Apparently 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 Warfare – Magrudergrind 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.
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.