One of death metal’s greatest virtues is its ability to encompass so many wildly differing styles.
Of course, purists may argue that the approach taken by bands like Grave Miasma is the only true path to follow, and within a few minutes of Endless Pilgrimage’s viscous, infernal ooze slithering from your speakers, you may find yourself beginning to agree with such an absolutist viewpoint. This is death metal driven by an intense individualism and a lust for artistic blasphemy. Where the Londoners trump the majority of their eerie, old-school peers is in their unerring knack for knowing when to pull back from the sonically amorphous and deliver some tried-and-tested brute force and brevity. Unlike the mildly overrated Portal, Grave Miasma don’t use atmosphere and textural density as facades to hide behind: instead, songs like Utterance Of The Foulest Spirit and Glorification Of The Impure offer as much clarity and precision as they do squall or ambient claustrophobia. If reference points are necessary, then both Immolation and Incantation are brought to mind at certain moments, but these shadowy Brits imbue everything with such warped distinction that these songs never lose the air of intangible otherness that often serves to delight the cultest of the cult.
The beginning of opener Yama Transforms To The Afterlife is as mesmerising as anything extreme metal has produced in years, the resonant fizz of sitars and a mounting sense of something foul looming over the horizon combining to startling effect. Similarly, the closing Full Moon Dawn achieves a level of harrowing grandeur that other, less astute servants of the old school would bury beneath thick layers of pretentious misdirection. Moving forward and sideways from 2013’s widely applauded Odori Sepulcrocrum, this five-tracker provides every bit as much substance and bile as its longer predecessor.
There are plenty of equally legitimate and credible ways to skin a death metal cat, but when you stand at the epicentre of Grave Miasma’s hellish roar, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that this band are operating on a higher level and setting new standards along the way.