The first full-length from Graves at Sea isn’t just a long time coming, it’s a long time, period—eight tracks spanning 76 minutes! I guess that with just a handful of EPs and splits over the past several years, they finally got the chance to make the most of their studio time.
The lineup here is the same as on their two most recent releases, 2014’s This Place is Poison EP and their Sourvein split from the same year, so I would expect more of the same drawn-out, punishing sludge before I even push play. They get right into it with the 11-minute title track, which starts off with a winding, serpentine riff that leads into the familiar murky depths of downtuned sludge/doom. This rolling, chugging morass certainly goes nowhere fast…which, considering its extended length isn’t entirely a blessing. But there’s enough variation and some interesting riffs here to keep your attention for the full timeframe.
The band doubles down with the equally lengthy “Dead Eyes,” a crunchy stomp with head-nodding consistency…at least until it takes an unexpected turn with some stringed instrument around the nine-minute mark. The slightly shorter (seven minutes) “Tempest” is much more purposeful, punching you in the gut right off the get-go with the ferocity of Eyehategod. And then we get 15 minutes of “The Ashes Made Her Beautiful.” This is not your typical start to a sludge song, with an extended cello intro leading into some more of the slow ‘n heavy that we expect. But we do get a few lighter interludes veering into post-rock territory, before it’s back to the crash and bash, punctuated by guttural growls. The cello even reappears around the six-minute mark, albeit in a much less soothing context.
Most bands might call it a wrap after 44 minutes, but there’s another half hour left on this one. Not that there’s anything wrong with the four songs that follow, but they’re not remarkably different from what we’ve heard thus far. I guess when you don’t have an extended studio session in 14 years, there’s no shortage of ideas…but they could’ve easily cut this one in half, and I’d still be happy.