“Awesome, more grindcore, I love reviewing grindcore!” I thought when the AMG carrier pigeon delivered this record to my PO box the other week. Then I became concerned for the state of my memory, because I haven’t ever reviewed any grindcore. I also don’t remember Steel Druhm or Madam X implementing a carrier pigeon-based promo distribution system, but at least that explains where all those record label bribes have gone to. Training good pigeons ain’t cheap you know. What was I meant to be writing about again? Oh right, Ambassador Gun, yes. They have been generating high-quality grind for a good while now, with several EPs and two LPs already to their name, so it seems a little odd they’ve lost their record label and are going it alone with their third full-length, Tomb of Broken Sleep. Does this signal a drop in quality from these Minnesotan grindmongers?
Does it, balls. Tomb of Broken Sleep is as laden with hardcore hooks and brutal blastbeats as anything they’ve released before. On previous works, Ambassador Gun referenced post-2000 grindcore – mainly Nasum, Rotten Sound, and later Brutal Truth and Napalm Death – adding some Converge-informed metallic hardcore moments to create quite a diverse sound, and they’ve continued this successful formula on their latest platter. The riff density is extremely high, meaning that, despite the obvious overarching mood of brutal rage, each song can rapidly progress through different expressions of this feeling even within the short time-spans of two or three minutes. Kudos to the band for managing to explore the full spectrum of subtleties lurking within that rather constrained theme.
The first half of the album contains plenty of fine examples of the Ambassador Gun style: the hornet-like buzzing, heavy groove, lighting blasts and uplifting hardcore stages of opener “Heart of Corruption” and the hyper-fast grind and slow sludge mix of “Invaders” are particularly good. But the band really hit their stride on the record’s second half, starting with the fifty-second death-grind of “Fire at Will.” From there, “Mighty Steed” slows things down with epic Mastodon-sized riffs and a Baroness-influenced melodic break, while “County Fair Massacre” is almost straight-up hardcore. “Karamazov” is super catchy, with some excellent, creative drumming driving the simple riffs forward. Finally “Smoke Crack Worship Satan” brings back the sludge, presenting it alongside some wonderfully angular riffing.
The musicianship is very good – none of the music is particularly complex but the band is tight and Patrick Ruhland’s drumming in particular is fantastic. The screamed vocals are convincingly furious, though somewhat one-dimensional. The guitar sounds enormous, again bringing to mind Nasum, while the bass provides a prominent low-end rumble throughout. However, everything is extremely compressed, to the point of compromising the clarity. The drums come across as monotonous despite the great performance, the blastbeats in particular lacking any humanity. Some clipping is also noticeable, though usually blending into the massively distorted guitar fuzz. It’s a shame, as a slightly more organic production would have given the subtleties in each song more room to shine.
The excellent songwriting compensates for the production issues, though, and as they have heeded P. T. Barnum’s1 advice to “always leave them wanting more,” you won’t develop listening fatigue. Fitting this amount of high quality riffage into twenty-six brutal minutes is no mean feat, and while you won’t find anything particularly new here, Tomb of Broken Sleep is a highly entertaining release sure to please the grind fiends amongst you. Now, how do I return this homing pigeon…