The so-called ‘Wormrot Effect’ is in full swing. Their explosion in the Western world has led to an increased focus on the subcontinent and on South East Asia, and one beneficiary of this appears to be
Wừu, hailing from Vietnam. Even five years ago, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Vietnamese had any sort of an alternative scene, let alone a grind band capable of caving your head in with as much if not more intensity than their Western counterparts.
Wừu only formed at the beginning of the year, and have worked hard just to get their music out there. Its helped them a little that J Randall’s Grindcore Karaoke, seemingly a diamond magnet for underground extreme talent, has picked up on them via grind zine Grind To Death, who produced their debut album ‘888‘, and is now putting ‘888‘ on a pedestal. Keep digging GTD, Randall, and world in general, cos the rewards are phenomenal.
‘888‘ contains 33 tracks, and most of those come in at around a minute or longer. By any stretch that’s quite lengthy for a grind album, particularly when the recent prime cuts have been leaner at around 20-25 minutes. Thankfully, this doesn’t prove to be an endurance test, something we will touch on shortly.
It starts innocently enough with an electro-rock intro track, ‘Khi những thiên tài xuất hiện’, and wouldn’t sound out of place in a video game. A little strange, yes, but after a minute or so of that, it’s all hands to the pump.Wừu don’t spare much in their arsenal, laying down all manner of blasts, shreds, breakdowns, death metal riffs, punk riffs, screams, growls, pig squeals, yelps and more besides. Tracks like ‘Anophen’ and ‘Chạy Chậm Thôi‘ are harsh, battering ram that pummel and punish, and their death metal slant gets ample airing (Ròi, Thúi Quá, among others).
Every so often Wừu break up the action with Oriental-esque interludes that are seemingly the polar opposite of any of the brutality that precede them. Acoustic jams like ‘Chém Gió’ sit happily alongside their grind compadrés, and don’t hang too long to unbalance the album too much. Some people might think they’re silly and unnecessarily, and indeed, there’s one or two that are just too weird and silly to make sense alongside the general musical theme. That said, the album benefits from them simply because the break in action prevents the tracks from bleeding into one another.
I couldn’t tell you what they sing about, as everything is in Vietnamese. That’s not a bad thing – the vocals are indecipherable enough anyway, that even in English they wouldn’t matter that much. Some of the quirk on ‘888’ might throw the listener a little bit and at the end of the day, Wừu‘s grind isn’t that much different to grind from anywhere else in the world. It just so happens they’re pretty damn good at what they do, especially for a fledgling band. They might not be a household grind name yet, but let’s see if they can build some momentum like Wormrot, or at least get noticed a little more widely and join the current grind elite. In 888, the signs are extremely positive.
Download ‘888‘ here (free download)
Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair
Agoraphobic Nosebleed frontman and Grindcore Karaoke head honcho J. Randall is a busy man, as his labels huge range of releases would dictate – see our previous review of surf grinders Wadge earlier this year – but amongst the cacophony of anarchy and tinny production, he’s found a potential diamond here in Scotland’s Wheelchair x4 – or Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair if you prefer.
Originally self-released, ‘Contraception‘ has a theme of young romance running through it. Not your typical grind fare, but then neither was the Scots’ previous release ‘Bald and Dead‘, a concept EP about the life and death of reality star Jade Goody. Cripes. Nevertheless, there’s some interesting ideas floating about here, the near dancable and anthemic opening to ‘Treat Your Woman Right’, with guitarist Stuart Finnie and drummer Bobbie King trading vocals, eventually hitting face melting grind territory; the Thin Lizzy-esque riff to ‘Never Go Dutch’, and the saxophone solo that skronks its way into ‘Be My Valentine’. Never does it lose a sense of speed and aggression though, as they shred and blast their way through twelve tracks at a brisk pace and with brutal menace.
The theme of romance pervades throughout, against a heart of darkness that finally becomes apparent during the closer ‘We All Need Someone’ where Finnie screams ‘we all need someone/whatever the cost‘. The samples accompanying it suggest this is a tale of dangerous obsession. Nevertheless, unsettling as the album seems, despite the initial heartfelt intentions, ‘Contraception‘ is another fantastic record in a cracking year for grind, and ultimately confirms Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair become another impressive string on Scotland’s extreme metal bow.
Karma To Burn
Since reforming, stoner rock legends Karma To Burn haven’t really gotten any flowing momentum to get them back to where they were before they originally split, although ‘Appalachian Incantation’ was an impressive album and among my favourites of 2010. Unfortunately, the aptly named fifth album ‘V’ is a little flat. There’s not much in the way of memorable riffage, although ‘Fifty’ and ‘Fifty-One’ are great desert rock stompers that will get the toes tapping and the heads nodding, but other than that, it’s severely lacking impact, and the vocal tracks, particularly ‘The Cynic’, don’t fit in very well, although the cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Never Say Die’ right at the end is faithful at the very least and provides an uplifting finish. The inescapable fact, however, is that their very best days were left behind a long time ago.
Draw Back A Stump EP
Primate is the new ‘supergroup’ (a dreaded term if there ever was one) featuring Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp and Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher, among others. They seem to be pitching themselves here as a grind band, but I sense they’re having too much of a good time here to be balls-out grind. There’s a real punk ‘n’ roll vibe going on here too, and the result is a cracking EP that will leave you thirsting for more.
‘Draw Back A Stump’ comprises seven tracks in total, including a cover of Black Flag’s ‘Drinking and Driving’. The standouts for me though are undoubtedly ‘Hellbound’, with its gang-vocal chorus and Kelliher’s soloing all over it, and closer ‘Reform?’, which provides the EP with a solid blast of surging raw power. Not as vicious as their main projects (or in Kelliher’s case, certainly not as epic), Primate avoid the pitfalls of most supergroups and succeed just by playing to their strengths. Here’s hoping for more of the same.
Finally in this round-up, something really out of left-field. This is Combat Astronomy’s sixth release, and it really defies classification. It’s not really metal – though it does have that sort of appeal, given its heaviness. There’s a heaping helping of jazz spicing things up here and it’s a real mish-mash of elements. I don’t listen to much jazz, if any at all, so I’ll sum up as best I can.
For the most part, it is pretty damn good. It’s not unlike Meshuggah in places, given the somewhat technical aspect of their music. Opener ‘The Stone Tape’ is the best example. It’s a little more restrained that some of the later tracks and the instruments all synchronise well with one another. After that, they let loose with the saxophone and the album unfortunately suffers as a result, in particular on ‘Zona’, which has piano plinky-plonking all over it as well and doesn’t seem cohesive. ‘Flak Planet’ does regain its balance later on with the four-part ‘Inverted Universe’ tracks that close the album, which bring together all these elements to provide a satisfying conclusion.
This is a solid album that is certainly challenging – if you don’t like jazz, you may well hate this. But do give it a listen if you’re of an experimental disposition – you may well be surprised.