Magrudergrind-IIApparently I am now the designated AMG reviewer wot gets all the grindcore, which suits me fine as, though it is amongst my top genres in the crazy world of extreme music, it’s one that I mysteriously neglect for long periods. Probably mostly because I’m listening to Toto’s first five records on a loop… but whatever the reason, this wanton neglect means I have some glaring gaps in my knowledge of the grindosphere, a prime example being Magrudergrind. This bizarre name (that makes a bit more sense when you know it’s derived from the D.C. housing project where the band formerly rehearsed) has been familiar to me for almost a decade, though their music has not. All that changed the other other week when AMG insisted I review their latest opus, and I embarked on a Magrudergrind crash course. Given this rapid inspection of their prior art, I can understand the hype.

Drawing inspiration from both classic and more recent grind – you’ll hear bits of Brutal Truth, Rotten Sound and Terrorizer as well as Wormrot and Insect WarfareMagrudergrind are decidedly more at the punk than the metal end of the grindcore spectrum. While their music is never going to score highly for originality, they are fantastic album writers. As with their previous, self-titled LP, this record is short, brutal, and perfectly paced, packed with an embarrassment of riffs played at a tempo that generally fluctuates between fast and rapid. Though quick, the riffs vary dramatically in feel from heavy grooves to manic blasts, which are all excellent and expertly arranged. Magrudergrind know exactly when to settle down into a chunky groove and when to revert to furious grind, and this knack for arrangement along with the clever placement of some slower, sludgier segments on “Black Banner” and “Unite 731” (much like “Bridge Burner” on the self-titled album) result in a totally engaging listen from start to finish. They’ve even dropped the use of samples, which they incorporated effectively and occasionally amusingly on the last album, but which might have detracted from the sense of urgency here.

Despite the album working well as a whole, the songs become a little lost in the maelstrom. Individual riffs stand out rather than whole tracks, and while this doesn’t detract from my engagement with the record while it’s playing, it does mean it’s not as memorable once it’s over. Another Magrudergrind feature I am not entirely sold on is the lack of bass guitar, though the great riffs, perpetual motion and a bass-heavy guitar tone distract from its absence more than on their previous record. The minimalist instrumental setup works as well for them as it does for Pig Destroyer and Insect Warfare, so if it doesn’t bother you with those bands it certainly won’t with Magrudergrind.

Magrudergrind-2016

The production, though, might well bother you. Grindcore seems to suffer more than other genres in the loudness war and this is another low-DR monstrosity. The heavy compression has severely compromised the guitar tone: it’s still thick and bassy, but has lost any sense of life and the high end sounds terrible. Blastbeats that should push the music up a notch are neutered, and the constant audible clipping is really frustrating. Converge’s Kurt Ballou engineered and Pig Destroyer’s Scott Hull was responsible for the master; who is more to blame for this aural hideosity I’m not sure, but I would be tempted to point the finger at the latter.

This is a great shame as the crushed guitar really annoys and distracts from the quality of the record. Though flawed, Magrudergrind write some great stuff and musically this is a fine addition to their catalogue. I just hope it gets remastered pronto so we can enjoy it properly.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: magrudergrind.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/MagrudergrindOfficial
Releases Worldwide: February 12th, 2016

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  • El_Cuervo

    I like the ST. Sounds as if this meets that mark!

  • sssgadget

    DR4? White noise drowns my tinnitus!

    • Dr. Scorpion

      It makes mine worse.

  • Zac Melvin-McNutt

    Why is this site always making a huge stink over the DR? If flawless production is what you crave, grind probably isn’t for you. That being said I think this album sounds awesome! Grind/powerviolence done properly

    • I guess because we like albums to sound good?

      • Hammersmith

        I’m interested though, are there albums the AMG Staff like enough to overlook shitty production? And I guess conversely, albums that are amazing that never get listened to because of abhorrent production?

        • Well the way we approach it is to rate the album itself and formulate a score. That score however can be brought down if the production mars or lessens the enjoyability of the music itself.

          As someone who grew up in the 80s listening to the first wave of thrash, a lot of those albums had terrible production (especially the ones done by Carl Canedy). But albums like Spreading the Disease by Anthrax or Feel the Fire by Overkill are still classics. A great album is still a great album though we may wish for a better mix.

