CD Review: ‘Arc’ by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

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For over 20 years, Agoraphobic Nosebleed has remained one of the principal names in grindcore despite being silent for the last seven. The members moved on with other bands during the time off, and no one complained too much since that hiatus resulted in Pig Destroyer releasing one of its best albums. Now that ANb has finally resurfaced, the band is marking its return in a different fashion than fans may have expected.

ANb is dusting off a gimmick famously first used by KISS (and less famously later used by the Melvins) by having each member release their own EP focused on their individual influences. It’s a gimmick that hasn’t had a great track record and is really a bizarre ploy for an extreme metal band to ape. But it’s important to note that the first EP, Kat Katz’ Arc, (and presumably the future EPs too) isn’t a solo effort. The whole band is instead coming together under the artistic direction of the individual band mate. Arc is every ounce an ANb album but it’s an ANb album filtered and distilled through just one of its components. It’s a single shade of the band’s pell-mell palate brought to the forefront.

Arc isn’t a 30-plus-track whirlwind of violence, chaos and graphic dick jokes; it isn’t even really grindcore. It’s a crushingly sludge-addled three-track personal journey into vocalist Kat Katz’s relationship with a schizophrenic mother. It’s chilling to hear Katz scream, “Stop hurting me, why are you doing this…you were meant to die months ago” on “Not a Daughter” and then on the next track growl “on your deathbed, forgive me.” This is one of the darkest, most misanthropic albums ANb has released and this is a band with songs about terrorism, grotesque domestic abuse and child prostitution.

This EP is serious, slow, and filled with Sabbath worship. There’s a strong streak of southern groove metal running through the album, with more than a few moments smacking of EYEHATEGOD. It’s a perfect representation of Katz as an artist and encapsulates her doom-leaning work with her former band, Salome. It’s about as far as you can get from typical ANb, yet the band’s fingerprints are still apparent. Even at half speed, the riffs undeniably belong to guitarist Scott Hull and his drum programming is seamless in Katz’s composition. Grindcore purists may find this experiment off-putting, but metal heads with a greater range of appreciation will find plenty of love. If Arc is an indication of what the completed tetralogy may look like, fans should have a lot to look forward to.