Grudge, Demo (2023)

Perhaps I’m predisposed to like Grudge.

Cleveland has long produced top notch, brushing hardcore. I needn’t regale you or wax poetic about the lasting legacies of In Cold Blood, Ringworm, or 9 Shocks Terror, but there has long been something idiosyncratic about bands born in the home of the Guardians.

Among their ranks now sits Grudge. 

As stated by the band itself, the 2023 demo is “four tracks from five longtime homies” and, while you can certainly hear that hardscrabble and earnest chemistry, that’s a short sell. There are likely well worn copies of the aforementioned acts laying around the practice space, but this crew sits squarely on their own.

Let’s get to the music, which, incidentally sounds massive courtesy of Nathan Arthur, who handled all the sonics for this crusher. 

In the grandest of hardcore traditions, we’ve got an intro split with an opener dubbed, well, “Intro/Run and Hide.” You can feel the Clevo right away, as the demo starts “in media res” so to speak. We’re two stepping the moment the needle drops.

The band knows their way around changing tempos, changing deftly from speedier terrain to an imposing pummel. It's the bellicose and burly nature of the vocals that sets it apart. When they first come in, it’s with the weight of a thousand grudges being settled at last. 

“Forced Isolation” has an instantly sinister presence, starting on a sinister and slithering low-slung bass run. The dexterous drum work manages to elevate what’d likely be a standard four-on-the-floor in the hands of lesser hands. The last 30 seconds are a warning to a wallflower that may venture too close to the stage. It’s a pit opener, to be sure. 

Penultimate rager “Taste the Dirt” sounds like they’re taking out their considerable frustrations on someone with the distinct misfortune of having crossed them. What starts as a mid paced groove slows to a pugilistic crawl. Again, it’s those vocals that take the cake… and smash it in your face. 

Photo: Andrew Albrecht

Without question, the closer and band moniker referencing “Grudge” is the band’s finest hour. Atop their already formidable formula, they top it off with call and response vocals, well placed guitar squeal that pays tribute to hometown histrionic heroes Integrity.

Whatever is next for Grudge, this track is the key to unlock all of it. It’s the perfect summation of their myriad talents. 

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