|Stylistic origins||Extreme metal, hardcore punk, noise rock, industrial, post-punk|
|Cultural origins||Mid 1980s, England|
|Typical instruments||Electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, vocals|
|Goregrind, noisegrind, electrogrind/cybergrind, crustgrind, pornogrind|
Grindcore is an extreme genre of music that started in the early- to mid-1980s. It draws inspiration from some of the most abrasive music genres – including death metal, industrial music, noise and the more extreme varieties of hardcore punk.
Grindcore is characterized by heavily distorted, down-tuned guitars, high speed tempo, blast beats, and vocals which consist of growls and high-pitched screams. Early groups like Napalm Death are credited with laying the groundwork for the style. It is most prevalent today in North America and Europe, with popular contributors such as Brutal Truth and Nasum. Lyrical themes range from a primary focus on social and political concerns, to gory subject matter and black humor.
An infamous trait of grindcore is the "microsong". Several bands have produced songs that are only seconds in length. British band Napalm Death holds the Guinness World Record for shortest song ever recorded with the one-second "You Suffer" (1987). Many bands record simple phrases that may be rhymically sprawled out across an instrumental lasting only a couple of bars in length. Anal Cunt and Agoraphobic Nosebleed are also prime examples.
A variety of "microgenres" have subsequently emerged, often used to label bands according to alternative traits that deviate from standard grindcore, including goregrind, focused on horror themes, and pornogrind, fixated on pornographic lyrical themes. Other offshoots include noisegrind (especially raw and chaotic) and electrogrind (incorporating electronic elements). Although an influential phenomenon on hardcore punk and other popular genres, grindcore itself remains an underground form of music.
Grindcore relies on standard hardcore punk and heavy metal instrumentation: electric guitar, bass and drums. However, grindcore alters the usual practices of metal or rock music with regard to song structure and tone. The vocal style is "ranging from high-pitched shrieks to low, throat-shredding growls and barks." In some cases, lyrics may not even exist. Vocals may be used as merely an added sound effect, a common practice with bands such as the experimental Naked City.
A characteristic of some grindcore songs is the "microsong", lasting only a few 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 four seconds). In 2007, the video for the Napalm Death song "You Suffer" set a new "Shortest Music Video" record: 1.3 seconds. Beyond the microsong, it is characteristic of grindcore to have short songs in general; Carcass' debut album Reek of Putrefaction (1988) consists of 22 tracks with an average length of 1 minute and 48 seconds. Japanische Kampfhörspiele's Luxusvernichtung (2009) consists of 54 'sonic poems' with a total length of under 20 minutes.
Many grindcore groups experiment with down-tuned guitars. While the vinyl A-side of Napalm Death's debut, 1987's Scum, is set to standard tuning, on side B, the guitars are tuned down 2½ steps. Their second album and 1989's EP were tuned to C♯. Harmony Corruption, their third release, was tuned up to a D. Bolt Thrower went further, dropping 3½ steps down (A).
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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 coined the term, though this style of drumming had previously been practiced by others. Daniel Ekeroth argues that the blast beat was first performed by the Swedish D-beat group Asocial on their 1982 demo. D.R.I. ("No Sense"),, S.O.D. ("Milk"), Sarcófago ("Satanas"), and Repulsion also included the technique prior to Napalm Death's emergence.
Grindcore lyrics are typically provocative. A number of grindcore musicians are committed to political and ethical causes. For example, 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 human behavior, animal abuse, and are, in some cases, vegetarians. Carcass' work in particular is often identified as the origin of the goregrind style, which is devoted to "bodily" themes. Groups that shift their bodily focus to sexual matters, such as Gut and the Meat Shits, are sometimes referred to as pornogrind. Seth Putnam's lyrics are notorious for their black comedy, while The Locust tend toward satirical collage, indebted to William S. Burroughs' cut-up method.
