Review: Gravespawn – Inexorable Grimness

596066Written by The Black Metal Bitch

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Southern California is fast becoming the West Coast equivalent of Bergen, Norway. While sunshine, beaches, and palm trees don’t exactly fit the grim, hellish aesthetic black metal is generally known for, one cannot deny the past decade or so has produced a number of big names in the USBM scene.

While Gravespawn are still building momentum, if they continue to pump out quality metal like their latest EP, Inexorable Grimness, there’s no question these guys can dominate the underground.

Originally a one piece project started by Seth Brooke (a.k.a. Reaver) while serving in South Korea in 2004, the band has since evolved. After a few adjustments in the lineup over the years since its inception, the band has morphed into a four piece monstrosity.

Though the group has only put out one full length, the 2012 leviathan “Woe to the Conquered,” and a handful of splits, the band is spreading faster than wildfire with their unique blend of raw and epic black metal; Gravespawn utilize medieval soundscapes reminiscent of Summoning but combine it with the rawness and darkness of early Dark Throne so fans of either (and both) will enjoy this one.

Opening up this all too short extended play is “Old Dragon’s Domain”, which after a brief taste of the aforementioned medieval atmosphere the band begins to really come alive. The clarity of the tremolo guitar playing is wonderful, it’s distorted yet crisp and clear, the riffs themselves echo that old-school heart and soul but what really adds to the track is the use of the keyboards which paint a picture of men in blood splattered armor wielding long swords and chasing dragons.

The song moves between the obligatory buzz-saw guitar riffs and these epic, keyboard heavy slower parts that give Gravespawn a very folk, very tribal atmosphere with chanting choruses and a very distinct Dark Age backdrop that is both very metal and yet majestic. There’s a story being told in the lyrics and the music is engineered around it.

“Oath of the Annihilator” is the second track off “Inexorable Grimness” is pure, straight forward black metal, for the most part; there’s dramatic elements woven into this track with the keyboards bringing sudden silences back to life, agonizing screams full of torment and rage.

The next track, “Thy Gates Ablaze,” is loaded with infectious riffs; that initial build up into the meat of the song is reminiscent of old school rock and roll with one guitar churning out a very head banger friendly, marching riff which is quickly joined by the rest of the band. It’s very basic structurally, simple but effective. The band displays some skilled breakaway solos, the keyboards are in the backseat of this one, still present but less integral and these Californians just focus on blistering black metal. Again I would like to mention the clarity of everything, perfectly harmonized, all cylinders firing perfectly and while “Ablaze” wasn’t heavy with keyboard there is a general feeling throughout the recording of a very big, very theatrical sound that could be compared, at times, to older Cradle of Filth.

“Between the Devouring Monstrosities” is full tilt, where “Ablaze” took a more laid back approach, this one just tears through at thrash speeds, destroying everything and taking no prisoners – they charge full steam ahead. Session musician Jackson Ferris shines here behind the chainsaw guitars on the drum kit and bass player Advorsus also gets a chance to lay down a great little solo segment.

It’s a vicious song followed by a return to the Lord of the Rings, keyboard driven “Scribes of Forsaken Lore” which is full of sword fights, blood rituals and war. I love the grandness to it, Gravespawn does something special along the same lines of period-themed bands like Cradle, Amon Amarth in the death metal scene, Carach Angren with their Victorian-era nightmares; there’s depth a lot of bands fail to develop, it’s unique and original and sets them apart from the army of copy cats. There’s some fine bass-work towards the end of the extended play, I’m a sucker for great bass riffs and once again Advorsus takes the lead before the song winds to a close.

There’s not much to hate here. Gravespawn, with their songs about ancient battle, mythology and history manage to do a pretty solid job of simultaneously slaying with juicy black metal riffs as well as telling us a story. The production is very good, at no point throughout the chaos did the sound turn to mush, everything maintained its identity without sacrificing any bite in the sound. Reaver’s lyrics and vocal style are definitely above average, the band is fine tuned as a unit as well as individually with each musician bringing sometime to the table and as far as content goes, the band succeeds where many fail. After the first run through of this one I was hooked, Gravespawn nail it and I look forward to seeing more from these guys. 8/10

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