Crime Records

Friday, January 31, 2014

Nausea - Condemned To The System Review
            Grindcore veterans Nausea (not to be confused with the seminal NYC crust band of the same name) prove themselves to still be going strong in the twenty first century with their second full LP release, Condemned To The System. Their discography isn’t actually as sparse as that statement made it seem, because since their formation in 1987 they’ve released a slew of splits, demos, and compilations along with their debut album. None of which managed to put them on the map much, it seems, because it was pretty hard to dredge up even this amount of information. As their premier release in the new and wonderful world of interwebs, however, this record could be the one that redefines the very meaning of “old guys who can rock out” and takes the metal world by storm.
            Or not. While it is hard to find any real flaws in this dense thirty minutes and fifty six seconds of pure, old school grind, it’s also hard to find any innovation. While the occasional doomy riff or lick of southern hardcore serves to make the experience less bland, it definitely doesn’t pique much interest. Fans of grind won’t find anything to complain about, however, from Freedom of Religion’s slow, heavy beginning to Absence of War’s blazing, angry ending. Condemned To The System will definitely solidify what fans they already have, and draw in any hardcore grindcore fans that haven’t heard of them yet (seriously, if you consider yourself a fan of grindcore in the style of early Napalm Death give this a spin). And if you’re worried about all that death that seems to sneak into the grindcore these days, (not that Aborted doesn’t rock my fucking face off, of course) have no fear. Nothing but good-old hardcore-punk derived madness to be found here.
The themes of the album are obviously political, from the album artwork to the song names to the angry grunting. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what each song is about, and there’s no real need to read the lyric sheets or do any pesky analyzing. These guys are pissed. At the government. And the businesses. Fuck the system. Rarg. You get the idea.
The production quality leaves absolutely nothing to be desired, mixing the drums and guitars well, while the vocals remain at a steady middle-of-the mix, not too in-your-face, not too distant volume. The overall sound does tend to get a bit muddled and sludgy at times, but that’s more so the style of music being played than the production. The guitars remain solid throughout without falling prey to my biggest grindcore pet-peeve of all, using the lowest drop-whatever tuning possible to come off as heavy and br00tal. The guitars are heavy because the RIFFS are heavy, and that’s the way good grindcore should be (not that I don’t appreciate some good-ol distortion, mind you). The bass guitar remains important without being weirdly at the head of the mix, or doing the all-the-other-instruments-stop-playing-randomly-but-the-bass-because-he’s-feeling-left-out thing. The drums are classic grind through-and-through with just enough variation to not feel boring, which is ideal for a classic grindcore record like this. They do seem a tiny bit stale after a while, but what’s a drummer to do when the guitars are doing the same types of stuff all the time? The vocals are good but remain pretty static throughout, not really deviating from the punkily rushed death grunt lows and the sickly-dying-dude highs at any point. They’re actually pretty understandable sometimes, too, which is always nice for a metal song, adding a whole new dynamic to the listening experience.
            For someone who enjoys grind but doesn’t worship the ground it walks on, this album gets a bit tedious, especially the intros. For the first half of the album almost every song starts with slow, crunching guitars then deviates into crushing grind riffs and blast beats. The pacing is decent overall, with some cool little gems thrown in in the middle and end. Just as things were getting boring, Hate & Deception brings in a decent guitar solo that got me interested in where things were going again, which says a lot coming from someone who doesn’t like guitar solos that much. The very next track, Corporation Pull-In, laid another little surprise on me, gang-vocals. Which did seem little odd for this record, but it actually sounded really well-placed and definitely kept me interested. They were definitely the most brutal gang-vocals I’ve ever heard, too, sounding like an entire room of death metal screamers screaming at once, as opposed to just some random, talentless guys yelling. So I suppose I take back what I said about this record not doing anything innovative (if you could call that innovation). Fuck the World brings another good, almost disgusting sounding solo, perhaps a bit too close to the other solo, but that's just coming from someone who isn't overly fond of solos. Falsely Accused is a bit of a step back, perhaps the most generic and lackluster song on the record, but not necessarily bad. In Condemn Big Business there’s not so much a solo as a wailing little imp in the background, which is good for me, maybe not so good for solo aficionados (if that’s even a thing). The penultimate track, And We Suffer, brings some down-right sludge to the table, providing the slowest and one of the heaviest songs on the album, as well as the most interesting drumming. While I did enjoy the track a lot, it was a bit too off the grindy path for me, which is only a problem because the rest of the album was so straightforward. The ending track, Absence of War, would have been a lot better if I hadn’t heard several very similar riffs already on the same record. That said, it’s still one of the best tracks on the album, managing to be interesting and dynamic without straying even one inch from the grind. It’s got the best intro part of the entire album, as well as the best vocal performance.
           To wrap it up, this is good ol grindcore, nothing more, nothing less. Definitely nothing less.

Favorite tracks: Corporation Pull-In, Condemn Big Business, And We Suffer, Absence of War
Least-favorite track: Falsely Accused

Personal Enjoyment Rating: 6.5/10
Objective Rating: 8/10