Grave Miasma – Abyss of Wrathful Deities


You should know Grave Miasma as the London death metal band that produced the classic Odori Sepulcrorum album in 2013. Many critics now consider it one of the finest records of the last decade and a great example of an LP that sounds like the artist recorded it in a burning house with no means of escape. We often praise the atmospheric qualities of black metal, but Grave Miasma and Portal do much to elevate death metal to new levels of density and agony without resorting to pounding blast beats and caveman grunts. This album is a big deal in the underground from a band that aim to remain anonymous. But is it worth the hype and lavish praise heaped on it by a salivating press?

There can be no doubt that Grave Miasma have a signature sound. Opener, ‘Guardians of Death’, starts like Possessed playing blackened death metal with Scott Burns mixing the drums in a past life. The amount of reverb on the vocals will make you believe the singer is projecting his voice from the trapped wreckage of a plane crash. Manchester black metal fiends, Wode, play a similar style but with more emphasis on higher range guitar dissonance.  It’d be interesting to hear the vocal tracks in isolation after sitting through lead single, ‘Rogyapa’. The phonation of voice is harrowing, like a person who slips into a pit of dead bodies and cannot escape without the aid of others. Listen to the biting guitar distortion at the mid-section… Ouch!

Grave Miasma stop you from getting too close by creating a chasm between artist and listener. After all, they call their music obscure death metal (whatever that means!). Their art is the audio equivalent of the Medieval notion of purgatory – aching souls, penitent sinners and devilish corrupters threaten to spill out at any moment in an ecstasy of torment and interminable pain. The muddy guitars of ‘Ancestral Waters’ aim to achieve a reckoning that could only be recorded in the darkest sepulchre of your imagination. You’ll sigh after track four, ‘Erudite Compositon’, comes to an end. The opening tremolo-picked riffs throb like a reverb-heavy Putrid Offal dragging dead bodies through a foul French bog. The claustrophobia and dishevelled sense of balance make for an unpleasant listening experience if you get sucked in and allow the music to lobotomise you.

With each song clocking in at an average time of six minutes, it’s clear that Abyss of Wrathful Deities could do with at least twenty minutes chopped from the record. ‘Under the Megalith’ is a fine piece of filthy death-doom but soon whimpers at the three-minute mark, just as ‘Demons of the Sand’ turns into one long forward attack from cost-to-coast, across all land and sea, sweeping up everything before it like a giant blob of toxic slime. By the end, you can’t remember anything about the compositional parts or individual instruments. Thank Christ, they include a one-minute palette cleanse of spooky acoustic folk-picking at track seven (‘Interlude’) to prepare you for the final two songs. ‘Exhumation Rites’ is not as tedious as the seven minutes and sixteen seconds suggest, but the sweat and heat of the incineration pile and the stench of rotting corpses will make you hyperventilate after four minutes. At this point, you realise that the latest album from Gravesend is much more interesting and digestible. Well done to you, if you’re not exhausted by it all when the last note fades on ‘Kingdoms Beyond Kailash’.

Though they do many things right and keep the spirit of raw death metal alive, Grave Miasma are too impenetrable and too indulgent on this release. Fifty-two minutes of slimy death metal and structureless transgressions are difficult to stomach. Slimmed down to thirty-two minutes, Abyss of Wretched Deities would be a contender for album of the year. Instead, it’s an affair bordering on monotony by the time you reach the back end of the record. Those that enjoyed the last Ulcerate LP will relish the challenge, but the rest of us might be less enamoured.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 14/05/2021

Record Label: Sepulchral Voice Records

Standout tracks: Guardians of Death, Rogyapa, Erudite Composition

Suggested Further Listening: Wode – Burn in Many Mirrors (2021), Death – Leprosy (1988), Mercyless – Mother of All Plagues (2020)