The subgenre of extreme metal known as 'grindcore' combines the speed and aggression of hardcore punk, with the brutality of death metal. There are blurry lines that separate death metal, grindcore, and thrash metal and even black metal; some bands certainly overlap these genres. What sets grindcore apart mostly is how bands push the limits known to extreme music with more intensity, speed, intensity and lyrics. Short, buzzing riffs fast enough to snap necks; guttural vocals, and blast beats underneath it all define some of grindcore's key characteristics. Grindcore developed in the '80s, all around different regions of the world as a result of earlier extreme metal bands such as early Metallica, Slayer, Mercryful Fate and Venom and continues to flourish in underground and even somewhat mainstream metal communities, from Singapore, Colorado, the UK, and even locally, in the OC (see Phobia). We now present the Top 10 Grindcore Bands.
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To be a death metal grindcore band from a country with very strict laws such as Singapore, you have to have balls. The dudes in Wormrot definitely have balls and can back it up with their ultra brutal death grind sound, which is abusive (the title of one of their albums from 2009) yet absorbent, and loud yet layered in rage and textures of sounds. Using short tidbits of styles of metal, such as thrash, and even hints of old school hardcore, Wormrot destroy listeners ears and minds with their savage attack and fierce battle plan of being in your face the entire time with powerful walls of sound. The band was formed in 2007, and signed to Earache Records, in 2001, slowly building up an international following through out Europe and America, by touring.
Local underground grind masters Phobia have definitely carved their niche in the grindcore underground and put OC on the underground map of extreme metal, having toured with such bands as Exhumed, Cattle Decapitation, Deicide, Neurosis, Eyahategod, Impaled, Municipal Waste, Negative Approach, Lack Of Interest, Despise You and tons more local and national touring underground bands. Phobia is another grindcore band based more in politics than death and gore, with a still fast punk inspired raw death metal sound. Since 1990, the band has been grinding away in the underground circuit of extreme metal with a slant towards anarchist politics, playing shows with fellow grind, death metal or power violence bands, or any band that would share the stage with them. With a revolving line up over the years, the band still includes original member Shane McLachlan, as well as bassist Calum MaKenzie, drummer Bryan Fajardo, guitarist CC Grind and drummer Dorian Ranwater.
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Hailing form Colorado and formed in 1992, these pot-smoking musical maniacs in the grindcore band Cephalic Carnage are responsible for some of the most complex, intricate devil music that combines death metal, prog, stoner jazz, and experimental noise into one autonomous grindcore sound. The band's tempos are beyond insane and the drumming and bass lines will send you on a constant freefall rollercoaster. The rabid vocals and frenzied guitar riffs peel away at your insides, but then everything drops into an ambient instrumental trance for a split few seconds. This is music that will make you head bang, or convulse, possibly both.
Vocalist Lenzig Leal, guitarists Brian Hopp and Steve Goldberg, bassist Nick Schendzielos and drummer John Merryman have led the band to earn a name for itself among extreme metal, as one of the hardest working bands to tour the world. To have your ear drums blasted, turn your speakers up to the maximum level and check out records such as Exploiting Dysfunction (2000), Lucid Interval (2002) and Misled by Certainty (2010).
This band was considered by many to be another Napalm Death for a younger generation of grindcore fans, and might very well is able to have been. Formed in Sweden in 1992 as an early death grind band, Nasum's sound evolved into a very explosive style of grindcore. The band has been on many compilations, EPs and singles, but has four records: Inhale/Exhale (1998), Human 2.0 (2000), Helvete (2003) and Shift (2004). The band's later sound had added layers of computerized insanity, creating a grindcore Matrix, with walls of sound encasing the listener in the madness. But, unfortunately, tragedy struck as guitarist/vocalist Mieszko Talarczyk was killed with his girlfriend in Thailand while on vacation, during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Eventually, Nasum decided to disband.
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6. Extreme Noise Terror
Much like Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror also came from England, but from the town Ipswitch. The band is known to be pioneers among the crust punk scenes, and early on was overtly political in its stance against the propaganda and the status quo. Over the years, the band slowly began to progress into a more metallic approach to what would traditionally be called grindcore; think of it as a more brutal, heavier version of UK punk band Discharge. Although original vocalist Phil Vane died at age 46 from a stroke, Extreme Noise Terror still carries on waving the flag of grindcore and extreme metal in any part of the globe that will have them play.
