Album Review: GRIDLINK Coronet Juniper

On the surface, grindcore seems like the most limiting form of extreme expression. It’s reliance on fast bursts of raging vocals, blaring guitars, and ripping drums and bass, binds it to a certain set of expectations. Since the days of Seige, early Napalm Death and Carcass, Terrorizer, and Repulsion, the contours of the sound seemed more-or-less intact. But ever since the late 1980s, enterprising noise-heads have sought to expand the style’s sonic territory, with Assück, Cripple Bastards, and Disharmonic Orchestra being some of the more notable examples. Without question, the now reconstituted Gridlink belongs to this proud legacy.

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And so it was saddening when they split up just at the moment of their ultimate triumph with 2014’s Longhena. I hate that the record is nine years old already. Christ. Anyway, songs like “Constant Autumn” and “Stay Without Me” were the culmination of the band’s unique take on grindcore. The speed was absolutely phenomenal, as were the talents of guitarist Takafumi Matsubara and vocalist Jon Chang. But the thing that really made the sound special was the blending of melodic energy into the sounds that gave it a special air of emotional intensity. It was this combination of speed, talent and passion that made Gridlink stand apart from other grind acts, if not other metal bands in general.

But fear not! Since the band’s initial split in 2014, Matsubara has recovered from his brain infarction that inhibited the function of his precious left hand. I had a feeling Gridlink would eventually return when I heard about his work with Retortion Terror. And thus we have Coronet Juniper, the ideal successor to Longhena in every way.

“Silk Ash Cascade” brings us into the album with perhaps the most progressive death metal feel we get on Coronet Juniper. The song’s dramatic rise and fall is replicated again on “Ocean Vertigo,” fittingly as these two tracks are some of the only ones that breach the two-minute mark. Still, on these tracks and the rest of the album, the brutality is absolutely unrelenting.

If you’re looking for a purely energizing listen, go straight for songs like “Anhalter Bahnhof,” “Octave Serpent,” and the hilariously named “Zygomatic.” If you’re looking for interesting twists and turns, check out the melodic riffs on “Nickel Grass Mosaic” and the impressive drum patters on “Coronet Juniper.”

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Formally, the album’s 11 tracks comprise about 19 minutes of running time. HOWEVER, the band also decided to include Karaoke versions of every song as well. This way, you too can practice fry screaming to your hearts content as the glorious grind passes through your ears. Remember, friends: if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong!

Coronet Juniper is the ideal Gridlink record – a triumphant return and followup to a modern classic.

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