Genre: Grindcore | Label: To Live A Lie
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba| Listen: Bandcamp
Bursting onto the international grind scene in the mid 2000’s, Winnipeg’s Archagathus fostered a cult following with a series of split 7″ records throughout the rest of that decade, including releases with better known names like Death Toll 80k, Unholy Grave, and Agathocles. Staring in 2010, the band started to put out recordings in the 12″ format, starting with “Atrocious Halitosis from Nauseated Disgorging” that year, and then “Coffee Grinder” in May of 2011 (which was initially recorded in 2008). These LPs are much more on the raw side of things, in contrast to “Canadian Horse,” which dropped a mere 3 months after “Coffee Grinder.” I’m not sure what the band considers their first proper full length, but it might as well be “Canadian Horse” as it displays their brand of mincecore with much more focused production and sound. As such, this LP is what I would recommend to any grindcore fan who hasn’t heard the band yet.
The core of Archagathus’ sound unsurprisingly comes from the great Belgian band, Agathocles. They play old school grindcore with a focus on simple songs and engaging lyrics. These songs usually revolve around a relatively simple punk riff that gets backed by a polka-thrash beat, until it inevitably crescendos into the expected blastbeats and d-beats. With such a basic approach, Archagathus’ strength lays in their ability to construct each song with catchy/powerful riffs that never overstay their welcome, all while contributing to the infectious momentum of the record. These 17 songs last a mere 23 minutes, so there is no time wasted on bringing forth quality riffs, and the overall performances are really tight.
The Prince of Mince, also known as Dan Ryckman, performs the main instruments on here, and does so with a high degree of tightness and skill. There’s no time to show off in these songs, but it’s very clear that Dan can play, and play at a high level he does. He is not alone on this recording, as he is joined by his usual partner in crime, Joe Warkentin, who contributes vocals and guitar as well. Between the two, they employ quite a range of vocal styles. I’ve touched on this with previous Archagathus reviews, but this really helps establish a much needed dynamic across this record. There are moans, yells, screams, growls, gurgles, and all sorts of crazy vocal sounds coming out of these two grind freaks. Furthermore, their efforts are aided by guest vocalist Sébastien Dionne of Dahmer on a few tracks.
One of the things that really sets this apart from Archagathus’ discography is the quality of the production. Much of the previous Archagathus discography is appropriately raw for mince/grindcore, but there was obviously much more focus going into making a great sounding record with this full length. Dan has done a lot of killer recordings for bands in Winnipeg, and it’s easy to see why with the results of “Canadian Horse.” The drums are impactful and clear with no distracting tones, and the guitar and bass occupy their own space and sound nice and heavy. They’ve had some excellent sounding records since the release of “Canadian Horse,” but this one certainly feels like a benchmark for excellence.
As I mentioned, there are a lot of catchy moments throughout this record. Songs like “Brain: Dead?” with it’s roaring vocal patterns and blastbeat-backed riffs are hard to ignore, and the punky feel of tracks like “Sexy Grinder” are just so easy to get into. There’s an infectious bounce due to the polka beats used throughout, such as “Fuck the System,” which of course contains some pretty easy to catch lyrics that stick. The album’s closing track, “The Night Wolf,” also contains some insane vocals, and it’s Autopsy-esque doom intro gives it that extra little bit of something unique to make it stand out on the record that much more. Each track has something to grab onto, these are just some of examples of the stand out moments to me.
I really can’t say enough good things about this record, and it’s been on constant rotation for me since I first discovered Archagathus a couple years after this album’s release. I honestly think this band is one of the best Canadian punk/grind/metal bands, and I’d easy rank them at the top along with bands like Six Brew Bantha and Massgrave. Everything about “Canadian Horse” hits just right, from its improved recording, to its tight performances and killer songwriting. I’d even go as far to say that these guys are objectively better than Agathocles, with whom the basis of their sound is formed from. Their discography is pretty huge at this point, so it’s quite a daunting task to know where to start, so again, I would highly recommend this as a starting point as it just does everything right when it comes to grindcore.