Label: Dark Descent Records
Genre: Black/Thrash/Death Metal
Release Date: 16 March, 2018
Take a good long look at that juvenile cover. Look at it in all its adolescent glory. To the band’s credit, it appears as though all the participants in the nun-orgy are consensual adults, but this is not the scene you want to come home to after a long day of work (Though why does Satan himself seem to be bored? I suppose once you’ve seen ten thousand nuns defiled; you’ve seen them all.). Your feelings on that artwork will probably correlate pretty well with how you’ll feel about this album as a whole because it sums up what you get with this band: dirty, filthy death metal.
Hailing from Anaheim, Gravehill has honed their craft over the past decade, serving up rotten platters of old school death metal since their debut in 2009. Since the beginning they have set out with a mission statement to reject the click tracks and overly-polished death metal that has become more prevalent and stick to the more putrid climes devised by the old guard. The Unchaste, the profane & the Wicked sees numerous lineup changes, notably being the first full length without longtime vocalist stalwart of the old school, Mike Abominator. With bassist corpse sidling into the vocal spot and accompanying switch up on strings, the question became whether the band could stick true to their roots or lose the fire that made them compelling in the first place.
I won’t keep you in suspense; Gravehill doesn’t miss a beat. They continue to play death metal in the old way. This is death metal from before the term had been defined; when there were fewer lines and everything was an extreme blend of black, thrash, and death metal. Influences range from Kreator and Sodom to Slayer to Hellhammer and Celtic Frost to the old bands of Florida and Sweden. Everything blends beautifully to create a range of songs that vary in style but not in quality.
Even more to the band’s credit, this album riffs hard. Each song is chock full of great, thrashy riffs that are guaranteed to snap your neck. Whether it’s the Hellhammer worship of “Iron & Sulphur” or the intense tremolo riff starting “Plague Hammer,” there’s always something good happening with the guitars. Making the riffs sound even better is the great production job. It is the perfect blend of modern clarity with the guitars biting through the mix with an old, grimy feel that adds enough murk and low end to keep the proceedings from sounding too polished.
With vocalist Abominator departing, the quality of the vocals was another burning question. A lot of the band’s previous charm had come from the disgusting vocals. Here the band succeeds as well with Corpse providing fairly similar hoarse scream with the occasional deeper growl. Though not as varied or nasty as Abominator’s gruff spitting, the vocals are perfectly adequate to deliver these hymns to death, destruction, and Satan.
Clocking in just a bit over 41 minutes, Gravehill keeps things relatively compact. With only one song over six minutes and half under five, they have an acute understanding that this type of music does not need drawn out compositions to make their point. The one exception to this is closing track “D.I.E.” (according to the lyrics, this stands for “Death is Eternal;” very sunny) which clocks in at 7:46. Here the band stretches their songwriting with several doomy passages, and it works quite well as an epic closer.
There isn’t much negative to say here, the band knows what it is doing and does it well. What it’s doing, however, is nothing original. This is well tread territory in extreme metal, and it has been since the mid 80’s. If you are looking for the next transcendentally progressive band, or the next great genre fusion, look elsewhere. If you are a fan of the band, but were hoping they would expand or change things up greatly, you will be disappointed.
However, though the ground is well-covered, no one has covered it quite so well in recent years as Gravehill. It wouldn’t surprise me if thirty years from now when death metal has been taken to heights of progressive and technical wankery that we haven’t yet dreamt of, Gravehill will still be there, pumping out furious riffs. This is meat and potatoes, old-school, party-hard, and hail-Satan, balls out death metal, and I wouldn’t want anything else.
1. Bestial Genesis
2. Iron & Sulphur
3. The Unchaste
4. Plague Hammer
5. The Profane
6. Sabbatic Whore
7. The Wicked
Total Playing Time: 41:08