Norylsk (or “Norilsk”), the city, is Russian – a Siberian mining and industrial town notable for being both the former center of the Norillag cluster of GULAG labor camps and one of the top-ten most polluted places on earth. According to a 2007 New York Times article, the nickel smelters of Norilsk produced one-fifth of the world’s nickel, and also more sulfur dioxide pollution than the entire country of France. The persistent acid rain and smog have killed off a section of forest that’s “a little less than twice the land area of Rhode Island.” Heavy metal pollutants are so pervasive that they build up in piles of sludge in the waterways, and the miners collect the sludge and smelt it again.
And speaking of heavy metal, Norylsk, the band, is Polish. They’re a death/grind four-piece that formed as Trocki in 2000, switching to Norylsk in 2008 without changing the line-up. Catholic Dictatorship is their second full-length behind 2011’s Political Pollution, which I’ve never heard, and it largely avoids pollution or dilution in favor of a very straightforward representation of the death metal / grindcore amalgam.
What that really means, in all honesty, is that you’ve heard all of this before: The drums mostly blast, and occasionally, they groove. Vocalist TV shifts between a guttural gurgle, a lower barked growl, and a higher snarl, the latter of which is his most effective and distinctive – occasionally, he descends into an effected snarl that sounds like dogs fighting, like in “Product Of Lobotomy.” The bass is distorted, and sonically, oftentimes, it’s the best part, low and distinct and crisp. More distinctly, the guitar riffs alternate between punk chords and death metal tremolo, but usually, the former is forgettable while the latter at least stands out.
Most of Catholic Dictatorship flies by in a wash of the occasional melody, the occasional memorable riff, but it’s largely a copycat affair. Which means this: Very little of Catholic Dictatorship stands out, either from itself or from grind as a whole – the flat-out death metal intro of “Sexual Apartheid,” the thrashier bits of “Political Monologue…” There are some decent grooves, but overall, there’s nothing here that’s not been done.
Here’s the catch: I love grindcore, but this doesn’t excite me. Catholic Dictatorship is done well enough for what it is, but what it is is just grind by numbers. Honestly, Norylsk could use some pollution, some outside influence, some further heavy metal poisoning that could take them to the next level, make them break from the pack. As this Dictatorship stands, this is competent death/grind, but not really anything truly devastating.