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Get a Grip on Your 90’s Metal Self - 96%

bayern, April 2nd, 2017

And if you manage to do that, I mean by following the steps carefully as described in “Your Manual to the Ultimate 90’s Metal Experience” classic by the mysterious Swiss baron Waldemar Lombardinho, chapter LIX in particular, you will find the album reviewed here your most faithful companion. Don’t take my word for it, just give it a try; you’ll thank me for that later.

Now seriously: I have to admit that I do exaggerate regarding the damage and injury the 90’s groovy/post-thrashy/industrial/alternative trends inflicted upon the metal scene. I just never became a very big fan of those new sounds although I did give an ear or two to what was going on around. After all, there was no gun pressed on the fan’s head forcing him/her to like Pantera, Ministry, or Helmet; it was all a matter of choice, and the audience also had plenty of opportunities to enjoy new examples of old school metal glory: some late boarders on the latter train were shredding like the 80’s had never ended; they never stopped. Heads with Machines, Probes, Punctures and other similar aberrations meant nothing to them…

And this is how we arrive at the finest moment from the whole 90’s picturesque, multifarious carnival, the Grip Inc. saga. It was obvious that thrash had to “endure” some alterations; it didn’t make sense every subsequent album to follow the path of “Ride the Lightning”, or “Eternal Nightmare”, or “Extreme Aggression” with a new decade on the horizon. At the same time, it didn’t have to be something vociferous, aggro, groovy and shouty the way Pantera and their clones used to present it. It had to have its relations to the 80’s roots, and it had to have the requisite updates to bemuse the amorphous 90’s audience.

Not a very easy task for sure, one that wouldn’t have been carried out successfully by some inexperienced novices. It took two veterans from the German and the US (of course!) scenes to come up with the project to modernize thrash without turning it into the laughing stock of the movement: Waldemar Sorychta, the frontman and founder of the progressive thrashers Despair, and Dave Lombardo. The two musicians worked together for the first time in the all-star collaboration Voodoocult led by the electro pop wave guru Philip Boa. They participated in the first instalment “Jesus Killing Machine” in 1993 alongside Death’s Chuck Schuldiner (R.I.P.), and if one had listened to this album he/she would have heard the characteristic guitar work of Sorychta that later graced the Grip Inc. exploits. They had obviously decided to continue their partnership elsewhere cause very soon after Grip Inc. became a fact.

The band’s debut was denounced by the conservative old school metal fanbase who couldn’t possibly imagine Lombardo taking part in something that didn’t have the “Slayer” label on it, or that didn’t have at least remote resemblance to the legends’ style. It was Lombardo who took the rap for this “betrayal” as Sorychta wasn’t that well known at the time. Cause Grip Inc. was a new road taken, very little to do with Slayer or any other retro thrash metal act from the 80’s. Said debut was a great representation of this new road, dark semi-progressive thrash with relevant influences from other genres, Sorychta’s fretwork pairing well with Lombardo’s “infernal” drumming. They had brought an excellent newcomer to take care of the vocal duties, Gus Chambers (R.I.P.), whose strong passionate semi-clean vocals remain a highlight on the 90’s metal singing arena.

I know quite a few people who loved the debut, but were pulled back quite a bit by the album reviewed here. The main reason for that was that the guys have loosened the more rigid thrash template from the first instalment with a bigger variation of tempos and a larger number on influences. They waste no time pulling in the listener with the hypnotic chugger “Pathetic Liar” which impresses even more with the great quiet break. The thrashers have to line up for “Portrait of Henry”, 1.5-min of pure headbanging pleasure which is like a storm before the calm the latter reflected in “Empress (of Rancor)” which has the most charming, alluring atmospheric intro of the 90’s; it breaks the stride of the prevalent proto-groovy rhythms later this symbiosis transcending the borders of thrash for which also helps the excellent operatic instrumental “Descending Darkness”. Thrash returns for the maddening “War Between One”, a thrashing masterpiece which alone can compensate for a whole career in groovy balladisms; 2-min of pure thrashing fury.

