It’s always nice to come back to things you know work. A little nostalgia never hurt anybody, after all. Hearing some band playing the brutal, grinding old school death metal always tickles the brain. Even among the masters, Portland’s Grave Dust is kicking it up with the best of them. In the year of death metal that just keeps on giving, we’ve been handed a rare treat with the 18-minute, 6 track debut of the band with Pale Hand. Not enough bands remind us where death metal came from, and it’s clearly a sound that could use some more exploring.
The group leans hard on OSDM. It really brings back that old sound. Everything is full of dirt, piss, and vinegar. The guitars are covered in disgusting distortion and chug along with excellent riffs and fills from Daniel Kelley. There’s a solid low end to the whole thing. Normally, bass is thrown aside in metal, but this sound wouldn’t work without that solid base to build off of from Tim Lower (coincidentally enough). The drums equally just roll. “The Chase” really shows this off as Eli Wood can roll on his toms, provide the snapping snare fills, and splash and crash his way through the bridge. The grinding nature of the sound reminds one of Gatecreeper with its heavily distorted melodies and moderate pacing.
The highlight is Jozy Kinnaman’s vocals. Underground metal is pretty lacking in female vocalists, and it’s pretty odd given what Kinnaman can do. She can growl and shout with the best of them. The vocals feel like they’re being barked at you, commanding you to hear the words. The reverb effect over each word gives the vocals a presence they may not have had otherwise. It’s a delightful addition to an already stunning record.
It would be a difficult task to single out a specific track, but the title track is an excellent choice. The intro riff is simply evil. There’s something about the way the melody climbing and falling like that that just puts you on edge a little. Combine that with the drums and you feel like you’re being pursued by some unnamed evil. As quickly as it starts, the track then slows the drums while speeding up the guitar riffs so Kinnaman can bark at you about an impending hand of doom. The song then plays with the tempos a lot, always keeping you uneasy and in a prime spot to enjoy some excellent death metal.
Death metal bands continue to come out in droves, and each year seems to have us all talking about how it’s making a comeback. Grave Dust is proving that point. They are contributing to the renaissance by reminding us that the early sound of some these bands is still quite relevant. There will always be a desire for a band that sounds like the filthiest metal band you ever heard. Grave Dust has a strong argument for why they might receive the crown this year. In many ways, this record really reflects the album art. It’s a monstrosity waiting to embrace you and melt your damn face off. Embrace the face melt, I say. Hopefully, we’ll hear more from Grave Dust in the very near future. For now, enjoy Pale Hand.
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Pale Hand is available now and can be purchase via the Bandcamp link above.