Originally written by Justin Bean.
Now is as good a time as any to get into American grindcore because it seems every which way I turn I find another quality dose of blast beats, distorted guitar and manic shouting. Within the last three years, we’ve seen mostly stellar releases from the likes of Brutal Truth, Phobia, Pig Destroyer, Gridlink and Magrudergrind, and that’s off the top of my head. A year ago I wasn’t aware of how nicely Graf Orlock fits on that list, but after spending time with their Destination Time trilogy (three albums released between 2006-2009) and, recently, their cleverly titled Doombox EP, I now know.
To be honest, I found Destination Time: Today, the last album of the trilogy and their most recent, to be a bit tired relative to the first two installments; it is, after all, ambitious to pump out three albums worth of songs in three years and have it all be good. Early on there was something fresh in their sound, despite riffs that sound as much inspired by Brutal Truth as by noise/power violence/hardcore bands such as Iron Lung, Infest, or DropDead. And like Brutal Truth, Graf Orlock will surprise the listener every so often with an off-the-cuff riff that feels more at home on a Tony Williams album than on a grind album, though Graf Orlock has a ways to go before they can walk along side Brent McCarty or Rich Hoak. Above all else, the guys in Graf Orlock manage to package the vitriol and energy of the aforementioned bands into relatively coherent and manageable songs that even come with the occasional scream-along-worthy breakdown, all the while doing it with a sense of humor.
I’ve been talking about what Graf Orlock has done on previous records because across the six songs that comprise Doombox, they continue to do more or less exactly what they’ve done before, with, I’m happy to report, the same amount of punch and creativity as on their previous albums. And as has been the case with their previous releases, each song starts with a movie quote that relates to the song’s lyrics and title (and arguably not at all to the music, but that’s for the best as I explain below). For you see, Graf Orlock has a gimmick, and that gimmick is that all their lyrics come from movie dialogue. I generally don’t like a gimmick, and at first thought, this would make them a waste of time, but to my surprise, I found their lyrics to be pretty funny, and while I can’t share any from Doombox, I can give you a little taste of something older. From “Todd and Janelle” on Destination Time: Tomorrow:
“Todd and Janelle are dicks, but I’ve got to warn them. That dog is barking. What the fuck is that god-damned dog barking at? Shut the fuck up, you god-damned mutt. John come home, I made casserole. Your foster parents are dead. Let’s fucking go.”
Taken out of its cinematic context and placed into a noisy grind one, these lines of dialogue become comedic gold. All that being said, it never hurts to have a group of competent musicians playing beneath the gimmick, and, on Doombox especially, a more than adequate production to boot. Ultimately, I can get into a band that can be funny while also managing to kick out some solid grind that comes off as fairly original. Supposedly, no one knows the ‘true’ identity of the guys in the band as they generally use pseudonyms, but I’ve begun to imagine that Steven Spielberg (vocals), Martin Scorsese (guitar/vocals), Ron Howard (bass), and James Cameron (drums) are behind this. Between this review and our other reviews of their earlier albums, if you haven’t heard Graf Orlock yet, you should nevertheless be able to get a pretty good idea of whether or not you’ll like them much, and Doombox is as good a place as any to start.