Formed by members of Sea Bastard, Landskap, Dead Existence and Throne, Grave Lines could be regarded as some form of UK underground supergroup. That pedigree should also give one an idea what to expect from début album Welcome to Nothing (Black Reaper Records), but there are elements of surprise.
The outset of opener ‘Blind Thamyris’ is akin to a perkier Type O Negative: Jake Harding’s vocal a Steele-esque drone decorating Oli Irongiant’s darkly melodic chords. With a more familiar crushing riff however, the longest track of this intense album suddenly grows angrier, nastier and more passionate, coating Harding’s now resonant roar and Julia Owen’s varied, powerful patterns in a diseased, Doom-laden fuzz. “You’re a parasite” hollers Harding over the steadily swelling mass before returning to the sinister coda.
The defining flavour here is one of bitter enmity: the exorcising of pain by the aural evisceration of those undeserving of a guiltless existence. This is epitomised in the sheer vehemence of ‘Cronus Chain’ vocal which rips bodily organs through holes driven by the metronomic pulse of the music. As enlivening as it is withering, one is overwhelmed by the involuntary, violent bodily movements induced by its colossal power.
‘Drug Cold’ shows the band’s ability to switch the sound and tempo, more of that stark Post-punk clarity slowed down to a mid-pace, the air dense with patchouli oil and ganja. Harding’s vocal turn in Landskap is evoked here before the atmosphere is again thickened, turning his cold harmonies into acerbic rants once more. The ensuing ‘Extinction Pill’, meanwhile, commences with a ferocious bounce, a faster pace vacillating between leaden thunder and Thrash-style shredding: while the wonderful Low-end rhythm returns in closer ‘Burial for the Birdless Sky’possessing the knee-buckling Psychedelia of Boss Keloid shot through with an evil intent born of hideous resentment.
Whilst allowing its members to remain loyal to their roots, Grave Lines permits a subtle variation on each of their themes. It’s a compelling sound which is at times uncomfortable, but that’s exactly how they want you to feel. An occasionally draining, often harrowing, yet totally fulfilling listening experience.