If there’s one metal genre that I’m the pickiest with, it’s grindcore (including all of its subgenres like pornogrind and goregrind). In fact, there are only a handful of grindcore bands that I actually truly like (there are other bands that have only released one descent album) which are Fuck the Facts (my favorite), Wormrot, Pig Destroyer, Napalm Death, AxCx, and most recently, Gridlink. When listening to grindcore (which the exception of Fuck the Facts), it’s pretty damn hard to imagine there being ANY kind of creativity or skill involved in the music writing process. And to be honest, most of the time…there isn’t! I have a couple of friends that LOVE pornogrind and goregrind stuff, and they all tell me that the reason that they love it is because they love the sound of literal utter chaos. They respect the people that are willing to record these extremely chaotic noisy records and professionally release them under a record label. Although I’ve come to (at least mostly) understand the genre and even appreciate some of its artists, grindcore is still a whole different planet for me. But this review is on one of my personal favorites from the genre, Gridlink’s 2011 release, Orphan.
The sound that Gridlink plays is a really atmospheric chaos. The chaos part is obviously because of the intense blast beat drumming and the near-constant abuse of the cymbals. But here’s the thing about the drummer: HE’S GOOD! There’s a lot of grindcore that has some atrocious drumming. When you listen to the really good grindcore drummers in bands like Pig Destroyer and Wormrot, what they do is a little less chaotic and more focused on a bombarding blast beat and staying tight with the bass. Gridlink’s drummer is horse of a completely different color. If you want chaos, Gridlink gives you chaos. I never thought it to be possible to play the drums with this much chaos and craziness and still manage to keep things tight! The reason why I haven’t even mentioned tempo is because…well…there is no tempo! That’s grindcore! But it’s very possible to have a bad drummer that slows down from loss of energy, therefore causing the music to sound sloppy and confusing.
I have no idea how the fuck the two guitarists and the bassist manage to keep up with the drummer, but they do! The bassist doesn’t play an extremely technical part on this album, he basically just plays a gradual melodic bass line really fast with three fingers (kind of like tremolo picking, but without a pick). The level of intensity that the guitarists play is nearly indescribable. But then again, every member (at least) seems to be tight and on-track with the rest of the band! I don’t know how that’s possible, but Gridlink does it.
The vocalist does those really loud, high-pitched shrieks that are really hard to do well. I’ve heard a lot of different vocal styles in grindcore, but this style seems to be the most popular. The next most common grindcore vocal style is the really nasty yell done by Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, and Inhumate. But the highest screams go to Gridlink. That’s another thing that makes their music sound like an uncontrolled chaos, the screams! But more so than that, I think that the vocals make an even bigger contribution to the noise factor, which is one of the things that Gridlink is known best for.
Most of what I’ve been describing to you can apply to just about any other better-than-average grindcore band out there. So with all of that, what’s so fucking special about Gridlink? Well, although there are other grind bands that do this, Gridlink is the only band out there to combine the sounds of uncontrolled chaos with ambience and atmospheric melodies. The guitarists don’t have their guitars tuned way down like you would expect. In fact, they’re guitars are tuned to a more “standard” tuning, which gives them the ability to play really ambient and melodic chords at a higher range. Some of the melodic lines are just melodies with no specific roots, but there are some that I can hear, like in the second and fourth tracks, that remind me of really old black metal. So with the possibility of having black metal-influenced melodies and having more than just pure grinding brutality, Gridlink is looking to be more than just another grindcore band.
With the really strange, but ambient chords that the guitarists play and the more melodic parts played by the bassist, ambience doesn’t seem to be an accidental element in Gridlink’s music. Being one of the best grindcore records that I’ve ever heard, Orphan gets my score of 15/20. Grind fans should check this one out.