In the socially conscious world of grindcore you would struggle to find a more potent proposition than Finland’s Rotten Sound. The band’s slick slices of grind and politically-driven lyrical stance owe a great deal to the original leaders of the scene (something the band themselves acknowledged on their 2010 EP, Napalm; a tribute to grind-daddies Napalm Death), but in 2013, Rotten Sound, after 20 years blinding all with their brand of white-hot resistance, are rightly crowned a spearhead of the grindcore movement for the 21st Century.
Rotten Sound’s notoriety has really spring-boarded since the release of 2002’s Murderworks, and after the tragic demise of the incomparable Nasum (due to the untimely death of leader Miesko Talarczyk at the cruel hand of 2004’s Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami), Rotten Sound have been cast to the front of the grind-pack with a restless run of records—2005’s Exit, 2008’s Cycles, and 2011’s Cursed—that have tightened up the band’s song-writing and experimented with grindcore’s principles without ever stepping outside its well-defined confines.
In lieu of a full-length studio effort to add to the barbed string of records released previous, Rotten Sound—Keijo Niinimaa (vocals), Mika Aalto (guitars), Sami Latva (Drums), and Kristian Toivainen (bass)—make their return to aural terrorism with a six-song, eight-minute long EP, Species at War. As with all great grindcore, brevity is the key to annihilation. Rotten Sound intrinsically understand this, and Species at War feels naturally complete—even though it lasts about as long as a swift military airstrike. Never one’s for musical fluff, here, Rotten Sound have condensed every aspect of their vitriolic invective into a succinct bombardment on the senses.
“Cause” detonates in typical grind-fashion, all blast beats and bisecting riffs. “The Game” bases itself on a Swedish death metal with a brief, bass-heavy groove whose tone and style reeks of Dismember. “War” returns to the grind with Niinimaa, who is recently off the back of a one-off tour as vocalist for Nasum in celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary, sounding more volatile than ever, screaming himself bloody over the ricocheting beats and hardcore grooves that draw “War” to a close. While “The Solution” and “Salvation” stand out as the most sonically realized of the six; both of which sound like a gnarly, three-way fistfight between death metal, crusty hardcore and blood-thirsty grindcore, not unlike latter-day Napalm Death.
For those of you looking for more than eight minutes of this redlined blowout—you are missing the point. An eight-minute assault by Rotten Sound is more valuable than forty minutes of a lesser grind band, and Species at War‘s replay-ability is a massive draw. Take all you can get when it comes to Rotten Sound, because if Nasum’s fate stood for anything, it was that life, not grindcore, is too short.