Gravehill - The Unchaste, The Profane, & The Wicked - (7/10)
Published on March 14, 2018
Some bands can take influence from a wide range of sounds and it ends up melding into something greater than the sum of its parts (take a band like Tribulation, who incorporated black metal, death metal, and psychadelics to create the superb Forumulas of Death). In other cases, taking influence from many corners can end up sounding like a grab-bag of clichés and underdeveloped ideas that sounds too incoherent to coalesce into something great. Unfortunately, Gravehill’s Bestial Genesis often ends up sounding like the latter.
To demonstrate the rambling nature of the album, let’s go through the first three tracks. The album starts off with a relatively generic power chord and melodic line intro, one of those riffs that is meant to get one stoked for what’s to come. It would work better if I felt I hadn’t heard it 10,000 times before. But when “Bestial Genesis” (the song) kicks in properly, it is a right kick to the teeth. It is a rollicking ride through simple and effective death/thrash riffs and some lively drumming. There is one riff in particular in which the two guitarists play a slight variation on the same tremolo riff that had me nodding my head. “Iron and Sulfur” is even simpler than the opening track, wearing its punk influence on its sleeve in the form of a stripped down main riff and some d-beats about 2/3 of the way through the song. This one is very catchy and enjoyable. After the punkiness of the second track, “The Unchaste” begins with an almost metalcore open string hammer-on-pull-off riff that doesn’t exactly work in this context. Halfway through the song, they pull a big shift and switch to a decent death/thrash riff, but there are a couple problems with it: 1) the song has already been compromised by the weird core-influenced riff; and 2) it comes out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to be related to anything else in the song.
This sense of coming out of nowhere is a big problem for Gravehill throughout the album. Of course, death and thrash metal have a habit of changing riffs on a dime, but the best bands make it sound easy and the riffs make sense when done properly. Gravehill often sound as though they got sick of one riff and said, “dude, what if we just do this riff now?” The same goes for the songs. One can see through my description of the first three songs that tracks tend to be quite a bit different from one another. Again, this could be viewed as a strength for a genre in which many albums end up sounding homogeneous. But the way Gravehill mixes up their songs, the album sounds less like an adventurous band and more like a band who hasn’t quite found their sound yet. Each track sounds like a song that could have been great in more experienced hands but ends up sounding like a half-baked idea that never reaches its full potential.
None of what I’ve written so far sounds particularly good, but this isn’t a bad album, it’s just not a great album. There are definitely riffs that I found myself enjoying, even if they are part of a disjointed patchwork. Thorgrimm’s drumming is the highlight of the album for me as well. He mixes up his beats very well, using various techniques sparingly so that they do not become stale. He’s particularly adept at using cymbal crashes as fills to make everything more interesting. I never really found the vocals to be all that compelling throughout the album. They’re somewhere between black and death metal vocals and end up sounding almost core-like at times, which I did not particularly enjoy.
Overall, Gravehill suffers from what I like to call “the slash problem.” This is not an issue with trying to increase one’s aesthetic appeal through wearing a top hat or other garish accessories. No, it is a problem with how many slashes are present in a band’s subgenre descriptor. On the metal archives, Gravehill are described as death/black/thrash metal. That’s too many slashes. I believe the less slashes there are, the better. My favorite bands tend to have no slashes, and the more slashes that get involved, the less likely I am to like a particular band. The fact that Gravehill have two slashes means they have way too much going on to create an album that sounds cohesive or particularly enjoyable. If they could find a sound more oriented toward one subgenre, or manage to mix the subgenres more organically, I think they could have something good, but for the time being, their slashes are holding them back.