The Age Of Dumb
posted on 8/2012 By:
Afgrund’s straightforward Scandinavian death-infected grindcore offers little in the way of stylistic diversion from the path laid forth by the likes of Nasum and Rotten Sound, but it more than compensates for its second-wave nature through the time-honored tradition of skull-crushing kick-assery. The Age Of Dumb is the band’s third full-length record, their second for Willowtip, and their first with Finnish guitarist Olli Nokalla and Austrian vocalist Armin Schweiger. (Only one member remains from the band's debut.) Though it’s stylistically in line with the band’s previous efforts, The Age Of Dumb is simply sharper, markedly better, an improvement upon the already solid pummeling set forth on 2009’s Vid Helvetats Grindar.
How Afgrund achieves said kick-assery is through both sheer power and quality of songwriting, which, in terms of the latter, when you’re talking about a band that trades in the former, in blastbeats and mostly one-minute stabs of screaming and pounding, really translates to “through memorable riffs and a mastery of patching together those riffs into effective one-minute stabs of screaming and pounding.” Like grindcore’s best purveyors, Afgrund knows how to write actual songs in the midst of the chaos, how to place a catchy riff atop their relentless blasting and beneath their throat-shredding screaming. They know how to keep their grind moving while it's simultaneously embedding itself in the listener’s brain. Tracks like “Bureaucrap,” “H.A.A.R.P.Y.” and “The War On Drugs” benefit from actual hooks, screamed choruses and discernible riffs that are damn near guaranteed to get you up and moving. Also, like grindcore’s best purveyors, Afgrund knows that full-tilt is not the only way to travel, and they’re smart enough to break up the pounding and chuck in a down-shift into thrashy grooviness (the tail end of “The Life And Death Of A Broiler,” the end of "The Carrier" ) or even a brief flirtation with near-doom trudge (the killer intro to “He Who Plants Sorrow,” which is a late-entry contender for the album’s best riff, even as it’s a total break from the remainder of the disc).
In fact, so great is Afgrund’s compositional skill that many of these riffs are stellar and yet seem casually tossed-off, in both the sense of "effortlessly conceived" and that of "wantonly discarded." It’s as if Afgrund is so confident in their riff-writing skills (and rightfully so) that they’re saying, “Oh, yeah? Check out this killer thrashing part right at the end of ‘Broiler.’ You like that? Yeah? We’re just gonna show you that for a bit. We’ll do it for, like, ten seconds and then never come back to it. We know we could’ve written an entire song around that riff, or at the very least, cycled through it again because it absolutely shreds. But, y'know, we just don’t feel like it. We’ll come up with another, better riff here in a minute, so hang tight…”
Dumb’s production is perfectly destructive – the guitar tone is meaty and hints towards buzzsaw without ever dipping into Stockholm retread; the bass is a distorted furnace-blast beneath; and the drums are punchy, crisp and stout. Schweiger’s vocals mostly stick to a midrange hardcore-esque screaming, with occasional dips into a deathier approach to provide color. Lyrically, these tracks tackle the expected targets -- mostly corporate greed and the influence of money and religion, as if the album art wasn't a clear enough indication of the content. Of the eighteen songs on hand, only one stretches above two minutes (the aforementioned slow-down of “Sorrow”), and most fall closer to the one-minute mark. But then again, what did you expect? This is Swedish grindcore from the Book Of Talarczyk, and as mentioned, it doesn’t break from the norm except through its absolute mastery of the style.
In all of grinding, there are few bands that hit as hard as those of the Scandinavian school, the Nasums and the Rotten Sounds, and Afgrund has long been standing right in the shadow of those masters. Though it's not a new spin on anything, The Age Of Dumb is undeniably brilliantly executed. Through improved songwriting and some fresh blood bringing the goods, Dumb pushes Afgrund out of the realm of mere high-quality copycat and up to the next level. This one’s easily one of the best grind records I've heard all year, a shoe-in for a spot on my year-end list, and a grand effort from a band that is really hitting its stride. Highly recommended.
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