Grafnár - “Útför Heiguls” Cassette (2020)

Grafnár’s six song, 15-minute Útför Heiguls is a grindcore crusher, a frenetic blend of punk, thrash, black metal, sunk in a 50-gallon drum of 10W-40 oil. Sonically it’s surprisingly diverse - I often find grindcore’s assault on my ears has a sort of numbing quality that makes it hard for me to distinguish one song from another, but Grafnár’s occasional directional changes keep Útför Heiguls feeling fresh (as does the fact that all but one song comes in at three minutes or less).

Útför Heiguls is available on Bandcamp HERE both as a download and on limited edition (supposedly of 100, though I don’t see that on the release page) cassette.

Raw - “Raw” (1990)

I picked this up on a lark not realizing its connections to one of my favorite labels, On-U Sound. Raw is Keith LeBlanc, a percussionist and producer who’s had a remarkable career. You know, little stuff like being one of the core musicians that was part of Sugarhill and Tommy Boy, performing with artists like Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, from there being a member of Fats Comet, Tackhead, and Mark Stewart‘s backing band Maffia, and later getting production credits with projects like NIN. No big deal, just a consistent track record of being on the cutting edge of music. Nothing to see here.

Raw was one of LeBlanc’s solo projects, one that only produced this single album in 1990 (he was also releasing solo material as DJ Spike during this period). The overall On-U vibe is all over this record, with Adrian Sherwood in the booth and performers like Gary Clail and African Head Charge‘s Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah joining in on some tracks. Man, this thing is right in my sonic wheelhouse - electronics, dub, vocals that are a cross of singing and rapping, and just a dash of industrial. Interestingly half the album’s eight tracks are remixes of songs from LeBlanc’s 1988 album Stranger Than Fiction, a record he put out under his own name.

I can’t get enough of Raw. This is going to make it into the Gary Clail / Tackhead / Fats Comet rotation that I sometimes find myself embracing, and I’m going to need to track down some of LeBlanc’s other projects as well.

Dub Syndicate - “What Happened?” 10″ (1993)

If On-U Sound could be said to have had a house band, it was Dub Syndicate. That by itself should be enough reason to buy this record (it was for me) - talented reggae players plus Adrian Sherwood at the controls equals some of the spacey-ist, trippy-ist, and all around awesomiest dub you’ll ever lay your ears on. The only complaint I can utter is that at three songs and 16 minutes I’m left wanting more.

Lair Of The Minotaur - “War Metal Battle Master” (2008)

Let’s get a few things out of the way up front.

  • This is a band named after a mythological beast that is half man, half bull
  • The album’s title is very clear what it’s about - War Metal Battle Master
  • If that wasn’t clear enough, song titles include “Horde of Undead Vengeance”, “Slaughter the Bestial Legion”, and “Doomtrooper”
  • The uncensored music video of the title track includes warrior combat, severed heads with blood gushing out of the necks, and some scantily clad vampirish women gnawing on severed limbs

I think that more or less sets the stage.

Hailing from Chicago, Lair of the Minotaur play a style of metal somewhere in the part of the Venn diagram that links thrash, death, and doom, that sliver of blood-dripping blackness inhabited by the kinds of B movies you couldn’t get enough of as a young person, the ones in which the plot was just a vehicle to take you from one fight scene to the next. War Metal Battle Master is fast. War Metal Battle Master is intense. War Metal Battle Master will stave your skull in with a mace and eat your heart to gain your powers. War Metal Battle Master will not be denied - it will get its pound of flesh.

The riffs on this record are killer, direct and harsh, the transitions coming at you from hard angles with a complete and utter lack of subtlety. The vocals vary between the growling to the percussive, veering from death to doom to black metal and back again. And make no mistake, there are some black metal elements here as well, particularly on “Black Viper Barbarian Clan” with it’s blast beats and flesh-tearing vocals.

Hotalacio - “Talkin’ Out The Side Of Your Neck” (1990)

With elements of breaks, dub, hip hop, and even a dash of industrial, Hotalacio’s three-song 12″ Talkin’ Out The Side Of Your Neck is reminiscent of the On-U sound of the mid-to-late 1980s, though a bit more metallic in the percussion especially on “Don’t Kick Me”. It’s edginess is precise, like an impossibly sharp scalpel, a cutting of metal-on-metal that brings with it a certain sterility that differentiates it from it’s more dubby cousins. The other B side track, “Deconstruction”, introduces yet another element with some short heavy-metal-like guitar riffs that clash with the funky bass line and snappy electronic percussion, somehow blending these elements together into something that grooves. Definitely a cool 12″ and one worth picking up.