Diversity will be the name of the game, and “Scream at the Sky” only consolidates this impression with its spacey progressive variations and sudden sharp interceptions, a stomping quasi-doomster with Chambers pulling out standout dramatic performance including his unholy shouts on the chorus. “Silent Stranger” “flirts” with more aggressive riffage, but remains more on the pounding side the atmospheric breaks another interesting motif. “The Summoning” is a superb doomy thrashism, a sinister composition with more breath-taking serene passages and even more amazing lead sections; and “Rusty Nails” carries on the dark tone with heavy macabre guitars and a great chorus. With these four numbers forming a tantalizing group of inimitable heavy atmospherics, the band create spellbinding microcosmos which is a unique phenomenon on the scene, not caring whether this is thrash, or power, or death metal anymore. This is merely metal of the highest order which reaches its culmination on the epic “Myth or Man” that again clings more towards the doomy side, the latter also featured prominently on the closing “Code of Silence”, a more pompous way to finish the album with several more aggressive outbursts of the stomping steam-rolling variety.

The hardboiled thrashers, who just frowned on the debut, opened their mouths wide and started pouring invectives and loads of criticism over the band as thrash wasn’t the leading style here. Apart from the mentioned two short outbursts of brutality the rest is firmly placed within the mid-paced to slow confines creating a lot of atmosphere and a peculiar sense of anti-dynamics. My guessing is that the guys intentionally shifted away from their more intense thrashy roots in order to not be perennially related to that genre (“Lombardo and Sorychta; thrash, yeeeah!”), and also to show that they could create something equally as intriguing outside its boundaries. And they did achieve this with flying colours here, their most interesting and least derivative opus. A friend of mine labelled it “Doomesis” due to the hefty doomy flavour he detected, but I wouldn’t go that far in my categorization; let’s just call it modern metal and leave it at that.

On “Solidify” (1999) the guys went head over heels into the groove trying to beat Madonna… sorry, Pantera and Machine Head in their own game. They almost succeeded in doing that, but the level of originality was dropped considerably leaving this effort the most generic one in their discography. A 5-year gap followed broken by “Incorporated”, an excellent return to the thrash from the debut considered by many their finest hour. The band looked well equipped to rule through the new millennium as well, but things slowed down in their camp as the guys all got distracted with various other affairs: Lombardo returned to his old love Slayer, Chambers went to help the German thrashers Squealer with the recording of their 2006 album “Coronation Street”, and Sorychta founded another outfit, Enemy of the Sun, where he gives more freedom to his experimental spirit producing an overdone mish-mash of styles (two full-lengths released so far) that hasn’t been very warmly accepted. With Chambers’ untimely passing away in 2008 the Grip Inc. sadly came to an end.

The “Hostage to Heaven” EP (2015), naturally featuring the song of the same title from the debut alongside previously unreleased tracks, wasn’t a wake-up call for their fans as there are no intentions at this stage for a new start. It seems as though the 90’s side of the metal fan’s soul will have to be pacified with the old gripping feats…

Where thrash meets atmosphere - 85%

Felix 1666, October 10th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1997, CD, Steamhammer

Grip Inc. started with an overwhelming debut and so it came as no surprise that they had to struggle in order to design an equally strong successor. The band decided to choose a more variable approach. Classic thrash metal was still dominating, but it was mixed with atmospheric components. "Empress (of Rancor)" led on to "Descending Darkness" and both tunes possessed an ominous aura, which was inter alia created by the integration of fragile yet sinister keyboard lines. Apart from that, cautious parts and screaming guitars alternated with each other with the effect that the band put the listener in a state of permanent restlessness. This situation was definitely intended and a song like "Code of Silence" underlined the assumption. Its extremely effervescent part also had the purpose to shock the audience.

But the musicians also remained true to themselves. Especially "War Between One" flirted almost painfully with the intensive songs of the debut. I am talking in particular of "Hostage to Heaven". "War Between One" possessed exactly the same kind of razor-sharp riffs and the equal level of aggression. Due to the fact that "Hostage to Heaven" had been one of the highlights of the debut, it was only logical that its successor also satisfied all thrash metal fans in a very enjoyable manner.

