Grindcore has ensnared me far more throughout this year compared to the past, due to an array of factors that aren’t relevant here. In fact I think this might be the first year where it dwarfs death metal or black metal for me in terms of the genre I’ve gleaned the most enjoyment out of.
The point is there’s truckloads of excellent, strange, and mediocre grind each year and a lot gets missed. I’m guilty of it right now guaranteed.
I’m still trying to figure out how to get my hands on something from Morphic Lapse and Code/Error for example. I can’t even keep up with the basics like Water Torture’s or Suffering Mind’s ever-consuming record releases, let alone the local and remote gold that’s being crafted.
Which brings me to these guys: Frail Vessel. Outside of a few locals who either know grinders or are grinders who toured with them (or both) I haven’t seen this demo in circulation amongst the underground blogs; at least in any noticeable capacity. And I must say that this is unfortunate because it’s an exceptional first expression from this band.
Frail Vessel are from the east coast of Canada: Newfoundland to be specific. They’re fairly new from what I can tell, and fuck me have they produced a mordant, psychotic, and punishing grind demo that’s been captivating me all year.
If I’m remembering right it was Graham, one of the vocalists for the Victoria grind act Bungus (as well as several other projects), who linked this up earlier on in the summer, and that’s where I heard it. It’s one of those demos that is so volatile, so agitated that it takes at least three or four listens to fully penetrate, and it’s worth it.
I’m fairly confident that this is their first release and It’s something to get excited about. Overall their style is a careful balance between jagged Discordance Axis and the virulent, no bullshit, societal-collapse approach of bands like Cellgraft and Insect Warfare. Anxiety-ridden and paranoid, semi sci-fi influenced; the persistent and increasing intensity mixes with abrupt, low-end heavy powerviolence in conservative chunks.
Frail Vessel’s grind feels suffocating, literally claustrophobic for most of its duration as an effect of not only their tense abrasive approach but the dry and bare production too. Very messy and for the most part I don’t think here it’s a detriment. Percussion is a squall of cymbals and snare and very violent but a little flat as it’s somewhat hard to make out the kicks; they don’t punch too much.
Bass is nice and grimey while the guitar has a face melting tone, very rigid and thick with a nice sting when it’s necessary.
The vocals can only be described as corrosive and panicked, often on the verge of being amoebic. The pitch is higher, a comparison would be a more composed Gossard, except for most of ‘Witch Accusation’ as the level is dropped to death metal growl and twisted cries, and in ‘C.R.F.’ (Chemical Release Fixation) where the slow and agitated expansion and disintegration is laced with embittered screaming.
Needless to say they’re wild and one of the reasons I enjoy this so much. The lyrics are another part of this which I’ll get into more depth about below. Suffice to say they run a spectrum of topics from addiction to video game lore.
Some are a string of single or coupled words feeling more abstract (‘Negative Aura’, ‘Blurred Vision’, ‘Ambition Inflation’) while others have a clear and very blunt message (‘Companion’, ‘Morphing Addict’, ‘Witch Accusation’) and some are less serious injected with sci-fi (‘Psycho Crusher, ‘Hidden Assassin’, ‘G-Virus’).
Before getting to the meat of it here, another great aspect of this demo is it’s fluid play-through and excellent pacing and composition. Shit never wears thin, nothing sounds simple copy-paste or samey, and the songs really do compliment each other and don’t just meld together incoherently.
Getting into to the songs here. Seventeen in all in twenty two minutes, the final ten minutes dedicated to a severe two part downward spiral focusing on chemical addiction that unravels and rebuilds in a jarring way. The rest are scabrous spires that erupt and crumble in the span of anywhere from sixteen seconds to at max just under two minutes.
As far as first impressions go ‘Tower of Arrogance’ makes a strong one, albeit compared to what confronts you later this feels much tamer. The traumatic opening riff hanging momentarily for the drums and faded screaming to invade, and then into a mid-paced build that chugs nicely ascending a few paces. The final forty seconds reveals the true nature of Frail Vessel’s power as they churn brutally, moiling this song into into a pile of shredded atoms.
From this point on the ferocity is hard to match. ‘Blurred Vision’ and ‘Negative Aura’ go on a powerviolence trip for just over twenty seconds, the former becoming more syncopated at the end while the latter indulges in swirling tremolos and brief bouts of slamming between. These are the first two where the vocals really begin to stick out for me and onward it’s just more entrancing.
I know that the track ‘Spain’ is referencing something I should know but I’m failing to decode it. Anyway on the other side it’s more decipherable in terms of material, with a catchy lead riff in the beginning that gets broken up slightly by feedback and then a deliberate beat down at the end structured with the lyrical recitations strongly.
‘Ambition Inflation’ however quickly returns to the turmoil, calescent with the copious amounts of riff fricton produced along with the onslaught of percussion from the moment it’s played. For whatever reason the final brief vocal moments over the feedback get me the most though as the title is screamed and “ambition” is staggered twice in the fade.
This brings us to ‘Morphing Addict’, self explanatory I think with that title. Scathing with a tremendous descending rhythm to open up before the complete chaos battering that is the rest of this one.
