Formed in the mid-90s, Grip Inc. had all the right tools to become a major player – namely acclaimed producer Waldemar Sorychta on guitars, Gus Chambers on vocals, and the one and only Dave Lombardo on drums. Despite this high level of breeding and three very solid albums (particularly 1997’s Nemesis), Grip Inc. never managed to rise far beyond cult status in the notoriously fickle metal underground. Perhaps it was due to their against-the-grain approach to thrash metal; maybe it was poor promotion by Metal Blade Records; or maybe the public simply was not able to see the whole of this band for the sum of its parts. Regardless, after touring behind 1999’s Solidify, the band went on indefinite hiatus and the members went on to other things. Sorychta went back to producing albums for The Gathering and other bands; Lombardo went on to Fantomas and eventually back to Slayer, and rumor has it that vocalist Gus Chambers went to the funny farm.
Well, now it’s 2004 and Grip Inc. have returned with their finest album yet in Incorporated. At its core, the album is pure 21st century thrash, which has always been the Grip Inc. trademark. But there is so much more happening here: synthesizers, mandolins, classical acoustic guitars, string sections, sitars, congos and bongos, etc. Now, don’t freak out just yet. As I said, at the core, this album is all thrash. All of the above are merely used as accentuation: intros, background, etc. For the most part, the blending works well, but there are some moments that don’t quite make sense.
A few tracks just come out and kick your ass without any fancy instruments, such as “Endowment of Apathy”, “Blood of Saints” (well, it has a cool acoustic intro), and “Curse (of the Cloth)”, although the latter uses multiple tempo changes to keep you on your toes. “Enemy Mind” uses classical acoustics during the intro for no particular benefit that I can see, but the sitars used to bring in “Skin Trade” do a good job of creating a Middle Eastern feel to relate to the slavery theme. “The Answer” is just plain cool, with its mellow verse/bridges into heavy choruses and the great lines “The question is why we never stand up for what is right/The question is why we always stand up for what is wrong.” Classic. I sing that line all day.
One of the more interesting tracks here is “(Built to) Resist”, which relies heavily on a string section as the primary instrumentation throughout the verses along with Lombardo’s rhythmic skin-beating, with guitars kicking in only briefly during the choruses, and to a lesser extent, adding a little noise here and there. This is no wuss track by a long shot, and is surely cooler than most rock band/orchestra collaborations that the world has heard.
All this talk of the extra instruments and so little about the playing of the actual BAND. Well, Dave Lombardo is still one of the best drummers out there and his talents certainly aren’t wasted here. Sorychta can thrash and riff with the best of them (and I can only assume it is also he who lays down the basslines). Ultimately, though, it is Chambers who sets this band apart, with a very distinct voice and delivery that is clean and scathing at the same time.
Overall, a very strong top ten candidate early in the year. Definitely pick this one up for some fine thrash metal that doesn’t sound dated (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Or, pick this up if you want to hear a band experiment with new and different sounds and do it well. Fuck, man, pick this up if you fucking love metal. You owe it to yourself.