It must be tough carving out a lengthy career within the somewhat narrow and restrictive confines of the grindcore genre and remaining vital and relevant as fresh faced young upstarts storm the scene. This problem hasn’t seemed to halt Finnish stalwarts Rotten Sound, who started their career back in 1993, from delivering consistent, high quality output. Although their careers overlapped, I regard Rotten Sound as worthy successors to the indelible mark left by the mighty Nasum; cranking out top shelf, nasty-as-fuck grind for the modern generation and demonstrating a knack for writing consistently engaging grind songs and catchy riffs without sacrificing their take-no-prisoners approach to paint-peeling extremity. The connection between the two bands was further reflected by Rotten Sound vocalist Keijo Niinimaa (better known as “G” wink, wink) filling the void left by the passing of Mieszko Talarczyk during Nasum’s one-off 20th anniversary tour in 2012. As comforting as it is to reminisce about the sadly missed Nasum, Rotten Sound have well and truly left their own mark on the modern grindcore scene. Now the angry Finns return with their seventh full-length album, entitled Abuse to Suffer.
If the chaotic urgency of Abuse to Suffer is any indication, age shall not weary these pissed off veterans. Rotten Sound attack with the focused aggression and ferocity of a pitbull latching onto an intruder’s nutsack, ripping out a barrage of sick, crusty grind tunes over a typically concise 28 minute run time. While never veering too drastically away from their tried and true formula, Abuse to Suffer finds the band sounding meaner, filthier and somehow angrier than usual. Perhaps the slight sonic change-up into a grimier sounding, rawer aesthetic has lent Rotten Sound an even uglier and more visceral edge. Or maybe events in their shared lives over the past couple of years has bled into the piss and vinegar drenched riffs, furious tempos and frantic blasts comprising the album. Whatever the case, it sure is nice to have Rotten Sound back again.
Like many grind albums, Abuse to Suffer runs like one continuous and relentlessly intense beating of the senses, punctuated by shifts into equally aggressive, but dialed back, tempos and knuckle dragging grooves. These moments come around quite frequently and showcase the kind of smart dynamics and tempo variations rare in the grind field, offering sweet payoffs from the extreme adrenaline charged nature of this grinding beast. Their ability to be equally menacing at half pace, along with their strong grip of songwriting dynamics, have long been valuable points of difference for Rotten Sound and Abuse to Suffer offers many of the same quality attributes. That being said, a handful of songs hold a stronger individual identity to stand out from the pack. Sludgy riffs and a bitter hardcore edge defines the punishing midsection of “Machine”, while back-to-back bruisers “Time for the Fix”, “Slave to the Rats” and “Brainwashed” are similarly nasty, groove-thickened gems, propelled by creative drumming, catchy riffs and dynamic arrangements. This grind and groove combo, culminating in the savage grind/noise/sludge finale “Extortion and Blackmail”, serves the band exceptionally well. Meanwhile “Yellow Pain” finds Rotten Sound dabbling outside their perimeters into pure sludge territory, dishing up a whiff of melody and sounding convincing rather than derivative on their own vicious take on the genre.
Abuse to Suffer shows that Rotten Sound is as reliable as ever. Most of the material maintains a solid standard, although some of the more by-the-numbers tracks pale slightly in comparison with the catchier, groove-laced songs. Abuse to Suffer comes equipped with a buzzing, dirty production job which lends the album a live, garage-y feel. Unfortunately the positives are balanced out by brutal compression, that when coupled with the scathing material puts unnecessary strain on the old ears and head.
Aside from the aforementioned and mixed sonic tweaks, the band deliver much of what their longtime fans will expect. If you like Rotten Sound there’s little reason not to enjoy this latest platter. It may not stand as the band’s finest album, that honor still belongs to 2005’s Exit, but Rotten Sound have delivered another solid slab of ear-destroying madness for the grind inclined, adding to their impressive body of work.