I’ve always thought Agoraphobic Nosebleed and KISS™ were eerily similar.
Actually, that’s not at all true. I’ve never once thought that.
Well, not until now.
In KISS™ fashion, ANb’s 2016 release schedule includes a solo EP from each of the four primary members, of which Arc is the first. This three-song short player is the Kat Katz installment, and as you’ve likely read by now, without the Agoraphobic Nosebleed name attached to it up front, I’d bet that, based upon listening, none of you would think to put it there. Arc falls closer to Katz’ pre-Agoraphobic work in DC-area doom band Salome, and a more-than-fair distance from ANb’s usual hyperactive cybergrinding psycho circus.
Yet, once ANb fans get over the initial shock of hearing what amounts to a completely different band with the same name, then the open-minded among them will find Arc to be a fine slab of sludgy doom. Of course, Scott Hull can write a riff like an ace – that’s been proven repeatedly. Those like these in the swaggering “Not A Daughter” are the kind that 80% of the Nola scene would kill to compose. The swinging bluesy bit after the breakdown would fit on a Down record, a Pepper Keenan dream riff come to life; parts of “Deathbed” could feature in a first-class Crowbar tune…
And sure, the riffs are killer, but yet, even with that, this is ultimately a solo effort: Arc is Katz’ show, and she dominates wholly. Her scream is front and center, her words cutting straight to the heart. Lyrically, Arc is inspired by Katz’s mother’s struggle with schizophrenia and cancer, the latter of which claimed her life. So Arc’s tunes are nothing if not overwhelmingly personal. “I am nobody; not a daughter, my face empty”; “Forgive me; on your deathbed” – there’s more, and none of it I’m really qualified to interpret any further than upon a superficial level. I don’t know Katz, and can only imagine her situation. I only know that whatever confusion/frustration/anger she had to inevitably feel while dealing with all of that is, in turn, translated through her performance here. It feels like catharsis, emotional release, and it’s for the better for Arc, and hopefully for her.
In the end, no one’s going to confuse Arc with Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope or Agorapocalypse, not in 100,000 years. Hell, half the band isn’t even here – neither Jay Randall nor Richard Johnson appear at all. But still, comparable or not at all, Arc is as well done as anything they’ve released, and in some ways, far more direct. Arc was birthed in struggle, in raw emotion, and the result is suitably intense, and in the world of Agoraphobic Nosebleed, intensity is what matters most. It may be one person’s intensity, versus that of four or more, but it’s no less devastating.
Therein lies the beauty of the solo album, even one released under the band’s umbrella – everybody gets a shot at personal expression, but it had better at least equal the norm. Arc may not sound like the Agoraphobic Nosebleed you know and (should) love, but yet it’s (mostly) the same band and it’s delivered with the same unrelenting resolve. It’s viciously sincere and sincerely vicious, a violently enjoyable sidebar until Katz and her cohorts get back in the ANb groove.
Let’s hope the other three EPs are as strong as this one, no matter what band they sound like.