Here is what I love about grindcore: the fine balance between aggressiveness, raw power, and the ability, if done correctly, to be both ugly and honest. Grindcore is not my “go-to” genre, however. There are, in fact, relatively few albums in that genre which I find myself returning to, but such masterpieces as Need to Control by Brutal Truth hold a unique place in my record collection and my heart. It’s the kind of album that kicks you in the head while you are underwater. It’s an album that instantly pumps you with adrenaline-soaked fury, making you involuntarily clench your fists so hard you leave crescent-shaped nail imprints on the palms of your hands. A perfect dose of savage, ugly truth.
And that is exactly what we have here with Concrete Mascara‘s 2016 album: Perennial Disappointment. Not in terms of musical style, of course—you won’t hear distortion-driven guitars or inhuman drum pounding as it struggles to break the 300 BPM mark—but the rest, to be certain, is here.
From the name of the project and the chosen album title to Simon Clark‘s absurdly evocative artwork (in particular the album’s cover which, to me, resembles the artwork of Blood Duster‘s Cunt), it’s apparent that the ‘spirit of grind’ is embedded deep in their art. So much so that, to be honest, if I didn’t know them from their album Caustic Realities (Angst, 2016) and somehow failed to see the Malignant Records logo on the back, I never would have guessed the correct genre of this album if I found it while browsing through a record store.
Concrete Mascara is an American trio consisting of Andrew Wilmer, Jack Scanlan, and Frank Cordry, all residents of New Jersey. They construct a mixture of power electronics and harsh noise, and they’ve been around since 2011. Perennial Disappointment is their first album under the Malignant banner, and it will fuck up your world.
The album’s very first track, ‘The Flesh of This World’, is sort of an intro—an introduction to the violence to come. A monotone, almost robotic voice tells us its sinister message. This ‘data’ is delivered to us in such a cold and mechanical voice that you can feel there are no emotions attached to it. It’s beyond ‘apathetic’ (after all, a machine cannot be apathetic); it’s alienated, chilling, and without any feelings whatsoever. The same can be said about the ominous soundtrack that accompanies this message.
If we’ll continue with the grindcore comparison, Pig Destroyer‘s ‘Jennifer’ (the opener to Prowler in the Yard) comes to my mind where the low-pitched vocals set the sickening mood for the ultrachaos that is about to convene.
And Concrete Mascara doesn’t fail to deliver that chaos as we move into ‘Area Trinity’, and that’s where the pain truly begins. Harsh waves of electronic noise and pulsing layers of bass are unleashed upon us, mixed with some of the best vocals I’ve heard in the power electronics genre. Distorted, agonizing screams are present that you normally only get to hear on extreme metal albums.
Both the vocals and the noise seem to have a similar ‘electrified’ effect to them which ties them together making the vocals basically another instrument and a part of the general atmosphere. Another fine example to that is in ‘Snake Skin Stilettos’ where the vocals fade in and out, spitting poison, and in a way woven with distortion into the punishing fundamental noise—noise which slowly moves towards its own destruction as the sound gradually becomes ‘crushed’ before fading into nothing.
Overall, the music on this album is both chaotic and structured. In most of the tracks there is a primary beat that gives the tracks their backbone, such as in ‘Delusion of Sacrifice’ wherein the throbbing machine-gun beats are always present, making your heart race. They are even more present on ‘Utopian Nightmare’ where the beat serves as sort of a drum loop, making it something you could almost dance to if it wasn’t so strident. Yet, the near-constant noise in the background is so brutal and twisted that it sends you into vertigo. In other words: It’s an onslaught.
The lyrics on Perennial Disappointment express every negative human emotion; from frustration, anger, and remorse to depression, delusion, and disgust, it’s all in a misanthropic setting that will keep you uneasy all throughout:
‘Hell is other people
but we remain
locked in communion
and armed to the teeth’
Besides using my favorite quote by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, this is a great example of how unique this album is. While most power electronic acts try to shock you in their lyrics with graphic descriptions of abusive sex acts or torture (which I’m not saying is bad as an artistic choice, but kind of overdone in this genre), here we have the nihilistic poet approach, which is just as soulless and bleak.
Those knife-sharp lyrics and the sickening vocals mix with a merciless noise that keeps attacking all throughout the album, with both high and low frequencies pounding at your skull and only stopping their assault in between tracks, as if to take a breath. That’s what makes this album what it is: Powerful, harsh, painful, and, above all, honest.
01) The Flesh of This World
02) Area Trinity
03) Utopian Nightmare
04) Delusion of Sacrifice
05) Mouth of Flies, Tongue of Maggots
06) Snake Skin Stilettos
07) Defined by Absence
08) Death Trigger Impulse