Slave to the Grind: A Film Review

In the spirit of grindcore, I’m going to skip all the formalities about how the heavy metal subculture has helped flourish due to stringent documentation and how it features a rich history of cinematic films that have helped spread its overall popularity to vast and worldwide audiences, and I’m just gonna say this: this fucking movie rules. There were at least five different times during the film’s opening half hour that I found myself literally headbanging along to a movie I was watching by myself, alone in my apartment. That is not a phenomenon I can say has occurred during any other film watching experience in my entire life.

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about equal representation in media portrayals and the importance of making sure all voices are fairly represented on the various channels of the mainstream media. I’m not going to compare me watching this film to the type of experience of a minority seeing themselves properly represented in television and films, but I will say it was a pretty great feeling for me personally to see someone devote an entire feature length film to an esoteric subgenre of extreme metal, one that is often met with dismissal and disdain from those inside and outside the metal community, but one that has also dominated and altered the direction of my life. This is clearly a film made by people (the film is produced and directed by grindcore lifer Doug Brown) with an undying passion of music and that sense of devotion is a reoccurring motif at the center of the film. Everyone interviewed, from Kevin Sharp to Jon Chang to Tim Morse, describes grindcore music as if it were some type of drug that they can’t get enough of. And honestly, to us fans, that’s really what it is.

It’s impossible to divorce myself from the subject matter, but I think in terms of documentary film-making, it’s done exceptionally well. The organization of the subject matter begins chronologically and then turns to focus on various important scenes and groups from different regions of the world. Grindcore can be an obtuse subject to the uninitiated and I kept wondering whether this film would be as enjoyable to someone completely unfamiliar with the music and I think, for the most part, it would. The film portrays grindcore music as more-or-less a political statement and the underlying narrative of how social environments feed into the music coupled with some scenes that depict the personal lives of grindcore musicians, are enough to give normies a point of reference inside the heads of the genre’s devotees.

My only complaint is that I feel the film only fleetingly mentions Pig Destroyer, a group I feel of tremendous importance in terms of grindcore’s popularity since the new millennium. I feel like this is kind of a missed opportunity since Pig D sort of embody a lot of the central themes of grindcore as discussed in the film and Scott Hull is already featured discussing his ventures with Anal Cunt and Agoraphobic Nosebleed.

But the film works despite their absence. It conveys the motivations, passions and energy of what still remains the world’s must extreme style of music. For fans of grindcore, this is mandatory viewing, and for the curious outsider, it is a gateway into a scene that, despite being decades old, is still as vicious as ever.