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Lost in a Fog; In a Haze, In Abyss - 60%

WhenTheHypeDies, March 29th, 2019

No album title, no song titles, every band member is credited as “-.” …Alright, I’m guessing this is going to be harsh, harsh, harsh.

And it certainly is. Grave Upheaval’s debut full length, “Untitled,” is undeniably grating, much of the music a constant, throbbing hum of guitars and distant, echoing drums with fairly standard, throaty howls thrown uncarefully over everything. The album can best be described as lurching around, at times eerie and creepy, at other times awkward and drunken. While the sheer abysmal quality of the songwriting is certainly attention-grabbing, and evokes the same aesthetic as bands like Antediluvian or Abyssal, what “Untitled” lacks is the same sense of ruthless focus, of abhorrent memorability, or even of noxious atmosphere. “Untitled” simply lingers lifelessly, an airy specter groaning this way and that with little purpose.

The first impression of the album is a perfect example of this. “I” begins with a doom-y, airy drum beat layered in tremolo-picked hazy guitar, briefly transitioning to blasts and then back to doom, with a bridge bringing us towards a final barrage of blast beats. And then the first song just… Ends. Tottering limply into the darkness with hardly any climax whatsoever to the song. Admittedly, this may sound like a lacking description but truthfully, the guitarwork on the song (and much of the album) is ruthlessly monotonous – aside from switching from tremolo picking to strummed chords, there is virtually no other variation present. A similar song overall would be “VI,” which begins with an odious, ponderous drum beat that briefly transitions to blasts, then immediately back to the tedious slog, then to… Blasts? The production on the album makes it difficult to tell, ruining any attempt at increased fury here. A somewhat captivating tom-driven beat makes up the bridge of the song, suffused by the ever-hazy guitars, that leads back to… Blasts? This slowly fades away into nothing. While the vocal performance on “VI” is much more captivating than other tracks, the pacing on the song goes nowhere and remains largely grounded in a dismal fog with no clear way forward or backward. One is simply stuck – there.

And, well, really, that’s about it. There are some good sections on this album – sure, the doom-y section that essentially takes up the second half of “II” is a great, demented plod; the positively eerie closing to “IV” is a particular highlight on the album; the opening to “V” sounds like Antediluvian in the best way imaginable. However, the biggest weakness on this album is that nearly every “fast” section on this album sounds the same thanks to the murky guitar tone, which could have been used to Grave Upheaval’s advantage but on this release sounds absolutely languorous. This makes the atmosphere of the album the focus which, while somewhat interesting (the effect of “Untitled” is something like a traumatic daze, or a nightmarish cycle of morose repetition), does not necessarily fully benefit from the production either.

The primary issue with “Untitled” is that, ultimately, it is not really much of… Anything. Its just a mire of noise that never really progresses, and just sits listlessly – hardly moving; a massive, painful tectonic shift, yes, but one that does not so much shake boulders lose from the mountain as it sifts a bit of gravel about. While the atmosphere of the album is admittedly quite distinctive, there are far better projects mired in this same dismal, nightmarish swamp.


60%

Abyssal headfuckery - 86%

Twin_guitar_attack, June 26th, 2015

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. And 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 album artwork can really prepare you for the music that’s 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.

Originally written for swirlsofnoise.com

[volcanic activity intensifies] - 70%

MutantClannfear, December 4th, 2013

Grave Upheaval is a perplexing beast. It's essentially what happens when the members of two already-fucked-up bands decide that their "signature sound" at this point prevents them from making the jump from "fucked-up" to "raises questions with regards to its status as music". This first Grave Upheaval full-length is like Portal, dumbed down as far as possible and presented in what's essentially the most inhuman way possible. And... I don't really like it that much, but I can definitely see how the right crazy person would.

