Archagathus – Coffee Grinder

Genre: Grindcore | Label: Bringer of Gore
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba| Listen: Youtube

Canadian grinders Archagathus have been outrageously prolific over the years, so much so that some of their releases may have been buried only to be resurrected a few years later for completion. After releasing their first 12″ in 2010, Archagathus released two more in 2011. One of these was the incredible “Canadian Horse” LP, which I’ve given much praise in a previous review. The other one is what we have here, the “Coffee Grinder” LP. It contains 14 tracks that were initially recorded back in 2008, and then finished in 2011. These are considerably rawer than the “Canadian Horse” LP, and not surprisingly sound more inline with the many split 7″ recordings Archagathus were putting out around the late 2000’s.

“Coffee Grinder” contains the duo of Dan Ryckman and Joe Warkentin, with the former performing all instruments, and the latter supplementing the vocal department. Some of these songs, namely “Sad Together,” “Intelligible Happiness” and “Unrealistic Janitor” have appeared on previous recordings, and are possibly the earlier verisons of these songs. The other 11 tracks are exclusive to this release, with most of them getting the job done in a mere minute. Most of the songs revolve around fairly simple verse/chorus structures that pummel away between blast beats, polka-mince beats, and punky d-beats. This should not surprise anyone who are familiar with these guys.

Despite the simple structures and fairly predictable material, there’s no shortage of sick riffs, hooks, and nuances all around to keep it fresh and something worth coming back to. The longest track, “Functional Society System” actually has an intro that builds up for about the first half of the song. “Mince Bastard” provides a simple groove that makes it instantly likeable. The usage of all sorts of vocal styles also give these songs tons of character, which prove Warkentin’s value as a second vocalist on this record. Both guys can do tons of crazy things with their voices, and that’s been a strength of the countless projects both have done over the years.

As mentioned, this is a pretty raw affair, but it is earlier on in Archagathus’ career. I think it’s entirely listenable, and even genre appropriate, so it’s certainly not bad, but there’s things like a lack of crisp attack on the kick drum. The cymbals’ high end seems a little strange, and there’s guitar hums and feedback where most folks would just clean it up. All that adds into the charm of this record, and kind of feeds into the lore about how it was initially recorded a few years earlier before the band came back to it.

Out of all of Archagathus’ full lengths, this one is probably the hardest to come by, as it’s only been done in limited runs on vinyl and tape. It is their rawest of their four LPs (it does very clearly state “raw shit” on the cover!), but it’s one I come back to often because I usually prefer listening to their longer releases instead of going through a million 7″ splits, so I’m glad the band decided to dig these songs up and get them finished. If the early years of Archagathus interest you, this one is certainly worth hunting down, even if just digitally.


Misery Index/Commit Suicide split

Genre: Grindcore/Death Metal | Label: Willowtip Records
Location: Baltimore, Maryland/Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Listen: Bandcamp

Here we have a split between Baltimore’s Misery Index and Pittsburgh’s Commit Suicide. This is the second Misery Index release, and sees them adding a 2nd guitarist in Sparky Voyles (who also played in Dying Fetus with other MI members), meanwhile Commit Suicide had just released their debut album the same year of this split. Both bands fall in the realm of death metal, but one would kind of fade away to obscurity where the other continues to release music to this day. This split is now 20 years old and came out during the early days of both bands, and is still worth a listen.

As mentioned, Misery Index expanded to a quartet for this release after their debut EP came out the year prior. Out of the three songs here, two are originals and the other is a cover. The two originals are both short and fast grinders, having a little more punk influence shining through with some of it’s rhythmic approach and to the point structure. There’s still some intricate phrasing in their guitar riffs, as with the first few riffs in “My Untold Apocalypse.” Blast beats barrage away and give away to groovier double kick patterns. “Alive” features some simpler punk riffs in its verses as Jason Netherton barks away his grievances of slaving one’s life away. The Misery Index tracks finish up with a cover by the great d-beat/grind band Disrupt, and like with many early Misery Index releases, this cover turned me onto Disrupt. They absolutely kill this song and it fits really nice alongside their two originals.

Commit Suicide’s side of the split also contains two original tracks and a cover. They play a style that has a little more in common with brutal death metal, as they have chunky, palm muted power chords that plod atop blastbeats. In fact, “In All this Revelation” features a couple different blast beats the way through, and we’re not met with a single break between blasts until a third of the way through the next track. Once “With Not Distaste” comes back from its slow break, it features some quasi-quirky grooves typical of early 2000’s brutal death metal, before taking off into more blastbeats and chromatic tremolo riffs. It’s not the worst thing on earth, but I can’t say I’ve really ever been interested in busting out any of this band’s material for a long time. Their Death cover is at least pretty bad ass, and is an easy incentive to just listen through their two tracks just to get to the cover.

