Artist: Gridfailure

Title: Sixth Mass-Extinction Skulduggery II

Label: Nefarious Industries

Rating – 7/10

Words : Tom Coles 

Formless harsh noise is something to behold: alien, mercurial, and devastatingly heavy. But there’s space for a lot of artistry, in the textures and the noises, for an act such as Gridfailure to weave something successfully intriguing from the miasma. Here, they successfully navigate some extremely sonically challenging material to produce a dense, hostile record – nonetheless, one with space for melody.

In the same way that Godflesh conjures images of factories through their scraping sounds and relentless hammering beats, Gridfailure uses the static of overlapping voices and electronic, insectoid scratching to sound like the human element of an overcrowded city. But there’s something mechanical here too; a pulse underneath that sounds like the beating heart of a city, a fresh vision of harsh industrial noise for the digital age.

This is a record with a lot of free space, but in these long moments there’s nowhere to relax; instead, these are long periods of tension, hammering home the aesthetic, relentless

Curiously, this outing features some melodic elements rising up from the noisescapes; these are often scrappy, simplistic affairs, recalling naive folk melodies. They disappear as soon as they emerge, but they’re curiously pretty and child-like; another human element snaking through the din. One of the benefits of an urban atmosphere is that the listener can imagine this as clashing voices in a sea of often-confrontational sounds, and that beauty, even frail, is just one voice. 

Elsewhere the rush of twisted vocals rise up in crashing waves, harrowing and hypnotic; there are plenty of examples of traditional songcraft here, all twisted around themselves, bent until they’re unrecognisable. 

This is a record with a lot of free space, but in these long moments there’s nowhere to relax; instead, these are long periods of tension, hammering home the aesthetic, relentless. It makes for an exhausting listen even when it’s not remorselessly caustic at every available opportunity.

A fine entry in the tradition of haunting, claustrophobic noise music

Having established these motifs, they emerge later in the record; when they do they’re transformed, harrowing and disconcerting. The simple melodies spanning an eerie, skeletal chord take on a more hollow, sinister energy. There are some weird decisions, like playing these over a multitude of instruments; in any usual environment a synthesizer would be more than enough, but having multiple, clearly-defined instruments does give the record a wider variety of timbre and voice, whilst at the same time straying into a seeming parody of indulgent rock music.

Somewhat comparable to Author and Punisher; Gridfailure use the same aesthetic and techniques to create a similar effect. But there’s a firmer focus on soundscape here, and it owes more to creepy ambient music. This lacks a lot of the cut and thrust of some of the other noise acts, but there’s a lot of character to even the formless noise. More so, when these motifs and note flurries rise out of the swamp, they act in a similar way to a hook, giving the listener something to ground themselves against.

Gridfailure snakes around the full-on horror of Merzbow, but where there’s nuance it serves to bring out some of the best from the chaos, drawing it to the forefront whilst everything else, steeped in malevolence, hisses before being sucked back down. A fine entry in the tradition of haunting, claustrophobic noise music.

Sixth Mass-Extinction Skulduggery II is out now via Nefarious Industries.

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