One criticism I’ve gotten, especially from my beloved babe-thoven, the Newbie-Doomer, is that I never write about releases I don’t like, or critical reviews.
True enough, and those critics have a point. If everything I write about is “the best ever”, I have zero credibility and I’m nothing but a shill to certain bands and labels. The thing is, I have a policy agains shaming, embarrassing or in general being a dick. Plenty of other sites do that, and I personally can’t stand it. Just…no.
But not everything can be the best, and Grave Next Door’s Sanctified Heathen is as far from the best release this year as I’m likely to comment on. But please read though to the end, in which I reveal some brutal truths.
Lets get right to it: Sanctified Heathen is as DIY as it gets this side of Black Metal. The recording is uneven, the volume levels are all over the place, and there are times when the mix makes me go “WTF was that?”
The guitar playing is solid enough, and he’s honing in on a signature tone. It’s hard to tell at times though, because the rhythm section is so all over the place that it’s hard to focus on it, I mean, damn, I love hearing bands who aren’t slaves to a click track or metronome, but there are times when all 3 of them are so out of time that the track totally falls apart for a few seconds, only to be rescued by the guitar and vocals. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever heard vocals hold down the timing before but I swear, it comes across like that to me at times.
The thing is, those aren’t the brutal truths. I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but there are certain realities we have to face at times. I think this is one of those times.
- The Grave Next door is winning the internet. It’s like, every group I’m in, every time I go on Facebook, there they are! Guerilla, DIY marketing at its best. Videos, snippets, posts, they’re all over the place. Only AWWKS is close, at least on my feed and profiles. It’s a relentless campaign of promotion, and it works.
- The Grave Next Door is writing better songs than you are. Seriously, both the writing and the arrangements are top-notch, it’s just that the writing is above the ability of the band to pull off. At least at the time of this recording.
- Talent is a myth. Perfection is generally the result of constant practice while making 10,000 mistakes. The Grave Next Door is playing gigs all over the place, from Texas to Baltimore, from what I can tell. They’re going to get better, a lot better. They seem relentless, determined, and in love with what they’re doing. That’s a potent combo, especially when you consider the lack of whining from them about how hard this shit is.
- They’re probably one album away from exploding. I mean no disrespect to their production crew, but in my opinion all they need is someone with them, in the studio, who can get the best from them. Sure, I can write that about anyone. But if they were disciplined and trained on how to hold down a groove, consistently, on every song, we’re probably talking about a top 20 on the Doom Charts on any given month. I don’t mean someone who’s gonna make them sound like the typical crap on the radio, but a seasoned pro ready to take a stab at production.
In the end, I think this is a must-have for any fan of raw, DIY, undiluted hard rock and stoner. The song writing is pretty darn good, well above average. Some, like Heavy Texas, are so full of potential that I have no doubt they’re capable of being a very good, solid band. For all I know, they already are after hitting the road and surviving the clubs. I can’t wait to find out, and their next release will be darn high on my “most anticipated” list.
But they gotta get critical. Stoner/Doom is full of bands competing for the same fans, and I consider myself one of them. There are hundreds of releases every month and thousands every year who appear and then fade into obscurity. Grave Next Door has a lot of people’s attention, and now it’s up to them to keep it. I have no doubt that they can pull it off.