The heat of the very Earth and atmosphere that sustains me now threatens to dry and irradiate away the gift of life I’d probably just begun to enjoy. Corruption defines the privilege of a civilization by name only in every instance, we’ll only ever see each other as murderers and victims from this point on. Is there any sense in celebrating that I might be the thirtieth demographic in line for caging and starvation when the whole damned machine will be on fire by the time they can count to ten? At what point is death, war and greater human suffering going to reach these suburbs? It has been a long time coming as the scenery changes, I suppose, as it was probably 1992 when I’d first sat down with a couple of my brother’s Megadeth, Black Sabbath and Soundgarden records and tried to imagine the comfort of the forests and unassuming folk around me on fire and riddled with napalm spewing tanks. I heard the bombs dropping along with the music in my mind and recalled all of the World War II videos we watched in our over-crowded and occasionally air conditioned schools wondering what true survival might really look like among my people here in the United States. There I saw two great planes of fantasy in either hand, the right hand saw the appeal of the post-apocalypse as a genre of “What if…” for the stupid, sheltered children of the elite and in the left hand there was Death; Not just any death but the slow and torturous life leading up to it too. A painfully boring gait shared between fecund masses to breed and grind into a slow degeneration towards pill-satiated madness. Perhaps I’d get lucky and get scammed in my old age and be forced to adventure as a homeless insane person, having all kinds of wild conversations with the air itself. What in the hell am I getting at? The nearly thirty years since that slow-burning introduction to heavy music haven’t provided any better medium for expressing existential dread as well as heavy metal. Doom metal in particular sustains as a personal fixation for its emotional range that’d allow for introspection, despair, joy, escapism, and in some cases greater outrage direct from the mouth of the outsider. It feels as if I’ve gotten a bit of each with Helsinki, Finland doom metal band Earthbound Machine‘s debut full-length, ‘Destined For the Grave’.
The low-strung granite growl of former Lord Vicar bassist (and Final Sunlight Records founder) Jussi Myllykoski‘s bass guitar tone is the pulse in the blood of Earthbound Machine‘s music. It powers the body of their gloomy, soul-searching swagger but, the whole sacrificial rite is ultimately there in service to emphasize and empower the talents of vocalist Ilkka Haavisto who provides the soul and the intimate personality of the band on ‘Destined For the Grave’. Haavisto has a little bit of thrash snarl in his soaring vocal which otherwise recalls the best of early 90’s heavy rock a la Chris Cornell as much as it has that rough underground doom metal edge a la Lee Smith on Penance‘s long forgotten ‘Parallel Corners’. Those two presences, bass guitar and vocals, help to make Earthbound Machine immediately distinct and sublimely listenable from the first listen. Otherwise I’d say look to Goatsnake and Sanctus Bellum for their adjacency to ‘grunge/heavy rock’ of the 90’s kind of vibe, which is at least halfway fitting next to Earthbound Machine.
The third time in the studio again finds these doom metal traditionalists sticking with their ‘old school’ metal modus in terms of recording the instrumental tracks live in studio with some overdubs and vocals performed soon after. The result of this method is always favorable to separate tracking in my mind primarily because they are a better, tighter band for having practiced, performed and road-tested these songs to their highest potential before it came time to record. The production itself gives a fair shake between the four performers though the music itself is, again, very bass-and-vocal driven where Earthbound Machine‘s sound skates the line between an ancient doom metal jut and modern stoner/sludge metal tonality. Exciting as the sound is throughout the listening experience the main reason to stick around is their knack for writing reasonably memorable doom metal songs that aren’t instantly comparable to any contemporary or classic I could think of while listening, it just feels like I’m listening to Earthbound Machine and that is half the struggle of heavy metal down pat upfront.
Looking back on the first half of 2019 it’d be fair to say that the landscape is littered with good doom metal records but only a handful of great ones thus far. For my own tastes ‘Destined For the Grave’ lands somewhere between greatness and mere goodness where I appreciate most of the songwriting, love the vibe and the sound but didn’t find the entirety of Earthbound Machine‘s release memorable; “Marrow” is the most catching hook of the bunch but opener “Figures in a Terrain” paired with”Rallies in Rage” is a huge collective moment for the full listen. The bass guitar tone is such a huge point of enjoyment for me in terms of most traditional forms of heavy metal so, in some sense this does kick up into the upper echelon of doom metal by virtue of Myllykoski‘s performance but there is some limit to where these songs can go in terms of standard stoner/doom metal without going the extra mile towards extreme metal. I’d give a generally high recommendation for this debut just for how gratifying the more emotive performances are alongside a polished and earthen production. For preview I’d suggest “Man in the Attic” and “Marrow” for that full on 90’s stoner/doom feeling and then “Figures in a Terrain” for a heaving hit of doom.
From the mist appeared… 4.0/5.0
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