There’s something to be said about going out on top. Apparently it’s not easy to do, because so few people do it, but the ones who recognize it’s time seem to be able to pass into their next project or phase of life ever so gracefully. It’s a lesson a band like Queensryche–all 47 versions of them–could learn a little something about.
Had the members of beloved grindcore outfit Gridlink not decided to call it a day as a band, it would be hard to imagine anyone complaining or accusing them of staying around too long. After all, on three releases, the band has hardly enough material combined to fill, say, the length of one Iron Maiden record. But this is grind, and the atmosphere is so much different in this genre, so this isn’t some kind of surprise. Nor is it an accusation of a lack of material, because even though their albums are so damn short, they always packed a wallop and have become some of the most beloved grindcore releases in the modern era. They were just that good.
Last year, through a series of social media posts, the band indicated it no longer would be going forward as a unit. It was said that guitarist Takafumi Matsubara wanted to move on from playing grindcore, which is understandable since it’s an exhausting effort and might not provide the creative outlet that he truly needed. As for the rest of the members, certainly committing to this style has to be draining. But they did indicate another record was a possibility, and we now have that monstrous thing with their third, and final, effort “Longhena.” From it’s hefty (for them) running time of 22 minutes, to its weirdly futuristic cover (a woman seemingly prepared for space battle, rather than the Kabuki figure that graced their last two), to the savage intensity we’ve all come to expect from the band, the band put its best foot forward for their final record, one that’ll leaving us wanting more even though we know we’ll likely never get that.
Vocalist Jon Chang is well known from his time fronting grind pioneers Discordance Axis, another band cut short at what seemed to be its creative apex, as well as the decidedly thrashier Hayaino Daisuki, who we haven’t heard from since 2010. His vocals are unmistakable, screamy, in your face, but always strangely in control. Matsubara (also in Hayaino Daisuki, as well as several other bands) is an integral member on guitars, as his playing is imaginative, all over the map, and dominant in so many forms of metal that he weaves into the music that it would be impossible to imagine this band without him. Rounding out the lineup on this record are bassist Teddy Patterson III (also of Hayaino Daisuki, as well as a former member of Burnt By the Sun and Human Remains) and drummer Bryan Fajardo (Kill the Client, Noisear, Phobia), who make their explosive presences known. Recorded over five days in Japan, the band struck while the iron was hot and pumped out 14 crushing tracks that, if these really are the final we ever hear from Gridlink, certainly will make for a fitting epitaph.
The record opens with “Constant Autumn,” a track that has a weird prog-like start before it ignites into a grinding assault complete with Chang’s banshee-like wails and even some well-placed melody over the chorus. “The Last Raven” is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss it cuts that lands, crushes, and takes off, making for a strange lead-in to “Thirst Watcher,” an instrumental track featuring violinist Joey Molinaro (Pittsburgh/Brooklyn-based player who is no stranger to grind, since he has played Discordance Axis songs during performances). The song is swirling, cool, and spacey, a total departure for the band. Then “Stay Without Me” blows up righteously, throwing shrapnel in your face as Matsubara weaves a little bit of power metal glory into this track, and it’s another that’s as catchy as it is violent. “Taibas” is like a fire flash, with tricky guitars and pulverizing drums, and that’s followed by “Retract Perdition,” that has some black metal melodies, a tempo that stomps guts, and Chang going off with some of his wildest shrieks. “The Dodonpachi” then rises up, does its damage with equal amounts of speed and melody, and then fizzles out in smoke.
“Black Prairie” is blinding and panic-inducing, with authoritative vocals, mathy guitar work, drums laying waste to everything, and the band hitting a severe chugging pace as the track draws to its close. “Island Sun,” one of the longest cuts on here at 2:32, also infuses black metal majesty into the scene, with plenty of crunching intensity but also some atmospheric pockets that give you some breath before you’re trampled undertow. “Chalk Maple” goes back to outright violence, with deeper, deathier growls that very well could be coming from guest vocalist Paul Pavlovich of Assuck. “Wartime Exception Law 205” is one of the shortest cuts on the record, and it reeks of death and manic frothing at the mouth. “Ketsui” is completely insane but also impressively experimental, with more black metal touches and melodies that should make your head tilt. The title track is built on swirling guitars, crazed vocals, and even some calculated, thrash-infested sections that are meaty and mauling. The closer “Look to Windward” is your epic at 3:11, with guitars hellbent on achieving speed, tricky compositions, more cutting violin, portions that sound inspired by classical music, and more catchy bits that’ll get your heart racing.
Although only 22 minutes long, “Longhena” is an exhausting record just because of all the twists, turns, earthquakes, and intensity. You definitely get your fill. In many ways it’s a very surprising Gridlink album because of all of the added colors they put into their music, but they always were a creative band, opening their reaches well into the future. It’s a sad feeling knowing we won’t be getting anymore live Gridlink appearances nor recorded output, but at least the band went out on top, when they still were operating with breathtaking precision. You have to respect and appreciate that they felt their time had come to call it quits, and they went out with a hellacious, world-smashing bang.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/GridLink512
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