Remove the technical filigree from heavy metal’s turbulent speeds and chugging rhythms, add in the unbridled fury and strong social consciousness that initially fueled hardcore (long before Ian McKaye was comfortable with Urban Outfitters selling Minor Threat shirts and Greg Ginn was suing everyone that ever even owned a Black Flag shirt), throw the whole mess on maximum output, and you’re left with something commonly referred to as grindcore. Grindcore is a combative form that is but a few steps removed from the world of both the artistically rendered noise music and the nasty proto-industrial of the early Swans albums, and Atlanta based unit Dead in the Dirt are a rising star in that game.
With its debut full-length release, The Blind Hole, Dead in the Dirt has unleashed upon the world an aural war of attrition that spans 22 completely devastating tracks, yet concludes in under 25 minutes. Led by a two-headed monster of high and low guttural vocals, the trio applies such blunt force to the making of its music that it can be easy to overlook the complexity of the album. There’s a level of technical ability displayed here that toes the line of athletics, however, beyond the distortion-crusted guitar riffs that lock in with fuzzed-out bass to make a singular weapon: there are unexpected moments of thoughtful darkness. The pairing of “The Pit of Me” and the introductory portion of following track “Caged” provides a window into a bleak, almost melodic relief from the otherwise bludgeoning content of The Blind Hole. However, these unsettling reprieves are an ephemeral eye in a storm that returns quickly to finish the job. The album rips through the speakers like a rabid animal, destroying whatever unfortunate prey has made the mistake of crossing its path.
It’s important to bear in mind that Dead in the Dirt remains true to hardcore’s social motivation. These songs are not simply expressing the innate anger all people occasionally grapple with. They’re a vehicle for the band’s rhetoric, which is centered around a vegan, straight edge, and atheist set of ethics, and if those ideals are in line with your way of life, these songs will undoubtedly transcend the formidable sonic violence to become an even more potent form of art. And, even if you don’t subscribe to those ideals, it’s refreshing to encounter bands like Dead in the Dirt, those that stray from the trends of self-reference and meaningless lyrics that currently plague hardcore and punk.
Essential Tracks: “Strength Through Restraint”, “No Chain”, and “The Pit of Me”