Grindcore has never been an easy genre to get into, one must approach it sideways like a angry ghost or a beast with sight blinders. No sudden movements or the idea of it may disintegrate, sometimes it may just pounce and overwhelm. Likewise, Abanglupa is something that you dip your toes in in increments.
The whole album is 10 tracks, but the running time clocks in at a mere 13 minutes. I’ve taken longer meditation sessions on the commode. But “Of Rats and Swine” was a sweetheart of a hardcore, old school punk, crust, and metal creature once I got to know it. Once I was hooked, the blast beat drumming, the swift song durations, harsh buzzsaw guitars were a rare pleasure all their own. The secret? It was all in the theme. Key to my appreciation was how I had to understand that this was a political manifesto disguisd as a venting of spleen.
Abanglupa—literally “The Oppressed Earth”—is a project of the Vivo Brothers, Ronaldo Jr and Ronnel (the same two guys from Dagtum) where they swing their musical weapons against the tyrannical powers-that-be, whether that’s the child of a former dictator on the campaign trail or a strongman on a presidential podium spewing hate and non sequturs.
Both “Decorated Vultures” and the single “Forced Dementia” are specifically about how the Vivo Bros view the return of the Marcoses to elected power—about how they have prepped their platform through years of historical revisionism and are now endeavoring mightily to cement a new regime, especially through the blessing of a religious cult leader wanted by the FBI.
“As they deceive the nation, it is clear that these forces have allied themselves with each other,” scribbled Ronnel Vivo about their songs. “These unscrupulous vultures do not even attempt to mask their greed for power as they seek to rule and not to serve.”
“Blood Owed” and “Lansagin” focus on the casualties and inhumanity of the Duterte Administration’s War on Drugs. The punk screams and furious riffing like minimalist poetry written through ejaculations of id. You don’t need to understand the words as much as feel the gestalt of the assault in your guts.
None of the songs meander or beat around the bush. Everything is sans fat, always firing on all cylinders. In fact “Erase” is the only song that passes the two-minutes mark and that’s because of a slow, very tasty breakdown in the third half that lets the song peter out into a relatively relaxed outro.
Despite the loudness, the entirety of the album is never actually sonically a harsh listen. It’s a musicality I attribute to the skill and instinctive accuracy of the Vivo Brothers. Perhaps the only downside of this album is how it goes by too quickly? But that’s both the charm and failing of grindcore—an energy, more than a musical genre, that must be thrown out into the ether without hesitation or preamble.
It’s admirable how the prolific duo have put their beliefs front and center on a riotously intense and cohesively enjoyable album. Such respect and esteem are apparently also shared by the foreign supporters of the duo. They have no less than seven labels from six different countries distributing their physical products, both cassettes and CDs, to the metal masses. Play this one loud.