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Agathocles and Satanic Malfuctions Split

by Matt Hensch

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I feel like I'm on the outside looking in whenever I experience grindcore. Not that I long for its gods to drown in an unrelenting stream of the Hershey squirts, but there is some intangible component to the sound that leaves me watching the Pig Destroyers and the Napalm Deaths despondently through a window as they sit around a toasty fire in their Christmas sweaters between bouts of paroxysms in which they spaz out for forty-two seconds. Nevertheless, I like to dip my hand into the questionable orifice that is grindcore from time to time. This split holds sixteen tunes-nine by Belgium's Agathocles; seven from Satanic Malfunctions of the UK-which run up to just a hair above nineteen minutes. It's a nice little burst of spastic stuff that shows a surprising amount of variety between its two participants.

Agathocles is more of a quintessential grindcore band than not. Calling its style 'mincecore,' though I'm not smelling any onions or bits of garlic here, the group has done just fine trucking out numerous minor releases since 1985 with a few full-length records here and there. Despite a lack of popularity among the metal crowd compared to Napalm Death et al., there is little here that would indicate lesser quality or concerns thereabouts. The nine tracks Agathocles presents are heavy on blast beats and punk-flavored riffs, broiled over a robust bass-heavy sound quality and guttural yelps. These songs run for under a minute, usually, and during their handful of cuts there is an archetypal aura of old-school grindcore, nothing more. No keyboards, no violins, no surprises; just grindcore cooked to order. It's fun and heavy, abrupt and belligerent-little else is needed.

Satanic Malfunctions was completely foreign to me before I heard this. Apparently a cult hardcore punk act from the UK with a knack for dabbling in grindcore and metal influences, they split up for a long time, reformed, released new stuff. The hardcore punk inclinations are clear as day in the guitar tone, which definitely has that punky bite. But the grindcore elements are obvious: blast beats are constant, and the riffing style tends to emulate the guitar parts found on Agathocles' side. Their tunes are a bit more focused and notable, however. I found myself enjoying them despite my lingering frame of mind reminding me that the punk sound and its subgenres make me feel even more isolated from its family get-together than the annual grindcore shindig. Again, solid stuff.

I thought my interest would be fairly lopsided in favor of Agathocles, but both bands give equal performances to make this split a winner. Neither group makes a case to be outrageously bold, nor do the songs throw a creative curveball at the listener, but the substance is here, and nothing else matters.

Agathocles and Satanic Malfuctions Split
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