Australia’s Grave Upheaval may have released their debut album back in 2013 but I’ve only recently discovered these guys at the recommendation of V.Kusabs from Vassafor. While it’s one of the more enigmatic releases I’ve ever come across, not even the lack of a title for the album, or the dark obscure artwork can really prepare you for the music on this album. If the abyssal black/death metal scene prevalent in the last few years has been comically named cavern-core, then Grave Upheaval are a group that are lost in the very darkest depths of this metaphorical abyss, so deformed by the conditions at the bottom of the dank abyss that they’ve become completely and utterly inhuman.
The album dives headfirst into this abyss from the first few seconds of I, a huge torrent of sound flows forward; a mess of bass and guitar tuned so low and distorted that it’s more of a low noisy rumble than anything else. It’s volcanic, a noisy eruption of droning sound, constantly spewing a black sludge so caustic it completely envelopes everything else. Abyssal and claustrophobic, it’s so dank and heavy you can almost feel the slimy walls of the caverns their extreme sound creates.
This mammoth wall of sound is very much the driving force of the album. The actual riffs, the drums and the vocals are almost completely secondary to the nature of this abyssal sound. In fact the production is in such a way that the tinny drums feel like they’re a hundred miles away, whether they’re blasting away or plodding along throughout the release. On the fastest piece here in III, they barrage away very much on top of the guitars, the distance making it all the stranger – the sound of the guitars so huge but the drums being so weak and tinny creates an eerie juxtaposition. During some of the faster parts on III it’s hard to actually make out any discernible riffs, it’s more like the droning noise just pulsates dangerously with the higher frequency at which the guitars are being played. In the slower sections of II and III, the discernible riffs are fairly basic death-doom metal, slow chunky, and power chord driven. It’s simplistic but goddamn is it effective.
The vocals on the album are completely inhuman and indiscernible. They’re simply deep, echoing howls that have no sense of anything remotely human, it feels completely monstrous and strange. At points there’s some higher pitched rasps in IV, in V what sounds almost like chants become the twisted emanations of some monstrous Lovecraftian beast. Like the drums they sit far away in the production from the guitars and bass, howling their strange song over the top in a twisted void.
There’s little variation between songs as they are all completely driven forward by the droning wail of the guitar which and bass which doesn’t really change throughout. II is slower and the most riff driven, III the fastest, while the vocals are at their most unworldly on V, but for the most part it’s quite similar. The longest piece, and the closer VII perhaps stands out the most, with the lack of vocals, and the pop of the bass against the noise of the guitars- one of the few points in the album the bass and guitar sound fully separate. The opening riff might be simple, made up of three power chords, but it’s damn effective, and when it slows in pace it lumbers along brilliantly before amping it right back up again so powerfully to a churning mountainous sound. It’s so incredibly caustic that by the time the track has finished it feels like your brain has folded in half.
Untitled is possibly the conclusion to abyssal death metal – it’s so caustic and dense, placing the cavernous sound so firmly above all else in their music, through combining elements of black, doom and death metal with drone and noise into one pot of caustic insanity. Strange, inhuman and so god-damn relentlessly heavy, it’s one of those album’s that’s so completely enigmatic and obscure that it’s sure to both impress and befuddle. This will definitely not be for everyone, but for those who want to hear the concept of cavernous metal pushed to it’s extremity, then look no further than this one.