Graves At Sea: The Curse That Is

Long-awaited sludge debut gives way to a sinking feeling

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Longstanding fans of Portland’s Graves At Sea have been waiting almost 15 years for a full-length album, so expectations are certainly high.

Unfortunately, the four-piece’s debut isn’t the sludge/doom monument anticipated. The main issue is that by straddling the thin divide between time-honoured doom and the nihilistic squall of sludge, they rarely capture the emotional crush of the former or the visceral impact of the latter. An excessive 70-plus minute run-time also highlights the band’s tendency to ramble aimlessly during longer songs save for The Ashes Made Her Beautiful, which is absorbing, shrewdly constructed, and integrates welcome yet slightly under-developed passages of acoustic guitar and violin.

Additionally, Nick Phit’s churning, lysergic riffs, backed by a strong rhythm section versed in the voodoo-swing of NOLA sludge, sound too similar at times, and Nathan Misterek’s acrid shriek is often damaging rather than crowning.

This causes the listener’s attention to wax and wane until Graves At Sea finally let loose on Minimum Slave, the fierce finale to an uneven album not in fitting with their cult status.