So yeah, when Gravehuffer invited folk on Facebook to review their upcoming release, Depart From so Much Evil, I didn’t really understand what I was getting into. I knew who they were, knew they kicked ass, but mostly knew I had a chance to snag something before release. Some things, I can’t resist.
Once I committed to it, I had a moment to think, to reflect, to remember my experience with their last release, Necroeclosion. I mean, I liked it and all, but it’s not my usual choice. I’m the low and slow side of the extreme scene. Minimal blast-beats, moderate harsh/vocals. My comfort zone is slow, pounding, mournful chords or a mid-tempo groove with a strong dose of psych. Monolord, Elder and Kyuss, for example.
I always think of this side of the extreme underground in terms of capsaicin, the natural chemical that gives peppers their heat. Gravehuffer has always been Ghost Pepper level for me. There’s hotter, but once you pass a certain point the difference between a Ghost and a Carolina Reaper seems inconsequential. Until you eat a Reaper and fully understand that there is a real, tangible difference, and it’s gonna be felt for a while.
Where Gravehuffer, and most of the Black Doomba stable excel in, is marketing and packaging. Thank gawd this beast comes with, not only a lyric sheet, but a bit of a disclaimer. They make it clear that this is an experimental album, and shouldn’t be taken as what they’ll do down the road.
Indeed. And I fucking hope they change their fucking minds about this. Because nothing coulda prepared me for the experience I had, and still have, with this album.
Opener Blueprint for an Early Grave delivers what I’d expect from a GH release, along with the sound clips inserted, the down tuned guitar chords, beastial drumming, and general, guttural cacophony and shouting. Then it’s over, and the “let’s crank the noise up a notch” of Slayberry kicks in. This is when my mind started to open, because at just over a minute into these two-minutes of hell, I started to get it. Reading the lyrics confirmed it: this is fucking awesome. The noise has a purpose, and once I get acclimated to the overall vibe, I start to feel it. This song affects me in ways I never, ever expected.
The Cryptid and the Iron Bird takes that affect and cranks it to 11. The transition from intense blasting at the 1:30 point takes me to a place that only the best Cosmic/Funeral Doom can usually do. That riff, with the mournful guitar floating above it, the vocals delivered in unison to the beats is mesmerizing, along with the other transition at about the three minute mark. This takes me to a very personal place, one that I rarely experience. I’m not implying you’ll experience the same thing, or that I’m reacting in the way Gravehuffer intended. But damn, this one grabs at me, and I’m tempted to claim that something I like is “brilliant” simply because I like it. I gotta leave that to someone else, I think.
Brainstorm keeps it going with an acoustic opening and a slow Death/Doom vibe, followed by a RAWK chord progression that again, just grabs me by the heart and chest the way the best YOB song can do.
Go Murder Pray and Die lacks any subtlety, whatsoever, and delivers what the title promises. With no apologies, by the way.
Finally, we’re given over 22 minutes of…whatever this experience is…Depart From So Much Evil. The opening is all cello and various brass, narration expertly delivered by Eric Sweet. It’s essentially a major work divided into two pieces: Inferno and Paradise.
This is when I figured out that the Ghost Pepper I ate when I began this journey turned out to be stuffed with a Peyote button. I’ve heard psychedelic, good stuff, that doesn’t come close to this. This goes beyond anything my Prog friends could dream of, and doesn’t follow Prog’s rigid guidelines anyway. I make no secret that I use music to alter my consciousness, get the neurotransmitters pumping, and replace the thrill I got with heavy crank and alcohol use. Gravehuffer delivers that experience, without a doubt. But that RUSH has a deeper level to it, mostly due to the band members putting themselves out there and producing what I suspect is a highly personal recording. There are deeply held religious and moral convictions in Depart From So Much Evil, which is where the Peyote comes in. It’s extremely viceral
My experience with Depart From So Much Evil is something I don’t quite understand. I don’t swim these waters very often, and like the best experiences I can have when it comes to music, it makes me question a lot of stuff. I want to find the answers, and for that I need to start with the band. I’m hoping to be able to talk to them soon. Otherwise, I’m just going to hurl out my usual superlatives and move on to the next release.
Something tells me this calls for a little more than that. To be continued, I hope…