Wednesday, March 21, 2012

At the Graves: Solar (2012)

Not So Sunny

When At the Graves hooked me up with a review copy of their first full-length, Solar, they had no idea that I had already mentioned the band before, in a brief review of their second EP. At the time, I thought they sounded like early Isis, but that it took a while for the record to pick up steam. This time around, they've improved immensely.

The Maryland trio inhabit the confluence of post-metal, hardcore, sludge, and doom, much like Neurosis. Lush, spacious compositions are built around very simple but effective basslines. Guitar creates tension both by its dissonant presence and unnerving absence, weaving hardcore and metal influences together. The drumming is all hardcore, with plenty of both slow and fast rhythms that to me, at least, sound fresh. The vocals, too, are of the hardcore persuasion, but not the idiot tough-guy style most of us metalheads think of.

There are other curious influences as well. In fact, the record begins on a psychedelic- and folk-infused acoustic track that brings Wovenhand to mind (which, if you've followed my reviews, you know I love). "Magnetar" has a fusion-hot blues-rock solo.

If you enjoyed Given to the Rising, then you'll love this. If you almost enjoyed it, then perhaps the relative immediacy of Solar will have enough gravity to pull you in. At the Graves are more likely to hit faster tempos as well as the slow ones, and they don't have that droning quality to the vocals. It's also about a half hour shorter, so it's a lot less intimidating but with commensurate rewards.

The Verdict: At the Graves are an unsigned band, but they've released one of the finest records I've heard so far this year. The evolution between their previous EP and this full-length is profound. It is absolutely worth the price of admission. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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