Album Review: Escuela Grind — “Memory Theater”

It’s not every day we plug other places to soak in music content, but I think it should be said that whoever runs the hate5six YouTube channel is maybe the hardest working person on the internet and also a true hero.  Especially over the past couple of years, whenever I need new music or I’ve been missing going to shows, I’ll pop over to the channel and I’m immediately greeted by a treasure trove of great live recordings.  It was through that channel, on a complete whim, that I managed to discover Escuela Grind, and from the first ring of feedback, I was hooked.  And if I was hooked before, Memory Theater is the release to reel me in.

Memory Theater is only the second full-length release from Escuela Grind, but in true grindcore fashion, their discography boasts an avalanche of EPs and splits, so it’s not exactly fair to say they are new on the block.  Singer Katerina Economou and drummer Jesse Fuentes met at college (hence, the name) and from there the band was quickly rounded out by guitarist Kris Morash and bassist Tom Sifuentes.  It’s been a pretty much nonstop ride of touring and recording, but it seems that’s exactly how the quartet like it.  This is a band on a tear, and like it or not they have something to prove.  Architect by day, student of philosophy and history by night, Economou’s lyrics speak with piercing honesty about the anxiety of living in the world today, touching on subjects ranging from the Ariel Castro kidnappings to 18th century economic poetry (apparently this is a thing) to the mystical architectural concept of a memory theater, a space created from one’s own knowledge, perceptions and experiences.  While these might be dark subjects, and while the trademark frantic riffing and crushing heaviness of their grindcore and powerviolence roots are the backbone of their sound, the band’s mission is to empower and bring hope, always standing on the side of the oppressed and pissing on the oppressor.

Grindcore as a genre is in a strange spot, and I’ve gone on record saying that I’m more than okay with that.  Lots of bands are trying to take the standard blueprint of grindcore, flip it on its head and expand its borders with lots of influences.  In the absolute best way possible, Escuela Grind are not one of those bands.  At nine tracks and just over twenty minutes, this is grindcore the way god intended: fast and brutal like a runaway semi-truck and over before you have a chance to even process what just ran you over.  For what it’s worth, on Memory Theater, Escuela Grind put out their longest songs yet, but even the longest track here doesn’t reach three and a half minutes.  However, what these songs lack in length they more than make up for in depth and sheer aggression.  You can feel the torrential downpour of saliva in every single one of Economou’s rasped yells, Morash’s guitarwork is razor sharp and constantly bouncing from one killer riff right into another while the rhythm section’s near constant pulse of blasts and d-beats drives the bus straight off a cliff.  Memory Theater is an album that is rowdy, hugely fun, and it also makes you think if you give it the chance to and sit down with the lyrics.  Mostly, Memory Theater nearly perfectly captures what it is like to be at an Escuela Grind show.  Listening to it makes you feel like you’re front row in the crowd, right up against the monitors with the band playing inches from your face, and I think mean that as a huge compliment.

Escuela Grind is definitely one to watch.  Yes, because Memory Theater is killer and it’s clear they are meant for great things, but also because these are the voices we need to be hearing more of in the metal scene.  There isn’t another band out there like Escuela Grind, and there shouldn’t be, but here’s hoping that their music inspires more people like them to pick up their guitars and slay.  School is officially in session.

– Ian

Memory Theater will be available September 30 on MNRK Heavy.  For more information on Escuela Grind, visit their official website.

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