Written by Ellis Heasley
Greber – Fright Without
>Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
>Releases September 9th
>No Funeral Records
Ever seen a dog do that thing where they catch a rat or mouse and then shake the shit out of it to break its neck and spine and whatever else is holding that little rodent body together? The fourth album from sludge/grind duo Greber is a bit like that. This is nasty, nasty stuff from a band who’ve been plugging away with exactly that for well over a decade now, with this latest full-length Fright Without arriving at a prime time given the love everyone with at least a modicum of taste has been throwing in the general direction of bands like Mastiff, Helpless, and Yautja.
The first major tick for Fright Without is that it was mixed by Kurt Ballou and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, so naturally it sounds wonderful. That production pairing never miss, and they aren’t about to start here. Greber may be a duo at their core – they do have a few helping hands here and there on this record – but they certainly don’t struggle to conjure a ludicrously thick sound that feels like someone is just pouring cement straight into your lungs. It’s not even like they front-load the album too much either, with some of the thickest and filthiest riffs coming in second half highlights like “Dark Corners” and “Nosebleed”.
Obviously, Greber are mostly dealing in the essentials here. Drummer Steve Vargas certainly knows how to blast away, and Marc Bourgon’s bass is so sludgy and distorted that you hardly notice the absence of a guitar on most of these tracks, but it really is a testament to the band that even as they walk this well-trodden path with their relatively limited sonic arsenal, Fright Without still feels powerfully compelling. If anything the two-piece dynamic adds something raw and primal to this – an urgency unencumbered by too many overdubs or competing elements.
Tracks like “Larkintis” and “Rats Of Subversion” offer something just a little different each which is welcome too; the former is a bit more atmospheric, courtesy of some semi-melodic chanted vocals and a distant wailing guitar provided Bourgon’s former Fuck The Facts bandmate Mathieu Vilandre. The latter meanwhile drags itself out to a full five minutes for a piece that becomes increasingly hypnotic as Bourgon’s bass moves slowly and doomily over Vargas’ more chaotic drumming. In both cases it’s surely no coincidence that the aforementioned “Dark Corners” and “Nosebleed” which follow these respective tracks feel particularly potent, as though the slight variations enable the resuming onslaught to grab listeners with fresh and violent force.
It is also probably at least worth digging some way into the lyrics here, not that they are super intelligible without the words written right in front of you. These mostly seem to be going for a kind of Pig Destroyer-esque bleak poeticism, telling short dark stories often in just a few screamed or bellowed lines. Fifth track “Bushcord of Entrails” is a great example, this one’s first verse reading “After darker recollections / Your smile never left / Not once it faded / Though it split slowly in half” in that kind of unsettling esotericism J.R. Hayes always absolutely nails. It would be easy enough to start poring over meanings and the like, but really this is something that will probably matter more or less depending on the listener, and either way you can have a good enough time with the violence of the music alone.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It goes without saying that Fright Without is an intensely oppressive record, but given that it only spends half an hour trying to suffocate you it’s definitely worth letting it have a go. If you’re a fan of the bands mentioned at the top of this review you should have no disappointments here, and the two-piece dynamic actually ends up working in Greber’s favour in that it sets them apart at least a touch from an increasingly crowded scene of bands devoted so proudly and exclusively to misery and mire.