This band is from St. Petersburg, Florida, and was active between 1987 and 1998. With a cult following in the underground crust/grind anarchist anti-capitalist punk scenes, the band was and is still revered as the best representation of grindcore's punk meets death metal sound: fast drums, very deep and low guttural vocals in a death metal style with the lyrical themes and guitar riffs of sped-up punk. Assück's sound also used some elements of doom and d-beat drums but in essence were a brutal death metal band played by politically social, and pissed off punks. The band released many splits, compilations and singles over its career, but only has two albums, Anticapital (1991) and Misery Index (1997).
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Terrorizer originates form Los Angeles, and began in 1986 in the underground LA death metal scene. The original line up of vocalist Oscar Garcia, guitarist Jesse Pintado, bassist David Vincent, and drummer Pete Sandoval would write and record the classic grindcore album World Downfall (1989), but then the band had numerous line up changes, including Sandoval and Vincent to form Morbid Angel. World Downfall is like a dystopian musical sledgehammer of noise that destroys listeners with its abrasive punk infused death metal, and an urgent message and political themes against oppression and corruption. The band also recorded Darker Days Ahead in 2006 with a new line up, but Pintado unfortunately passed away just after its release in Holland due to liver failure. In 2009, Pete Sandoval rejoined the band, and with a new guitarist and bass player the band released Hordes of Zombies in 2012.
NYC-based thrash metal bassist Danny Lilker formed Brutal Truth in 1990, after playing bass with bands like Nuclear Assault, S.O.D (Storm Troopers of Death) and even Anthrax. Bringing to the table a sound that was harsh, cranked up, and chaotic, and faster and noisier than any thrash bands Liker had previously been in. The level of intensity in terms of drums, guitar speed and vocals was off the charts. This was a group of east coast dudes who loved death metal and hardcore punk. With grindcore these two sounds merged, and the band took the sound to an extreme level.
The band has always been recognized as being true to the underground DIY spirit, by putting out numerous releases including EPs and splits with other bands, and six full albums, including Kill Trend Suicide (1996), Sounds of the Animal Kingdom (1997), Evolution Through Revolution (2009) and End Times (2011). Brutal Truth has toured across the globe; including Asia, South America, and all across Europe. Unfortunately however, in Jan. 2014 Liker announced that he was retiring from being a musician full time, thus bringing an end to Brutal Truth, towards the end of this year, after a final set of tours.
This band, formed over 30 years ago in Birmingham, England, is perhaps one of the most well known of all extreme metal acts. When it comes to grindcore, Napalm Death is a staple band, and is also considered by many to be pioneers of the craft. Despite tons of line up changes Napalm Death have earned a place in music history by creating some of the most intense, loud and blistering noise out there, but what sets this band apart is its lyrics, ethical approach and political engagement. Rather than focus on blood, guts, gore and death, Napalm Death instead chose to funnel their anger and aggression towards society's ills, such as modern day slavery, corporate control, exploitation of the third world, government corruption and more. This was not a dumb band, and although they are very popular among the death metal scene, the band also has a huge following of punks, due to its constant and strong sense of DIY ethics and values. The band's debut album Scum (1987) is known as a classic grindcore album, but be sure to check out other great records including From Enslavement to Obliteration (1988) Harmony Corruption (1990), Enemy of the Music Business (2000) and Smear Campaign (2006).
Over the past three decades, with well over a dozen albums under its belt, the band, which includes vocalist Barney Greenway, bassist Shane Embry, drummer Danny Herrera and guitarist Mitch Harris, shows no signs of slowing down. Napalm Death is on tour most of the year, pummeling crowds and shredding eardrums worldwide touring with everyone from Hatebreed and The Exploited to Deicide and Eyehategod.
Arguably, Repulsion is the world's most influential grindcore band. Formed in flint, Michigan, in 1984 first as an early death metal/thrash band known as Genocide, the band changed its name to Repulsion and only released only full length album, Horrified, in 1989. With this album, bassist and vocalist Scott Carlson, guitarist Matt Olivo and drummer Col Jones released a musical blueprint for gridncore: drums fast as Uzi machine guns and songs each around two minutes in length or less. Repulsion was a pioneering band to first establish this use of blast beats to combine death metal and punk Repulsion's noise was morbid, the vocals were tortured, and the dissonant guitar playing was fast enough to shred the skin off your face and shrieking Horrified songs all deal with death, destruction, cannibal zombies, nuclear war and the apocalypse. Night of the Living Dead meets Red Dawn, in the form of extreme music. Repulsion has been cited by tons of death metal and gridncore bands as having been a direct influence, despite the fact that the band has only released one full record. Napalm Death even covered their song "Maggots In your Coffin." The best part, for fans, is the band keeps its legacy alive by still playing shows. They might not be youngsters anymore but they are still fast as Hell, and bring the brutality, and an extremely intense energy at their show, which makes kids go off.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.