Steve Von Till – A Grave Is A Grim Horse Review

Originally written by Brady Humbert.

I came to the conclusion in late 2008 that Neurosis were/are the most monumental and powerful band I’ve listened to in my time as a music patron.  They completely changed how I listened to music at a young age and inadvertently launched me into bands as diverse as Godflesh, Portishead, Pink Floyd, and Tool (Yes, Neurosis found me before Tool did).  Thus, I’m always eager to seek out new artistic contributions from their alumni and so far my favorite Neurosis “side-project” has been the solo output of guitarist/vocalist, Steve Von Till. His latest effort, A Grave Is A Grim Horse, is his most ambitious solo effort to date.

The formula of A Grave… is fundamentally similar to its predecessors, As The Crow Flies (2000) and If I Should Fall To The Field (2002), however there are some notable differences. First of all is the implementation of electric guitars and drums. While the songs still center around the simplistic acoustic meanderings and Mark Lanegan-esque drawl of Mr. Von Till, there are some very Earth-y elements to accompany them this time around. This makes for a much more engaging listen as there are more tones and sounds to convey the very bleak atmosphere conveyed here. “Looking For Dry Land” and “Valley of the Moon” are two effective characterizations of these new dimensions.

The other heartening aspect of A Grave… is that the songs are more structured and stand out from one another. A trait not as apparent on Von Till’sprevious solo works. The album’s title track/opener has a very apparent chorus and verse arrangement while “Western Son” screams an affinity for Bob Seger and Waylon Jennings as a kind of lost highway/hard luck ballad appropriate for either of the aformentioned. Of course with saying that, one must keep in mind that “bleak” is the theme for this album.

There’s no sense of urgency to this album and one’s affection for Neurosis will not guarantee a liking of what Steve Von Till has to offer. The music here is part American Folk and part Country Western and there is nothing resembling “heavy” on here outside of the gravelly crooning of Von Till himself.  Fans of Mark Lanegan, early Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen’s acoustic solo works (e.g. Nebraska), Earth, Sixteen Horsepower and even American Music Club will find much to like here.

I found A Grave Is a Grim Horse to be beyond my expectations and a worthy installment in the tangled web of “things Neurosis”. Steve Von Till has assembled a worthy collection of heart-string pulling songs that are dry and desolate Americana; absolutely fantastic. Yet, I must reprise my original paragraph and mention that I am a little biased.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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