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I never entirely understood the fascination with this band. While reasonably good, Leng Tch'e always seemed like a second-stringer in the modern grindcore world, behind more notable artists such as Nasum. Apparently others disagree, what with the band being snapped up by Relapse Records in time for 2005's 'The Process Of Elimination'. Perhaps because of this, their sound has fully moved into death/grind territory, as opposed to the pure grindcore of old.
'Marasmus' is a highly varied album. In tempo, yes, but also taking dramatic swings of style, from grindcore to death metal to strange rock or stoner passages. And honestly, the vast majority of these parts work to some degree; there are few genuine screwups on here (the only one that comes to mind is the brain-numbing last half of 'Divine Collapse'). Even some of the more subtly melodic portions are effective, like on closer 'Trauma And Scourge'. Of course, the most effective music on here, just like it always was, is when it's full-on grinding madness. The strength of compact, brutal songs like 'Lucid Denial' is great, and an album full of these would have been perfect. One minute, a trillion riffs, and no bullshit.
Maybe the 'one minute' part of that statement is the most telling. 'Marasmus' is way, way, way too long for the ideas it have. The forty minute running time could have been easily cut in half by removing the back eight tracks (except for the closer). The album starts very strong on songs like 'Tightrope Propaganda', but really begins to lose steam and collapse under its own weight right around 'The White Noise', where all the riffs start to sound the same and the song structure becomes hopelessly predictable. This is in part due to an increasing level of experimentation as the LP moves along: much more of the rocky material occurs in the second half, and it isn't nearly as good as the brutal first.
All the instrumentation here is good, but its effectiveness gets somewhat diminished by the extremely flat production (despite all the bass drops). However, one of the main components that really takes away from the music as a whole is the vocals. Highly reminiscent of the vocals on newer Aborted (maybe it's a Belgian thing), they seem far too metalcore and controlled for this music. While the unhinged screaming of earlier albums was a derided feature by many, I always thought it added to the chaotic style of the music. I suppose that this singing 'fits' more with a greater hardcore influence (breakdowns of sorts are present on nearly every song), but they just don't seem to do the band justice.
If this album was shaved down to a twenty minute EP, there's no doubt it would be very good. Unfortunately, due to the bloated track listing and lack of vision, this ends up being merely average. Leng Tch'e fans will of course get it, but the rest of us will probably pass it up in favor of another album. Not painful to listen to; just sort of clumsy.
(Originally written for www.grindingtheapparatus.net)