Outsiders, Be Wary
There’s an argument to be made that today’s biggest metal bands are some of the most nuanced and artistic to contribute to the genre. Deafheaven and Panopticon are two bands that have incorporated sounds not traditionally associated with metal and received wide critical acclaim. Though such groups are introducing new listeners to music they might have otherwise turned their noses at, there’s an equally valid argument that metal should not be this accessible. Traditionally, metal (and especially its more extreme subgenres) is for the underdogs of the world, essentially an idiosyncratic language meant only to be understood by the truly devoted, all outsiders be damned. Grave Desecrator makes raw and bare bones blackened death metal for anyone who finds Deafheaven more pretentious than innovative.
The vast majority of the songs on Dust to Lust, Grave Desecrator’s first album in five and a half years, alternate between sections of blast beats and tremolo picking and slow, retro-sounding riffs. Bassist and lead vocalist Butcherazor’s delivery is deep and urgent, sounding at times about as demonic as a human voice can get. Grave Desecrator is from Brazil, and their approach is indebted in part to the early work of heavy metal compatriots Sepultura. However, rather than retread previously-explored territory, Grave Desecrator sounds rawer and more manic than Sepultura ever did. The drums, for example, seem to have been made to sound as lo-fi as is humanly possible, and all but one of the guitar solos are pure, meandering noise.
Many of the most memorable moments on the album are nothing more than expressions of pure intensity, like a sloppy and bizarre groove near the start of “A Witching Whore,” or a series of unrestrained growls at the end of the ludicrously titled “Mephistophallus in Ocultopussy.” Most of the riffs themselves don’t stray too far from well-worn metal clichés, so these unironically vulgar elements are the main draw of the album. Since the appeal is so specific, the album is going to be alienating to a large number of listeners, but it’s likely that fans would have it no other way.
The album’s art was done by Zbigniew M. Bielak, who has also created covers for albums by Ghost, Mayhem, Watain and more. This, as well as an introductory track that has the grandeur of a John Carpenter film score, are the only two flourishes befitting of a more corporatized metal band. Rather than seem pandering, however, these feel like statements of Grave Desecrator’s ambition. Having been a band since 1998, they can release an album with an epic intro track and drums that sound like they were recorded in a studio back alley if they so choose.
This album is meant to be worrying to Middle America, devoid of any meaning beyond satanic hedonism. All metalheads who think pretentious metal is an oxymoron will find that Grave Desecrator is still making music that’s raw and totally hostile to the outside world.