The early grindcore scene relied on an international network of tape trading and DIY production. The most widely acknowledged precursors of the grindcore sound are Siege, a hardcore punk group, and Repulsion, an early death metal outfit. Siege, from Weymouth, Massachusetts, were influenced by classic American hardcore (Minor Threat, Black Flag, Void) 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. Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth declares that "Horrified was and still is the defining core of what grind became; a perfect mix of hardcore punk with metallic gore, speed and distortion."
Other groups in the British grindcore scene, such as Heresy and Unseen Terror, have emphasized the influence of American hardcore punk, including Septic Death, as well as Swedish D-beat. Sore Throat cites Discharge, Disorder, and a variety of European D-beat and thrash metal groups, including Hellhammer, and American hardcore groups, such as Poison Idea and DRI. Japanese hardcore, particularly GISM, is also mentioned by a number of originators of the style. Other key groups cited by current and former members of Napalm Death as formative influences include Discharge, Amebix, Throbbing Gristle, and the aforementioned Dirty Rotten Imbeciles. Post-punk, such as Killing Joke and Joy Division, was also cited as an influence on early Napalm Death.
|Napalm Death live in Germany, 1987, from YouTube, authorized by Earache Records.|
Grindcore, as such, was developed during the mid-1980s in the United Kingdom by Napalm Death, a group who emerged from the crust punk scene. Albert Mudrian's research suggests that the name "grindcore" was coined by Napalm Death's second drummer, Mick Harris. When asked about coming up with the term, Harris said:
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."
While abrasive, grindcore achieved a measure of mainstream visibility. As James Hoare, deputy editor of Terrorizer, writes:
It can be argued that no strand of extreme metal (with a touch of hardcore and post-punk tossed in for flavouring), has had so big an impact outside the gated community of patch-jackets and circle-pits as grindcore has in the UK. [...] the genre is a part of the British musical experience.
Napalm Death's seismic impact inspired other British grindcore groups in the 1980s, among them Extreme Noise Terror, Carcass and Sore Throat. In the subsequent decade, two pioneers of the style became increasingly commercially viable. According to Nielsen Soundscan, Napalm Death sold 367,654 units between May 1991 and November 2003, while Carcass sold 220,374 units in the same period. The inclusion of Napalm Death's "Twist the Knife (Slowly)" on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack brought the band much greater visibility, as the compilation scored a Top 10 position in the Billboard 200 chart and went platinum in less than a year.
Journalist Kevin Stewart-Panko argues that the American grindcore of the 1990s borrowed from three sources: British grindcore, the American precursors, and death metal. As early Napalm Death albums were not widely distributed in the United States, American groups tended to take inspiration from later works, such as Harmony Corruption. American groups also often employ riffs taken from crossover thrash or thrash metal. Early American grind practitioners included Terrorizer and Assück. Anal Cunt, a particularly dissonant group who lacked a bass player, were also particularly influential. Their style was sometimes referred to as "noisecore" or "noisegrind", described by Giulio of Cripple Bastards as "the most anti-musical and nihilistic face of extreme music at that time." Brutal Truth was a groundbreaking group in the American scene at the beginning of the 1990s. However, Sharp indicates that they were more inspired by the thrash metal of Dark Angel than the British groups. Discordance Axis had a more technical style of playing than many of the predecessors, and had a much more ornate visual and production style. 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 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.
|Pig Destroyer's "Gravedancer", from YouTube, authorized by Relapse Records.|
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. The Locust were sometimes described as "hipster grind" because of their fan base and fashion choices. Other later prominent grindcore groups of North America include Brujeria, Soilent Green, Cephalic Carnage, Impetigo, and Circle of Dead Children. Fuck the Facts, a Canadian group, practiced classic grindcore, characterized by the "metronome-precision drumming and riffing [that] abound, as well as vocal screams and growls" by Allmusic reviewer Greg Prato.
European groups, such as Agathocles, from Belgium, Patareni, of Croatia, and Fear of God, from Switzerland, are important early practitioners of the style. Filthy Christians, who signed to Earache Records in 1989, introduced the style in Sweden, while Cripple Bastards established Italian grindcore. Guilio of Cripple Bastards asserts that the name itself took some time to migrate from Britain, with the style being referred to as "death-thrashcore" for a time in Europe.
