5 most extreme non-metal albums: EMPIRE STATE BASTARD's picks | Revolver

5 most extreme non-metal albums: EMPIRE STATE BASTARD's picks

Grindcore upstarts hail blazing noise-rock, Mike Patton faves and more
Empire State Bastard 2023 press 1600x900, Gavin Smart
Empire State Bastard
photograph by Gavin Smart

Empire State Bastard are a new grindcore band helmed by two members of Scottish alt-rockers Biffy Clyro, Simon Neil and Mike Vennart, and rounded out by none other than former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo — now of Mr. Bungle, Misfits, Dead Cross and more.

While the band's apoplectic debut album, Rivers of Heresy (out now via Roadrunner Records), is clearly inspired by grind originators like Siege, Napalm Death and more, the band members each have wildly eclectic music tastes, and believe it or not, a lot of their intensity is informed by non-metal sources.

To celebrate the record's release, we had Empire State Bastard ringleaders Neil and Vennart select the five most extreme albums that actually aren't metal at all. From blazing fast noise-rock to a band who "write experiences," not songs, see their picks below.

Gilla Band - Holding Hands With Jamie

My first pick is Irish noise-rock band Gilla Band, and their record Holding Hands with Jamie. This is one of the most ferociously un-hinged records; it almost sounds like someone's mental deterioration documented in a recording.

At no point does the guitar sound like it's playing power chords or anything, but there's just some of the most sinister guitar sounds you'll ever hear, and it's a beautiful way to take the basic rock music format of guitar/bass/drums/vocals and turn it on its head.

They're one of the most overwhelming bands. For anyone that likes extreme music, it's a great starting point. - Simon Neil

Cardiacs - Sing to God

Cardiacs are a band that I discovered through Mike Patton, who counted them as a huge influence on Mr Bungle. They're primarily a psychedelic band, but Sing to God is where they turned their guitars up and became a lot more frenetic in their energy.

They always had a slightly aggro-punk sort of element, but this is where they really drove it up. There are songs like "Eat It Up Worms Hero" which have got enough ideas crammed into two minutes to last several bands' careers.

Just the best band of all fucking time. - Mike Vennart

Lightning Bolt - Ride the Skies

This is a record that myself, Mike, and everyone I know have been obsessed with. As soon as you discover Lightning Bolt you think, "No one's ever played this fast, no one's ever played this intense, and no one's ever played this un-hinged."

In fact, I see them as the fast yin to Sunn O)))'s yang. I first heard both bands in the same period and thought, "That's it, rock and metal music have peaked out."

Lightning Bolt are as fast as any thrash band or speed-metal band, and just as intense, and it sounds a little bit like Thin Lizzy at points, which is always pretty good!

The song "St. Jacques" on this album was an intro song for Biffy Clyro for years, and it's one of the most propulsive and preposterous songs of all time. - Simon Neil

Swans - The Beggar

It's tough to choose one Swans album, but I'll go for the latest record, The Beggar. I've seen Swans live a few times, and every single time it's one of the most overwhelming and powerful experiences.

They don't really write songs; they seem to just write experiences. It's a kind of music that you can actually see swirling around the room. The whole band is sort of conducted by Michael Gira's left hand, like he's just summoning and conjuring all manner of aural magic.

I've never heard anything like it, there's no guitars in the band. There're three lap steels, various keyboards, a couple of drummers and various forms of wailing, speaking in tongues and chanting.

It all makes for the most other-worldly band you could possibly see live. Just incredible. - Mike Vennart

Death Grips - The Powers That B

Death Grips are an experimental kind-of-hip-hop band. But really, they're the most punk-rock band I've heard in the last 10-15 years.

Their shows are so confrontational. They use electronics in a way that is more intense than most bands with nine-string guitars, and it's heavier than all shit.

When they play live it's just like one 60-minute noise fest. They don't have any silence, there's no room for subtlety. But the frontman, MC Ride, it's just mesmerizing. To me he's a modern-day version of Henry Rollins.

So, yeah, check out Death Grips, it is intense and extreme in a way that a lot of guitar music can't be. It's electronic horror music, at points. - Simon Neil