Bestiality is bad kids. Most legal jurisdictions agree on this1. Perhaps this is why the English Goat Molestör re-branded to Grave Miasma a number of years prior to the release of their first full-length in 2013. During 15 years of existence this remains their sole LP with a slew of demos, splits and EPs fleshing out the rest of their occult-influenced death metal journey. Even this, Endless Pilgrimage, is a return once again to a sub-album ‘mini-album,’ just 33 minutes of dense, atmospheric brutality. While this length is quite typical for old school-influenced death metal, these minutes are split across just 5 tracks. As a band without distinct progressive propensities, this is surely indicative of greater subtlety than is typical for the genre.
And so it holds true. Though the primeval intensity harks back to the late 80s or early 90s for death metal, Endless Pilgrimage is assuredly modern in its production: Sunlight Studios is avoided and HM-2 tones shirked. I would describe their core as a less melodic Sulphur Aeon with the harsher, clinical tendencies of Cruciamentum (a band with whom Grave Miasma shares a style, nationality, record label, drummer and guitarist). The best example of this is probably the opener, “Yama Transforms to Afterlife.” Taking a different tack, the single, “Purgative Circumvolution,” is the fastest song here and accelerates to levels of pace and ferocity somewhere close to grind. And yet, they’re also fond of mid-paced, doom-laden passages to vary the longer tracks. I certainly don’t object to this as they’re executed well and the moments at which the pace ramps up again are all the more powerful for the temporal fluctuation. The transition beginning at 5:20 on “Utterance of the Foulest Spirit” exemplifies this, gradually rebuilding to full speed with commanding percussion and a neat guitar flourish.
What’s more great is how Endless Pilgrimage is an aural blitzkrieg and is utterly unforgiving – but there’s seriously strong atmosphere without resorting to extravagant synths or ambient interludes. This signifies talented song-writing: expansiveness without overt progressiveness, meditation without subverting savagery. The slower passages contribute to this and none of the tracks feel too long despite 3 of them exceeding 7 minutes. “Full Moon Dawn” is the most impressive in this regard. It approaches 9 minutes but is consummately engaging throughout and feels like more than mere death metal even if substantially it is.
I do have a couple of reservations preventing progression into thorough recommendation territory, however. The fourth track, “Glorification of the Impure,” is easily my least favorite despite technically impressive fret-board gymnastics. I later discovered that it’s a re-release from their first demo (as Goat Molestör) and it shows: it lacks the musical memorability and identity which they have now forged for themselves. It’s entirely unsurprising to add that the relative lack of dynamics does the record no favors. The music sounds a little flat and only changes in tempo serve to elevate or accentuate particular parts. As such, my enjoyment comes from careful attention. Let it slip to the background and is passes by with little impact.
Endless Pilgrimage is a cool (mini-)album. It’s brutally heavy, monumentally atmospheric and strangely dynamic2 for what initially seems unambiguous death metal. Their song-writing has progressively improved, becoming more nuanced through their myriad of short releases, and a successor would subsequently benefit from fresh material above picking on prior work. Imperfect but intriguing.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sepulchral Voice Records | Profound Lore Records
Websites: gravemiasma.bandcamp.com/ | www.gravemiasma.co.uk | www.facebook.com/gravemiasma
Releases worldwide: May 6th, 2016