Changing the context of what haunts us can be an effective way to take what is known and turn into something all the more frightening if that horror is grounded in some kind of reality. Gravesend takes war metal and grind into a new direction by putting their brand of filth into back alleys and side streets of the city. 2021’s Methods of Human Disposal was one of my favorite releases of the year and easily had the album cover of the year (POPE SHOT) so finding out that we get another dose of this depravity as an addition to this already stacked year of releases is quite the get.
If you know their brand at all, Gravesend stands as one of the most unique acts on the 20 Buck Spin roster by blending war metal, grindcore, and death metal with a result that is just on the edge of being uncomfortable, even after hours of listening. The band admittedly take cues from the sordid history of New York City and that influence comes through loud and clear on each of the album’s 16 tracks across 36 minutes: you’ll want to bathe after hearing this thing. Hell, you may even hit the showers after the fly-covered noise intro that starts this half-hour descent into the underworld.
For all of the grinding grime that oozes from Gowanus Death Stomp, Gravesend still manage to put a healthy amount of hedonistic fun in these songs. This album feels like skateboarding through the NYC sewers, and if you don’t think that sounds rad then you should bail right now. “Even A Worm Will Turn” is a thumping groovy track that is two-and-a-half minutes of pure sadistic riffing but with a wry smile that shines through the indigence. The same can be said of other tracks here, including the title track, and while it makes total sense to make this sort of music at least a little bit enjoyable, it also enhances the themes that are explored on this record. The deep malevolence that presents itself as this album unfolds is made all the more terrifying by the sheer joy that it takes in being that way. For all of the abrasiveness that permeates every crack in the asphalt, there are decorative thorns that make the visit both more deadly and more beautiful.
While the total length of this record isn’t too much by many standards, it is about nine minutes longer than their previous effort, and while that extra time is certainly worth it, it can feel like quite the beating. This album is a series of sonic assaults that are broken up into sub-three-minute chunks, and that persistence is something that can very easily wear you down. That, however, sort of feels like the point. If you’re not up for getting bombarded by songs with titles like “Thirty Caliber Pesticide” or “Festering in Squalor” then you’re not going to find anything to enjoy on Gowanus Death Stomp. But for those of you who wish to plumb the depths and find the treasure that’s marred by exposure, gravel, and tar then this is certainly the record for you.
This album stands on its own as a new anthology of metropolitan horror, but it also is in many ways a sequel that dovetails nicely with Gravesend’s previous efforts. “Make (One’s) Bones” has an opening riff that hearkens back to “Unclaimed Remains” from Methods of Human Disposal, and there are countless other little moments to uncover and ponder along the way as well. The connectedness of one record to the next has set up a nice little world for this band to play in and is an absolute bonus for those who watch aghast as it all unfolds before them.
Being unique is no doubt part of the composition of how any band looks to position themselves and while that is by no means that only factor that makes them worthwhile, Gravesend simply sound like no one else. Gowanus Death Stomp is focused aggression that knows exactly where to slice for maximum effect and before you know it, you’re bleeding out.