By Max Kyburz
If a powerviolence album makes me want to throw my laptop across the room and punch the air until my arm’s a noodle, it’s done its job. And On & On, the newest split release from Despise You and Agoraphobic Nosebleed, makes my yawns drown out the yells.
For the first time in nearly ten years, Despise You is back with new material. So that they may nurse their die-hard fan base’s bated breath, these vets crank out eighteen rounds of abbreviated fury in about seventeen minutes. With no time to waste, Despise You jumps right in with “Bereft.” By kicking into high gear the first time around, they wave the “We’re Back” banner proudly. Spirits seem high for the first few tracks, but “Roll Call” marks the first error.
While the gravelly lead vocals fit perfectly, backup vocalist Lucita Perez sounds like an eight-year-old cartoon boy selling newspapers on the corner. It ruins potentially great tracks like “Painted Gray.” Resuscitation occurs once they go all 1980’s So-Cal on your ass with the unimaginatively titled “Fear’s Song,” their rendition of Fear’s “I Don’t Care About You.” It’s another case of when a band can play fast and furiously, but will still have you saying “next…next…next” until it’s all over.
They close with the three and a half minute “Cedar Ave.,” where they mistakenly slow down rather than end on a high note. You wait hoping it’ll turn into a blast-beat, but alas. It’ll have you searching your iTunes for Dropdead or Charles Bronson faster than the song finishes.
With reunion-mediocrity-blues weighing you down, you turn to the Agoraphobic Nosebleed side for solace. Though they’re primarily known for their brevity (their 2003 album Altered States of America flung out 99 tracks in under 20 minutes), their recent releases toy with structure and length.
Their opener, “Half-Dead,” is a stoner theme, taking their cues from Despise You’s sludgy finale. Proving they’re no sissies, “As Bad As It Is” returns to the typical ANb form: hellbound-stallion beats all done on a drum machine, wrist-straining riffs and vocals that sound like they’re being administered by a misanthropic poet. ANb guitarist/head honcho delivers a ripping solo before J.R. leads a chorus of “On and on and on, until we’re all dead and gone.”
The follow-up “Miscommunication” encompasses the speeds of the first two, and “Los Infernos” rips in relentless fashion. The penultimate “Possession” is by far the most mature sounding track on the album, sending 80’s thrash and hardcore tropes on a wild ride. As Despise You did with their side, ANb ends with a sluggish, anti-climactic outro, but the vocals by female vocalist Katherine Katz (whose doom-metal chops were recognized for her other band Salome) makes it work.
Though Agoraphobic Nosebleed is on the nose, they hardly break any new ground. They combined elements of past releases without taking into account the one thing stopping them from being great: live drums. It doesn’t matter how fast your drum-machine produced beats sound, they’ll never sound as good as raw, organic percussion. But, hey, if they want to spend their entire run sounding like T-2000s on coke, so be it.
Sadly, And On and On never reaches the freshness of either band’s oldest material, nor does it live up to their magnificently expansive Agorapocalypse from 2009. There are likable parts to both sides, but most of it ends up sinking like a stone.