American record labels traditionally have a spotty history for releasing music truly on the cutting edge in its time. Look what they did to the first Clash album -- released it no more than two full years after the fact and with track order switched around, tracks deleted, etc.
If any record label was on the cutting edge in the late '80s, it was England's Earache Records, home to the most extreme and groundbreaking acts the world had yet seen at the time. And yet it predictably took America several years to catch on to the buzz, as Combat/Relativity finally licensed some (but far from all) of the label's music for American release in 1991.
"Grindcrusher" was Earache's first definitive sampler CD, representing the label's history from its 1987 inception to the time of this compilation's release in '91. The original Earache import version features thorough liner notes on each song and band and is very educational in this regard if you're unfamiliar with some of the more obscure bands featured here. The American version however does not. Its packaging is minimal and they in fact did not even go to the liberty of numbering the songs on the back cover (which the import version does), leaving you to have to count forwards and backwards to see who's playing on your changer at the moment. A small gripe it would seem, but the absence of any information or liner notes on this version is in my opinion a big drawback.
Still, it's the music that matters, and Earache featured some of the heaviest of the time or any time. On this compilation you will find heavyweights that would eventually become household names among death/grind fans such as MORBID ANGEL, NAPALM DEATH, CARCASS, ENTOMBED and BOLT THROWER. It must be remembered though that Earache was far from just a death metal label and in reality featured a truly eclectic blend of styles on its roster, represented best on this compilation.
MORBID ANGEL kick things off with "Chapel Of Ghouls" and if you are a fan of Pete Sandoval's amazingly fast and precise drumming, you will hear it again on track number five, "Dead Shall Rise" by TERRORIZER. I'd have to favor the more authentic hardcore-influenced grind of Terrorizer, never having been the biggest Morbid fan.
REPULSION's classic "Radiation Sickness" (track number two) was the first taste Americans got of the band and appears a good year or two before the album from which it is taken "Horrified" was FINALLY released on these shores (by Relapse in '92), a whole three years after its European release, six years after its recording and another example of the American Johnny-come-lately mentality.
CARCASS's "Exhume To Consume" is a rough mix recorded a couple months prior to "Symphonies Of Sickness" and at a different studio. It is a little muddier than the LP version but possibly even more brutal.
The HELLBASTARD track "Justly Executed" sounds a little dated when heard now, Hellbastard being a U.K. band aping the late '80s Bay Area thrash sound, the band reminding me most of Exodus.
The early Swedish death metal sound is well represented on this comp, with a track each by ENTOMBED and CARNAGE. If the two tracks sound strangely alike, it's because they were both recorded only a couple months apart at the same studio (the famed Sunlight) on the same equipment and under the same producer. But both tracks also destroy.
Norway is not generally noted for its death metal, but CADAVER are an exception and turn in an exceptional track "Petrified Faces" (incorrectly identified as "Hypertrophian" on the Combat/Relativity version) -- brutal death/grind that I liked so much that I sought out and found the album from which it was taken, 1990's "Hallucinating Anxiety" (which was actually released on Earache sub-label Necrosis).
Now, one band on this compilation that history seems to have largely erased is the mighty SORE THROAT. "Horrendify And Kill," as brief as it is, is representative of the light speed wall of noise grind found on the album from which it was taken, 1988's classic "Disgrace To The Corpse Of Sid," which was rereleased on CD in 2006 but of course in a ridiculously small number and only in Japan, making it an instantly hot collector's item that one has to pay equally ridiculous prices for on eBay, if you can find a copy for sale that is. Will someone please wake up and make this album available to everyone again? Still, if this compilation is your introduction to Sore Throat, look no further.
Representing the more hardcore end of things are Sweden's FILTHY CHRISTIANS on their track "Extremely Bad Breath," which features a great riff, and the maniacally fast blur-core of INTENSE DEGREE's "I've Got A Cure," a track exclusive to this compilation.
Some comic relief comes in the form of SPAZZTIC BLURR's "He-Not-A-Home-Me-Marco," which starts out as a flaky ballad only to erupt into a flurry of high speed thrash.
The last three tracks on the comp are taken from the label's earliest 1987 releases, with HERESY's "Release" being an alternate take from the band's split with CONCRETE SOX, Earache's second release overall, and it is a track of furiously fast and aggressive noisecore.
UNSEEN TERROR have gotten a bad rap for their one and only LP, "Human Error," as it was hampered by a weak production, but the track represented here "Divisions" is a good song hidden beneath the paper thin tonal quality. It's catchy and I love Shane Embury's drumming (is there any instrument this guy doesn't play?).
Wrapping everything up is the three second long "You Suffer" from perhaps the most famous band on the label's roster, NAPALM DEATH, and it's a triumph in minimalism.
All in all, if you're interested in learning the history of one of the best and longest standing extreme music labels around, "Grindcrusher" is an essential purchase, again, especially if you can find the import version.