Gridlink Orphan

Gridlink Orphan
Reinforcing the fact that Hydra Head still has a touch of extremity left on their roster, after half a decade's worth of middle-tier sludge and black metal, Gridlink's follow-up to 2008's Amber Grey develops their sound a touch further while drawing subtly from frontman Jon Chang's previous act, the almighty Discordance Axis. While Amber essentially sounded like a thrash/crossover album sped up to ludicrous speeds and compressed into a 12-minute smack down, Orphan downplays that aspect of their sound in favour of a bit more melody and dynamics, accomplishing more in the same running time while sacrificing none of the intensity. Fans of the aforementioned Discordance Axis will be unable to contain their enthusiasm, as Gridlink offer up a slightly increased emphasis on catchiness and rhythmic variation that complements The Alienable Dreamless's off-kilter mercilessness quite nicely without ever coming across as regressive. All this talk of progression may give the wrong idea, so make no mistake: this is still unrelenting stuff, featuring a near constant blasting assault and nary a breakdown or d-beat in sight. Chang's vocals remain among the most traumatizing and abrasive in the genre, slicing through the warmer than usual mix with measured, yet thoroughly unsettling, shrieks that play a huge part in making the music as memorable as it is. Considering the skimpy running time and density of the songs, the replay value is high, practically begging one to loop the album for several rotations until the ugliness and aggression of it all sink in. Ultimately, fans will be more than satisfied and newcomers will find this just as challenging, if slightly more infectious, than their debut. (Hydra Head)