Published Dec 11, 2018Self-proclaimed "cinemagrind" act Graf Orlock have been blending movie samples and their distinct, dry humour with the chaos and aggression of grind and hardcore to create their own unique style for 15 years now. The latest release from the Los Angeles-based band, titled Examination of Violent Cinema Vol. 1, is no exception, and also continues their tradition of the craziest and most creative visual presentation imaginable.
As guitarist/vocalist "Jason Schmidt" (Justin Smith outside of the band) tells Exclaim!, every time the band release a new record, they feel the need to outdo themselves. The new album features packaging that depicts an autopsied corpse. "We were really feeling that this time around, we've got to do something cool or we might as well not even press it and just put it online for free, and then people can give us money if they want.
"After [2011 EP] Doombox, it was really hard actually, because Doombox was crazy [the packaging folds out to create a replica boombox]. And the next one that we did was in 2012, it was an EP called Los Angeles, and we had screen-printed all the covers that were kind of like targets, and then I took them out into the desert and shot holes in them, so that each one was different. And then the one after that was Crime Traveler, which is ridiculous in its own way."
Crime Traveler, in 2016, was particularly ambitious; Graf Orlock created an original story — and a newspaper to go with it — about a Canadian time-traveling assassin who goes back in time to rewrite history in Canada's favour.
"Logistically, it was a total nightmare to come up with that. It took us like a whole year to do that record, and it took me an entire semester to write a newspaper. It was so much work. Adam [Hunt, drummer known as "Alan Hunter" in Graf Orlock] did the layout for the whole thing, he took pictures and then we had to write all the articles and write the scripts for the songs and make the samples," Schmidt explains.
"It's truly a lot easier if someone else makes the samples, but it's cool because the Canadian thing, for like ten years we had this storyline."
Examination of Violent Cinema Vol. 1 finds Graf Orlock returning to their commentary on modern Hollywood movies, this time focussing on films released in 2017, including Blade Runner 2049, Brawl in Cell Block 99 and John Wick: Chapter 2.
"All the movies we've chosen are pretty violent. But there's also lyrical parallels with things going on the world, for instance the first single ["A Man Named Suicide"] is from War for the Planet of the Apes, but if you were to just read it and you didn't know what it was from, you could be talking about Trump's America 2018," Schmidt says, adding that the main concept for the record is that the current state of the film industry is like a dead corpse, hence the album's packaging.
"The layout is like a black body bag, and then you open it up and it's sealed on all four sides and it's a picture of a chest with all these wounds in it that are from each of the movies that we use in the record. It has a perforated Y on the chest that you have to tear open to get the record out. So the idea is that the film industry is such garbage these days, with remakes and all that stuff, that it's an autopsy of the film industry."
Schmidt says that it's important to him that Graf Orlock continue to make records that feature unique and creative packaging. "Usually, Adam and I will talk about it and see, in terms of layout, what's the craziest thing we can do. It starts out as an idea for the theme, but we always consider the packaging because, for us, those things go together. We always have really dumb ideas for layouts and then we see if we can do them," he laughs.
"In my eyes, there's not really a point in doing something physical if it's not going to be cool. In this day and age, if you're just going to do a standard blue jacket LP or a CD in a jewel case that doesn't stand out at all, just put it online and have people buy it there instead of making some landfill trash for later on that no one's even going to care about. The drive in the band has always been to be pretty unique and we want to keep that going for as long as we can in terms of the visual representation as well."
Examination of Violent Cinema Vol. 1 is out now on Vitriol Records.