San Francisco’s Early Graves blends into their crusty, sludgy hybrid-metal some noticeable dashes of grindcore, death metal and metalcore—the good kind, not the Hot Topic kind. Goner is as equally rooted in crust punk as it is sludge metal; it’s rocking and raging and destructive behind a wall of heavily distorted guitar riffs and all topped off with Makh Daniels’ burly roar. Early Graves‘ aesthetic is a wonderfully ugly blend of styles, abrasive and noisy, distinct and yet distinctly indebted to the likes of Today Is The Day, Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Amebix, His Hero Is Gone, Cave In and more.
These guitars are thick as bricks, and heavy as a ton of them. (A ton of either guitars or bricks, I mean. Your choice.) The bass is equally huge, gnarly and snarling, particularly shining on second track “Faith Is Shit,” one of the album’s highlights. Dan Sneddon’s drums push Goner’s best moments into neck-snapping grooviness beneath the fury above—witness “Rot” or the mid-tempo pounding mid-section of “May Day.” There are no off-time tech workouts, no finger-twisting sections of arpeggiated wankery; there’s nothing more than your basic slash-and-crush pummeling alongside feedback-drenched squealing noisiness. (That intro section to “Wraiths”—so simple, and yet so perfect and perfectly evocative of the splendors of vintage Entombed…) Each of the components is a well-placed and well-played sludge-punk particle, but it’s the sum of these parts that truly shines, with some absolutely devastating moments of amphetamine-driven rage in these ten tracks. Goner’s tunes are catchy beneath the wall of feedback-laden guitars, memorable and hooky even with Daniels’ throat-rending bellow, fist-pumping and toe-tapping even as they careen forward at a frantic pace.
Whereas production on the previous album (2008’s We: The Guillotine) was handled by Today Is The Day mainstay Steve Austin, Goner was produced by Tim Green (The Fucking Champs / Nation Of Ulysses), whose work is commendable. Goner sounds immense, sounds real, sounds crushing, without sounding slick or compressed or sounding anything unlike four musicians and a singer bashing out blast-happy ugly punk-metal in a warehouse somewhere.
Those looking for diversity from song to song won’t find it here, but my copy of Goner has been seeing plenty of repeat spins of late, simply because its one trick is a damn good trick. For fans of angry crusty grinding sludge-coated death-tinged goodness, this one’s a must-hear and a band to keep an eye on.