People up here in the Northeast normally associate Tampa, Florida, with balmy beaches and snowbirds. But look beyond the sands and the area is the perfect grindcore dystopia: boulevards flanked by miles of strip sprawl cut across a lattice of low-slung houses built on the cheap, monotony punctuated every few miles by hulking shopping centers and big-box plazas. It's a swampy grid you can picture Aileen Wuornos plying both her trades on and where, 20 years back, some of the heaviest bands ever — such outfits as Morbid Angel, Obituary, and Nocturnus — perfected death metal.
ON THE GRINDCORE Cellgraft’s split with Irish sludge/powerviolence crew Drainland might be, pound
for pound, one of the best records of 2011.
Nowadays, the region is once again home to a thriving DIY metal and hardcore scene, a scene "better than it's been in a long time," vocalist Eliot Mayo of Escapist notes as he rattles off bands like Cellgraft, God Harvest, and the snotty punk ennui of Feral Babies (link to MediaFire download) as just the surface of a deep scene.
The best place to witness the future of Tampa's music is also the epicenter of the region's metal renaissance, Transitions Art Gallery, an all-ages DIY venue in a warehouse skate park in the shadow of Interstate 4. Mayo calls it "one of the best venues I've seen in all of Florida, in our backyard." And thanks to regular shows featuring national grind and powerviolence acts such as Magrudergrind, Despise You, and Failures — in addition to the locals — turnouts are strong.
That's not to say the old-school Tampa death-metal sound is dead. Marrying a lo-fi aesthetic to Altars of Madness–worship, Volcanic Slut are the strongest link to the past. Volcanic Slut's 2010 Blasphemaster EP is supremely efficient across its six and a half minutes. Opener "Euphoria" reveals semblances of black metal over its second half, which segues into the title track before it really has a chance to get going. But impressive a debut as Blasphemaster is, Volcanic Slut's really just a side show to its members' other bands, Nazi Dust and Horrid Cross.
File Nazi Dust under the jokingly named "mysterious-guy hardcore" trend; essentially, it is painfully atonal hardcore in the vein of Siege. As cynical an assessment as that may be, their 2009 demo and self-titled seven-inch on mysterious guy label Youth Attack are exemplary of the genre, and their live shows are volatile affairs. Horrid Cross, who are currently working on their debut EP, play an entrancingly filthy blend of black metal and straight-up noise with amps turned up to tinnitus-inducing levels.
Like their contemporaries, Volcanic Slut, Cellgraft's side of their split with Irish sludge/powerviolence crew Drainland features seven tracks clocking in at seven minutes. It might be, pound for pound, one of the best records of 2011. Guitarist Ryan Zell shapes a heavily detuned mire of feedback and static into pummeling grindcore, while drummer Chris Wotring's stuttering breakdowns and blasts cut through the wall of sound. Vocalist Matt McKamey provides a perfect balance of vocal range and being completely unhinged. It is hideous music — imagine a power-selectronics group covering Carcass's first two records.