With Arc, the first of four planned, genre-specific albums, Agoraphobic Nosebleed dive head-first into sludge and doom. For a band that’s plied their trade in drum-machine grindcore for over two decades — and is first on the tongue when the genre comes up in discussion — this might come as a bit of a surprise. This is not 100 songs in 22 minutes. Rather, it’s three long songs in a realm vocalist Kat Katz knows all too well from her time in Salome — and one that suits ANb surprisingly well.
While this is a new sound for the band, it’s not really anything new or genre-defining for tried and true sludge enthusiasts. But the band’s execution makes Arc a must hear. Katz delivers the lyrical content of death and psychosis in a way that is on another level. Not since her early doom days has she been afforded the opportunity to really stretch her vocals in the way she does here. It’s blistering and heart wrenching at the same time.
The experiment pays off; the album’s full of Eyehategod-style lumbering and Crowbar-level intensity. All three tracks are densely packed with downtuned chords and percussion that’s as much at ease with a painful trudge as it is with rock tempos and crashing cymbals. The slow and syrupy bass showcase in the closing minutes of “Not a Daughter” channels the suffocating depression and anxiety that lies at the very heart of sludge metal.
“Deathbed” introduces growling death metal vocals and even slower, more sluggish riffs. Rather than letting themselves go stale with the longer run time, the band employs several tempo changes and a dash of swinging rock grooves. Hearing this kind of range from an esteemed member of the grindcore club is shocking, but they pull it off very convincingly. Somewhere in the middle of all the feedback, the powerful vocals and the thunder of Scott Hull’s guitar playing, it’s easy to forget where this band comes from. And that’s what makes this effort, as a whole, a winner.
Even though they haven’t broken any new ground on Arc, ANb have made this sludge-doom transition with ease. Immensely heavy and wholly powerful, this will be the surprise no one saw coming. Who knows what the remaining three EPs will sound like, but with the success of this left turn on Arc, the creative possibilities are endless.