Violence begets violence. A cycle of neverending abuse and terror passed down from one hand to another. The culprit and the victim, intimately tied together in a waltz of dominance and submission. One reigning blows and vitriolic abuse, while the other cowers and trembles beneath the seemingly unending physical and verbal lashes. We are reminded daily as a species how capable we are of committing some of the most heinous acts of barbarism and savagery onto our fellow kin. From violent crimes and armed robbery to the act of war itself, we seem to have a long-standing need to annihilate ourselves as a whole, no matter what the method or technique. Enter the ever-infamous Agoraphobic Nosebleed. One of the top bands in the metal scene, who have made their name off a long list of violent sonic crimes against humanity. A band that while rooted and directed by the one man whirling dervish of aural-battery that is Scott Hull, has had it’s nefarious ranks filled out and aided by a number of key players within the extreme music scene. All of which have helped develop this monstrosity from the band I remember dominating the Vacuum Records catalog to the now simultaneously hailed and feared global terror threat that they are today.
Arc, their newest record, is one of four in a series of EPs that will showcase a different sound and approach on each one, with every subsequent album being released over the course of the upcoming year. With this first output, Agoraphobic Nosebleed blow away any previous conceptions as to what this band can summon forth. Arc stands as a testament to how talented Hull and his chosen band of miscreants are. The entire blistering, schizophrenic assault they’ve come to be known for has been replaced by a swampy, backwoods feel to each song. Composed of three tracks, all of which sound almost nothing like anything they’ve done before. No blast beats or frantic overloads of sound. Just stripped down, Black Sabbath-worshiping riffage, injected with a heavy dose of modern-sounding Doom Metal and good old fashioned hate.
Label: Relapse Records // Release: 1/22/16
Agoraphobic Nosebleed opens up Arc with “Not A Daughter,” a vicious, BBQ-stained track that should listened to while munching on corn bread and brussel sprouts topped with bacon and hot sauce. As with every release this band has put forth, the level of punishment and abuse is absolutely staggering. One of the biggest concerns I had when going into this album was just how different it was going to be. It was stated that this release was a drastic shift in what people have come to expect from this band, but that notion and statement is so beyond what really is contained on this track. Hull is a man whose known not only for his technical skills, but also the fact that each one of his fingers is a nuclear warhead, constantly unleashing it’s payload across the fret board. “Not A Daughter” contains some of the most earth-sundering, hell raising guitar parts that Hull has ever put down. This song, without a doubt, is drenched in Southern-styled Metal and tonal attitude that seeps out of each note, with mammoth riffs that pace themselves like a lumbering, whiskey-drunk juggernaut whose hell-bent on revenge. Vocalist Katherine Katz truly shines through the bog of metal that is “Not A Daughter,” adding a deep feeling of a broken soul finally raging against those who have crossed or hurt her. Issued forth from not only the vocal patterns and placement, but down to the lyrics themselves. While I’ll leave the actual lyrical content up to the reader to delve into, Katz and her fellow comrades have stepped into some heavy personal matters for the listener to digest on all three songs.
For the next two songs, respectively titled “Deathbed” and “Gnaw,” Agoraphobic Nosebleed shift even further into slower territory. “Deathbed” moves forward at a creeping pace, dragging its arms and legs across the sonic ground. Pained screams and howls from the damned match in turn with the funeral dirge of riffs unleashed during its laborious opening. Even at its crawling tempo, “Deathbed” hints at something monolithic beyond its Doom-inspired sound, which is delivered in full as the tempo is kicked up with a “Crown Fried Chicken” explosion that rockets across your ears. It fits perfectly within the song, matched in turn with the vocals drawing out the feeling of slowing dying of cancer. As with all Agoraphobic Nosebleed albums, the use of various edited samples inserted into the songs adds another layer of grime to their sound. So rest assured that this song ends on a bleak note, one which transitions perfectly into the next song “Gnaw.” A massive, plodding opening greets you and grabs you by the hair, slamming your head into the next use of audio samples concerning schizophrenia.
Even in the crunching, destructive finale that is “Gnaw,” what’s really clear about this release as a whole is how adapt Hull has become at drum-machine programming. Previous releases by the band had this almost cold, robotic feel to the battery of blast beats and hyper-drum rolls. But over the years and various releases, that sound has been manipulated and grown up to sound much more alive. Arc feels much more organic in terms of the actual drum sound that issues forth. Perhaps it’s the slowed down, more methodical pace that Agoraphobic Nosebleed takes, one that allows each drum fill or cymbal hit to breath a little bit between the slowed-down pace. Or perhaps it’s the years or experience and the honing of skills. Or a combination of both. Whatever it is, it works. And it sounds absolutely, terrifyingly fucking pissed off when applied alongside the other factors that compose this EP.
Arc, from the start of it’s swampy, booze-filled opening to the the harrowing, dark conclusion, is a bold direction for this veteran band. The end result is a deeper, more twisted peek into the creation that Agoraphobic Nosebleed has evolved to become. Arc moves at a brutal and arduous pace. While clearly not rooted in the frenzied, drug-induced battery that they’ve come to be known for, the three songs on Arc are still highly proficient and deliver all the necessary components of audio abuse. Every song contains some face-wrecking moments, highlighted with a jump from one extreme metal sound platform to another. From the Doom-inspired drone moments right down to the Sabbath-worshiping audio bong-hits, Arc had me patching up the holes I had punched in my living room walls while listening to it over the last few weeks. If this release is just the opening salvo for what the band has up their sleeve over the next year, good luck with rebuilding civilization for all those who survive this ravaging onslaught.