Grindcore is an aptly named subgenre of metal that involves incredibly rapid drumming, indecipherable vocals and distorted guitars. In a 2006 PopMatters article, Whitney Strub characterised the sound of grindcore as "less about rhythm per se than sheer sonic violence." This description is accurate.
To celebrate the release of the book "Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces" (De Capo Press), Decibel magazine arranged a grindcore orgy featuring three of the genre's most legendary bands: Repulsion, Pig Destroyer and Brutal Truth. When a friend invited me to see the show at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, I couldn't refuse.
Anticipation of the event was flavoured with nostalgia. I hadn't seen a show that involved blast-beat drumming since I was 17, and in the hours leading up to this one that old feeling of anticipation bordering on nausea came flooding back, as did the fear of getting squashed in the mosh pit.
We went mainly to see Repulsion, a seminal grindcore band from Flint, Michigan, who opened the show. Before setting on their current moniker they called themselves "Ultraviolence" and then "Genocide", which lends some insight into the group's aesthetic. Song titles include "Splattered Cadavers", "Pestilent Decay" and "Maggots in Your Coffin", and lyrics concentrate on fear, outrage and death. The crowd that gathered to see Repulsion at the Temple was 98% male and 90% under the age of 30. More than half boasted shoulder-length hair (or longer); nearly everyone wore a black T-shirt.
Repulsion's set consisted of rapid-fire drumming and coarse screaming about necrophagy. The sound that emanates from extremely loud guitars played quickly is less a noise than a gut-level feeling. There's not so much that can be done in the way of dancing: the rate that Repulsion plays makes even headbanging impossible. The crowd settled for fist-pumping and moshing, as well as forming a circle in which kids sort of ran around and bounced off each other like bumper cars.
By the end of the set my hearing was fuzzy and my shirt was soaked with other people's sweat. Grindcore, it was obvious, is a teen's genre. The Repulsion show was an experience to make a non-teenager feel either very old or very young, mood depending.
"Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces" , edited by Albert Mudrian (De Capo Press), out now