“Nasty, brutish and short” was a phrase written by Thomas Hobbes in 1651. Little did Hobbes know, 360 years ago, that he had just written the perfect description of Boston grindcore act Mouthbreather ’s new EP Pig.
Clocking in at just over seven minutes (despite containing the same number of tracks) Pig is thoroughly unhinged throughout, a violent mauling of riffs, dissonance, and horrific screaming. Mouthbreather are clearly fans of California grindstars Nails and fellow Massachusetts natives Converge (but on the other hand, what grindcore band isn’t?). Drawing on these influences, vocalist Anthony Santagati dutifully rips out his vocal chords for our listening pleasure. The standard clichés of metal frontmen go out the window, especially on “Intrigant,” where Anthony howls “I AM GOD!” like a mental patient in the throws of a fatal seizure. The vocal spasms reach their peak on “Born Dead,” when Anthony abandons language entirely to shriek wordless noise into the listener’s face. It’s unnerving how committed the band are, forcing the listener to fathom how on earth Mouthbreather could ever transpose such a terrifying performance to the stage.
There are no slower or softer moments on Pig, but the closest it comes is on the punishing breakdowns, showing that Mouthbreather aren’t completely tied to the old-school grind aesthetic. Opener “Tourniquet” would fit nicely into a Knocked Loose setlist, having enough stomp and fire-in-the-belly to bounce alongside the new kids on the block. The dizzying speed at which the riffs fly past show that the rest of the band have their chops, as well. Jay Maas’s production is some of the noisiest this side of Kurt Ballou, just another mark that Converge has made on this young group.
Therein lies the problem. While the potential is enormous, at seven minutes long, Pig just simply doesn’t have enough going on to justify its “experimental hardcore” label. All the pieces are there, but many others have done it before, and well. Mouthbreather will definitely be a band to watch in 2018, capable of scaring the un-initiated and earning the respect of the old guard, but until their songwriting sharpens, they may have to stay on the local circuit for now. Don’t feel bad though, lads! You’ve still recorded one of the heaviest albums anyone is likely to hear this year! Bring on the LP!
Written by Max Morin
*edited by Kate Erickson