It needn’t be said that Finnish grindcore representatives Rotten Sound have contributed immensely to the genre, producing some of the most dynamic and brutal forms of noise in a sonic assault of pure nihilistic dread. Not only has the band’s visceral sound become a staple of grindcore music, influencing hordes of extreme metal bands later down the line, but they have often exhibited a perpetual level of consistency within their work.
Whilst early nineties releases, Under Pressure (1997) and Drain (1999), saw an unrelentingly raw old-school death metal produced approach , Rotten Sound carved out their musical individuality in forthcoming years with albums Murderworks (2002) and Exit (2005) cementing the band’s cult-like status amongst grindcore aficionados and extreme metalheads alike. Yet, the band have proved they can still go strong with releases throughout the 2010s like Cursed (2011) and Abuse to Suffer (2016) which are able to showcase Rotten Sound’s extreme capabilities of pushing the boundaries of sonic abrasion.
After a much-anticipated wait, Apocalypse is the latest addition to the Rotten Sound arsenal, and it comes again in the form of pure sonic aggression that pummels you to submission and drags your senses beyond their limits just as the band intends it. From start to finish, each track is unleashed with forceful and aggravated tension, Rotten Sound want you to know who they are and are prepared to deliver this direct and hate-filled musical onslaught.
In an extensive list of 18 songs, each are delivered with this trademark ear-splitting velocity. Opening with “Pacify” a 42 second warm-up that refuses to hold back its punches and soon to be followed by the 46 second “Equality”, they are short and to the point making use of ferocious blast beats, noise-layered guitar parts, and bellowing roars. Longer tracks, like “Sharing” and “Suburban Bliss”, reaching over a minute and a half, make use of the space that they have to implement an assortment of riffs and fast structural and tempo changes. They come in quick, razor-sharp succession and leave you yearning more for harsh, abrasive sonic onslaught of brutality.
Production-wise, Apocalypse doesn’t focus too diligently on a polished, high-quality tone and nor would it benefit from that either. The intention seems to render this stripped-back, commanding sound that advocates for the band’s grindcore agenda and establishes Rotten Sound’s DIY character. One need to look no further than pummelling brutality on tracks like “Patriots” or “Nothingness” to really get a sense of the sonic decay and nihilistic anger in the form of agonisingly fast instrumental rhythms and violent vocal exchanges.
Yet, whilst the band might leave the hi-fi leaning aesthetics in the dust, they are evident in curating levels of creativity through their songwriting. “Denialist” attacks you with weary feedback and slow building riffs on one end of the scale whilst an imbuement of terror-infused blast beats and low growls in “Apocalypse” often blur the line between unrelenting grindcore passages and old-school death metal sections.
The level of volatility and aggression is undoubtedly clear with the way each of these songs are presented and that is just how Rotten Sound intends it. This is evidence that both the band and grindcore music in general are showing no signs of stopping. Whilst Rotten Sound may not be planning on ever changing their true grind nature, they are certainly waving the flag high for the genre and showing no signs of slowing down. Apocalypse is more of the same from Rotten Sound in some respect, although why would they change a formula that works for them? On the other hand, this record does show the band’s willingness to apply their chaotic and dissonant sonic characteristics and go beyond their own capabilities, with intelligent songwriting and dexterous arrangements made to produce the most disgusting and aggressive form of music possible.