I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and again): Australia has all the best thrash metal bands at the moment, and you can now add Battlegrave to the list of reasons why. It’s been a fairly subdued year, as far as thrash metal happenings, but the Melbourne duo’s freshly released debut record, Relics of a Dead Earth, would have no trouble standing out in any other era either. Battlegrave play fast, heavy and pissed off, and serve as a reminder of just how appealing such a raw, bare-bones approach to the genre can be when done well.
Some bands—even thrash metal bands—populate their music with subtlety and nuance; some bands are called “Battlegrave” and open their album with as song called “The Gavel Says… DIE!” (chorus: “The gavel says… DIE!”). That’s about the level of delicacy you can expect from these destructive newcomers. Relics of a Dead Earth is an all-out aural assault, from front to back—in the best way possible. This is music to spin your hair around in a windmill and bash your head into a monitor to. Yet while such activities can certanly be both cathartic and enjoyable, it also feels like guitarist Clint Patzel and vocalist Rohan Buntine might be legitimately trying to snap your neck off with some of these compositions.
Despite consisting of just a guitarist and vocalist, the drums might just be the best thing about Relics of a Dead Earth. Sitting in behind the kit for Battlegrave’s first full-length is none other than Kevin Talley (Misery Index, Chimaira, everyone else). Talley has made his name as a gun for hire, and he’s no stranger to Australia’s aural shores—having laid down skins on the last couple of Truth Corroded records (and hopefully the next one) as well. Talley’s performances are always superb. However, here it feels like he’s just been let loose to make the music sound as heavy and overwhelming as possible, and it’s a task he both seemingly relished and completely knocks out of the park. Not that the drumming on To Hell With War was anything to sniff at either. That record featured Akaname drummer Tim Sherman (previously of The Red Shore and, personal favourites, Her Nightmare), and if Buntine and Patzel can keep rounding out their line-up with such outstanding talent as they have so far, then there’s no reason why their thrash metal offensive shouldn’t prove utterly unstoppable.
Relics of a Dead Earth follows on from the band’s 2017 EP To Hell With War. The EP blends stories exposing the true horrors of war with imagery ripped straight out of the latest Doom game(s), and is certainly nothing to sniff at. Yet, even in such short a time, their full-length debut shows considerable growth by the two-piece. The aesthetic remains the same, and if anything their second effort is even more intense than the first. However, the compositions feel more careful and more prone to stick in your head. Battlegrave rarely ever take their foot off the proverbial accelerator, but when they do it’s to good effect. “Pt I. The Witch In The Wood” seems at first to offer some mid-paced relief from its violent surrounds, but ultimately only serves to lull the listener into a false sense of security before “Pt II. The Flames That Lick Your Flesh” pushes things to even further extremes.
If Battlegrave can mange to keep up the lofty pace they’ve set themselves then they have the potential to become a real force within the Australian thrash metal scene—with the appearance of Harlott‘s Andrew Hudson and Jake Weber (who also provides solos throughout the record), on “Rot in Oblivion”, proving they’re already in great company.
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Relics of a Dead Earth is out now, grab it and To Hell With War using the bandcamp link above.