(Alternative Tentacles)

01. Intro
02. Requiem
03. Turn Away
04. Industrialized
05. Soulless
06. Cold Blue Serenity
07. The Plague
08. Feed the Addiction
09. Carrion
10. Reclaim
11. One in Five
12. Hooks
13. Not a Human
14. Fuck Your Bad Day
15. Absence

RATING: 7/10

The self-described "blackout grind" on "Requiem" from Seattle's SKARP works on many levels. As a soundtrack to the album's suicide theme, the feeling produced is one of anxiety and hopelessness, though not in a cold, gothic kind of way. Instead, vocalist Renae Louise Betts uses gritty screams and scathing growls — punctuated by desperate shouts and creepy spoken parts — to convey to the listener a palpable sense of fear and isolation-induced madness. Her delivery adapts itself seamlessly to the band's clever mix of grindcore, crust punk, black metal, and bottom-feeding sludge. The crust-sludge coating can undoubtedly be attributed to Billy Anderson's engineering prowess.

Style mixing aside, the album comes off most generally as frenetic crust punk, at least as much in attitude as in musical delivery. The grindcore blast beats and psychotic episodes often give way to scraping riff crawls, just one example of the many well-placed tempo changes that contribute to the album's dynamic delivery. Rather than sounding like a thrown-together hodgepodge of sub-genres created by musicians that are too clever for their own good, the punk and grindcore aesthetic stands tall. It just happens that the band understands how to piece together what are most certainly varied musical backgrounds and tastes. Tunefulness is present, but much of it comes through via snotty, nihilistic punk rock ("Not a Human" and "Fuck Your Bad Day" are two examples).

Along with Betts, the members perform like a well-oiled machine. Guitarist Robert Joseph Daniels throws riff after riff at the listener, while bassist Andrew Bernard Kress joins drummer Joe Michael Axler in clobbering these songs with machine gun attacks and superbly colorful nuance. Some may find Axler's tinny drum sound mildly annoying, something I also found to be the case on his work with Portland death/gore/thrash act SPLATTERHOUSE. I actually sort of like it, maybe because of the organic, underground feeling. Smartly selective use of samples and the bloody artwork and layout of Ross Sewage (IMPALED) complete the package. In short, "Requiem" is as entertaining as it is damaging to the nervous system.


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