Seattle, WA’s Theories released a killer split last year with Wake, who are a personal favorite band of yours truly. And guess what- you didn’t read about it here, because my lazy ass didn’t do any scribbling about it when it came out. If I am going to allow myself one regret in life, it’s going to be not bringing that gem to the surface any sooner than now, as both sides of said split embody what the spirit of grind is—unrest. Now, this ain’t some kind of grind lecture, young’un—just know that said unrest can take many forms. From the succinct elegance of Discordance Axis to the near directionless squabble of Pigsty, grind doesn’t necessarily need to adhere to any particular trope outside of the blast beat to succeed.
It’s now been nearly a year since that split, and Theories has found itself aligned with Metal Blade, who aren’t exactly known for their stable of grind classics. This is probably to the benefit of an album like Regression, to be able to stick out like a sore thumb on a primarily DM label as opposed to going largely unnoticed on, say, a Willowtip or a Selfmadegod. This album is a bit of an expansion of what Theories has done in the past, but not any shift in direction. That is to say, it’s the same knife, just sharper. The drums are ultra-crisp—that snare sounds like a pistol being fired in an empty hangar. And that’s not some bullshit metaphorical hyperbole, either. Paramount to the success of any grind album is a snare that doesn’t sound like shit, and this snare delivers. It’s captivating. As a matter of fact, the first draft of this review was about the snare sound on this album. It was almost 1100 words.
But, since this is Last Rites and not Snare Drum Quarterly, let’s dive into some of these tracks. There are tinges of death metal all over the edges of Regression. “Burnt Concrete” mixes up some blazing one-footed blasts with just the right amount of double-bass rolling and little tech-y florets to keep the proceedings moving forward as a song and not a repetitive idea that could have been a song. It’s a nice touch that the members of the band had the forethought to bail each other out like that on a song-to-song basis—“Cycle of Decay” runs the risk of becoming bland before some nice lows are added to the normal mid-high range of vocalist Rick Powell. “Swimming In Mud” swoops in with a super-unsavory riff courtesy of Lee McGlothlen just as the typical grindage on the album previous becomes just that. Things don’t stay too fast or too slow for too long at any point, which means things never get too comfortable or settle in.
To a grind connoisseur, that is the sweet spot, and Regression hits it admirably. Theories is a band that knows how to let an idea form, shape it, and then kill it in lieu of sewing odd parts together without envisioning what the final form will be. These are songs AND grind at the same time, and that’s what puts this one on a pedestal amongst not only other grind bands at the current, but also their tech-ier, death-ier labelmates. Sleep on this at your own peril.