Earthen Grave - Earthen Grave (Ripple Music)

A unique take on an oft-celebrated theme...
Release Date: 
8 Aug 2013 - 11:30pm

Yes, yes, yes, I know. Earthen Grave originally came out last year and was criminally overlooked by us here at Metal as Fuck, a heinous mistake we’re happy to put right here and now owing to the fact that the good people at Ripple Music have picked up the album for reissue – we’re sorry. Now, is the album worth all this hand-wringing and self-flagellation?

Undoubtedly it is. Quite literally from the opening seconds of the title track the discerning listener will realise he or she is on to what we in the trade know as ‘a winner’. As the stentorian initial fusillade of riffage gives way to the soulful croon of vocalist Mark Weiner (who pleasingly isn't your usual doom metal bellower), you’re immediately transported to a medium-sized theatre somewhere in America’s mid-west in the late seventies/early eighties as the band proceed to dole out the melodic bludgeon as if the last thirty years never happened. But to dismiss this as mere retro tributism would be to do the band a disservice. Sure, they wear their influences not just on their sleeves but on every other visible bit of clothing too, but each song is attacked with a sure footed aggression that simply wouldn’t really have happened at the time Earthen Grave’s heroes stalked the arenas of the world, giving this particular album a singularly modern feel that sets them apart from the Legions of doom drones shuffling about the place at the minute. The band consider themselves to be something of a thrash/doom hybrid, if that helps you form a mental picture of what's going on here a bit better.

The addition of a violin to the mix certainly aids their quest to put an original twist on a well-worn template, and Rachel Barton Pine’s work throughout …Grave is exemplary, giving the band a whiff of seventies pomp rock Gods Kansas to add to the Sabbath and Trouble riff mania. It’s a bold move to add this sort of instrumentation to a straight up old school metal album, but it works every time.

It works especially well on the absolutely superb Blood Drunk; the violin giving a whistful twist to the song's opening stanza, augmenting the clean picking of guitarists Tony Spillman and Jason Muxlow before giving way to an exuberant galloping riff that will have fists banging in audiences worldwide if, as is to be hoped, Earthen Grave get the chance to export their wares across the globe in support of this splendid heavy metal record.

Special editions of the album come with a bonus live version of Rainbow’s Stargazer – a fact which should give you another pointer to where this band is coming from if you don’t believe my rather distracted waffle – as well as a new song, Death is Another Word (which features new drummer Chris Wozniak), but if you can’t get hold of that just make sure you buy the ‘regular’ version – You’ll not hear a better melodic doom album this year – I give you my word.