This split is an enjoyable listen, and I’ll probably always enjoy the Misery Index tracks. The Commit Suicide side (which rolls off the tongue awkwardly) is a decent affair of early 2000’s brutal death metal, and both bands do some really fantastic covers of seminal bands in their respective influences. The production on both sides reeks of the early 2000’s with its drum sound especially, but that’s to be expected, and it’s honestly not the worst example of it. Misery Index has had quite the career since this split, where as Commit Suicide terminated themselves at some point after releasing their sophomore album a couple years later. As mentioned in the “Overthrow” EP review for Misery Index, these non album tracks from their early years have been compiled on a CD by the band’s own label, and that’s certainly worth checking out.


Misery Index – Overthrow

Genre: Grindcore/Death Metal | Label: Anarchos Records
Location: Baltimore, Maryland | Listen: Bandcamp

At the time of writing this review, Baltimore’s Misery Index have just released their seventh full length, which is an impressive feat. As such, there’s no better time to take a look back at their discography, and here we have their debut release, the “Overthrow” EP. It features two former members of Dying Fetus (and a third alumni would join them long term immediately after this EP) playing death metal with some punk and grindcore influences throughout. I’m particularly keen on early Misery Index, and still quite enjoy this EP all these years later.

Misery Index’s general sound at this era has some things in common with Dying Fetus’ earlier material, which makes sense as bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton was an original member, and drummer Kevin Talley was his bandmate there too. So not only is there some familiarity in the vocals, but some of the elements of groove are similar. Misery Index makes use of some NYDM-esque chunky power chord grooves, which are certainly easy to get into, but they balance them out with a variety of other riff styles and rhythmic approaches. They’ll often do full out blastbeat sections with tremolo picked lines that get into some melodic territory, but there’s a tension in these melodies that makes these riffs sound razor sharp. Blistering double kicks and fast beats in general dominate the parts of the songs that aren’t grooving, and giving them their own unique character, and one that’s downright explosive.

Lyrically, Misery Index is more firmly rooted in grindcore, much like fellow east coast death/grinders Brutal Truth. Topics like consumerism, class war, power and control are at the forefront here, and they’re very well done. I’ve alawys adored Jason Netherton’s lyrical abilities, as he has lots to say, but uses language in a thoughtful way. There’s no need to get a dictionary, as he makes his points painfully clear with relatable metaphors of struggle and hardship. His vocal delivery is bold, powerful, yet easy enough to understand, and he’s able to create hooks throughout the songs quite effectively.

One of the only things I can complain about when it comes to this EP (and early Misery Index in general) is how it’s a victim of early 2000’s triggered drum production. Namely, the kicks sound very obviously triggered, but that’s pretty much the standard for 2001. Everything is loud and clear, but the guitars at least have a little bit of grime on them that it brings it back from to sounding too clinical.

Along with the four original songs presented on this EP, there’s also a cover of Terrorizer’s “Dead Shall Rise.” Funny enough, I ended up checking out Terrorizer because of this cover, and as such I think it’s a great rendition. It’s a nice lean 15 minutes, perfect for a band’s very first release, and certainly something that takes me back to my teenage years when I was getting into more extreme music. The tracks on “Overthrow” have been re-released on a compilation CD with several other of their EPs/splits, which is also a great way to enjoy these early Misery Index tracks.


Nyctophobic – War Criminal Views

Genre: Grindcore/Death Metal | Label: Morbid Records
Location: Germany | Listen: Bandcamp

Nyctophobic were a grindcore band from Germany who I seldom see mentioned, even among fans of the genre. They were active for 17 years before calling it quits, and released two full lengths in that time. Their debut from 1996, “War Criminal Views,” is a crushing display of death metal infused grindcore that is sure to appeal to fans of all the classics, as it has plenty in common with the likes of Agathocles, Brutal Truth, Napalm Death, Excruciating Terror, and especially their fellow German grinders, Blood.

Blood is clearly the most similar band to Nyctophobic, as they fuse together death metal riffs with grindcore structures, and they even shared members between the bands at one point (although this record contains no member connections to Blood). The songs don’t waste any time pummeling the listener with riff after riff. There’s some primitive grooves that come through the downtuned guitars, which is certainly reminiscent of what Excruciating Terror was doing at the same time over in America (both bands’ album covers are certainly reminiscent of each other too). They’ll throw these groovier parts in between primitive jackhammer blastbeats, which are usually played underneath simple tremolo picked death metal riffs.

