Reviews

RELAPSE INAUGURATES 2009 WITH ALBUMS BY RUMPELSTILTSKIN GRINDER AND 16

Rating
80

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What with forthcoming albums from Necrophagist, Baroness and Obscura hogging most of the spotlight reserved for Relapse’s 2009 release schedule, and the nation’s attention focused elsewhere on their January 20th release date, it’d be easy to overlook these two solid Relapse contenders. We at MetalSucks couldn’t let that happen, could we?

Rumpelstiltskin Grinder – Living for Death, Destroying the Rest

The list of metal bands that can simultaneously pummel my ass and make me sneeze beer from laughing too hard is a short one. Strapping Young Lad, definitely. Graf Orlock. Cephalic Carnage on their good days. Occasionally The Red Chord. Add to that rarified list Pennsylvania’s Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, whose second album, Living for Death, Destroying the Rest, elevates retro-thrash to the level of absurdist theatre.

It would have been enough if RumpGrind, as they shall be called henceforth, simply made a great thrash record. They’ve certainly done that with Living for Death, Destroying the Rest, and then some – the album blazes with rocket-powered polka drums and hummingbird riffing, then gets peppered with enough crunchy death metal and blackened Immortalisms to obliterate accusations of nostalgia-thrash pandering. Riffs are razorwire sharp and uncommonly rich in the melody department.

But what really clinches Living for Death, Destroying the Rest is its bizarre lyrical outlook, replete with bizarro versions of standard metal themes. In RumpGrind’s world, Metallica’s Metal Militia is reinvented as the Thrash Brigade, which has but one directive: “Stab you in the balls.” The souls of criminals are implanted in backwards-legged reconnaissance robots in “Spyborg.” Scientists get sent back to the 17th century to evangelize for Satan in “Brainwasher C. 1655.” The three-part “Dethroning the Tyrant” suite finds a slave population launching perpetual war against its cyclopean overlord. And since RumpGrind includes guitarist Matt Moore of XXX Maniak, of course there’s an entire song dedicated to the finer points of grave desecration.

Like the aforementioned bands, RumpGrind realize that humor in metal has a pretty short shelf life unless it’s accompanied by an element of seriousness, music-wise. Without the ridiculous premises behind each song, Living for Death, Destroying the Rest could be a thrashier counterpart to Neuraxis’s excellent The Thin Line Between (2008). With them, it might be the best silly album that Relapse has ever pressed.

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(4 out of 5 horns)

16 – Bridges to Burn

Five suggestions on how to live the good life, taken from 16’s new album, Bridges to Burn:

  1. “Throw in the towel / Wait for the sequel”
  2. “Give up”
  3. “Brace yourself for a bullet serenade”
  4. “Suffer/call in sick”
  5. “Come inside and cut yourself”

It’s been six years since we last heard from 16, and vocalist Cris Jerue still hasn’t made it to the psychologist. When he’s not admitting his own worthlessness, Jerue spits venom at everyone that’s ever done him wrong. Girlfriends that cheat. Parents that never loved him. Backstabbing friends. The hatred on Bridges to Burn is all-encompassing, directed inwards and projected outwards – the mark of someone that really means it. Something tells me this guy doesn’t get asked for relationship advice too often.

There’s no poetry to Jerue’s lyrics or delivery, just short, violent assaults perfect for hardcore scream-a-longs. Same goes for Bridges to Burn’s neverending parade of compact, mid-tempo groove riffs, any one of which could foment the same full-body headbang action that made 16’s Drop Out (soon to be reissued by Relapse) such a classic mosh record. Musically speaking, there’s not a single surprise to be found on Bridges to Burn, and Jerue’s intense self-loathing threatens to dampen the band’s impact with a cold shower of pathetic wallowing. But in a metal landscape where the breakdown has been reduced to a deathcore cliché, this album reminds us that down-tuned power grooves can still be awesome when they’re wielded effectively. Keep this one handy for the days when the Prozac bottle is empty.

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(3 out of 5 horns)

-SR

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