“My, what interesting artwork,” you’re probably saying to yourself right about now. “Is it some sort of statement on censorship in the world today? Or an attempt to build anticipation for the vulgar music contained within?” Actually, neither. No, the artwork for this record was deemed too obscene by our editors, and thus you’ll have to make do without it. (Of course, if you’re really that curious you can always just head over to the Bandcamp page and see it for yourself).1 But let’s refrain from any ra ra “AMG has sold out and Communism is taking over” bullshit and just focus on the music. Because as it turns out, The Unchaste, the Profane, & the Wicked is actually a pretty decent record.
For those familiar with Gravehill, this should come as no surprise. Formed in 2001, this California quintet have made a career out of scorching assholes and taking names, with works like 2011’s When All Roads Lead to Hell and 2014’s Death Curse being particularly hard-hitting. Gravehill occupy that perfect niche between black, death, and thrash metal, that general “extreme metal” breed which is more about delivering killer riffs than being grimmer than thou. As such the closest comparison is probably a more melodic version of Goatwhore, though the group’s over-the-top demons n’ death obsession also brings to mind acts like Skeletonwitch or Nunslaughter. Furthering the Nunslaughter comparison, longtime vocalist ‘Mike Abominator’ even had the same “Evil Muppet”-style vocals as ‘slaughter’s ‘Don of the Dead,’ which created an endearing if somewhat cartoony vibe.
But with fourth full-length Unchaste, that’s changed. Mike Abominator is now out, replaced by former bassist ‘Corpse,’ who himself has been replaced by former guitarist ‘Bodybag Bob’ (who did a brief stint in Exhumed). Likewise new guitarist Eldehelm has joined the crew, replacing former axeman Christian La Rocca. Where does this cast of characters leave us? In a land somewhat rawer and more barbaric, it turns out. Opener “Bestial Genesis” begins with a Left Hand Path-style Entombed melody before kicking in with hammering drums and bashing chords that more closely resembles Sadistik Exekution’s style of blackened death metal than the riffy sound of Death Curse. It’s furious and relentless, and by the time that slicing tremolo hits about halfway through, any semblance of the band’s goofiness has been left skewered on the floor with a crucifix sticking out of its ass.
This is largely the case for the rest of Unchaste, though Gravehill have been around long enough to know the importance of mixing it up. Second track “Iron & Sulphur” slows things to a surging mid-tempo before throwing in a real motherfucking Crunchatize-Me-Captain of a riff, while follow-up “The Unchaste” quickly becomes an album highlight with its twirling verse riff and chanting chorus. Corpse’s mid-register roar sounds terrifically savage, and Eldehelm’s leads are a huge treat, with enough shred and whammy bar abuse to keep your inner air guitarist rocking all night and partying every day.
Sadly it’s not all fun and goats. While the more abusive sound isn’t bad, I do find myself missing the memorable riffs of Death Curse tracks like “Fear the Reaper,” which set a bar Unchaste never quite reaches. Likewise the frantic tempo gets a little repetitive, and the slight quality dip after the first three tracks is made all the more apparent when “Sabbatic Whore” rears its throwaway head. Fortunately the unpolished production suits things well, further promoting the newfound savagery while providing enough space for the pummeling drums and searing solos to ring clear. The guitar tone is also suitably loud and ragged, akin to getting whipped in the face by a pair of torn whitie tighties for 41 minutes.
In fact, while the sound has changed, my overall impression of Unchaste mirrors what I’d say about Gravehill as a whole: this is a fun, beer-swigging good time, a collection of failsafe songwriting and enjoyable riffs held back by a few somewhat forgettable ideas. Nonetheless moments like the melodic marching chug of late highlight “The Wicked” are a neck-snapping blast, and closer “D.I.E.” overcomes its sort-of-stupid title2 with crushing sludge riffs and an eerie Swedish-style melody that ties the album together well by mimicking the melody heard in the opener. It all combines to make Unchaste a rowdy and rollicking album that’s easy for any metalhead to blast and enjoy, even if that artwork is pretty fucking gross.