Review Summary: An explosion. In your ears.
Music that blows a listener’s mind can be, perhaps, one of the most desirable things a record can aspire to achieve. There are many ways to accomplish this, and, not generalizing simplicity too much, they are relatively elementary. An outfit can craft an album that is so incredibly intense that it is affecting on a profound level. Another route is to concoct a masterpiece of musical work so beautifully realized that it leaves the audience floored. Those are two of the simplest, most difficult to execute ways, and, considering Agoraphobic Nosebleed
, they choose to go the route of the former. This leads to an interesting reflection: understatements are fun. For instance, like saying Bush was an awful president, like saying that The Butterfly Effect was a terrible movie, or like saying that Agoraphobic Nosebleed
enjoy playing music as intense as is partially humanly possible.
This grind four-piece achieve a sound so palpably crushing, it is, to put it quite bluntly, absolutely awe inspiring. Lesser bands wish they could achieve such an incredibly furious performance, and frequently fail at attempting such a feat. Seemingly an innate ability, this four-piece grind outfit has been putting out the most narcissistically volatile and destructive grind ever since deciding that having a human drummer was for weaker, inferior bands. This approach has served them well over the years: the drum machine, in the vein of Godflesh
, adds an industrial, mechanized feel to their already unrelentingly fast paced grind assault. This resulted in albums like Altered States of America, where the drum machine strikes the snare more times in one song than all the notes on the entire album. This can be daunting, however; the band never throw a bone to listeners aching for a break: it’s as heavy as can be at all times.
Coming six years since their last complete studio outing, Agorapocalypse
is the latest release from these experienced grind masters, and while much of the old is still around to please hardcore fans, the guys at Agoraphobic have brought something new to the table: cohesion. Instead of making a 30 minute album out of 100 songs, they have condensed all the songs into 13 short and extremely enjoyable tracks. This brings forth a surprising effect for the band: they sound more effective than ever. Breaking the sound into several thousand tracks usually added an affect of disconnection to the overall sound: combining and focusing their sound has solved this problem. Additionally, past gripes concerning the overpowering presence of the drum machine have been brought to rest, as while the band has turned the dial up to 11, the drum machine has been turned back down to 77 or so. This may sound like the band still has no restraint, but toning down the overbearing sound of the robotic beat-man has a profound effect: the band is much more digestible. They no longer sound as incredibly automated as on past outings.
Grind is absolutely dependent on its speed and its ability to induce upon the listener a state of shock, and in this department, the band absolutely do not disappoint. Starting off with a salvo of fast picked guitar notes and rapid fire drumming, the album hits the ground at full speed. This time around, however, the band has decided to switch things up a bit. Added to the mix is a new vocalist, femme fatale Katherine Katz (of Salome) and expert bassist Richard Johnson (of Enemy Soil), and shrieker Jay Randall. All three contribute blistering and harsh vocals, giving the album a strange, unique vibe. The three-vocal attack is used quite effectively, lending a depth to the aural siege that could otherwise not be achieved. In addition, while overall an extremely enjoyable album, Agorapocalypse
is an extremely bottom heavy album. The first 5 tracks are standard ultra-grind affair, but as soon as the second half of the album kicks in, the band slow things down a bit. Showing some influences from both sludge and hardcore, the second half of the album dabbles in as many genres as it pleases, showing off the band’s ability to adapt to many different styles while keeping things as tight and coherent as possible. The standard speed is no longer ‘holy @!#$& what was that’, and now varies comfortably between blazingly fast and crushingly slow. The band has managed to completely refresh their sound; this is an asset incomparably valuable in today’s stagnant music scene. The band has shown that they have the capacity to grow, evolve, and change their sound.
Sadly, what makes the band great also brings itself down. Many will miss the hyper-speed tendencies of Agoraphobic old, and may find the new sections to sound contrived. Certainly, it is necessary for a band to establish its own sound, and the band has become quite well known for what it has done on past releases. Die-hards of the old sound will be greatly disappointed. In addition, anyone who is not a fan of grind will not have their mind changed by this album. Including incredibly cheesy song-titles and a strange tempo inconsistency in the track-list, many of Agorapocalypse
’s facets are staples of the grind genre. It would be a shame if anyone saw their growth as a band as a flaw, and given time, the band will grow to be a powerful force to contend with.