originally written by Chris McDonald
While a grindcore band may seem like a strange fit for Southern Lord’s primarily slow ‘n heavy roster, the union makes a lot more sense once Dead in the Dirt’s punishing assault roars from your speakers. A seething, desolate blend of grind and doomy heaviness, Fear is an ideal combination of grind’s frantic intensity and the oppressive heaviness of many of the label’s flagship projects.
Despite containing ten tracks in less than twelve minutes, Fear is hardly relegated to novelty status by its brisk running time. Much like current grindcore juggernauts Gridlink (who sound nothing like this, incidentally), there’s a LOT of content crammed into this EP, and all of it slays. Dead in the Dirt is unquestionably a vintage grind-inspired act at its core; the songs on Fear are brutal, to-the-point, and filled with manic energy so intense as to be, well, frightening. The typical high/low vocal tradeoffs, blasting drums, and searing riffs are all powerfully executed, but what’s really interesting is how the band expands from this traditional center. The devastatingly heavy guitar tone give the songs an apocalyptic atmosphere that calls to mind Rotten Sound’s Cursed, and the guitars frequently dip into discordant tangents and menacing slowdowns with fiery aggression.
There’s a relatively noticeable hardcore influence running throughout Fear, primarily in the chest-thumping low vocals and occasional D-beat windups, but the overall sentiment of this music is more of a pained cry for help than a call to action. The vocals convey this emotion more effectively than most grind I’ve heard recently, and musicianship remains tight but not clinical, lending a sense of urgency and danger to the songs. I do wish that some of the riffs were given a little more time to sink in, however. I understand that the frequent and sudden changeups are intended to create a frenzied atmosphere, but some occur before a particular progression has time to properly register, leading to some awkward transitions.
Than again, this kind of metal is less about fluid riffing compositions and more about pure sonic muscle, and to this end, Dead in the Dirt’s debut EP is highly impressive and tantalizing. I wish this wasn’t only available in vinyl format, but hopefully a positive response will lead to a CD release in the near future. Regardless, Fear is a vicious and exciting statement of intent for this young outfit, and any grind fans with a record player handy owe it to themselves to check it out immediately.