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Few bands are able to replicate the fervor that The Kill are able to incite within the grindcore community. "The Soundtrack to Your Violence" is often cited as a triumph, although it's their side of the split with Birdflesh that gets most people hooked on their particular brand of violent, merciless, punk-rooted grindcore. It's with this reverence firmly ingrained in my head that I impatiently awaited the release of their first "proper" release in almost ten years, "Make 'em Suffer". With fifteen tracks clocking in at just under twenty minutes, I suppose it's walking the tightrope between an EP and a full-length, but let me be clear in saying that no matter which way you cut it, these are twenty minutes you're not likely to forget in a hurry.
As alluded to in their tour CD "Shower of Bricks" from the previous year, the passing of time has not eroded The Kill's ability to blast their listeners into the next dimension. The opening track, "Cactus", sets the tone for the album in more ways than one. A tinge of feedback is followed by something previously alien to this band's aesthetic: a slow-moving intro. That being said, it seems clear that these first forty seconds exist as a tease. As in: "we know you've been waiting years to hear us blast for an entire album, but you're going to have to wait for it." Once drummer Jay does kick in with his inhumanly tight single-pedal blast, the listener is yanked back to earth in brutal fashion. The sound is crisp without sounding overproduced, guitar player Roby reacquaints us with his effortless jaunts up and down the neck in a style that gives nods to all manner of death and thrash, as always at breakneck pace. On top of which nutty vocalist Nik unleashes the high-pitched howl that goes all too well with the musicians alongside him. Throw in lyrics about a violent drug trip gone wrong, and you're out of breath before you've hit track two.
Beyond the opener, there is scarcely a hair out of place on this record. The drums are tight as one could ask for, and if Jay has gotten a dash more conventional in the tempo changing aspect of his writing, this only serves to highlight the genius of the melody section. Punk and thrash have found a home in Roby's riff-writing, and their marriage is pulled off to perfection. When the d-beat rages and the riff is rooted on the bottom string, you know that a deadly thrash hook is around the corner. And though I would not be averse to a bit more variety in the delivery of the vocals, I find it hard to criticize Nik's contributions as his singular style is far from problematic in itself.
Lastly, it's worth noting that the tone, the aesthetic of this album is pure Kill. Songs about the joy of playing fast, the ins and outs of the metal/punk scene and a trek or two down the avenues of blood and gore remind us that this Australian trio have not lost sight of what makes grindcore truly great: the will to play as fast as possible without compromising musical quality, or indeed a sense of humor.
Oh, and did I mention the Slayer cover? Friends, this is a thing of beauty.