The problem with micro-subgenres like digital grindcore is that, for most of us at least, there is only so much of the stuff one can consume before your brain gives up and sends you howling back to your SLAYER collection. There has always been much to be said for drinking too much coffee and listening to AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED at maximum volume, but it's not something you would want to do every day. Ultimately, it takes a band with the creativity and eccentricity of Norway's NEXT LIFE to make the combination of overdriven electronics and lightspeed extreme hardcore seem fresh and worth investigating further. With a considerable catalogue of deranged releases already under their collective cummerbund, NEXT LIFE already have a sturdy reputation among those who obsess about such things, but "Guru Meditation" is easily accessible and imaginative enough to reach an audience beyond potential serial killers with multiple laptops.
Kicking off with the stuttering battery of the title track, all 77 bewildering seconds of it, the Norwegians' fifth effort may only last for 28 minutes, but it still promises to take the musically bold on a weird and fascinating journey. There are numerous detours into wholly electronic territory, as heavily processed samples are beaten to within an inch of their lives amid a flailing outburst of fidgets and glitches. But it's the heavier tracks, where grinding riffs are chopped up and redeployed for maximum, jarring impact, that really hit the spot: "Alive" is a sub-two-minute symphony of brilliant ideas, all sequenced in such a way that nothing ever plays out as expected; "Prophecy Come True" is a startling maze of angular aggro, blitzed out on alien frequencies; "Part Human" is thrash metal fed through an obstreperous AI machine and spewed out as the data equivalent of broken teeth; "Slow Dive" is a sledgehammer, faux-industrial stomp with elegiac, post-rock detours; "Eternal Twilight" is pure, avant-garde mischief, driven by a broken beat and gleefully obtuse to the last.
Meanwhile, "Strength I", "Dexterity II" and "Intelligence III" all reveal a more expansive, cinematic side to the NEXT LIFE sonic universe, with thick, viscous slow-motion synthwave tones and a hint of John Carpenter horror, some ghostly, twanging guitars and heavy shades of krautrock legends FAUST's freewheeling aesthetic.
In truth, "Guru Meditation" isn't really a digital grindcore record at all. It's far more interesting and exciting than that. You may still need the coffee, however.