Little time needs wasting on getting into the semantics of this album – there’s a lot of tracks on offer with Japan’s nastiest hardcore/grind/everything-nasty-bucket PALM. In the era where fast, punky hardcore seems to be making a Renaissance, albums such as ‘To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live’ demonstrate the increasing marriage of this genre with formerly-outlandish bedfellows such as black metal and Swedish melodic death metal. You heard me. Let’s get into it.
Scapegoat peels any semblance of pretentiousness off the bone and is straight out of the woodwork with blasts, punky sneers and death growls.Grindcore-friendly riffs a la Pig Destroyer, simple back and forth progressions, tight drumming and snarling vocals. Off-kilter dissonant chords launching into noisy breakdowns with even gruffer vocals. A slamming screechy hardcore breakdown, I might add – Japan’s answer to Will Haven. Definitely an opener for the mosh.
Only Ego immediately force-feeds you death metal tremolo, blasts and high pitch shrieks reminiscent of Jacob Bannon for the second salvo. Blast-beats abound with constant rumbling bass giving depth to the assault. Choked riffs move into slower, groovier tremolo and rolling power chords. A hardcore breakdown worthy of a more hateful Hatebreed rounds this quick trip nicely.
Not a lovesong, Dedicated to Humanity is a groovier malevolence. Beginning with trade-offs between blasts and Blood Duster style single-string riffage and huge power chords. The powerviolence/punk feel of chorus features big, open screams twisting riffs and tightly coiled drumming. Circle-pit-ready riffs plummet into thrash metal palm-mutes for one last nasty, punky stretch towards the end. Man, these guys need some Zen.
Groovy The Haunted-style melodic death metal introduces Burn The Silence, interestingly, with that familiar rasp also interspersed with deeper death growls. Tight passages run up against metalcore style fret-bouncing. This could easily be American or Swedish, but there’s something unspeakably Japanese about this chaos. Taylor Young( Nails, Twisting Tongues, who provided mixing and mastering) provides a ripping solo with plenty of divebombs and bluesy twirls. Breaking straight into a hyperblast and tremolo section, it dropps back into a breakdown that is friends with your local neurologist. This stomps along with steady fervour, just as at home in Sweden as it is in the Bay Area or a dingy hardcore venue..
Call The Disorder starts with a truly bro-ready pace, tremolo and into super-steady hardcore punk chord progressions and screams of the track title – ‘Call The Disorder!’ mixing among more blasts and a thrash metal riff that’d make Toxic Holocaust fans happy, then into a groove metal riff above blasts that appeals to floor-stomping. Back and forth between these two feels is just too quick to get a bearing and sit back comfortably – it’s over quickly but satisfyingly. Heh.
Sounding like a dodgy eBay ad, ex-Owner is Fucked moves cautiously. Copping a slow burn at the start, sludgy, thick riff and acidic vocals give extra bite to the slow groove. Atonal feedback mixes in with meaty chugs to play off a very Primate style mid-tempo ear-bashing. Juicy walls of riffage begin to lull you into a fugue state, head bobbing unconsciously as the rasps wash over you. This band is equally comfortable in positions of frenetic and funeral pace, providing a solid harshness and groove in equal measure. I can’t help but feel the repeated chant of the track title is some sort of Australian cultural appropriation.
Ever had one of those days with odiously chirpy coworkers are buzzing around you like gnats, your boss is on the pump and you’re crammed like a sardine on the commute home? This is the track for you. Outright non-stop grindcore-infused punk violence with screams and chants give off a perfect soundtrack to just wanting to drop society altogether for a bit. A huge breakdown at the end rounds off this very short, sharp statement. Leave Me Alone, alright?!
Another ‘longer’ track now, Blood Clot of Pain gives the impression of a fast opener, those now standard punk riffs, switching between constant pulse and fast snare trills and the more chaotic end of hardcore with meatier guitar. Some moments of dissonance flash between these riffs and the bigger breakdown sections, and Kai from Numbernine provides a violently screechy addition to the vocals as the track melts away into tremolo and punk rock oblivion towards the latter end. ‘I am hatred!’ is screamed ad nauseum, just in case you weren’t clued in to these guys being irritated about something or other.
A very Japanese title, Honorable Death feels as though it’s a statement against rigid militaristic beliefs. Introducing more playful leads, deep growls surfacing from walls of thick riff soup, throttling forwards and braking backwards at just the right points. Layered screams and shouts abound in the chorus. This one is probably the most straightforward of the lot, keeping in a groove-oriented framework, a solo worthy of Dimebag Darrel himself istopped off with spindly chugs that slowly peel back slower and slower. By the tracks’ end, we’ve been exposed to the slow-burn core of this harsh machine.
As is expected, once again we receive a powerful dynamo track, Sacrifice, after a slow burner, ripping into solos and fast punk ethos. The desperate fast-paced screams mirror the simple punk progressions that punch on quite hard against rock-ready string bending riffs and the marching orders of a very staccato breakdown. A perfect song to have a nose broken to in the pit, a mosh number that’ll definitely spray blood on the floor of a few venues. Weird and warped soloing is the only brief aside to the wall-of-death feel, and it’s done.
音我苦 begins with an almost Cattle Decapitation styled progressive tremolo intro, showing off a little bit more of the bands’ flirtiness with traditional death metal. Translating to ‘music’, the track itself is a much darker interpretation of its’ meaning, throwing almost black metal styled epically evil riffs against the simple bludgeoning of the other tracks. Of course, the ever-present drums provide a nice bridge between these genres with varying speed settings of fast, faster, fastest, and even faster. The vocals take on a black metal shriek before a shredding solo worthy of the Bay Area rips out of nowhere. This album is evidence of a skilled ability to take in all the genre subregions of the heavy music globe and spin it all in a way that doesn’t float off-axis. Focused and snarling, just like the rest of the songs. Dig it, especially that butt-shaking outro which might even get the grandparents moving. Except the blast-beats.
And we end on the title track. A well-earnt reprieve with those slow arpeggios, perhaps. Although they have a slightly queasy suburban feel to them and are quickly replaced by another tight-but-groovy riff bridge. The fuzz of the bass punches right through the mix here, giving the track a woollen but still axe-sharp feel. The barked and shrieked accents of the vocals here almost imitate rap in places, but are assuredly backed up by long, pained screams of, you guessed it – To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live! Probably the simplest offer here, this is an apologetic offer for the absolute mind-numbing beating you’ve been copping almost incessantly. An easy-breezy solo rings out into spoken-word Japanese underneath a massively epic wall of chords that perfectly fuzzes the album to its’ deathbed.
Wow, just wow. Thank you, Japan. Thank you, PALM.
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