Endless Grinning Skulls – Risus Sardonicus LP (Viral Age)

Ever wondered why so much music these days seems to have no lasting impact? All the parts are in the right places, the playing is more than competent, but for some reason nothing sticks in yer noggin and just doesn’t stand up to repeated listens? Enter Nottingham’s ENDLESS GRINNING SKULLS, armed with ideas and the truth.

On the face of it, they seemingly take their cues from well trodden punk formulae, but scratch the surface tension, and it will reveal a deeper layer of teeming rot that goes further into ideas than so much of today’s hardcore, that so often seeks attention for merely turning facsimile up to 11 and shouting about essentially nothing.

Opening with ‘Neoliberal Towers’ and straight into ‘Austerity? Violence!’ you are left in no doubt that this record is primarily about well directed anger, with both barrels unloading on Conservative government ‘ideology’. It lacks that self-aware ‘subtlety’ of so much other current fare, and that’s exactly the point. That defining characteristic of sonic catharsis uninhibited by an awareness of audience.

There’s no lyric sheet, but instead you get a copy of the ‘Endtimes Gazette’, a dark pamphlet that reads like a cross between ‘Protect and Survive’ and Scarfolk Council. Andy Morgan’s collage work for the gatefold cover art is like a cross between CARCASS and Giuseppe Arcimboldo, and coupled with a clean graphic design by Matthew K. Grundy this album is given a unique visual feel.

‘Risus Sardonicus’ is peppered with structural ideas and nods to various sources of inspiration. From the opening ICONOCLAST guitar distortion on ‘Rot’, the rotational riffs and spoken voice-overs on songs like ‘The Pressure of Life’, evocative of RUDIMENTARY PENI and CONFLICT respectively, and of course a DISCHARGE bass-throttle throughout.

The album closes with ‘End Times’, the band’s take on ‘Wardance’ era KILLING JOKE and ‘Arise’ era AMEBIX, and the result is a pounding and stabbing post-punk death march as soundtrack to extinction event, as the colony collapses in on itself to close the album with ten Paracetamol and a rictus grin.

The result is a unique statement that could only come from this band, that just brushed off a change of vocalist as if nothing happened and strode once more unto the breach, endless fields of grinning skulls underfoot. ‘Risus Sardonicus’ somehow manages to sound simultaneously of the cold war era then and now, take notice now while you can.