Yokohama Extreme 2: Grind Your Face Off

It’s amazing how deadlines can crop up and coalesce into a two week period of sleepless nights while trying to churn out paper after paper. While the rest of the Kaala crew were working on the Kaala podcast and making arrangements for the road trip to Shizouka and Yamanashi, I was holed up at home with an endless pot of coffee and books scattered all over the floor. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light was June 10th. The glorious day I could sleep in, have a leisurely coffee with breakfast, and get back to the things that keep me sane between pretending to be a responsible adult. Luckily for me, there was a show scheduled in Yokohama. And what better way to blow off some steam than seeing some brutal Grindcore bands?

So by 7 o’clock Friday the 10th, I found myself waiting at Nishi-Yokohama station for friends. Obliteration Record's Yokohama Extreme 2 had already started just down the street at the beloved El Puente. And there I was smoking cigarettes and drinking a konbini beer anxious to head over. Sometimes meeting up with friends before a show is like herding cats. But in this case, it was pretty understandable. Finding your way through Yokohama Station to transfer to the Sotetsu line is navigating a labyrinth of stores and restaurants with few signs showing the way.

Eventually everyone made it and we made the short walk to El Puente. A former Spanish restaurant and café, El Puente is a small venue decorated with some of the most beautiful and amazing murals and paintings by Masato Okano adorning the walls. He’s designed some of the best flyer art I’ve ever seen. Despite the small size, touring Grind and Powerviolence bands from overseas always end up performing there. It’s one of those small venues that doesn’t have a stage and everyone can pack in and get up close and personal to the bands as they play. The owner Shiggy and the staff are always smiling and friendly. I hadn’t had a chance to get out there for any shows since last Fall, so it was nice to be back.

We ended up missing Defnausea, arriving there as Anal Volcano was setting up. I was surprised that the place wasn’t packed yet. But being a Friday night with people probably just getting out of work around that time, it was understandable. We gathered around the bar and ordered a few drinks and made small talk for a bit while waiting for the next set. One of the unique things about Yokohama Extreme 2 was how it was a strictly grind line up. In Japan, gigs tend to be a mixed bag of various extreme genres. You’ll go to see a Grindcore band and end up seeing Death Metal, Doom Metal, and Thrash bands playing with them. It’s great because you are exposed to so many other bands that you might not have bothered with before. My growing love of Sludge and Doom was fueled by these mixed lineups. I might not have ever gone out of my way to see GUEVNNA or Nepenthes before seeing them on mixed bills.

After about ten minutes of beers and chatting, we settled in as Anal Volcano finished setting up. With ski masks and bandanas on, the six-piece proceeded to play some of the most moshy grind I’ve heard in a long time. Two vocalists paced around, with the taller of the two throwing down some brutal deep gutturals and the other screaming with reckless abandon. The bassist and guitarist brought a lot of energy with brutal riffs and pit-inspiring hooks. The title track off of their release “No Puedo Vivir Sin Eso!” even got some fingers pointing from attendees as they sang along to the chorus.

After Anal Volcano, Corbata came out dressed in ski masks. The bassist, in battle rattle, set up a camera aimed at the band. Their theme appears to be guerilla militants. Known for their lyrics being both in Japanese and Esperanto, Corbata has been making a name for themselves in the Grindcore scene with their first LP being released on Imminent Destruction Records. They proceeded to play some raw grind with furious energy and the rest of the attendees were getting into it. I’d seen Corbata play a few months before and was impressed with their aggressive style and performance. No doubt they brought the same energy with them to Yokohama that night.

After Corbata finished, we grabbed a few beers at the bar and made some small talk. I looked around and noticed that a few more people had trickled in, but the venue wasn’t as full as I expected it to become. It remained like that for the rest of the night, which was cool because we had a front row view of the bands and easy access to the bar. But there’s something invigorating about a venue filled with sweaty bodies head banging, throwing their fists in the air, and bumping into each other. Though that atmosphere was missing, so far it was an enjoyable evening. Plus up next was Go-Zen.

Akiba inspired Go-Zen are probably my favorite Japanese Goregrind outfit since Catasexual Urge Motivation. Whether or not you like pitch shifted vocals, it's hard to deny these guys get it right. The higher end gutturals paired with the low barks and growls compliment catchy and brutal riffs that dare you not to head-bang. They kicked off their set with big grins and proceeded to bring the gore to the audience. Their guitarist Daigo, who also plays for Anal Volcano, ran about engaging with and making faces at the audience. No doubt, when Go-Zen play they have a blast. They’re possibly one of the happiest looking Goregrind bands ever, which is a big part of what makes their sets so damn exciting.

Noise-grind veterans Final Exit finished the night off as the headlining band. The duo put on a fun performance, with surf rock licks that make you want to shake your hips for a few seconds before transforming into a hellish wall of noise and screams. Before you know it, the song is over and they're saying, “Arigatou!” Short, fast, and to the point, just the way I like it. Noise fans from North America should keep an eye out for their upcoming tour in Canada and the United States this September.

After Final Exit, we grabbed a few more beers and talked to Shiggy and the other staff members at the bar. One of them pulled out a Donald Trump wig and we all had a good laugh about the sordid state of American politics. After discussing going back to Tokyo to make a night of it we caught the train. Somewhere along the way we decided to call it a night. I was smashed and still had the show at Earthdom to look forward to the next evening. After getting back to my place, I passed out with ringing ears and a creeping hangover looking forward to what the rest of the weekend would have in store.