Entering the Underground #23: Grave Infestation, Vancouver’s Undead Death Metal Champions
My fondness for my favorite collective of Vancouver musicians goes back a few years to when my buddy and bandmate Derek Orthner (who had a SCORCHING new album drop on Dark Descent Records with his main band Begrime Exemious last month, check it out!) showed me their then-new EP Perpetual Warfare. That perfect piece of crust/death madness has led to a long love affair with some of the hardest working people in the industry, and several of those same maniacs that slew my heart in Ahna are back with a brand new debut full length in a new band, Grave Infestation.
Where Ahna and related band Ceremonial Bloodbath (see: Entering the Underground #21) offer visions of extremity that stray from the classic version of the sound, Grave Infestation instead hones in on it. Meat and potatoes death metal in recent years has largely either been ignored or taken to an extreme of ignorance that goes far beyond anything attempted at the genre’s inception, and the old approach of percussive primitivism is less popular than ever. It’s clear that Grave Infestation feel that same void because they’ve stepped in nicely to fill it, offering up mostly simple but destructive riffs.
Drums and vocals can make or break a band like this, and the band’s long experience making extreme music bleeds through in how effortlessly catchy and fitting both aspects are. Tasteful tempo changes, a good sense for when to toss in a horrific grunt against when to take a break for instrumental horror, and just enough of an offset between stomping ragers, Autopsy-esque slower sections, and dreary melodic breaks to maintain momentum combine beautifully; this is a record by death metal fans, for death metal fans, and the lack of frills, trendy sensationalism, and or gimmicks means that the only thing left to judge is the quality of the music itself, and as expected, that delivers.
Give Persecution of the Living a listen for yourself and read an interview with the band below.
Just last month Persecution of the Living dropped and the reception thus far has seemed stupendous. How long was the album in the works? What’s the plan from here?
We spent most of 2020 writing the album and then recorded at the end of that year - we had a lot of writing happening in a short and condensed time with lots of dense rehearsals and writing sessions, I think for a while we were in the space rehearsing and working the songs out almost daily. It proved worthwhile since once we got into the studio we were able to track the drums and bass with rhythm guitars in about 2.5 hours, we basically just ripped straight through the entire record playing each song a couple times in a row. Most of 2021 was spent prepping the record and sending it to the plant and waiting for the plants which were mostly backed up, but the pandemic was still in full force so it's not like we had any gigs or anything to take the records to anyway so the release timing worked out perfectly anyway. The next thing we have coming up is a track we recorded in early 2022 that will be released on a 7" split with SNET via Me Saco Un Ojo, and we just booked time with an engineer to record our next full-length record in late May, which will be released by Invictus.
Is rehearsing and writing almost daily as you work on releases a normal procedure for your circle of musicians? Was it the process for the new album you mentioned?
We can’t speak for the musicians that we play in other bands with but for us it’s pretty normal to dive deeper into particular projects at a time. Daily rehearsals in advance of recording was how we approached Persecution of the Living but it worked out well. This all said it was not so much the method but the interest in writing a solid record that motivated the cadence of the writing and rehearsing process.
Circling back- how did you hook up with SNET?
Marek (MARA) from SNET is an old friend of Graham and Anju’s that they met while touring through Czech with their previous bands on European tours, and he had set up gigs for them. They all kept in touch and that’s when they realized that their two new bands - SNET and Grave Infestation - were a good fit musically together. It was just basically a long term friendship and mutual respect for one another’s music that led to the split 7” and more gigs to come in the future too.
Grave Infestation just played in Mexico City at Total Death Over Mexico. How’d it go? Was it your first time playing outside of Canada or the USA?
The bands that played Total Death Over Mexico absolutely slayed, and we had the opportunity to check out what a bunch of our friend's bands are doing now too, and of course Mexico City is a killer city to visit especially since we all have a deep respect for the history in and around the city. The coolest part of the festival was running into old friends from touring with our other bands and meeting people from all over the place, including metal maniacs who made it to the fest from Columbia and Costa Rica. And while most of us have played internationally in our other bands, this was Grave Infestation's first gig outside of Canada. We haven't played in the US yet but we have some dates in the works for 2023.
There was a compilation of the Infesticide and Infestation of Rotting Death demos earlier this year on Invictus Productions. Was that the band’s idea or the label’s? Did you ever expect those songs to end up on vinyl? What does that mean to you that they did?
That was Invictus' idea - Darragh had agreed to do the LP but then also suggested putting the demos out on vinyl. It's very clear that Darragh knows what he's doing because people have definitely been buying the demo 12" almost as quickly as the LP, which we didn't expect. So that kind of answers the next question which is that we didn't expect the songs to end up on vinyl at all…
The original demo, Infesticide, was recorded as a very loose concept, we didn't even have a band name. We just wrote some songs and then it just happened that AS's birthday rolled around and she wanted to go to a friend's studio to record so we decided to record these songs and spend the weekend writing lyrics and pulling it all together, that was in June 2018.
We came up with a title and band name eventually but just sort of sat on it for several months, not sure if we were releasing it and how and when. GC eventually pulled together some killer samples and we started to see the demo take shape, GC did some cover art, TS did the layout and we decided to release it on New Year's Eve just for fun. We definitely did not expect anything for these songs, we just wanted to write some death metal we wanted to listen to so having that recording on vinyl now is pretty wild. We were writing entirely from a place of just loving death metal we all grew up with.
Did you expect to make it so far as to release an album with this band at that early no-band-name-yet demo stage? When did the band get serious?
We didn’t expect to do anything specific at all when we recorded the demo, we all had (and still have) a million bands and projects and we started Grave Infestation with the idea to just play stupid death metal and be true to it with less pressure to make it fit something or to do something with it, so it was about staying true to our love of playing death metal most of all. Where the band maybe moved into the position of being among our more serious projects was when we were conceptualizing recording the LP and we realized that everyone was willing to put the time and work into making a killer record, which really solidified us all getting on the same page. And we all hang out quite a bit so touring and playing gigs was pretty easy to plan and we just keep doing it, so it’s all just kind of happening without any specific intention to be “serious” about it. For tours and gigs, we are looking at visiting spots we have never been before and stay for a few days or reaching out to bands we really like to play gigs together.
Persecution of the Living released June 3rd via Invictus Productions.