German quartet Alpinist are the next blunt instrument to be wielded in Southern Lord’s campaign for crust domination, along with necro-crusters Acephalix, Black Breath, and Summon The Crows. With nary a death-grunt in earshot and a distinct lack of tremolo picking, Alpinist sit more comfortably alongside more straight-down-the-line hardcore crust bands on the label such as Misantropic and Lebanon than they do with the Entombed-worshippers.
Actually, if you ask me, Alpinist fit right in alongside fellow German bands of the nineties, Carol, Systral and Morser, being as they are a chaotic hardcore crust assault with political themes and raging hoarsely-screaming vocals, which is certainly no bad place to be.
‘Lichtlærm. Minus.Mensch’ compiles two vinyl-only releases from Alpinist, ‘ Lichtlærm’ and, you guessed it, ‘Minus.Mensch’, duh, onto one handy compact disc giving us a MONSTROUS twenty-one tracks of righteous blistering fury. The first half of the CD comprises the tracks from the ‘Lichtlærm’ LP, their most recent recording, with the ‘Minus.Mensch’ LP – their debut – tracks bringing up the rear, and there IS a difference between the two sets of songs, a subtle one, but it does allow you to hear the band’s progression, albeit in reverse order.
‘Deliberate’ opens proceedings with an intro of ambient rumbling that builds to a crescendo that is quickly followed by the familiar D-Beat drum pattern and, with a scrape of pick against string, we are OFF into chaotic Converge-esque hardcore territory. It’s hell-for-leather one minute, then jerked back and forth in a start-stop one-two punch the next, and all the while those dry, throaty inhuman barking vocals sound out. Things slow right down into sludge territory toward the end of the track as the guitars feed back over a plodding bass and drum riff, and then….BOOM…we’re off into the next track, racing away again. This is heady, blistering stuff, overpowering and intense to the max, with a guitar tone that could strip the flesh from your bones and trade-off low and high vocals.
‘Aidt’ brings a swinging groove in amidst the chiming discordant guitars, only to have it dissolve into lightning speed riffing, and ‘Licht’ opens out from chiming guitar, bouncing from ear to ear, into an elephantine doom stomp dirge that would put Godflesh to shame.
Alpinist piledrive through ‘Yarncarrier And Break’, smash through the massively anthemic ‘Neverest’ and destroy ‘The Cursed Word Open-Minded’ before ripping into the His Hero Is Gone-plays-Slayer ‘Hak Nam’ like rabid wolves. By this point, the vocals bear little resemblance to the sounds made by a human throat. ‘Lærm’ is almost a blessed relief, serving as an outro to the first half of the album, building from ambience to glowering bass-led pounding, from chiming post-rock to a massive whirling crescendo of guitar scree and then back to ambience once more. Time to catch a breath, and then smash into the massive ‘Nighttime Poet Daytime Dead’, first track of ‘Minus.Mensch’. As Alpinist surge through the latter half of the album, the progression made between the two records soon becomes apparent – on ‘Minus.Mensch’, Alpinist aim simply to smash the listener with an unrelenting whirlwind of chaotic treble-heavy scree, chunky crustcore riffing and militaristic drum smashing, but by the time of ‘Lichtlærm’, the sound has opened out and greater use of dynamics has given the sound of the band more depth, arrangements become more complex and the tone is thicker and heftier. This is clearly a band with their eyes on the horizon.
Not having a lyric sheet in front of me, I can only guess that their lyrics are personally and politically charged from a cursory look at some of their press release statements, but that would be in fitting with the urgency and fury contained herein.
Passionate, raw and vital, Alpinist are not a band to take in passively, hell, I was near-enough holding onto my chair for dear life whilst listening to ’em for this review! Once again, Greg Anderson shows his taste in signing a band who clearly have a bright future, and I for one will definitely be here waiting for what comes next, as will you if you know what’s good for you.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson