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While there are some examples of bands playing an early form of the genre in the early eighties, grind really started in the late eighties in the UK, when the crust punk band Napalm Death decided to take their already pretty extreme music to a new level. Combining their music with extreme metal, they created a new subgenre of both punk and metal. The term "grindcore" reportedly came from Napalm Death's drummer Mick Harris describing a Swans album to a friend.
The genre is characterised by incredibly short songs (songs lasting under a minute aren't unusual, and the barely-over-one-second song is a staple of the genre, first pioneered by Napalm Death with their song "You Suffer"), growled vocals akin to Death Metal, a chaotic, stripped-down but still very heavy sound, fast drumming, and an overall simplicity in everything: time signatures, three-chords-by-song, no chorus, or so. Later bands, particularly in the 2000s (like the Swedish band Nasum), added a whole new level of musicianship to the genre. The lyrical content of grindcore is faithful to his punk roots and is usually about political and social content, although being as a genre highly prone to mutation and fusion, it can be about virtually anything.
The principal characteristic of grind music is its intense density: everything is pushed to the extreme, so much that on first listening it can be difficult to discern what is happening, and it sounds just like a wall of speedy noise and shrieking vocals. Grind in general is often mistaken for brutal death metal, which is a subgenre of death metal that strips away melodic elements to focus on a dense pounding sound. However, this is much slower and more technical, and relies more on heaviness, non-stop beating and linearity than the monster speed and aggression of grindcore. Musically speaking, grind tends to use more power chords, simple tremolo pickings and fast beats while brutal death tends more to use intricate tremolo picking, a lot of palm muting and intricate riffs, and a much more technical and heavy drumming. While in pure speed, both genres are on par, grind feels "faster" than brutal death, which feels more "overwhelming". Just compare the second Napalm Death album to anything by, say, Hate Eternal. Yeah, it's confusing, especially when you have bands that merge the two.
Grind has witnessed a huge evolution during years and has several subgenres. Apart from straightforward grindcore, you'll find:
- Deathgrind: grindcore that's less compressed, making it easier to understand what's going on with all the instruments. Some bands combine grind with the aforementioned brutal death metal. Think of the later Napalm Death. Alternatively, some bands such as Cephalic Carnage play more with the musical complexity common to death metal but do it at the intense speeds of grindcore; this can often sound like death metal with far too many notes, or grindcore that's far too long and complex.
- Goregrind: basically the gory death metal version of original grindcore, relying much more on death metal aesthetics than grindcore, but less on death metal sounds than deathgrind. The lyrics are almost entirely focused on extreme gore with some exceptions, the sound is usally fatter and more organic in a death metal fashion, and vocals are usually modified by a pitch-shifter. The first Carcass album is the best example of the genre.
- Pornogrind: a derivative of goregrind that relies more on groove and fun than pure aggression and gore. Of course, the lyrics are sexually explicit. Bears a lot of resemblance with goregrind, may be a little slower though. It's not unusual to have high pitched falsetto vocals (in a tongue-in-cheek way) along the usual pitch-shifted gurgling vocals. The staple of the genre would be the German band Gut.
- Cybergrind: the electronic side of grind. Basically a mixture of hardcore techno and grind. Think of Carcass playing in a rave party, you'll pretty much understand cybergrind. Usually revolves around grindcore (or goregrind) played over techno beats with added samples and electronic sounds. Almost always uses a drum machine (with the one notable exception of The Berzerker).
- Noisegrind: the aforementioned mess of noise and screams. Think Anal Cunt. Noisegrind is an offensive subgenre, relying on shock value, whether in its "music" (some bands just improvise all the songs) or its lyrical content. Again, the best example is Anal Cunt, but there are many, many bands in that style. Usually hated by traditional grindcore fans.
- Crustgrind: grindcore that kept more of its crust roots rather than its extreme metal roots. To sum up, it's d-beat crust with blast beats; but it's definitely more than that. Examples would be Extreme Noise Terror and Disrupt.
And of course, all of these subgenres can be merged. Messy?
The style is, naturally, underground, though some bands (by "some", I mean two: Carcass and Napalm Death) have gained some mainstream recognition (and with the former, it was only due to their style change to Melodic Death Metal. Their early goregrind albums remain unknown to some fans).
Examples of grindcore bands include:
- Agoraphobic Nosebleed
- Anaal Nathrakh (Started off as raw Black Metal, later mixed black metal with grindcore.)
- Anal Cunt
- The Berzerker
- Brutal Truth
- Cattle Decapitation
- Cephalic Carnage (essentially Deathgrind and Technical Death Metal)
- Circle of Dead Children
- Cock and Ball Torture
- Discordance Axis
- Enemy Soil
- Excrementory Grindfuckers, who make cover versions of pop songs.
- Extreme Noise Terror
- Fuck the Facts
- GUT (Trope Maker for Porngrind)
- Impending Doom (their first EP; later they moved to Brutal Death Metal / Deathcore)
- Insect Warfare
- Jon Benet Ramsey
- Kill The Client
- Last Days of Humanity
- The Locust
- Meat Shits
- Napalm Death (Trope Maker)
- Penis Force Commando
- Pig Destroyer
- Repulsion (Not really grindcore per se, but generally accepted as grindcore since they were a huge influence on the genre.)
- Rotten Sound
- Trap Them
Grindcore exhibits the following tropes:
- Gorn - Goregrind lyrics.
- Intentionally Awkward Title - Anal Cunt, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Fuck the Facts, Carcass, Cock and Ball Torture, Cattle Decapitation, Circle of Dead Children, and a lot more. The name "Pig Destroyer" could also count as one, if you remember that "pig" is slang for "cop".
- Masked Luchador - A popular feature in porngrind, inexplicably.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness - Grindcore generally comes in around the 10 to 11 mark, depending on which particular subgenre you're talking about and how old it is.
- Miniscule Rocking: Very, very common.
- Shout-Out - there are a whole lot of goregrind bands that are just shout outs to horror movies. Just look at Mortician and Impetigo, who just use samples of the movies they love in almost every song. Impetigo even did it on stage.
- So Bad It's Good - By some, the whole genre is considered this. But bands like Anal Cunt definitely qualify. Interesting bit of trivia: when the first Napalm Death album, Scum, was out, some UK radio shows used it as a punishment for wrong answers during games.
- Trope Maker - Napalm Death are generally considered this, though they were not the first to play the genre. Repulsion, Siege or Asocial played a similar music before them, but were they just considered extreme death metal (for Repulsion) or extreme hardcore punk (the rest). Napalm Death named the genre and were the first band to achieve success, though.
- Up to Eleven - Grindcore is essentially crust punk plus this trope.
- some bands actually do this, in fact, it's called noisegrind