Published Apr 23, 2018It's almost hard to believe that, until now, a documentary on grindcore hadn't been made, given its multiple decades of existence and the influential bands and musicians that play it. At the same time, trying explain the impact of an entire genre in an hour and a half is a daunting task. But Toronto, ON-based director and filmmaker Doug Brown took the challenge and it paid off.
The project started out in 2015 with a crowd-funding campaign that raised $19,681 (the initial goal was $12,000). Clearly the demand was there for an in-depth film about grindcore, the brutal and extreme fusion of punk, hardcore and metal that seethes visceral aggression and noisy chaos. Slave to the Grind takes a comprehensive look at this very special, yet often misunderstood, genre.
The film marks the first official documentary on grind, and is comprised of interviews with many of the genre's iconic luminaries, as well as tons of fan-submitted concert footage. Much of Slave to the Grind revolves around the genre's origins, the pioneering bands, how they came to be, their punk/hardcore/metal influences and how this harsh, dissonant sound was born.
The doc starts out in Flint, MI in 1987 with footage of Repulsion playing a basement show, which is possibly the best introduction to grindcore; "they invented the sound," says Discordance Axis's Jon Chang. Repulsion's vocalist/bassist Scott Carlson discusses how the band's sound developed as they started playing faster. "People just didn't know what to make of it, it didn't matter if they were punk or metal," he says.
Brutal Truth's Kevin Sharp talks about the raw, gristly sound of early Repulsion, while musicians like Ben Falgoust (Soilent Green) and Dave Witte (Discordance Axis) discuss the emergence of the blast beat — another fundamental element of grind and "the rudiment that changed everything," according to Witte.
Slave to the Grind then moves things over to the UK, where Justin Broadrick discusses meeting Nic Bullen — who formed Napalm Death in 1981 — and joining the band that would later (with a totally different lineup) become one of the most successful of the genre. Earache Records founder Digby Pearson talks about booking Napalm Death's second-ever show in 1983: "they were 14 years old, just blowing minds really."
Broadrick also sheds some light on what Birmingham, UK was like in those days, and how it affected the music they made, which in many ways parallels the industrial, working class scene of Flint, MI. The doc looks at influences like Boston hardcore band Siege and the UK's Discharge, as well as how the similar political climate in both parts of the world tied the scenes together.
That just covers the first 15 minutes of Slave to the Grind. The film goes on to discuss Napalm Death's iconic Scum ("the fastest record ever made"), and the history of bands like Terrorizer, Brutal Truth, Nasum and Carcass, as well as the highly offensive and controversial Anal Cunt. It also sheds more light on the circumstances and emotions surrounding the deaths of Seth Putnam (Anal Cunt), Mieszko Talarczyk (Nasum) and Jesse Pintado (Napalm Death, Terrorizer).
The doc touches on the Quebec scene with bands like Mesrine and Deche-Charge, and takes closer look at the insanity that was 2015's Obscene Extreme fest in Montreal. It also breaks down some sub-sub-genres, including noisecore, mincecore and goregrind, while also looking at the emergence of Relapse Records and A389 Records.
This documentary really doesn't leave anything out, especially when coming from the perspective of musicians like Mark "Barney" Greenway (Napalm Death), Oscar Garcia (Terrorizer), Dan Lilker (Brutal Truth), Scott Hull (Pig Destroyer), Tim Morse (Anal Cunt), Bill Steer (Carcass), and Richard Johnson (Agoraphobic Nosebleed), as well as Mel Mongeon and Topon Das (Fuck the Facts), just to name a few.
By the end of Slave to the Grind, you realize that as much as you thought you knew about grindcore, it's just the tip of the iceberg. The doc touches on so many of the different aspects of grind, each for a few minutes before moving on to the next. However, the film does a really good job of breaking down the history of the genre and providing an insight unlike any other, which could leave even the most knowledgeable fans wanting to know more. (Death By Digital)