Lyrically, Nyctophobic focuses on themes that are fairly common in grindcore – sociopolitical topics, anti-war, anti-racism, etc. This is certainly in line with Napalm Death, Agathocles, and Brutal Truth. Songs like “Responsiblities” get into some Napalm Death “FETO” territory with both the riffs and pacing, which is some god-tier grindcore as far as I’m concerned. Speaking of Brutal Truth, the way these lyrics are delivered certainly remind me of “Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses,” as they’ll layer in high pitched screams and low death growls at the same time, and the highs sound a lot like Kevin Sharpe does on that record. They also utilize some pitchshifting effects, which also draws comparison back to Agathocles. The dynamics in these vocals certainly translate into a good variety for these shorter songs.

The production is fairly on point for mid 90’s grindcore, especially with it’s distorted bass that sounds absolutely grimy. The drums sound somewhat raw, but in a very appropriate way. The snare doesn’t get lost in the blasting sections, nor does the kick. The way all these rumblings come together is again very much like Agathocles’ “Theatric Symbolisation of Life,” which they even go as far to cover the title track on that album, as if to tell unsuspecting listeners what to expect. There’s a lot of samples of dialogue throughout this record that kind of sets the tone with the lyrical themes. Sometimes they feel like they drag out a little too much, but that is only a minor complaint.

If you like grindcore that leans more into death metal, “War Criminal Views” is a necessary listen, and honestly should be mentioned in the same breath as the bands I’ve compared this record to. It’s a pretty straight forward record that has enough dynamics between blistering fast sections and groovier parts to drive it home. It’s a full 40 minutes too, which by modern grind standards is a bit long, but the way Nyctophobic utilizes the time makes it feel very complete.


Grave Infestation – Persecution of the Living

Genre: Death Metal | Label: Invictus Productions
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia | Listen: Bandcamp

Grave Infestation are a new band out of Vancouver, but the way they play death metal makes it sound like they’re from the depths of hell. These Canucks put out a pair of crushing demos in 2019 (which have been compiled on a compilation LP and released alongside this record), and needless to say, they made a strong impression on myself and many other death metal fans. For those unfamiliar with Grave Infestation, they contain three members of AHNA, and continue the absolutely sinister style of death metal that resulted in the former band’s apex album, “Crimson Dawn.” There’s a clear refinement of sound and vision here, as Grave Infestation eschews the punkier elements of their old band’s sound, and dives further into morbid death metal.

If you were hoping to hear the Sacrilege influences that were prominent in AHNA’s later material, those are not to be found here. This applies both to those thrashy style of riffs, and the vocals. Drummer Anju Singh focuses entirely on drums and leaves the vocal department entirely to guitarist Graham Christofferson, who has some deathly low growls and bestial snarls that are perfectly suited for what Grave Infestation is playing musically. However, there are certainly lots of elements from the members’ previous band that show up here. The overall tone is still very sinister and hellish, and this is achieved in a variety of ways. The lead guitar work is especially at the forefront of this, as reverb drenched guitar abuse is peppered throughout each song, sounding more like torture than any sort of virtuoso playing, and I mean that in the best way possible.

The ebb and flow of percussive approach here also really adds to the evil feeling of this record. There’s a certain primitiveness to the drums, as they aren’t flashy, but they give the needed velocity to the fast parts like in the beginning of “Plague of Crypts,” and can let the creepiness of the riffs shine through by opening up a bit like on “Slaughter, then Laughter”. Even just basic cymbal-kick shots like midway in the title track add so much power by doing something simple. They utilize blastbeats too, but go for the more primitive “goat blast” style that works very well with the style of riffs here. Really, at the end of the day, each individual piece of this record is relatively simple, but it is greater than the sum of its parts. Again, there’s no flashy embellishment on “Persecution of the Living,” and everyone works together to make each song vile.

Much like previous output by the members of this band, this record was recorded at Rain City Recorders by Jesse Gander, and he’s managed to make sense of this downtuned filth. Each instrument is easy to spot in the mix, but much like the songwriting, they come together to form something greater than the sum of their individual parts. The way the grimy bass backs the guitar creates such filthy torrent of sound, and again, this is something that these musicians have put to practice with their other bands like AHNA, Ceremonial Bloodbath, and Encoffinate. Seriously though, scope that bass tone in the break in the title track – when the guitars come back in, it’s really apparent how complementary all the tones are with each other.

