Grave Upheaval - (Untitled)
Nuclear War Now! Productions
Atmospheric Death Metal
8 songs (57:07)
Release year: 2018
Bandcamp, Nuclear War Now! Productions
Reviewed by Goat

Grave Upheaval are not what you might call a listener-friendly band. The Australian duo are nameless (although thanks to the internet we know that they are also members of acts like Portal and Temple Nightside) their albums are nameless, and their songs are nameless, identified here only by Roman numerals, which is downright mainstream of them after their first untitled album (from 2013) didn't name any songs at all! And their music itself is equally confusing, vast slabs of cavernous death metal that appear and disappear without warning, rising and fading into ambience. A little more dissonance and this would cross into the black metal zone, but instead Grave Upheaval keep themselves firmly on the other side of the line. Death metal as heard from several caverns away, maybe, but death metal nonetheless. And as ever with what has become something of a mini-genre in its own right, cavernous death metal's impact largely depends on the listener. It can be a revelation, a Lovecraftian descent into deep depths and horrific otherworldly rituals, or it can be a confusing mess that bores and quickly sends you off in search of something less contemptuous of melody or widdly guitar solos.

Personally, I'm the former; a sucker for atmospheric music in general, but especially fond of death metal that pushes at its boundaries and seeks to take you to places beyond guitar workshops. Solos are awesome, and I do love musicians that shamelessly show-off as much as anything, as regular readers will know. Yet Grave Upheaval are as different from these as power metal is from jazz, any (very rare) solos here being brief background shrieks that fit in perfectly with the overall cacophony. That cover art is perfect: a ghostly arm, a grave, a skull. Easy, so easy to stare at it and be transported to a terrifying world of ghoulish monks, secret rituals, and cemeteries after midnight, especially with moments like the doom metal-paced dronings of II-IV. The music just fits the dark imagery so, so well, even with the uneven mix meaning that guitar riffs are shapeless and often overwhelmed by the blasting drums.

Let's be honest, this is hard to recommend unless you already know you'll love it. There's a weird subsection of death metal fans who have listened to everything that Immolation and Incantation have put out and are eager for deeper, darker, heavier variants on the same - and bands like Grave Upheaval and their ilk provide it. Newcomers should back the hell off unless they enjoy utter disorientation, but for those interested there is plenty to make Grave Upheaval worth hearing. They're slower, less deranged and definitely less rock 'n' roll than the likes of Teitanblood, next to whom this is basically funeral doom! Listen to II-VII, for example, the slow initial drum hits next to the swirling guitars, atop which breathy growls occasionally gasp; at moments, this is barely death metal at all. There are definitely faults with this, not least that nothing here makes for what you'd call a song, but songcraft is not why you listen to a band like this, and if you seek a trip deep underground then Grave Upheaval more than satisfy.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted 75 / 100
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