We all have our dirty metal secrets that we selfishly keep to ourselves, only sharing with a select few close to us. Or alternatively, we incessantly talk up underground gems and spread the gospel to anyone that will listen, as we cherish our slice of underground cred. Into the Obscure aims to right the wrongs and unearth the artists/albums that for whatever unjust reason didn’t get the exposure or credit they sorely deserved the first time round.
Grindcore is very much a niche genre in the realms of extreme metal. I was exposed to the classics to develop my appreciation and fondness for grind, and despite being jaded at times in the modern era, there’s certainly been no shortage of killer bands and great albums in the post-Nasum landscape. But there’s a particular album that tends not to gain the traction or appreciation it sorely deserves. Australia’s Captain Cleanoff boast a long history in the grind scene, yet their recorded works are relatively scant, featuring a stack of lower profile short releases along with two LPs. The first of which was the band’s unheralded 2008 full-length debut, Symphonies of Slackness, the focus of this edition of Into the Obscure.
Look past the tongue in cheek silliness of the Carcass inspired album title and be treated to an inspired, violently nasty, satisfyingly crunchy, and awesomely catchy modern grind masterwork. Captain Cleanoff rip through 21 tracks in 28 minutes of thrashy, full-throttled fury, loaded with energy, finesse, a plethora of killer riffs, and oodles of groove. Nods to grind legends of the past like Terrorizer, Napalm Death and Carcass feature in Captain Cleanoff‘s punky, diseased brand, yet fail to dilute the band’s own modern signature style of face-melting blasts, tight execution and ability to sound both viciously menacing and ridiculously catchy. The musicianship is excellent across the board, from the dueling blend of thrash, death and grind riffage, unexpected bursts of swaggering groove and melody, to the wickedly inventive drumming, these dudes may not take themselves too seriously, but they boast impressive chops and a striking knack for memorable songcraft in a grind context.
Symphonies of Slackness remains a refreshing blast of controlled lunacy, coupled with a wicked sense of humor, a barrel load of excellent riffs, dynamic writing, and an utterly superb vocal performance, running the gamut from filthy guttural grunts and low growls, to frenzied high pitched shrieks and screams. Adding further padding to the album’s credentials is Captain Cleanoff‘s proven ability to counterbalance memorable writing and catchy respite with all the expected grind ingredients. Expertly combining old school values with modern sensibilities and dynamic writing, Symphonies of Slackness is a relentless delight of adrenaline-fueled mayhem. Excellent early album cut “Stuck in a Rut” exemplifies these fine traits through its feral and frenetic delivery, maniacal vocals and hooky, finger shredding riffing. In the end it’s merely one high quality, chrome-plated cog in an album full of them. The raging streetwise punk-grind of “Blockhole,” manically groovy deathgrind gem “Gore Grind Thrush Attack,” and devastating, shreddy delights of closing number “Wizard’s Sleeve” are other prime cuts worthy of the highlights reel.
The slick, punchy production lends the album a modern edge, unleashing razor-sharp yet nasty tones, adding to the remarkable accessibility of an album that still carries the violent extremity grind fiends expect. However, it’s the accomplished song-writing that sets Captain Cleanoff apart from your run of the mill grind band; a sleek and hyper-violent mix of grindy chaos, ripping speed and surprising accessibility. Even the skimpier song lengths make an impact. “Cold Showa” packs an absurd level of speed, energy, and off-the-bone aggression into a mere 44 seconds of invigorating metal. Overall, at a shade under half an hour, Captain Cleanoff delivery the perfectly concise grind album, not too short and certainly not overcooked either.
In the pantheons of modern grind, Symphonies of Slackness deserves enormous respect. It’s undoubtedly a diamond in the rough and one of the post-millennium’s finest grind albums. Captain Cleanoff‘s 2015 album Rising Terror is another top-notch album worth investigating, but Symphonies of Slackness remains the essential nugget in the band’s underappreciated career.