Nowadays metal is often seen as a desert of homogeneity, where it is rare for an oasis of originality to pop up. With this in mind, the out-of-the-box style of Gravehuffer that comes from the small city of Joplin, Missouri is, ironically given their name, a breath of fresh air. A monster of Frankensteinian design, its component parts include crust-punk, thrash metal, grindcore, death metal, and other surprise elements. Although they have 10 years under their belts in this guise (plus three as thrash outfit Krom), individual members have known each other since the late 90s, which makes for clear-cut chemistry music across their three releases. This third, the vividly titled NecroEclosion, sees a band pushing both themselves and the envelope.
First spin through the record is a whirlwind from start to finish, and each track takes a unique path of their blended formula. Some, like “Causes” and “Quarantine Death Machine”, lean on the band’s clear love for their crust. Others, such as “Ghost Dance” and “Hellhound”, bring on catchy yet rumbling death-thrash. Others still (cf. “Mad Wolf” and “Death Before Disco”) throw in brass instrumentation - including interpolating “You Should Be Dancing” by The Bee Gees. Because why not? On the vocal front, since the departure of lifer James Hiser the band have taken up the mantle collectively, in an overwhelming display of versatility.
Their influences look like a dive bar’s wall, plastered in posters of Aus-Rotten, Napalm Death, and Nausea next to Morbid Angel, old school Mastodon, and Voivod. Speaking of Voivod, NecroEclosion provides a chance for Gravehuffer to work with their heroes, as Dan “Chewy” Mongrain provides a ripping solo on Sights to the Sky, and Curran Murphy (Annihilator, Nevermore) tears up “Smaller Than Death”. On a more abstract level, the band’s surroundings of small-town Joplin also inspire their work, though recognizing that “a lot of the times, it's in a negative light unfortunately,” says guitarist Ritchie Randall. “Religious upbringing is a huge part of the town, so that does play a large part in shaping how we filter and process what goes on around us.” He also name-checks the working class roots and forested landscapes as other subliminal yet significant parts to their sound, which results in a sound that goes far beyond their genre peers.
NecroEclosion is a success on all fronts - it’s full of thrilling moments, and never dulls despite repeat spins. The production values have also ramped up from their last effort, an area that bassist Mike Jilge and Garry Moore honed in on. In short, Gravehuffer are on their A-game, and fans of metal, punk, and grind must give them a listen.
Travis McKenzie - vocals
Ritchie Randall - guitar/vocals
Mike Jilge - bass
Jay Willis - drums/vocals
1. Custom of the Sea
3. Sights to the Sky
4. Death Before Disco
6. Smaller Than Death
7. Ghost Dance
8. Quarantine Death Machine
11. Mad Wolf