Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lambgoat Praises GridLink's "Amber Gray!"

huge thanks to Alex, Daniel Letchinger, and the entire Lambgoat staff!

Amber Gray
Hydra Head Records

OUR RATING - 9 /10

There is a distinct moment during Amber Gray when, as the music has descended into a swirling maelstrom of fretboard calisthenics set to a backdrop of blast beats and Jon Chang's ubiquitous, piercing screams, that the listener begins to comprehend the larger strategy at hand, or, at the very least, is slowly brought about to the realization that GridLink is not just another mindless grind band. Yes, the feverish, blast-friendly hyper thrash conjured up by GridLink is a retreading of rather familiar territory (Pig Destroyer comes to mind). But in this case, Jon Chang (ex-Discordance Axis) and Matsubara (Haiyano Daisuki, Mortalized) are at the helm, thereby ensuring that this particular creative outlet effectively plumbs the blackened depths of those extra special feelings of pain, self-hatred, and misanthropy. Put simply, Amber Gray is a terrifyingly beautiful grindcore assault, one unsettling in its intensity, and one whose volatile, albeit ephemeral bursts of frenetic hyper thrash bring to mind the happy marriage of Pentagon war crimes photos and senseless acts of extreme violence. In short, this record will fuck you up.

"I come to you in pieces with seams that no thread can mend," screams Jon Chang over a cacophony of thrashy riffage, "It feels so good to reopen these wounds again and again and again." And so begins title track and album opener Amber Gray, a chaotic ebullition of blast beats and high-pitched shrieks with lyrical references to trojan horses, shrapnel, and the legendary island paradise of Hourai, which was said to be inhabited by immortals with special powers. Clocking in at just under twelve minutes, Gridlink's debut is a methamphetamine induced epileptic seizure in eleven parts, one whose lyrical content betrays what some might consider an unhealthy fascination with Philip K. Dick novels, Anime, and face-melting grindcore. Guitarist and principal song-writer Matsubara deftly balances incredibly fast speed-picking with a sort of sped up hybrid of early Anthrax, Kreator, and Pig Destroyer, throwing in an occasional foray into melodic, Maiden-esque pull-offs and hammer-ons for good measure. Doing his best Dave Witte impersonation, drummer Fajardo does what all good grind drummers are supposed to do: blasts hard and blasts fast. And then there are Chang's vocals, which, barring the obvious similarity to Discordance Axis, are just as brutal--if not more so--than the most chaotic moments of DA's storied repertoire. For my money, it doesn't get any better than hearing Chang scream "baptized in Ebola! bleaching yourself with turpentine!" to a soundtrack of blast-laden, meth-soaked hyper thrash.

There is a scene in the Adrian Lyne film, Jacob's Ladder, which, in my mind, rather eloquently captures what I take to be the essence of Amber Gray. In this scene, Jacob, in the throes of a nightmarish hallucination, sees a legless torso strapped into a chair, violently jerking its masked head in all directions in horrific, fast motion; the startling angularity of the unidentified torso's movements come across not necessarily as symptomatic of a fit of blind rage as much as a seizure-like schizoid reflex born of panic and chaos. From start to finish, Amber Gray mirrors the nebulous and seemingly undirected channelling of intense violence conveyed through Jacob's post-war hallucinations. The camp, unsophisticated theatricality that one would usually associate with thrash or grindcore becomes almost completely diluted and negated by the disquieting intensity of GridLink's music.

Bottom Line: At risk of sounding a bit hyperbolic, GridLink's debut release, Amber Gray, is by and large one of the best grindcore albums to be released in recent memory. If you are a fan of Pig Destroyer, Anal Cunt, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, or Discordance Axis, you would do well to purchase this record.