Monday 30 March 2020

Creative Waste - Condemned (2020)

Country: Saudi Arabia
Style: Grindcore
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 28 Mar 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website | Twitter | YouTube

If I could be surprised by anything more than the discovery that there's a grindcore band in Saudi Arabia, it's the discovery that they've been doing what they do there for a long time. While the founder members talked about the band at the tail end of the last millennium, they officially formed in 2002 and are based in the gulf coast cities Al Qatif, Dammam and Al Khobar. Whoever's in the latter is actually closer to Smouldering in Forgotten over the bridge in Bahrain as he is to whoever's in Al Qatif. Metal Archives has a note that Creative Waste performed the first metal gig in public in Saudi Arabia, so extra kudos to them. Shake the pillars of the world.

I'm not sure how much material they've issued in the past. Their website, or what passes for one, mentions four albums but Metal Archives only lists two, the first dating back to 2012 and the second being this one. Bandcamp has a short third from 2008 that Metal Archives lists as a demo. I do like the bio the band included on that page: "Creative Waste is a Saudi Arabian grindcore band. That should give you an idea of how horrible we sound." Nice.

Here, they sound pretty damn good. Their sound clearly comes from the early days of grindcore. Condemned is rather like early Napalm Death but not quite as extreme in speed, with riffs that are straight out of the first Discharge album. Other songs aren't quite as reminiscent, but both those bands come up a lot here. The abundant use of samples clearly comes from punk too, given that they're all social in nature, railing against a lot of common bugbears like wealth inequality and racism. I recognised Malcolm X, Noam Chomsky and that idiot at a Virginia public meeting who accused every Muslim of being a terrorist.

The primary reason that Creative Waste are a lot more like the Napalms than Discharge is the use of particularly wild vocals. They are varied, perhaps because vocal duties are divvied up between the two Al-Shawafs in the band (presumably brothers?), Fawaz and Talal, who were founding members and have kept Creative Waste alive ever since. Fawaz is also the band's guitarist and Talal contributes the drums but I believe it's their voices we're hearing.

I have no idea which is which but one of the voices is old school grindcore, straight out of the Lee Dorrian playbook, hurling deep guttural roars into the microphone, while the other is higher, wilder and punkier and is really a challenge to the the mixer's ability to keep him from blowing out the top end of the spectrum.

What surprised me most is how substantial these songs sounded. Back in those early days in the late eighties, I remember songs not only being very short but feeling very short. They were brief bursts of intense energy without too much of a secondary goal in structure. I remember being surprised when From Enslavement to Obliteration came out and rocked that assumption. These songs are short but not for grindcore, running in the territory of a minute and a half to double that. The New Apartheid, the only song here to make it past three minutes, feels like a more extreme sort of crossover that's far beyond anything Agnostic Front or the Crumbsuckers ever put out.

To me Creative Waste sound like a what if scenario. Imagine if the American authorities had managed to put Jello Biafra behind bars and kicked the rest of the Dead Kennedys out of the US. Imagine if they'd settled in England and got caught up in the early days of grindcore, consequently speeding up and getting more raucous. Imagine if they'd hired a new singer who came out of crust punk and wanted to emulate Lee Dorrian. And imagine if they hung out with a DJ who knew exactly how best to use samples. What you're imagining is something very close to Creative Waste.

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