This is essentially an Enmity-type band that plays cavernous death metal instead of BDM. No compromise is made for people who haven't already shaved their pubic hairs into the shape of the Incantation logo - you might still dig this if you haven't done that yet but you've already made the jump to permanently sewing a copy of Graves of the Archangels into a skin flap on your back. This album is basically a borderline where a lot of people will look at it and start to say it's not even death metal, and really, its modus operandi and mood are almost entirely different. For one, the guitar tone is impossibly thick and bassy (think maybe one degree away from sounding like Sunn O))), Conan and all your other doom giants), to the point where there really aren't any riffs to cling onto. The riffs are more "sensed" than heard at this point, and what little is audible obviously isn't made to provide things to hum around the house - just your typical tremolo patterns for this kind of death metal, but substantially dumbed-down. The percussion is given a ridiculously low emphasis in the mix, mostly just sort of echoing over the edges of the music from hundreds of miles away; and the vocals aren't even death growls at this point, just otherworldly howls from beyond the nether regions devoid of syllabic or rhythmic variation. In other words, this sounds like what might happen if an Encoffination fanboy commissioned an autistic person to make an Incantation clone album to his liking, but while describing the specifications he couldn't stop using metaphors like "IT'S NOT EVEN GUITARS, IT'S LIKE A BIG VOLCANO ERUPTING"; and the autistic person, blind to figures of speech, went off and collected audio samples of a gigantic goddamn volcano.

That's really the best way to describe what Grave Upheaval's album sounds like: it's like the biggest volcano on Earth slowly discharging billions upon billions of gallons of magma, and seeping for miles across a barren surface. It's almost kind of charming in its consistent tempo, how it's always locked firmly in place by the drums which usually sound more like war-marching beats than anything traditionally death metal-based. The music comes in pulses or waves more than anything else; typically Grave Upheaval go through, say, a dozen slow discharges before the band throw in one of their occasional blasting parts, at which point the riffs don't even try to be audible and just explode into a bunch of chunky bass frequencies. There's absolutely no flair in any other regard - no varying lead patterns, no notable changes in the pace of drumming, no vocal lines that really grab you - and I'm certain that's exactly how the band wanted it.

...Of course, it doesn't make for dreadfully interesting music by itself. The atmosphere is nice, don't get me wrong, but when you don't zone out and bask in the album it's one of the most banal things you'll have ever heard. The riffs are pretty boring (and seemingly unjustifiably so, in that the riffs aren't contributing much to the droning, thick atmosphere the band are going for), the vocals could do a bit more with themselves aside from just the same Portal-esque hissing, and the entire thing runs through an enormous cycle of repetitions before it gets anywhere. There are slight shifts in mood and songwriting when the riffs change, but they won't be enough to satisfy anybody who's already bored of the album by the time the first riff kicks in; aside from that, none of the songs do anything intriguing or narrative-like, like maybe eschewing the lava flow for a few moments before kicking it back up with doubled intensity. The final track isn't nearly as horrendously downtuned, so it has a slightly greater focus on melody, but that's about it. Again, to appreciate this from a death metal perspective, you're going to have to be about as tasteless in your enjoyment of cavernous DM as possible, because it sincerely sounds like it was made by people who had never heard anything else in their entire lives.

I initially thought this album was really shit, but the more I listen to it and the more attuned to its atmosphere I become, the less it actually bothers me. It's certainly a mood that I haven't heard in any of these types of bands before, and it's not really life-changing or anything but it's moderately cool while it's on. On the other hand, trying to actively listen to it and find merit from that perspective is a miserably fruitless experience, and when evaluated in such a manner it's damn near worthless. My advice: treat it like a drone/dark ambient album with death metal elements so you're not tempted to compare it to things like Impetuous Ritual where you're bound to end up rather disappointed. Personally, I'm awarding this album points more for the concept than the execution; it's an interesting idea but I'll probably end up wanting to listen to this thing, like, maybe twice a year at most. People who have Ignivomous's logo tattooed on their colon should love this, though.