Look at the band name and observe the logo. Ponder the album art and take in the scene. Glance at the album title and chew over the tone. Undress the track descriptions and raise an eyebrow. Observe the musician’s photos and nod knowingly. Glare at the record label and chuckle darkly. By now you’ve built an impression of a band that in all likelihood conjures up death metal overflowing with pulpy horror references and a choleric disposition. Well, you’re not entirely wrong and it would be easy to pigeonhole the music presented here at first blush. On the surface Graveyard Ghoul seemingly offers no surprises with Slaughtered – Defiled – Dismembered, the third full-length release by this German trio. But delve past the façade and you’ll find that deep in this oubliette lurks something strangely tantalizing.
If you haven’t already gathered, Graveyard Ghoul aren’t coiffed-haired troubadours peddling sonnets about fat-cheeked cherubs. This is old-school death metal, ugly, crude and barely in control, from a time before the genre had a musical IQ greater than an inbred Neanderthal. It’s plainly clear that Autopsy is the well that this putrid water is drawn from, and Severed Survival in particular exerts its influence keenly. An undeniable classic, Severed Survival is my favorite Autopsy record and it’s all due to the uncanny bass-playing abilities of Steve Di Giorgio whose name kept coming to mind throughout listening to Slaughtered – Defiled – Dismembered as Tombcrusher’s bass work is positively arresting.
A churning, roiling mass, like a violent earthquake the bass here has the power to liquefy the soil under your feet. Title-track “Slaughtered – Defiled – Dismembered” demonstrates this to bowel-churning effect, as the four-string domestic abuse is aided by a spiteful, disheveled rhythm section and relentless double-kick that makes one feel they’re being trampled to death by a stampede of drunks. Continuing in that vein is “Amputation Masturbation” whose opening bass-line is discordant and unsettling, giving way to a break-neck blast-beat tempo designed to overwhelm and ultimately leave you buried in a shallow grave. These songs and a number of others on the album dutifully deliver the charnel house atmosphere of an ambulance that has plowed into a group of mourners at a funeral; in other words music drained of any sense of levity or mirth. It’s interesting then that in a couple of spots Graveyard Ghoul subtly shifts-gears and presents music that’s almost… fun.
Take “Born Without Bones,” a track that crackles with energy, built atop a primary riff that careens and swaggers so infectiously that the fruit of your loins will exit the womb with it stuck in their head. “VHS” moves in the opposite direction with a deliberately slower pace that trades aggression for groove. You can sense here that the band is enjoying themselves, infusing the tones with a buttoned-down, cigarette-dangling-precariously-on-the-bottom-lip nonchalance that would play well in a live environment. In fact, there’s a very live-in-the-studio, unruly quality to the production with the bass and drums overwhelmingly present (and rightfully so) and the guitar buried and diffuse. This would be a major stumbling block were it not for an overly-generous dynamic range designed to accommodate the music being cranked-up loud enough to kill your neighbor’s lawn.
I will admit that Slaughtered – Defiled – Dismembered took longer than usual to get its hooks into me, taking several spins before I started to feel that there was something worth returning to. Often times I would finish listening to the album with barely a memory of what I had just heard yet I would feel compelled to immediately play it again, urged on by something indescribable but oddly compelling. Maybe my initial reticence stems from a number of tracks like “Necrotic Lust” and “They Won’t Stay Dead” being merely passable, or “Woundfuck” being inexplicably saddled with an undeserved seven-and-a-half minute runtime. Indeed, shorn of the aforementioned driftwood I’d imagine the album would make a stronger case for itself upon one’s first exposure as they occlude the better tracks on offer.
Don’t let the above criticism stop you from checking out the music, however. Graveyard Ghoul may not reinvent the wheel with Slaughtered – Defiled – Dismembered but anyone who likes their death metal with bass so alive that the CD should come with air-holes will find something worthy of their attention. Sometimes it pays to kick over rocks just to see what crawls out from underneath.
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Go Fuck Yourself Productions
Releases Worldwide: October 31st, 2016