Graves at Sea-"Documents of Grief" Limited Edition Picture Disc


Brand: Graves at Sea

Limited Edition Picture Disc.

"If your goal is to make the most bleak, misanthropic, hateful music possible, it's a natural fit to blend doom and gloom NOLA-style sludge riffs with tortured blackened rasps. Graves at Sea perform a very capable take on this blend even as early as this, their debut demo. Ultimately, however, innovation rests with the blend of styles itself rather than any sort of original take on the original elements, but this is largely forgivable because the band pulls everything off so effortlessly.

The band utilizes that typical monolithic guitar tone common to much of Sabbath-derived doom metal, favoring downtuned bluesy riffs with ludicrous amounts of fuzz and distortion. The point where guitar ends and bass begins is blurry at best, giving this release a metric ton of bottom end. Riffs range from mid-paced affairs to slower affairs, such as the opening slow-motion salvo of "Black Bile". They're perfectly capable and get the job done but aren't anything we haven't seen before. It's somewhat difficult to push the boundaries of experimentation when you're working in this kind of idiom, so instead riffs like these have got to be memorable, catchy affairs. Unfortunately, very few of the riffs on display on Documents of Grief are the kind that grab you by the balls, hold your attention for their duration and have you humming them for weeks. Solos stab up through the swampy murk only once, on opening track "Red Monarch," which is kind of a shame since guitarist Nick Phit managed to make a solo sound right at home in this context. The drums plod along as you'd expect them to, adding to the weight of each gigantic powerchord as it hits. The drumming isn't anything fancy and doesn't have much in the way of fills except for the standard tom accents near the ends of the measures. They're not offensive in any way, but it would be nice to see a bit more flavor.

The songs themselves are mainly just riff showcases but sometimes let up on the thunder for some quieter guitar/ambient passages that do a great deal to contribute to the horrifying nighttime swamp vibe that this demo reeks of from start to finish. More than anything about the riffing or songwriting itself, the main attention-holder throughout the demo is vocalist Nathan Misterek's tortured delivery. "Blackened" describes every nook and cranny of his performance, whether he's using a sharper-edged upper-register screech or a bowel-shaking roar. I would go so far as to say the impressive vocal performance makes up for the somewhat pedestrian instrumentation on display. See closing track "Praise the Witch" and its tag-team rasps and growls for evidence of Misterek's abilities on the microphone.

This may be a demo, but I can't really think of any way the production could be improved. Drums are crystal clear, the riffs are ably captured in their weighty and sluggish glory and the vocals cut through the muck like a battle-axe. There isn't an ounce of tape hiss or clipping anywhere to be found.

Fans of sludge will find a lot to enjoy about this demo. It won't disappoint those who have heard anything else by Graves at Sea and would likely be appealing to black metal fans in search of something a little slower and heavier than what unadulterated black metal has to offer. Give this one a listen."