MNRK Heavy
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Ball and Chain
02. Punishment Ritual
03. Abyssal Plane
04. Meat Magnet (featuring NAPALM DEATH's Barney Greenway)

New England's ESCUELA GRIND unleash the third installment of the band's EP series exploring the extreme genres that most directly influenced them, "DDEEAATTHHMMEETTAALL", which follows up 2020's "GGRRIINNDDCCOORREE" and "PPOOWWEERRVVIIOOLLEENNCCEE". With a runtime under 14 minutes, divided into four songs, the band's homage to death metal is as immediate and impactful as it needs to be. And as brief as the EP is, it's further proof that ESCUELA GRIND is one of the most exciting and important younger acts in extreme metal.

The intentionally casual, playful spelling of the EP titles underscores the jovial spirit that is fundamental to the quartet's identity. Drummer Jesse Fuentes habitually engages with crowds, prompting call-and-response bellows of "Poo! Poo!" met with "Pee! Pee!" But this humorous side starkly contrasts ESCUELA GRIND's serious nature. This nature is steeped in sociopolitical commentary and social liberalism that's very much in line with the ethos of grindcore. It's also slammed in your face by vocalist Katerina Economou's impassioned conversations with audiences. It should be of little surprise that the morbidity of death metal has also influenced the unit, considering, for example, NAPALM DEATH's passion for the genre as well — the grind godfathers having drawn from the well of DEATH, MASSACRE and others. NAPALM recently brought the American upstarts out on tour in Europe, and frontman Barney Greenway guests on the blistering album closer "Meat Magnet", trading vocals with Economou in a way that seems as though two lions are attacking together.

There's a decidedly new school approach to ESCUELA GRIND's take on death metal, however. This EP's songs are replete with modern metallic hardcore breakdowns. Opener "Ball and Chain" is a knuckle-dragging barrage of chunky death metal that moves forth like a massive woolly mammoth. "Punishment Ritual" follows showcasing the ensemble's impressive ability to dramatically shift gears between slow, chunky metallic beef and spitfire, blasting grind chaos.

Katerina Economou's vocal delivery is just as aggressive as her cadence is burly. It's far more menacing than stereotypical brutal death metal vocalists who sound as fierce as vacuum cleaners. Economou is open about the lyrics staying true to the common death metal tropes of violence. What's notable, though, is that she vomits her words out with an overtly feminine perspective.

Perhaps the EP is the best of the trio because the songs have been tested and refined live. Economou, Fuentes, guitarist Kris Morash and bassist Tom Sifuentes prove themselves to be one of the guiding lights of modern extreme music. "DDEEAATTHHMMEETTAALL" is a more potent slab of sonic extremity than what you're likely to hear from most death metal this year. It may not be as guttural nor as fast as the brutal death metal band du jour. Who cares? None of those things matter when the music is this intense and memorable.

Author: Jay H. Gorania
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