PICK OF THE WEEK: Grave Upheaval unleash second record that is a deranged portal into the abyss

Putting on a record that repays you with what feels like audio psychological torture might not seem like the most appealing thing to all people. But those who wish to dig as deeply as possible into death metal’s decaying corpse tend to like things on the deranged, damaged end, and there’s no such thing as music that is too sick and mangled.

Australian death metal shadows Grave Upheaval make the type of music that could conjure nightmares and strange spirits, and they dump more of their strangulated violence on a new sophomore record that, just like their 2013 debut, comes with no actual title. Over eight tracks dubbed with simple Roman numerals, the band—both members take just a dash as a name, though they play in other noteworthy groups including Portal, Impetuous Ritual, and Temple Nightside—twists your psyche and practically forces you to investigate a vision of real, actual hell, where souls are tortured, devoured, and digested for good. Their slowly sprawling, utterly drubbing brand of death metal has a tendency to bore its way into your mind and dig strange tributaries. Often, it feels like you’re being lulled into a trance, but giving into that mental state means you’re submitting to their deranged ways.

“II-I” starts the mission with noise rumbling lightly and the track taking its time to let the demons out of the basement. Eventually, raw growls emerge, while the ambiance feels grim and hopeless. The band overwhelms with its penetrating power, leading into the mouth of “II-II” and its burly riffs that aim to choke you. The drums demolish, and the scene feels like a never-ending tire fire, with smoke blanketing everything. Weird howls and unsettling whispers prick your skin, while the riffs pile on and take the track to its end. “II-III” is punishing from the start, with the band drubbing and deranged howls raining down. What sounds like a pained baby cries out into the night, as an intimidating blanket of drone is laid out, while the song crunches away. Cavernous growls echo, the drums splatter, and the song ends in a mud pit. “II-IV” begins with guitars melting and a trance bubbling up, while the growls stretch and slither, and haunting moans hint at nausea. The final moments clobber you into a weeping mess.

“II-V” has guitars churning and a relentless pace that add pressure to your chest. The track slows down and dumps malice, as the steam rises and wilts everything, and the words are delivered with pain. The track hisses and mauls, sickening your stomach and floating out after a final dose of speed. “II-VI” begins breaking bones while weird growls make your skin crawl. The band hits demolition mode, as the drums bash skulks, fucked-up wails bring a deep sense of unease, and final blasts do the last bit of damage. “II-VII” has guitars grinding as the pace pounds away, and the vocals bring another storm of eeriness. The droning death spreads its wings, while the growls get mean and nasty, the guitars chug in place over and over, and things eventually dissolve into mist. Closer “II-VIII” lets out a swarm of riffs that confound before the driving playing slowly chews at your nerves. The suffocating smoke builds all over before madness is unleashed in full, and the riffs smother everything in its way. The growls gurgle, every element pushes toward the ground, and the track eventually fades into the darkness.

Nothing in Grave Upheaval’s arsenal is ordinary or normal at all, and that lesson is learned over and over on their crushing second record. The entire run of this album feels like you’re being pushed to the test mentally, and breaking is to be expected. This isn’t a record to blare from your stupid truck windows or to give you a boost of adrenaline. It’s for examining your darkest pathways and accepting that terror and chaos is all around you.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grave-Upheaval/131857073578133

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.nwnprod.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nwnprod.com/

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