Dare you to find a sound system capable of making Complete Failure’s Perversions of Guilt listenable. At normal volumes, you can’t hear crap. Crank it up and you can barely distinguish chord changes, the bass player ceases to exist, screamed vocals disappear in distortion, and drums consume the mix whole, threatening to bash your speaker cones like crash cymbals.
Early grindcore classics like Napalm Death’s Scum and Carcass’s Reek of Putrefaction sounded terrible because their producers had no idea how to capture a grind band’s overload. Producer/mixer Steve Austin, who’s twiddled knobs for Converge, Lamb of God and Anal Cunt, knows better. Perversions of Guilt’s shitty mix sounds like a manufacturing error.
Buried beneath the album’s sinus-clogging sonic grime is a diverse grindcore album that gets at the varied savagery of His Hero Is Gone while keeping one army boot squarely in Terrorizer territory. “Bipolar Fatigue Hallucination” and the title track meld tidal guitar/blastbeat assaults with filthy crust-punk; Complete Failure trudge through gray-skied doom wastelands on “Cured Through Constant Degradent Criticism” and “A Disinviting Self Restraint.” Drummer Mike Rosswog (ex-Circle of Dead Children/Today Is the Day) dominates the album with his constantly gearshifting pummel, but Joe Mack’s cryptic lyrics (self-described as “Ode(s) to psychological forensics and complication”) are also highlights. Thankfully they’re reprinted in the liner notes, ’cause that album-long megaphone treatment of Mack’s voice gets real tired real quick.
Whether the production of Perversions of Guilt was a conscious effort at making the listening experience as confrontational as the music or just a momentary lapse of reason, the result is the same: a ferocious band is muzzled by sound problems that could have been easily remedied in the studio. This goes beyond the rawness we expect of grindcore — listening to this album is actually painful. It takes massive cojones to release an album that sounds this bad when your band name is Complete Failure.
Go ahead and try to find a setting on your iTunes equalizer that makes Perversions of Guilt more tolerable. Otherwise, let’s hope a remixed, remastered version is somewhere on the horizon.