GRAVE MIASMA - ABYSS OF WRATHFUL DEITIES
CAVERN-CORE NASTY DEATH METAL EXPLORES THE DEPTHS
England's Grave Miasma specialise in death and not just as a musical genre. The London group are niche dealers in occult and macabre meditative death metal and Abyss of Wrathful Deities is inspired by exploring burial and death rituals all of which presumably are pre-requisitely sinister.
Guardians of Death is retro-blackened and unsettlingly atmospheric with a cold labyrinthine sound spliced by chilling riffs, tremolo picks, and rattling percussion. The delivery is temple-like and seems to echo around an unlit subterranean cathedral. It is steadfastly bleak alright, and oppressive too. The harsh unintelligible vocals are further back in the mix, coming in haunted wraith-like gusts; a common black metal tactic to create a low-fi timbre of otherworldliness and dread. There is a rumbling, primitive death metal engine hammering away savagely here but it is shrouded behind trans-dimensional ethereal bleakness. The effect this creates is a brooding ceremonial quality and an occultish dimension that is seriously full-on. Rogyapa, for example, is based around a Tibetan funeral practice of leaving a corpse on a mountain for carrion birds, and it continues with a stormy strident pace and a grim determination while Ancestral Waters has more of a ritualistic, liturgical thrust.
Grave Miasma have produced a death metal record where the core function is to generate relentlessly unnerving psychological intensity that is at once both solemnly grim and impenetrably vengeful. It is a punishing mood to sustain throughout the distance of an LP but Abyss of Wrathful Deities does, however, have some subtle nuances flickering around in the misty murk. Take for example the drumming delivery which clatters away noisily in traditional black metal style like an esplanade of deck chairs being knocked over in high winds. But the drums are one of the most prominent ingredients in the mix and are, at times, usefully elaborate and appropriately grandiose. It is a pretty accomplished percussion performance all round and it supports the sense of dramatic eeriness. The guitar work, meanwhile, is resigned to a deeper strata in the production but offers some clever flourishes, hypnotic hanging chords, frenzied solos, and unexpected wends that all evoke that mesmeric, sinister vibe. These tricks help sustain what is a mid-paced album of death-ambience.
An entire full-length album of ‘caverncore’ is, however, a difficult challenge to keep up especially when the tempo mostly keeps to one gear. Albums of this sort – and it’s a style that has become more popular - are prone to drifting into a trancey drowse that beckons the listener to the land of nod rather than the astral plane. Abyss of Wrathful Deities is marginally more aggressive and direct that the band’s previous efforts and, in places, there is enough bludgeoning variety like on the twisting Erudite Decomposition, the grinding Demons of the Sand, or the blast beat driven Exhumation Rites. Overall, though, the intension is send you on a harrowingly bad trip and keep you there with songs that last six or seven minutes in a gaping, relentless sepulchral chamber sound. It would take committed, immersive listens to appreciate the niceties of the song-craft on offer, otherwise it can all blend into a spectral brume.
Abyss of Wrathful Deities is resolutely focussed on death and not in the mock celebratory kind of gore metal but in a menacing spiritual formalism. It’s like a death metal séance that has gone badly wrong - though for Grave Miasma that might be seen as a good time. Without the echoey atmosphere, this would be a bludgeoning piece of DM. Grave Miasma have this kind of tomb-trance sound owned, and others have tried to copy it, but you have to be prepared to endure the descent.