Agathocles – Theatric Symbolisation Of Life

Agathocles, as far as mainstream observation goes, still languishes in the blissful obscurity of the underground grindcore scene, despite a number of releases scientifically referred to as ‘a fuck ton’.  Still, Agathocles has managed to cultivate a fairly large and dedicated fanbase of people who own at least a FEW of their seemingly endless stream of splits and the very, very occasional full-length.  This is where most people are probably introduced to the band: their first full-length CD, ‘Theatric Symbolisation Of Life’.  I picked it up for $5 at a local grind show and I can’t say I regret it; there’s over 70 minutes of music and it’s all pretty good, although it tends to wear thin after you listen to so much of it.

If you haven’t heard them, Agathocles is one of THE archtypical oldschool grindcore bands.  Early on they played the purest of pure crust/grindcore, but on this release you can hear them poking around with death and doom elements as well, a tendency that followed them throughout their career.  Like many Agathocles full-lengths, this is composed of both new material recorded specifically for this album as well as songs from a bunch of their earlier 7″ EPs and splits.  As you can expect, the production for the former tracks is much, much better than the latter, and is surprisingly good all around, especially by early grindcore standards.  It’s clear and full but retains the natural noisiness and chaos of this variety of music, as it should.

Nine tracks of newly recorded material open the album, and they’re pretty vicious: thundering grindcore anthems played by instrumentalists who are still not entirely sure of themselves, resulting in that oldstyle, well, grind that so many modern grindcore bands lack due to click tracks and an ability to play their instruments.  This is the primordial ooze of grindcore, though, with tendrils of crust still dripping off in the form of d-beats and coarsely roared vocals.  The death and doom influences are subtle but profound: more coherent and grooving riffs come from the former and slow tempos and occasionally epic structuring stem from the latter, making this a great deal more complex than an ‘average’ grindcore disc, despite having much in common with that archtype.  To say that this was likely an influence on what we see in modern grindcore would probably not be far off base; this is just a very primitive version of what we’re hearing today in the modern death/grind bands of the metal scene.

The opening tracks are very solid: brutal, compelling, and chock-full of simple, catchy riffs and structures.  The rest of the disc is something of a mixed bag.  The playing is looser, the production is worse, and the songs are crustier.  Major influence from extreme hardcore punk and (even earlier) grindcore can definitely be found on the live and 7″ tracks, which makes them something of a different beast from the meat of the album itself.  They’re cool but not as good as the more developed tracks found earlier on the release.  I like primordial grindcore as much as the next guy, but after a long stretch of it including repeated songs, even I need to rest my ears.

All in all, it’s a cool album.  With Agathocles you’re either a diehard fan or you just find them pretty cool, and I’m set in the latter; I can’t find much to really get excited about but I can’t damn them for doing what they’re doing and doing it so well.  Great for any fan of oldschool grindcore.


~ by noktorn on July 31, 2008.

One Response to “Agathocles – Theatric Symbolisation Of Life”

  1. To me, it is truly disheartening that the vocalist / band leader Jan Frederickx, who was always against any form of commercialism when it came to Agathocles’ music, now has this album remastered and rereleased through a major label (Displeased Records) and even available for downloading through sites such as, without having the decency to notify the former band members that actually made that record happen in the first place. I arranged all the studio tracks and played the guitars on them. I left a substantial mark on that record and I never meant to make a buck doing that album, but to see your work re-released by a major label, behind your back i.e. without even being notified, well, it kinda feels like intellectual theft, really. I thought Agathocles stood for integrity, but apparently, people change over time.

    Chriss Ons – guitarist with Agathocles, 1991-92.

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