Authorities and media are continuing to piece together the life of the 24-year-old mass shooter who took the lives of nine people in Dayton, Ohio last Sunday. Of the many details that has emerged, Vice News reported that he was the lead singer of a Midwest “pornogrind” band — leaving many to wonder what that very niche type of music actually was. Here, a quick guide to pornogrind, a heavy-metal subgenre that’s getting, quite frankly, more press than it deserves.
What is pornogrind?
In short, it’s basically just grindcore, but with an over-the-top, juvenile obsession with sex, violence and the ways the two could combine on a woman’s body. Think samples from porno movies, lyrics about sexual violence and gross-out album art.
Wait, what’s grindcore?
Grindcore is a style of music that emerged at the nexus of hardcore punk and heavy metal in mid-1980s U.K. The style is marked mainly by the “blast beat,” a drummer’s rapidfire alternation between the bass drum and the snare drum, pushing punk rock’s emphasis on faster and faster music to the limits of human endurance. Grindcore was practically invented by Birmingham band Napalm Death, and much of its genre tropes and signifiers were established on their 1987 debut Scum: Politics that rage against corporations and governments, incomprehensible vocals that are growled instead of screamed, songs that are comically short (“You Suffer” is, famously, over in less than two seconds), and blast beats galore.
So, what does this have to do with porno?
Despite the incisive politics of first-wave grind bands like Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror and Heresy, not everyone wanted to sing about the government. The U.K.’s Carcass and Sweden’s General Surgery sang lyrics about mutilation and used nauseating medical textbook imagery: It was ultimately dubbed “goregrind.” New York City icon John Zorn experimented with avant-garde jazz and flurries of blast beats: It was dubbed “jazzgrind.” American bands like Brutal Truth, Assück and Exhumed started mixing grind with the technical prowess of death metal: It was called “deathgrind.” You can see where this is going.
The 1990 release by American band the Meat Shits, a 90-song 7″ called Pornoholic, introduced samples of pornographic movies, obscene cover art and violently sexualized song titles like “Gag on My Semen” and “Eyesocket Intercourse.” A 1991 lo-fi demo from German band Gut was called Drowning in Female Excrements. Soon, a violent, porn-obsessed aesthetic started to congeal around what was already an extreme metal arms race to see who could be the most disgusting. Cannibal Corpse, and other death metal bands, moved from horror and gore themes to explicit, and often misogynistic, depictions of rape and murder, churning out disturbingly vivid songs with lyrics that read like excerpts from a serial killer’s diary. Gut, meanwhile, would spend the Nineties releasing seven-inches that feature drawings of sexualized gore and songs with titles like “Hyperintestinal Vulva Desecration” and “Vomitorium Of Maggot-Infested Cunts.” A 1995 7″ included a sealed condom. After Gut dissolved, fellow Germans Cock and Ball Torture became the microgenre’s leading sleaze merchants with songs like “Drowned in Sperm” and “Lesbian Duo Dildo Fuck.”
Wait … people listen to this?
Well, not a whole lot! The most YouTube views on a Cock and Ball Torture song (well, one that doesn’t have some comedic juxtaposition in the video) is less than 120,000. Its influence on culture – even underground culture – is very small. Members of Slipknot were in a pornogrind band in the 1990s. Around 2008, there was a very brief moment of attention for pornogrind in America when extreme metal label Relapse included two bands – XXX Maniak and Throatplunger – on opposite sides of a 7″ included in their Slime Wave series. And that’s about it. However, there’s still no shortage of contemporary pornogrind coming out of the U.S., Germany, Italy, Russia, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands.
Should we be concerned?
First and foremost, if you’re rightfully angry about what happened in Dayton, blame guns not bands. Pornogrind has existed for more than 25 years and this is literally the first time it’s been tossed around in any mainstream news story. On the other hand, many contemporary heavy metal writers have long been beating the drum to stop giving a pass to the casual misogyny in some corners of extreme metal. Either way, it’s pretty certain that there’s no chance of it leaving the underground any time soon.