Longhena is not your average grindcore album. On Gridlink’s swan song, the band delivers a sound that is much more polished and colorful than you’re likely to hear in this sort of razor-edged arena. They are effectively shattering many of grind’s stereotypes. However, do not for a second think that they are ignoring what makes the genre tick. Through a crisp, but equally heavy ambush of towering guitars, Gridlink deliver one of the most intense listening experiences of 2014.
At 22 minutes, Longhena seethes with aggression and rarely pulls back. Jon Chang’s sharp, piercing screams cut as deep as the pummeling drums that rumble beneath the waves of lush guitar leads. It is through Gridlnk’s guitar work that Longhena truly stands on its own. Not only are the guitars diverse in sound, but they are also incredibly melodic – more melodic than one is ever likely to hear on a record that fuses elements of metal and hardcore punk in a manner that is both accelerated and extreme. This adherence to melody provides Gridlink with an emotional exoskeleton and a supplementary avenue through which to channel their unbridled sentiments.
Songs like “The Dodonpachi” and the title track progress with a spectacular balance of hefty guitar riffs and lively rhythms that consistently push forward. Furthermore, the album’s clean production enhances the punch of Gridlink’s abrasive interplay. On the opening track, “Constant Autumn”, the band first spotlights their shimmering guitar leads before unleashing an onslaught of gritty vocals and hardened drumming that bruise with every measure. However, a minute into the track, the guitars shift gears into a tone that is surprisingly triumphant. The track would sound uplifting if it weren’t for downtrodden lyrics like “Estrangement is our new normal”. Sadness certainly plays a role on Longhena, but it’s the battle against these unwieldy emotions where Gridlink comes to life.
On the relentless “Chalk Maple” Chang brings forth a series of death growls to underscore his bitterness toward the memories he is desperate to shed. Tracks like “Taibas”, “Island Sun”, and “Look to Windward” prove that Gridlink can make bold, urgent statements regardless of the composition’s length, and their ability to build, sustain, and break tension without notice is a testament to their ability as songwriters. It’s also impossible to overlook the inclusion of the beautiful, sprawling “Thirst Watcher”, an instrumental piece featuring a gentle soundscape of blooming guitars and string arrangements. What makes the track so impactful is not just the fact that it stands as a glistening anomaly amongst a wall of ferocity, but also the fact that it leads into the album’s standout “Stay Without Me” with such elegance.
“Stay Without Me” is where Gridlink’s melodic tendencies and stalwart fury align perfectly. The awe-inspiring chord progressions complement the cathartic eruption of wails and dense instrumentation that display the band as if shot from a cannon. Longhena’s sense of severity can make its high-octane moments impenetrable at first, but there is an aura of grandiosity that renders their metallic presentation rewarding. Since Gridlink does subscribe to a few of grindcore’s conventions, there are inevitably a few tracks that do pale in comparison to others, such as “Retract Perdition”. Some of these less memorable moments are byproducts of their brief durations, yet the band wastes very little time on what is their longest project to date.
Longhena is a fascinating beast that positions some of the harsher elements of metal atop a rich, marvelous foundation. Chang’s frantic presence and the detailed instrumentation push the envelope of the genre in a way that is inviting rather than alienating. But make no mistake; Longhena is fierce. It’s the exclamation point for a short, but impassioned career, and what it inspires will be just as exciting to hear.
Stay Without Me