Published on February 20th, 2015 | by Liam Doyle0
The Hefty Fog: The Aussie Triumvirate
The latter half of the 00’s were, as far as underground Metal music was concerned, focused almost entirely on the advent and subsequent decline of ‘Slamming Brutal Death Metal’, or however many variants on that title had been adopted during the time. The grooves of the early to mid 90’s had resurfaced on a Death Metal scene that desperately needed some kind of facelift, lest the hardcore fans be doomed to relive the 80’s over and over again like some kind of Scott Burns-produced Groundhog Day.
What we got in the end was a newly popularized strain of Death Metal that, and it may sound overly harsh, seemed to do little towards its end but rake the iron-wrought abs of the Bro-science snapbacks that were peddling and consuming it. It wasn’t that ‘Slam’ was bad, on the contrary, some of the best Death Metal releases of the last decade were ripped from that very womb, but its uniformity had become almost insufferable by 2010 and as the last Jagerbombs were being necked, we all knew the house party couldn’t be resuscitated. And while this glorious rise and fall was taking place in the ‘zines and the blogs, something unspeakably wrong was festering in places subterrestrial even to the metal underground, and the stench was emanating from Australia.
There will be no mission statement or formal dialogue from any of the bands on what has been happening recently in the yawning depths of the underground, but it is quite obvious that a close-knit group of enigmatic Australian Metal musicians operating presumably out of Brisbane and Queensland, have been formulating a hideous and convincing answer to our Death Metal problem. Experimentation and dense, harrowing atmosphere take the place of coherent riffs and reliable headbangers in this arcane confrontation of traditional Metal, and the sonic abstraction has not only flayed the sound right down to its bones, but has raised the question once again as to what exactly constitutes as ‘heavy’.
It’s difficult to say whether Grave Upheaval are an unspeakably alien Metal band or something alien that merely assumes the form of a Metal band. Nevertheless, there is nothing else on this depleting Earth that sounds anything remotely as chasmal and ominous as Grave Upheaval, and their first and untitled full-length from 2013 is nothing short of the most fucking inhuman listening experience made possible by earthly tools. This is the sound of a band that has shaken off all physical chains and reached an unfathomable and bleak enlightenment the likes of which has never been heard, or may ever be heard again.
Taking some of their cues from Canadian “War-Metal” tyrants Blasphemy, Impetuous Ritual are an excruciating venture into barbarity. The overbearing percussion gallops along at a static and mostly breakneck speed allowing the strings to flurry violently from mesmerizing density to shrieking solos bred to pierce the ears. If Grave Upheaval are a miasmal fog, then Impetuous Ritual are the lightning that stabs through it and keeps the listener absorbed with their daunting and rigid instrumentation. The band are emblematic of a re-emergent fascination in Death Metal with primal atmosphere over good old fashioned, law-abiding shredders. And if they are also emblematic of the future, then that future is grim.
To say that Portal are the more sophisticated group of this stomach-churning Australian triptych would be correct in the sense that they are, at the very least, slightly more coherent. But rather than suggest anything remotely civilized, their lucidity only confides layer upon layer of horrifying tones and technicality that have seen them through the last twenty years of existence. While Grave Upheaval and Impetuous Ritual enjoy a kind of primeval baldness, Portal are an intricate spider web decorated with the withered carcasses of the Death and Black Metal that paved the way for their creation.