The long running Graf Orlock have never exactly been known for subtlety. The furious hardcore band’s newest album releases December 7 on their own Vitriol Records, and in the space of the dozen tracks, the members dive headfirst into the brutal and bloody action movie industry. Despite its niche nature and the tendency for some to be dismissive, it’s not as though the train’s slowed of Hollywood releases centering on a hero exacting revenge — maybe for the fourth or fifth time, if it’s a remake.
Truly embracing what they paint as a rotting corpse of an industry, each song on Graf Orlock’s Examination of Violent Cinema, Vol. 1 begins with an audio sample from a high profile 2017 action flick, and the scripts from each featured work guided the writing process for their respective songs.
Although on the one hand, they intertwine the brutality that defines these movies with their own work, Graf Orlock put themselves in the position of pushing the genre forward. Maybe its heart can be jump started… maybe.
“The album is essentially an autopsy of what we see as a dead industry,” the band’s vocalist and guitarist Jason Schmidt explains. “There is so much ground recovered in remakes and reboots every year that there is no vitality left in it. The weirdness that made all of this what it once was has perished, so the record is a testament to that.”
“Truly uplifting information,” he quips, adding that the decay he’s chronicling relates “directly to a soured culture around us.”
It gets darker and more intense since despite the inescapable resuscitated violence presented to moviegoers year after year, we keep coming back. The movies keep getting produced, the laudatory articles keep getting written, and the machine keeps on chugging.
Fundamentally, this is horrifying — but we’re presently stuck here.
Schmidt explains his take: “I think there is a visceral nature to the whole thing that a lot of people tie into. I definitely don’t think it is the politics because a lot of the stuff is off the wall Cold War shit, but that’s where the interesting parts lie. It is a reflection of the culture industry that produces it, and it says different things about the state of contemporary American society and the time from whence it derived.”
There is at least somewhat of a bright side — even if the light comes from a perpetually burning culture. We know what we’re doing and can fashion at least the semblance of a controlled burn at times.
“I am less interested in horror, but i suppose it holds the same values of just in your face violence and ridiculousness that action movies do,” Schmidt explains. “I feel, as opposed to drama, those two genres hold a self-awareness that a lot don’t of being able to be stupid, self-deprecating or referential. This I assume is what keeps people interested in what would otherwise be a flash in the pan, like grindcore. We always like to call this ‘life-affirming violence’ — of course I can point out this is interesting from the relative safety of a non-warzone.”
Ultimately, though, Graf Orlock don’t make action movies or horror movies. They make music, and they transpose some of the rugged individuality that makes great intense movies memorable into their work.
“To me, the essence of the band is that the medium is the message,” Schmidt explains. “It has been DIY since day one and although we have worked with people in various regards it has always been in our hands – what layouts we want to do, where we want and when we want to tour, how we will represent ourselves. This carries into every aspect of the band and the label that I run as well. It was always ‘write what you want to read, play what you want to hear.’ I suppose to sum it up, you can do what you want if you can get your shit together long enough to make it happen. The only driving force is to continue until we feel like figuratively hanging ourselves.”
Their continuously intense detail oriented work culminates in part in packaging for their newest effort that essentially translates into a 3D mockup of an autopsy. Schmidt has explained the effort as “a body bag containing a fully-sealed LP jacket with perforations in a triangle like an autopsied corpse… you have to rip open the perforations to get into the record and get it out.”
The music itself culminated from five days of the band having locked themselves in a studio and diligently written.
“The record came out somehow more aggressive than I originally imagined, with the sound and the songs coming through pretty direct and at the jugular,” Schmidt says, adding: “The intensity and aggression communicate what the band has always been about live, that we are doing whatever we want and it somehow — arguably — works.”
Photo via Alexis Acosta
Check out the band’s mayhem below.