The Essential Grindcore Albums Everyone Must Own
The bastard offspring of hardcore punk, grindcore is arguably the most unrepentantly violent music on the planet. At its most elemental, the songs are fast, short, deranged, pissed off and destructive, and while there is far more variety and invention than many believe, its creators have kept the belligerent, noxious fire at its heart burning for more than 30 years. It is also perhaps the only musical movement that is just as likely to have nuanced political protest in its lyrics as the virtues of revelling in fresh human viscera!
These are the essential grindcore records you need in your collection.
NAPALM DEATH - SCUM (EARACHE, 1987)
It’s impossible to imagine just how life-changing/brain-destroying it would have been for the average person to be exposed to Scum back in 1987. Making even Slayer’s Reign In Blood seem a tad ‘wussy’, most must have found it the aural equivalent of being mugged, and few would have expected it to spark a genre that knew no boundaries when it came to extremity. Almost painfully raw and gloriously all over the place, Scum was recorded for less than the cost of a used iPhone, and even today it crackles with a bloodthirsty energy that cannot be denied.
KEY TRACK: Polluted Minds
NASUM - HELVETE (RELAPSE, 2003)
Having never dropped a bad record, Nasum were the true kings of Scandinavian grindcore up until the untimely death of frontman Mieszko Talarczyk in the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands back in 2004. Cramming dozens of politically-charged songs into every album, with Helvete they changed things up a little, with its 22 tracks given a little more room to breathe. The result is one of the catchiest records to exist within the grindcore canon, but make no mistake, this is brutal stuff not for the faint of heart.
KEY TRACK: Doombringer
TRAP THEM - DARKER HANDCRAFT (PROSTHETIC, 2011)
Though it could be argued that Trap Them are more of a hardcore or perhaps crust band, they really could grind with the best of them up until their dissolution in 2017. In terms of sheer ferocity there are few bands who could really stand toe-to-toe with them, and their crowning achievement is arguably Darker Handcraft. Beyond pissed off from start to finish, every moment of the record is designed to decimate, and as ruthlessly tight as they are, at times the frenzy gets so extreme it’s a miracle the songs don’t tear themselves apart.
KEY TRACK: Slumcult & Gather
PIG DESTROYER - TERRIFYER (RELAPSE, 2004)
Arguably the finest U.S. grindcore record of all time - and certainly one of the best bass-free metal records ever released - Terrifyer, is frankly terrifying. Hailing from Virginia, the trio first clawed their way to the fore with 2001’s Prowler In The Yard, creating music that was equally aurally savage and unnerving, vocalist JR Hayes’ twisted, poetic lyrics seeming born of a genuinely unhinged mind. With their third full-length they really took things to the next level, and though they have released two more killer albums since, this is truly their finest hour.
KEY TRACK: Torture Ballad
CARCASS - REEK OF PUTREFACTION (EARACHE, 1988)
Though Carcass’ later records helped define the template for melodic death metal, their initial output comprised some of the most sickening music the world had been subjected to by the late eighties. With guitarist Bill Steer departing Napalm Death to join forces with frontman Jeff Walker and drummer Ken Owen, with Reek Of Putrefaction this lethal combination spewed forth such titles as Genital Grinder, Fermenting Innards and Vomited Anal Tract - and managed to make the brief bursts of frenzied grind attached to these every bit as unpleasant.
KEY TRACK: Frenzied Detruncation
DISCORDANCE AXIS - THE INALIENABLE DREAMLESS (HYDRA HEAD, 2000)
Another grind band with a prolific discography but only a smattering of actual full-lengths, New Jersey’s Discordance Axis were true adherents to the short sharp shock paradigm, rarely penning songs that came close to lasting two minutes. Like Pig Destroyer, their assault was bass-free, giving their recordings a particularly sharp, caustic edge, and this is very much the case on The Inalienable Dreamless. Jon Chang’s gloriously animalistic grunts and shrieks are perhaps the real star of the show, pushing his vocal chords as far as they can go with every sound he rends from his throat.
KEY TRACK: Castration Rite
AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED - FROZEN CORPSE STUFFED WITH DOPE (RELAPSE, 2002)
Featuring Pig Destroyer’s Scott Hull on guitar, Agoraphobic Nosebleed eschewed hiring a drummer in preference for a drum machine - which is just as well, since a human being attempting to play 90 per cent of their output would likely dislocate everything. While 2003’s Altered States Of America deserves a mention if only for the achievement of cramming 100 tracks into less than 22 minutes, Frozen Corpse is their masterpiece. Viscerally executed, exuberantly obnoxious and presided over by vocalist Jay Randall, it’s maniacal music in the extreme.