Coming back to the previous demos, there are a couple re-recorded tracks from the second demo that appear at the end of this record – “Human Jigsaw Puzzle” and “Eternal Oblivion” – and then none from the first demo. These re-recordings sound as savage as ever, and fit right into the rest of the record. For those keeping score, that means six of the songs here are new, as the other two are just short intro/outro tracks. It clocks in at about 37 minutes which is an ideal length to digest such a dense and evil album.

I’m having a hard time finding other bands to compare this too, because although this is certainly in the vein of old school death metal without question, it doesn’t have any obvious influences up front. Surely there is some Autopsy influence with the creepy leads and doomier sections, but I feel like Grave Infestation has done a good job mixing things up and never feeling like a worship band in any regard. This just further strengthens the case that death metal fans just need to hear this record – it does everything death metal is supposed do, and delivers a range of killer riffs in a powerful package. If you loved AHNA’s progression towards death metal, Grave Infestation will surely satisfy.


Besieged – Violence Beyond All Reason

Genre: Death/Thrash Metal | Label: Unspeakable Axe
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba | Listen: Bandcamp

It’s been over a decade – 12 years to be exact – since Winnipeg’s Besieged has put out a full length. They put out a couple songs on a 7″ in 2015, but the band has been relatively quiet other than that over the last while. Finally, these Canadian thrashers have released their sophomore album (which is technically their third album if you count the scrapped debut from 2005), and fans of the band will not be disappointed. Their signature style of ripping thrash metal with a little bit of death metal brutality is displayed in full force on “Violence Beyond All Reason,” and does so in relentless fashion.

First and foremost, Besieged have not strayed away from what makes them great in the first place, and that’s providing an absolute onslaught of vicious riffs. The obvious comparison is Sepultura, specifically some hybrid “Schizophrenia” and “Beneath the Remains.” There’s plenty of other brutal thrash bands or death/thrash acts from that era that are probably also a huge influence on these guys, but you get the idea. Besieged waste no time on their latest offering, as there are very few moments for one to catch their breath. The drums might drop back for a moment with some quick guitar build up, such as in the intro of “Paragons of Brutality” but other than that, Besieged push the pedal to the floor as much humanly possible. This speed is coupled with some impressive finger dexterity in the riffs, as they twist and turn around intricate patterns that are easy enough to digest, but are clearly creative and well thought out in their construction. In simpler terms, this isn’t some copy cat worship record, and these riffs provide plenty to chew on.

The guitar work doesn’t stop with the riffs, as the lead playing further displays some fretboard wizardry throughout the record. Another thing I’ve always liked about Besieged is their inclusion of solos that sound like they’re right out of the 80’s thrash era. Dive bombs fly into complex runs with the utmost smoothness, and are further enhance with tasteful bends and the odd quick arpeggio. The lead guitar tone is exquisite. It cuts through the mix with ease, is full of life, and is a shining example of what a lead tone should sound like. It doesn’t feel overly drenched in any effects, but there’s certainly something there to give it a little extra texture, such as in “One World Coma,” and there seems to be a wah pedal present throughout a lot of the solos. Again, very much in line with its 80’s thrash influences, and is executed at a very high level.

The production is generally really great on this record, especially with the way the guitars and vocals are done. There are some tasteful vocal effects thrown in here and there, as well as double tracking to give them some extra power. The drums, however, aren’t as satisfactory to my ear, and for two reasons. First, the toms are very boxy sounding, and they stick out a little funny because of this. Second, the kicks are very clicky. This isn’t much of a problem for most of the record, but there’s some parts in “One World Coma” where the drums become the focal point, and the typewriter kicks become so apparent. Otherwise, the drum performance is just as ferocious as the riffs, and the interaction between the riffs and drums is what propels this record the whole way through.

Clocking in at a mere 26 minutes, the 7 songs on “Violence Beyond All Reason” is a lean affair with zero filler. It is a little disappointing that it’s not longer, especially considering how much time there’s been between albums. Of course, it’s always better to have quality over quantity, and Besieged excel when it comes to what matters. “Violence Beyond All Reason” is without a doubt a worthy follow-up to “Victims Beyond All Help,” and is almost as if the similar album titles is a clue that they haven’t deviated from what made them great in the first place. Fans of late 80’s death/thrash like Demolition Hammer, Incubus, Morbid Saint, and of course, Sepultura need to get this in their ears immediately!