In many ways, the latest from grindcore freaks Agoraphobic Nosebleed is a throwback. The limited-edition old-school long-box packaging and the "Stop the Madness" logo on the back cover will bring a smile to any veteran death metaller's face. So will the many lyrical references to classic death and thrash, the guitar solos, the longer, less hyper-stressed songs (there are only 13 tunes, most of which clock in at around two minutes) and the mid-tempo groove of cuts like "Question of Integrity," which also features a drum machine solo. The craziest song is actually track 0, making it inaccessible unless you put it in a CD player and hit reverse. But while that song is a maniacal and confusing burst of technical grind, much of the rest of the disc is shockingly straight-ahead (for ANb, that is), with influences from death metal and old-school crossover, with new vocalist Katherine Katz (yup, a woman, which is somewhat surprising given ANb's lewd lyrical content) screaming her way through one-third of the vocal madness. And that drum machine is sounding more and more realistic with every release. But although the title track is one of the band's most memorable and traditionally structured tunes, there is still plenty of twisted grind to be found on this somewhat surprising yet predictably pulverizing disc.
Are you trying to make the drum machine sound more natural?
Vocalist Richard Johnson: Definitely. It's leaps and bounds ahead of the sound and programming we had on records like Altered States of America or Frozen Corpse Stuffed with Dope. The band still have the digital grindcore thing going but having acoustic-sounding percussion takes things to another level.
It was a bit shocking to hear you guys added a female singer. How is it working out with Kat?
It's good. We're all friends and she delivers the goods on the mic. Also, she contributed some lyrics to the new album. I think the lyrics that [vocalist Jay] Randall writes faze me more than they do her, actually.
You've only played one gig. When are we going to see some more live shows?
I would say right around never. Scott [Hull, guitar/drum programming] has a certain concept in mind for playing live shows, to live up to the way he'd want it. And it's not going to happen. So we're just going to keep our heads down and continue to plough through split EPs up through the next album. The one set we played was an amazing experience that I won't forget but I'm not worried about doing it again. (Relapse)