Gravewürm can best be described as a coin. Each side of the coin is distinct and only one side can be represented at any given time. If both were to exist simultaneously, all meaning in a coin-toss would be lost. In Gravewürm‘s case, however, if a coin could be propped on its end and the two sides could be displayed at the same time—the image of what they want to be and what they are—the band could produce a distinct and creative sound. Instead, one side displays purveyors of classic ’80s black metal sound, hellbent on maintaining the raw, unforgiving character of black-metal pioneers Hellhammer and early-Bathory. The other side stares up at you with an oxidized exterior, discolored by all the flaws of Gravewürm‘s actual sound. Thirty years past its prime, Gravewürm‘s songwriting and musical delivery continues to leave a lot to be desired, and after twenty-five years of existence and ten full-lengths, I ask myself the same question before every Gravewürm release: does Gravewürm have anything new—anything at all—to offer in their newest output?
For those familiar with the band, you may not be surprised by my answer. No, Doomed to Eternity has nothing new to give. Funeral Grave has been marching along the same path he chose to tread back on 2000’s Ancient Storms of War; continuing to spew war, blasphemy, and rot in the crustiest, blood-stained way. Album after album, Funeral Grave is determined, with an unfaltering resolve, to fade-out every track he writes, chug away with a simplicity that is borderline neanderthal, and drown out all things stringed with some of the lowest forms of production and the most cringe-worthy vocals on the planet. Yet, some people adore these qualities.
With 2010’s Blood of the Pentagram and last year’s Abyss Sorcery, “memorability” is as archaic a word to Gravewürm as the word “archaic” itself. With Abyss Sorcery, the band discovered a sense of “refinement” in their black/thrash delivery and production, resulting in a longer-lasting album and a more digestible vocal performance. Neither innovative nor original, one should still be thankful Doomed to Eternity is carved from the same shovel handle as its nearest precursor.
For those with an itch for primitive Hellhammerisms and Nunslaughtering, you may find opener “Shining Night Gleam” to your liking. Ravaging the black with thrash, this song is a nonstop corpse-stomper that—for better or worse—is a fine representation of the Gravewürm sound. “Sepulchral Sorceress” and “Soul Stalker” also deliver that thrashy, punky, blackened riffage that seems to only make money for Toxic Holocaust. For something a bit more on the adventurous side, look no further than the Mercyful Fate-inspired “Bury My Coffin,” the frozen-wind introduction and doom-laden rhythm of “The Wolves of Isengard,” and the melodic qualities of the title track. Ok, maybe not “adventurous,” but these tracks smell a lot fresher when compared to Gravewürm‘s typical mix of black, thrash, and doom.
In the end, the negatives outweigh the positives on Doomed to Eternity. The aforementioned numbers are moments of flickering light in the swell of billowing smoke, but most songs simply get choked out. “Fangs of the Serpent” and “The One True Soul of Darkness” have some catchy licks but become exceedingly repetitive and peter out, leaving their potential meandering blindly. However, the production and vocals have improved, the instrumentation finally has come to the front, and there’s even a bass guitar on “Doomed to Eternity.” Though Doomed to Eternity still lacks that “something” [Good songs? – AMG] to keep me hanging around, some may find this to be decent background noise to their nightly grave desecrations. I’ll be returning to the classics.