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Brutal Truth’s “Extreme Conditions…” Turns 25

Extreme-Conditions-Demand-Extreme-Responses

Brutal Truth’s landmark debut album Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses turns 25 today.

Though the U.K. gets the credit for codifying grindcore with the late-1980s boom of Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror, Sore Throat, and others, never forget that Americans invented it when Repulsion released Horrified in 1986. Even after the British Grind Invasion, American bands like Anal Cunt and Brutal Truth pushed the genre into new, brave, horrific horizons. Brutal Truth in particular pushed the envelope and, in the process, created some of the most forward-thinking and extreme grindcore of its day. Nowhere is this better exemplified than on their debut album Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses.

Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses improves on previous grindcore albums by introducing a thoroughly “metal” musicianship to the proceedings. Napalm Death and Repulsion were loud as hell and fast as fuck, with “simple and sloppy” as part of the charm: a bunch of teenagers beating the shit out of their instruments in the pursuit of speed for its own sake. But Brutal Truth were metal veterans. Danny Lilker was a legend even in 1992, having honed his craft in Anthrax, S.O.D., and Nuclear Assault. The rest of the band were no slouches either: Scott Lewis is often overshadowed by Rich Hoak for Brutal Truth drummers, but his performance here blends grind speed with death metal precision. The blasts he conjures up on Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses make all other grindcore albums to that point look slow, and that’s all human power! Lilker and then-guitarist Brent McCarthy have no problem keeping up and on a few occasions (“Walking Corpse” in particular) even outrace Lewis.

It was at this point that the lines between the grindcore scene (hitherto an offshoot of punk but still largely punk-oriented) and the metal scene (death metal in particular) began to blur. Grindcore had been punk, but now became sort of a neutral ground for punks and metalheads to meet. As a result, two scenes that had spent the 1980s largely knocking heads began to accept a certain degree of crossover through grindcore. Throughout the 1990s, crust would move away from the filthy anarcho-punk of bands like Amebix into the more metallic attack of bands like Phobia; conversely, grindcore bands would influence metalheads to incorporate punk elements into their metal. After all, what is Swedish death metal if not death metal plus d-beat? To be sure, this crossover started when grindcore began, but when Brutal Truth brought Danny Lilker (formerly the bassist for three of the premiere thrash metal bands of the era) into grindcore, the floodgates truly opened.

Let’s not forget the message of this album. Sure, Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror were upfront with their anarchist politics, but their message was the anarchism of teenage boys, the sort-of “fuck you, dad!” nihilism that produces great art when you’re 17 but becomes simply “charming” once you reach a certain age. Brutal Truth had similarly radical politics, but far more well-defined: Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses is more of a manifesto than a slogan. Songs like “Stench of Prophet” and “Anti-Homophobe” had a specificity, a mission, and a focus that other grindcore bands of the time simply hadn’t gotten to yet; and what a stance “Anti-Homophobe” took in the pre-Halford-out metal world of 1992, back when “faggot” was still a commonplace insult! Other grind bands would, in due time, match this thoughtfulness, especially once Barney Greenway really came into his own as a lyricist, but it was Brutal Truth that raised the bar for grindcore bands to become smart rather than simply angry.

If you’re a fan of modern extreme metal, in particular the various permutations of death metal and grindcore, you owe it to yourself to give Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses a spin if you haven’t yet. The production may put some off, as it is somewhat thin by today’s high-compression standards, but for me, that’s part of the charm. When you can hear every single note, you sort of lose the forest for the trees; here, you can see the whole damn ecosystem. It’s an important album because of what came after it. There’s no modern death metal without Brutal Truth, and certainly no modern grindcore. So heed my advice, my fellow grinders: buy it on vinyl, put it on the turntable, fire up the ol’ bong, and be sure to heed Kevin Sharp’s advice on “Anti-Homophobe”: “live your life in peace, and fuck them if they laugh!”

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