From the beginning, metal was the place for wayward souls to find refuge from society’s scornful gaze. Be you a high school drop-out, a Dungeons & Dragons bespectacled nerd, or just someone who didn’t click with the cliques, metal provided a soapbox to the disenfranchised yearning to give voice to their frustrations. Born from the rejection of consumerism and music’s increasing pomposity, punk too acted as a bulwark against the hegemony, drawing a rebellious fringe to its anarchistic bosom. As metal and punk grew in popularity, a disillusioned minority rebelled against their respective subculture’s dalliance with mainstream acceptance and fused elements of the two genres to create something truly repugnant: grindcore. Brazen in its ability to offend, grindcore acts as the purest distillation of music as a counter-culture, a crude melding of metal’s brutality and punk’s brevity filtered through a puerile and violent prism. But it would be wrong to dismiss the sub-genre as little more than a caricature as topics such as political activism, animal rights, and anti-capitalism have all been espoused in the past and show that social consciousness lurks beneath the surface.
There is another pocket of the culture wars that has seen skirmishes against hand-wringing moral crusaders and that’s the LGBTQ community and their fight for legitimacy. While metal has established itself as a broad church willing to shelter outcasts, it has historically underrepresented those who proudly drape themselves with the flag of queerdom. Not anymore. Enter New Jersey’s Pink Mass and their first full-length album, Necrosexual. Sporting gas masks and BDSM fetish gear, Pink Mass show they have no intention of blending in with the wallpaper, peddling an aesthetic that combines the post-apocalyptic machismo of Mad Max with the ribaldry of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The band’s rubbery, Bacchanalian hedonism extends to their music, a sludgy sleaze that lists away from BPM-obsessed grindcore acts such as Pig Destroyer and Rotten Sound and instead slurps from the trough of Soilent Green and Mistress.
After a skippable intro track, “Hedonist Lament” belches forth with unfocused belligerence, a wet, hardcore-tinged take on early Celtic Frost. The instruments are wielded not to impress but to sell the filth of a drunken collision of flesh. The music is loose, grimy and operates in a manner that suggests the wheels may fall off at any moment. This is not a criticism but an observation as the down-tuned riffs have real weight, backed by percussion that treads the line between manic and measured. Vocals are typical of the genre – spittle-flecked bellows that switch between hoarse gurgling and sharp rasps. Pink Mass pace their songs in the stop-start manner of Soilent Green, contrasting slower, groove-laced segments against fissures of hostility. While those moments of micro-aggression aren’t always successful they can on occasion impress, like on “Extinction of the Breeders” and its laudable co-mingling the wiry lead guitar.
Although Necrosexual presents ample titillation it has a tendency to execute its songs by half-measures, belting out spine-twisting chords that get bookended by mindless thrashing. There’s a distinct lack of structure that moves the music away from careful curation and instead resembles a random assortment of internecine noise. This is an issue that pervades most grindcore albums, a flaw that’s tolerable provided the music offers sufficient shining moments to make up for the remaining bilge. Thankfully Necrosexual has enough pockets of pleasure to arouse the sadist in all of us, like “Alter of Domination” toying with expectations by throwing down slab-like doom riffs amidst the punk chords and bent lead guitar. The production deserves praise for balancing the rank, sweaty tone of the music while taking care to represent the individual instruments at their best. Bass is fat and plumy, the percussion is loose but emboldened with heft and the lead and rhythm guitars are given space to crawl, leap and spasm.
Earlier this year Heathen Beast released $cam, a blistering dressing-down of India’s corrupt political masters via a focused blast of grindcore. Pink Mass take a more debauched approach to protest, opting to wallow in their sexuality over raising a fist in anger. Considering some view homosexuality as an affront to nature, merely existing is an act of defiance and with Necrosexual Pink Mass show that they do not go gentle into that good night. The album may be flawed but as a sabre to rattle against the establishment it shows that grindcore’s blade can still cut deep. This is disposable sex in a men’s room stall. Uncomfortable, raw and enjoyable in a way you dare not voice.