As my compatriot Mr. Hotz mentioned in his recent write-up of Cloud Rat’s latest, 2022 has been a hell of a year for grindcore. In addition to that Cloud Rat, we’ve been blessed with new ragers from the likes of Human Cull, Antigama, Whoresnation, Deterioration, Suffering Mind, No/Mas, Jack, Triac, Pharmacist, Days Of Desolation, Putrefaction Sets In… and we can unequivocally add this newest Escuela Grind to that list of killers.
Opening with the fist-swinging crush of “Endowed With Windows,” Memory Theater hits the ground stomping, with a stuttering chug that seems custom-made for smashing any windows with which one may be endowed. “My Heart, My Hands” picks up to a blasting pace, with a mid-song shift to more chunky chords and an undeniable groove within the frantic crashing. As Memory Theater progresses, it’s readily apparent that Escuela Grind has focused on the groovier aspect of their style, building in even more of the hidden hooks that haunted Indoctrination – and it’s important to note that that focus on swagger is certainly not to the detriment of the whole, though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, with the groovier elements (and a razor-sharp production courtesy of Converge mainstay Kurt Ballou) adding further punch to the band’s already knockout combination of death/grind/punk. Tracks like the ripping “Cliffhanger” are pummeling and yet irresistibly hooky – I dare you to try not to get caught in the moshworthy closing, with vocalist Katerina Economou screaming “don’t push me / ‘cause I’m close to the edge.”
Memory Theater’s strengths are myriad. The songwriting is tightened up, impeccably arranged and eschewing any sidesteps – like the eleven-minute noise exploration that dominated the back side of Indoctrination – in favor of laser-focused straight-up ass-kicking death/grind. The production is perfect, sharp and clear without sacrificing an ounce of the band’s inherent power, from the taut thickness of Kris Morash’s guitar to the bite of Economou’s bark. Hell, even the artwork is a massive level-up, done by Andrew Tremblay, and born of an overall concept that takes Indoctrination’s sociopolitical bent, the failures and foibles of modern life, and hones in on the internal reaction to those.
All of the above adds up to a relatively young band that has found its groove, both figuratively and sometimes literally, a promising outfit delivering on that promise several times over with a relentless ripper of a record. Ticking off every box, from the visceral to the cerebral, from the inexplicably catchy to the inhospitably angry, Memory Theater is a smashing good time, and one of the best of the batch of one of grindcore’s greatest years in a while.