If there was ever a genre of extreme music my library woefully under-represents, it’s anything tagged with the term “crust” or “punk.” Why, you may ask? Because I just don’t listen to it often. Punk and many of its sibling genres find little purchase with me. Which is funny, since I like grindcore and powerviolence, two of punk’s more extreme descendants. My suspicion is that at this point in my musical evolution I remain a tad stubborn as it pertains to things I don’t want to like, and crust-punk is one of those things. The evidence: I was quite apprehensive regarding Goregäng‘s debut Neon Graves, arguably the crustiest, punkiest item I have come across so far in my relatively short tenure here at AMG.
As it turns out, this is first and foremost a death metal album. Riffs pile upon deadly riffs in a way only death metal can, keeping listeners moving and grooving from start to finish. What distinguishes Neon Graves from other death metal albums are the crust-punk influences, which Goregäng wear just as loudly and proudly as they do their death metalcore. D-beats (or, at least, variants of the d-beat) fly everywhere, gang-shouts abound, and politically and socially charged lyrics pervade each moment, as does raw energy in the delivery that screams punk. That the Floridian duo managed to find a cohesive, yet reasonably distinct sound by blending these characteristics with death metal so early in their career as Goregäng is astounding, even considering each bandmate’s considerable resumes.
I’ve already hinted that Goregäng pile on the riffs like bodies in a mass (neon) grave. That description somehow does not do the music justice. Save for the intro track, everything from “False Flags” to closer “This Era of Human” explodes with top-notch riffs dripping with rabidity. The best of these riffs present themselves on barnstormers such as “Cathedral of Chemicals,” “Feeble-minded Rash” and “Weightless Sentinels,” thanks to guitarist/vocalist Jeramie Kling’s incredible instinct for timing and flow. Drummer/guitarist Taylor Nordberg pounds the skins with equal prowess, supplying an extra set of balls to this beast already thrumming with potency. As a direct result, tracks like “Plague of Hammers” and “Silence is Consent,” and the album as a whole, barrel forth with unstoppable momentum. At thirty-four minutes, Neon Graves begs the listener for repeat playthroughs—actually, it’s more like the listener begs Neon Graves to play again. Either way, it’s addicting.
Earlier this year, in my review for Vandor, I noted that their debut had the absolute best production I’ve heard on a power metal album in years. Well, this time it’s death metal’s turn to woo me, and woo me Goregäng have. Sporting one hell of a dynamic mix and master (thank you, Smoke and Mirror Productions!), Neon Graves can blast out of car stereos, high-quality headphones, shitty phone speakers, even shittier phone speakers, and pretty much any other shitty (or non-shitty) setup you can think of at infinitely increasing volumes without one hint of fatigue afflicting the listener. There are so many natural peaks and valleys littering the waveforms you’ll need a guide and a pack mule to scale them all. The low end especially steals the show, with both the bass guitar and the bass drum(s) throbbing with virility, immensely enlivening the record. Additionally, the guitar tone is fantastic, sounding at once warm and crunchy at all times.
I worked tirelessly to find something wrong with Neon Graves. To no avail, I am afraid. If I had a gun to my head, I could reference small imperfections wherein a chorus consisting of the song title repeated once or twice too many times (“Weightless Sentinels” or “Spray of Teeth”), or perhaps the ever-so-slight dip in overall song quality in the penultimate track “Putrid Judgment.” But why would I do that when I don’t give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut about those infinitesimal dings in the sheet metal? Neon Graves is one of the best death metal releases of the year, if not the best. Yeah, I know we still have two-thirds of twenty-nineteen left to get through. Just shut up and buy the thing.