It’s been seven years since the last Leng Tch’e album, 2010’s Hypomanic, and since no original members remained even for that one – longtime mainman Sven du Caluwe having departed after 2007’s Marasmus – truthfully, I’d figured they’d just sort of drifted off and faded away. Which was a bit of a bummer, because when Leng Tch’e was good, they were quite good (see: ManMadePredator, The Process Of Elimination), and even when they weren’t at their best, they still brought some fun groove to their grinding. Their last two weren’t as strong as what came before – it seemed as though they’d settled down into a bit of a rut, plying their trade and doing it well, but not advancing their aesthetic…
But I guess they’re not done yet, because here they are, back again with a “new” drummer (who joined six years ago) and an album titled after their own self-coined term for their particular brand of groovy grindcore. And I guess they’re trying to climb out of that rut, because Razorgrind adds several new elements to the band’s sound.
Release date: August 25th, 2017. Label: Season Of Mist.
“Gundog Allegiance” hits the ground blasting, with Razorgrind’s sharpest grinding, before dipping into one of those signature Tch’e grooves. The punky “Indomitable” follows, and leads into the killer call-and-response verse of “Cibus,” and there’s when Razorgrind takes a quick but abrupt left. About forty seconds into “Cibus,” Leng Tch’e drops into a post-thrash almost-clean chorus – it’s one of those new additions to the band’s repertoire, and likely the least interesting one, since it falls in some nebulous ground between old-school Pantera bro-down and newer Napalm Death experimentalism, but I’m not sure it works as well as either. It’s not that it’s bad, per se, but it pushes the song toward some nu-metal-meets-melodic-thrash territory that I’d rather leave unexplored. Thankfully, this is a grindcore record, so any ideas are exploited and immediately discarded, and so it’s gone before it overstays any significant amount of welcome.
Further modern-Napalm dissonant experimentation arrives in the crush-groove of “Spore,” and again in “Stentor Of Doom,” although both are integrated a little more seamlessly than earlier, and the two are separated by the blistering “AnarChristic.” “The Red Pill” rocks a punk rock tempo, replete with a shout-along chorus, and “Species Path Extinction” follows suit, both of those far more about the groovy than the grindy. And… is… is that a keyboard on the intro to “Guinea Swine”? It certainly sounds like it, adding an eerie weirdness to a straightforward basher – and it shows up again on the outro, just to hammer it home. The seven-minute “Magellanic Shrine” closes, its riffing jagged and sharp, its tempo never rising above a purposeful drive, and all of it showing a more adventurous spirit, even if it’s one that doesn’t quite add up.
The basis of Razorgrind is still Leng Tch’e’s trademark style – these grooves are deep and wide, knuckle-dragging but not entirely dumbed down, custom made for the mosh pits. Kudos to them for trying new things, but personally, after all this, I’d like to have more of the grinding of yesteryear, versus this uber-groovy modern approach. Ultimately, for all of Razorgrind’s self-described attempts at sharpness, it mostly attempts to bludgeon via groove. Sharp it isn’t – it’s a blunt instrument, more club than razor, and what differences it inserts, only a few stand out for the better.
At the end of the day, there’s no doubt that Razorgrind won’t unseat the first three Leng Tch’e albums as my favorite of their offerings, nor any after as a follow-up. The production is strong and stout – the guitars are appropriately sharp and carving, and vocalist Serge Kasongo’s bellow is fearsome, but nothing really coalesces into anything special. Longtime fans will easily find more than enough to love in the likes of “Gundog Allegiance” and “AnarChrist,” no matter their opinion on the band’s attempts to shake up their sound. The rest of us will likely find Razorgrind a step backward, an attempt to catch some middle ground between groove and grind that falls in the netherworld between either and loses something in the process.