posted on 3/2011 By:
If someone asked me to give an example of what the “extreme” in extreme metal is supposed to denote, Rotten Sound would be one of the first bands I would look toward to help me explain. Over six LPs and numerous other releases, these Finnish grind stalwarts have honed and perfected one of the most devastating sounds you'll hear, grind or otherwise, and they’ve shown no signs of slowing down seventeen years into their career. Even after suffering what could have been a devastating lineup change in the loss of expert drummer Kai Hahto (to the now-dormant Wintersun, no less), Rotten Sound rolled with the punches, shifting to a grittier, more primal modus operandi on the EP Consume to Contaminate and previous LP Cycles by scaling back some of the overt technicality of previous releases while only raising the savagery factor.
It comes as little surprise that Cursed is basically an extension of the style explored on Cycles, just like Exit was an extension of Murderworks and so forth. That’s not to say that each album's motif is directly derivative of the last, merely that each moves forward with its own distinctive progressions that revolve around the band’s already near-perfect core. Just like Cycles, Cursed is built around a vicious dynamic of razor-sharp instrumental precision and pure, unbridled rage. It’s impressive that music so tight and professionally presented can still feel so dangerous and out-of-control, and it's a testament to both the high level of the group’s technical skills and the seemingly organic energy and power that always comes through in their songs. Also like Cycles, Cursed sees Rotten Sound pursue an increasingly dark, atmospheric direction, conjuring images of societal collapse and vast post-apocalyptic wastelands through an urgent sound that’s quick and brutalizing but still painstakingly conceived and realized. And with the possible exception of Pig Destroyer, I can’t think of any project that has created grindcore so simultaneously violent and evocative as that found on this band’s last several releases, and on Cursed in particular.
While the outfit’s punishing sense of speed and precise playing has always been a huge strength, Rotten Sound has never been a band that relies on pure velocity to compensate for lack of interesting songwriting. Every tune on Cursed is distinct and full in its execution, and the myriad of musical influences that shine through are just as important to the vitality of the songs as the grinding center. Death metal, doom, punk, crust, and technical hardcore are all given due representation in this record’s sixteen tracks, and in fact, most of the jaw-dropping moments on Cursed come when things move out of pure-blast mode and into a different direction. The D-beat infused pulse of songs like “Self” and “Hollow” and the terrifying doomed lurch of “Choose” and “Declare” (don't you just love those ominous single-word titles?) are just a few examples of the band’s ability to mix up their attack while maintaining the sense of constant velocity and momentum so important to the aesthetic of grindcore. The act's instrumental displays are formidable as always, but special praise has to be extended to vocalist Keijo Niinimaa, whose range of fearsome growls and hair-raising screams is a crucial element of the frightening intensity expressed in this album, and to drummer Sami Lava, who continues to broaden his range and creativity behind the kit while keeping his playing solid and non-flashy. Given the prominent doom elements on Cursed, I would have liked to see another slower, more melodic track in the vein of “Trust” or “CTC” explored here (in fact, the end of the album feels somewhat abrupt without one), but this is hardly a real criticism considering the strength of the material that is present.
Speaking of criticism, I’m having a hard time coming up with any for Rotten Sound’s newest grind excursion. Cursed is fairly similar to Cycles in terms of style and presentation, but I can’t even accuse these guys of treading water, as this recording unquestionably shows the same subtle but noteworthy progressions that have been present in all of the band’s releases. And while the production is a bit raw and noisy compared to some of their previous outings, it only serves to enhance the animalistic ferocity that this outfit conveys so well. Rotten Sound has been on a veritable tear for the last six years (as their signing to Relapse Records in 2009 can attest), and as long as they keep creating music of this quality, they deserve every bit of success and recognition they get. Album of the year contender, without a doubt.
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Species at War
1/22/2013 Rotten Sound
1/9/2008 Rotten Sound
Consume To Contaminate
6/7/2006 Rotten Sound