        • Kronos

          Oracles

      • Iliast

        Also, grind doesn’t have to be squashed like this…it’s a choice. It would benefit immensely from being allowed to breathe

    • sssgadget

      This is the exact attitude which caused mastering to go down the shit hole with highly compressed and loud records. I don’t care if it’s grind, death, blahcore. DR matters and if AMG didn’t explain the importance of it then all the readers would remain ignorant about this stupid trend.

      • Zac Melvin-McNutt

        No need to get mad dude. That’s fair enough, but in all seriousness, moaning about low DR on a grind album is like complaining about a lack of porkchops at an organic fruit market. I like good production as much as the next guy but I personally don’t value it as highly when listening to grind/powerviolence/crust. Maybe that’s just me though. Unpopular opinion, apparently…

        • Blueberry Balls

          Sassy!

    • El_Cuervo

      Just because it’s the industry norm to crush the dynamics of genres like grind doesn’t mean it has to be.

      At worst, it wouldn’t sound worse with a better DR. At best, it would sound much better. Isn’t that worth raising awareness for?

      • Zac Melvin-McNutt

        That’s totally legitimate, but my point was simply that genres like grind are typically known for their raw abrasive sound.
        There are countless classic grind/powerviolence and crust/hardcore punk albums that suffer from subpar production. It’s a subgenre and subculture that traditionally hasn’t held quality production in high regard, it takes a backseat to raw violence and ferocity. You gotta remember that grind evolved from punk/crust scenes.
        I understand that a lot has changed over time and the technology today exists to make a superlative sounding grind album. But I think most grind connoisseurs would agree with me that grind doesn’t need to be sonically perfect to be enjoyable and that’s part of what makes grindcore…well, grindcore. It’s a gritty, grimey and filthy extreme form of music and there are many who would like it to remain so. I don’t think a higher DR would add much to the listening experience because that’s simply not what it’s about to me. There’s a reason Unique Leader doesn’t have grindcore bands on their roster.
        I understand this is an unpopular opinion on this site but that’s my stance on the matter.

        • I think it’s so annoying because it doesn’t have to be like this. When, say, Carcass recorded “Reek of Putrefaction,” it sounded like shit because they were broke (at a time when high quality recording was a lot more expensive) and didn’t know what they were doing. This record was recorded and mastered by people that know what they’re doing, yet still they fucked over the album with excessive compression. And it sounds shitty in a very different way – rather than having the sort of character “Reek…” has, the sound is sterile. It’s the opposite of what you describe – not gritty and grimy, which are definitely qualities I like in grind production. And I definitely think wider DR would benefit the album by allowing sections that clearly *should* be louder, like the blasts, to actually be louder and thus stand out more.

          I still think it’s a very good record… but it could so easily have been better.

    • beurbs

      Probably the same reason food blogs care about flavor.

      • herrschobel

        lol..good one

    • Boter

      I would like to bring Beaten to Death’s Unplugged to mind. That album was pretty damn well produced. And Grind as fuck. So Grind and Well produced aren’t mutually exclusive IMHO. Grind can sound good. It’s worth mentioning if it doesn’t.

  • The Stormin Mormon

    Looping classic Toto records is certainly an understandable reason to miss out on some grind

    • Thatguy

      And also a recipe for developing a significant mental disorder…which AMG knows, so he keeps sending making Jean-Luc review more grind.

      • The Stormin Mormon

        Oh the oppression of Fuhrer Metal Guy!

  • smmarx

    All I know is that their guitarist R.J. was one of the best bartenders I ever had at Pizza Paradiso in DC when they weren’t on tour so I make a point to buy all their records.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Jonah from Veep went to a Magrudergrind show, that was funny. “Unite 731” is cheesy faux-Slayer-core by the sound of the title. Awesome review, and there’s nothing wrong with Toto!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    These guys could benefit from some TOTOisms.
    Some bigger hair, smart casual outfits and a decent moustache or two would be a good start. Maybe a few more 3 part harmonies, wicked synth solos and some nice wistful lyrics about mysterious lands and ladies could really elevate these guys to the top of the grind pile.
    Has anyone done a DR check on IV lately?

  • HMG

    Bad!

  • nick

    The sound was definitely produced that way on purpose, i think thats the way grindcore is supposed to sound…sludgy as possible, but you can still hear the riffs, which leads me to believe they did a great job balancing the two, and the drums, you can actually hear, in all honesty the production feels similar to a pig destroyer album, which is thumbs up i.m.o.

  • Adam

    Personally I think the newest album is incredible.