When I heard the first seconds of «Guardians of Death» I quickly realized that something had changed, and it was not a tiny change. Guitars weren’t so downtuned with that «drowned» sound, riffs were written in a more «conventional» way… All in return was more aggressive at first glance. Furthermore, the promotional sheet that accompanied the Abyss of wrathful deities digital copy confirmed my vision: «Exchanging a bit of its cavernous atmospheres present in previous works for the traditional trend of speed and aggression metal«. But for those who feel kinda lost in this «outrage» committed by the British band, let’s give some context.
GRAVE MIASMA, known at the beginning of their career as GÖAT MOLESTOR, were part of what is now called cavernous death metal, caverncore, or in more derogatory terms, hooded assholes with ritual candles. A form of death metal that differed from the traditional one due to its dense and dark sound, very much in debt to INCANTATION and the Finnish scene of the early 90’s, where mid tempos are quite common, occasionally bordering on doom/death territory, with a touch of the relentless black/death played by BLASPHEMY or PROCLAMATION when it comes to speed. This cavercore, therefore, is a mixture of the aforementioned styles and bands, repressenting a perfect balance between all of them. FUNEBRARUM, PORTAL, DEAD CONGREGATION, IGNIVOMOUS, GRAVE UPHEAVAL, ENCOFFINATION, ABYSSAL… Each with its nuances, but most of them had their moment of splendor in the late 2000s and the first five years of the 10s (which doesn’t exempt the bands from keeping a current healthy state or the style itself from still spawning offsprings).
GRAVE MIASMA, with Odori sepulchrorum, released back in 2013, became one the spearhead of the scene. They fulfilled all the necessary characteristics and clichés, they avoided being excessively dense on their sound, while the (restrained) use of Middle Eastern instruments gave them a necessary differentiation factor. The 2016 EP Endless pilgrimage went a bit further in terms of atmospheres, which is why it is considered by many to be his best work (although I disagree).
With this in mind, this «exit from the cave» is surprising, although we will soon realize that this turn of events it’s not as radical as it seems. «Guadians of death» catches us very off guard, being one of the most «conventional» songs that the British have written. Understanding conventional not as something negative, but as the representation of how modernized old school death metal should be. And the same could be said of «Rogyapa«, except for a small detail. On the last third of the track, the band slows down for a moment, as they timidly introduce Yoni Ben-Haim‘s sitar into this part. «Rogyapa«, by the way, refers to the Tibetan funeral rite, the leiv motif of the entire work. Which shows that even though the years go by, caverncore’s obsession with funeral rites throughout the world is still intact.
Even so, the absence of space to create atmospheres, while having reduced its amount of blackness reminds us of promising youngsters like GOLGOTHAN REMAINS, still attached more than necessary to the style book. Maybe that’s why this Abyss, although light years away from what other groups can do, has not caused me as much impact as its predecessor. Even «Under the megalith«, which is a steamroller on its own and starting to take on those really sinister tints, doesn’t seem as threatening compared to the past. As if you required a necrophiliac to have sex with a living person.
All this does not prevent the best GRAVE MIASMA from being seen from «Demon of the sand» onwards. Engulfed by reverb, this «Demon of the sand» is a wall of sound, where the atmosphere is something close to being swallowed up by a sandstorm. Whereas «Exhumation rites» has those small changes of rhythm, not so evident at first glance, but without realizing it, they establish as the driving force of the seve minutes track. They even allow to tease the end of the album ian that acoustic interlude. Almost like a camouflaged spoiler.
Perhaps it is due to my affinity for darker sounds, but I still find them much more comfortable when they are sunk under their own obscurity. And while I understand the urge to evolve and not make Abyss a single 50 minute song, the more «normal» songs still pale in comparison to the style they show in the latter part. It is as if we have caught them halfway to find their new identity. But, I reiterate, many would kill to do a work of this caliber.