Originally written by Chris Redar
In a lovely dinner conversation with the Danhammer about scores and such a short while back, the subject of doling out double-digits came up. Ideas were passed back and forth as to what justifications one could possibly come up with to call an album “perfect.” He mentioned the one album he hung the one-zero upon (it was SubRosa’s No Help For the Mighty Ones, for the curious), before stating that he might never bestow perfection on an album again based on the sharpening of his keen critical skills. I said aloud something to the effect of “yeah, I probably won’t do that, either,” because honestly, what reason is there to say something is that un-fuckwithable?
I found a reason. GridLink is opting to close the garage, but not before dropping not just the most jaw-dropping collection of their run, but one of the most flawless and devastating grindcore albums of all time. Clocking in at twenty-one minutes, Longhena is already packing nearly double the weight of its predecessors, Amber Gray and Orphan. It’s also hiding two secret weapons that the latter and former didn’t deploy as effectively: perfect flow and emotional depth.
For instance, the opening duo of “Constant Autumn” and “The Last Raven” sound much better after the album is over. They’re fine on their own, and they achieve a level of creative variety largely untapped by the band before this point. But in the grand context of Longhena as a complete piece, they serve as warning shots for the firefight to come. Following a gorgeous instrumental interlude (“Thirst Watcher”), the tanks really start rolling in at the onset of “Stay Without Me.” Takafumi Matsubara packs more instantly memorable riffs into these fifty seconds than other bands put on an entire album. Every involved party is clearly performing their asses off (Jon Chang, Teddy Patterson, and Bryan Fajardo, but there’s no way in hell you didn’t already know that). Chang, in particular, has never sounded this distraught- not even on The Inalienable Dreamless. Not to take anything away from that unimpeachable classic, but these shrieks are downright unsettling. When Chang exasperatingly finishes syllables on “The Dodonpachi,” for example, the sense of urgency/desperation is palpable.
It’s in this sense of tension coupled with moments of respite that Longhena outshines the vast majority of its peers in the grind world. It is sonically a grind album, and there will be no mistaking it for anything else. Where it rises above is its ability to drag a listener through a slew of desperate moments while maintaining a consistent sense of engagement. There’s nothing extraneous to be found here. Every note of music serves a purpose. It honestly feels like one second more or one less and this whole thing might falter. Even the closer “Look to Winward,” a three-minute maelstrom of riff heaven, ends on such a precise fade that it’s hard not to think that GridLink might not even exist. Rather, the band might be a four-human front for a device like that computer that ruined Garry Kasparov’s life, but for grindcore. Their moves are so calculated and precise, it’s hard to believe that mere mortals are capable of delivering them, much less with this amount of passion for the craft.
It is with all of this information in mind that I, Chris Redar, bestow a diez on Longhena. Is it “perfect”? Fuck no. It’s a grind album, and most rational humans hate grind. It’s loud, abrasive, ugly, consistently punishing, and to an extent it’s fucking exhausting for a twenty-one minute album. Which is exactly why it is kind of perfect, in its own way. Whether viewed as going out on a high note or as a middle finger to music, Longhena is the perfect way for GridLink to pull the curtain down. It also reminds me exactly why I got into this kind of music in the first place: When something is genuine, there’s no mistaking it. And this is the real deal, kids.