Band names are difficult to decide on, which is why so many of them are overwrought (Cryptopsy), ridiculous (Gorguts), deliberately self-effacing (literally any local hardcore band) or a combination of the aforementioned (The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza). Every so often, somebody hits on a really good name – Revocation, Death, Emperor, even Bring Me the Horizon. No matter how terrible or fantastic a band is, their name can have a huge effect on what you think of them. Enter Eexeter’s Human Cull, a band whose sobriquet is so fantastically violent and straightforward that it could only signal one thing: really good grind.
Taking a page out of Wormrot‘s book, Stillborn Nation opens with a ear-splitting wail predicating the immediately pummeling and, at over a minute long, relatively protracted, “Teeth for Revenge,” whose ending riff breaks call back to the original shriek, folding over an excellently crafted first impression. As subsequent songs hurl themselves through the speakers, not a single second of rest sneaks in. “The Sentence is Death” features a malicious and grooving bass riff before its gain-infested guitar attack ploughs through. Even after its concerted attack, the song still leaves the tiniest bit of room for the bass to leave one last chug on the doorstep. Little details like these tie the best of Stillborn Nation‘s tracks into neat little bundles of vitriol.
Not every song is as easily digested as these few, but filler is more or less essential on a grindcore album. Over the span of 23 songs which total just over 25 minutes, this album delivers more than a few memorable moments, and some excellently crafted snippets of noise. “Sick With Hate” features an unmistakable four-note motif, and is followed up with one of the album’s strongest grooves on “Entombed by Progress.” Taking time to listen to each song individually is quite rewarding; though as a whole the album can be a little underwhelming, stepping back from the sonic barrage and really focusing on the impact of each riff and motif in even a sub-minute song rarely fails to provide something of interest. Human Cull isn’t simply writing strings of riffs but succinct and well-thought out exercises in violence.
As satisfying as the good tracks are, none quite cross the boundary into greatness. Despite Stillborn Nation‘s good writing and adequate grind production, there’s not a lot of wow factor in this album. The guitar playing is standard grind fare, though the amplification ridiculously gain-heavy, which gives it some character. Backing up the gong-like guitars are respectable basslines and competent drumming, but neither of the rhythm section’s performances really floored me. The same can be said for guitarist Edd’s roars and screams; they’re not bad at all, but there’s nothing to separate him from the herd.
Human Cull has all the makings of a fantastic grind band, and with a little more experimentation and a will to take on more challenging performances, I could see them writing albums full of succinct and intelligently written songs dotted with moments of sheer excellence. For the moment however, they remain up-and comers. What Stillborn Nation lacks in audacity it makes up for in sincerity and execution, and for that, these plucky Brits are going to stay on my radar.