It’s not often a band whose tenure spans as long as Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s makes such a successful effort in redefining their sound without conjuring notions of desired mass appeal. More importantly, it’s not often a band as influential to heavy music as Agoraphobic Nosebleed creates what is easily their most accessible effort without sacrificing their abrasive integrity. We see an interesting development on the Massachusetts outfit’s 5th full-length album, and first in a series of four featuring a different member [Jay Randall, Richard Johnson, and Scott Hull] at the creative helm of each upcoming release, à la Kiss. As ANb settles into their second decade of existence, Arc presents an entirely new style of music from the grindcore pioneers. With Katherine Katz at the forefront of her second recording with the group, Arc is more aptly classified in the vein of doom and sludge than in the band’s signature style of grind injected with rapidly programmed drums. No surprise given Katz’ previous work in Salome, though this latest album is hardly a rehashing of her previous project.
From the drop it becomes apparent this record is going to be out of step with Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s prior discography. That said, I absolutely love Katz’ vocal style and always have; her addition was my favorite part of 2009’s Agorapocalypse. While the album certainly is “doomy” in comparison to the bands previous work, there is no reason this album shouldn’t receive a warm welcome from anyone in touch with any of the various subgenres that fall under the umbrella of stoner metal. Containing three tracks: Arc’s opener, “Not a Daughter,” transitions through up tempo riffs into trudging breakdowns guided by irate, frantic vocals. The sludge and doom are in full effect on “Deathbed,” which is eventually complimented by Sabbathy grooves, serving as a proper midpoint before shit really hits the fan. “Gnaw” serves as Arc’s magnum opus. This is where the overarching theme of mental illness being conveyed throughout the album is really driven home. Simply put, this song is pissed. The 11 minute onslaught, evocative of beatdown-hardcore, is my personal favorite and sure to cause some movement during upcoming live performances.
In all, the album should be well-received from an eclectic array of music fans outside of Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s core audience. In taking a step away from their patented style of grind, the band has shown some serious abilities regarding what they’re capable of and given many listeners a great reason to stay tuned to what these upcoming records hold. Arc earns a solid 8/10, with “Gnaw” really pushing it over to classic status for me.
Led by Scott Hull, Agoraphobic Nosebleed is one of the quintessential grindcore acts out there, and probably the most prominent band in the genre to make use of a drum machine, leading to hundreds of followers. Their style is dictated by ferocity and speed, albums filled with bursts of violence and constant pushing of your mental state. From Honky Reduction and Frozen Corpse Stuffed with Dope to Altered States of America and 2009's Agorapocalypse, they made it a point to cause complete chaos with their every release. Arc feels like a triumphant return, coming seven years after their previous full-length and signaling the beginning of an intriguing chapter for the band.
As Hull stated, Agoraphobic Nosebleed is in the process of releasing a series of four EPs, with each release representing the musical influences and taste of each band member. Arc is the start of this chapter, and the first thing that will throw you off is the fact that only three songs are included, which results in a brief moment of you trying to calculate if this album (by Agoraphobic Nosebleed's standards) will be longer than a whole minute! The second shock is the duration of the track, with the shortest, “Not A Daughter” spanning for seven minutes! I believe that so far the longest track of Agoraphobic was probably (and I am cheating a bit here) “Fuckmaker,” the final track of Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope, and I do not believe that the mean of their song durations throughout their career will produce a result longer than 1 minute. And all that goes through your mind before you have even begun to listen to the album, but once the first notes of Arc are unleashed you realize what is in play here.
This is a fucking extreme doom/sludge album, with Agoraphobic Nosebleed stepping away from their usual grindcore comfort. The album itself starts off with a bit of a stonerized vibe, giving a dirty rock presence with heavy riffs. Completely drunken and losing themselves in this sludge-oid state, doom/stoner parts are coming forth, while a huge bass sets up the track, something that also occurs in “Gnaw.” There are times when the whole sound becomes disgusting, reeking of acid, especially with “Deathbed,” as if a bomb is constantly ready to explode but never actually goes off. The power and determination that drives this effort comes with ease, granting great enregy and movement to the tracks as the monolith riffs and Katz's screaming vocals built this hell of core-like intensity.
To make such a switch in sound does not come easy for most bands, but again Agoraphobic Nosebleed is not most bands. And let's do not forget that Hull was also able to pull off something quite similar with Pig Destroyer's Natasha EP. What that means, is that the groove that Agoraphobic Nosebleed is able to get here is nothing less than stellar. Coming through the drums and expanding to the riffs, it manages to capture the essence of extreme doom/stoner/sludge, with moments such as the start of “Gnaw” standing out, as does the devastating pacing of “Deathbed” through all the twists and turns of the track.
Once you add to all this, Katz's vocals, unleashing some sickening vitriol in excellent manner, coming across with venom and strength, and let's not even get to what happens when the dual parts in “Deathbed” and “Gnaw” come in. And then you also have the nice inclusion of samples in the opening and closing tracks, giving a more vivid and twisted image on top of which the bare bones of the tracks are based. Everything simply adds up, and make Arcwhat it truly is: an excellent album. An album that projects something that we already knew: Agoraphobic Nosebleed is a special band.
8.0 / 10
Posted Dec. 17, 2016, 9:19 a.m.
On April 22-23, Decibel magazine is sponsoring the first Metal & Beer Fest, a two-day metal showcase of beer and heavy bands headlined by Sleep and Agoraphobic Nosebleed on different days ...
Posted April 19, 2016, 8:37 p.m.
The full line-up and schedule for Southwest Trror Fest V has been unveiled (below). The Tucson, AZ event takes place Oct. 20-23 and includes sets from Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Old Man ...
Posted March 16, 2016, 4:36 p.m.
With SXSW invading Austin, TX this week it's the official kickoff of festival season. Later this year, when things are darker and chilled, Tucson, AZ will host Southwest Terror ...
Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:
Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.