Personally, I have always found some connection with unpleasant, slow, grinding heavy music. There is something extremely cathartic when you are having a bad day and throwing on the most traumatic sounding thing you can find. The pent-up internal screams find their expression through the seismic riffing, the thundering drums and the strangled anguish of the vocals.
This love of the macabre is what has drawn me to the likes of Lord Mantis and Indian, as well as a host of other seemingly near-do wells, who create music that sounds as if the devil himself has just popped out from Hades to have a jam with the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and this is what drew me to the debut album from grim Danish trio Grava.
Formed in Copenhagen, the three piece of Atli Brix Kamban (vocals, guitar), Niels Asger Svensson (vocals, bass) and Casper Axilgård (drums) make a cacophony that defies their numbers as they channel seemingly simplistic, primitive sludge drenched riffing and nightmarish brutality that reflects the horrors of the world.
Finding inspiration by conjuring visions of death through ‘the eyes of the dying, unearthed from the great tomes of history’, the subject of man’s demise is covered in tales of great importance, like the crucified slaves who rebelled against the Roman empire and were rewarded with crucifixion, or smaller events like a prisoner being trampled to death by a work elephant in East Asia.
No matter the scale of the ordeal, Grava seek to capture these moments under a microscope and show them to the world with a sound tracked by despair. If that seems a bit much to throw on when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, you might be right, but you don’t call your album Weight Of A God casually and there is absolutely no doubt that this is pretty fucking heavy in tone and delivery.
Consisting of seven tracks which, for the most part, rarely trouble the four-minute mark, Grava’s trademark is a slow, lurching sludge with black metal elements that collide with post-hardcore screaming that batters the listener like a howling wind tunnel of sensory overload.
The opening track sets the scene with a humming, clean sounding guitar, that rises over the hard-hitting drums. It’s not long before the rasping vocals of Kamban burst from the speakers and Waves takes a stuttering and vertigo inducing drop into the sort of off kilter bludgeon that Sacramento titans Will Haven have mastered over their career. Detailing the drowning of sailors in a raging sea, the long ringing string bends and dirty sounding bass is thick with dense, oppressive atmosphere like being caught in the churning waters.
Building on a rise and fall dynamic, the band drag themselves through moments of high intensity and minimal open space that do not soften from the power of their music, but rather add to it as they exercise a tight control in the delivery.
a delicious mixture of screamo and blackened sludge that could be a cousin of Indian’s The Unquiet Sky…
Bender begins with a tight lone drumbeat before devolving into a delicious mixture of screamo and blackened sludge that could be a cousin of Indian’s The Unquiet Sky. As Grava breakdown into a lingering passage of sinister notes and downtuned menace, you can feel the tension mounting before they explode again. Featuring a plaintive call and response vocals between pleading and towering judgement, they end with a wondering guitar solo dripping with evil before the plodding of Crusher rears into view.
Based on the tale of the elephant mangled worker, it works its way through an imperious plodding rhythmical cycle, that is monstrously heavy and swaying, like the rolling march of the gigantic beast. Moving from horror to despair, then to an almost drifting release, the impact is suffocating before the band finish with a vicious stamping motif.
Next up, Alight does little to elevate the sheer power of the album as once again the gravel dragged vocals crawl over battering musical passages that are punctuated by moments of high drama and contrasting vocals. Cauldron finally eases this pressure and the mournful guitar meanders with wistful and spectral grace. When the track inevitably shifts gears, it is oppressive and twisted, made heavy, not by brute force but the thick, sombre atmosphere which continues on Appian Way.
Documenting the tragic story of the failed slave uprising in Rome, the shortest track on the album is a downtrodden narrative that seeks to conjure the stillness and finality of being broken and nailed to a cross waiting to die.
The last and longest track on Weight Of A God is also one of the highlights of this savage album. Shifting slowly as it progresses, The Pyre sees the band use contrasting styles and vocals to crank the tension, tightening like being squeezed by a boa constrictor, backing off and then returning with more power like a predator toying with a weakened prey and signing off the album in an exhausting fashion.
As the swirling synths rise with almost cathedral (the place, not the band) like energy, it evokes the spirts of the much-beleaguered dying, whose sad tales the listener has encountered in this brief, but wrought musical piece, are finally released from the torment and hopefully freed from agony.
The band recorded this debut in just three days. Captured live by Troels Damgaard Holm at Black Tornado Studio and mixed at Farvemøllen, the process is seemingly as raw as the subject matter, which isn’t a slight on the production value. Weight Of A God sounds suitably massive, but it does have a deliberate nasty, rough edge that has not been cleaned up in the process, making it sound all the more authentic.
Grava have delivered a huge statement of intent, Weight Of A God doesn’t often stray too far from its brutal template, but they throw in enough variation to keep the seven tracks from repeatedly beating you into the ground with the same trick over and over again.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden