Monday, January 28, 2013

Early Graves - Red Horse

Early Graves
Red Horse
No Sleep Records

When San Francisco (California, U.S.) act Early Graves released their second full-length album ‘Goner’ midway through 2010 (The follow up to 2008’s ‘We: The Guillotine’, and released through Ironclad Recordings/Metal Blade Records), things were looking up for the band. The record was getting a positive response, and the band was really starting to make their presence felt out on the road in front of audiences with their new material. But for all the momentum the band were making, it all came to a screaming halt when the van the band were travelling in from Oregon to Nevada was involved in an accident and claimed the life of vocalist Makh Daniels.
As you would expect, the band went on an indefinite hiatus to deal with the loss of their front man and friend, and contemplate the band’s future. It would take a full twelve months before the band announced their return, with John Strachan (Who is the vocalist for The Funeral Pyre, and the band who were sharing the same bus with Early Graves at the time of the accident) taking on the role as the band’s new front man.
A year on, and Early Graves (Who comprise of Strachan, guitarist/backing vocalist Chris Brock, guitarist Tyler Jensen, bassist Matt O’Brien and drummer Dan Sneddon) is back with their all-important third full-length effort (And No Sleep Records debut) ‘Red Horse’.
Any significant change of guard within in a band will have an effect on the said band’s sound. And that’s certainly the case with Early Graves’ new album. While it’s obvious that the vocals mark a significant factor in the change of sound on ‘Red Horse’, it’s far from the only change the album presents as a whole. The opening track ‘Skinwalker’ boasts a gentle and slow building instrumental piece at the start that is best described as a calming interlude prior to the inevitable oncoming storm, and it’s here that you can see that the band have made some attempts to inject a little more technicality to the guitarists roles. When the song eventually kicks in, it’s Sneddon that steals the show with some crushing drum work that rivals the pulverising blasts of raw guitar, while small pockets of shred can be heard here and there in the wall of metallic hardcore noise. Needless to say, Strachan has a clearly different sounding voice to that of Daniels, and the change is something that some fans may take a bit of getting used to. But while that may be so - it has to be said that Strachan does a stellar job in his new role. His vitriolic bark brings to mind shades of Converge’s Jacob Bannon, and that’s never a bad thing.
The follow up track ‘Misery’ is a definite stand out with its meaty metallic riffs and that trading vocals between Strachan and Brock, while the death ‘n’ roll/punk vibe ‘Days Grow Cold’ and the punishing groove of the title track ‘Red Horse’ keeps plenty of variation in the opening half of the album.
Both ‘Apocalyptic Nights’ and the moody and stripped back ‘Death Obsessed’ represent a new sound for Early Graves, with melody playing a bigger role within the band’s overall crushing metallic sound, while ‘Pure Hell’ quite literally lives up to its name as one of the album’s more extreme sounding efforts.
Finishing up the album is the rather lengthy ‘Quietus’ (Which runs for just a touch over six minutes), which initially starts out in a violent metallic manner, before trailing out with an instrumental second half that allows Brock and Jensen to showcase their abilities to inject some melody into their leads.
If there’s a bone to pick with ‘Red Horse’, it’s the rather rough and raw sounding production. I would have liked to have heard a bit more clarity in the band’s sound, but when you take into account the progression the band have made as song writers since their last release, and Strachan’s fit within the band out front, it’s hardly a major concern in the grand scheme of things.

For more information on Early Graves, check out –

© Justin Donnelly

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