Grindcore

Grindcore

For the fictional character with this name see Grindcore (Transformers).

Grindcore, often shortened to grind, is an extreme music genre which began to emerge in around the mid- to late 1980s. It draws inspiration from some of the most abrasive music genres including noise, death metal, early industrial music and the coarser varieties of punk rock (D-beat, crust and thrashcore).

Grindcore is characterized by heavily distorted, down-tuned guitars, extreme tempos, frequently accompanied by blast beats, songs often lasting no more than two minutes (some are seconds long), and vocals which consist of growls and high-pitched screams. Lyrical themes range from social and political issues (Napalm Death) to gore (Carcass) and humor (Anal Cunt).

Characteristics

Blast beat

The blast beat is a drum beat characteristic of grindcore in all its forms, although its usage predates the genre itself. In Adam MacGregor's definition, "the blast-beat generally comprises a repeated, sixteenth-note figure played at a very fast tempo, and divided uniformly among the kick drum, snare and ride, crash, or hi-hat cymbal." Blast beats have been described as "maniacal percussive explosions, less about rhythm per se than sheer sonic violence". Napalm Death is said to have coined the term, though this style of drumming had previously been practiced by D.R.I., Repulsion and others.

Guitar tuning

The vinyl A-side of Napalm Death's debut, Scum, is set to standard tuning, while on side B the guitars are tuned downed 2½ steps. Their second album and 1989's Mentally Murdered EP were tuned to C#. Harmony Corruption, their third offering, was tuned up to a D. Fellow grindcore practitioners Carcass also had the habit of the downtuning their guitars - specifically, to a B. Bolt Thrower went further than Carcass, dropping 3½ steps down (A).

Song length

One well-known characteristic of grindcore and related genres is the microsong; songs lasting seconds. In 2001, the Guinness Book of World Records awarded Brutal Truth the record for "Shortest Music Video" for 1994's "Collateral Damage." The song lasts 4 seconds. In 2007 the video for the Napalm Death song "You Suffer" set a new "Shortest Music Video" record: 1.3 seconds.

Along with the microsong, it is characteristic of early grindcore to have diminutive song lengths. Such is the example of Carcass' Reek of Putrefaction (1988), where the song span averages in about 1 minute and 48 seconds.

Lyrical themes

Napalm Death's songs address a variety of anarchist concerns, in the tradition of anarcho-punk. These themes include anti-racism, feminism, anti-militarism, and anti-capitalism. Other grindcore groups, such as Carcass, have expressed disgust with the body, and are famous for their vegetarianism. Carcass' work is sometimes identified as the origin of the goregrind style, which is devoted to these bodily themes. Groups that shift their bodily focus to sexual matters, such as Gut, are referred to as "pornogrind". Both Anal Cunt and Pig Destroyer are controversial for their apparent misogyny. Seth Putnam's lyrics are notorious for their irony and black comedy, while The Locust and Agoraphobic Nosebleed tend toward satirical collage, indebted to William S. Burroughs' cut-up method.

History

1980s

Precursors

The most widely acknowledged precursors of the grindcore sound are Siege, a thrashcore group, and Repulsion, an early death metal outfit. Siege, from western Massachusetts, were influenced by classic American hardcore (Minor Threat, Black Flag, the Misfits) and by British groups like Discharge, Venom, and Motörhead. Siege's goal was maximum velocity: "We would listen to the fastest punk and hardcore bands we could find and say, ‘Okay, we’re gonna deliberately write something that is faster than them'", drummer Robert Williams recalled.

Repulsion, from Flint, Michigan, cited street punk groups like Discharge and Charged GBH, crossover thrash such as Dirty Rotten Imbeciles and Corrosion of Conformity, thrash metal like Slayer, Metallica, and Sodom, early black metal (Venom) and death metal (Possessed), hardcore punk, like Black Flag, and older hard rock, as inspirational. The group is often credited with inventing the classic grind blast beat (played at 190 bpm), as well as its distinctive bass tone. Shane Embury, in particular, advocates the band as the origin of Napalm Death's later innovations.

Napalm Death

Grindcore, as such, was developed during the mid-1980s in the United Kingdom by Napalm Death. The name "grindcore" was is said to have been coined by Napalm Death's second drummer, Mick Harris. When asked about coming up with the term, Harris said the following:

Grindcore came from "grind", which was the only word I could use to describe Swans after buying their first record in '84. Then with this new hardcore movement that started to really blossom in '85, I thought "grind" really fit because of the speed so I started to call it grindcore.

Other sources contradict Harris' claim. In a Spin magazine article written about the genre, Steven Blush declares that "the man often credited" for dubbing the style grindcore was Shane Embury, Napalm Death's bassist since 1987. Embury offers his own account of how the grindcore "sound" came to be:

As far as how this whole sound got started, we were really into Celtic Frost, Siege - which is a hardcore band from Boston - a lot of hardcore and death-metal bands, and some industrial-noise bands like the early Swans. So, we just created a mesh of all those things. It's just everything going at a hundred miles per hour, basically.

