The sad, final death rattle of Grief is, as one familiar with their output might expect, less an affirmation of a career (?) spent trudging ever upward against the tides of popular taste and opinion like a sonic Sisyphus, than an admission of near-total defeat by an uncaring and indifferent world. Turbulent Times is the beautiful gesture of surrender; it’s Grief going out not with a bang, but with an exhausted whimper. Turbulent Times is a final statement from a band who spent more than a decade telling us that Samuel Beckett’s quote “I can’t go on. I’ll go on,” was only half right. The record is essentially a choice grab-bag of demos and rare vinyl-only single tracks, in effect making Grief’s disappearance all the more final by not even bothering to show up to their own going-away party.
Even the song titles reflect Grief’s enervating blanket of melancholy and self-destruction: “Depression,” “Bored,” “Fucked Upstairs,” “My Dilemma” and so on. Yet, their pain was not the playing-at-unrequited-love of legions of indie bands, but an altogether deeper paralysis and self-loathing that in turn led to uncompromising bursts of doom that often seemed to hardly stir from their drug-induced hazes. The buzzsaw entropy was almost too much to bear at times, but in the end ultimately rewarding. A decade worth of barely moving is all here for us, one last time. Fuck yes. Okay, so it’s no mystery what you’re going to hear with Turbulent Times if you have even the most passing familiarity with Grief: long hypnotic mantras of trudge-und-drang, hoarse vocal grunts and groans, lyrics filled with total revulsion for humanity and all its indignities. The soundtrack to Sartre’s No Exit, maybe. Songs sluggisly stirring to life, scarred beyond recognition. Heavily distorted guitars feedbacking carelessly to the nth degree in those eternal pauses between each painful note played, tarpit bass, and tombstone drums that refuse to conform to any traditional measurements of time or rhythm. It still sounds so fucking earth-shattering, even after all this time. Khanate and Melvins are alone in reaching the level of abuse that Grief reveled in. Highlights include “Fucked Upstairs” from a Dystopia split, the unforgiving 10+ minute “suicide version” of “Depression,” the raw wound that is “Pessimiser,” “No Choice” – which almost carries a recognizable beat (basically speed metal for Grief) and an atonal guitar solo – and the final synapse overload of “Bored.”
Aw fuck, the whole thing’s basically a revelation; maybe Grief ended up winning after all.