Nobody should be completely categorized by their fetishes, but they often come with preconceived notions and judgements from those who don’t understand. Thanks to religious upbringing, those notions and judgments initially came from within for April Dimmick and Kevin Ross, vocalist/bassist and drummer, respectively, of Portland’s Soul Grinder.
“I’ve known Kevin since middle school. Our freshman year of high school he gave me a burned CD of Kreator’s
Enemy of God,” says Dimmick. “I was, like, ‘Oh no. This is so bad. I can’t own this.’ I had some guilt because a lot of metal is very Satanic. I liked metal, but I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to dive too deep into the dark side.’ Then, toward the end of high school, I just stopped caring. I got over Christianity, I guess,” Dimmick says with a chortle.
Fast forward to present day, and she and Ross have completely sloughed off their pious shackles, picked up Alex Avery on guitar, and now mount stages as one of the most confrontational metal bands in Portland. Well... kinda.
If you close your eyes and listen to their brand of heavy, you might imagine greasy, lumbering monsters stomping holes in the stage and frothing from mouths full of blood-stained teeth. Avery’s riffs are brutal, crunchy, and dark, and hearing Dimmick growl lyrics like, “Kill! Maim! Burn!” makes for a frightening sonic experience. But offstage, Soul Grinder are all very kind and gracious individuals. When you finally gaze upon the band, you’ll see two fairly unassuming gentlemen ripping through some weighty tunes, and then Dimmick—a retina-burning, corpse-painted, neon demon. An evil stepsister of Jem and the Holograms. With her neon green hair feathered to the ceiling, and wild Technicolor corpse paint, she looks radioactive under the right lighting. It might feel tongue-in-cheek if it weren’t delivered with such conviction.
“I don’t want to be the standout person all the time, but I am by nature,” Dimmick explains. “I think some people see me as the main person of the band, but I feel like we’re all very equal in our roles. Number one is the music, but I just want to get dressed up because I feel more comfortable in my skin if I look like a beast person. I want to be a beast versus, ‘Oh, look at that chick on stage.’”
With such a high concept visually, one would imagine that a lot of thought went into shaping the band’s sound as well but according to Dimmick, that was not the case at all.
“Before Alex came into the picture, we were thinking about doing a doom project. But once Alex came in with his death metal guitars, he was too fast for doom. [Developing the sound] kind of came to be over time, and it’s still [developing]. It wasn’t too heavily conceptualized, it was just like, ‘Let’s be a metal band!’”
Soul Grinder’s three years of woodshedding and shocking crowds has brought them to the cusp of self-releasing their self-produced debut full-length, The Prophecy of Blight. After emailing me an advance copy of the record, Dimmick texted, “You might want to wear a diaper.”
While the idea of music being the catalyst for unexpectedly evacuating one’s bowels is quite silly, Dimmick was not too far off. The Prophecy of Blight is monolithically heavy with everything a metal fan of all subgenres would want. And it’s all delivered with the conviction of a band that knows exactly how they want to sound without caging themselves too much. Soul Grinder doesn’t hang their codpiece on just one feel or vibe. Dimmick’s vocals sit grimly somewhere between Wendy O. Williams and King Diamond—sneering and scary, occasionally high-pitched, yet... sexy? The bulk of Avery’s riffs on Blight are death metal to the bone, but Kevin Ross’ drumming, while quite punishing, keeps the music grounded enough to be accessible.
“I don’t think we sound like death metal, but the guitars do. Alex’s huge influence is ’90s death metal, Kevin’s influence is 2000s prog metal, and I am all about ’80s thrash metal mostly. We have all these different fusions happening,” Dimmick explains.
The bubbling cauldron that is Soul Grinder contains a potion that will certainly rot you from the inside out. If The Prophecy of Blight is just the first serving, do what you can to hold on to the rest of your internal organs if you plan on processing more.