Every year it seems a handful of promising demos enter the fray to pique the interest of discerning doomheads and sludge worshippers across the realm. When these bands finally get around to recording their debuts the results can be stunning as with Windhand’s self-titled debut and Pallbearer’s ‘Sorrow and Extinction’. Both Windhand’s ‘Practice Space Demo’ and Pallbearer’s ‘2010 Demo’ kept fans anticipating studio albums for a very long two years before proper studio albums were released. Hopefully we won’t have to wait until next year for Apostle of Solitude’s answer to their ‘Demo 2012’. While perhaps not yet in the same league as the aforementioned bands, Argentina’s traditional doom trio The Grave have thrown their wizard caps into the ring with their ‘Demonia’ EP. Needless to say, I hope it doesn’t take these guys two years to give the five tracks of their initial demo a proper studio recording.
The Grave play an infectious style of traditional doom with a few psychedelic flourishes and they don’t confine their style to a mere slug-paced plod and are just as confident with more upbeat tempos. The opening track, “Lord of Mirrors”, opens with a sample from the schlocky early seventies flick ‘Simon, King of the Witches’ before a plodding bass line is accompanied by a moody introductory riff that could have been composed by Steve Mills of The Wounded Kings. While the recording gives the entire demo a one-dimensional, monochromatic feel, “Lord of Mirrors” really hints at the potential of some serious swing courtesy of the rhythm section of bassist Ramon Araoz and drummer Facundo Correa.
If it wasn’t crystal clear before, the band makes their love of occult cinema apparent on the demo’s second track “Luciferian Woman” (and further evidenced by tracks “Psychomaniacs” and “Blind, are the Dead”) with a sample from Mario Bava’s excellent ‘Black Sunday’. Barbara Steele commands, “"Look into my eyes. Embrace me. You will die, but I can bring you pleasures mortals cannot know,” before a flanged-out guitar riff kicks off the proceedings. The majority of the tune falls comfortably into a driving, head-nodding groove accented with some blistering fretwork during the chorus.
The shortest track, “Black God of Death”, features the demo’s most discordant riffs accompanied with probably the most dynamic bass lines which makes for a stellar track. While guitarist/vocalist Diego Benedetto’s vocals are similar to Balam’s Alexander Carellas, the semblance is even more notable due to Diego’s melodies. With the title of “Psychomaniacs” I expected the fourth track to totally rip and melt my face off. While it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just doesn’t hold up against the other four tracks. The last track, “Blind…are the Dead”, has moments of classic doom crawl and up-tempo rocking in equal measures until the song’s final moments which is a slow, moody lurch layered with spacey guitar leads.
While I’m a huge fan of a lo-fi gritty production The Grave could really benefit from a fine-tuned, polished recording. There are moments on ‘Demonia’ where the bass lines are just ready to take-off into the stratosphere, but instead sound grounded or restrained. Overall ‘Demonia’ is a more than a solid first outing and hopefully signals great things to come from the Argentinian trio. All of the tracks of ‘Demonia’ have also been captured on the band’s ‘En vivo 2013’ live recording on their Bandcamp page with the addition of a sixth track entitled “Angela Blake”—all of which are worth checking out. Killer stuff…
Words: Steve Miller