In my college years I voraciously consumed odd books, tearing through everything from Might is Right to Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible to the bizarre psychic writing experiment that was W.B. Yeats’ A Vision. In the end few ideas stuck with me, save for some strange thoughts which eventually manifested themselves in a dream about a philosophical treatise called “The Antichthont Cycle” written by none other than Deicide‘s own Glen Benton.1 In a weird way Italian death metal band Gravesite conjure a similar feeling. On 2015 debut Horrifying Nightmares…, the quartet excelled at slinging riff after riff at the listener, offering an experience that was enjoyable but didn’t always stick. Nevertheless the record impressed me enough with its lurching guitars and vintage horror creepiness that it narrowly escaped a Things You Might Have Missed writeup and a spot on my Year-End list. With sophomore full-length Neverending Trail of Skulls, I’m finally here to make the trek and reveal the sick world these former Undead Creep members have created.

It’s a Grotesque world, filled with the Repulsion one might feel after witnessing an Autopsy.2 In this way Trail is quite similar to Nightmares, with one important distinction: somewhere along the way the band either came down with rabies, developed a coke addiction, or just realized that playing crazier and faster would make for better music. Imagine if Entombed had a younger brother who was forced into isolation after Left Hand Path, only to emerge from his dungeon today after growing insane from two decades of picking his scabs and eating bat poo. Front to back Trail is like a 36-minute plunge into a musty crypt on a rickety mine cart, with only the battering drums keeping everything barely riveted together. The cart squeaks with slicing tremolos, rattles with crunchy power chords, careens on catchy chugs, and twists between devilish melodies that burst from seemingly every corner.

Though Trail is firmly rooted in pure death metal, the sheer relentlessness and frantic stop-starts almost make it feel like a grindcore or tech-death record. There aren’t really verses or choruses here – instead, Gravesite deliver a constant stream of wild riffs that are only broken by moments like the eerie music box intro of “Forced to Cannibalism” or the warped doomy tritones in “Atrophied Organs” and the opening title track. Nevertheless there exists some memorability. Early highlight “Coffin Birth” barrels forward on a delightful jabbing melody before descending into some ghastly harmonized leads, while “Global Disease Madness” rides a bobbing mid-paced chug garnished with addictive couplets. Later cut “Town of the Re-animated” maintains the quality with a foreboding sample from the film Dead and Buried and a rapid guitar lick that unfurls like a mutant’s head splitting open.

It’s all ghoulish fun, but at this point the biggest negative is probably obvious. Much like Nightmares, Trail is the kind of record you’ll headbang along to tonight but probably won’t be humming tomorrow morning. Fortunately this is redeemed by two facts: one, it’s still a goddamn blast; and two, frontman Graci’s vocals are absolutely berserk. Perhaps the only thing crazier than the guitars, Graci roars, growls, and gurgles with the maniacal inflection of Desaster’s Sataniac and the demented slurring of Obituary’s John Tardy. The man sounds downright insane, throwing in random screams and spewing out syllables like vomited alphabet soup. Along with the rapid whirling solos, he fits perfectly with the album’s frenzied pace.

But through it all, perhaps the most interesting thing about Trail is how hard it is to categorize. With a dusty yet modern production that eschews the Sunlight Studios guitar tone for a sharper buzz, Gravesite tread the line between the Swedish and the Florida scenes, feeling at once retro and yet also wholly contemporary. Perhaps the best example is closer “Swallowed in Darkness,” which follows its Atheist-esque opening with rapid tremolos that sprint forward as if in a last-ditch effort to finally find the end of this Trail of Skulls. Alas the Trail has no end, and we’ll follow it until we’re all driven mad by the darkness or start seeing visions of Glen Benton peddling cosmological theories. If that doesn’t scare you and you’re eager to get your hands dirty with some inspired and untamed death metal, rest assured Gravesite offer a great place for your inner maniac to lay his head.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Xtreem Music
Releases Worldwide: August 1st, 2017

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which, in retrospect, actually might have made for some pretty interesting reading.
  2. Triple name-drop bonus! Ding ding ding!
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  • Frost15

    Embedded track intro sounded like basic rap. I was really expecting a rapper coming into the song and dropping some lines… Glad it was not the case haha

    • Gravesite – “Neverending Trail of Skulls,” feat. Raekwon, Method Man, & Redman.

      • PanzerFistDominatrix

        Surely The Grym Reaper, RZArector and the other members of Gravediggaz is a better match (“danger-danger, danger-danger, the graveyard chamber…”)

  • Malhorne

    “Triple name-drop bonus! Ding ding ding!”

    And here is the reviewer’s bingo!

  • Nag Dammit

    The track names have me sold. Coffin Birth has to be fave of the year so far.

    • The Akerstache

      I dunno, they’re good, but Funeral Fvck has them beat for best names. But this is right there for second place.

      • Matt slatz

        Anal cunt=best song names ever…..

        • The Akerstache

          Gotta love “Hitler was a Sensitive Man.”

