The connection between abrasive, warp speed music and film samples isn't new - for a whole wave of turn of the century hardcore bands, the familiar samples punctuating minute long tantrums were usually the most memorable part of the entire enterprise. But Graf Orlock takes this connection to an entirely new level.
Named after the vampiric villain in Nosferatu, Graf Orlock offers a devoutly cinema-centric take on the familiar territory of grindcore. Far from merely peppering their records with choice lines, Graf Orlock's entire lyrical corpus is made up of film dialogue. But even that isn't what makes Graf Orlock so great; what really puts them over the top is their forceful and vehement ideas about film criticism, which lionize the kind of blood-soaked, high concept clusterfucks that make Pauline Kael and Peter Biskind's skin crawl. Their inspiration isn't arty foreign film, it's movies like Under Siege, Predator, and Road House. This is a band Jerry Bruckheimer could love.
The biggest obstacle for Graf Orlock is the limited palette afforded by their chosen genre: the teeth-rattling blastbeats and screams of grindcore have a tendency to become tiring in large doses, unless the band is unusually skillful and creative. Two notes need be made here: (1) In its over-the-top, exhausting nature, grindcore mirrors many of the films utilized by the band; (2) Graf Orlock are excellent at what they do.
The songs are dynamic and weighty, sometimes even approaching the tense, anthemic quality of Anticapital era Assück. The charging riffs in "Captives of the Thuggee" and the absolutely killer breakdown in "Personal Stuff" are what separates the wheat from the chaff in the blurry world of grind. The album doesn't overstay its welcome, finishing in just under half an hour and leaving only a trail of shell casings and bullet-ridden corpses in its wake.
The lyrical and conceptual bent of Destination Time Yesterday creates an interesting effect, creating a profanity-laden commentary on a society deeply fascinated with violence; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is even transformed into an oblique commentary on eschatological religious fanaticism. I had a personal soft spot for "Personal Stuff", with lyrics drawn from Con Air, in this writer's opinion an oft-neglected example of high concept firestorm.
Graf Orlock provides what the often-stale world of "extreme" music perpetually needs: bands offering a fresh take on a familiar sound. That would be enough on its own, but Graf Orlock are also capable of writing dynamic and memorable songs - putting them miles ahead of their growling, monochromatic contemporaries. And in spite of their sophisticated theoretical apparatus, Graf Orlock's music never sounds anything less than visceral. In the words of Don Simpson (R.I.P.): "I never start out intellectually. I commit my instincts. It's gut to heart to mind to mouth."
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