One of Finland’s finest exports, Rotten Sound have been smashing audiences over the head with slabs of grindcore terror since 1994 with the release of their first EP, Sick Bastard. Always among the leaders in the scene, their last couple of albums have seen them attempt to introduce a more textured approach into their sonic whirlwind, with variable results – their last album, Cycles, although a decent effort, was hamstrung by some iffy tempo changes and felt slightly ‘off’ throughout.
Well, grinders rejoice, as Cursed is nothing short of an absolute belter. Packed start to finish with venom and bile, Rotten Sound have unleashed a total beast here – right from the opening blastbeat frenzy of ‘Alone’ to the closing assault of ‘Doom’, there’s a coherence that was lacking from Cycles. Almost as if they’ve realised that being the fastest band on the block no longer matters or is even achievable, there’s an increased focus on slower, even doomier time signatures, and even a few guitar solos (short and to the point as they are) to sweeten the mixture. That’s not to say that blastbeats are out, but they’re alloyed with old-school death metal passages, Grief-styled crust-doom and some good old-fashioned d-beat for good measure, which makes the warpspeed blast sections feel even faster.
Enhancing the feel, if not necessarily the sound, of the album is the production. Verging just the right side of modern, this is a remorseless battering of chainsaw guitars, rumbling bass and clattering drums. What the sound sacrifices in clarity it more than makes up for in sheer attack – the only production trickery here is making you feel like you’ve been chucked in a bin and rolled down a long staircase by the time each 27 minute playthrough is done. Where Cursed truly shines is in its stubborn refusal to stick to genre boundaries – there’s zero sign of any conformity to anything other than the power of blasting grind, mixed-up with some, if not new tricks, then certainly unusual ones.
At the start of what looks like a great year for grindcore, with new records from the likes of Wormrot and Brutal Truth incoming, Rotten Sound have not just set the bar high, but coated it in broken glass and set it on fire – it’ll take a mighty effort to match, let alone top, this album.