Formed in 1992, Sweden’s Birdflesh have left an extensive trail of demos, splits, EPs, full-lengths and bloodied feathers across a career dedicated to fun, catchy and relentlessly vicious grind. And all the while they’ve kept their tongues firmly planted in cheeks, bringing a strong element of gore-laced humor into their thrash and death infested grindcore experience. In truth, I haven’t kept up with the band’s longer term output but I hold their 2002 LP, Night of the Ultimate Mosh, in particularly high regard. Fifth LP, Extreme Graveyard Tornado, arrives and marks their first foray into full-length territory since 2008’s The Farmers’ Wrath. So has a career of grind worn the band down or do Birdflesh still have what it takes to compete with the young guns?
Only a couple of minutes in and Birdflesh answer the question emphatically, playing their old school grind with feverish energy, ripping speed and aggression, and typically silly humor. Song titles such as “Grind Band,” “Milkshake is Nice,” “Bite the Mullet,” and the outrageously named “Guacamolestation of the Tacorpse,” give listeners a taste of Birdflesh‘s tongue in cheek approach to their craft. But don’t let their silliness skew what are extremely well written and performed songs, all 24 of them contained within a very palatable and replayable 27 minute duration. The musicianship is first-rate and vice-tight across the board as Birdflesh squeeze excellent dynamics into compact songs. From whizzing tempo shifts and righteous grooves, to pungent whiffs of melody and experimentation, Birdflesh add plenty of flavor and exotic seasoning into the brew.
Picking apart an album packed with short nuggets of fun and fury is no easy task and in all honesty Extreme Graveyard Tornado is best absorbed as one continuous blast of action packed intensity. Before you know it the album ends and the temptation to dive straight back in is indicative of the album’s strength and catchiness. Furthermore, Birdflesh write songs that could very well convert non-grind listeners into the fold. All the frantic speed and signature blasting extremity listeners expect from their grind fix are well and truly catered for here, yet Birdflesh sound more accessible than your average cutthroat grind act and they throw enough hooky riffs, zany curveballs and gnarly grooves into the mix to offset the more extreme nature of the material. This is killer grind, outrageously fun in execution, but deadly serious in its stature as a dominant force of modern grind.
When the balance is perfected, it’s a potent blast of top notch fun. Take the excellent “Accused of Suicide” for example. The song runs on turbo powered punky grind cylinders, with a feverish urgency and almost blackened streak, before it busts out a stupendously awesome riff and groove section to top things off. Such wicked and inspired moments litter the album, showcasing Birdflesh‘s knack for invention. Offbeat extreme rocker “Grind Band” offers a silly slice of absurdity and crazy horn section, “Black Hole Jaw” is an explosive, rifftastic blast of thrashing grind, complete with orchestral embellishments, and “Botox Buttocks” unleashes a pure frenzied assault of speed, aggression and riffs. With guitars that incorporate a myriad of metal styles into a centralized grind attack, drums that blast, pummel and groove, and strong vocals equipped with grit and character, Birdflesh have all bases covered.
My only real gripe is that as consistently strong as the material is, collectively the songwriting falls just short of overall greatness. However, this certainly doesn’t detract from what is a catchy, hugely entertaining and inventive grindcore platter. Not much fresh grind has popped up on my radar in 2019 thus far, so it’s refreshing to hear scene veterans dish up such a quality album loaded with slick writing, offbeat lunacy, and the band’s trademark incorporation of humor and catchy, dynamic songcraft into their manic grind formula. In this regard Birdflesh deliver in spades and Extreme Graveyard Tornado offers a bottled rush of high octane and infectious grind madness.