Grind doesn’t do much for me these days. Sure I still get the itch for some manic, face-peeling extremity but one of the main reasons I’ve lost interest in the scene over the past couple of years is largely due to the difficulty of finding interesting bands capable of balancing the core speed and blasting ferocity of the genre with actual songcraft and hooks to keep me coming back. Modern bands like the sadly departed Gridlink along with Rotten Sound, Antigama and the reigning kings of the current grind scene, Beaten to Death, have been able to deftly achieve a certain degree of catchiness (in the harshest possible sense of the word) and songwriting smarts to succeed when so many others fail. Fortunately underrated Aussie grindcore veterans Captain Cleanoff dropped their long gestating second LP Rising Terror in 2015, holding down a respectable runners-up trophy to Beaten to Death’s grind album of the year, Unplugged.
For the uninitiated Captain Cleanoff are long grinding stalwarts of the Australian metal scene with a recording career littered with splits and compilations but offering little in the way of actual full-length albums. Things changed in 2008 when over a decade since forming the band finally released their sensational debut, Symphonies of Slackness. Despite the tongue-in-cheek Carcass reference, Captain Cleanoff tipped their hats most notably to Napalm Death and Terrorizer, dishing up a modern take on the genre’s early punkish beginnings. Symphonies of Slackness is an unsung grind classic and a personal favorite of yours truly, so naturally I was high on anticipation when news filtered through that Rising Terror was on the horizon. And now the dust has settled we can kick back and thank the grind gods, because Rising Terror doesn’t disappoint, retaining the humor, coked-up energy and viciously catchy grind the band is renowned for.
Rising Terror goes straight for the throat, detonating relentlessly speedy, shrapnel spewing grind bombs with murderous glee. The throttle mostly verges on breaking point, but where Captain Cleanoff excel is in the subtle dynamic variations, neck snapping grooves and memorable riffs that punch through their vicious grind assault. The short, fast and furious songs are performed with the kind of impeccable tightness and twitchy energy of the top-tier grind bands. Dense shrieky bursts of d-beat violence and blast-beaten mayhem fuel the bulk of the tracks, including razor sharp throat slashers, “Rising Terror”, “Napalm Burns” and “Exit Strategy.” There’s a potency and tingly energy resonating from Rising Terror’s volatile core. Explosively dynamic drumming compliments the intense and insanely catchy thrash-grind riffs and even the predominantly glass shattering higher range vocals are offset by some lower register variations, tying the arsenal together nicely.
The punky ‘Smoking Gun” offers whiffs of melody within its gruff and aggressive assault, while the delightfully groovy riffs and blistering climax of the superb “Ode to Necro” demonstrates Captain Cleanoff’s slick songcraft and shows they are no one tricky pony. There are plenty of other tasty grind nuggets to devour within the album’s perfectly concise 20-minute duration, with a healthy near 5-minute chunk reserved for the dense atmospheric sludge of instrumental closer “Threads.” Sonically, Rising Terror features the slickest and cleanest sound of Captain Cleanoff’s career, offering crisp clarity without diluting the band’s gnarly tones and overall raw crunch. Unfortunately the recording’s weak dynamic range hampers the impact and veers dangerously close to being obnoxiously loud and a tad fatiguing, though thankfully the album’s brevity helps in this regard.
Captain Cleanoff isn’t the kind of out-of-the-box band that will change one’s opinion of grindcore. However, for listeners with even the slightest inkling of respect or enjoyment of grind, Rising Terror stands as one of the genre’s shining lights in 2015. It’s traditional and old school in spirit, yet distinctly fresh and modern sounding in execution. Once more the album works as a perfect companion piece to Aussie grinders The Kill’s excellent 2015 release, Kill Them…All.
Tracks to check: “Ode to Necro”, “DISco grindCO”, “Turmoil”