The next song is one of my favorites on this demo. ‘Lowered’ – on the topic of degradation of the gene pool (collective?) – combines the turbulence of ‘Blurred Vision’ with a series of flattening, bassy, jerky slow-downs which punctuate this one frequently in its fifty one second existence. Great use of feedback adds more scraping anxiety to it as well.
Next we have some Resident Evil influence seeping in with ‘G-Virus’ which takes a similar approach to the previous song. After the cyclone created during the first fifteen seconds the pace hits a wall — a severe, blown-out, rumbling break-down takes over in a very minimalistic sense. The drumming sprinkling cymbals generously at this point, and the awesome lyrics spewed with extra disgust.
There’s really only a few tracks that dare to slow shit down to something resembling a hardcore pace, such as the crushing ‘Hidden Assassin’: the lyrics are simple as fuck and during the last half they’re hypnotic paired with such an infectious groove, as the vocals become more unhinged and wild.
Later ‘Witch Accusation’ tones it down a bit before the final assault is launched (and it’s destructive), coming on strong with an ascending opening and then more ugly and wobbled grooves over a consistent percussive battering.
“IN TIME AND SPACE, EXISTED IN ZEAL, FROM FROZEN FLAME, REGAIN THE POWER. HIGHER FORM OF HUMAN, UNIFICATION OF DIMENSIONS, DEMI GOD CRITICISM, CONSUME ALL LIFE. SPAWN OF LAVOS DARKNESS BEYOND, MERGED WITH DREAMS, BECOME TIME. FINAL EVOLUTION. DIVINE ESSENCE.”
If I’m not mistaken that’s a Chrono Trigger reference, in fact the whole thing is. This one not only erodes bone in a psychotic seizure with a serious dark sloshing in the beginning, it’s got awesome lyrical substance. This reminds me of seeing Thou at Gilead Media Fest in 2012, and between songs Matt quietly and briefly played the opening moment of ‘Yearnings of Wind‘ which was really great on top of everything.
Anyway, I fucking love this. The song itself continuous their torturous style through at first a slower section that’s lit up by the drums, and then that chaotic dirge takes hold by the time you’re halfway through.
And they tumble straight into the next one ‘Adjudicator’ another track that slows down slightly more than others, where the core is a death frenzy and the outer crust is a few serious and mid paced gruff rhythms. The CT reference had me but then the substance pushed it even further.
‘Psycho Crusher’ is literally a sixteen second schizophrenic freak out that quickly degrades into flailing, scratchy guitar. ‘Companion’ is a vehement attack directed at animal abusers, amongst the whirlwind conniption there’s a quick surfacing of a hook or rhythm at two points, though the second point is stripped down.
The last track before the explosive and caustic tumult that is’ C.R.F.’ is ‘Drone Harvest’. This one is particularly angular, cutting, especially at the core where massive, twangy and dissonant breakdown and ear shearing vocals and again another one of the top tracks here.
And now we’re introduced to the other side of Frail Vessel where through bludgeoning and attrition they succeed in slowly eroding eardrums and sanity. ‘Chemical Release Fixation’ is equally about addiction and chemical imbalances. The siege they wage reeks of frustration, desperation, confusion, and anger.
It begins mid-paced with cyclical slams from all three instruments and a vivid procession lyrically and vocally. It simply doesn’t halt without adding to the noise through feedback strained abuse of strings and skins.
It blurs as it moves forward, harsh and merciless but for a minute sample interlude of a woman laughing while burning (or just being tortured in general) which progressively gets more jarring, only to be cut off by a sluggish, undulating version of the original riff. It gets taken over by the bassist while the guitars persist on the high end.
It degrades incrementally and by the end the swirling, chunky ride dissipates into the outro: a hazy, thick, pock-marked vocal and noise track stemming from the previous subject matter. This is an appropriate end to such a brutal demo.
At first they only had the demo streaming on their bandcamp page, and as far as I’m aware they have no official page outside of that to contact them through. So I contacted them and Nick responded promptly letting me know they have physical copies for sale, and pretty cheap especially if you live in Canada.
The cassette and CD versions are packaged differently, I’m not sure if either are limited presses. The CD as you can see is a plain white CDR housed in some stalk cardboard, with blank ink and some classy void-like art on the reverse with the track list. Included is the printed lyric sheet on a simple piece of paper which I’m quite appreciative of.
The cassette is straight black with art and logo on one side. The case has the black lyric insert with white lettering in a clear case. Neither has pressing, origin, or band member information; only their email.
It was released somewhere around July this year and is currently available in the physical forms above, but you can also support them through their bandcamp page where you can pay whatever you want. The tape comes with a digital download code as well if you’re curious.
There is no way I could suggest this more. Guaranteed Frail Vessel are being slept on so wake up and be pulverized. This is easily one of my favorite releases this year. Grind and powerviolence fans, hell fans of anything chaotic and angular should support and listen to Frail Vessel. They’re working on new stuff and refining their already menacing sound so this is a perfect point to get on board with this significantly impressive band.
UPDATE 01/17/2014: Frail Vessel now has a facebook presence. Please follow and support!