REVIEW: GRAVES AT SEA – “The Curse That Is”
Perseverance is the key to success, and Graves at Sea have persevered for the better part of two decades. Formed in 2002 by Nick Phit and Nathan Misterek, they have stood strong and carried the sludge/doom flag with panache in spite of various line-up changes and the death of an original member. Over the course of 15 years, they have successfully gathered a horde of fans and exhibited their world of misanthropy and filth. The band has continuously released material in the form of demos and splits, and has toured extensively, thus remaining relevant to all things grim.
Graves at Sea consists of Nathan Misterek (vocals), Nick Phit (guitar), Bryan Sours (drums) and Jeff McGarrity (bass), and ‘The Curse That Is’ is their malevolent, scuzz-soaked debut set for release on the April 1 via Relapse records.
The album opens with the title track, which starts with amplifier distortion magic evoking pure evil, followed by a very psychedelic doom riff. Misterek disgorges words of pure filth in this song. “The Curse That Is” is followed by “Dead Eyes”, which has a dirty tribal opening followed by a similar scuzz-infused riff structure to that of the title track. This continues through the third track “Tempest”, save for the cello-based ending in the former.
“The Ashes Made Her Beautiful” is the stand-out track of the album. This song opens with an acoustic intro consisting of a sad melancholic cello section. The sadness continues throughout the song, which is about the demise of someone close to you. With a lot of beautiful funeral doom-influenced chord progressions, this song succeeds in breaking the monotony of the album and is a sheer treat for the listeners.
“This Mental Existence” brings the album back to its sludge roots, albeit with a small melodic tinge. Lyrically, this song is extremely intriguing in the way that it is possibly about a person’s painfully manic struggle to overcome a disease. ”Waco 177” has got a lot of Sleep-influenced riff progressions, and speaks about the tragedy that happened in Waco, Texas where nine bikers were killed and 177 were arrested by the police. “Luna Lupus Venator” is an acoustic instrumental with a lot of clean guitar and cello, and is magnetically morose. ”Minimum Slave” brings the texture back to sludge with a hint of Ohm-influenced riffing in the beginning.
Lyrically, this album is extremely diverse whilst sticking to the band’s proclivity towards pain, self-loathing, remorse, and addiction. The songs give you minute glimpses into the band’s cerebral space without divulging too much, leaving room for a lot of individual interpretations. From war and concentration camps to the loss of a loved one, the band tries to cover all the subject matter they possibly can under the spectrum of morbidity and grimness.
However, the musical style and riff structures in the album do tend to get a bit colourless, monotonous, and suffocating at times. Tracks like “The Ashes Made Her Beautiful” and “Luna Lupus Venator” do succeed in breaking said monotony, but the band should consider broadening their musical horizons, especially if they want to make a lengthy album. Having said that, the riffs are gargantuan, and with their stellar production have the potential to cause earthquakes and shatter the essence of humanity.
Graves at Sea have definitely walked the whole nine yards, and fifteen years for a full-length debut is quite a wait. The band should be appreciated for not repeating any of their previous songs on this album, and instead churning out a set of brand-new riffs that boast sonic madness of the highest order. We lie in wait for the lyrical themes and (hopefully) diverse riffage they have in store for their sophomore effort.