Formed recently in the year 2008, Graveborne is a modern sounding Black Metal act that hails from Helsinki, Finland. The five-piece issued their debut EP themselves back in 2009, though there was not that much attention paid to that release at the time. Two years later, Graveborne bring us their debut full-length through Nykta Records, which may very well be enough for the band to start earning some positive attention. Pure Negativity is upon us, but will the fans of Black Metal enjoy it, or is it another offering to the style to throw off into the chasms of generic obscurity?
While the band’s sound and audio may sound rather modern, the music found on this release is really intense and geatly benefits from both concepts. Taking from concepts of the middle to current second generation Black Metal sounds, Graveborne manage to create a haunting and pounding album without falling prey to traditional “kvlt” recording ideas. The audio is a little muddy, but still has a sleeker modern production quality to it. This allows the guitars to feel a little on the sharp side, but not too much, allowing the bass to really give it a nice deeper sound to it, though not quite giving the material that much of a blunt edge. The two sounds work together nicely and give the audio both a headbanging quality that feels as eerie as it is intense. The drums are phenomenal too with loud pounding bass kicks and snares that are discernable between each other and pretty loud crashing snares. The vocals are your typical rhaspy performance, but it matches the aggressive sound of the music well, as well as gives an energetic performance the whole album. Thanks to the audio quality, these actually come out really crisp with the lyrics of the song discernable without the performance feeling weakened in any way, perfectly suiting the material that Graveborn offers on this release.
While there’s a good deal of faster tracks on here that use machine gun like bass kicks, there’s only a few songs that really focus in on that more intense speed, leaving the slower material to really take over the release. When these areas do happen, the drumming doesn’t become repetative and offers up enough variety between catchy early Black Metal bridges and more intense modern aural attacks that hammer away at the listener without succumbing to constant blast beats that don’t seem to change from one track to another. This is nicely shown off with “Metamorphosis,” the band’s opening track to the release that offers up both the haunting atmospheres throughout, and a good does of pure aggression with varying slower moments that focus on a foundation similar to the aforementioned approach, though a majority finds blistering music with enough changes in it’s just over three and a half minutes to keep the listener attentive the whole time.
“Sinister Moon” is the other track that really seems to hone in on this faster approach, and while it may not be as fast paced as “Metamorphosis,” it’s mid-tempo to higher speeds work nicely together to create a dominating sound. There is a marching bridge that occurs as a build up roughly a third way into the song, which does feel a little out of place thanks to the transition that doesn’t seem to work too well, but though it extends the life of the song quite considerably, it doesn’t quite feel like filler and, thanks to the progression that it takes, this moment ends up feeling fluid within the song with another sudden jerk back into the more intense material that works with the louder, booming sound that this passage had built up. But, while the band’s faster material really sounds great, and “Metamorphosis” does a fantastic job setting up the release, Graveborne does manage to work in some longer songs then what “Metamorphosis” gives us, and also manages to show us that all the tracks on here will be as intense.
“Dark Clouds of Pestilence” stands out nicely for it’s slower, more melancholic performance throughout. The music itself often feels a little simpler in comparison and brings up memories of earlier acts in this generation of the style, but also isn’t afraid to add some suiting faster moments to it that compliment the more trudging pace. A little after the half way point of the song, the tone down drums that go on through the album and work with the more mystifying sound fire in with a sudden jerk, coming at you with a machine gun-like pace similar to the aforementioned opening track, but the guitars and bass stick to roughly the same speed before the drums hammer in, really grabbing the cold and melancholic performance by the throat. The shifts go in and out throughout the song, but are fewer and much farther in between for shorter amounts of time with the break neck speed passages and bridges that come into play here, all of which feel natural and are working in to sound fluid each time it happens. “Sacrilegious” also does a good job at showing this off, but it’s slower parts give off a more commanding, authoritive sensation against the haunting and creepier atmospheres the guitars really give off for this one. It’s not that they clash in any way, or just sound bad, it just sounds a little awkward going from one to the next. But, either way, both tempos manage to get the listener’s head banging, and the two approaches are executed very well that how odd they sound mixed together in the manner they are here might not even stick out at first.
The only track on here that ends up not really working out as well as the others is the song “Dark Matter,” and that’s solely on the fact that the song ends up being just too long. Graveborne clearly tries very hard to create a strong track that will engross the listener the full eight minutes and eleven seconds, but as you go through it ends up just feeling a bit too drawn out, leaving the listener feeling like it really should have ended a good while back. Surprisingly, this isn’t the case with the rest of the material on here. All but “Metamorphosis” really come in as longer tracks, a good majority of the songs clocking in over six minutes, which seems to be a prime estimate of time for the band to keep songs fresh and enjoyable each time through Pure Negativity. This track does have it’s moments though, such as it’s correlation to the title of the album thanks to the lyrical content, and some of the stronger more aggressive moments, but the slower early second generation Black Metal ideas that are brought into play do sound pretty heavy, but after a while you can’t help but feel a little tired of them and their simpler sound.
While it’s sad that Graveborne‘s debut EP didn’t really get that much attention, it’ll be a crime if the same happens for Pure Negativity. The album’s only fault is the band trying to push the track length concept a bit too far, and it really doesn’t work out. Well, that and a lack of mixture between solid fast paced tracks, and the atmospheric slower paced tracks present here, focusing more on the latter with more intense passages then anything. That little extra variety would have helped the album out well. Pure Negativity does have a great deal of variety in the music, and all tracks, even the one song that’s drawn out, all feel like strong performances from the band, never feeling like the band is forsaking quality for filler. This release also shows how a cleaner audio quality can really work to benefit the music is executed correctly, something that doesn’t seem to be happening a whole lot lately. If you love the Black Metal style, Pure Negativity is an album you really have no excuse to ignore. It may not be a masterpiece, but it’s not an album that should be ignored.