Whatever you made of a certain Mr Phil Anselmo’s recent on-stage outburst, we should be proud of the fact that the politically charged genre known as sludge has never been as diverse or as welcoming to outsiders as it is currently. The latest bunch of reprobates to fling themselves into the southern metal melting pot are cult grindcore heroes and all-round mentalists Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Returning to the studio after almost a seven year absence, will their much-celebrated talents adapt to these warmer, hazier climes?
Seasoned fans will know that Agoraphobic Nosebleed have never been ones to fuck about, and after a short feedbacking intro, opener Not A Daughter goes straight for the jugular with its EyeHateGod-inspired swagger. The strongest of the three tracks, it’s a rip-roaring, high-energy take on classic blues-based sludge, creating a vibe which is both euphoric and crushingly pessimistic in equal measure. Following this are two longer, slightly more downtempo tracks, more along the lines of Fistula or perhaps even a crunchier Weedeater. Each of these boasts numerous twists and turns, not to mention some real earworm riffs, and while you’d be hard pushed to argue that any of the material is particularly original, there’s enough personality here to set ANb apart from the crowd. Main man Scott Hull’s rhythmic sense is as engaging on Arc as in any of his work with Pig Destroyer. Buzzsaw riffs duck and dive around schizophrenic beats, like a pair of addicts scrapping over the one remaining fix. Vocalist Katherine Katz’ tortured rasp – a huge selling point on 2009’s Agorapocalypse – transfers seamlessly into this new style, once again proving to be the most potent weapon in a formidable arsenal. When these elements combine, it’s incendiary stuff.
While they’ve clearly nailed the sound they were aiming for on Arc, the fact can’t be ignored that this is far removed from the trademark insanity which Agoraphobic Nosebleed are so notorious for. Gone are the shit-the-bed drum machine pyrotechnics and jarring, detuned riffs. So too are the glitchy electronic sequences and psychotic, sample-based mayhem which made this band so unique in the first place. As a fan of all things slow and filthy I’m more than happy to recommend this as an above-average sludge record in its own right. That said, there’s a certain sense of irony in one of the more unique and genre-defying extreme metal acts of the 2000’s releasing what is, on the face of it, a somewhat generic record. The initial instalment of a planned four-part series of EPs, this could and probably should have been a more explosive rallying cry.
Scribed by: Jon Weatherill