MASOCHIST, The Extent of Human Error (2012, UKEM)

The skull:
I think I know what’s going on here. Try and stay with me on this. This guy was down in the Upper Big Branch Mine in Birchton, WV, when an explosion occurred (the same explosion depicted in Skull616). The flashlight on this unfortunate miner’s helmet fused to his recently de-fleshed skull in the wake of the explosion. The hand we see here does not belong to the skull, or at least, it’s not attached to a body any longer. There it hangs, grafted onto a bloodied rock slab. This is all very disturbing, and we Friars stand with the Council of the Elders of the Skull in stating that “Mining disasters are not funny, even if skull covers are often hilarious.” We admit being conflicted on how to feel about this one.

The music:
This EP is sooooo 1994. It’s got that post-peak vibe to it, that peculiar sound of decent, capable death metal bands who have learned their lessons well and bring a laudable vibe of death, doom and darkness to bear in their own brand of death metal while putting nothing forth that hasn’t come before. They go slightly weird for about three measures of “Crucify the Whore” with some jarring, industrial noises, and they give a nod to pig-grunt “rhee-rhee-rhee” vocal silliness on “Born Fucked,” but generally it’s straightforward grindy death. You can either consider this many, many, many years too late, or a throwback to that gray era of “what now?” just beyond death metal’s peak years (1988-1993). Either way it’s a no-win, making it difficult to endorse this band unless you treasure those mid ‘90s albums by Killing Addiction, Internal Bleeding and Desecration (UK) as the very acme of the death metal art.
— Friar Wagner


GHJTTATURA, Dai Su Entre (2008, demo)

The skull:
Of all the Big Dumb Skulls I’ve looked at, this has to be one of the ugliest. At least it’s not brown, and I do like the pinky ring on the severed hand (so Italian!), but really, what’s going on here? My best guess is that it comments on the fine prepositional distinction between tripping on acid and tripping into acid. Grindcore for grammarians.

The music:
This basically sounds like a Napalm Death rehearsal demo circa 2004, although to be fair, the raspy vocals would never be mistaken for those of Mr. Greenway (who also rarely sings in Sardinian, as far as I know). Grind doesn’t do much for me, and so I can’t claim to be an expert in any way, but to my untrained ears these songs sound alright. For grind, that is. I mean, they sound terrible, but they’re reasonably well written. Some of the riffs, namely the ones unaccompanied by blasting, are good. But, when the blasting sets in, lord knows what else is going on. This is partly a problem endemic to all blasting, but here the confusion is exacerbated by the garage-quality production. You’d have to be pretty hardcore for grindcore to go for this, I’ll assume, but it seems like no one who likes grind likes it casually, so maybe Ghjttatura have what it takes to go all the way. All the way to a 2:30 pm slot at Maryland Death Fest, that is.
— Friar Johnsen


THE RECKONING, Absence of Mind (1990, demo)

The skull:
Yes, it’s a blindfolded skull resting on a giant, wizened hand, but doesn’t it also look like a giant skull man with a tiny body, very short legs, and an incredibly long dick? I picture this guy capering about in New Orleans near some grim Mardi Gras float, drunk as a boiled owl and having a good ol’ time.

The music:
Most people think Anthrax or Overkill when they think New York thrash, and for sure those bands were at the vanguard of the city’s original thrash sound, but there were plenty of Bay Area inspired bands working their trade in and around the big apple, such as Cold Steel, Dead On, and, evidently, The Reckoning. The singing in this sort of band tended less toward gruff bellowing and more toward a kind of hardcore-inspired shout-singing. The riffing here is mid paced and grooving, rarely even putting on menacing airs (let alone actually doing any menacing). I like the prominent bass, but this is one of the few obvious hallmarks of the East Coast sound intruding on the demo. The Reckoning don’t offer anything new or especially interesting on this five song effort, but at the same time, they don’t make any obvious mistakes, either. I’m sure they riled up a few pits in their day, but it’s pretty clear why they failed to attract any label attention.
— Friar Johnsen