4 out of 5
Label: Hydra Head Records
Produced by: Bill T. Miller, Steve Evetts
Grindcore. It’s a genre I admittedly can’t get much mileage out of, but I have to admit, once you understand what you’re in for – guttural and / or shrieked vocals; minute-long song runtimes; blazing, thrash drums and riffs – you can hear the difference between bands that, like, play grind music, and bands like frikkin’ Discordance Axis. While a 30+ track compilation of this stuff is inevitably going to have some songs that blend into one another (at least to my untrained ear), it’s absolutely amazing how little of that actually happens, and how listenable Jouhou is, with DA doing their duties at playing at top speed and volume, but then also doubling down througout the record with breaks for discernible riffs, and impressive songcraft stuffed in to those minutes. I do wish I could hear some kind of difference between the main album – tracks 1-20 – and the tracks from splits with Plutocracy and Melt Banana that’ve been added on as tracks 21-31, with a live cut capping things off as track 32 (just in case you had any doubts this intense speed and noisiness couldn’t be achieved in front of an audience), but at the same time, putting it all together flows just as well. But yes, that ups the ratio on sound-alike tracks a bit.
The recording quality isn’t on par with the undeniable pushing and masterful followup The Inalienable Dreamless – it’s a little mushy – but it’s not like it’s quiet; Dave Witte’s breathless drumming and Jon Chang’s howls come through clear and heavy, with maybe Rob Marton’s guitar riffage losing some fidelity overall.
I don’t know if anyone is just wandering into a grindcore album blind to the scene, but let’s say you have some awareness of what you’re in for here, and you’re not an aficionado of the genre – it’s sincerely hard to have other things stack up to DA once you’ve been exposed to them, and Jouhou runs the gamut of impressive offerings, while also absolutely acting as a de facto “yes, this is what grind music sounds like” prime example.