Battlegrave – Cavernous Depths Review

Entering the world of thrash by way of Metallica’s classic albums made it somewhat hard for me to appreciate the genre’s more violent platters upon first listen. Megadeth, Anthrax, and even Slayer were pretty natural progressions, but I initially struggled with stuff like early Kreator and Dark Angel. For this same reason, the death/thrash hybrid seemed out of reach for quite some time. I remember trying Morbid Saint’s Spectrum of Death several times throughout the years, but I never connected with it, outside of a few of the groovier moments, until I saw the band perform the whole thing live a few years back. For whatever reason, that live experience opened the death/thrash gates for me, and I’ve subsequently found myself able to go back and enjoy seemingly inaccessible thrash classics, as well as modern releases by bands like Oxygen Destroyer. I’ll admit that I picked up the promo for Cavernous Depths, the sophomore outing by Australian band Battlegrave, simply due to the brutal simplicity of the band’s compound-word name. But when I saw the genre tagged as death/thrash/groove, my interest was doubly piqued.

Perhaps the most awesome thing about Battlegrave is the way that they combine their genre influences together. Many bands blend genres in such a way as to make it difficult to pinpoint where one ends and another begins. Not so with Battlegrave. Cavernous Depths sounds like Morbid Saint, Demolition Hammer, and Oxygen Destroyer were each run across a table saw and had their constituent parts randomly and brutally sewn together. First proper track “Relentless” is a feisty dose of hardcore-tinged death/thrash, but when it reaches a point where you assume a breakdown is coming, it instead goes for a blackened tremolo passage. And the embedded title-track starts with a cheesy synth intro, throws in some Morbid Angel riffs, goes for an insane wah-infused solo, then settles into an alternating pattern of crossover thrash and blackened death metal passages. This may sound bonkers on paper, but thanks to the passion with which it is executed, Battlegrave pulls it off.

And that passion keeps the energy insanely high throughout most of Cavernous Depths. Whether it’s the hardcore beatdown of “We Die Here,” the blackened death/thrash of “Obsessions Gate,” or the absolute chaos of “Bleak Future,” Battlegrave lands blow after blow, and the variety contained within the band’s sound keeps the listener from being able to mount a proper defense. Just when you move to block the body blows of the Carcharodon-inspired crossover track “White Death,” Battlegrave throws a feint in the form of short melancholic interlude “Undying,” then hits you under the chin with the ferocious death/thrash of “The Black Vortex.” And to prove that they can be just as effective at a slower pace, the band closes things out with “PT III Retribution of the Witch,” a track that begins in grooving Sepulturaic fashion and spends most of its nearly 7-minute runtime in a mid-paced chug before a killer solo and final thrash section carry the record to its conclusion.

Many props have to be offered up to vocalist Rohan Buntine. A lot of thrash and death/thrash bands suffer from vocal monotony, but where Gondor has called for vocal variety, Rohan has answered. He switches from hardcore barks to thrash shouts to death growls to blackened shrieks at the drop of a hat (see “Bleak Future” for a great example), and that variation pairs excellently with the rhythmic and stylistic changes found within the music itself. The production is a bit on the loud side, but it all comes together well enough to dish out a righteous beatdown. It’s tough to pick standouts, but “Relentless,” “We Die Here,” “White Death,” “Bleak Future,” “Retribution of the Witch,” and the title track are hard to beat.

With Cavernous Depths, Battlegrave have given the term “crossover” new meaning. Yeah, they mix hardcore with thrash, but there are also hefty doses of death metal and black metal to flesh out the band’s eccentric and electric sound, a sound that is likely to appeal to a wide swath of extreme metal fans.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Bitter Loss Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2022

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