New grindcore trio Shock Withdrawal, comprised of drummer Jono Garrett (Mos Generator), guitarist/bassist Nick Emde (Scarlet Sails and The Destro with Jono), and vocalist Mitchell Luna (Maruta and Noisear), were birthed from friends just playing music they love.
“It’s funny because me and Jono have wanted to do a grind project together for literally forever. We have so many of the same extreme music influences growing up. We were fired up on the idea for years, but it took me just kind of writing a bunch of ideas and sending them off to him. I guess the timing had to be right,” Emde notes.
Shock Withdrawal unfurls six tracks of brutal sonic fury entangled with insightful views into the human psyche. Dropping on Brutal Panda (Kowloon Walled City, Whores, Fight Amp, Mantar, Norska, Ramming Speed, etc), the savagery contained is a visceral execution of manic voracity. The threesome paired with Travis Bacon to turn knobs. “We were confident in his ability. He’s very easy to work with and had lots of great vocal production ideas during the process. He’s got a cool studio in his apartment downtown Los Angeles. It was a cool atmosphere to be in during the recording,” says Edme.
After the recording, mastering was in the hands of Arthur Rizk. Edme adds, “Arthur rules. Everyone knows that. His work speaks for itself. We knew it would rule from the get-go! He has a way of bringing what you have to clarity and with impact. Very stoked!” Rizk’s skilled hands extract and balance the robust and nuanced music on Shock Withdrawal. His expansive resume becomes clear very quickly.
As if there were not enough talented hands on this project, Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man is responsible for the stark artwork gracing the cover. “Ethan is a mutual friend that we have known for quite some time. His style of art perfectly fit the vision we had in mind for this release, and I would say he nailed it. Gloomy, straightforward, black-and-white. I reached out to him, and he was able to knock it out in a few weeks,” states Luna.
Abrasive and combative, the music is fierce and can swing with any peers in grindcore. But the weight of the record lies in the lyrics. On “Nadir of Humanity” Luna bellows:
“STRUGGLE AT THE BOTTOM.
ENDURANCE TEST TO SUFFER. EMBRACE THE SLOW DECAY.
DISPROPORTION. SUBJECTED TO FORLORN.
THIS CASTE SYSTEM. TRAPPED IN DISHEARTENMENT”
As global economics manifest a wider dichotomy between its polar ends, vision and hope wither. The aristocracy and fortunate often malign those who they perceive as not pulling up those pesky bootstraps, the magical cure-all that some just cannot seem to locate. Luna expands,
“Part of what defines us as humans is based on what I call the geographical and/or genetic lottery. You are born into this flesh suit and have no control over what part of the planet you are spawned in, your race, gender, and most importantly, health, mental composure, as well as financial privilege or lack thereof. ‘Nadir of Humanity’ is about inner turmoil and misfortune mostly due to the latter.
“Yes, we all have the choice to strive for the best and to fight to overcome the obstacles that life throws at us and often there are attainable paths to self-improvement, but there are those who have been subjected to unimaginable misfortune and find themselves at the bottom of an endless existential pit. Whether it be extreme poverty, accelerated health degradation, or a downward spiral of mental illness, these are who society for the most part views as undesirables.
“In a world where there is no motive to help fellow man because there is no profit to be made, it is easier to blame those who are struggling for their own misfortunes as if it was a self-induced act. Not all of us are born with the same toolkits for survival, and as humans we tend to look away and dismiss the problem than actually admitting that there is something inherently wrong with the system.”
The trio of “Contrition”/”Despair Ratio/”Wounded” are all tied in theme, in judgment of some on a self-destructive cycle. Egregiously calling out destructive escapism, Luna is blunt with lyrics such as:
“ABSORB DESPAIR AND DRINK THE GUILT AWAY. DECEIT TO NO ONE BUT TO YOURSELF.
DISMAL WITHIN, OBSCURED BY A CLOAK OF INDIFFERENCE.”
Luna extrapolates, “The lyrics are all about a person avoiding coping with past trauma. Being stuck on a loop of self-harm while simultaneously isolating themselves further from society. And (then) freezing up in fight or flight scenarios making every conflict worse.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s a judgment in any way, as we are all flawed beings. I am not in any position to judge anyone. But this is me conveying my awareness about certain deep seeded issues and honestly just venting about it through my ‘music.’ This is therapeutic to me. Although I feel helpless at times, and there are things I wish I could do to improve this scenario, simply addressing it through this format does wonders for my mental health. I get to yell about it and no one will understand what I am saying anyhow,” he laughs.
Jokes aside, Luna delves intensely into human patterns and adjustable behavior which we all see around us, especially in subcultures attracting the dejected and outcast living to a soundtrack of rage and frustration. Subjected to traumas continuously, people without paths to healthy discovery and coping end up turning that anger inward. And when our types of people, additionally, see a world dramatically skewed with economics and justice egregiously being continuously in one demographics favor, this feral and primitive music can only be expected.
Luna responds. “I think sometimes trying to figure out what to focus your energy on and what your next goal is … is exhausting. Being human is exhausting. I get the dreaded ‘Why the hell am I here?’ and ‘What the hell am I doing’ voice in my head on a pretty regular basis. But then I have to put myself in check and just appreciate the small things in life and the things that I find joy in, like making music with my friends, traveling, my next goal, etc.
“I think deep down, we take action to avoid or ignore the inevitability of death. That is why religions exist, so we can pretend that we are all more meaningful than we really are and look forward to ‘the afterlife.’ The thought of complete annihilation and non-existence is too vile of a thought to wrap your head around for most, so society fixates on trying to make sense of it.
“And then, you know… greed. We humans love money, power, and fucking anyone over to get it. We also love punishing, disregarding, or killing others that don’t share our same worldview.
“Anyhow, that got dark, and I could probably go off on an endless tangent, so I will leave it at that! Hoping this response didn’t come off as too pretentious.”
That response comes across as erudite and accurate. And the music of Garrett and Emde blasting ravaging riffs and banging blast beats through headphones, with a terrifying atmosphere, drives home the points with crushing declaration.
Watch the video for “Despair Radio” here:
Photo courtesy of Shock Withdrawal