By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – Documenting the rise, crest and eventual denouement of the heavy metal genre commonly referred to as ‘grindcore,’ Slave to the Grind dutifully retraces the elemental progression of the offshoot from guerrilla rock to gore grind and all of the nasty, guttural, chainsaw-revving cacophony in between. Somewhat akin to Anvil: The Story of Anvil in its music historian’s approach and enduring affection for an underdog subject matter, director Doug Robert Brown’s film relies heavily on first-hand accounts to build his case for the fastest, most aggressive music of its time, and, possibly of any time.
Proof that an English accent elevates the timber of any story, no matter how debauched, members of Napalm Death weigh-in on what went right with their career arc. Meanwhile, other grindcore influencers, the majority of whom years have not necessarily been kind to, pause to reflect on the factors that unite and divide the volatile musical scene. It’s not inconceivable that the next great grind lyric might come from the list of hard-to-swallow band names that grace this chronological survey: Repulsion, Cretin, Discordance Axis, Fuck The Facts, Anal Cunt, Vermin Wound, Warsore, Rotten Sound, Morbid Angel and so on.
Witness as metal nerds around the globe flock to this caustic chapter of outsider art at its loudest. Behold the fervorous fans of machine gun percussion and demonic vocals, best-achieved through gargling Drano and Fireball, and, as the multi-biographical film details, the infamous grindcore “cheat beat,” which involves hitting the high-hat every second beat, as rapidly as possible. Thus, delivering that brutal and blistering “blast beat” by which drummers came to define the core of the grind. The musicians themselves hold little back, spilling the goods on personal rivalries, grave robbing and mid-show fisticuffs with skinheads. As a bonus, some of these exploits are cleverly animated to better convey their often hilarious absurdity.
Striking a nostalgic note, Slave to the Grind recalls the gory glory days of fanzines and bands that got by on hoping that the audience was as fucked up as they were. Most importantly, the filmmaker seeks a balance between the creative and destructive factors at play within the genre. The decision to canvas a wide variety of sources for interviews and imagery pays dividends as Brown leaves no stone unturned in his quest to shine a spotlight on one of the darkest movements in modern music.
Patch up your denim vests, Slave to the Grind screens as part of CUFF on April 21, 6:30 pm at The Globe CinemaCUFF, Slave to the Grind