It’s almost 23:00. We’ve just backed the fire engine into the station after yet another call. I still have to finish the dishes from dinner, but at least we got to eat. Fuck. I still have to fold my station laundry that I started sixteen hours ago, but I need to change the bandage covering the souvenir I got on my arm from the last “patient.” So much to do — wait. A notification pops up on my phone. “Dropped.” It’s from Madam X. Suddenly all of my other meaningless cares dissolve. A new promo! I rush to my computer and download my precious new tunes — it feels like Christmas. I throw my headphones on. My lieutenant walks in and starts talking to me. He’s in the middle of a sentence when I feel compelled to bang my head and raise a hand up to stop him. “Sorry, Boss. This riff is too good.” He shakes his head and walks away, muttering his usual, “Fucking millenials.” Some riffs are worth getting written up for insubordination.
The promo in question is Hold Back the Dawn, the fourth full-length — and third of a planned four dealing with Lovecraftian horror — from Barcelona death metallers Graveyard, and it has so many good riffs that it just might be worth getting fired for. As it rises from the depths, you will find yourself powerless to move or even make a sound as the band’s influences writhe and constrict around you — Sulphur Aeon1, Entombed, Immortal, Testament, Iron Maiden are the names of these terrible tentacles, and they coalesce into one cohesive Cyclopean catastrophe. Old school death metal with a blackened edge with the groovy bounce of thrash and the soaring epic and melodic sensibilities of NWoBHM — it’s a combination that makes the eight tracks and forty-six minutes absolutely fly by.
“Of Extant Cults and Living Terrors” was an excellent choice for the advance track because it incorporates most of what makes Graveyard so special. Dank ambience leads into clean strummed guitars before a towering lead ushers in herculean power chords. The song jumps into a thrashy main riff from guitarists Javi and Mark that’s rife with harmonized heroics, moves to a death and roll chorus, and then takes off beyond the stars with some blistering black metal tremolos. “Hurled Unto Damnation” powerenslaves you with an epic track of death metalized Maiden complete with eerie vocal harmonies and it leads straight into “The Storm Above Port Sulphur,” a track that sounds like Immortal or Dissection tried to write a Sulphur Aeon song. Closer “Madre De Le Noche” begins with the sounds of an extant cult performing a ritualistic dance and blasts through some of the most furious death metal to be found on Hold Back the Dawn (bisected by soaring leads of course), and just when you think the track has ended abruptly, you’re treated to two minutes of disturbingly muffled Pink Floydian psychedelia. It’s a fitting way to end an album that so capably captures the mystery and terror of Lovecraft’s work.
These are just a few examples, but all eight of the tracks — you should listen to “O Beast I Fear Thy Name” because it fucking owns — on Hold Back the Dawn are examples of top shelf OSDM dipped in various complementary subgenres. No matter how great a riff is, there’s always another riff or lead around the corner that’s just as good or better. The production is deliciously unpolished with Julkarn’s vocals mostly obscured and cavernous and the guitars and drums packing a righteously retro punch. I do have one major bone to pick with Graveyard though. Thanks to them, I haven’t gotten around to listening to the other stuff I need to. I can — and have — spent entire days listening only to Hold Back the Dawn, and I’m behind schedule because of it. Damn you, Graveyard!
Don’t worry. I’m not going to get fired from my real job2 because of Graveyard — my boss is quite used to my rebellious behaviors — but it might be worth it if I did. I love all of the unusual touches that Hold Back the Dawn incorporates into its death metal package, and it’s no hyperbole to say that this could eventually become one of my all time favorites in the genre. August and September have irreparably damaged my average score and my end of year list, but you won’t find me complaining.