In the three years that Gravesend has been a band, they’ve put out a considerable amount of material and shown a level of polish and precision that isn’t always common for newcomers to the black/death/grind adjacent space. Following a 2020 demo, 2021’s Methods of Human Disposal bludgeoned listeners with brute force in similar ways to Revenge or Axis of Advance, only run through the grime of the American city. Two years later and Gravesend is back with another burst of controlled violence on Gowanus Death Stomp, reigning in some of the noisiness of its predecessor for a weightier and meaner sound that leans into a bit more black and death and a little less grind. It’s an incremental shift rather than a significant leap, but there’s still plenty here to keep listeners coming back to get pummeled all over again.
Like the last full length, Gowanus Death Stomp is bookended by some eerier pulsing electronics and unsettling sound clips, creating some of that grimy and darker atmosphere outside of the violence the rest of the material has to offer. Once “11414” kicks in things rarely let up until “Enraged”, with the exception being the interlude that starts off “Crown of Tar”. Gravesend keeps things brief from one track to the next, moving seamlessly from fast blasting attacks over to mid-tempo riffs where the instrumentation hits you right in the chest with how heavy everything is. Some grind influences remain, but to my ears Gowanus Death Stomp is much more on the full-on black and death metal side of the spectrum, with the latter coming out even more than before. Songs like “Vermin Victory” are great examples of this, as after the blasting subsides around the two-minute mark things slow down slightly and the riffs have that churning, murky death metal tone to them. It’s not a huge leap songwriting wise from before, but Gravesend does vary up the attack enough that some specific riffs and tracks stand out over repeat listens. The biggest difference to my ears is some of the noise level has been reduced compared to Methods of Human Disposal, with the production instead emphasizing the sheer weight and pummeling capacity of the instrumentals. It’s meaner and even more violent, which does work well with the band’s approach. Things do run together a bit, especially given the slightly longer length of the album, but it’s on par with what the band has done so far and the razor-sharp bludgeoning is still up there with some of the better acts in the genre.
With the production easing up on the noise level ever so slightly, the vocals come through a bit clearer than before. This allows them to hit even harder than before, and as the raspy screams echo off the recording it feels like each word is thumping against your skull with the force of a hammer. There is some back and forth between the two members who contribute vocals and some nuances that make the performance a bit more dynamic compared to some of the others in the genre, but the shorter length of Gowanus Death stomp also ensures the intensity never dips. As mentioned earlier, you do get a couple sound clips that make it feel like you’re witnessing the planning of a crime of some kind in between the onslaught of violence, and it fits the tone and grittiness of the album perfectly.
If you’re looking for some intense and heavy hitting black/death metal that attacks with precision and has some strong riffs to back it up, Gravesend’s sophomore effort has exactly what you’re looking for. Compared to their debut, there have been some minor tweaks to the songwriting approaches and production, but it treads a similar path, and I ended up enjoying them equally. I’m still interested to hear if they can expand on the synth side of things, integrating them in ways outside of the usual intro, outro, or interlude format, but even if that doesn’t happen this group continues to deliver at a high level. Gowanus Death Stomp is available from 20 Buck Spin.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg