(West Coast extremists Deathgrave will release a new album on April 14th via the Tankcrimes label, and today we present Todd Manning‘s review.)
To be a dedicated fan of old school death metal often means not seeking out surprises, but rather looking for a vibe. So when one comes across a new band which includes Greg Wilkinson, who has done time with Autopsy along with sludge masters Brainoil and Graves at Sea, one can assume that those vibes will be there in spades. Deathgrave’s latest full-length, It’s Only Midnight, certainly captures that old-school death metal atmosphere, but actually does provide some surprises along the way.
Photo by Myron Fung
“Ant Baby” kicks things off sounding like a caveman on cocaine, all pummeling blast beats and high-speed madness. But damn, the guitar work is actually quite nimble and there’s a section mid-song that brings unexpected rhythmic changes that will snap your neck trying to follow along. Follow up “On All Fours” gives even more nuance to the brutality. The higher-pitched guitar work here and throughout the album almost brings to mind old Killing Joke or even avant-garde guitarist Glenn Branca.
Deathgrave has more moves up their sleeve. Songs like “Tony’s Deli”, “Rats are Back”, and “Sewer Runs Through Her” contain crushing doom sequences. These are reminiscent of Autopsy at their slowest, but Deathgrave’s take is a bit more atonal, adding to the creeping dread.
And there are punk elements present as well. Both the aforementioned “Rats are Back” and “Lonely Streets” have almost danceable old-school punk beats sprinkled in with the death metal assault. And the rapid tempo shifts taking place throughout the album, grinding one moment and crawling the next, also seem to nod towards the powerviolence scene.
All this is to say that there’s a lot going on here, but Deathgrave manages to forge a strong identity despite the chaos. The closest comparison one can draw might be Soilent Green, the way they both draw on a myriad of styles to achieve their destructive goals. But Deathgrave certainly possesses a more old-school death metal feel. And while I can convey all the different looks they throw at the listener, what’s most important is to understand how well they execute each and every idea they have. It’s Only Midnight is an absolute ripper.
Greg Wilkinson is his name.
Thanks for pointing out our goof. With apologies to Greg, we’ve fixed the error.
Probably wasn’t your fault, Islander.