Down in a Hole with Grave Miasma on Odori Sepulcrorm
Considering their murky origins, it’s odd how sanitary and digestible death and black metal have become. Great records by Valkyrja, Necrophagist, God Seed, Origin, and Anagnorisis are presented with a lustrous sheen. New stuff by once-grimy OGs like Autopsy, Incantation, and Suffocation is clean and entirely comprehensible. Hell, the not-offensively-terrible songs off Illud Divinum Insanus were wiped down to show off a steeliness that sounded downright surgical in its attention to detail (oh, and speaking of surgical steel…) Not that this is a bad thing; polished, clear production illuminates the technicality that goes into records like the ones mentioned above. But even though sludgily-produced albums may lose specifics, well-manicured sound risks losing the ambiance that filth provides. Severed Survival wouldn’t be the same if the present-day band re-recorded it note-for-note with some Andy Sneap-style gloss. Death and especially black metal started out perfect in their imperfections.
Grave Miasma get this. They meet at the crossroads between DM at its most Morrisound cloudy and black metal at its no-post-production best. The result is deceptively familiar blackened death: these are riffs you’ve probably heard tunneling themselves out of the Earth many times before, but there’s a unique mysticism to them. The tweaks are nothing overt; their debut Odori Sepulcrorum is an incredibly densely assembled package. It’s only once you dig in that you find that they’re doing so, so much more than another OSDM exercise. If re-thrash produced something as faithful and forward-thinking as Odori Sepulcrorum, we’d still be talking about it. We’ll be talking about Grave Miasma for a while after this.
The noxious cloud (or miasma, if you will) of atonal riffing can incorrectly denote a blasé lack of variation. But faint and subtle notes of Death’s modal lead work and tibia-snapping orchestral heaviness a la Celtic Frost (particularly on the epic, epic closer “Ossuary”) show the band’s willingness to pick and choose what works best in certain spots. This isn’t a slapped-together release by a bunch of scraggly teens stumbling onto decades-old Floridian vinyl. This is dark music made by dudes who get it. They’ve sifted through the grimy corners of the most primal of the genres’ glory years to understand where it’s coming from. And seeing as they know, it sounds like an authentic document of the same dismal place.
The songs all work as unsettling documents and pieces of the larger mosaic of Odori Sepulcrorm. It may take more than a few listens to click into step with it, but once you do, you’re dropped right into the shit. Everything seems drenched in slightly-restrained Haunting the Chapel reverb, and songs like “Ovation to a Thousand Lost Reveries” and “έσχατος” (which I believe is Sanskrit for “έσχατος”) sound like they’re bouncing off canyon walls, the give-and-take of their riffs bouncing back into eachother before they’ve even started over again. “Odoratus Sepulcrorum” may be on an album that’s more death than black metal, but the latter’s ravishing grimness comes to the forefront. It’s a more effective document than whatever retreads were shat out by bands who look like Grave Miasma did back when they went by Goat Molestör.
Having a broad knowledge of the darkest corners of extreme metal helps a band like this greatly. Though you’ll hear countless other albums utilizing the stuff Grave Miasma does, Odori Sepulcrorm isn’t just a bunch of miming. On paper it may not sound different, but the black-hooded soul behind the music is apparent. It sounds like it couldn’t have been made by humans, let alone British metalheads. But as “Ossuary,” a fantastic close to an album of great songs, ends on a single note rattling then dissolving out of an amp, you’re reminded that it isn’t supernatural. Which makes it even more goddamn mystical.