The Curse That Is
Turn of the Tide:
GRAVES AT SEA emerge from the briny deep
towing their first-ever LP
dB Rating: 8/10
Release Date: April 1st, 2016
Label: Relapse Records
Neil deGrasse tyson likes to talk about how fleeting human existence is in the grand scheme of the cosmos, which leads me to believe he hasn’t spent enough quality time with Use Your Illusion II. If he had, he’d take the immortal words of Axl Rose to heart: “But it’s been 14 years of silence, it’s been 14 years of pain! It’s been 14 years that are gone forever and I’ll never have again!”
Granted, Graves at Sea don’t flaunt any overt GN’R influences in their smothering brand of sludge/doom, but the two camps undoubtedly agree on one thing: 14 years is a long fucking time to wait for anything. Since forming in 2002, the Portland-based band has released plenty of epic material, including the legendary demo Documents of Grief and two excellent splits with Asunder and Sourvein, but one thing that’s always been missing from their resume is a bona fide full-length that the metal world could ingest, dissect and revere. Luckily for us, times change—just as 2016 sees the return of a clueless narcissist and whatever’s left of his Guns, so too does it mark the long-anticipated arrival of The Curse That Is.
And good news: it’s worth the wait! Building on their signature cocktail of filthy sludge riffs, tormented vocals and melancholic atmosphere, Graves at Sea have assembled eight songs that smolder with the type of discernible rage that can only come from experienced, battle-worn craftsmen. The ominous, minute-long feedback that starts the record might as well be a statement of intent: we’re all doomed, but at least we can enjoy one last headbanging session before the lights go out.
Like most sludge albums, The Curse That Is lives and dies by its riffs (see “Dead Eyes” for the audio equivalent of being pummeled with an oar), but with a 77-minute run-time to work with, Graves at Sea also spend ample time exploring dynamics by way of acoustic guitar, subtle cymbal work and mournful violin. It’s a smart way of breaking up the daunting task of spinning the massive LP in one go, and a nice reminder that heavy music doesn’t always have to come from a full stack.
Seriously, though, these fucking riffs. Guitarist Nick Phit leads the charge with his gnarled doom-grooves, but he has ample help from bassist Jeff McGarrity and drummer Bryan Sours, both of whom bring a thunderous power to standout tracks like “The Tempest” and “Waco 177,” the latter of which features a chorus section that’ll go down as one of Graves at Sea’s all-time best. Vocalist Nathan Misterek sounds delightfully unhinged throughout, and his “self-loathing lyrics of torment and demise” are, as always, the perfect complement to his pterodactyl-onthe-warpath style. The curse is hereby lifted!
For more Graves at Sea, check out our full-page profile on the band in the April 2016 issue. This review was our lead review ffrom the same issue.