The Australian duo Battlegrave chose a suggestive name for themselves, one that evokes both warlike savagery and visions of death and all its horrors. Further clues to their music (or at least some aspects of it) are evident in the remarkable hand-painted cover art by Shaun Farrugia for their sophomore album Cavernous Depths. It’s subterranean and supernatural, and has the hallmarks of an instant classic.
But of course these are all merely hints. Of course, other hints are to be found in the band’s previous releases, the 2017 EP To Hell With War and their first album, 2018’s Relics of a Dead Earth, but don’t put too much stock in those hints, because Battlegrave‘s music has evolved from then until now, morphing (as the band themselves have observed) “from more of a Crossover Thrash project to a Thrash/Death project, and now closer to straight-up modern Death Metal”.
One thing hasn’t changed, and you’ll figure it out damned fast when you listen to the new album today in advance of its July 22 release by Bitter Loss Records, and that’s the speed and ferocity of Battlegrave‘s attack.
As mentioned, Battegrave are a duo — Clint Patzel (Guitars, Bass and Keys) and Rohan Buntine (Vocals and Lyrics) — old friends who started the project in their mid-30s out of a love of old school Death and the more aggressive Thrash Metal bands like Demolition Hammer, Morbid Saint, Sodom, early Sepultura, Vader, Morgoth, Cancer, and Death.
But they had some very talented help on this new record. The drumming was performed by 66Samus, who has played for such bands as Decrepit Birth, Goatwhore, and Abigail Williams, and recently toured with Devin Townsend, and all the guitar leads were executed by Daniel Mackie (Triple Kill).
Battlegrave set the scene in the album’s opener “Violent Conjurations”, which quickly creates a chilling, otherworldly atmosphere but then provides a vivid preview of the music’s heavy, mauling guitar tone, the explosive, skull-cracking impact of the drumming, the blaring chords, the spectral eeriness of the leads, and the barbarity of Rohan Buntine lacerating screams and bestial roars.
But “Violent Conjurations” is a mid-paced track, and less of a hallmark of the album as a whole than the one that follows it. Aptly named “Relentless“, that one is a howling killing machine — an adrenaline-fueled torrent of obliterating percussion, riotous and roiling riffage, and throat-shredding vocal intensity. To be sure, the jackhammering grooves in the track are punishing, but the experience as a whole is one of madness.
Yet even here, in the midst of so much palpable fury, Battlegrave again reveal their knack for infiltrating their music with haunting melody and crazed, head-spinning solo work.
Again and again over the remaining songs, Battlegrave add atmospheric keyboard accents that connect with the album’s creepy and cavernous cover art, as well as a grief-stricken interlude in “Undying”, but the real core of the music remains balls-to-the-wall pacing and war-zone fury. The riffing slashes and boils, and becomes gloriously brazen as well as barbaric. The bass lines do their best to punch through walls and gnaw through bone, the drumming is maniacal, and the combo of guttural bellows and berserk shrieks is downright unhinged.
In other words, this is an album you go to when you want to just let go of your mind, let it go wild, give it a spin in a turbocharged centrifuge of chaos — and get beat to a pulp while you do that. It’s an extravagant spectacle, driven to heights of head-exploding excess by the brain-piercing, breathtaking solos, but astutely laced with slower, emotionally chilling diversions that provide a few necessary gulps of oxygen.
Get ready to get fired up, and press play now (and don’t stop ’til you get to the album closer, “Pt III Retribution of the Witch”, which might just be the best damn thing on the whole record):
The album was recorded and produced by Julian Renzo at Legion Studio Productions (Harlott, Desecrator, Blackhelm, Decimatus) and it was mastered by Ermin Hamidovic at Systematic Productions (Plini, Cynic, Sylosis, Periphery, Architects).
July 22 will see the album’s release by Bitter Loss on CD and digital formats, and a vinyl edition is expected by early fall. It’s available for pre-order now: