Nemisis (Metal Blade)
by Scott Hefflon
Evolution. Without it a species becomes obsolete, replaced by an adaptable new breed that is faster, more efficient, smarter, and more tuned into its surroundings. Obviously, the same goes for genres, and the bands within the genres. By-the-book heaviness, power for power’s sake, loses its vitality unless it mutates and is able to express heaviness with new sounds, new melodies, or something to tap a new vein. Grip Inc. used former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo specifically for what he’s good at – being a rampaging demon drummer notorious for double bass thunder and evil tom rolls unparalleled by anyone in any genre. Gene Hoglan runs a close second in terms of monstrosity, but lacks the signature fills and name recognition of Lombardo. Yet while Grip Inc.’s debut, Power of Inner Strength, opened with a tribal dance and ripped through song after song of top-notch metal, it lacked the ingenuity to remain timeless. Yes, of course it’s a great album, with songs that’ll stand the test of time as well as almost everything on Slayer’s Reign in Blood. But as a whole, while it stands its ground, it didn’t really break any new ground. But consider it a memorable introduction.
Welcome to 1997. Grip Inc. has a new album out, Nemesis, and many a metalhead is curious as to the direction the band has taken. Nemesis proves Grip Inc. to be songwriters able to retain elements of the past (both their own, and those of their predecessors), while pushing ever onward toward the next level. “Pathetic Liar” opens the disc with the typical chugging style of last year’s single (not my pick by a long shot), but “Portrait of Henry” is really the reintroduction I was looking for. Guitarist Waldemar Sorychta not only twiddles the knobs to crisp perfection (imagine watching a mind-bogglingly chaotic scene in an action/adventure movie with blasting Surroundsound), he wields his guitar like an automatic weapon that never runs out of ammo. From screaming harmonics and virtuoso runs to straight-ahead speedkills thrash, WS can sure play that there geetar. “Portrait” shows off singer Gus Chamber’s vocals, snarling in the slow, pounding parts, roaring like Araya in the all-out assault. Surprisingly, in the intro to “Empress (of Rancor)” former Heathen bassist Jason Viebrooks actually makes a difference. With the other three band members being so riveting (not to mention loud), Viebrooks usually gets buried in the mix. You guess he’s beating away on his bass in there somewhere, mostly ’cause if he wasn’t, you’d probably notice, right? Well, whatever.
Blending fist-bang favorites, time changes, key changes, and while-my-guitar-gently-weeps-through-more-effects-than-I-can-name, with Lombardo’s heavy tribal influences, Grip Inc. is as good as ever. Now implementing black metal-esque keyboards and occasional samples, they’ve taken their music further than it’s ever gone before. While others have used samples and keyboards much more creatively and this sometimes sounds like a tinkerer’s afterthoughts, it’s a step in a potentially interesting direction. My personal favorite of their many styles is when they go foot-to-the-floor and say the fuck with arty creative wankery. “War Between One” pushes each musician to work in any noddling they want really fast. Nice cymbal flailing, guitar dissidence (sounds like Machine Head), and Gus’ vocals don’t get almost comically intense when he’s barking at top speed. A tip: slow, dramatic powermetal is fine, but vocalists very often sound like they’re trying far too hard to sound tough. (I doubt James Hetfield can ever end a sentence without snarling the last syllable. Yet another artist who can’t outgrow his metal background no matter how hard he tries.)
My only reservation is how far they take each of their new innovations. Well, that and “Rusty Nail.” While it provides a riff Slayer would like to’ve written when they talk about “behind the eyes of insanity,” I just have to chuckle. Very few can get away with such horseshit lyrics, Gus inc., so he might as well whole-heartedly roar “behind these lyrics of inanity.” Dave’s Nightbreed-esque tribal drumming should surface far more often, and they should write more beyond-thrash songs, seeing as how they can still find interesting aspects in a style that’s so beaten to dust. As far as the Gothy keyboards and sampling, either use them or don’t have them in there at all. Not using a sampler very creatively is like having a guitarist that can’t play – it’s an instrument, learn how to use it. In all, I guess I just wish Nemesis was longer, so the many ideas of Grip Inc. could’ve been fully fleshed out.