Fed Into The Nihilist Engine by Grave LinesRelease date: May 4, 2018
Label: New Heavy Sounds
Brighton/London’s girder crushers Grave Lines emerged into the noisy/sludgy underground scene with a bruising entrance with the release of their debut album Welcome to Nothing in 2016. With appearances at 2017’s Desertfest and undertaking support slots for Oathbreaker, Cough, and Ufomammut, there was an inkling that this is a band with something a bit different going for them. But it was supporting Black Moth on a UK tour earlier this year, which highlighted a storm of humongous stand-up-and-take-notice-proportions may well be on the horizon. Tasters of their 2nd album were revealed and they marked a staggering upwards trajectory of both progressive sound, and bold statements of intent.
Step in the very fine New Heavy Sounds label, somewhat expert spotters of finding bands drinking from a different barrel of quality ale (Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Black Moth, Limb, Ex People, Vodun) who have not only taken a leap with a band who trade in a slightly different sound to their now current label-mates, but are fully backing them by releasing a double vinyl, hour long-ish label debut. And Fed into the Nihilist Engine proves they are absolutely, right to do this.
And this is where vinyl have a distinctive advantage over other formats, because this is an album which is best to be broken down into a side at a time. Right from the opening notes of ‘Failed Skin’, if not in the right mood this will drain the blood from your face in seconds. It takes you right into a dark, brooding mood of existential, introspective despair, and severely harrowing depths of misery.
However, Grave Lines have taken their sound into hitherto new territories. The second track, ‘Shame Retreat’, is a delicate acoustic led finger picker accompanied by Jake Harding’s quietly sang vocals (yes, he can sing). Jake’s effective swing between deep throated growls and clean singing is well-judged throughout the album. Bringing in drummer Julia Owen to add vocals duality to the despondent ‘Loss Betrayal’ is another string on their visionary bow. It is then even more impressive that the level of dark, foreboding intensity of mood is a constant and never dips.
Special mention must also go to the rhythm section and especially Julia Owen’s terrific intriguingly busy drumming, just check out ‘The Greae’. While the guitar work veers between the afore-mentioned fine acoustic delicacy and monstrous electrified shredding gloom-laden riffs as on ‘Silent Salt’, ‘The Nihilist Engine’, and the crushing heaviosity of ‘Self-Mutilation By Fire And Stone’, which will reappear in your worst nightmares (this, of course, is meant as high praise).
This album is best to be described as an hour-long divergence into dark, very progressive, heaviness. Best exemplified by the bookended ten-minutes-plus epic pair of ‘Failed Skin’ and ‘The Nihilist Engine’. It is extremely well thought-out and they sound completely in control of their aims. Another surprise is ‘Loathe Displace’, which comes on like a 21st Century up-date of Black Sabbath’s ‘Changes’. Not in the sense it sounds like it, it may not even be an influence, but as in the leading synth drone and Jake’s clean vocals are not what one was expecting. It turns out to be one of the album’s highlights.
This is an album which has many what-the-fuck moments. For some, it might be considered one long what the fuck! You may never hum the tunes while mowing the lawn. But, if uncompromising, progressive, experimental, exceeding heaviness, pips your interest and mood then lend Fed into the Nihilist Engine your ears. Grave Lines conclusively prove they are now a distinctive voice in the underground heavy scene, and this expansive album should make appropriate waves.