December 9, 2014

Cretin - Stranger

Written by Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Emerson Murray

If it's intensity you want, you've got all the intensity you can handle with Stranger from grinding death dealers Cretin. It's been eight long years since we've heard the likes of this band and the intervening years have done nothing to lessen their abusive nature. Eight years is a long time. Long enough that enough life happens to make one a very different person. Thankfully it feels like Freakery was released yesterday and Stranger is hot on its heels ready to stab it in the back.

The quartet has the same relentless drive as always but Stranger feels a bit stranger. Of course. The stories bassist Matt Widener has come up with for vocalist/guitarist Marissa Martinez-Hoadley to bark and growl out with piercing ferociousness are plenty twisted. While it's far from verse/chorus/verse there's more than enough to shred your own throat with. Whether it's screaming about the “Sandwich for the Attic Angel” or foaming at the mouth because “We Live in a Cave”, you are honour bound to get involved.

Involvement doesn't end with bellowing from deep in your gut though. Drummer Col Jones blasts out those beats with a perverse inhumanity that involuntarily controls your extremities like a puppet. Furious speeds and tremendous power with reckless abandon compel the listener into all kinds of cathartic violence.

The whole album belligerently elbows its way into your consciousness and demands bodily response. From Martinez-Hoadley and Widener's hard charging rhythms to guitarist Elizabeth Schall's scorching, shredding, screaming leads, there isn't a second that goes by without some sort of energy. Even during the less intense (but brief) moments there's still that anticipatory potential for explosiveness.

Opener “It” indeed explodes right out of the gate, confirming the earlier point about not mellowing out. The corruption continues unabated for another half hour and change. Their ground and pound, death metal approach is bruising and brutal while the sheer speed and primal delivery defines what it means to grind. Deceptive grooves and mosh-inducing savagery make for a safe expression of aggression. Like a kid going apeshit on a pillow instead of a sibling.

While there may be some playful eye-rollers in the lyric department, not to mention an outright (good) laugh at the end of “Ghost of Teeth and Hair” and a big grin moment in “Husband”, it's not necessarily all fun and games. Suicide isn't a funny topic but you have to snicker at “Mister Frye, The Janitor Guy”. But that's what makes Stranger so much fun. You can't take life too seriously even if life is serious.

Stranger is a brilliant and raging return. For many this may be their introduction to Cretin and there's no better place to start. There's so much power, grinding intensity and cleverness here that it's hard to imagine death and grind fans finding issue with Cretin's unfailing dedication to speed-ridden ass kicking.

There's no danger with this Stranger.

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