When your band includes members who have been involved with bands such as Heretical Sect, Infera Bruo and Wolves in the Throne Room, expectations will naturally be high. Such is the case for Grave Chalice, whose initial release – the “does what it says on the tin” Demo MMXXII – runs the risk of being weighed down simply because of the associations of its members. And whilst Grave Chalice also play black metal, the kind offered here is different to that of the members’ other bands, with an identity of its own.
Self-described as “transcendental industrial vampyrism”, Demo MMXXII doesn’t pull from the vampyric black metal in sound or aesthetic, but the industrial side of the equation is present and correct. There’s more than a hint of Satyricon’s Rebel Extravaganza to this record, and much like that album, Demo MMXXII takes the core black metal aspects – blasting drums, tremolo-picked guitars, inhuman vocals – and adds to them a sense of something else. Many of the riffs and leads are subtly twisted, winding in ways that initially feel counterintuitive but come to make sense after repeated listens. There’s also an edge of noise and dirt bubbling away in the background that occasionally rises to the fore (or, as on closer ‘Bleeding Out the Stars’, is the entirety of the track), which does justice to the “industrial black metal” descriptor. It never goes as out-there as Mysticum or Dodheimsgard would, but nor is it playing it safe.
As such, Demo MMXXII maintains an unsettling edge throughout, whether it be from unusual riff patterns or the industrial noise elements added. Combined with the persistent forward-motion that is put across, it makes the record a strangely invigorating one; even when the tempo eases off, as around the 6:30 mark of ‘Bleeding Out the Stars’, the tension built by the atmosphere and noise still has a curious dark energy to it. It feels somehow wrong to describe music so steeped in bleakness and aggression as cathartic, yet that’s just how it ends up feeling. Whilst there may be a few rough edges to smooth out (as would be expected from an initial demo), Grave Chalice show here that they hold plenty of promise, and it will be interesting to see how the band develops in the future.
Demo MMXXII is out now via Mercurial Gate and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain