Back during my peak grindcore consumption, I fondly remember the now veteran Belgian grinders Leng Tch’e creating an impact with their deathly, groove-laced modern grind combo. The self-described “razorgrinders” played it brutal, but their sharp sense of humor, stylistic variables, and infectious songwriting was a cut above the bulk of modern grind acts when they operated at maximum potency on 2003’s ManMadePredator, and 2005’s vicious follow-up, The Process of Elimination. Those albums deftly coalesced grind, groove, death, and a ridiculously fun rock-out attitude, in creative ways somewhat reminiscent of Aussie legends Blood Duster. A revolving door of members and seven-year break since dropping 2010’s Hypomaniac hasn’t dulled the band’s commitment to keep on grinding, returning with their sixth full-length opus, fittingly titled Razorgrind. But do they still have what it takes to match it with the new breed of talented grinders? Or are Leng Tch’e destined to die a musical death by a thousand cuts?
Largely retaining their death-infused modern grind and groove approach, Leng Tch’e waste little time cutting to the chase. Kicking off with a violent trio of sub two-minute blasts, they stick fairly closely to the songwriting template that has served them well previously. Hardcore-ish death grunts and high-pitched screams, rigorous blasts, brutal down-tuned grind riffs, bloodied death metal uppercuts, and the band’s trademark emphasis on neck wrecking grooves take center stage. However, sidesteps into more melodic, sludgy and punky territory, along with some welcome song-writing deviations, work to stave off the monotony and blurred song-writing that threatens to derail the memorability and lasting impact of the album. The weightier song lengths are pushed towards the back-end of Razorgrind. So while short, fast blasts of chunky grind are concisely sliced into lean and meaty nuggets on the concentrated torrent of brutality on “Indomitable” and the unrelenting “AnarChristic,” the lengthier tunes provide more wiggle room for Leng Tch’e to mix things up.
“The Red Pill” begins with melodic subtlety and restraint, quickly gathering blasty momentum and locking into some tight, anthemic grooves, showcasing a potent blend of granite crushing hardcore and death metal authority. Although it breaks free from the band’s typical grindcore onslaught, it does so in a catchy and successful fashion. There’s definitely a more experimental streak permeating Razorgrind’s back-half. I’m talking experimental in the context of the Leng Tch’e method of groovy grind, mostly leaning on a pronounced incorporation of hardcore and death, rather than anything radical enough to scare off the bloodthirsty needs of the average grind fan. Fear not, there’s still ample amounts of the band’s focused ferocity on offer, such as the shrapnel spitting tornadoes of “Commitment Fail” and “Cirrhosis.” While Leng Tch’e sound hungry and remain a brutal force, the songwriting that defined their earlier career peak is certainly not on the same level here, with a handful of unremarkable songs wedged in and around the stronger material. Even its efficient run-time feels slightly overlong and Razorgrind is neither as brutally catchy, outright fun, or unhinged as their superior early work, despite the refreshing change-ups and scattered quality moments.
Amidst the numerous line-up changes plaguing their existence, Leng Tch’e have always boasted a tough as nails and musically vice-tight execution. Razorgrind is no different in this regard. I do prefer the character and style of original vocalist Isaac Roelaert, with the odd spoken word and semi-clean vocal sections particularly baffling here. I also recall Leng Tch’e riffs occupying a stronger presence in the old memory bank.
Leng Tch’e haven’t softened with age and despite my reservations about Razorgrind, it’s a competent, heavy, and diverse album that retains the band’s signature style. Perhaps the biggest downsides to Razorgrind is that it cuts a more serious profile, struggles for consistency, and falls short of the high standards marking their earlier material. Still, whether Razorgrind provides the sufficient mileage and grind protein required, for the uninitiated, Leng Tch’e is a quality band worth investigating.