It’s difficult to believe on listening to Memory Theater, the sophomore effort from the New England grindcore/powerviolence (their own words) quartet Escuela Grind, that the band have only one other full-length album in their pocket already. They’ve released a handful of EPs in the last couple of years, each more violent than the last, but Memory Theater takes those well-crafted cues and slices of raw fury and runs with them to create an album that defines what the grindcore genre is about.
It starts fierce and never stops being, the one-two punch of openers “Endowed With Windows” and “My Heart, My Hands” delivering the sort of harsh hardcore kickstart that will knock you on your ass but keep you coming back for more. They thrash and jump from note to note with an unbridled sense of freedom but without ever feeling like there’s too much empty space diluting the mix; the songs roll into one another with relentless brutality but are still clear and identifiable from the start to the end of each track. That sense of individual identity in the face of absolute chaos is another big part of what makes Memory Theater such an incredibly strong showing.
Lead vocalist Katerina Economou growls and screams with an inhumanly sustained intensity throughout, blasting through tracks like “Strange Creature of Nothingness” and “All Is Forgiven” like she’d sooner die than stop. Combined with the cacophonous drum work and the fitting, smash and grab guitars the experience borders on the surreal at times, like you can’t quite wrap your brain around what you’re hearing.
It all peaks with “Forced Collective Introspection,” a beast of a number that will rattle the brain right out of your head. It shrieks through its runtime in a blur of whirling sound like a hurricane full of house bricks and will leave you similarly battered and bruised coming out of the other side. It’s a frankly disgusting force of nature that I promise you have to submit yourself to at least once.
Clocking in at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it twenty-one minutes, Memory Theater knows just how much room it has to swing its fists and still does so with a wild abandon bordering on insanity. Ferocious doesn’t cover it; this is a record built on a foundation of relentless aggression and intense violence. It’s got that metallic hardcore groove right through the soul of it, which adds an interesting layer of complexity to what might have otherwise been undefinable chaos and further proves that Escuela Grind are destined to be flag-bearers for the modern grindcore scene. Don’t go into this one without someone to pick you up off the ground afterwards.