If you chat to anyone in a band that has a bit of history behind it, and especially when this includes albums that general consensus calls “essential” or even “classic”, chances are those musicians have very strong feelings about what their final record with this band means to them, whether positive or negative.
GridLink are certainly a band with a history behind it. Jon Chang emerged from the ashes of Discordance Axis, a band that arguably ended their existence with one of the most pivotal grind records of the 21st century in The Inalienable Dreamless. Teaming with co-founder Takafumi Matsubara and maintaining a relationship with Hydra Head, GridLink sprung up several years later, laying down a thrilling gauntlet of technically abstruse grindcore with two full-lengths, near-peerless in their scope and ferocity.
History is the one word we keep coming back to as it has a habit of repeating itself. Longhena is GridLink’s third album and once again, Chang and his cohorts are calling it a day, allowing GridLink to burn up in a blaze of unholy aggression, much like Discordance Axis did. But enough with the DA comparisons, GridLink have always been an entity unto themselves, a line-up filled with the possibly the finest players a grindcore band could hope to establish in the current landscape, namely drumming luminary Bryan Fajardo (PLF, Kill The Client, Phobia) and one time Burnt By The Sun bassist Ted Patterson.
In the grand picture, Longhena is a grind record. Of course. But it’s with its execution and its many nuanced traits that make the album stick out from the pack, much like last record Orphan but with even more zeal than before. A staggering amount of detail has been packed into these 23 minutes or so.
Longhena is instigated by ‘Constant Autumn,’ where a jangly guitar intro births a haze of blasting and miasmic screeches that conjure a fog of noise that’s difficult to navigate before giving way to a dizzyingly melodic, and almost-catchy, mid-section. The song clocks in at a mere two minutes but does an astounding job of laying out GridLink’s intentions and encapsulates much of what makes Longhena a stunning record and this is quickly followed by ‘The Last Raven’, a track that is equally jarring as it is brooding.
It’s after this that GridLink throw out the first curveball of Longhena in ‘Thirst Watcher,’ an early two minute respite of gorgeous violins delivered by Joey Molinaro, who rose to significance in 2011 for his solely violin-driven instrumental interpretation of The Inalienable Dreamless. His manic interpretation clearly won over the hearts of GridLink and his lush, ambient violin lines are dotted throughout this record running parallel to the caustic chaos elsewhere, creating a compelling dichotomy.
For all its firestorms of frenzied riffs and unfathomable drumming, Longhena isn’t afraid to be catchy at the same time, where ‘Stay Without Me’ and ‘Taibas’ both tear through melees of difficult but ultimately rewarding riffs. This is reinforced with ‘The Dodopachi,’ where furious buzzsaw guitars rule the order and one begins to question just how badly seared Jon Chang’s vocals cords are as he screeches and roars his way through each of these diatribes.
His vocals only get a brief break with ‘Chalk Maple,’ where bellowing guest vocals come from Assuck’s Paul Pavlovich, who “came out of retirement” for GridLink’s farewell and considering it’s been 17 years since Misery Index, this is a more than welcome addition.
This leads us into the album’s final heart-stopping moments, ‘Wartime Exception Law 205’ and ‘Ketsui’ sounding particularly exhausting, leading into the title track, where GridLink feel like they’re gasping for their breath with just seconds to go until the finish line. The adrenaline burst holds up for the final track, ‘Look To Winward’. At over three minutes, it’s quite the oeuvre by Gridlink standards and encapsulates everything that is so great about Longhena – mind numbingly fast drums, piercing riff after piercing riff and craw ripping screams that are soaked in the sort of honest emotion that you yearn for in any band.
Longhena is how a grind band should go out in style – one fiery blaze. It’s utterly unrelenting and forceful but, at the same time, strangely beautiful in its unbridled and unhinged aggression.