In our ongoing series of guest columns, we’ve asked a bunch of metal’s heaviest hitters to provide us with a list of five crucial albums they think will change you — either for the better or the worse. Today, we hear from drummer extraordinaire Kenny Grohowski.
Meshuggah — Chaosphere
When I first moved to New York in August of 2001, The closest music to metal that I knew of were the likes of Mr. Bungle, Dream Theatre, John Zorn’s Naked City, and other such groups as that. (So, no metal, really). I was ‘aware’ of Megadeth, Metallica, Pantera, Maiden, Priest, etc., (unfortunately heard Korn, which became quite a bit of a turn off for me), but since it was beyond my realm of experience or listening, having grown up in Miami, Florida, (I know what you’re thinking: Death, Cynic; I know, but none of my friends did at the time, and there wasn’t YouTube or Wikipedia), surrounded by nothing but Jazz, Fusion, and various Caribbean musics, I simply had no grasp or connection to Metal.
I thought Mahavishnu Orchestra and Dmitri Shostakovich were pretty ‘Brutal,’ to use today’s parlance. That was until one day in a ensemble class at New School University, where the teacher played Meshuggah’s Chaosphere and Destroy, Erase, Improve back-to-back. I never heard anything like that before, but from that moment on, something changed: The sound, the feeling, the Intensity I had been looking for; it was all there and it hit harder than a Fat-Attack at McDonalds.
I took the cassette from the teacher, (Yes kids, we of the 80’s generation still had to use cassette tapes in class, there weren’t iPods and iPhones yet…) drummer Amir Ziv, made several copies of it, and I memorized all the music on both albums. I wrote out entire transcriptions of everything on Chaosphere. I had a dream that particular day would come, but that is another story for another time. The Rhythmic phrasing and sheer Groove of that record, albeit the recording quality, mesmerized me and still does to this day. Ever time that album comes up in my head phones, I have to fight the urge of internally combusting.
Castavet — Mounds Of Ash
Though this is a more recent record, this, to me, is still one of the most beautiful and haunting records you can find. The simple way that I can surmise this album is by the concept of “Honest Composition.” No, this isn’t a term some asshole in music school invented; this is a term that This Asshole invented. Or coined. Whatever, go fuck yourself, I wrote it “first.”
Anyway, the album, from beginning to end, can really be listened to in the same manner as you would any symphony piece. It’s development, build, and emotional/lyrical content sustain the album as a whole, where simply listening to one song, though fun and rewarding, leaves you yearning for more. I first became aware of these guys with one of my metal bands, violin-metaller’s Resolution 15, but then rediscovered them through my good friend Alex Cohen of Pyrrhon and currently Malignancy. It would be around the time that Castavet released Mounds of Ash and once he played me a song, I needed to buy the album. One of the best purchases of my life.
Origin — Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas
What the hell can anyone say about Origin or this album that hasn’t already been said?! The first time I heard this, it reminded me of an incredibly loud version of some modern 20th century classical composers I had listened to back in high school and college. György Ligeti came to mind, at first (think the choir from “2001: A Space Odyssey”), but way, way more in your face about it. I honestly couldn’t handle it. Then, I let go, and wow did it wash over. As a drummer, there’s an indescribable amount of material that can be mined and studied on this album alone, regardless of the kind of music you play. But there’s literally not a single slouch in that band: All monsters, all tight, all the time, and they’re loud as fuck. Hell Yes. This is the only show that comes to NYC where I’ve been willing to throw my beer into the pit. Out of Joy. Beer is precious.
Gorguts — From Wisdom To Hate
This is, by far, one of my favorite metal albums of all time. It also contains one of my favorite songs of all time, “Das Martyrium Des…” God, I love that song! So beautiful… Wait, sorry about that…
Anyway, the album is simply a wonderful recorded moment in time and I’m grateful for it’s existence. For me, it has some of the most beautiful writing of any kind of music you can find. Maybe I’m just slightly off-kilter, but, this album makes me teary eyed, but I smile and laugh a lot when I listen to it. Come to think of it, that’s why everyone looks at me strangely on the subway. Fuck… Vertically, there’s a lot more happening on this album then on 98% of metal albums to date, and the songwriting throughout is thoughtful and compelling. I guarantee that this will be the kind of music that teacher’s in conservatory will one day Have to teach their students.
Maybe I need to get a teaching position at a conservatory, to you know, ensure this music’s respect is upheld. I love this album, and you probably already do yourself: If you don’t know it, then do yourself a favor and pick this up, along with Obscura, The Orosion of Insanity, and for the sake of Big Steeve, Negativa.
Ulcerate — The Destoyers of All
So this is a newer album of theirs, sure, but it’s fucking awesome so fuck-off. Lush, beautifully violent (unlike Waking The Cadaver… I mean really, what the fuck people, why are they even allowed oxygen…), but complete with beautiful songwriting and spirit. The record, is one thing. This band live, however, takes the songs to such an emotional level. It was such a joy and honor to see them at Public Assembly here in Brooklyn.
The songs, as well as few “hits” off of Of Fracture and Failure and Everything is Fire really showed me how well tuned this band is becoming and how much they care about the Song versus the Chops. This isn’t something you see very often in Metal these days. Many bands tend to be, regardless of talent or ability, only skin deep with their music, writing, and ability to be transparent within the music or performance. Ulcerate brought this energy and spirit to their performance and it brought a room full of metal heads into pure focus and silence. Then, the pit started… I truly look forward to their next musical offering. This band, I feel, has still a long way before truly realizing themselves and the world of metal will be better off for this. Also, Jamie Saint Merat will be a force to be reckoned with, watch.
I have to say, only being able to comment on five albums is really fucking tough. Not being able to mention Car Bomb’s Centralia, Ion Dissnonance’s Solace, Murder Construct’s Results, Dodecahedron’s self titled album, Deathspell Omega’s Drought, or even Spawn Of Possession’s Incurso, plus so many, many other amazing albums, is really tough.
Oh shit, I think I did.