KEY TRACK: Ceramic God Product
REPULSION - HORRIFIED (NECROSIS, 1989)
Given that, to date, Repulsion have only managed to drop a single full-length - despite having been reunited since 2003 - there is no overstating the phenomenal influence of Horrified. Though there is almost as much death metal to the sound as there is grindcore, it bears all the hallmarks of true grinding greatness. Worshipping at the same gory altar as Carcass etc, the sneering snarl of vocalist/bassist Scott Carlson is one of the best in the genre, making it clear he would rather break a glass in your face and play with the blood than have a drink with you.
KEY TRACK: Eaten Alive
NAILS - UNSILENT DEATH (SIX FEET UNDER, 2010)
When Nails’ debut arrived in 2010 it did so with all the subtlety of a building being dropped on you, four hundred and eighty times per minute. With 10 tracks over and done in under 14 minutes, Unsilent Death is everything great about the most merciless end of grindcore, armour-plated and delivered with aggression levels that really can’t be healthy for them or their adherents. Their two subsequent full-lengths are essential listening in their own right, but their opening bow is truly unmissable stuff.
KEY TRACK: Scum Will Rise
WORMROT - DIRGE (EARACHE, 2011)
When you think of grindcore, Singapore is perhaps not the first place - or second, third or maybe even ninth place - you think of, but a nasty little scene has been percolating there for years. At the top of the heap stand Wormrot, whose love of meat and potatoes grinding is ridiculously apparent. With not one of its 25 tracks hitting the two-minute mark - and three not even reaching fifteen seconds - they certainly do not waste time as they set out seemingly intent on removing your spine, via your ears.
KEY TRACK: All Go No Emo
TERRORIZER - WORLD DOWNFALL (EARACHE, 1989)
With members drawn from the ranks of Napalm Death, Morbid Angel and Nausea it’s safe to say Terrorizer have a pretty barbaric pedigree. While they only have three full-lengths to their name - and a 17 year gap between World Downfall and it’s successor, the inferior Darker Days Ahead - as debuts go theirs was an absolute beast. Packed with social commentary and insidiously catchy grooves, the real star of the show is drummer Pete Sandoval, who sounds like he could punch holes in the world with his double kick pedals and sticks in hand.
KEY TRACK: Fear Of Napalm
EXTREME NOISE TERROR - PEEL SESSIONS (STRANGE FRUIT, 1987)
While being one of the early progenitors of grind, Ipswich’s Extreme Noise Terror are most famous for being a part of the only Brit Awards performance to not only feature a grindcore reinterpretation of a dance-y pop track, but also a machine gun. Dozens of members have been through their ranks over the years, making for a patchy discography, but they were on fire when they tracked these songs for DJ John peel in 1987. Pity the poor drivers heading home late at night and expecting Radio 1 to be playing something ‘nice’ at that hour…
KEY TRACK: Carry On Screaming
REGURGITATE - CARNIVOROUS ERECTION (RELAPSE, 2000)
When Carcass first started basking in the graphic gore that became their stock in trade they couldn’t have known that a bunch of demented Swedes were going to later push this as far as they could take it. Leading lights of the goregrind sub-genre - home also to the likes of General Surgery and Exhumed - simply clocking the record’s title is enough to let you know you’re getting into ‘unpleasant’ territory, while the cover has likely spawned many a nightmare. And come on, how could you not love a record featuring a track titled Parade Of The Decapitated Midgets?
KEY TRACK: Skull Of Shit And Sludge
THE BERZERKER - ANIMOSITY (EARACHE, 2007)
It’s weird now to look back at The Berzerker’s origins, when they would take the stage all Lordi’d up in elaborate monster costumes. This look arguably overshadowed their early music, at least for the casual observer, but their utterly deranged cyber-grind killed from their debut self-titled full-length through to 2008’s swan song, The Reawakening. Animosity is arguably the best of the bunch, the explosive mélange of processed drums, ruthless riffing and vocalist Luke Kenney puking his lungs out with every utterance is never less than riveting.
KEY TRACK: Evolution
CLINGING TO THE TREES OF A FOREST FIRE - SONGS OF ILL HOPE AND DESPERATION (PROSTHETIC, 2010)
Songs Of Ill Hope and Desperation really is one of the most fittingly titled records of the last decade, for there is literally nothing nice that can be said about anything that happens across its 13 horrifying tracks. CTTTOAFF’s province is truly skull-fuckingly ugly music, that is by turns chaotic to the point of utter mayhem and mired in painfully cloying, suffocating sludge. And with that obnoxious brew distilled to its most murderous perfection on this record, the result could easily make a weaker willed individual die somewhat inside. Or outside. Or just curl into a ball and cry.