          • Matt slatz

            I like “you rollerblading faggot”

          • wayne the devil

            On the other end of the spectrum you have Hittite Dung Incantation…like Karl couldn’t just call it Shitfaced…..

          • sir_c

            Agoraphobic Nosebleed also has some nice ones.
            Pussy Hair Prayer Rug to name one

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          How about “Your band’s in the cutout bin” or “Pottery is gay”?

          • Matt slatz

            Easy e gave aids to Freddy mercury

        • Planex

          I was always partial to “Living Colour Is My Favorite Black Metal Band”

    • Dethjesta

      It’s gonna be hard to beat ‘Fucked with an Anchor’ for song title of the year as far as I’m concerned.

    • Nukenado

      Fucked with an Anchor is this year’s Beaten To Death.
      Actually, Beaten To Death wins STotY in any year that has a Beaten To Death record out…

      The Flesh Prince With Swell Hair and Papyrus Containing the Spell to Summon the Breath of Life Enshrined in the Collected Scrolls of Sheryl Crow are what comes to mind when I hear “best song titles”. NOTHING comes close in my opinion…

      • Nag Dammit

        Haha, fair point. Though Alestorm should be disqualified automatically for flagrant keytar abuse. BDMs Phantom Limb Masturbation is a personal fave of mine.

        • Nukenado

          Oh, shit, TBDM. They have some kickass song titles that only get stronger once youo realize how over the top “metal” they are.
          Climatic Degradation is one of my personal favorites, but Trevor and Co. have some mad English skills.

          I’ve seen unknowing passerby praise the “metal” of the lyrics and title of What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse.
          Despite some of the lyrics being too metal for me (The Window), They have some kickass lyrics and titles to back up their kickass music.

          • AgonMcDuck

            I think What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse is a Castlevania reference. I love TBDM, regardless.

          • Nukenado

            Yeah, it is. That was my point, they managed to make an NES game’s plot (the lyrics are the plot to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest) metal.

        • Nukenado

          Keytars are made to be abused at will. Just be happy they didn’t go DragonForce on that thing.

          I’m still waiting for a Hammond Keytar to be invented, so that progsters can also keyboard abuse to their hearts’ content.

          • Nag Dammit

            I have one: Sodomised With a Keytar Whilst Having a Kazoo Shoved Down Your Urethra and Your Balls Pulverised by Kick Drum Pedals Until You Puke Your Own Balls and Guts Out of Your Mouth Which is Being Raped by an Oboe. Aka One Man Band.

          • Nukenado

            You forgot the avant-garde mouth harp.

          • Nag Dammit

            Hammond Keytar would be awesome. But could we get Rick Wakeman a double ended one? A keytar I mean of course.

          • Nukenado

            Hmm… I was thinking double headed.

  • Nukenado

    Surprisingly melodic, but again, it might be because of excessive exposure to Dodecahedron and Plebian Grandstand. (I was surprised at Anaal Nathrakh having cleans…)

    You mentioned harmonies in one of the tracks though, and that kind of piques my interest. My early punk rock days with Bad Religion has made me an absolute sucker for cheesy harmonies… I really do wish more metal would utilize them.

    • wayne the devil

      Try Methadone’s’ album Absentia….chock full of hooks and melody. Death Metal lite…….

      • Nukenado

        Uauuuu… There’s no streaming anywhere, even on bandcamp. I might be going in blind… But thanks. Added to wishlist.

        • wayne the devil

          Shit, didn’t realize they didn’t have it on band camp. Happy hunting then. I waited multiple months to finally get Maats’ latest on digital so maybe bands are bucking the bandcamp thing..or the labels are making them???

          • Mark Z

            I tried pasting the link but it didn’t go through, this album is on the Xtreem Music bandcamp page streaming in full.

          • Nukenado

            Ah geez, thanks Mark! I’m talking about the band that wayne requested to me though…

          • Nukenado

            Nah, they have it on bandcamp. It’s just not available for streaming until you buy it.

      • Nukenado

        How are the harmonies? I like my wall of sound.

    • Will Atheling

      Try Sielunvihollinen. Don’t know their new album, but Hautaruhtinas is basically super catchy punk rock posing as islamophobic black metal. And yes, the lyrics are about what they think is bad religion, but so not Bad Religion.

      • Nukenado

        Oh shit, that sound’s my thing. Lyrical subject gets a bit touchy due to me dabbling in bad religion, but it’s Finnish so what the hell. Thanks for the recommendation.

      • Covfefe

        It’s just bad Sielunvihollinen is far-right racist band. Not allowed to play everywhere. Lyrics ain’t nice.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    I remember reading Might is Right… incendiary stuff.

  • herrschobel

    Bingo Bongo …. i am so so sold ! And it got Punk in it !!!!

    “It’s a Grotesque world, filled with the Repulsion one might feel after witnessing an Autopsy.” you little Rogue you

  • I’m wondering why an italian band chose polish military cemetery for a photosession. Was it just in the neighborhood or is there some reason (maybe historical) behind it?

    • sir_c

      well, it all looks more.. polished.