New movements and enterprising bands continually try to breath life into the fetid crypt of death metal, the most promising of these being the cavernous sub-genre that paid homage to early Incantation, called “occult death metal. Occult death metal captured in its cauldron all the ingredients for What made good death metal—hellish darkness personified in sonic form. One of the leaders in this subgenre, whose sound often bordered the dissonance of black metal, was UK’s Grave Miasma. In 2013 they reigned maleficent with their album Odori Sepulcrorum alongside Necros Christos. This more atmospheric form of death metal was a convincing piece of evidence that there was more happening in death metal beneath the overprocessed fretboard wanking of technical death metal.
Having originally formed as Goat Molesters in 2002, Grave Miasma still retains the bleak atmospherics of their sound on the new EP but handle things a little differently this time around. They conform to the more primitive urges of more mainstream death metal bands by going with a more machine-like hammering. The weirdness is relegated to the songs’ fringes. The album’s opening hymn might be most faithful to the sound fans devoted themselves to, but the band is more committed to mauling with power than smoke and mirrors. When going into the more extreme avenues of metal, it’s easy for the album’s opener to overpower with sheer heaviness alone. While it might initially seem impressive when they go for the overwhelming kitchen-sink approach, ultimately the question becomes whether or not they can do anything else. The answer? Kinda: “Utterance of the Foulest Spirit” carries enough of a groove to prove they know what they are doing, as the ambiance comes haunting around the three-minute mark. While their darkened mood has been traded for solid riffing, the undercurrent of double-bass thump keeps the song flowing like a ride down the River Styx.
The old Morbid Angel feel returns on the pounding “Purgative Circumvolution.” Drummer Molestör’s chops are given a bigger spotlight due to the fact he is playing some more conventional metal grooves. Blasts of spastic chaos riddle “Glorification of the Impure.” You might begin to notice here that a Shiva theme abounds in the lyrics before they hit you with a tornado of wayward blast beats. If you’re the type to consider dense and foreboding atmosphere the crucial elements to heavy music, then this band might win you over despite not honing their previously established identity. This enjoyable listen, but Grave Miasma seem to have reached the limits of the “occult death metal” niche they carved out on Odori Sepulcrorum. But then again, they’ll likely fit in more comfortably on any death metal tour, playing on larger stages. That’s surely some measure of success.