Wage Slave the EP, if you were lucky enough to find it at the time, was Kill the Client’s clarion call in defense of the old school, a manifesto that grindcore was still vital and bruising and about to demand its pride of place after the fallow years that were the late 1990s. Wage Slave the San Diego band sound nothing like Kill the Client. That just needs to be said.
While they may share economically minded nomenclature, this Wage Slave is less blue collar than Texas’ finest. Instead, this quartet, graphing calculator in hand, is restlessly roaming the fringes where Antigama have staked their claim with this four song self titled EP. Looser and less focused than the Poles, Wage Slave lets their songs slowly spool out over three or four minutes. Concision takes a backseat to atmosphere on songs like “Street Sweeper.” The band seems to revel in spiraling, swirling riffs and angular, askance snare drum patterns. A straight line will never do when a zigzag detour will take you there by a more scenic, circuitous route.
But like a lot of detours, longer is not always better. Wage Slave’s members have spent time in other acts such as As Hope Dies and Nuns With Guns, but this feels a bit like a young band still refining its voice. The past its shelf life breakdown at the center of “Vestige” feels as though it was lifted bodily from a late '90s math rock/metalcore album and transplanted a decade or so into the future rather clumsily. But when you try to cram so many ideas into a song, the occasional clunker has to be expected. It took Antigama several albums to hit a groove that really grabbed me, and I don’t see why Wage Slave couldn’t get there with some patience as well.
[Full disclosure: The band sent me a download.]