Stream: Dead in the Dirt – ‘The Blind Hole’

Grindcore has always had a odd relationship with ethics. Its violence and nihilism is rarely surpassed anywhere in music. Its harshness and unpredictability seem formally incompatible with the neatness of a stringent ethical code. And yet grind’s tradition of caring about ethical behavior goes all the way back to Napalm Death. You can’t condemn a system without thinking that said system is morally unacceptable and should be improved upon in some way, which implies an ideal alternative. Obviously, tons of grind bands loudly and enthusiastically condemn the systems around them — it’s presented as negative, but in reality it’s underpinned by a sense of righteousness. The tension is strange to me.

Atlanta’s Dead in the Dirt present themselves as a vegan straightedge grindcore band. This ethical stance seems an even stranger match for the music than the more common strains of leftist anger that animate political grind bands — it makes intuitive sense to me with the orderly militarism of certain kinds of hardcore, but less so with the chaos of grind.

And The Blind Hole, Dead in the Dirt’s new record, is certainly chaotic. Any qualms one might have about their politics will melt in the face of its onslaught, which is not interested in delivering ethical lessons so much as it is in cramming steel wool into your ears.

The idiom here is familiar — a thick stew of grind, sludge, and d-beat that their label, Southern Lord, might well have filed a copyright claim on at this point. But as with so many quality metal releases, it’s the details that separate The Blind Hole from the pack. Dead in the Dirt have an excellent sense of timing. They leap from blast to d-beat to groove just abruptly enough to ensure maximum headbanging while retaining a sense of continuity. Big-sounding productions are commonplace for this style nowadays, but this one is perfect: forceful and grimy, but clear enough that you can parse the mayhem without effort. Exuberant feedback bursts from every gap in the riffing. It’s loud, even overbearing at times, and it will surely irritate some people. But for the rest of us — those of us who played contact sports or were dropped on our heads as babies, presumably — the screeching hurts so good.

Listen to The Blind Hole below. When you’re done (it won’t take long), check out our full stream of Dead in the Dirt’s labelmates All Pigs Must Die along with a previously posted DitD song.

Doug Moore