Earthen Grave - _Earthen Grave_
(Claude & Elmo Music, 2012)
by: Dan Lake (7 out of 10)
Chicago's Earthen Grave remind me that I frequently judge metal based on its position on the Adventurous-Awesomeness Reference Plane (though when I suggest that the most recent SunnO))) record scored well with the AARP, people usually look at me funny*). The horizontal Adventurous axis measures the extremity of musical risks taken, and the vertical Awesomeness axis measures how hornsthrowingly rad is the emotional output. Records scoring very high Awesomeness points but low on the Adventurous axis (Coffins, Disma) usually can come out ahead on their sheer solid-tude, while albums in which the Adventurous ranking far outpaces Awesomeness (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Unexpect -- sorry, fuckers) too often remain unattended gems of brilliant but largely unappreciated talent. Sometimes a turd slips through the filter and hangs out in that most shunned of corners (technical slamcore, anyone?), and rarely a gift like Isis' _Oceanic_ or Converge's _Axe to Fall_ kicks a stupid amount of ass and requires us to draw the lines out further than we expected we'd have to.

Earthen Grave drilled deep to find previously untapped reserves of awesome for the sextet's doom-splashed trad heavy gallop. Storm gods Tony Spillman and Jason Muxlow strike ears with high volume thunder and lightning (rhythm guitar and solos). Mark Weiner leads the charge with his powerful tenor. Bassist (and album producer) Ron Holzner and drummer Scott Davidson lay down a lockstep foundation for each song's individual character. Rachel Barton Pine blesses each track with fantastic and poignant violin work. The songs themselves are like bite-sized highlight tapes of the life and times of the fist pump, each sporting its own reasons to split your knuckles and injure your neck, while often also retaining sweet moments of dark introspection.

So if the Awesomeness axis is your sole purchasing parameter, stop reading and go dig some Earthen Grave. If you're hoping for a spike on the Adventure meter, you may want to pump the brakes. EG's tour of badassery sticks closely to time-tested thrills; much of the action hits the same blustery pitches as recent efforts by King Giant and Across Tundras. Even the violin's strong presence throughout only nudges the originality factor up slightly, now that Grayceon and Amber Asylum have ensured that every band west of the Rockies has a string section.

Seeking the new brutal? Seek elsewhere. Need ten hits of awesome to help you face the day? Shrug into some leather and "Fall In".

*For our non-American readers, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is an organization that supports the elderly. For American readers who didn't think the reference was funny, check to make sure your membership card's still safe.


(article published 1/7/2012)

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