Come one, come all, and bear witness to one of the most jaw-droppingly ferocious and barbaric bands playing in the contemporary heavy metal scene today; the mighty Grog! Hailing from Lisbon and sounding like the drink of choice of an orc, the quartet have returned with their fourth full-length album, Ablutionary Rituals, long awaited by many within the extreme metal scene, as it has been six long years since their previous release. Ablutionary Rituals continues Grog’s unique blend of the savagery of grindcore and the technical intricacies of death metal. This is certainly not an album for the uninitiated, though those bold enough to face off against the ludicrousness of Grog’s brutality will surely be rewarded with one of the finest examples of extreme metal within the scene today.
The typical grindcore song lasts less than a minute and a half (anything more would basically be progressive rock), and contains enough screams, profanity, and abused instruments to make the Sex Pistols blush. Yet this is where Grog step away from the norm, opting to instead choose a longer play time, and infusing elements usually found within death metal. This marriage of death metal and grindcore leads to some devastatingly crushing riffs at speeds which, quite frankly, sound inhuman. Of course, this is not something new; ‘deathgrind’ has been around since the ’90s, with even the big boys like Carcass joining in. Despite this however, Ablutionary Rituals still manages to feel fresh and new, not simply a regurgitation of riffs and screams from previous bands. Having formed over two decades ago, Grog have had the time to realise what works and what doesn’t, leading to an album chock-full of tracks that definitely do work.
The death metal influence is immediately noticeable on this album, as the opening track, “Revelation – Open Wound”, starts with a long, distant-sounding guitar riff which sounds as if it is slowly getting closer to the listener. The natural discord within the riff and how it slowly crescendos truly makes the track feel like a horror film; as if a killer from a slasher film is closing in on you. This is the perfect set up for Ablutionary Rituals, as the whole album encapsulates what ‘horror music’ is, as each track manages to sound absolutely massive, a wall of distorted riffs and guttural screams at an incomprehensible pace, totally overpowering you and forcing you to listen on.
A personal favourite of mine is “Cardiaxe”, as the track, appearing in the middle of the album, acts as a break to the listener, offering a slow, trudging pace initially before the band throw themselves into a frenzy, continuing the pace from before. Lead guitarist Ivo and drummer Rolando dominate the opening to “Cardiaxe”, with their slow, methodical pace, Ronaldo keeping the beat steady as Ivo’s deep, crunchy-sounding guitar twangs act as foreshadowing for the brutality set to appear towards the end of the track.
While tracks like “Sterile Hermaphrodite” and “Flesh Beating Continuum” truly embody what a grindcore song should be, the final track, “Katharsis – The Cortex of Doom and the Left Hand Moon”, is definitely the standout on the album. Aside from having a title longer than the line for the bar at a gig, the finalé to Ablutionary Rituals plays in an entirely different style to that from the rest of the album. The slow, almost doom-ish nature of “Katharsis […]” is a stark contrast to the violence of prior tracks. This is in no way a hindrance however, as it simply shows the diversity Grog are capable of, acting as proof that they are not bound to the one stylistic choice. There is perhaps no better way to end an album than by deliberately playing against everything which has already been presented.
Ablutionary Rituals is out now and available via their bandcamp