Magrudergrind return after six years with II, their follow up to their self-titled sophomore album which showed the band delving more into Grind than the Power-Violence sound they had established with the tongue-in-cheek debut Rehashed or the even jokey-er compilation 62 Tracks of Thrash. Ironically enough, what the band delivers here sounds more like a rehash of countless Grind and Crust records that were released in their six year hiatus than anything from their debut. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it can come across at times as a Grindcore checklist.
Unfortunately, no record exists in a vacuum and their previous release left such a high, filthy watermark that the attempt to make II a leaner, more mature release only highlighted what is missing. From the start there is an apparently conscious effort to strip away sonic accoutrements like genre-obligatory sound clips and extended feedback. The 45 second “Imperium In Imperio”—which is Latin for, “The Government in Power”—lifts off promisingly, driving home that no nonsense intention and “The Opportunist” adds a few wrinkles with subtle slurring riffs and the lurching stop-start ending, but by “Relentless Hatred” the record already starts to feel formulaic. “Sacrificial Hire” keeps that formula going with moshy Metal riffs, a much telegraphed speed up and retching vocal exclamation point. That being said, those fist pumping riffs find their mark on the mid-album “Black Banner.”
However, those missing sound clips make the seemingly more serious than ever political subject matter that much more easily glossed over by typical Grindcore vocals and noise war production. II is well produced by most accounts, Kurt Ballou stays his usual course by not leaving a signature sound on the record but the final product–mastered by Brad Boatright–has the garbage disposal gain levels and lack of dynamic range that has become all too common for Metal and Hardcore records. That oppressive atmosphere works well for bands like Nails or Rotten Sound, but make a band like Magrudergrind sound more than a little squashed. Also gone the way of the samples is the distinctive popping snare sound, breaking glass cymbals and “Hot For Teacher” double-bass and floor tom rumble that were admittedly a result of lower production values, but added to the grimey texture of Magrudergrind. Absent those facets the band sounds indistinct.
All that said, if you simply started at “Hara-Kiri” and played through the rest of the record you would have the lean, full-tilt Grind record promised. “Regressive Agenda” churns out the best riff on the album in its first 30 seconds and squelches out a cleverly delayed grunt. “Unit 731” finally dumps out the kind of sludge-slowdown that should have happened much sooner. “Husayni-Handschar” is the perfect vehicle for Infest’s Joe Denunzio’s guest vocal spot, barking over a killer two-step beat. “Pharmacide” is a fitting album closer with its rhythmic stagger before accelerating into the screeching final breakdown.
No one expected Magrudergrind to reinvent the wheel, but Grind is already an overcrowded genre and it’s easy for such extreme bands to disappear in all the white noise of strict genre worship. There is of course something to be said for doing things well, even if they aren’t new per se and the now Brooklyn based outfit do enough to sound like themselves without retreading completely to still be relevant; even if it took a moment to find their footing again. (Dylan Hensley)