[Cover art by Lucas Korte]
Grind persists. Last year was one of my favorite grind years, giving us the devastating full length by Axis of Despair, a new Cripple Bastards, Terrorizer and Needful Things, and a decent, if not “First Picture of a Black Hole” level Pig Destroyer. One thing my year-end level favorites had in common was that touch of death metal in the mix—just enough to keep the metally side of me in a Stimpy-esque state of joy.
Skullsmasher brings the riffing in a steamer trunk made of skin and bones. Very little in the way of bottom end, the power comes from the electric crackle of the guitars, frantically bellowed vocals and the almost out of control blasts. The effect is pure adrenaline, and it certainly satisfies on that level.
Starting with a climbing loop of a riff, “Negative Pressure Pulverization” gives you everything the band has up their sleeve on one blistering 0:55 track. Fast, occasionally off kilter and barely tethered to the ground, the song is an aural yellowjacket, furious and stingy. “Parasitic Apathy” includes one of the more compelling riffs on the record—another climbing looper but with a slide plateau, and S.O.D.-worthy refrain.
“High Altitude Saturation Bombing” sounds exactly like the title: chaos and violence, with no place to really get a bearing in the onslaught. Likewise, “Mobile Armor” is a freakishly chaotic blast, taking the proper album out with a, well, chaotic blast, leaving us only with “Strange Loops,” a sort of oversaturated afterthought.
All this is great if you are a fan of the style. The fury is relentless and the chance that you will lose interest is slight, given that no song tops the minute fifty mark. It has to be said, though, that nothing happening on this album is particularly novel. If you have wandered the sticky, smoke-enhanced halls of grindcore before, you have heard bands doing much the same thing Skullsmasher does. The production, the attitude, the style are all fairly known quantities in the scene. Nothing reaches out and forces you to add to or change your conception of what crusty grind is supposed to be.
How much that matters to you will dictate how interesting Rocket Hammer Brain Surgery is for you. It’s tight, extreme and catchy, but it is not adding anything new to the genre. That can be said of a lot of metal bands right now, however, and it is difficult to hold it against Skullsmasher. They are doing the thing that they obviously love and are passionate about. If they take a few risks next time out, they could set themselves apart, but for what this is, the quality and passion are obvious. And, after all, the point of the sting is the sting, as any yellowjacket will demonstrate.