Kill the Client
Escalation of Hostility
f there’s one argument every grindcore fan has heard, it’s that the music all sounds the same. Refutation can come through counterexample; for instance, Flight of the Wounded Locust is clearly distinguishable from Reek of Putrefaction, ergo, the argument doesn’t hold. But there’s no harm in admitting that most grindcore is at least similar. The same can be said of punk, free jazz, abstract art, and—despite the pretentious chugging of Guinness aficionados—beer. That’s the nature of a genre; by definition, a work that participates in one has generic qualities. It doesn’t mean they’re all indistinguishable—The Third Man and Palmetto are both films noir, but anyone who thinks they’re equivalent broke into Woody Harrelson’s trailer on the set of the latter and smoked his entire stash. What it means is that the works share certain qualities, which can blur them together in the eyes or ears of the unconverted—see Cosmo Lee and Stewart Voegtlin’s recent “Beginner’s Guide to Metal” (which mentioned this album) for a thorough breakdown of the genre.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that Kill the Client’s debut album Escalation of Hostility is a fine contribution to grindcore, even if it sounds an awful lot like Napalm Death. A harder Napalm Death, though: drummer Chris Andrews clearly graduated from the Mick Harris School of Blastbeats, though like many other contemporary metal drummers he pounds with greater speed and precision than the pioneer. Singer Morgan—just Morgan, no other name—growls with the guttural ferocity of a caged animal vomiting out its innards, closer, in fact, to early Obituary than to either Barney Greenaway or Lee Dorrian. On guitar, meanwhile, Chris Richardson carpet bombs the sonic landscape with harsh and unrelenting riffs, occasionally letting a chord hang in the air to allow some space between the nodes of punishing soundwaves but wisely avoiding overreliance on tired start-and-stop dynamics.
The band brings a stridently sociopolitical lyrical approach, barking out left wing diatribes on nearly every track. While this again hearkens back to the classic grindcore tradition, it also represents a swerve away from some of the genre’s current superstars—Agoraphobic Nosebleed and its intentionally-offensive Zappaesque absurdities, Pig Destroyer and its disquieting nightmare scenario of what Conor Oberst would sing about if someone slipped a PCP mickey into his Zoloft. Kill the Client open with “Defend,” which proposes an armed uprising, “just like harper’s fairy” [sic]. Against whom? Later songs like “Paranoid Patriot” and “Commander in Thief” give some clue. We also get condemnations of white supremacy (“Bloodline”), the overmedication of children (“Sedated Youth”), urban sprawl (“Gridlock”), and a reporter (perhaps representative of an entire complacent mass media, perhaps Judith Miller and her planted WMD stories specifically) who helped facilitate an unjust war (“Decorated Dunce”). As per grindcore tradition, the lyrics are hardly poetry (sample: “war machine, hate machine / Conspiracy war / War now / Genocide their job / War kill rob”), but given their general indecipherability without a handy lyric sheet, that’s no real demerit. As agitprop, they get the job done.
For the most part Kill the Client pummels away effectively, avoiding monotony by employing dynamic shifts rather than merely relying on repetition to carry the songs through their brief running times (“Bloodline,” for instance, has three distinct sections in its 70 seconds, each of which offers a fluid transition into the next). The band does trip up on two fronts, to the album’s detriment. “Killing Fields” delivers a five-minute slab of Sabbathy sludge, aping the current fascination with doom rock without adding much to the field; final track “Negative One” imitates mid-90s Godflesh with six minutes of slow, clanging, wordless instrumentation that goes nowhere. It ends the 29-minute album on a down note, and together with “Killing Fields” suggests a certain padding out of running time to escalate the hostility from EP to LP status.
The other major flaw is the 27-second “Scene Queen,” a stupidly misogynist rant against a groupie that calls glaring attention to the boys-club nature of the grindcore scene. Kill the Client shows political sophistication elsewhere (“the ghost of Edgar Hoover wanders around the halls,” they intone at one point, indicating familiarity with the architects of the modern national security/surveillance state), but the young band apparently has yet to realize that feminist gender politics are an integral part of any truly progressive movement. Bashing a woman for her sexual proclivities is no less reactionary than handing out tax cuts to the rich; both actively combat social justice.
I’m willing to forgive them their shortsightedness, though; maybe by their next album Kill the Client will have read The Mass Psychology of Fascism or Sexual Politics and will be more conscious of the interlocking nature of the sexism, racism, and skillfully inverted class warfare that keeps right wing bastards like Hoover or our current Commander in Thief empowered. Given Nasum’s tragic departure and the apolitical drift of the genre’s current leaders, Kill the Client has the potential to inherit the grindcore torch from Napalm Death when (or if, given its surprising endurance) that band hands it on. Escalation of Hostility may be flawed, but it’s still a powerful debut. Played loud, it’s the aural equivalent of diving from a warm day into freezing water for a quick swim: initially stunning, too short to be numbing, and ultimately invigorating. If this doesn’t make you want to throw a rock through a Starbucks window, nothing will.
Reviewed by: Whitney Strub
Reviewed on: 2006-01-17