Grenouer: Computer Crime (2012)

Bio (condensed from facebook.com/grenour):
Russian band GRENOUER was formed in 1992. The band name originates from Grimoire, the textbook of magic, yet as a matter of fact it was strongly modified. GRENOUER’s history can be divided into several stages. The first being a typical Underground/Death Metal, the further evolution of the band did not occur overnight, it developed over time through line up changes, more mature lyrics and vastly improved musicianship.  GRENOUER initiated new creative brainstorming which finally caused dramatic changes. Taking inspiration from post-grunge and hard rock feeling, bands like DARK NEW DAY, ALICE IN CHAINS, FILTER, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, SIXX AM, SOUNDGARDEN, and even GREEN DAY, LINKIN PARK or SMASHING PUMPKINS, GRENOUER pulled the strings down to play rock metal. Rough vocals were replaced by singing and polyrhythmic drums changed to straight powerful beating. GRENOUER signed agreement with Copro Records and band’s seventh CD got the name ‘Computer Crime’. Recorded, produced and mixed at ‘Astia’ Studio in Finland with above mentioned Anssi Kippo and Jonas Kooto (MALPRACTICE, TO/DIE/FOR, OMNIUM GATHERUM). Artwork also comes from Finland – done by artist Juha Vuorma who previously performed covers for EDGE OF SANITY, WHIPLASH, AUTOPSY, KALMAH and others.  Their music was changing gradually from death metal to sophisticated progressive metal comparable to Meshuggah, A Life Once Lost, Sadist, Strapping Young Lad or Gojira without the really fast stuff.

Musicians:
Andrey ‘Ind’ (Lead Vocals), Alexander ‘Motor’ (Guitar), Igor ‘Buzzy’ (Guitar), Michael ‘Coroner’ (Drums), Ansi Kippo (Guest Bass and Keyboards)

One of the cool things about the internet and the “digital revolution” that has occurred over the last 20 years is that fact that bands audiences are no longer limited to their geographic location.  Sure, there were international hits back then too – Nirvana was known all over the world – but they were just what the major labels felt like promoting, without that promotion no one would know who these bands were.  With the internet, that has changed.  A kid in Middle-of-Nowhere, USA, can sit down at his computer and put “progressive metal” into a search engine, and they are easily able to find a band like Grenouer despite being on the other side of the world.  I love that.

The internet has made the world a much smaller place, and these bands that would not normally be known outside of their local scene are now able to be worldwide presences without being big names.  While this is really awesome for any musician to know that some kid a half a world away could be listening to music that musician has made, this has also upped the game.  What would be good in a local scene now has to be good in an international scene to get ahead; you not only have to be better than that other band that plays at your local bar, but you have to be better than that band playing the same genre thousands of miles away.  The internet, and the advances in home computers, has made it possible for anyone to make and distribute music, good and bad.

Grenouer, blowing in the wind…

COMPUTER CRIME is an interesting EP.  It’s five songs that, for the most part, would have been very comfortable coming out of Seattle in the late 90’s, but instead came from Russia in 2012.  The album is characterized with good rhythms and pretty standard guitar work, mostly what would have been called “alternative” or “grunge” here in the US so many years ago.  There is the occasional stray from this template – like the break in “See No Sun” – but overall CC is pretty easy listening for the hard rock set.  The lyrics are decent; there’s no Shakespearean poetry going on here, but truthfully I’m just impressed with any band that writes songs in a language other than their native tongue, and for an (at least) second language, they are pretty damned good.
CC starts off with “Last Stop,” an easy to listen to and not-too-tough to rock out to track that would fit fine on modern rock radio.  This is followed by “Rejected,” which again would fit fine on radio but does occasionally betray Grenouer’s original, much-heavier, roots.  Some of the riffs in this song get very bottom heavy and fuzzy, almost Slipknot like, but just for a break or two.  “See No Sun” was an odd one for me.  The majority of the track is a pretty little ditty with almost electronic-sounding percussion, sad somewhat-whiny vocals, and a nice chorus that can stick in your head.  Then the weirdness: from 2:08 – 2:33 of the song, it goes straight up grindcore death metal style, growled vocals and all.  Then, as suddenly as it came, the heaviness departs and we’re back to the very laid-back and pretty riff that dominates the track, and this dichotomy of sound just really threw me off and made me really dislike this track.  I understand changing it up, but that break felt like throwing in a funk break in a country song, and only the Devil is successful at that.  Funny enough, the press kit I got also came with a “Radio Edit” of this song, the only difference I noticed being the omission of the break.  “Fix Your Life” is again back to the heavier side of CC, but consistently heavy and rhythmic, so I enjoyed it a lot more.  CC concludes with “Golden Years” which again brings the programmed sounding drums, with some acoustic guitar and effects; this track is much lighter and not even really what I would consider metal, progressive or otherwise.

Grenouer has some really good things going for them.  They know how to write a catchy riff and a catchy chorus, and I have had a few of these tracks kicking around in my head for days after listening to CC.  However, there are also some bits that rubbed me the other way.  First off, from listening to CC alone, I wouldn’t really classify this as metal, it’s more hard rock in most places, with little sprinkles of metal and some stretches of much less heaviness.  Secondly, while I give major kudos to the fact that Ind is singing in a second plus language, his voice was a bit irritating to me.  This is completely a personal opinion type of thing; some people’s voices just don’t work for some listeners.  I had a friend who I tried to introduce to Primus and his reaction was “I love the music but that dude’s voice is annoying as hell.”  I wouldn’t go that far with Ind’s voice, but it is a bit whiny and nasally for my tastes; it’s almost an extreme version of what another friend characterized as the Seattle Heroin Howl (the vocal stylings of the 90’s Seattle bands that all had this tinge to their voice, like Cobain, Weiland, and Staley).  Lastly, I can hear the heaviness peek through, and I think, barring growling vocal deliveries, I would like CC a lot more if it was heavier instead of the play-it-safe feeling I got from the EP.  I can feel hints that Grenouer can rock; I just didn’t feel it come through here.

5-Piece Grenouer lounges, for your viewing pleasure

Overall I had mixed feelings with CC.  There were bits and pieces that I really liked, and that really showed me that I think Grenouer could make music that I would greatly enjoy, but there were more bits that went the other way and just made CC very vanilla for me.  I think that for the right audience, CC may be great, but I don’t think I’m that audience.  Overall ok, but if CC could have done more rocking and less whining and I think I would have become a much bigger fan.

Overall 6 / 10

CC for sale: http://www.coprodirect.com/products/grenouer-computer-crime

CC site: http://www.facebook.com/Grenouer or http://www.reverbnation.com/grenouer

Grenouer: Computer Crime
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