Escuela Grind are the best kind of new heavy metal band: one with a manifesto. Since the grindcore up-and-comers formed in 2016, their goal has been to broaden their genre’s appeal and teach it to lighten the fuck up. It’s something that British fans saw earlier this year, when the four-piece supported Napalm Death and singer Katerina Economou twerked to their bandmates’ violent music before dedicating the set to the trans people and “girls, gays and theys” within metal.
Barely six months later, Escuela have returned to the UK for their first-ever headline tour across the country, and their campaign for a more open and light-hearted grindcore culture gets off to an auspicious start. Admittedly, the crowd that’s come to London’s 229 venue isn’t the biggest, but what’s lacking in attendance is more than made up for by the passion of those who did turn up. The second that Endowed By Windows – the opening cut of last year’s lauded, Kurt Ballou-produced Memory Theater album – announces the band’s arrival with its creeping power chords, the moshing starts.
From there, the range of reactions that the audience has throughout the night shows the diversity in what Escuela do. This isn’t just a grind band, after all; they’ve previously released a powerviolence EP and draw influence from the metalcore and death metal worlds. During Cliffhanger, there’s a rare singalong as Katerina snarls a hook directly lifted from the Grandmaster Flash hip-hop song The Message. “Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge!” they roar – as does everybody else in the building. Later, the entire crowd is cut in half as the band air a song from an as-yet-unreleased death metal EP, slated to drop next year. The wall of death that follows is excellently destructive.
It’s not all hard-edged shit, though. As the band – or, specifically, guitarist Krissy Morash – face technical problems, drummer Jesse Adan Fuentes keeps the momentum going with some endearingly childish stage banter. “When I say poopoo, you say peepee!” they command with a cheeky grin. Call it stupid if you like, but the entire crowd follows the leader – evidence that Escuela’s goal of showing grindcore how to have a laugh is proceeding brilliantly.
There’s a similarly rapturous response as the show closes and Katerina, like during the Napalm Death tour, dedicates the night to the women and LGBTQ+ people in a male-dominated subculture. It’s a sentiment that’s rightfully met with universal applause before the night comes to an ear-splitting conclusion – namely, a vicious cover of Hatebreed’s Filth.
There are doubtlessly going to be people annoyed by Escuela’s jovial approach to grind and the fact that they want to make new demographics feel welcome in the genre. However, based on tonight’s evidence, they’ll merely be a vocal minority. This band’s energised, fun and empathetic outlook has drawn a cult following that, if the shows remain this good, will only grow in the months and years to come.