Nasum, who emerged from the Swedish death metal scene, became a popular group, addressing political topics from a personal perspective. Anders Jakobson, their drummer, reported that "It was all these different types of people who enjoyed what we we were doing. [...] We made grindcore a bit easier to listen to at the expense of the diehard grindcore fans who thought that we were, well, not sellouts, but not really true to the original essence of grindcore." Other Swedish groups, such as General Surgery and Regurgitate, practiced goregrind. Inhume, from the Netherlands, and Rotten Sound, from Finland, and Leng Tch'e, from Belgium, were subsequent European groups who practiced grindcore with death metal inflections.
Grindcore's impact spread quickly through the world of extreme music. For example, Napalm Death's strong inspiration from Swans links grindcore to noise rock. Since then, Japanese noise rock group Boredoms have borrowed elements of grind, and toured with Brutal Truth in 1993. Naked City, led 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. In addition, grindcore was one influence on the powerviolence movement within American hardcore punk, and has affected some strains of metalcore. Some musicians have also produced hybrids between grind and electronic music.
Powerviolence is a raw and dissonant subgenre of hardcore punk. The style is closely related to thrashcore and similar to grindcore. While powerviolence took inspiration from Napalm Death and other early grind bands, powerviolence groups avoided elements of heavy metal. Its nascent form was pioneered in the late 1980s in the music of hardcore punk band Infest, who mixed youth crew hardcore elements with noisier, sludgier qualities of Lärm and Siege. The microgenre solidified into its most commonly recognized form in the early 1990s, with the sounds of bands such as Man Is the Bastard, Crossed Out, No Comment, Capitalist Casualties, and Manpig. Powerviolence bands focus on speed, brevity, bizarre timing breakdowns, and constant tempo changes. Powerviolence songs are often very short; it is not uncommon for some to last less than 30 seconds. Some groups, particularly Man Is the Bastard, took influence from sludge metal and noise music. Lyrically and conceptually, powerviolence groups were very raw and underproduced, both sonically and in their packaging. Some groups (Man Is the Bastard and Dropdead) took influence from anarcho-punk and crust punk, emphasizing animal rights and anti-militarism. The Locust and Agoraphobic Nosebleed later reincorporated elements of powerviolence into grindcore.
Among other influences, Napalm Death took impetus from the industrial music scene. Subsequently, 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 is an initially German hybrid of hardcore punk and hardcore techno. Agoraphobic Nosebleed and the Locust have 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. The 21st century also saw the development of "electrogrind" (or "cybergrind"), practiced by The Berzerker and Genghis Tron which borrows from electronic music. These groups built on the work of Agoraphobic Nosebleed and The Locust, as well as industrial metal. The Berzerker also appropriated the distorted Roland TR-909 kick drums of gabber producers. Many later electrogrind groups were caricatured for their hipster connections.
Metalcore is a fusion genre that combines extreme metal with hardcore punk, and at the same time draws on groove metal. However, metalcore groups also rely on breakdowns: slower, repetitive, intense passages conducive to hardcore dancing. In the mid-1990s, some metalcore groups began to take inspiration from developments in grindcore. For example, mathcore groups such as Dillinger Escape Plan, Some Girls, and Daughters, and some early screamo groups, like Circle Takes the Square and Orchid, have been associated with grindcore by some commentators. These groups also include elements of post-hardcore. By 2009, deathcore bands began to describe themselves as grindcore, but have been met with criticism.
Grindcore is a type of heavy metal and hardcore punk music. It was made in the 1980s. Grindcore is a lot like black metal and death metal, but the guitar parts are very simple and are played over and over again in a song. The vocals are usually loud shouts and screams while the drums play fast and loud. In most cases, grindcore songs will be very short in length. Their lyrics are similar to death metal and hardcore punk, which usually sing about pain, suffering, blood, gore or politics, injustice and revolution.