Splitter - En Sorglig Historia (MCD) Review
In my opinion and experience, the best new grindcore acts come from Sweden, Canada and Australia. Sure there are a lot of great seppo grind acts out there, but for every good act there are three thousand rehashed, generic, boring, retrogressive and generally mind-numbingly boring and predictable groups (and thousands of morons braying about how "brutal' they are). One day while I was scouring all the MySpace listing for Swedish grinders, I came across Splitter.
I didn't really know what to expect looking at the cover of the promo they sent me - which depicts an eerily serene woman, crying blood, holding a gun and some furry animal. I suppose if put into context with the back cover - an altered fresco of Mary looking lovingly down on baby Jesus who sports an AK-47, it make a little more sense, but initially I was baffled. Let's just say, coupled with their moniker "Swedish tragedy grind" I was perplexed, confused and cautiously curious.
Of course, all these little preconceived judgements are thrown out the f**king window as soon as one actually hears the music. Holy - f**king - s***. Splitter have only release an EP and this MCD, but my god, they have already surpassed 97% of the genre in their short existence. The production sound is massive, absolutely massive - an absolutely crushing wall of sound (thank to Fredrik Nordstrom's studio), with a really warm clarity to it that allows you to distinguish between the two guitars easily.
This is not really balls out grindcore - they're definitely not a midpaced group, but the focus is much more on tempo changes, structuring and riffing than "look we can blast really fast and play incomprehensible s*** we haven't really given more than five minutes thought to". The vocals are extremely strong; and although one can arguably hear some echoes of Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates, Lock Up), Fredik Thalberg has created a very distinctive style for himself. He mixes higher midrange screams (kind of like Mieszko's only much more hurried and higher), with some low death metal and ultra low guttural vocals. The combination of these, when put in context of use and the music is simply awesome; the lower vocals are used very sparingly, so when they are used, they have a huge impact. The mid-range vocals have enough control and variation to them to stave off monotony. Fredrik has an extremely aggressive voice and an even better range.
However, the element that truly separates this release from other grindcore is in the guitarwork. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no grindcore release to date has been able to maintain the essential crushing brutality of the genre as well as accomplish the melodic undertones of the guitar work featured in this MCD. Think Nasum's more harmonic layered moments fused onto At The Gates' melodic riffing mindset, combine with elements of Aborted style new brutal death metal and hardcore and you're getting the idea. Stylistically, this release is not only up with the evolved grind concepts of Nasum and Gadget, but it utilizes layered guitars and melodic tensions in grindcore to an unprecedented level.
What is so impressive with respects to guitarist Thimmy and Niklas, is their ability to mix up guitar riffs. One song will batter you with a relentlessly brutal riff, only to progress into a layered guitar passage that (dare I say it) I would actually describe as beautiful amidst the chaos, and finally grind out a gigantic breakdown to finish off. You can find elements of all recent major developments in death and grind. The structure of these songs have obviously been meticulously examined - take the main groove riff of Status; it's played in 4/3 instead of 4/4, and it makes a world of difference. Splitter are clearly not content to plod out simple Regurgitate style song structures (not to say Regurgitate, and their new album don't rock).
The album's name "En Sorgiglig Historia' roughly translated to "A Sad Story' (though I'm sure it's less gay in Swedish). All the lyrics are sung in Swedish, which just adds to the demonic aggression of the vocals. However, there are rough descriptions in the booklet in English describing the content of each song - most focusing on social and political issues like materialism, Stockholm's "invisible homeless', pollution, the demands of a high stress, no time job and so forth - some of a leftish, socially aware preoccupation. As a bit of a bonus, some horribly, horribly mixed demo songs are tacked onto the end of this release to "sweeten the deal' - but in my opinion there really was no need.
The new European label Obscene Production is already proving that in a short span of time, they are easily going to rival the consistently awe inspiring releases of Willowtip, Crucial Blast and even Relapse Records. If they keep picking up bands like Afgrund and Splitter, they will have no trouble achieving worldwide respect and my continuing endorsement. My single criticism of the album is that the drums could have cut through the mix a little bit more to do Oskar justice - but that's just me being an anal c*nt.
An absolutely amazing MCD. Buy it, whether you like death, gore or grind. I think I might just like this more than Kill the Client or Gadget (at least in terms of the "take" on the genre, and furthering its progression and evolution). This is a brilliant representation of why I love the genre grindcore.
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Splitter - En Sorglig Historia (MCD)
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