Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeo.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.

After several years of self-righteous elitism where we largely overlooked unsigned acts, it’s high time we make amends. And so we’re bringing AMGs Unsigned Band Rodeo back from the dustbins of history with a fresh paint job and a butt-load of new reviewers! Whenever we fucking feel like it, we will pluck a band from metallic obscurity, review the holy Bejesus out of them and leave them to the mercy of you, the fickle masses. At year’s end we will crown the best in show and shower them with accolades, cheap beer and day old sushi. Now that you know the score, welcome to the Rodeo, mofos!

Our second Unsigned Band Rodeo for February involves Boston Massachusetts death thrashers, Led to the Grave. Bane of Existence is their second full-length, and it released at the end of 2017. We missed it then, but we aren’t missing it now! You can find the album on their Bandcamp page, and learn more the band on their Facebook page. Open the gates!

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Doc Grier – Since resurrecting the Unsigned Rodeo, no band has been more deserving of a record deal than Led to the Grave. And these Bostonians do it with the kind of metal made famous by acts like At the Gates and Mors Principium Est. But, there’s more to Bane of Existence than meets the eye. Songs like “As I Cut,” “Better Off Dead,” and “Living Hell” have big AtG vibes. And the closing minute of “Crawling Blind”—and it’s follow-up instrumental “Epic”—sift through the melodic leads and solos of MPE. But The Haunted rears it’s nasty head in “Nail in the Coffin” and Mastodon occupies the band’s list of Swedish influences. The latter lives amongst the barking vox, pounding riffs, and melodic interludes of “Death Toll” and “Crawling Blind.” Every riff, every solo, and every component of the band’s sound is meticulous as fuck. And, after it all concludes with “Come to Conquer,” there’s only one thing left to do: repeat. 3.5/5.0

Kronos – This band kicks ass. Bane of Existence thrashes out a mix of At the Gates and Leviathan-era Mastodon seasoned with speed and bad attitude, and if you don’t like it you’d better just step out of the Hall. “As I Cut” and “Epic” showcase the band’s shredders and the whole album is peppered with tasty solos and crafty bass work. Led to the Grave obviously, understand their strengths and play to them across this album, which means a drop-in at any point will treat you to good material. The one drawback here is length – though Bane of Existence clocks out after 44 minutes, the similarity of the songs starts to weaken the album after only 25. This is best enjoyed as a two-course meal with a palate cleanser in between. 3.5/5.0

L. Saunders – The rodeo is like a giant lucky dip covering a broad spectrum of the independent metal underground, ranging from amateurish dead ends to underground gems and a shitload of varying stuff in-between. Boston’s Led to the Grave occupy a spot on the more promising end of the ledger with Bane of Existence. Musically sharp and vibrantly executed, Led to the Grave boast serious chops and a versatile death metal sound, harnessing classic metal shred and riffs galore with modern elements of melodeath, thrash and heaping bouts of sludgy, sledgehammer groove. Dual guitar histrionics, meaty rhythms, and deft change-ups are coupled with ample doses of aggression and speed. “Web of Conception” is a taut and explosive blast of muscular, thrashy melodeath, while other top-notch cuts include the soulful axe-work and high octane assault of “Living Hell,” and blazing tempos and savagely addicting riffs on “Better off Dead”. There’s room for improvement, but Led to the Grave is a talented band on the rise. 3.5/5.0

Roquentin – Led to the Grave are one of those bands that tick all the right boxes of melodic death metal. Groovy buzzing riffs, alternating shrieks and growls, hyper-melodic parts sandwiched between aggressive attacks… and all of that performed quite competently. They satisfy the genre’s requirements so well, in fact, that they become slaves to stereotypes while their music is lost in a sea of albums that did the same thing in the same way. The twelve songs here, aside from a few standouts such as the Coroner-evoking “Vultures” or the instrumental ballad “Gravestones,” all sound generic and interchangeable. Like the Silence in Doctor Who, Bane of Existence fades from memory the moment its final notes are played. Considering how good their short but sweet heavy metal harmonies, leads, and solos are, perhaps they should think of switching genres. 2.5/5.0

