[7 November 2013]
UK-based death metal band Grave Miasma crawled from the caverns over a decade ago, going by the Bovidae-friendly moniker Goat Molestör at first. After a few aptly beastly releases under that banner, the band changed its name to Grave Miasma, and subsequently issued two commanding EPs: 2009’s Exalted Emanation and 2010’s Realm of Evoked Doom. Now, 11 years after its emergence, the band is finally ready to unleash its first full-length, Odori Sepulcrorum, an album that’s been well worth the wait.
Eleven years is obviously a long time for a debut full-length to gestate. However, Grave Miasma was clearly waiting for the sonic and sacrilegious potency of its compositions to sufficiently ferment, and, no doubt, to gauge the full meaning of the messages it’s been receiving from the beyond. The band has dark, corrupting, and cryptic communications to convey on Odori Sepulcrorum, and the album sits firmly in the old school death metal sphere.
The demonic dissonance of Morbid Angel and Deicide, the dankness of Autopsy, and the complete darkness of catacomb death metal doyen, Incantation, all feature in Grave Miasma’s sound. Obviously, death metal is drowning in occult-heavy old school callbacks these days, but while Grave Miasma clearly toys with the afterbirth of Incantation and kin, the band hasn’t worked on shaping a clone.
The band’s aesthetic is unquestionably informed by the primeval turmoil of death metal’s birthplace, but for all that devolution of sound, Grave Miasma lays out an evolutionary vision too. Like similar miscreants Portal, Lantern, or Antediluvian, Grave Miasma is here to point out that evil has no boundaries, and its influence isn’t limited to any one era. So, rather than reiterating tales already told, the band marks out paths for age-old evils, all set around the core (and crooked) principles of occult death metal.
Grave Miasma isn’t interested in hooking the listener with catchy chord progressions or choruses on Odori Sepulcrorum—so those looking for old school merrymaking grooves, gore and grunt best look elsewhere. Instead, the band has carefully constructed corrosive songs that unleash waves of mid-tempo riffing and trampling percussion, and then smothers it all in a wretched atmosphere to bring a dark and massively heavy presence.
That’s all there in name and temper on album opener, “Death’s Meditative Trance”. And that disposition carries right on through to the unearthly tones and unorthodox instrumentation on album closer “Ossuary”. Odori Sepulcrorum isn’t an album set to pummel the listener into submission, although it does rain down the blows. It’s more about engulfing and then dragging the listener down into the hypnotic darkness, where deep veins of diabolical metal, such as “Εέσχατος”, “Ascension Eye”, and “Ovation to a Thousand Lost Reveries”, can be explored.
All the tracks on Odori Sepulcrorum weave layers of concentrated riffing around blasting drums and Hades growls, but what they bring most is a villainous gravity. No ground is given, and everything here is a lengthy subterranean grind through inhuman murk. Melodies are to be found, buried under chest-crushing riffs and morbid shadow. Speedier sections decelerate into doomier trawls, such as on the arcane “Seven Coils”. And cacophonous solos, Eastern scales, Hammond organ, oud, flute, and sitar all provide the background detail to grant Grave Miasma a voice of its own, in the crowded old school pack.
Odori Sepulcrorum rips into the psyche with mordant transitions and an unwavering occult ambience, but plenty of other great death bands do the same (see Grave Miasma’s Profound Lore label-mates Abyssal, Mitochondrion, or Vasaeleth for a start.) What distinguishes Odori Sepulcrorum is its phenomenally dense and cavernous production. Devoid of anything remotely pristine, Odori Sepulcrorum is an über-downtuned churn reeking of ancient analog times, but Jaime Gomez Arellano, who superbly produced, engineered and mixed the album, allows individual elements to shine. Where tremolo flickers appear on “Odoratus Sepulcrorum”, or where the riffs step back on the track for a distant glacial storm, it’s all so perfectly recorded that those adjustments aren’t just heard but felt, right in your marrow.
Grave Miasma brings the stench, brutality and unrelenting impiety of death metal’s earliest history with it, but the band has built on that with strong songwriting, and delivered an impressively produced debut. Odori Sepulcrorum certainly speaks of ages past, but it’s not with any sense of fondness. Grave Miasma is here to underscore that quintessentially evil death metal, and bands with a determined and diabolical vision, have never gone out of fashion. Contenders be cursed, and trends be damned.