Album Review: Gravesend – Gowanus Death Stomp

Album Review: Gravesend - Gowanus Death Stomp
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Gravesend are a pretty new band to extreme metal yet that hasn’t stopped them from lifting many a fan’s eyebrows when it comes to Grindcore. Formed only in 2020, the band, New York, United States based, have been described as a ruthless fusion of black metal and Grindcore that, upon my own hearing of their first full length album, Methods Of Human Disposal, in 2021, has only continued to be verified and agreed upon by fans as something boldly fresh, and addictively seething. Other than their 2021 EP, From The Cutter/To The Grave, the band have otherwise not released any new material or at least will not have done so until October 27th of this year when Gravesend bless us with their sophomore full length release titled Gowanus Death Stomp. Replicating the familiar grainy and gritty, black and white cover style that made their debut record such an eye-catching affair, I was instantly hooked by the promise of unrepentant violence to be found within. So, let’s delve into Gowanus Death Stomp and see what we may make of this blistering piece.

When most bands include an introductory track into their record, it’s usually something to ease the audience into the songwriting to come. Rarely is it something that makes us audibly uncomfortable; such is the case with Gravesend’s opening piece “Deranged” as the band overlay a hive of swarming bees across gradually heightening ambient layers that keep building into the next song. As someone who doesn’t like bees or wasps at the best of times, it’s an especially striking opening as that incessantly buzzing sound instantly had my senses hardwired to expect something nasty on the horizon, which is precisely what follows. If anything, Gowanus Death Stomp is a declaration that the band’s first full length work was no fluke; this is a sound that’s been refined, tweaked and altered to no end in order to siphon the most heinous, destructive songwriting out of the band’s bloodied palms. I think what sets this band apart from so many Grindcore acts right now is their unwavering focus on dishing out such a menacing soundscape.

When you listen to these guys play, you don’t feel like you can recognise the speed being hurled at you but rather, you’ve become involuntarily made an active participant with their performance. It’s as if the band have physically punched through the record’s cover and pulled you inside it’s maddening vortices; there are few instances of polished control applied to their soundscape for Gravesend are continuing the notion that this is not meant to sound like a pleasant record. It’s vile, there’s crust beneath the fingernails, you could strike the grit and dirt of Gowanus Death Stomp with an ice pick and it’d still not breach the depths of this album’s depravity to the base. The utter ferocity by which the band play at give Napalm Death a run for their money, no doubt aided by the immense volume and the fact that the guitar work doesn’t just end at the note or chord played, it just keeps going to envelop us entirely; additionally savagery is found within their riffs which are simply coated in from head to toe in a purified, evil bile; there are periods you’ll find yourself headbanging out of the sheer necessity since not doing so will feel unnatural against the band’s merciless energy. But with that said, the band still understand the need to demonstrate their ability to write riffs and song structure that belies the madness. It’s not just a constant stream of annihilation; the band, numerous times throughout, flesh out various sequences that enable their songwriting to breathe some more.

Album Review: Gravesend - Gowanus Death Stomp

These moments of fleshed out songwriting are periodic as fans, by now, understand what they’re getting in for when Gravesend unleash a new record, and that’s not mentioning the sixteen tracks this record is comprised of. At just over thirty-five minutes long, the band don’t have time to hang around to develop songwriting as a conventional band would seek to do; as a result the band’s eye-watering speed makes up for it by simply throwing us into a concrete wall and then punching us there in a moulded place until the record is done with. The drumming on this record is just astounding as, owing to Gravesend’s ridiculous energy, blast beats throttle our senses from one track to the next as the band showcase few signs at slowing down their onslaught. Tracks that are noticeably shorter than others are treated with the same ethos; I can barely comprehend the murderous intensity their drummer strikes his kit with as he’s capable at bringing blast beats, bass drums and cymbal crashings nigh on simultaneously in a single song. Additionally, the drumming isn’t overshadowed by the riffs or the vocals, the production is quite strong and has resulted in a mix that manages to nicely balance each differing element that makes up this record which is impressive for what we’ve got considering how much auditory devastation lies in wait herein.

One element that’s certainly elevated Gravesend above the standard calibre of grains ore is no doubt their vocal style. The band’s blackened form of vocalisation takes the band’s auditory assault to greater plains of evisceration, as the more scathing yet booming delivery clearly rides atop the rest of the band’s performance so that the band could throw us everything they conceivably have at us, and yet the vocals will remain completely untouched in the mix by the instrumentation. The band have already got a good hold on how to make their sound work with a chaotic atmosphere whilst still retaining ease of accessibility for fans of extreme metal, whilst still ensuring no two elements of their sound will conflict with the other. I frankly haven’t heard many blackened styles applied to Grindcore but Gravesend are living proof there’s an audience and possibility for this approach, for it lends a deeper and more visceral cut to these more frantic, speed-obsessed bands. Another small piece to note is in fact the bass; it’s easily one reason why this record punches with the clenched impact that has made Gravesend such a prominent, new act. Stripping away everything else, the bass alone is this meaty, unrestrained beast that, whilst incorporated again quickly into the mire of the band’s collective performance, can stand on its own feet and is nice to see the bass be acknowledged so openly in a record that’s otherwise devoted to carnage.

In conclusion, Gravesend’s second full length album could end up being the body of work that really tips things over the edge in their favour, for while their debut record was a storming beginning this new release, slated for an October 27th window, is a ripping, volatile experience that shows their initial successes were no accident. For more than half an hour straight, Gravesend effectively erupt with this volcanic intensity that refuses to ebb or dissipate even as we’re thirteen tracks and more in to their running. It’s not even the sense of being pummelled here; it’s more akin to the band smashing in your cranium and then tugging ceaselessly on your nerves and synapses as each track bludgeons you with a blunt force, slaughterous malice. It is completely uncompromising, it’s completely unfazed about how its audience may be feeling when Gowanus Death Stomp is played; it’s here to basically kill you dead for its runtime then leave you be without the hint of a thought crossing its mind regarding your wellbeing. It’s an astonishing record considering the small roster of members that make up this band, and the fearsome performance they have for us. Gowanus Death Stomp is a record with hollowed eyes and rabid bloodlust, waiting.

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