Speaking of thrash metal, "Nemesis" was released in 1997, just one year before Slayer began to slay their reputation with the release of the inconsequential "Diabolus in Musica". This hint makes clear that thrash metal bands were not immune against new trends at the end of the millennium. But unlike Slayer, Grip Inc. did not follow the most popular trends with their eyes shut. Apart from the aforementioned atmospheric elements, they combined their basic framework with an extra portion of power. "Rusty Nail" was a slap in the face and its edgy guitar work left the listener no other opportunity than to fall under the spell of the music. Nevertheless, this was not a genuine thrash metal piece, because it lacked of velocity and offered a more or less melancholic mood. Its absence of velocity did not mark an isolated case. Mid-tempo parts and speed sections roughly balanced each other out.

The album benefitted from a flawless production. This was no surprise in view of the involvement of Waldemar Sorychta who also appeared as the main composer of the formation. Despite the fact that the band had integrated some non-thrashing influences, the sound of "Nemesis" could not be confused with that of power or traditional metal albums. Its transparent heaviness, the piercing guitars and the clean overall impression left no doubt that these guys had been musically socialised by thrash metal. Contrariwise, the punk roots of Gus Chambers (R.I.P.) did not play a significant role. However, more important was that his vocal performance was on a par with the instrumental brilliance of his band mates.

Admittedly, the furious debut remained unrivaled. A few songs of "Nemesis" achieved a good level, but they did not have the explosive force that had distinguished the tracks of "Power of Inner Strength". Anyway, the drumming of Lombardo, the riffs of Sorychta and the vocals of Chambers were still a dangerous cocktail and "Nemesis" appeared as a kind of guarantee that thrash metal will never die - minor adjustments not excluded.

Still kicking ass... - 80%

evermetal, October 29th, 2009

The worst thing that can happen to a band is when they start repeating themselves with each album. Thank God, Dave Lombardo was too clever and too experienced to allow something like this to happen. Their debut, Power of… contained dynamites like Ostracized and Hostage to Heaven that obliterated us and destroyed our pitiful ears with the straight-in-your-face thrash metal. Their second album, released in 1997 was titled Nemesis, after the name of a Greek ancient deity that punished those who did wrong and unjust.

Nemesis was a development for the band. This time they decided or even risked, if you prefer, to add more elements to their music like atmosphere, melodies and generally they approached metal in a wider attitude. Only under this aspect can one appreciate compositions like Descending Darkness, The Summoning or the six-minute long Code of Silence. They definitely lack in speed and are not thrash metal to the bone but they’ve got heavy guitars and many interesting breaks. Chambers’ vocals are not so aggressive now but still they fit the climate perfectly. The rhythm section is very steady and Lombardo is… well, he’s only being himself!

But for heaven’s sake do not think that Nemesis denies its thrash base. Because the scales balance under the tremendous weight of explosive, titanic songs like Rusty Nail, War Between One and my favorite Pathetic Liar. These are songs bound to cause merciless headbanging with the fast sharp riffs, thrash drumming and great amounts of energy. All these are amplified by the flawless production that helps the instruments build a metal wall around them, sounding so clear.

This album may be less energetic than Power… but it is more mature and thus very charming and luring. Though for my taste it is one step below its predecessor, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is worse. Do not ignore and underestimate it or else Nemesis will punish you!

An open mind is necessary - 85%

Conor, February 12th, 2007

Grip Inc will always carry the unfortunate and ill informed tag of “just the side project for Dave Lombardo”. That was how I heard of them, and probably most people who have given their music a listen. What Nemesis proves however, is that they are much more than that. The guitar talent of Sorychta and unique vocal style of Gus Chambers makes them a very interesting band to listen to. If you are looking for a similar sound to Slayer, you have come to the wrong place.

The album starts off with possibly one of my favourite GI tracks, “Pathetic Liar”. The groovy riff and addictive chorus makes it a track that is very easy to enjoy after one or two listens. In fact, most of the album only takes a couple of listens to get into it. In no way is it a progressive or complicated album, just straight-up honest heavy metal.

