As both consumers and critics of all things of music, one of the essential tasks of the music writer is to try and impart some sense of how a given song, album, or artist project made them feel. Now, despite what you may think, that’s not necessarily an easy task. Feelings are an inherently subjective phenomenon and wires get crossed all the time. Sensations that are painful or abhorrent to some can be craved and sought out by others. Spicy food, pop music, foot stuff—it’s all on a spectrum of enjoyment. The point is this: Everyone is their own kind of weirdo and, particularly when it comes to music, tastes may vary.
Listening to Methods of Human Disposal (out now through 20 Buck Spin) feels like a waking nightmare: a dark realm built on concrete, steel, and broken bottles, populated by thugs, rats, junkies, and urban sorrow. As an album, it involves repeated sensations of fight or flight, drawing on a jagged rush of instinctual responses from deep down in the limbic system. If you’ve ever walked down a dimly lit street at night and suddenly felt that cold spike on the back of your neck, thinking: “Shit, I’m all alone. What if something happens?” That’s what NYC trio Gravesend aim to cultivate here. They make that sensation musical and it’s entirely cold-blooded in approach.
Opener “Fear City” immediately sets this tone. Eerie synth-scapes ripped straight from a John Carpenter OST collide with distorted vocals, like an argument you can’t help but overhear as you quickly walk past some serious looking characters. Rumbling bass notes and crashing drums announce the arrival of “STH-10,” an instrumental introduction to the band’s brand of dismal death-grind. Then the album’s title track suddenly—and quite literally—blasts into range, complete with murky, stomping riffs and phlegmy shrieks.
Others have likened Gravesend’s sound to a furious lo-fi mix of Darkthrone and Bolt Thrower, and they’re not far off. Everything here is grim and austere like a classic black metal record, showing little care for sonic polish or production flourishes. But the overall vibe is decidedly frosty too, complemented by the musical immediacy and energy of OSDM.
On the record’s longer cuts, Gravesend manage to keep things interesting. “Ashen Piles of the Incinerated” takes its brutal track title and makes it literal, with incendiary drumming that feels broken, discombobulated and held together by sheer malice alone. Meanwhile, darting guitar squeals clash against monstrous, demonic gutturals that sound like they’re patched in directly from Hell itself.
“Unclaimed Remains” goes for a more full-throated OSDM strategy, with bulldozer riffage, precision divebombs, and a cavalcade of shattering blast beats. The roaring “Trinity Park” sounds like a NYHC demo from the late 80s played at 1000x speed, and the bass drum barrages that punctuate “Scum Breeds Scum” keep things lively right to the end.
However, with half of the tracks barely clocking in over 90 seconds, it’s sometimes hard for Methods of Human Disposal to sound little more than a collection of cool ideas than fully fleshed-out compositions. For instance, there’s the brief, albeit blood-pumping thrash riff in “Subterranean Solitude” that’s gone before the hook really has a chance to dig in. Or the constant pummeling of “End of the Line,” that feels like jumping in front of the C Train and having a mic record the entire experience. And then there’s the blatant Napalm Death worship going on with the one-two strike of “Absolute Filth” and “The Grave’s End.”
It takes album standout “Needle Park” (a clear reference to 70s NYC drug den Sherman Square) to bring these disparate elements together in an engaging way, with a raucous melting pot of mosh riffs, relentless grinding, and dark, spoken word samples.
Ultimately, Methods of Human Disposal is not a feel-good album—and that’s entirely by design. On their debut LP, Gravesend have taken to squatting in the hallowed halls of death metal, power-violence, hardcore, and grind, kicking in the walls, burning out the floorboards, and pissing on the ashes.
Purchase and stream Methods of Human Disposal here.