The internet has made it an incredibly fucked up time to be a fan of extreme music. The ability to access a nearly limitless amount of new jams is both awesome and terrible; for every ten amazing bands I discover, this new digital democracy gives every yahoo with an HM2 pedal the ability to compete for my attention. Not only does this mean I have to wade through a sea of mediocrity to find my grimy treasures, it has also turned me into a cynical asshole. With the ability to flit across the ‘tubes with a goldfish-like attention span, I now judge bands on the flimsiest of criteria. A set of clearly expensive, high concept band photos on your FB page? Pass. Multiple “x”‘s in your band name? xNoxFuckingxThanksx. Uninspired torture porn album artwork? Yawn / partial erection.
See? Total dickhead.
Of course, the problem with this attitude is that I risk passing over some truly good stuff, like Montreal Death/Grind act Nervous Impulse and their new full-length record Time to Panic. I have to admit, based on nothing more than their band logo and the 26-second hype track that opens the album, I was preparing myself for 40 minutes of good but commonplace death/grind. Thankfully, I was mistaken.
The first song “Oilspill” slams the listener with a succession of abrupt blasts before transitioning into a breakneck riff. The song travels a predictable trajectory until approximately the 40 second mark, at which point all hell breaks loose. Éric Fiset’s vocals change from a familiar death growl to unhinged, foam-at-the-mouth, manic ravings that create a wonderfully unnerving sense of tension compounding drummer Yan Chamberland’s percussive onslaught. The track does lapse into a fairly familiar breakdown in the midsection, but thankfully Nervous Impulse are keenly aware that the world is currently experiencing a breakdown surplus, and are thus sparing in their use.
The fourth track “Syrian NATO Meat Grinder” best demonstrates Chamberland’s ability to blast; the opening salvo brings to mind the nose bleed inducing gravity blasts created by Cryptopsy’s Flo Mounier. There is also a welcomed looseness to Chamberland’s performance that adds to Time to Panic‘s frenzy; too often, tech death bands Pro Tools the ever-living shit out of the drums in a quest for complete precision and, in doing so, suck all the life out of the sound.
The next song “Wing Clipper” begins with some nimble lead work high on the fret board from lead guitarist Bruno Mercier. Reminiscent of Dying Fetus, it provides a much needed counterpoint to all the low end riffage. Chamberland’s drumming remains furious, however he throws so many notes into his fills here that the track gets messy at times.
“Nostalgic Memories” is one of the few tracks where things slow down briefly and see the band lock into a proper groove. Similar to Mercier’s lead work, this slower section acts as needed contrast; it would be cool to hear Nervous Impulse employ this technique more frequently. The opening section of “Nostalgic Memories” contains another unhinged vocal performance from Fiset that continues to add to the panic. While Fiset has a serviceable death growl and gore-metal standard pig squeal, he is at his best during these frantic, high register sections that feel completely uncoupled from the song, as if he were running through the street screaming as passers by, the music merely a soundtrack to his madness. Nowhere is this more apparent than my favorite track on the record, “My Neighbor’s House is On Fire”.
Of course, no self-respecting grind band can put out a record without cracking out a sub-60 second banger, and Time to Panic‘s title track is far more than a nod to tradition; lightening-fast, super pissed off and to the point, and over before anyone has a chance to get comfortable.
Time to Panic is a marvelous slab of oppressive death/grind. While some of the tracks could use a tad more tempo variety to accentuate the brutality, the record is so chock-full of good stuff that it truly cuts through the clutter.
Written by Jesse Gainer