The Light Is From Below
17th February 2017 – Black Bow Records
01. Shrine of Misery
04. Vacant Mass
Grim Ravine‘s territory is dudes with handmade Merzbow backpatches. Noisy sludge has always been keen to dabble in some of the darker arts and produce something surprising; proof that straying from the sludge template doesn’t have to lead to flowerier paths. Violence! Danger! Grimness! Ravines!
The four tracks of The Light Is From Below are similarly-minded; loose to the point of being largely formless, disorientating and confrontational, they are dense, massy affairs. Opening with “Shrine of Misery” and through to the concluding “Vacant Mass“, the EP doesn’t divert much from this path. There are elements of black metal and hardcore woven into the piss-soaked tapestry, and the philosophy of “take all the really scary elements and do them all at once” is very much apparent. Here, Grim Ravine have avoided this sounding too much like a patchwork; their sound is organically frightening and extremely well-realised.
“Vacant Mass” is especially compelling, standing out as one of the more explorative tracks. This marks one of the starker steps up in sonic diversity since their ferocious self-titled debut. Shifting down to crawling doom tempo but retaining the bleak, grinding snarl, it’s a more complete song structure-wise than they’ve attempted before. Later, the track shifts to a melodic section over the harsh foundations. Eventually, the harsh guitar sounds that bubble under the surface are stripped back before concluding on a violent note. Certainly their most diverse track to date.
The modern tendency to sprinkle post-metal bits into extreme metal without going full-Neurosis is clear here. Throughout the EP hints of ambience and ominous atmospheres are apparent. It’s not uncommon to indulge this but here these parts are concise and used with economy in mind; I never got bored waiting for the heavy bits to hit.
The EP may be short but the brevity works in the same way that, say, Insect Warfare‘s records do; when I want violent catharsis, I don’t generally want anything in the 45-50 minute range. 30 minutes of piss-boiling focuses the aggression and allows just enough room to air enough ideas to keep everything fresh and engaging. If anything, I think the EP format is a more effective choice than a full-length.
In straightforward terms, The Light Is From Below hits hard and is likely to strike a chord with even hardened sludge fans. Grim Ravine have a focussed take on caustic, throaty sludge/doom with all the other genre nuances you’d expect from an extreme metal release in 2017. Where the record lays off it manages to maintain momentum; you never feel that they’re trying to play the post-metal card to score “mature” extreme metal points. This is probably the greatest strength of Grim Ravine; they’re never black-and-white, but their departure is only expressed in the darkest grey imaginable.