Head Cleaner – The Extreme Sound of Truth

Grindcore is a lifestyle, not too different to black metal. The latter burn churches, espouse Satanism, and worship Friedrich Nietzsche, whereas the former often come from working class communities and spend most of their lives agitating for the end of the capitalist system that pays their rent in between recording music and touring. Grindcore is punk for those adults that know life will not improve. It’s death metal for those that demand something eviscerating and extreme to take them away from the boredom of the factory timetable. Thessaloniki quartet, Head Cleaner, use art to spread their message of resistance and write songs like ‘Buried Alive by Capitalism’ from their 2010 album, The Protest. The message on album number four after ten years of sparse musical activity is the same: “Open your eyes and see reality / The system works for the profit of plutocracy.”

Grindcore is a left-wing artform built on the ideology of anarcho-syndicalism and direct action. Its musical pulse is violent and rooted in the DIY spirit of punk. The guitars draw from hardcore and death metal. And, of course, the holy blast beat originates from the genre’s most famous band – Napalm Death. Head Cleaner make no bones about their influences – Barney Greenway and crew are the biggest inspiration; Terrorizer are never far away; and even mid-90s Sepultura rear their heads every so often (think of the 1996 song, ‘Dictatorshit’). Opener, ‘Cold Machines’, takes aim at the misery of a soulless market-based society where humans are no more than transactional creatures. The hyperbole is closer to cynicism than observation: “Wandering through the fossilised town / Sleepwalkers in the putrid markets / Moving like robots with dead-fish eyes / Begging for more convenient lies.” Not that you can hear these words with great perspicacity. Vocalist, Jim Evgenidis, rages like a hardcore frontman with too much testosterone to release, while the thudding bass and high-velocity death metal tremolos allow the blitzkrieg drums to guide them.

The music here is too intense and absurd in its sonic extremity to lose your attention. ‘System of Perversity’ utilises a surprise beatdown groove to punctuate the constant blast beats. ‘Bread and Circuses’ employs the open string riffs like its 1995 all over again with Burton C. Bell roaring into the microphone and Justin Broadrick of Godflesh slashing away at his guitar strings. The members of Head Cleaner are angry. In their eyes, life under capitalism leads to the retardation of human consciousness. We become compliant animals in a food chain that most of us cannot identify in our consumer-obsessed stupefaction. The one minute and eighteen seconds of ‘Among the Living Dead’ rams this point home and provides the gruel you need to survive another day.

It’s easy to navigate the midpoint of this record with no-nonsense grindcore blasting, and that’s the simple option Head Cleaner choose. You can hear the pulse of the bass root notes underneath the chaos of ‘Call Me Uncivilized’, and your ears will throb at the pitch of the alt-picking riffs. Obituary might even sound like this if you asked them to imitate Napalm Death. On ‘7 Sisters’ they dispense with the metaphors towards the end and address you as the listener: “Their inhuman work is bigger than their fame / I guess you wanna know their names: Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Petro China, Exxon Mobil, Saudi Arabian Oil Co., Total Energies, Chevron.” It sounds even more thrilling with inhumane blast beats and a harsher death metal voice.

Sometimes, Head Cleaner cannot avoid the sound of a Napalm Death tribute band. ‘Pathetic Champions’ could be from any of the latter’s b-side collections. That’s forgivable when you consider that it’s only one minute and thirty-four seconds of heavy borrowing. ‘For Tomorrow’s Lesson’ is far more interesting. The trademark dissonant guitar formations of Killing Joke receive a makeover that would not be out of place on this year’s Godflesh album. There’s no need for speed here – this is all about the muscle. You can even sway your shoulders. As their first LP in ten years, the members of Head Cleaner can take pride in their uncompromising art. This band will never sell out because they never bought in to the system. The fire still burns in their minds and in their bellies.



Release Date: 08/09/2023

Record Label: Dry Clean Records

Standout tracks: Cold Machines, Bread and Circuses, 7 Sisters

Suggested Further Listening: Herida Profunda – Power to the People (2022), Bas Rotten – Surge (2020), Holocausto Canibal – Crueza Ferina (2022)