walked out in a long robe and proceeded to scream bloody gore.

Ron Blackwell of CrucifistCrucifist were quite an experience. Ron Blackwell is seriously charismatic, and the crustified tunes sounded distinctive without any prior listening. The sound, however, started to get a little bit too loud. Surprisingly, Danny Lilker's bass wasn't very high in the mix. Ancient Wound found the sweet spot for volume, but Crucifist were in the red. It didn't really matter; this band's material probably sounds better when your ears are bleeding. You can't go wrong when you have a song entitled “Skull-Smashing Face-Ripping Death.”

CrucifistJustina Villanueva (NYC metal photographer-in-residence) gave me the heads up that Krallice would be playing some new material. This was my first time seeing the band live, and I was hoping for a transcendent metal experience. Unfortunately, the sound wasn't fantastic, so that didn't happen.

KralliceKrallice ripped straight into some new material that doesn't seem to have vocals yet. The PA was extremely loud, and I had a very hard time distinguishing the guitars. Colin Marston windmilled while tearing through the riffs with ease. Mick Barr stood facing stage left instead of the crowd, as he's known to do. The dude looks completely harmless, but when he lets loose on vocals he exhales demons of madness.

Mick Barr of KralliceI wanted to be able to sit back and soak in the music, but I spent most of the time focusing on the tunes and trying to discern the melodies. Don't get me wrong; this was an amazing performance. But ultimately the live Krallice experience didn't evoke the same sense of immersion that their recorded work does. In the end, the most impressive part of the set for me was the rhythm section. Lev Weinstein is unbelievable on drums. The guy creates a perfect rhythmic storm that begs for a bigger venue with better acoustics. Nick McMaster's bass sounded great, and his vocal delivery seemed to bring the band back to earth. Seeing Krallice live just made me want to see them again with better sound.

KralliceThe large crowd was enthusiastic, and there was plenty of hair flying. An actual pit broke out twice. During the last song, things got particularly rowdy. When Krallice unplugged, the pit took a while to calm down. Before it died, I caught a glimpse of Ancient Wound front-man Adam Hell streaking across the floor with a beer raised high. Kick ass.

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Revocation and The Binary Code - January 6th - The Knitting Factory, Brooklyn

This was a spectacular evening of shredding, headbanging, half-naked dudes and mysterious extra guitar players. Jeanne Fury accompanied me to this show on her home turf in Williamsburg, and I got to visit the new Knitting Factory for the first time.

The Knitting Factory is a small venue with fantastic sound and excellent beer. The stage is wide, set up much like the Highline Ballroom. The crowd was especially sparse when we showed up. Before Tiger Flowers took the stage, I took some time to examine the merchandise. At The Binary Code table, I chatted with Jesse Zuretti, who was extremely cool. I was psyched to pick up a physical copy of the band's latest album, Suspension of Disbelief.

Within a few minutes, Tiger Flowers took the stage, but they didn't immediately start playing. After a few moments of awkward silence, vocalist Jesse Madre explained that their bass player was taking a dump. Right on. Soon that situation was remedied, and the band ripped into a fantastic set of esoteric and entertaining hardcore. My experience of the band's music doesn't extend past their Myspace page, but I was extremely impressed.

Tiger FlowersThe band combine crushing guitars, bottom-heavy bass and obtuse time signatures to produce a very cool sound. I'm surprised Tiger Flowers are unsigned. Guitarist Dean Landry sported a copious effects board and wasn't shy to bust out all manner of sonic absurdity. Jesse Madre was absolutely manic, trampling every inch of the stage, monitors and floor that he could reach. The dude was explosive. Unfortunately, the crowd wasn't particularly energetic. This was probably due to the advanced age of the audience. At the very least, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Jesse Madre of Tiger FlowersWhile The Binary Code set up, I was able to try out some of the venue's organic nut brown ale. I couldn't catch the name of the brewery, but it was a righteous brew that went down smooth. Good beer and good metal are a match made in heaven.

The Binary CodeWhen The Binary Code plugged in, I realized that there was an extra man onstage. Evidently, the foursome has recruited an additional axe-man for the tour. They launched straight into tracks from their new album, and the shredfest was on. The sound was great. The volume was not absurd and the guitars were crystal clear.

