Though once suffering the slow, grueling death of several thousand subgenre hyphens, heavy metal seems to be on the mend. With the genre already segmented into countless micro-niches, metal in 2012 is reanimating stitched-together hybrids of subtly distinct but once mutually exclusive parts. Where once purism held reign, death metal and crust-punk comfortably share measures, while doom dirges lift prog-metal's themes.
Enter Raleigh foursome Grohg, the headbanging Dr. Frankenstein responsible for the four-song debut, Culture of Petty Thieves. Building from a foundation of midtempo doom, Grohg borrows liberally from the more spacious moments of melodic death metal, the vocal invective of hardcore punk, and the textural inclinations of more abstract heaviness.
Lyrically, Culture of Petty Thieves reads like a punk primer; religious superstition, greedy corporations and complacent artists all get their share of bandleader and drummer Will Goodyear's bile. Only on "Four Vials" does Goodyear turn introspective, singing "Get dressed in useless armor/ Depressed. Severely altered." That meanderic melodic nod to Opeth serves to highlight the juxtaposition between this hazy interlude and the gruff tracks on either side. "The Artist's Divine Inspiration" injects tech-death guitar bits into lumbering sludge, though "Capital" winds angular riffs into one another, reshaping jagged intervals into blunt-force crossovers. In these, Goodyear's voice is a dry, rasping menace.
The quartet responsible for Culture is Grohg's third lineup, featuring the consistent rhythm section of Goodyear and bassist Mark Connor, accompanied by The Kickass guitarist Andy Townsend and electronics whiz Cory McDonald. Three guitarists—the Love Language's Stu McLamb and BJ Burton, and Here Lies... leader Craig Hilton—have come and gone since the band's October unveiling. Those varied backgrounds bridged pleasantry and brutality, inarguably contributing to the stylistic patchwork heard here. But the consistency of Culture is the product of a clear vision, open to influence but committed to its purpose. The creature's alive; now, we get to see what spectacular havoc it might wreak.