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Grave Upheaval: have we reached peak murkiness?

Grave Upheaval

Once again, a new sub-subgenre has plopped forth from the bowels of underground metal. I’ve seen it called murkcore, caverncore, and wind-tunnel death metal. You summon it by taking Incantation’s basic shapes and rendering them in muddier, uglier strokes. Portal popularized it. Nuclear War Now! and Dark Descent purvey it. Many, many bands are trying to play it. It is a thing now. And Australia’s Grave Upheaval may have taken it to its logical conclusion. They are so ridiculously murky that I couldn’t even find an image of them that’s big enough for IO’s column width. (Excuse the graininess.)

This style is not to my taste, frankly. Even in death metal, I appreciate certain conventional values. I like to be able to hear what the guitars are doing, for instance. On Grave Upheaval’s new album (entitled (No title), of course), you can scarcely hear any guitars. Here’s what you can hear most of the time: distant drums. Occasional wheezy growls. A big, goopy, rumbly sound, like an industrial vacuum sucking wet cement out of a sewer. That’s it.

When I first came across Grave Upheaval, I thought: “This is the worst death metal band I’ve ever heard.” And then I realized that merely by drawing this reaction from me, Grave Upheaval had engaged me far more than countless other death metal bands have. In a sea of bland death metal, even this kind of antagonism is worth something to me.

The promotional blurb for (No Title) has this to say:

“The accentuation of ambience rather than technique is Grave Upheaval’s greatest strength and makes the music immediately arresting to the listener without the need to engage in repeat listens before it even begins to set in.”

Too true. I got the point of this album almost immediately, and there’s not much else for me here, so I’m unlikely to return to it. But perhaps you will, if murk is your texture of choice. Oh, and at least one member of Portal is in this band, so perhaps surprise crossover success will follow.

Stream (No title) below; it’s out now on Nuclear War Now! (of course).

— Doug Moore

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