To the Grave – Director’s Cuts Review

Ok, stereotypes out of the way: I’m vegan.1 I bring this up because disparaging the violence—and apathy about such violence—of humankind towards our non-human brethren is To the Grave’s Director’s Cuts’ central theme. And I can sympathize. In the band’s words: “[w]e are all the writers and directors of an unending horror film, its actors unwilling and the scenes taking place in every circus, zoo, lab, farm, and slaughterhouse that stain our green globe”. Misanthropy, specifically from the perspective of humanity’s treatment of animals and the earth has been their ethos from day one. In a sense, they are a deathcore analog to Cattle Decapitation, as they lyrically submit human victims to the cruelty visited upon non-humans en masse. In another they are simply the voice of the activist beyond calm reasoning, thoroughly pissed off and calling for (very) drastic action. Their music is just as heavy as their theme, this their sophomore containing all the brutality on show in 2021’s Epilogue, but more pointed, distilled, dangerous, and most importantly, exhilarating.

To the Grave don’t lean on their concept; this is slick, crushing, catchy deathcore in its own right. It does help, nonetheless, that the rage on display has a focus and passion that bleed through the skull-shattering breakdowns and dark melodies that accentuate but never overpower. One might look at a sub-two-minute first track and dismiss it in expectation of a generic synth intro. But true to its name, “Warning Shot” is no filler, it’s a threat of what is to come, with gut-twisting gutturals and battering denouement of its own. From there, the assault barely stops, and it spills over with vitriol and ardor in ways that are both devastatingly heavy and incredibly enjoyable to experience. Whether it’s the use of neck-snapping rhythms and tempo changes; a spectrum of throat-rending vocals from gurgles to snarls, squeals, and barks; eerie, urgent melody, or the total lack of it.

Director’s Cuts’ main strength is how it remains consistently compelling no matter the angle To the Grave approach their subject matter. The band slip between deathly seriousness and sardonicism with ease, and each is equally powerful. Take the chilling “Found Footage,” which describes a nighttime animal rescue effort gone terribly wrong, and the more tongue-in-cheek “Axe of Kindness” that immediately follows. The whispers and synths that open the former could have been corny, but they’re not. In fact the whole song is rife with tension. The latter track’s bouncing, jerking tempos and catchy gang-sung chorus doesn’t make those spidery riffs and bludgeoning breakdowns any less brutal. Nor so the seriousness hidden behind the satire. And this is the case for every cut on here, as the group address the perpetrators with equal violence and righteous malice. The use of these group vocals2 is often especially effective as it precipitates sudden speed-ups in pace, or intensity as if a poetic protest, their voices speaking out together in solidarity (“Protest & Sever,” “Manhunt,” “Die, Rise”). Accompanied by surging, grave refrains (“Manhunt,” “Cut off the Head”), or irresistible bobbing (“B.D.T.S”), racing (“Reversing the Bear Trap”), and broken-down (“Cut off the Head”) time signatures. One can’t help but stay completely hooked.

Everything about the album radiates the feeling the band intended to express. From the panic-inducing lurching of tracks like “Red Dot Sight,” and “Full Sequence” to the escalation of “Found Footage,” and the building waves of epic closer “Die, Rise.” Even the—true to genre form—crushed production lends the music a suffocating weight and undeniable presence. The army of voices and breadth of vocal styles add a further intensity, though Sam Crocker’s guest spot on “Protest & Sever” feels slightly under-utilized. The climbing solos that seem to rise out of the gore-filled darkness like piercing light (“Protest & Sever” “Die, Rise”) add profundity, even hope. With a runtime that scrapes past the forty-minute mark, and a roster of dynamic, addictive songs, Director’s Cuts seems to get better with every impatiently (re-)smashed play.

Even were I not sympathetic to the cause, and dispossessed of a lyric sheet, this album would be brilliant. One of my colleagues here even informed me that this is “the most fun [they’ve] had in deathcore in a long time.” I have to agree. But it’s more than just fun, it’s ferocious. And To the Grave are just getting started.

Rating: Excellent
DR: 3 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 24th, 2023

Show 2 footnotes

  1. In my defense, I’ve waited over a year to explicitly mention this.
  2. Four of the five band members contribute vocals, in addition to two guest spots.
« »