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Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc

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John Cougar Mellencamp probably didn’t have Agoraphobic Nosebleed in mind when he wrote “Hurts So Good,” but the notion feels apropos applied to the sludgy, emotional heft that is Arc. The first of four EPs to showcase each band member’s individual influences and ideas, Arc showcases vocalist Kat Katz (ex-Salome) taking a departure from ANb’s usual frantic grind and hilariously irreverent subject matter. In “Deathbed,” Katz wails “On your deathbed / Forgive me” over and over, while Scott Hull’s Cathedral-meets-COC riffs chug along until they give way to an audio sample of a hospital patient explaining how the crisis intervention center didn’t have a spot for him.

“Dick To Mouth Resuscitation” this is not.

Hull’s musical talent has been well documented, but it deserves special mention here as it’s a big leap from Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s usual dynamic. Pig Destroyer has dabbled in doom and sludge over the years on the Natasha album and the Mass & Volume EP, but Arc is Hull’s most focused take on the style. “Not A Daughter” and “Deathbed” delve deep into Crowbar and Eyehategod’s discographies, with every F.O.A.D. riff catchier and heavier than the one before it.

Hull deftly avoids The Boring Zone: that area around the six-minute mark when a band will change things up and hold the listener’s interest, or stay in the rut of a groove and give up. Above all ANb sound comfortable, and while the personnel involved may have plenty of experience with this style in previous bands, it’s evidence to their talent and acumen that Arc sounds like an entry from a career doom outfit.

“Gnaw” comes out of left field compared to the first two tracks: bathed in feedback with a guitar line right from the Buzzov*en playbook, then slowly giving way to a noisy Godflesh dirge. The drum programming, bouncy and swinging in the previous two songs, becomes a factory press of cold efficiency for almost 12 minutes. ANb is a band that has always deserved praise but never quite required anyone to take them seriously. If Arc is indicative of a new direction, that’s going to change. It’s harsh, even depressing, but damn if it doesn’t hurt so good.

—Chris Rowella

Arc is out this Friday on Relapse Records. Follow Agoraphobic Nosebleed on Facebook and on Twitter at @agoraphobicnb.

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