Is it fair to call Lock Up a “supergroup” at this point? It feels like a bit of a disservice when you listen to how consistent the music has been over the course of 18 years despite the fact that each LP has featured a different lineup. For a band that has seen its share of tragedy, personnel and scene changes Lock Up have always stayed remarkably true to their vision: to play a no-holds-barred combination of death and grind that refuses to comfortably sit easily in either genre. It’s always been brutal, it’s always been fast, and in their latest album Demonization it’s chanced upon the right mix of precision and fury to craft the best album of the band’s career to date.
The story goes Lock Up were conceived as a bit of a lark: a drunken night between Napalm Death’s Shane Embury and Nick Barker (formerly of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir), yearning for the glory days of grindcore. After bringing aboard fellow Napalm bandmate Jesse Pintado (who also crafted the grind classic World Downfall by Terrorizer) and jack of all trades Peter Tägtgren the newly created band reportedly ripped through recording their 1999 debut Pleasure Paves Sewers in a day. 2002’s Hate Breeds Suffering swapped out Tägtgren for Tomas Lindberg, and the opening salvo of “Feeding On the Opiate” with its battle cry of “PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKING HEART!” showed an even greater leaning towards the grind side of the equation, even if the riffs got a little too crushed with the production to make a big impact.
The span between Hate Breeds Suffering and 2011’s Necropolis Transparent saw the tragic death of Pintado and the coming aboard of Anton Reisenegger of the Chilean band Criminal. Although five years passed between Pintado’s death and the album’s release, it feels like an homage to what Pintado brought to the table more than a full-fledged band effort. Which is great: songs like “Accelerated Mutation” and the title track are fantastic pummeling examples of the type of music Pintado shared with the world since the 80s and the band is completely locked in (sorry) to musical vision. Had we gotten another album with this lineup featuring the same level of musicianship no one would be complaining. Hell, I’d go a step farther and say between all the great music from Napalm and At the Gates these last few years the band had every right to take it easy…
To say they didn’t take it easy is a ridiculous understatement. With Lindberg leaving to more fully commit to At the Gates, Lock Up picked up a grind powerhouse in Brutal Truth frontman Kevin Sharp. Two years later and we have Demonization, and holy crap this is the sound of a band unfettered by obligation, playing to their strengths and beholden to no one. Opener “Blood and Emptiness” is a raging scorcher until two minutes in when it slows down to bludgeon you with a massive dirge-like groove. And it might be crazy to say of a veteran like Sharp, who has made some of the greatest grind albums of all time, not to mention killer records with Venomous Concept and Primate, but this is without a doubt my favorite vocal performance he’s ever committed to tape. Or digital file. Wax. Whatever the hell they recorded on. He’s bringing an entirely different game here, one soaked in the disgust of the present political climate and in the rage and despair of a life spinning violently out of control. Sharp brings a multitude of voices to the tunes and the curdled shout of “REJOICE! REBIRTH” in “Locust” feels like it comes from a different soul than the one that wallows in the mud and filth on the title track.
And without a breakdown of writing credits it’s hard to know where to lay all the praise, but the riffs on Demonization no longer feel like a channeling of Pintado’s spirit. Reisenegger is throwing all kinds of kinks into the metalworks, and it pays off in dividends on tracks like “Desolation Architect” where the thrash takes a front seat and “Mind Fight” where a thousand ideas fly by in the span of a blast beat. A blast beat, mind you, that Barker can do in his sleep; yet he feels vibrantly alive on every single track. Nick Barker: play more music, sir. we need your drums.
One of the inherent problems with distinguishing yourself in the grindcore game is since the music is so fast, there’s not a lot of space to show your uniqueness. When you have the guiding hands behind two of the greatest bands to ever play the game that’s not an issue, but one more time: HOLY CRAP the amount Lock Up have raised their game on Demonization is patently ridiculous. Maybe it’s a case of an album perfectly encapsulating (for me) such a tumultuous period that it’s striking all the right chords in me. I can’t say, all I can do is point you to an album you’ll definitely be hearing more about come the end of the year.