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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.