Graceless – Where Vultures Know Your Name Review

I don’t know about you, but I think the world could really use some no-nonsense virus-crushing death metal right now. When I get stressed out, I always notice myself reaching past my power metal albums for the more violent and nasty morsels stored behind them. Tracks like “Death Walking Terror,” “Pull the Plug,” “Deathhammer,” and “The Killchain” always help awake the animal instincts that I’ve buried deep beneath layer after layer of repression and denial, and dealing with a world that is literally going insane is quickly making such musical intervention necessary. One of my very first reviews as a n00b saw me tackling 1914’s The Blind Leading the Blind, an album that effectively combined the rumbling death/doom of Asphyx and the grooving attack of Bolt Thrower, so when I saw that the latest release from Dutch band Graceless was touted as embodying that same combo, I thought I’d give it a whirl and hope that it would be the shot in the arm I desperately need.

Graceless’ sophomore album Where Vultures Know Your Name begins in grand fashion as opener “Lugdunum Batavorum” leads with a massive sustained chord accented by some resonating tom strikes. A slow-burner, the track settles into a steady groove that would not be out of place on Bolt Thrower’s The IVth Crusade — a comparison you’re likely to make many a time over this album’s 45 minutes. “Retaliation of the Wicked” follows and only serves to reinforce the band’s intended mission: Graceless is here to pulverize the listener with simple, yet hypnotically driving rhythms. Single “Warpath” brings out the Asphyx side of the band’s sound with its d-beat rhythm and gang-growled chorus, and it rumbles its way into the running for album highlight. “Nine Days of Morning” brings some emotional heft to the equation as a glacial monstrosity that evokes 1914’s post-metal take on the death/doom genre, and “Here Be Dragons” might just be one of the best death metal songs of 2020 come year’s end.

Although technically a young band founded in 2016, several members of Graceless have been playing together in one way or another for nearly a quarter of a century, and this experience and chemistry is apparent in the band’s sound. Remco Kreft has a workmanlike death growl with hints of Martin van Drunen (Asphyx) when he strains higher, and his shared guitar duties with Björn Brusse have resulted in a metric buttload of riffs. Marc Verhaar’s drums echo with power and might, and his performance helps drive the album as the tempos shift from molasses to fast and back again. All in all, Graceless is a lean, mean death metal war machine.

Where Vultures Know Your Name definitely leans to the loud side as recordings go, but the sound is downright yummy1. The guitars “could choke a dozen Stygian donkeys” according to Ferrous Beuller, the drums are annihilation incarnate, and Kreft’s roars hover above it all perfectly. Graceless knows how to suavely incorporate atmosphere into their violent death metal as evidenced by the way the title track begins with some mournful piano before continuing on with its snarling march of doom and the way that closer “Embrace the Rain” ends things on such a hopeless and bleak note. I wish the album was a bit shorter — 40 minutes or slightly less would be perfect for this style — but it’s hard to tell what should be cut, to be honest. Most of the tracks are of similarly high quality, but check out “Here Be Dragons,” “Retaliation of the Wicked,” and “Warpath” for some true killers.

You might say that Graceless clings to their influences too closely, but I would tell you to take your “too” and get the fuck out of here. Sure, Where Vultures Know Your Name is a faithful tribute to the style of two legendary bands, but its execution should win over even the strongest skeptic. This is exactly the sort of stress-relieving album we need to combat the uncertainty and fear that results from being hunkered down during the ongoing war on virus.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Raw Skull Recordz
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 27th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Don’t ever use “yummy” in a death metal review again. – Steel
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