PICK OF THE WEEK: Gravehill bring gory, horrific metal grit and guts on raucous ‘Death Curse’

GravehillYou know, I’ve read enough people bitching on the Internet about those who have the audacity to not like the same kind of metal as they do or who, heaven forbid, might have higher standards regarding what goes in their ears, that I’m about to lose it. I don’t respond to these things ever because it’s a losing battle going in, but it’s not like I don’t have my own two cents.

One of the things that annoys some people is when metal fans split hairs about what constitutes a true death metal band. It’s a fight that can go on and on all day without any agreements, but at the end of the day, doesn’t it primarily matter what you like and not what some faceless void on the Internet tells you what’s right or wrong? I’ve said it before, but I like my death metal ugly, with heads nodded toward the genre’s early pioneers, with as little gloss as possible. I want it furious, mean, and if there’s a bit of a sense of humor weaved in, that’s OK, too. I reject outright the bulk of those overly polished death metal bands that dot most of the major indie metal labels’ rosters because it feels empty to me and always seems directed more toward moving units than conjuring the black soul of death metal. It’s DEATH! That’s just me. If it’s not you, that’s great.

CDBO04.pdfOne band that always hits the spot when it comes to death metal is Gravehill, the long-running heathens that raged out of California near the turn of the century and have pumped out horrific goodness ever since. With a couple of EPs and now three full-length records to their credit, including their massive new “Death Curse,” they have kept underground metal fans salivating and have continued to smack skulls together without relent. See, when people get upset because I don’t like the latest, I don’t know, KIllswitch Engage record, it’s because that’s formulaic plastic to me. Gravehill are real, as is their fire-breathing new album (out on Dark Descent, naturally) and I know when I hear them, they are going to fill me with the same hideous joy that the pioneers like Obituary, Death, Morbid Angel, Hellhammer, and so many others have.

Leading the band is the unstoppable force that is vocalist Mike Abominator, who can teach you more about death metal simply from his writing and continual banner waving for the gnarliest, bloodiest death metal bands in existence. There are few ground soldiers as devoted and knowledgeable as he, and you’d do yourself some good paying attention to his work. Oh, and he’s a monster of a singer, with ill intent and a huge dose of personality. With him in Gravehill are guitarists Hell Messiah and CC DeKill, who both joined the fold a couple of years ago; bassist J.T. Corpse; and drummer Thorgrimm. I cannot vouch for these being these fellows’ given names, by the way. But I’m not going to question them either. They’ll stomp in my guts, and they’ll do the same to you if you get in the way of their killing machine.

Following an eerie, bizarre intro cut “Gates of Hell,” that certainly lives up to its name, the band launches into the blazing title track, that starts hammering and killing you from the start. The vocals go back and forth from maniacal growls to gurgly warbling, almost like Abominator is choking on his own blood, and the rest of the band backs him with tremendous thrashing and razor-sharp soloing. “At Hell’s Command” follows, with heavy-duty riffs and menacing growling, and there’s a bit of a classic Slayer feel to some of the music. The song’s final moments hit new levels of animalistic, but the end feels mystical and strange, bleeding right into “Open Their Throats,” a slow-driving, doom-laced track that seeks to ground faces into the dirt. Of course, the pace eventually kicks up into a full fury, with great, spirited soloing, and the vocals are as grisly as anything else on this record. “Fear the Reaper” begins with blistering drumming and some thick bass lines, with stellar riffs exploding, mangling vocals from Abominator, and gang shouts of, “Fear! Fear! Fear!” to hammer the point that, yes, you should cower from death.

“Unending Lust for Evil” isn’t just a great song title, it’s also a punk-fueled basher with more gurgly growls, praise for evil and the evildoers of the word, more deranged chuckling that seems to be rubbing salt in the wounds, and Abominator howling, “Time to kill all! Die!” “Black Blood Rising” is not about the horrible old WCW character (points if you can tell me who played that sad role) and is instead about something a lot more sinister. “Death is coming back!” Abominator promises, with mashing chaos, guitars that’ll light your face on fire, and a blood-curdling chorus that’ll scar you. “Crucified” gets fired up from the start, with guitars churning, more punk thunder, and a gang-shouted chorus that should make this track a live favorite. It also has a cool red herring inserted as it seems everything is subsiding, but just once you think they’re done, they blast back in and up the fiery ante. Closer “The Ascending Fire” has a black metal feel to it when it starts, with dark riffs and smoking terror, and Abominator sounds like a monstrous narrator as he envisions the Earth consumed by fire and left as dust. The music is mean and nasty, as you’ve surely come to expect, there are bursts of speed accompanied by Abominator’s call to “rise and destroy!” Again the guitars go off, with the soloing both agitated and perversely excited over all the trauma. Perfect ending to all the tumult.

Gravehill never will steer you wrong if classic, true death metal is what you desire. There is a reason people gravitate to these bands, because they feel genuine and their art comes from their worm-filled hearts. “Death Curse” is Gravehill’s leanest, meanest effort to date, and if you’re new to the band, this is a really great place to start. Blood, gore, evil, and more are ahead of you, and if you’re sick of gloss and polish and want to feel like you’re being bludgeoned while you listen, these guys will be sure to give you all you desire and more.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/gravehill

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store

For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/

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