Ferrous Beuller – Great things are done when men and mountains meet… Led to the Grave, a US death/thrash act employ a thorough understanding of said parable in their second album, Bane of Existence. What elevates the already well-defined sound is a puritanical dedication to riff-craft. A prevalent melody combines with rampant thrashing to conquer the genre’s already well-trodden slopes, putting one foot in front of the other with impressive creativity and an enhanced sense of musicality. A guitar tone to carve stone grinds through each Gothenburg inspired cut, never allowing the melodic to qualify the death of their metal. Although there is nothing particularly innovative here, Bane of Existence proves that there’s still an eternity of un-life left in such deathly structures, surmounting the limits of the genre’s traditional horizons with a sheer will to riff. Highly recommended for those with a severe distaste for spinal integrity. 3.5/5.0

Eldritch Elitist – Do you like riffs? How about carrion birds feasting upon dead punks? If you enjoy one or both of these things, you couldn’t have picked a better day to stumble upon AMG. Really, your ability to enjoy a good death metal riff is the only barrier of entry into Bane of Existence. Once these riffs start, they never let up; glorious, old school death metal riffs, dripping with smoky Swedeath venom and tinged with Gothenburg hookiness, and as the record goes on, they just seem to get better and better. Led to the Grave is the kind of band that plays its material so fast and dirty that it feels like they’re barely holding themselves together, and that’s part of the charm. Polish or no, you’re not likely to find a more viscerally thrilling recent death metal release. 4.0/5.0

Dr. Wvrm – Fuck yeah Massachusetts! Now, this is the type of music this state should be known for. Led to the Grave struck solid gold on this one. Take two parts death metal face melts, one part classic Mastodon, one part At the Gates melody, strain with thrash, and bathe in the ice-cold brutality that these guys lay down. Their mid-tempo old school snarls rip just as hard as their Swedeath buzzsaws, and their riffs come drenched in the juice of one million invisible oranges. The record’s headstrong momentum grows parabolicly, with each of its twelve songs unleashing some new devilry upon your eardrums. “Web of Deception” seems unbeatable, right until the extended solos of “Epic” dethrone it, but only before “Living Hell” hits its chorus. This album is exactly why you don’t release anything worthwhile in December. Bane of Existence should have been on 2017 lists across metaldom, my own included. A moment in the sun now is the least we can do. 4.0/5.0

Treble Yell – There is a particular affectation that (usually Italian) chefs make to signify that a dish they’ve sampled is delicious. The process involves the chef bringing their fingertips to their lips and making an exaggerated “Mmm-wah!” noise as said fingers then splay outwards. Bane of Existence, the second full-length album by American act Led to the Grave is filled with such delectable, mouth-watering moments, whether they be white-hot solos, filthy, buzz-saw riffs or throbbing bass lines. The death-thrash output is very technical and at times breathtaking, cribbing from acts like The Haunted, Witchery and God Forbid. But once the afterglow fades it’s clear this is an album of excellent moments but not excellent songs. The connective tissue needed to stitch together those flourishes into cohesive tracks is threadbare, leaving you with a collection of hot licks bookended by listless composition. With that said, those pockets of joy are justification enough to check out Bane of Existence and should Led to the Grave parley their prodigious skill into producing  an album balanced from end-to-end then they will be a force to be reckoned with. Mmm-wah! 3.0/5.0

Master ov Muppets – I’ll be the first to admit that death metal isn’t exactly my bread and/or bvtter, as the pile of ashes I call my heart typically smolders in favor of atonal dissonance or atmospheric presence over yet another noodly trip back to 1980’s Florida. However, good metal is good metal, and Led to the Grave make some seriously fucking good metal. These guys remind me of the best parts of Slugdge and Revocation, and honestly listening to either has to lead me back to ‘the Grave multiple times since they showed up to the rodeo. The percussion is also creative and exceptional, maintaining my interest far more than I’m used to in death metal, and I’m all about dat bass. Hell, even the vocals sound great, if not necessarily wildly unique. This is faith-affirming stuff, that undiscovered gem we all dream of finding but never dare to believe in. Color me converted, yo. 4.0/5.0

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