Thrash ‘Til Death #41: Vacant Grave (United States) 1985-1990

THRASH ‘TIL DEATH is a 50 week long set of features exploring the legends who crossed over between thrash and death metal between 1983-1993. The focus is primarily on under-served, unknown, and exemplar bands/releases. The selection is comprehensive but the numbering is not indicative of any type of rank or value: The order of band appearance is arbitrarily chosen. E-mail me if you want to suggest any relevant bands!


Consider this one a blurry photograph that’ll have to speak for dead souls it’d captured because the formative works from Manchester, Missouri founded death/thrash metal band Vacant Grave remain a rarity due to their almost entirely self-released nature, including the full-length. I know everything by the band has been digitized and/or ripped directly from tapes because it’d all circulated on rare metal demo blogs until crackdowns on links erased ’em all. It is a shame because I’ll have to rely on three releases, two directly relevant, to paint the full picture of a band reportedly formed in 1982 and made official circa 1986. Information is limited, tape rips are sketchy, and nobody seems to remember the band outside of a Facebook page full of ‘metal chick’ tits so prepare yourself for something ultra-underground that belonged where it died. If you have any of the missing demo tapes, rehearsals, or compilation LPs from the bands early career please upload them to YouTube or a similar service and notify me so I can update this entry. Hey! I’ve done my best to research as much as I can but please feel free to message me (grizzlybutts@hotmail.com) or leave a comment if I’ve left out anything vital or gotten something horribly wrong!


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Artist Merciless Sin
Title [Type/Year] Damnation [Demo/1986]
Rating [3.5/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube!

The whole point of Vacant Grave was to outperform Slayer, beat them at their own game and make dangerous rock n’ roll music that’d get the band laid from that point of inspiration and by their third year of formative work the members of Vacant Grave would generally fail and splinter into two forces. Two members would exit the band in early 1985 form Merciless Sin and release two demo tapes before giving up due to lack of interest. New York based thrash zine Death Scream (Issue #3, 1987) would interview the band the year after they’d release this second tape ‘Damnation’ and it was pretty clear the band was more or less going nowhere at that point. They would soon jump ship to St. Louis and form W.T.G. a fast food themed crossover band whose name literally meant “Whoppers Taste Good“… Either way this tape shreds, evil thrash metal with a very straight forward style and clear sound. It is leagues better than what Vacant Grave were doing that same year, and perhaps that reality is why they’d exited the project so easily.


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Artist Vacant Grave
Title [Type/Year] Demo ’86 [Demo/1986]
Rating [2.75/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube

You can’t hear much more than a muffled off-time rumble when it comes to the drumming but something is better than nothing when scouring the internet for unkempt metal demo archives. Two elements make it clear that Vacant Grave weren’t just another thrash band from the Midwest; Their ham-fisted Blood Feast-esque brutal speed metal riffing and their frantic death/thrash metal vocal style. It isn’t a classic, it isn’t all that impressive for 1986, but it is 80’s death metal being conceived in real time and deserves some cleaner documentation. I’d love to have the next three demos from the band to talk about because each one was basically a self-dubbed tape with a band photo smashed into a J-card shape with the title glued on the end and the photos are pretty awesome as documentation of a pretty unknown band. Basically these guys would go from busted Slayer-on-meth towards a Sadus-meets-Revenant styled death/thrash band across the span of three demos, the key demo being Demo #3 (1987) because it’d introduced many refined versions of songs that’d be included on their sole full-length a few years later.


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Artist Vacant Grave
Title [Type/Year] Life or Death [Full-length/1990]
Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube!

Over the years I’ve seen comparisons made between ‘Life or Death’ and records like ‘Piece of Time’, ‘Syzigial Miscreancy’ and Protected Illusion‘s debut but the reality is that for all of the technical progress made in the space of four years Vacant Grave weren’t anywhere near that refined even at their peak. An ideal comparison would be Ripped, Blood Feast, and maybe Rigor Mortis around that same year but with a sort of underground crossover/thrash metal implementation that wasn’t ultra-serious. Unpredictable thrash rhythms, strangled guitar solos, brutal lyrics, and a pretty solid full listen across 45 minutes makes this a hidden gem for the niche-lover that isn’t going to blow minds in hindsight. This record always sounded a bit like if D.R.I. had gone death/thrash metal after ‘Thrash Zone’ but kept up the sort of mid-to-fast pacing and that thought had been enough to warrant several listens.

All that is left to speak for Vacant Grave is a website so old that it still links to a MySpace and a YouTube page that is all over the place. If you’d really like to hear everything the band did between 1985-1990 there are some specific demo trading forums that’ll fix you up pretty fast but since I’m not a depository you’ll have to settle for the very strong juxtaposition of Vacant Grave‘s primitive first demo tape and then the classic thrashing quality of their sole full-length. When you’ve landed those demos you’ll realize the full-length is really the only important release from this project and accumulates all of the best songs they’d written up until that point. Nothing deep or profound to takeaway this week, just go listen to ‘Life or Death’ and thrash your shit off. Don’t miss “Behind Bars” and the opening to “Evil Deceiver”!


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