Grind and Rise
Theories are a death metal/grindcore outfit from Seattle, Washington. Debut full-length Regression finds the band attempting to carve out some space within the whirling moshpit that is the American heavy metal market. Their main primary weapon is a sound that fairly bristles with speed, tightness, aggression and violence. While these are hardly unique attributes, the band execute them with rigorous care. They also incorporate their own memorable touches into the cacophony, using these to elevate the album high above the crowd, into an enviable echelon of quality and promise.
Though they are regularly classified as death and grind, Theories often deploy a third style and secret weapon – a careening, crunchy hardcore style reminiscent of Converge’s more straightforward work. Opener “Burnt Concrete” is a fine example, blazing out of the gates with metallo-punk fury and only pausing periodically for blast-oriented grind calisthenics and deathly double-bass-and-pinch-harmonic hail-Satans. However, by the end of the song, the blasts have wormed their way in to the verses, giving decrepit birth to a beautifully brutal hybrid – first among the many chimeras who rear a head or two on Regression.
On display immediately is the album’s wonderful mix. Of vital importance is the “roomy” sound of it; slight reverb and limited compression ground the proceedings and create a welcome feeling of “live-ness.” Anyone who has listened to a whole album of super-compressed, ultra-isolated music in this style (Trap Them’s Blissfucker anyone?) knows just how exhausting such an experience can be. On Regression, Theories sound unified, yet distinguishable. Drummer Joe Axler benefits perhaps the most – his snare sounds as natural as a Yakima Honeycrisp, his bass drum is punchy alone and distinguished during double runs, and his cymbals ring with metallic authenticity. Bassist Kush Karimi meanwhile, was shortchanged if he was planning on standing out. Still, his playing augments the guitar lines and rounds out the low end of the mix unobtrusively.
The songs on Regression – generally two to four minutes in length – can blow right past on a casual listen, but there are many superb moments woven into the din. “Cycle of Decay” has Lee McGlothlen’s fleet-fingered metal riffage giving way to a doomy, darkly anthemic bridge. “Shame” has Rick Powell allowing some vulnerability to creep into his usually gnashing vocals, while the coda of the song features a dramatic chord progression and groovy, excellent snare syncopations. Following the towering, moving “Hell in Her Eyes,” “Landfill” closes the album in fitting fashion – with chords of blood and bittersweet.
The media around Regression’s release finds Theories assuming the death/grind mantle perhaps a little too readily. While these are fine subgenres, the album reveals a band navigating ambiguous and ambitious spaces that are poorly described by the usual short-song, blast-beat, death-growl, double-bass, pinch-harmonic categorizers. Theories are exploring the territory of Converge and Uphill Battle, of Soilent Green and Premonitions of War, with adventurous admixtures of propulsive musical elements arranged into something lovingly made and whole. While Regression may not possess the textural innovation or overarching cohesion to become an instant classic, the band have laid an impeccable foundation bearing an undeniable measure of quality. While there is plenty of joy to be had in this LP, a good portion of it lies in the anticipation of where Theories will take us next.