Slow Grind: Agoraphobic Nosebleed changes pace on Agorapocalypse.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed has spent 15 years churning out extreme grindcore, writing songs measured in seconds, not minutes, and relying on programmed drums largely because human drummers can’t keep pace with the group’s sonic holocausts. In doing so, the band has developed a fan base that expects nothing less than hyperspeed brutality, expectations it declines to meet with its new full-length, Agorapocalypse. The group, three-quarters of which hails from the D.C. area, is moving away from the pure hyperactive grindcore of previous albums like 2003’s Altered States of America (which crams 100 songs into just 22 minutes) in favor of actual songs that stick around long enough to establish a groove. Of course, this group’s idea of “full-length” means 13 songs in 28 minutes, still a breathless rampage by most standards. Certain elements of the classic Agoraphobic Nosebleed sound are unchanged: Scott Hull writes all the songs and provides vicious instrumental backing on guitar and drum machine programming. The lyrics are so over-the-top misogynistic and hateful that it’s impossible to take them seriously—a song called “Dick to Mouth Resuscitation” for instance. But perhaps the biggest change in the band’s sound is the addition of vocalist Katherine “Kat” Katz. Katz rounds out a trio of screaming vocalists who are as much a part of Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s signature sound as all of that drum programming. The vocals range from Jay Randall and Richard Johnson’s semi-intelligible, midrange hardcore-style yelling to Katz’s higher, harsher screams. All three vocalists give the impression that these folks are really, really pissed off. Hull’s music reinforces the intensity, as rapid-fire riffs and pounding drums make even two-minute-long songs exercises in listener endurance. The difference between Agorapocalypse and Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s earlier albums, though, is that many songs offer respites, brief passages where the tempo slows down to merely insane. After a thundering opening section, “National Stem Cell and Clone” sounds less like grindcore and more like straightforward deathcore, with its chugging main riff and a huge breakdown at the end. The second half of “Timelord Two” is downright sludgy, featuring a titanic midtempo riff. Such changes will certainly be controversial among longtime fans. For the larger universe, though, Agorapocalypse sacrifices little of the band’s trademark ferocity and gains a new level of focus and compositional maturity. In the process, Scott Hull has morphed this project from a novelty to a legitimate metal powerhouse.