Long before 2006, when Grave Miasma wised up and changed their name from Goat Molestör, the band cemented their sound as a pragmatically chaotic blackened death metal outfit. Sharing members with Cruciamentum, Destroyer 666, Binah and Adorior means that there will certainly be some overlap with the sound of those bands. Particularly Cruciamentum, although, with their 2015 LP Charnel Passages they stopped stepping on the toes of Grave Miasma (as they were with their 2011 EP Engulfed in Desolation) and sped off on the highway to pure death metal. Thus, in 2016, Grave Miasma stands somewhat alone at the throne to the blackened death metal crown.
Their only full-length to date, 2013’s Odori Sepulcrorum, is a masterful 49 minute journey through all that is good about the swampy genre of blackened death metal. The album combines perfectly murky production and musicianship (including ripping, thrash-influenced solos) with memorable vocal lines and micro-managed composition with the utmost attention to detail. It’s an album that is at once familiar, personal and moving. Since that time, however, the band has gone silent. Members fanned out to work on other projects with only guitarist/vocalist ‘Y’ sticking around to compose the four new tracks for Endless Pilgrimage. And on that EP the band calls forth Yama, the god of death for religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, both musically and lyrically.
We should begin by discussing “Glorification of the Impure” which was originally a Goat Molestör track recorded for 2003 demo Ancient Barbaric Assault. It was then reworked for their 2004 Split with The One, Niroth and Fluisterwoud and yet again on their 2005 split with Necros Christos. Now on it’s fourth life, “Glorification of the Impure” has been edited down to five-and-a-half minutes (it has been recorded as short as sub-five minutes and as long as seven minutes). Sonically, “Glorification of the Impure” is a throwback full of blast beats, whammy bar slams and unrelenting pace. Yet, for all its antiquity, the track is at home among Grave Miasma’s fresher paced and more clearly produced work. Most notably, Grave Miasma has changed the second major section of the track by slowing it down further and creating more contrast between the opening blasts and the heaving, faltering middle sections by reducing snare hits, dropping out double bass and allowing much more space for the guitars to show off (which they do with aplomb).
It’s a smart move for Grave Miasma as their guitar work has always been a shiny standout of their recordings. The second track “Utterance of the Foulest Spirit” opens with clean, melodic guitars before the classic thick, murky sound sputters forth. As if mirroring itself, the cleanliness repeats itself before whipping the guitars into a blistering solo full of bends and whammy dives. Not to be outdone, the drumming of ‘D’ picks up the pace with intricate and repetitive hi-hat work as the guitars spread out leaving space for the rhythm to shine.
The shortest track, “Purgative Circumvolution” is the most in-your-face of the bunch. That’s primarily thanks to the vocals that bump it up a notch to hit throat-gouging levels of fury. Alternatively, the solo work is subdued with a few affectations aspiring to create more mood than melody, like flares fired at the moon. It’s around the three-minute mark where the guitar takes off accompanied by didactic blast beats. It exemplifies what Grave Miasma does so well: balance. While at times it’s the band powering ahead as on all cylinders, their default mode is a balanced approach where one instrumental section takes the lead while the others play a supportive role. Thus, Grave Miasma come across as a polished, skilled band rather than a group attempting to produce chaotic, evil sounds.
The final track, “Full Moon Dawn,” is the most “out of their shell” composition. The extended, two-minute outro sees the guitars taking on a near bugle tonality as the repetitive drone of the bass and drums slow to a near crawl. While Endless Pilgrimage provides no proper interludes, as has been the band’s previous style, the outros and intros act as short interludes in their own right. There is enough pace change, rhythmic melodic alteration and certainly enough vocal assault to carry the album without making it monotonous.
Now in their Bar Mitzvah year, Grave Miasma have dominated their niche: blackened death metal with an eye towards atmosphere, musicianship and mood. They have ascended the throne that was theirs for the taking, acknowledged and embraced their roots, and elevated their game to yet another level. While this EP might have served better as a precursor to Odori Sepulcrorum (particularly due to the reworked Goat Molestör track), and while the band may never reach the heights of Odori Sepulcrorum, Endless Pilgrimage is, nonetheless, thirty-three minutes of hellish brilliance.