At The Graves first came to light back in 2008 as a side project to guitarist/vocalist Ben Price’s main band Revolta. Handling all instruments and vocals, he recorded the I and II EPs. Then he recruited bassist Andy Schmidt and drummer Joe Jacklin (both from Revolta) to complete the lineup. After Revolta broke up in 2011, they made At the Graves their main band and recorded the Solar album late in the year. Now Solar is finished and they are gearing up to tour and eventually release the album on vinyl.
Through desires that went unfulfilled in the main project Revolta of playing guitar and writing heavy music that doesn’t always have to be fast and brutal. I, At The Graves soon became a real band. Having gone through some line up instability this year sees them hopefully emerge from the shadows of this and unleash their Melvins/Neurosis influenced doom upon the world.
This 7 track album pushes the boundaries of the EPs that have preceded it and expands on their love of experimentation whilst combining the ability to write tunes that sonically crush. Starting with a beautifully picked acoustic intro, you’re immediately struck by the haunting almost unassuming vocals which almost slide into the first track proper ‘A Shield Left To The Unknown’ with its tribal drumming and grinding riffs. Gone are the haunting vocal refrains and singer Ben Price is transformed into a frightening monotone harbinger of doom.
The tacks veer between the funeral march of ‘Wildfire Lit’, all guttural, twisted and sloooooow dripping with venom, to the more austere ‘Magnetar’ with its spoken word almost, folky, latter day Neurosis vibe. Despite the seeming calm, like Oakland’s genre bending sons, the track always seems on edge, tension building until the jarring guitar takes you on another journey into the spectacular harmonic solo.
What does strike you at how much more scope this band has; it isn’t hard to see how this musical vision couldn’t remain merely a Side Project – there are plenty in the genre who would love to hit these heights as a prime concern as evidenced on ‘Prominence’ where the whole deranged tempo of the track is dictated by the mesmerising melody lines that seduce you, before the rhythm section beats you into submission.
Of the final two tracks, both are well worth sticking around for; ‘Heard Phantoms’, with its greasy bass lines and knife edge vocals that carry a hint of Albini with them and epic album closer ‘Sol’s Lament’ may be eleven and a half minutes of atmospheric dirge that builds into a ferocious climax but it makes you feel every chord struck in anger.
As a full length debut it demands attention, this is a seriously challenging and diverse record that shows in time At The Graves could well have it in them to eclipse even Solar.
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Label: Self Released
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden