It is no small challenge for bands to find a way to sonically distinguish themselves from the legions of acts in their genre. There’s no shortage of ways (intentional or not) for groups to get this done, but in the past ten years or so, we’ve been hearing bands more frequently pull from unusual and atypical influences. I find myself thinking “What the hell is this?” more and more often, and truth be told, it’s great. Whether it’s a mixture of seemingly incongruent styles in the overlap of some wacky Venn diagram like this year’s fantastic Zeal and Ardor release Devil is Fine, or Between the Buried and Me’s spontaneous (and quite addictive) polka/circus/surf segues, it’s proven that there’s reward for ambitious risk-taking. As a result, it seems as though the metal community as a whole has adjusted their tastes. There’s more open-mindedness for things that stray from the path, and that’s exactly where Madison, Wisconsin grind duo The Central excel on their latest release, Discovery Of A Rat.
Grindcore is already a malleable artform, but The Central manage to stretch it into even more bizarre and unique forms. Their foundation is eclectic, fusing elements of math rock, punk, garage rock, hardcore, and more. There’s also a not-so-sly emphasis on infectious melodies that permeate their rhythm-heavy and spazzy brand of grind. The blend of mathy rhythms with infectious hooks is an immediately gratifying and intriguing approach that is carried throughout the album. They have an unpredictable nature always left me wondering what was around the next corner; each time, the payoff satisfied in a different way.
The combo of potent songs (most hover around 2-3 minutes, with a few outliers) along with superb sequencing makes Discovery Of A Rat memorable and replayable. The variety on display quickly dispels the fatigue that can set in with run-of-the-mill grind acts that crutch on maniacal speed. How The Central is able to have such disparate sounds cohabitate the same record (without becoming a patchwork mess) speaks to their ability to create a unique personality. It also doesn’t feel like pretentious “look what I can do” prog snobbery as it all fits within a unified voice. There’s no need for wank when there’s quality, concise songwriting gluing everything together.
The Central’s sonic toolkit is at the crux of carrying out this sound with such success. Frankie Furillo’s guitars have bite, but refrain from getting muddied up with too much distortion or nonsensical lower-than-your-grandpa’s-testes tunings. Tracks like “Totem Bowl,” “Dirty Scoundrel,” and “Name to Impress” showcase a clarity in his tone that not only helps the sharpen their sporadic attack, but more importantly compliments his unique vocal style, tying everything together into a schizophrenic and bizarre package – fitting for the tongue-in-cheek lyrics that have something dark simmering beneath the surface. Snapping from paint-peeling screams and shrieks to oddly serene oohing and ahhing, he employs a range of techniques that set the hooks – hard. It’s strangely akin to the way Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes throws his voice around with complete disregard, surrendering to the power of the moment, and maintaining a level of fun amidst the chaos.
Like any quality grind band, The Central dictate relentless pace and erratic changes in direction. This is taken to another level stylistically, but at the core this is still abrasive grind. Drummer Alex Roberts has plenty of room to shred and proves to be nimble enough to drive rippers like “Statues” and “Thai Guy” and sensible enough to hang in the pocket to enhance more pop-forward moments of tracks like “Palette Cleanser” and “Feelings.” His double kick work approaches ludicrous speed, and it’s not bogged down by the cannonball in a pool thickness or phony sounding clickiness that seems to be a trend with some bands taking up a grind influence. There’s no shortage of crafty fills (even at his busiest), and the guy is simply surgical throughout the paces of Discovery Of A Rat. This duo is potent, and they squeeze the most out of every second of this record.
Ther Central have a mastery of unpredictability due to their their ability to coax out infectious hooks from their abrasive foundation, making Discovery Of A Rat a fascinating listen. I didn’t truly understand their vibe until the album was finished, but that just made the next spin that much more compelling. And the next one after that. Still, I’m not sure I can comprehend the potential here. So, what the hell is this?
Discovery Of A Rat is out now on Blue Bedroom Records.