KEY TRACK: Shat Out My Bones
MORTICIAN - HACKED UP FOR BARBECUE (RELAPSE, 1996)
If there were no such thing as horror movies then there would likely be no Mortician, who have built their career on reinterpreting blood-soaked celluloid ‘classics’ as blasts of hybridised grindcore and brutal death metal. In fact, they’re so fond of kicking songs off with extended samples from movies such as Maniac, Slaughterhouse and Candyman that should these be excised the records would literally be half as long. Like Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Mortician’s on-record percussive power comes courtesy of a drum machine, and this combined with blistering riffing and Will Rahmer’s subsonic vocals makes for seriously ugly listening.
KEY TRACK: Morbid Butchery
EXHUMED - ALL GUTS, NO GLORY (RELAPSE, 2011)
Though their sound owes just as much to death metal as it does to grindcore, no list could be complete without their presence. With seven full-lengths and a billion other releases to their name, like Carcass et al they revel in the nastiest, most blood-soaked and foul corner of the genre, and their capacity for releasing only quality goods should truly be envied. All Guts, No Glory should be included on the strength of its title alone, but it’s also home to many of their most thrillingly vicious - and perversely catchy - moments.
KEY TRACK: I Rot Within
ANAAL NATHRAKH - IN THE CONSTELLATION OF THE BLACK WIDOW (CANDLELIGHT, 2009)
Churning out a unique mix of grindcore and industrial black metal, Anaal Nathrakh are yet another Birmingham-born essential addition to the genre. Comprised of vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L (aka Dave Hunt) and Irrumator (Mick Kenney), who does basically everything else, they are arguably one of the only bands eligible for this list who manage to be as haunting as they are ferocious, and they’ve never done this better as on this album. Bursting with - well, vitriol, catchy, and straight up evil as fuck, your respect is truly demanded.
KEY TRACK: More Of Fire Than Blood
TORCH RUNNER - ENDLESS NOTHING (SOUTHERN LORD, 2014)
One of the lesser known and more contemporary bands to make this list, since their inception everything Torch Runner have released has decimated. Embracing the standard ‘get in fast, destroy everything and get out even faster’ tenet that underpins the genre, their contributions are not designed to rewrite any rulebook, but they are tailor made to ensure total and utter mosh pit annihilation anywhere they are released. Blunt, to the point, and damn well written, this is twenty-first century grind done so very right.
KEY TRACK: Attrition
BRUJERIA - RAZA ODIADA (ROADRUNNER, 1995)
Having a photograph of a partially decomposed severed head on their debut record certainly drew attention to Brujeria, but it’s their sophomore effort that leaves the deepest bruises. Purportedly the work of Mexican drug lords, singing about their trade - in fact members of numerous well-known bands, including Fear Factory, Cradle Of Filth, Napalm Death and Faith No More - every track on Raza Odiada is a raucous, smile-inducing romp wrapped up in weighty yet razor sharp production. It also doesn’t hurt that the video for La Migra is straight up hilarious.
KEY TRACK: La Migra
CEPHALIC CARNAGE - XENOSAPIEN (2007)
Colorado’s Cephalic Carnage occupy what is probably best described as the more ‘progressive’ end of grindcore, bringing in multiple outside influences to create something that fits in nowhere, in a thrilling way. Unlike many of their contemporaries, most CC songs are not blink-and-you’ll-miss-them affairs, and in fact regularly cover a lot of ground, which is very much the case with Xenosapien. Schizophrenically leaping from one mood to another, moments of tragic beauty face off against chaos that is at times overwhelming, and a million places between, making for riveting listening.
KEY TRACK: G.Lobal O.Verhaul D.Evice
INSECT WARFARE - WORLD EXTERMINATION (625 THRASHCORE, 2009)
While they only have the one full-length to their name, Insect Warfare are pretty damn prolific, having dropped a seemingly endless array of EPs and splits. Though the quality of these is variable, the heart behind all of them is not, with World Extermination certainly capturing them at their best to date. Try listening to it without being infected by the sheer glee with which they attempt to destroy the world with only guitar, bass, maniacal drums and vomited vocals in their arsenal. It’s really not easy.
KEY TRACK: Manipulator
Words: Dan Slessor
Grab your trocars — Carcass will release a new full-length album this summer!
Watch twenty one pilots’ incredibly old-school lyric video for Level Of Concern.