The Irish punk/hardcore scene is one we don’t explore often here at GoldenPlec. It’s a tight-knit community and niche genre. Some unlikely prospects sewed their early creative oats there, though. Plec Picks Nealo and Uly and For Those I Love had humble beginnings in the Dublin hardcore scene before moving on to other projects. While Ireland doesn’t boast scenes as hearty as its global counterparts, it thrives underground thanks to labels like County Sligo based Distro-y Records.
As is par for the course with music from this small, singular scene, little is known about Grief Eater. The band is comprised of members of Bacchus, Destriers, Only Fumes and Corpses, Them Martyrs and Trenches (all also great names). That so many bands share so many members is typical of the insular and incestuous nature of the perpetually self-sustaining scene. That there is so little background available on any of these groups can really make you feel like you’re an outsider looking in sometimes.
Their self-titled debut album, was released digitally at the end of March last year and is finally available on vinyl following delays caused by Covid-19. Housed in the unsettling imagery of Russian artist Vergvoktre, ‘Grief Eater’ features five tracks with a running time of just under half an hour.
It may be short but oh boy, oh boy, is it ever so bleak. It’s so bleak that It feels like a more prolonged listening experience. ‘Grief Eater’ boasts crushing, hefty, doom-laden hardcore riffs and two distinctive voices fighting for lead duties. One is piercing and manic, its counterpart more of a throaty grunt, both styles that listeners of hardcore and extreme metal alike would be well accustomed to.
Chamber and album closer Ephemeral Belief are the most potent aural assaults on ‘Grief Eater’. Both feature raw guitar tones and live-in-your-front-room style production, with the latter being the most melodic track on the album and flitting between incendiary blast beats and glacial funeral dirge at the drop of a hat. Insular Domain meanwhile, takes cues from ‘90s metallic hardcore and post-metal in equal measure, alternating from eerie tremolo picked passages to chugging breakdowns.
However, for all of its impressive moments the album is somewhat let down by how it flows. Grief Eater are more content to let a song meander away before moving on to the next one rather than opting for a more immediate approach. Insular Domain, for example, fades out and is succeeded by Empire of Profiligacy, whereas one bleeding into the other would have worked better. The tracks work well individually but perhaps not in the order they’re presented to us.
‘Grief Eater’ is a decent debut hindered mostly by its sequencing and some questionable mixing – the drums aren’t as powerful as they should be. While not the most original album of its sort, it’s a welcome addition to the Irish canon of harsher vibes and a fine jumping off point for those looking to get into heavier music in their locale.