Grind and I have an interesting relationship. It all started with a piece of trivia about Napalm Death—they hold the record for the shortest song ever recorded (“You Suffer” for 1.316 seconds)—and we’ve been happy together ever since, even though we fight a lot. When I think of grind, the last place to which my mind takes me is Italy. But here I am, in the Piedmont region of the beloved boot-shaped country, whiplashing my upper vertebrae to smithereens with Cripple Bastards. This is their seventh full length since their inception in 1988, but along the way these bastards have also released one single, one live album, seven EPs, and more splits than would grace the stage at a drag queen lip sync competition. Cripple Bastards deal a chaotic brand of grind, unsatisfied with adhering to a single formula. While the band has embraced different influences successfully more often than not, the constant mutation Cripple Bastards undergo makes for an inconsistent discography. The goal, then, is for La Fine Cresce da Dentro to beat Cripple Bastards’ best album: 2008’s Variante Alla Morte.
Variante Alla Morte is a benchmark album for the grind genre. It has hooks for days and an inhuman energy detonated with nuclear force from every participant in the group. It just fucking rips. Unlike the punk-heavy albums before it, Variante Alla Morte was a perfect blend of brutal death with furious grind. Cripple Bastards then sailed on towards more “progressive” seas on the next two efforts, especially Nero in Metastasi. Those two albums marked a dark era for the band, as the off-kilter riffs hurt every song they touched. Thankfully, La Fine Cresce da Dentro sees these Italian grindsters returning to their best works and building from there. It showcases the psychotic songwriting of Misantropo a Senso Unico and delivers it with the irresistible vitriol of Variante Alla Morte.
La Fine Cresce da Dentro is a tour-de-force of musicianship. Musically, Cripple Bastards are at the top of their game and are showing no signs of slowing down. Der Kommissar and Wild Vitto write killer riffs, always with a thrashy bent, (e.g. “Non Coinvolto,” “Crimine Contro L’immagine,” “Crociati del Mare Interno”) just as they have done since joining in 2000 and 2014, respectively. Raphael Saini’s drumming is frenetic and has a live feel to them. Schintu the Wretched brings the bass to the party and crushes the earth underneath his feet with it. The burning star of the outfit, Giulio the Bastard defies every conceivable expectation of what a vocalist’s job is and stupefies with his unhinged destruction of vocal chords and flesh adjacent. I’ve never heard Italian sound so rabid.
Grind, in my experience, often struggles with memorability. With songs that can be as short as the aforementioned Napalm Death record-breaker, grind bands need to put their best foot forward because they only have time for a single step. Cripple Bastards demonstrated an innate talent for writing striking micro-songs across their 30-year history, and there is no shortage of such tracks on La Fine Cresce da Dentro. Only three cuts break the two-minute mark (“Non Coinvolto,” “Chiusura Fortzata” and “Crociati del Mare Interno”), and while every song is hellacious fun, Cripple Bastards make their newest slab memorable with the weirdest run of über-short songs to date. “Sguardo Neutro” is the launchpad for this blunderbuss, clocking in at one minute and thirty-eight seconds. From there we receive six seconds of “Interrato Vivo,” which begins by interrupting the previous track, intentionally conning the listener into believing their player buffered for half a second. At first, I hated it. But after six repeats I realized the abruptness of the song’s introduction is gripping, not distracting. Four more seconds follow in “Equilibrio Ansiogeno,” taking on a completely different character than “Interrato Vivo,” and then “Quali Sentieri” affords listeners a mere seven seconds to brace for the heaviest payload, “Decessi per Cause Sconosciute.” This one-point-two-one-minute track is confounding. It plays like the grind equivalent to Sybil, expressing an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder where episodes combust in rapid succession. Songwriting like this is difficult to pull off without the end result feeling disjointed and toothless. “Decessi per Cause Sconosciute,” on the other hand, is a shape-shifting monster whose mission is to decimate all in its path, bypassing any hint of careless song-craft or loss of impact.
Are there issues? The record is louder than I would like and the flow of the album is not as smooth as on Variante Alla Morte. But these are mere trifles. This is a wild ride from start to finish. Quality riffs permeate the record and the band delivers zany songs that, while often atomic in size, unleash atomic destruction. I am not convinced this is better than Cripple Bastard’s best, but the musicianship on and memorability of La Fine Cresce da Dentro prove it only misses by millimeters. If you would have told me that a band from Italy—the same country that brought us an era of musical grandiosity that thrives to this day (looking at you, Fleshgod Apocalypse)—was going to beat my ass with balls-to-the-wall grind for a short twenty-eight minutes, I would have scoffed and made my merry angry way. Lo and behold, I am barely clinging to life as La Fine Cresce da Dento kicks my ass me over and over and over again.