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An enjoyable split done completely wrong - 91%

Napero, September 9th, 2008

Gods of Grind is an enjoyable split album, but all things considered, it's also a split album with pretty much everything wrong with it. Of the four bands on it, Cathedral, Entombed and Carcass have become internationally pretty well-known acts, and even Confessor has its own fan base. The most obvious problem, of course, is the fact that there's very little actual grind on it: of the four bands on the split, only Carcass has ever grinded, the other three have their trades somewhere else in the great tree of metal subgenres. Here, even Carcass sticks to their more metallic output from the Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious era, and doesn't come even close to sound and anger found on the Reek of Putrefaction and Symphonies of Sickness. Therefore, no matter what the reasoning, there's no grind here, just metal. Perhaps the split title has some obscure history behind it, or perhaps someone referred to "the daily grind" or simple grimness of the music without really paying attention to the existence of the genre of grind at all. It was 1992, after all, and "grindcore" meant simply "Napalm Death" to most people, maybe even those with positions to name splits in bigger record companies.

Entombed's tracks are taken off Stranger Aeons EP, and the title track "Stranger Aeons" also appears on Clandestine. Their output here could well be a bolt-on extension of Clandestine, and unless you're very familiar with the full-length, telling the two apart is practically impossible. Extremely enjoyable, heavy and rocking, Entombed's tracks work like a charm. Time spent on listening to their early-career material is never wasted.

Carcass provides four tracks, and incidentally all of them can be found on the Tools of the Trade EP. Yeah, sure, "Incarnated Solvent Abuse" appears on Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious, too, but that's beside the point. Actually, the tracks could all very well be found on Necroticism, which certainly isn't a bad thing; of the more metallic periods of their career, Necroticism is definitely not one of the bad parts. Between the aggressive dirty grind and the not-quite-neutered melodeath they ended up playing on the last two albums, Necroticism found a perfect balance between the two extremes, and depending on the audience's leanings, could well be declared their best period. Having a chunk of that on a split is not a bad idea.

Cathedral's tracks can - surprise, surprise - be found on the Soul Sacrifice EP. One of the tracks, "Soul Sacrifice," appears on Forest of Equilibrium, as well. Can we see a pattern emerging here already? Cathedral's songs are from their own, eccentric mold, easy to regonize, and combine somewhat grumpy and too-fast-to-be-doom metal with emerging stoner influences.

Confessor, the least-known band among the four, only got three out of the four tracks on their Confessor EP onto this split, and perhaps the fact that the missing track, at least according to the MA's entry, is a demo version, and might well have been missing from the original tracklist, could explain its omission. If there's something that needed to be dropped from this split among the tracks of the four EPs, for reasons of CD capacity for example, a bonus demo version is certainly not a bad choice to leave out. Confessor's "technical" doom is an oddity, and sounds almost like a doomified version of Prong during their Beg to Differ years. The drummer works harder than any percussionist ever in any other band dubbed "doom metal", and the odd beats in funny/funky time signatures, combined with the slowish melodies and odd instrumentation and production strangely... ...work. And the whole works much better than the description above would lead you to believe. There's enough of Confessor on the split to awaken an interest in their music, but little enough to leave the listener hungry for more.

Gods of Grind is not grind, and it's not a split album, either. It's simply a record label compilation of EPs, perhaps a way to market the bands to audiences by providing samples. The compilation nature of the album has been camouflaged in a devilishly cunning way, by mixing the track orders, perhaps to prevent a listener from enjoying any one of the EPs and leaving out the others; this split was released before playing CDs on a computer became commomplace, and anyone familiar with early 90s CD player user interfaces knows what a bitch one of those was to program to play only select tracks from among the 14 on the CD. Could it be that the idea was to give a buyer appetizers, and then sell him the EP to provide a listening experience without the interference from the other bands? Fiendish, really.

Finally, the bane of every split ever: the incompatibility of the bands. Here, if anywhere, the differences between the participating bands are extreme, and the split has a few pieces of four different Ravensburger 1000-piece puzzles in a single box; you can assemble a kitten's paw, a corner of a castle in the Alps, a sunset on Lake Geneva and a smudge from an early modernistic piece of art, but not a whole picture; they do not combine in any other way than as a collection of bands on the same label. No, this does not work as a split in that sense, either. This is a haphazard compilation by a potentially greedy label, nothing more.

In the end, after everything has been said, the analytical approach still loses its credibility. This, no matter what the motives, the compatibility problems and origins of tracks are, is simply a CD full of good music. The world is filled with compilations from labels, and if all of them were this good, buying them would not sound so idiotic as it does today. In addition to being a snapshot of history from a decade and a half ago, this might well turn out to be the only way to find most of these EPs on an original physical format. Not grind, not a split, and a mixed bag of bands that just happened to be there instead of any greater artistic vision to guide the process of compiling, but damn, this still is very good music. Recommended!