I keep an eye on Graf Orlock because I’m unduly fascinated with the completely over-the-top packaging in which they’ve managed to literally wrap their physical output. The Destination Time Tomorrow CD arrived in the arachnoid arms of an Alien facehugger, while the LP featured a pop-up Chestburster inside; Crimetraveler came in a specially generated newspaper; Doombox added 6 new songs to the complete Destination Time trilogy and presented them in a 10” LP sleeve that folded out into a full-sized 80s boombox, complete with an “owner’s manual” filled with liner notes and silly jokes. I don’t know what craziness Vitriol has planned for this one, but they can’t just release a normal album now. Where’s the fun in that?
Musically, Graf Orlock is a bit less interesting, although that’s not to say that they’re bad. They’re a perfectly respectable — if not always particularly innovative — purveyor of modern grindcore, which is to say that they borrow heavily from thrash, death, black, sludge, and hardcore. While none of their records so far have been outright duds, their whole “cinema grind” schtick overshadows their actual music.
Examination Of Violent Cinema, Volume 1 doesn’t break that trend, although, overall, I do find it to be more a little more enjoyable than Crimetraveler — or maybe it’s just new and therefore more fresh, or maybe it’s just because I get to play another round of “guess where this quote came from.” Whereas that last Gorlock album saw the band’s first foray into wholly original concepts — a self-penned film about a time traveling assassin formed the basis — Examination Volume 1 returns to the band’s earlier approach of lifting samples and lyrics from random films, albeit with one new criterion now: All of Examination’s cinematic influences are taken from 2017 releases, while earlier efforts mined classic B-grade action films and the like.
The best comparison for Graf Orlock’s brand of metal is current Pig Destroyer — this is riffy grindcore. Gorlock takes all those tangential modern grind influences and tosses them into one big modern metal stew, anchored by Jason Schmidt’s guitar work — riffs come and go, rarely repeating. Like Pig Destroyer’s latest, Examination spends a large part of its time in groove mode. “A Man Named Suicide,” “Back In The Ground,” or really most any track from the album’s first half would fit snugly on Head Cage. (Of course, I do not like Head Cage, because its tired trudge and lackluster performances add up to a boring album from a band that should not be boring. Examination fares better, largely because expectations aren’t so high.)
At about the album’s halfway point, with “Dominant Species,” Examination starts to pick up steam — that track shifts through an almost blackened middle breakdown into a nearly trad-metal guitar solo section and back to the black for a split second before more knuckle-dragging groove. “Five Stars General” sports a cool doom section, before the braindead chugga chug of “Go Away (To Paradise)” stutters into lamer territory.
At the end of these thirty minutes, I’m left with another Graf Orlock album that is good-but-not-great and a list of movies I should probably watch or re-watch. For those among us who contend that Pig Destroyer’s Head Cage is an enjoyable listen, then Examination Of Violent Cinema, Volume 1 is very much in the same vein and should be investigated without a doubt. For the rest of us, Examination isn’t a bad album, per se, but it’s in no danger of showing up in December to wreck anyone’s year end list.