The album plods along with a mid-paced riff centred song structure. There is little variation in the way the songs are written; riff; chorus; solo; chorus etc. It is the catchiness of the riffs that keeps you hooked. “Scream at the Sky” is probably my favourite track on the album, as it is a pleasant variation from the rest of the songs. The rest of the album just sort of plods along without ever reaching a natural conclusion. This is probably the downfall of the album, there is no defining moment or climax, it just sort of ends. The similarities in the songs is a strength as the simplicity makes the album accessible but is also a major weakness.

Overall, this is a very competent effort by the “side project of Slayer’s drummer”. The lyrics, although vague and meaningless, contain interesting and memorable phrases, and are put across by Chambers very well. The backbone of the album however, is the riff fest that Sorychta provides. Dave’s drumming is as you would expect, competent and precise but not blisteringly fast, it is definitely not the main feature of the album. I give this a 85% because of the strength of the groove laden riffs and because it is a welcome break from the American metalcore rubbish we are normally subjected to in the post-thrash scene.

Picks: “Pathetic Liar”, “War Between One”, “Scream at the Sky”, “Rusty Nail”.

Nemesis not good! - 62%

PowerMetalGuardian, January 13th, 2005

This is my first taste of Grip Inc., so I wont be able to compare it to old or new material. Nemesis uses a different variety of themes, broken into first and second halves. The album starts off pretty good, but then declines into utter crap. So overall, Grip Inc.'s second stab at a good metal album fails!

We start off with some pretty awesome songs. Pathetic Liar and Portrait Henry have some pretty well crafted riffs. After the track War Between One, the guitar riffs get pretty sloppy. There are really no memorable moments after this track, save for the opening riff of Silent Stranger. It's like they just gave up half way through the album. Plus there are hardly any solos, and way to many guitar effects, which lakes in the beginning. This is especially true for songs like Myth or Man and The Summoning. It would be alright if it was every know and then, but the effects are completely overkill.

One thing I enjoy about this album comes from the songs Empress (of Rancor) and Descending Darkness. Empress offers a clean evil sounding riff with a bad ass bass line and some great drumming. It really gives an evil mood, and I love when music can create atmosphere and tension. Descending Darkness is really a two minute intro to the next song, War Between One. Once again we have a bad ass bass line with good drumming, but this time we have some synthesizers that add a lot of mood and character to the song. Add a muffled spoken part and some cool keyboards and you have one awesome intro!

Other than the things I have mentioned above the album is pretty much junk. Most of these songs are mediocre, if even that. The first half of the album will keep you interested, but then you will fall asleep. At least Dave's drumming stays constantly good throughout the whole album. The singing, in my opinion is pretty bad. It sounds like forced Slayer-ish vocals, with occasional James Hetfield gr's! I wouldn't bother picking this album up, unless you find it cheap like I did.

It's not supposed to be Slayer - 87%

DarkEyesofSorrow, July 29th, 2003

The title gives reference to Dave Lombardo, who's after-slayer, testament days plays in a more traditional style metal than the speed riffages of his former bands. Traditional is hardly what it is die-hard Lombardo fans and probably admiring drummers, its really not impressive compared know.....but the metal is quite strong and in your face. Waldemar Sorychta (guitarist) mixes the tracks so you can definately hear his crunch. While Gus Chambers (vocals) is not anything "special / unique", he offers a good raspy grind to the songs. (anyone looking for operatic, high voiced bands need not apply here) If I could hear Jason Viebrooks on bass I'd critique it too....but its definately back there. (headphones)

The songs do, at times, take on a anthem-like build-up song Scream at the Sky (about hanger 18? Megadeth...not hardly), Descending Darkness & Rusty Nail are winners there

A really good kick you in the ass metal...(no NOT SLAYER) but, it does give a good crunch.......(those looking for progressive gods need not apply)

Waldemar does possess some hintage of slayer-esqeness (as well as Lombardo - drummer god) on the song War Between One. Most Slayer fans will like that well enough.

When all is said and done the album changes pace enough for me, and has enough of its fast paced, as well as grinding slower songs, to keep me interested; and not lacking for being bulldozed with guitar riffs that are produced to be in you face, simplistic but effective.