For a pestilential onslaught of black, death, and thrash metal, moulded into one voracious tempest of raw and dirty metal it is unlikely many releases will surpass the new uncompromising ravaging of US corruptors Gravehill. The band’s third album Death Curse is a bestial examination of the senses; savaging violations soaked in causticity and stripped to their primal bones and intent. At times an anthemic contagion and in others simply a predatory gnawing of the senses, the album is an increasingly potent annihilation which evolves an initial strong showing into a truly impressive and exhausting incitement. There is no wastage of frivolous trickery or excessive showing off just concentrated undiluted primeval metal at its best.
The Californian band was formed in 2001, a trio which took little time in unleashing debut demo The Practitioners of Fell Sorcery; it was short lived triumph though as Gravehill disbanded soon after. 2006 saw the band reform, original drummer/founder Rhett “Thorgrimm” Davis linking up with vocalist Mike Abominator. A second demo Metal of Death in 2007 was followed by the EP Metal of Death/Advocation of Murder and Suicide the following year from the quintet. First full-length Rites of the Pentagram was next uncaged on Enucleation Records to strong reactions in 2009 as also its re-release in a package with a third outing from the band’s first demo via Ibex Moon Records a year later. The line-up saw a change in 2011 with guitarist Matt “Hellfiend” Harvey (Exhumed, Dekapitator, Repulsion) joining the band before second album When All Roads lead to Hell on Dark Descent Records. The next year saw another shift in personnel with both Hellfiend and fellow guitarist Rob “Bodybag Bob” Babcock leaving due to extensive touring demands with Exhumed to be replaced by CC DeKill and Hell Messiah.
With the new members slotting in with ease alongside Thorgrimm, Abominator, and bassist J.T. Corpse, Gravehill set about creating what has emerged as their most ferocious and destructive triumph to date. Again out through Dark Descent and featuring guest appearances from the likes of Chris Reifert and Eric Cutler of Autopsy as well as Kam Lee (Massacre, Death and Bone Gnawer), Death Curse is a masterful protagonist of the senses from the exceptional artwork provided by Christopher Moyen (Incantation, Blasphemy)to its last lingering venomous note. Though the introductory opener Gates of Hell does not show the storm to come, its epically sinister portent of sonic certainly brings an intimidation to bear on the senses, a brewing threat soon realised with the explosive entrance of the title track, riffs and rhythms a merciless rampage whilst the coarse even rawer vocals scar air and ears. Eager in its thrash driven gait and acidic in the eruptions of sonic enterprise, the track is a magnetic encounter which maybe does not trigger an immediate hunger but with good variation to the vocals and a resistance proof groove certainly has full control of attention.
At Hell’s Command is much swifter in taking a submission from senses and passions, its yawning sonic bait from the first second irresistible and the spark to an incendiary examination of a brutal rhythmic battering and a venomous and compelling sonic intrusion. There is an insidiously commanding element to the song, and subsequently the album, which manipulates the imagination and emotions into subservience either instantly or over time as in the case of other songs, but always succeeding in its intent. The guitar toxicity of CC DeKill and Hell Messiah is especially impressive and tempting, their designs as in all aspects of the release, skilled and striking but never dosed with a wasteful indulgence.
The following Open Their Throats emerges from the fluid gothic like link between it and its predecessor to prowl around the ear with a doom bred stance. The song stalks with venom dripping from its rhythmic jaw and slavering riffs whilst the guttural intense vocals add further insatiable predation. Intensity and violence waits in the shadows before being freed from their reins for a fiery antagonism driven second half of the impressive rage, vocals and guitar craft again formidable lures within an equally compelling rhythmic enticement.
Both Fear the Reaper and Unending Lust for Evil take release and passions to another level, the virulently contagious drum and bass entrance to the first opening a doorway to thrash anthemic glory within a death seeded animosity whilst its successor digs deeper inside itself for a blacker toxin with which to infest song and listener, its constantly shifting attack and creativity a ridiculously infectious almost salacious offering. The pair of tracks marks the pinnacle of the album, though to be fair its whole range is never far from the lofty filth encrusted heights of the two as proven by the rapacious malevolence of Black Blood Rising, the blackened scourge a welcome primordial predator in modern extreme metal.
The album is at its strongest in its latter half with the final two songs continuing the intensive potency and senses gorging maliciousness of the last few offerings. Crucified is the loudest boldest anthem on the album, an irritable nagging soon recruiting full allegiance with its group vocal baiting over heavy booted rhythms and riffing. Speared by excellent sonic craft from the guitars, the song is a leader of rebellious intent igniting the pulse rate ready for the closing doomy weight and thrash swing of The Ascending Fire to exploit with its equally anthemic power. The song makes an outstanding last assault to an addictive treacherous plague, a Death Curse which violates and thrills with even voracity.
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