Full disclosure – GRIND’s “Songs of Blood and Liberation” is my favourite album so far in 2020. For a number of reasons this album absolutely nails it for me and rather than shy from this fact as a reviewer, honesty followed by breaking down subjective reaction into a more objective analysis seem the order of the day. If all you need from a review is a heartfelt recommendation then listen now and come back for further discussion below. “Songs of Blood and Liberation” is balls to the wall aggressive, Post-Rock painterly, Death-Grind-Metal goodness: it’s the album we had to have in 2020.
We live in a world where originality is somewhat of a misnomer in many art forms…with literally decades of sonic and melodic output; our beloved guitar driven genres are maligned as suffering from derivative afflictions – is there anything original anymore? Does originality rest in the sound of the instruments, the vocal delivery, the riffs, the arrangements, or the messaging within the whole? Irrespective of your answer to such questions (and there are many valid answers) is the perception of originality as important as the perception of authenticity in 2020?
GRIND provides a listening experience that for Your Grouchy Friend offers answers to all of the above mysteries. Is there anything original anymore? One would suggest on the strength of GRIND yes, there absolutely and definitively is. Is the perception of originality as important as the perception of authenticity? We’re not talking tacos here but why don’t we have both?
The myriad influences at play in GRIND are all at once and never, the sounds are at once identifiable and fresh and the collective messaging is focused yet elusive. On first listen “Songs of Blood and Liberation” made me feel like a teenager again – not because it is reflective of what I listened to as a teenager, but because its verve and originality feel unmistakable amidst an ocean of predictable and distilled peers. The background of the band contributes enormously to the pastiche of influences – the band all hail from Flensburg in Germany as youngsters, drinking heavily of the Death and Thrash Metal brew around them, but after the close friends left to various parts of Germany playing music together was no longer on the cards. Fast forward to recent times and the friends reunite after an age of varied musical experience for a simple love of heavy music without borders or limitations. In short time the ten songs on the album were written and the spontaneity, passion and pure zest for heaviness are startlingly evident in the result.
The production is superb, with nothing in the way of to-the-grid editing or prettying up, it feels wild to the point of being just barely in control and given the band’s style this is a crucial factor. The focus on a unified sound means no singular element is taking stage, instead working cohesively to create a lethal assault. The guitars sit perfectly and are carried by a bass sound that wedges itself neatly underneath lending crunching, crushing weight to the overall sound. There is a very deliberate approach to every piece of instrumentation: each component grinds harshly like the gears of a machine that seems on the edge of tearing itself apart whilst imparting the feeling of rough reliability of a beloved vehicle that just won’t quit. There is no technicality for its own sake, no adherence to sub-genre constructs, just a raw and unforgiving onslaught.
…and onslaught it is as “Gratitude in Red” thrashes the gears from first to fifth in just moments of the album’s commencement. Full throttle, blasting drums and manic vocal delivery strip the flesh from your face with the barest of introductory warning: that feeling of unchained relentlessness begins and takes small pause throughout.
Jan Werner and Rene Michalski switch up the vocal duties along the journey providing both an unhinged screaming Noise-Rock/Hardcore attack and deeper growling Death/Grind support. This is displayed ad plenum on “Exclusion” with trade off lines happening at pace within a gloriously metallic Post-Rock landscape. Simple melodic guitar figures are a technique the band use to great effect in providing a sense of passage and arrival in several song structures and are certainly a stand out here.
“Doomed” and “Necklaces of Death” similarly detour into some slower, more considered terrain: revelling in Post-Rock territory to establish a relieving ambience in the middle of the album’s freneticism. Calm in the eye of a shifting storm that is both brief and beautiful, whilst retaining the aggressive weight that permeates “Songs of Blood and Liberation”.
Upon the other side of that axis, the world has turned and “Liberate” is flat out ferocious. This is suggested as a great place for the uninitiated to jump in if a cover-to-cover album listen isn’t your thing. It is an effective synopsis of the reviewer ramblings above: A Noise-Rock aesthetic and main riff shine through wild, thuggish rhythm work with mad-dog-off-chain lead vocals reminiscent of the heaviest Hardcore, all culminating in a beautifully simple melodic climb to its barked conclusion. It’s brutal. It’s unpolished. It’s incredibly effective.
“Rising” provides arguably the strongest song writing on the record with an idiosyncratic central theme that moves closest to pure Death Metal with tremolo picked cadences and stomping chugged interludes. “Can you see the smoke, rising from the rooftops?” Even when considered as the most orthodox approach on the album there is still significant territory traversed in four minutes: twin vocal exchanges, organically frantic Metal, and that ubiquitous Post-Rock melodic drone combine for a ripping track.
The album is brought to its auspicious climax with “Birthplace”. The opening vocal phrasing is extremely compelling, urged along atop a superb piece of rhythm work. The track encompasses the beauty of the GRIND experience by being equally familiar and elusive, but above all exuding authenticity. Great albums capture artistic moments, life moments, and this is an album that feels a product of a very real passion for friendship and life expressed as only lovers of heavy music will understand. Collectively we have lived those moments hanging with friends, at live shows, in rehearsal spaces or on stage ourselves if lucky enough. There has always been a palpable feeling of unity in Metal and this album – a union of old friends – evokes such feelings.
In a nutshell? The bastard child of Refused and Morgoth that ran away and shacked up with all manner of street dwelling depravity, GRIND are a fresh mix of bloodlines in an overtly incestuous extreme music landscape.
For those interested, Your Grouchy Friend was lucky enough to interview the band on the Darkest Corners of the World podcast (an interview the band shared as the story of GRIND) and you can listen to it below. The story and character of the project is well reflected in the end product and it is fascinating to hear in their words how it all came together. “Rising” and “Exclusion” have also been given the remix treatment by Lukas Spitzebacher and Deathcalator23 respectively – definitely worth your exploration on Bandcamp.
Do yourself a favour and get amongst it.
Rating – 5/5
Hyperlink for The Darkest Corners of the World podcast. https://open.spotify.com/episode/67kp9laLdcvd5vDm25x8EA?si=IncQzSWWTSGP7DI25LNBIQ
“Songs of Blood and Liberation” Remixes.