This is Not a Threat, It's a Promise
posted on 11/2010 By:
In their twenty-five-year existence, Belgian grind act Agathocles has amassed a truly staggering release catalog—their Metal Archives entry lists more than 200 titles, from demos to LPs to copious split releases to compilations of those copious splits. That’s an average of over eight records per year, in case you don’t want to do the math. Founding and only constant Agathocles member Jan Frederickx (often referred to under the nom de grind “Jan AG”) has coined the term “mincecore” to describe the band’s take on grindcore—simple riffs, gnarly and distorted bass, sociopolitical lyrics, dual high-and-low screamed vocals, prominent d-beat / noise / crust influences, raw (sometimes unlistenable) production, more-than-slight sloppiness in the playing… Agathocles’ mission statement is pretty much to keep grindcore steady in its simplest, rawest form. The problem with that is that the results aren’t always…well…terribly good.
So those familiar with the traditional mincecore sound will know exactly what to expect from This Is Not A Threat, although Agathocles does throw one twist into the mix— “God Save The Real Green Crocodile” incorporates upbeat rhythms and brief reggae clean vocals. As expected, most of This is true to the band’s ethos; it’s the same fuzzed-out, simplistic grinding that Agathocles has been peddling for a quarter of a century. Although by Agathocles standards This is Bob-Rock-meets-Brendan-O’Brien polished, the production is a mixed bag still, with a tinny ratatat snare drum (boo!) and thick wall-of-fuzz guitars and bass that are still sharper and less fuzzed than many earlier efforts (a small hurrah!). Per usual, Jan’s vocals are mostly a deep guttural, but he deviates into the occasional chattering higher turn or hardcore bark to add some limited variety. The songs range from a few 3-minute near-epics (“Aside,” the unexpectedly melodic “Crocodile,” the midtempo “Motherfucker”, all three among the best on hand) to many more short bursts of noise-indebted grind—no surprises there, either…
I’m by no means well versed in all of Agathocles’ releases—with eight or more per year, who but Jan AG himself could be? But I’ve got two of the four Mince Core History compilations and a few other scattered offerings, and I’ve heard enough to know that there’s better Agathocles and there’s far, far worse. Mostly, their catalog is overwhelming, and yet strangely it’s not because, even as there’s a ridiculous amount of it, it’s interchangeable and internally redundant. My most recent attempt to wade in was 2006’s Mincer, a disc I found to be mildly enjoyable but mostly uninspiring, and This follows suit.
Four hundred words later, this review can be summed up in five more: This is an Agathocles record. It sports a few decent “mincing” tracks (“More Patches Than Brains,” “Black Tea,” those listed above) amongst stretches of redundancy (everything else). This Is Not A Threat may be on the better side of the Agathocles quality spectrum, but it’s still one-dimensional, repetitive, basic, and as such, it’s true to Agathocles’ form. Even as a dedicated fan of most things grinding, all but the highest highs of this band’s unadventurous, often under-produced canon wears on me after a short while (sometimes a very short while)—largely, it’s the equivalent of some basement-level necro-kvlt black metal project, but with shorter songs and less pagan trollery. Still, 200-plus records later, somebody somewhere must like this one trick, so I suppose, when it comes to This, those fans will be content but not ecstatic; the curious (indeed, all but the rabid) should approach with reservations.
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