Magrudergrind – II (2016)

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So famous that you might’ve just heard of them right now for the first time. Magrudergrind is back after a hiatus with an album that makes a potent case for keeping simplicity tightly under wraps so that we don’t risk every band with half a half-hearted interest in songwriting nabbing it from the medicine cabinet and hoarding it all for themselves.

I don’t exactly listen to much straight up ‘grindcore’, which adds to the holes in my listening experience, but II sounds pretty much like what I’d expect any half-proficient band in the genre to put out. It’s understandably a little slicker than most of the formative efforts in the genre (Napalm Death, Carcass, Repulsion, etc.), although from what I’ve heard this album trades in some of the bits of schlock comedy that “distinguished” previous Magrudergrind content from its contemporaries for more standard, basic, banal grindcore. On some scales, this is really a perfect 5/10 album; it’s exactly what I expected aesthetically, it does nothing particularly interesting, and it doesn’t even have the temerity to offend me even slightly lest I end up shaming Magrudergrind on the internet; does this sound like anybody we know? II is basically the equivalent of a blank cassette waiting to be recorded to for the first time, but like most albums of little musical merit, we can at least learn a few lessons from the circumstances surrounding it.

As I hinted at in the intro, Magrudergrind’s latest is a very simplistic album that isn’t far removed from the starkest, most deconstructive efforts in its genre. The problem working in such a limited palette is that most of the time, it’s only a sign of low effort; it takes surprising amounts of skill, ambition, or at least luck, to cut down your music and still retain some shred of coherence and communicative value. Grindcore, as a genre, is especially vulnerable to the dark side of these tendencies; once you reach maximum violence and intensity there isn’t much left to do in the confines of the genre. The various famous bands of the genre all found their coping mechanisms; I’m personally most familiar with Carcass’s rapid pivot towards pop music. Magrudergrind’s, on the other hand, was apparently to go on hiatus for a few years and then return when everyone had forgotten not only them, but also the very knowledge that they had forgotten about Magrudergrind.

Gnaw – Horrible Chamber

6_Panel_DigipakPowerviolence is a con. It’s pitched to us as the most extreme possible version of punk-based music, but under an affinity for noise, it’s a cross between sloppy hardcore and noise interludes with emo-derived vocals. There’s nothing new here or any particularity extremity.

The trick with extremity, by the way, is to make it musical. Any dunce can make droning ear pain. Very few can structure it in a way such that it becomes a meaningful listening experience. And if you don’t want a meaningful listening experience, you’re basically listening to Justin Bieber, even if you trick it out as noisecore.

Horrible Chamber isn’t horrible (heh) but it’s boring. The vocals require long decay, so there’s a process of syllables surging forth and then fading out, which requires slower tempi on the drums which in turn requires a certain amount of oversimplification. The percussion isn’t like metal, cadence-based, but tries to keep some bop under the rant and noise.

Riff-wise, there’s nothing in Gnaw we didn’t hear in the past thirty years of grindcore, hardcore and punk rock. Many of these riffs in fact sound more like rock hybrids, where the simplified punk version of a riff is gradually shaped back toward its pentatonic-friendly cousins. Nothing other than aesthetics distinguishes this.

And while Horrible Chamber achieves a good balance of noise to catchy parts, it also doesn’t really add anything to the life of anyone who has experienced more than entry-level punk music. Thus it gets the most damning of all record reviews, which is the default: it does little wrong, but not enough right, to stay relevant for long.