(On October 14th Wise Blood Records will release the debut album of Indianapolis-based Mother of Graves, an album mastered by Dan Swanö and with cover art by Paolo Girardi, and below you’ll find Todd Manning‘s review of this new opus.)
Mother of Graves has picked the perfect time to drop their debut full-length, Where the Shadows Adorn. First of all, anyone who heard their excellent EP, In Somber Dreams, has been dying to get their hands on more material from this great band. In addition, there is something about this particular brand of death/doom that just seems to herald the changing of the seasons. The music feels autumnal, or even winter-ish. Like black metal, this type of forlorn music feels connected to the seasons.
While the Peaceville 3 (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema) might garner all the glory for inventing this particular genre of bleak death-doom, one shouldn’t shortchange Mother of Graves for damn near perfecting it. Where the Shadows Adorn takes grand gestures of doom brilliance and compresses them into perfectly sized pieces, with most songs hovering right around the five-minute mark.
The title track begins the album and lays out the blueprint for what follows. Piano and clean guitar paint a somber picture before the distortion kicks in. Mother of Graves revel in instrumental textures but thankfully never stray far from death metal. Even when the piano returns underneath the distorted guitar the material remains crushing. The song ends by finding the main riff again with more gorgeous guitar melodies riding over the top and particularly tasteful bass work beneath.
It’s hard to pick highlights from such consistently solid material. “Rain” draws from Katatonia’s best moments while sidestepping that group’s alternative rock preoccupation. There’s a clean break halfway through the tune that finds the guitar, bass, and violin joining together to create a stunning passage. Meanwhile, “The Emptiness of Eyes” begins with one of the most desolate doom riffs on the album but is followed by the only blast beat on the record. In lesser hands, such a turnaround might prove disastrous but they execute it with grace.
If forced to pick a favorite, one could do worse than album closer “The Caliginous Voice”. At just over seven minutes, it is the longest track on the album but they make every moment count. Gorgeous clean guitar work is followed by guitar harmonies that split the difference between Maiden and Candlemass. And this all before even reaching the first verse. That verse arrives in the form of a glorious, fist-pumping chug and possesses an almost anthemic quality. The song finishes by transforming the primary melodic figure of the piece into an epic doom procession. Though the song ends, one can imagine that procession lasting forever.
While the influences behind Mother of Graves aren’t mysterious, nothing on Where the Shadows Adorn feels derivative. Quite the opposite really, these gentlemen have a real sense of identity this early in their career. This album feels like a statement of intent, and I feel we will be talking about this band for years to come.