Grave Upheaval – [Untitled] (2018) REVIEW

The egregious and precarious depths of atmospheric death metal’s venture into sunless tunnels, miles deeper than any Incantation-esque ‘cavern-core’, have been well-plumbed by other Portal related projects beyond the pernicious dissonance of ‘Swarth’. To say that intentionally obscured production is a perfect defrock for so many sheep is an understatement and while the realm of intentionally shrouded atmospheric death metal is in drought conditions, the eldest roaches burn on. Impetuous Ritual the proverbial older brother of Grave Upheaval shares literal DNA and attendants but their rituals were made light with increased clarity on ‘Blight upon Martyred Sentience’. To great effect. Similarly, Portal‘s violent technicality was made stark and doubly charged on ‘Ion’ and it was only a matter of time before Grave Upheaval made their case for existence beyond the souring depths of cavernous, obscured death metal. In fact they haven’t left the cavern, ‘the cavern’ was merely an illusion of depth.

Preposterously ‘(untitled)’ a second time after a five year wait Grave Upheaval‘s latest posits what the project might sound like if they created true atmospherics rather than shrouding it in false illusory lo-fi grime. In fact this ‘(untitled)’ is true death/doom metal and not just intentional sonic obscuration. Temple Nightside‘s guitarist BR is a key component of Grave Upheaval and his other band’s sound did something similar for their second full-length in 2016 where the atmosphere pulled from recording techniques and additional reverb, yet the mixing wasn’t tampered with to further obscure the tone of the entire recording. ‘(untitled)’ is somewhere in between the still murky ‘Blight upon Martyred Sentience’ and the ‘almost funeral doom’ resonance of ‘The Hecatomb’. Of course it invokes the gods of Disembowelment and less obviously Eternal Darkness ‘Ceremony of Doom’ when the atmospherics decide to curl up into death metal riffing.

This second album from Grave Upheaval makes their first seem like a cheap experiment made with material they were willing to toss under a blanket of rusted noise. The guitars are still a shower of reverb-steeled horror but each layer serves tonal purpose and their rumblings are intelligible. The production is exacting in it’s spaciousness allowing for a low-growl that resounds above blasting drums with the middle-range reserved for the guitar’s harassment. The vocals aren’t all growls though, and instead create a statement not too far from what groups like Thantifaxath have done recently where vocals serve as both growling crescendos and passage between movements. Howling, chanting, moaning all break up the already occasional growling and the vocals end up just as vital an instrument as the drums throughout ‘(untitled)’.

Where ‘(untitled)’ begins to break even me, the funeral doom slurping death/doom idiot who loves double LPs and giant conceptual metal records, is in it’s length. At a full hour it seems that this was meant to bury me in hallucinogenic sensory deprivation with several tracks reaching for nine minutes and beyond. I’m never sure when to step away or when one idea will bleed into another or repeat, at times it seems like an endless crawl between two rocks just big enough for me to take a breath as I squeeze through. In fact any literature pertaining to this album suggest that is entirely its intent and in this sense they’ve achieved the intended suffocation and disorientation. Peaks for me included “II-V” and “II-VI” where the Disembowelment notes hit hardest as well as “II-II” for it’s death metal fury towards the end, and “II-III” where I felt the ‘chanting’ and wild vocalizations were best utilized.

To say Grave Upheaval have refined their recording techniques and death/doom sound is appropriate and I am so glad to finally hear atmospherics take place of intentional obfuscation. Though I didn’t find myself obsessed with this record or spinning it frequently it did revive my interest in Temple Nightshade‘s most recent LP and remind me to listen to Eternal Darkness‘ demos more often. I am always grateful for death/doom variants and this is an excellent one that might surprise folks who couldn’t wrap their head around the first album.


Artist Grave Upheaval
Type Album
Released April 15, 2018 [CD, Cassette]
BUY/LISTEN on Nuclear War Now!’s Bandcamp! Follow Grave Upheaval on Facebook
Atmospheric Death Metal, Death Doom Metal

This skull in the woods. 3.25/5.0


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