Artist: Grim State
Illness: noun. A period of affliction or disease affecting the body or mind. When describing Grim State’s latest full length, it’s the latter part of that definition which really comes into play. While many bands take pride in crafting bone-breaking albums capable of mimicking even the most severe bodily injuries, very rarely is it that a band is capable of conjuring and casting the sentiment of true physical, emotional and mental instability that is Illness. Indeed, Dayton-based hardcore act Grim State have done just that, combining jarring dissonance, harsh, thrash-laden riffage along with daunting, spine-shrinking heaviness in one, mesmerizingly destructive release. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you; Illness.
Beginning with a series of chaotic shouts and pounding, blood-pumping percussion, Illness wastes no time in letting the listener know what Grim State are all about: intensity. At no point during the entire duration of the album is the listener subject to any sort of reprieve from the incessant hammering the act has to offer. This is, in one way, due to the instrumentation throughout the album. “Unstable,” for example, is just that. Opening with a stuttering, stop-and-go breakdown, it is the closest thing to clean-cut and concise the album has to offer. Most of the time, there is a dissonant, sludgy tone constantly pulling and tugging at the listener’s ears, eroding at their sanity. Take “Torn” for another example; chaotic, rampant shredding which wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Every Time I Die album is dominant, while the drums pound and persist in the background. In one way or another, the instrumentation on Illness is always driving the album along, pushing it to go faster and to be even more intense than the listener previously perceived as possible.
Vocally, Grim State are no slackers, either. If it weren’t for the grating, harsh shouts and bellows throughout Illness, the listener would never truly grasp the true feeling of despair and hopelessness that insanity truly brings. “Torn” is again exemplary of this. Featuring both a deep, throaty bellow and a half-chanted, half-screamed vocal tone, the band proves they are far from monotonous, and indeed, capable of imitating the vocal instability one would expect from the voices they would hear echoing in their own head–you know, after they had gone truly mad. Indeed, beginning with the first grating shrieks in “Insanity” and through the last shouted syllable of “Madness,” the vocal performance is absolutely top-notch, driving the album to be bigger and better in perfect candor with the instrumentation. Together, the vocals and the instruments push at one another, persistently forcing one to step up their game so the other doesn’t lag behind. This dynamic is what really fills out the release. When the thrash-laden leads get grindy and overstay their welcome, the vocals take over and drive the track into a feisty, vicious groove which completely infects the listener’s mind.
It’s just that notion which makes Illness a true plague upon the listener. The catchy, infectious grooves and the degrading, demoralizing dissonance completely destroy the listener’s mental acuity, but prevent them from leaving the album behind. Just when the listener believes they’ve heard everything there is to hear on the release, tracks like “Dream” or “Torn” come along and reinvent the wheel. “Dream” begins with an almost doom-like funeral dirge, which picks up into a two-steppy, beatdown anthem in a metamorphosis which few bands have yet to achieve. If Illness were longer, and more labyrinthine, the listener might get so irrevocably lost after one listen that they wouldn’t ever return, but, the short length prevents that from happening. While it’s still a tantalizingly short duration for a full length release, ultimately, it’s forgivable, as it aids the atmosphere of the album, rather than hinder it and truncate the overarching experience.
Without a shred of ethereal fluff or light filler, Illness is an asylum incarnate. Haunting, heavy moments clash with down-tuned, down-tempo crush to create an immensely demoralizing experience which begs to be played on repeat. Grim State prove that after relatively little time on the scene, they are more than capable of crafting immersive, daunting and devastating music which breaks the listener’s knees, preventing them from escaping the band’s auditory onslaught–which is ultimately just fine, because truth be told, they won’t want to leave anyways.
For Fans Of: Immoralist, Deathbringer, Vices, Gaza
By: Connor Welsh