Species At War is eight minutes of rapid-fire, rabid, and fiery grinding, a six-song stopgap to fan the flames before the next full-length firestorm from a band that’s currently at the top of the grindcore pile in terms of both exposure and execution. 2011’s Cursed was a monster of a disc, equally carving and crushing, with Rotten Sound’s signature blend of Swedish extremes – Nihilist buzz and Nasum blast building upon each other to absolutely blistering results. Species follows Cursed’s lead, with no surprises in store, but when a band is on top of their game, “no surprises” is no bad thing.
Looking at its title and those of its component songs, Species At War would appear to have a thematic arc of conflict and resolution, whether intentional or not: “Cause,” “War,” “The Game,” “Peace,” “The Solution,” “Salvation.” Musically, the album follows those lines. By nature, grindcore sounds and feels like conflict, but Rotten Sound is expert enough to include resolution as balance. Their attack is mostly full-on, but they break it up with the occasional drop into groovy moments, those brief respites serving as calms within the storm. “The Game” rides in on a series of cool slower riffs, while “Peace” starts out groovy before kicking up into another blastbeat-heavy pummeling. Given the arc, it’s also no surprise that “War” is mostly a blast-fest, but it sports a swinging driving midsection that stands as the album’s strongest moment. Vocalist Keijo Niinimaa rages, his full-throated bellow powerful and vicious, his slightly higher-pitched rasp sharp and biting, but not shrieking. Guitarist Mike Aalto’s appropriation of that beautiful Entombed / Dismember guitar tone is perfectly dirty atop Kristian Toivainen’s bass and Sami Latva’s blastbeats.
There’s little in the way of possible in-depth dissection of an eight-minute assault split into six roughly one-minute bursts – but then again this is grindcore, and it’s mostly about the sheer power and fury of the beast, and Species possesses an ample amount of both. This is Rotten Sound doing what Rotten Sound does, and they do it as expertly as expected. In its position as a stopgap EP, Species At War functions perfectly – it continues in the earth-scorching footsteps of Cursed whilst priming the listener for whatever is next to come and leaving them wanting more. Let’s hope there’s not too long of a wait for the next full-length, because this sound is wonderfully Rotten.