Carcass, Napalm Death, Repulsion, and Terrorizer are rightfully credited as vital cogs in the early creation and evolution of grindcore. The genre’s highly abrasive fusion of death metal, hardcore, and extreme punk struck a nerve in the metal community, and as the ’90s kicked in, the genre continued gathering steam. Formed in 1990 by prolific bass-slinging band whore Dan Lilker (Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Blurring, Venomous Concept, S.O.D. & many others), New York’s Brutal Truth threw their hats into the grind ring and captured lightning in a bottle with their phenomenal 1992 debut, Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses; a dead-set grind classic, now certified as an olde motherfucker. There’s something special about Brutal Truth’s underappreciated debut that sets it apart from pretty much any other grind album I’ve experienced. Brutal Truth went on to achieve a decent degree of success in the subsequent years, however, despite some respectable offerings and the genre-bending brilliance of their experimental follow-up Need to Control, I often feel the band struggled to rise to the dizzying levels of their first two LP’s.
Extreme Conditions brought increased tightness, memorable riffs and musical precision to the equation, something that had been showcased but largely underdeveloped in the early crystallization of grind. This shit was exceptionally fast, catchy and plain exhilarating to listen to. The song-writing featured all the trademarks expected, yet transcended the more primitive elements to evolve the genre and display dynamics and versatility that were almost unheard of during the early wave of grindcore. Speed reigned supreme, with crusty breakneck rhythms, noisy blasting and thrashy beats setting ridiculous tempos, expertly backed by Lilker’s filthy bass lines and Brent McCarty’s catchy riffs and technically proficient, finger shredding fretwork. The line-up that crafted Extreme Conditions were all individual strengths as a powerhouse whole. Kevin Sharp’s insightful, politically charged lyrics were delivered with a fearsome array of deathly growls, grunts and glass shattering screams, matching the impressive dynamics of the music. Meanwhile, drummer Scott Lewis may have only been a short-term part of the Brutal Truth legacy but his unhinged and insanely tight performance was one for the ages.
Even 25 years later, Extreme Conditions still remains a grindcore rarity regarding song-writing diversity and variation, balancing their stomping riff-based approach with vital but tasteful extremity, rather than reveling in pure noise. Of course, there’re absurdly short songs lasting four and seven seconds, a plethora of one-to-two minute grind nuggets, and a series of more musically diverse songs marked by Brutal Truth’s cross-genre exploration. At around 45 minutes, Extreme Conditions is longer than your average grind album but the band maintains a strong song-writing standard throughout, with a smattering of cuts rising above. The monumental riffs of the superb “Birth of Ignorance” immediately demonstrated Brutal Truth’s fine riffcraft and the impressive song-writing dynamics of their death metal-influenced grind.
Good times continue rolling, with “Denial of Existence” a near perfect marriage of death and grind, while “Walking Corpse,” “H.O.P.E.” and “Wilt” are expert examples of pure, unbridled mayhem and brutality at top speed. And the brilliant “Time” is a near six-minute slog of doomy death-sludge, pushing all the right buttons at half speed. Considering the genre and the year in which Extreme Conditions was recorded, the album holds up remarkably well. Sure the cymbals sound kind of shitty, but otherwise the evenly balanced mix, solid degree of clarity and just the right amount of polish brought a sharpness to Brutal Truth’s precise formula. These aspects were offset by the band’s gritty, streetwise attitude and delivery, along with the gnarly, rugged tones of the instruments.
The post-millennium era of grind has featured no shortage of killer bands taking the genre to exciting heights, led by Swedish legends Nasum, who bridged the old school with modern sensibilities. The likes of Pig Destroyer, Gridlink, Antigama, Wormrot, Insect Warfare, Beaten to Death, Captain Cleanoff and a select handful of other worthy acts have helped shape and innovate grind over the years, even if the genre too often represents a case of quantity over quality. The drug-crazed grind freaks of Brutal Truth have lurked around the scene and showed impressive durability and longevity over a couple of different career phases, but Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses remains the band’s benchmark release and a stone cold grind classic in its own right.