Thursday, April 25, 2013

Album Review: Degraded - "Generalized Oppression"

So, for whatever reason, one of the scenes I seem to receive the most music from is the French hardcore and grindcore scene. It all started with Yattai, and moved on out to Faxe, Grunt Grunt, Nolentia, Vengeance, and Haut&Court. The newest addition to the list of awesome French grind bands I have for you guys is Bordeaux's very own Degraded!

Degraded is a four-piece consisting of your usual member combination of guitarist, bassist, drummer, and vocalist. These guys play in a style that mixes the stylings of grindcore with those of crust punk and hardcore into one big, pissed off package. They're still really new to the scene, having been formed in late 2011. After a bunch of lineup changes, they managed to get a solid line-up together and release Generalized Opression earlier this month.

The band really drives home the crust punk sound with both the raspy, throaty screams similar to those of Dean Jones of Extreme Noise Terror. Vocalist Paul can dish out some solid deep growls and high, depraved shrieks here and there on the album, but I really wish he did them a bit more often than he does. Lyrics are written mostly by drummer Jérôme, and much like the many grind and crust bands to come before them, Degraded deal mostly in politically driven lyrics about oppression, greed, war, and the like. It's nothing we haven't heard before from countless other hardcore bands. While the lyrics aren't anything new or groundbreaking, they're written with a sort of directness that screams passion and honesty on the band's part.

The instrumentation has to be my favorite part of Degraded's sound. It's unabashedly grindcore with its ferocity and speed, but it's also got some damn good grooves in it, too. The galloping in "Sufferings in Laboratory" is pit worthy, and the brief disco beats in "Communihilist" definitely throw you through a loop. This album isn't just a big conglomeration of blast beats and fast riffs, it's well pieced together and a little more involved than your average grind record. Rhythms shift around. Riffs come in one direction and suddenly veer off somewhere else without losing momentum. The drums (handled by Jérôme) keep everything barreling forward like an out-of-control train, but keep everything together from becoming a big trainwreck.

Guitarist FX and bassist Matt dish out some pretty inventive riffs on Generalized Oppression, too. While there are a ton of speed picked riffs and slower slam riffs coming out the ass here, there are a couple moments of guitar and bass wonkiness that sticks in your head. The very first riff of the album, off of "Dimitris" and one of the riffs about halfway through "Security Lies" show some influence outside of traditional hardcore or grind. I'm not sure where they come from, but they sound damn good, that's for sure.

The production here is alright. If there's any weak point to the album, I'd have to pick the production. Everything is mixed nicely; you can hear every instrument all the time, but I find everything sounds really bright on Generalized Oppression. The guitars are pretty thick, but the bass is way to punchy and definitely needs to be beefed up. If Degraded went for more of a production style similar to that of Pig Destroyer or  Nails, I think this LP would have sounded much better.

Bomb-Ass Tracks: Banksters Hegemony, Nazionist, Security Lies

On a Playlist With: Extreme Noise Terror, Yattai, Haut&Court

Overall Score: 4/5

Generalized Oppression is definitely a great first LP by Degraded. It grinds, it grooves, and it pounds your face in. Considering that the band is less than 2 years old and they've already managed to pump out an album this good, I'm really excited to hear what these guys have in store for us next.

You can check out Generalized Oppressionon Degraded's Bandcamp, and you can purchase a 12" vinyl version (mine was printed on clear vinyl!) off of their BigCartel page. Be sure to throw 'em a like on Facebook, too.

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave

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