Earache Records founder Digby Pearson concurs with Embury, saying that Napalm Death "put hardcore and metal through an accelerator". Pearson, however, said that grindcore "wasn't just about the speed of [the] drums, blast beats, etc." He claimed that "it actually was coined to describe the guitars - heavy, downtuned, bleak, harsh riffing guitars [that] 'grind', so that's what the genre was described as, by the musicians who were its innovators [and] proponents.

In addition to Repulsion and Siege, key groups cited by current and former members of Napalm Death as formative influences include Discharge, Lärm, Amebix, Throbbing Gristle, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles and the aforementioned Celtic Frost and the Swans. Post-punk, such as Killing Joke and Joy Division, were also cited as an influence on early Napalm Death.

Napalm Death's seismic impact inspired other British grindcore groups, among them Carcass and Sore Throat, and the Belgian group Agathocles. Early American grind practitioners included Terrorizer, Assück, and Brutal Truth.

1990s

Scott Hull is prominent in the contemporary grindcore scene, through his participation in Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. ANb's Frozen Corpse Stuffed with Dope has been described as "the Paul's Boutique of grindcore", by Village Voice critic Phil Freeman, for its "hyper-referential, impossibly dense barrage of samples, blast beats, answering machine messages, and incomprehensibly bellowed rants". Pig Destroyer is inspired by thrash metal, such as Dark Angel and Slayer, the sludge metal of the Melvins, and classic grindcore practiced by Brutal Truth, while Agoraphobic Nosebleed takes cues from thrashcore and powerviolence, like D.R.I. and Crossed Out. Pig Destroyer's style is sometimes referred to as "deathgrind", because of the prevalence of death metal influences, as are Cattle Decapitation. The Locust, from San Diego, also take inspiration from powerviolence (Crossed Out, Dropdead), first-wave screamo (Angel Hair), obscure experimental rock (Art Bears, Renaldo and the Loaf), and death metal. Other prominent grindcore groups of the 1990s include Brujeria, Soilent Green, Cephalic Carnage, Impetigo, and Nasum.

2000s

Leng Tch'e, Inhume, Regurgitate and Rotten Sound, all from Europe, and the American Circle of Dead Children, are contemporary groups who practice grindcore with strong death metal influences.

Legacy

Although an intentionally uncommercial genre, grindcore's impact quickly spread through the world of extreme music.

Industrial metal

Napalm Death's former guitarist, Justin Broadrick, went on to a career in industrial metal with Godflesh. Mick Harris, in his post-Napalm Death project, Scorn, briefly experimented with the style. Scorn also worked in the industrial hip-hop and isolationist styles. Fear Factory have also cited debts to the genre.

Digital hardcore

The Panacea, a prominent digital hardcore musician, describes himself as "the digital version of Napalm Death". Agoraphobic Nosebleed and the Locust have also solicited remixes from digital hardcore producers and noise musicians. James Plotkin, Dave Witte, and Speedranch participated in the Phantomsmasher project, which melds grindcore and digital hardcore. Alec Empire collaborated with Justin Broadrick, on the first Curse of the Golden Vampire album, and with Gabe Serbian, of the Locust, live in Japan. Japanoise icon Merzbow also participated in the Empire/Serbian show, and has frequently mentioned his appreciation for grindcore.

Others

Powerviolence, though less metallic than grindcore, was, nonetheless, influenced by many early bands.

Japanese noise rock group The Boredoms took inspiration from grind, and toured with Brutal Truth in 1993.

Naked City, lead by avant-garde jazz saxophonist John Zorn, performed an avant-garde form of polystylistic, grindcore-influenced punk jazz. Zorn later formed the Painkiller project with ambient dub producer Bill Laswell on bass guitar and Mick Harris on drums, which also collaborated with Justin Broadrick on some work.

Andrew W.K. has often spoken enthusiastically of his love for Napalm Death.

Contemporary mathcore groups, such as Dillinger Escape Plan, Some Girls, and Daughters, and screamo groups, like Circle Takes the Square, pg. 99, Hot Cross, Orchid, and Saetia, have been associated with grindcore by some commentators. These groups also include elements of post-hardcore.

See also

Notes

References

  • Appleford, Steve (1998). The Family That Plays Together. Guitar, 15(12): 40-42, 45-46, 49-50, 53-54, 57.
  • Blush, Steven (1991). Grindcore. Spin, 7(3): 35-36.
  • Carcass (1994). Reek of Putrefaction. [CD]. Nottingham, UK: Earache Compact Discs, Cassettes & Records.
  • Johnson, Richard (2007). Napalm Death. Disposible Underground, 15(38): 02-04.
  • Mudrian, Albert (2004). Choosing Death: the Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House.

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