Grog – Ablutionary Rituals
Location: Oeiras/Lisbon, Portugal
Label: Murder Records
Doing anything for 25 years is no small feat, but delivering brutal, grinding death metal (with no signs of slowing down or softening) for that amount of time is pretty impressive. Portugal’s Grog have been doing exactly that, since forming in 1991 and establishing themselves as an underground force to be reckoned with in the brutal death and grindcore scene.
Ablutionary Rituals, the band’s latest release, sounds every bit as aggressive as their early releases, with a notable maturity in songwriting and musicianship. The music is crushingly heavy, with a good mix of dynamic changes in tone, and speed; at times, the music is frantic and chaotic similar to early Cattle Decapitation, while there are also sections that slow things down a bit to a nightmarish, sludgy crawl, as can be heard on “Katharsis – The Cortex of Doom and Left Hand Moon.” Grog transition between these sounds with ease, often in the same song, with “Cardiaxe” being a great example of this. There are a lot of great riffs throughout each song, with each one sticking around long enough to be memorable without overstaying its welcome.
Ablutionary Rituals is a pretty excellent slab of brutal death metal, with some solid, memorable tunes. The production, for the most part, is pretty great as well, with plenty of volume for each instrument. There’s a bit of reverb thrown into the mix, which adds atmosphere to the slower moments, but unfortunately muddies the audio up when the band is going full-speed ahead. With the reverb turned up, the cymbals add a bit too much of a hiss in the audio, which makes some of the riffs and vocals difficult to hear. Overall, though, Grog have crafted a record that would make any band proud, and is a high point in their lengthy career. If you like brutal, grindcore influenced death metal, give Ablutionary Rituals a spin.
Next Step – Legacy
Location: Madrid, Spain
Label: Rock Estatal Records
As lamented by metal fans as grunge was, it certainly helped bring more aggressive music into the mainstream. Bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains were all over the airwaves and, for better or worse, paved the way for countless radio-ready “heavy rock” bands, like Alter Bridge and Breaking Benjamin. Call them post-grunge, modern rock, or whatever you like, you know what to expect: “yarling” vocals, crunchy guitars, and immaculate, squeaky clean production values. Fans of more extreme music bemoan these bands, but record sales show that there is certainly an audience for this form of hard rock, and, truth be told, there are definitely some great albums in the genre. That’s where Madrid, Spain’s Next Step come in.
Legacy is full of crunchy riffs, and vocals that are reminiscent of Breaking Benjamin. I’ll give you fair warning, if you’re not a fan of the “post-grunge” genre, this record will very likely not change your mind. Everything you’ve heard on a Seether or Shinedown record, you’ll hear on Legacy. There are plenty of heavy riffs on songs like “Wounds Become Scars” and “Follow,” but there are also power ballads, like “Price We Pay.” The vocals have that twangy, snarly you’d expect on this type of album, but there are occasional guttural yells that add an extra layer of heaviness into the mix.
The production is absolutely pristine, with plenty of each instrument in the mix, and nobody drowning anyone else out. This album would probably benefit from a dirtier sound, though, and the songwriting isn’t super original. Next Step are great at what they do, and play together really tightly, but I would like to see them try to differentiate themselves from their influences a little bit more next time. If you’re into bands like Alter bridge and Shinedown, you’ll probably enjoy Legacy a lot, but don’t expect any reinvention of the wheel here.