Agoraphobic Nosebleed has been ravaging the grindcore scene since ’94 and, along with Enemy Soil, are among the first to bring a battling gun-like drum machine into the genre. If you haven’t heard them yet, you’re probably not even a casual grind listener (or you just hate drum machines). Imagine Anal Cunt on twenty hits of acid and somehow still coming out decipherable. The band has managed to push out decipherable album after decipherable album. Stylistically, the band has been consistently changing while maintaining a brand of humor/offensiveness/anger. However, this time spouts of “fucking dead queer”, jabs at black metal transvestites and talk of “lap dances and sucking dick” are being swept under the rug. For now.
Before people go off on a tirade about Scott Hull and crew doing a doom album (ugh!), know that Arc was going to happen regardless of the times. A quick reminder that Katherine Katz used to be in the doom addled Salome should be all you need. So what’s the idea here then? Arc is one of four EPs which focuses on the influences of a specific member. And Katz album is pretty goddamn dark.
Arc is only three songs. And it’s not the first time ANb have put out a series of long songs over short bursts (see: Domestic Powerviolence with Apartment 213) it’s definitely their longest, most serious set of songs. And there’s no merciful introduction here. A little bit of feed back, a fat riff and shit gets underway. It’s an album that largely consists of dealing with a schizophrenic mother. And speaking as a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, it’s…yeah, it’s pretty fucking hard to listen to. And if the opening track “Not a Daughter” doesn’t work up and under your skin like a dirty hypodermic then this is the kind of thing you probably can’t relate to.
Katz’s savagely tormented vocals feel are at full front here. When her vocal chords shred over Hull’s riffs, the album both soars and disturbs. Katz sounds at home with ANb’s sound here. While she’s guested on Pig Destroyer albums and heavily contributed to Agorapocalypse, Arc is her most stunning contribution yet. And when you hear her scream: “Stop! Stop hurting me! Why are you doing this to me?”, a cold chill runs through your spine. But maybe that’s just me and the memories of Risperdal.
As with the rest of the album, well, this thing is groovy as hell. Arc is by no means Hull’s first dance in the doom/sludge genre. With Mass and Volume and Natasha to his name (as well as the aforementioned doom-y/sludgy/Man is the Bastard-like Domestic Powerviolence), Hull’s got enough credential in his chops to play the genre. But they guy plays it like it’s the only thing he’s ever known. If Katz fiery vocals and lyrics don’t grab you, Hull’s excellent drum programing and guitar riffing will. Arc features some of the catchiest stuff that Hull has ever put into motion. As catchy and sometimes more than “Carrion Fairy”, “Thought Crime Spree” or “Burning Palm.” Regardless, Hull does play this album like he’s been playing doom and sludge for years, but that’s also because he has.
Arc is a different direction for ANb and not a bad one by any means. Arc is heavy as hell and hits with the force of a bulldozer; it’s the kind of thing that can crush everything in its path and keep on moving. Even when it’s at its most emotional the album doesn’t stop stomping forward. It’s been too long since a new ANb full length but a series of EPs as killer as this is acceptable. Where they go from here is all up to each member. But hopefully we won’t have to lean on Decibel Flexi’s for new stuff in the coming years. If we do, may they be frozen corpses stuffed with holiday cheer.
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