Suspension of Disbelief has grown on me quite a bit, and the album tracks sounded fantastic live. The Binary Code's progged out and atmospheric vision of technical death metal is exactly what I've been in the mood for lately. Jesse Zuretti is a fantastic guitar player, ripping off absurd riffs and leads with little effort. The album is tied together by distinctive clean guitar interludes, and I was pleased to hear them being performed live.

Jesse Zuretti of The Binary CodeI enjoy vocalist Michael Apprich's performance on the album, and he did a good job of pulling off his Ishahn-like screams in person. The guy was quite animated while he was singing, but he seemed to droop during some of the instrumental sections. This was only really notable in relation to Jesse Madre's earlier exhibition of insanity. I guess he's a hard act to follow. The new guitar player's long hair ensures that at least half the band can windmill throughout the set. Bass player Brett Bamberger was probably the most energetic guy on the stage with a genuine swivel neck. All told, it was an excellent performance. Drummer Umar Fahim ensured that the band's rhythmic peculiarities were perfectly executed, and the band sounded marvelously tight.

The crowd had filled in quite a bit during The Binary Code's set, but remained solidly geriatric. A couple of visits to the bar ensured I was experiencing a nut brown euphoria by the time Revocation began to set up. Once again, there appeared to be an extraneous guitar player assembling his gear. Have Revocation added a touring guitar player? The answer is yes.

The Binary CodeWith nary a cue from drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne, the show got started and the shred reigned. I was mildly concerned that the layered guitar sound on Existence is Futile wouldn't translate to the stage. The mysterious touring guitar player ensured that the translation was seamless. The sound was really great – I'm quite pleased with the Knitting Factory's acoustics.

David Davidson of RevocationDavid Davidson is the kind of guitar player that anyone can appreciate. During soundcheck, he whipped out the intro to “Tornado of Souls.” Touché. The guy plays like he was born with a Flying V in his hands. He's also a charismatic front-man whose energetic stage presence is entirely entertaining. All the kids who drool over Alexi Laiho should consider adopting Mr. Davidson as their new ruler.

I had no problem securing a spot directly in front of Mr. Davidson at the stage. I couldn't think of a better spot from which to enjoy the acrobatics. The crowd was all smiles, but barely moved. At one point, Mr. Davidson requested a circle-pit, but it didn't happen. For my part, I headbanged enough to induce a massive bangover. These guys are all motion on stage, and you can't help but siphon off some of that energy.

David Davidson and Anthony Buda of RevocationIt took perhaps one song for the band to overheat and decide to disrobe. Clearly, the touring guitarist isn't used to this kind of thing; he doesn't have the road-worn, Bruce Lee physique of the other band members. Give him a few weeks on the road, and he'll fit right in.

The new guitarist held his own throughout the show. On some of the leads he ably mirrored Mr. Davidson's fretwork. The band seemed comfortable with the extra presence on stage. The only miscue occurred rather quietly when Mr. Davidson asked the guy to re-tune his guitar. I doubt anyone else noticed.

So yes, Revocation ruled. Songs off the new album like “Deathonomics,” “Dismantle the Dictator” and “The Brain Scramblers” sounded better live than they did on the album. The band's exuberance adds some extra sauce that the recorded compositions can't convey.

RevocationBass player Anthony Buda raged around the middle of the stage and shared vocal duties throughout the set. Phil Dubois-Coyne's drumming was relentlessly punishing and quite impressive. The band played a couple of songs from their first album, Empire of the Obscene. The new guitar player ensured that every track sounded tremendous.

David Davidson of RevocationThis was an awe-inspiring performance and an excellent way to start off the new metal year. If you think Revocation are decent on tape, I assure you they sound better in person. This show was a lot of fun, but I'm a little worried about the turnout. The Binary Code and Revocation are ear candy for the older metal crowd, but both bands need to draw a younger audience. Someone needs to get the kids out to these shows, or else it could be a long tour.

Unfortunately, due to my mammoth commute home on a work night, I couldn't stay around for Hypno5e. My apologies.

“Metal as Art” is not the sexiest tour name I've ever heard. I'd rather go with “Metal as Life.” Either way, existence is not futile as long as there's metal like this.

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