Grave Lines – Fed Into the Nihilist Engine – Album review
Review by Neil Ainger
While handing over my money for a cassette copy of the bands debut full length Welcome to Nothing earlier this year, I told bass player Matt at their merch table that as long as the first track they played that night (in January at The Cluny, Newcastle with Black Moth) was on the new album that I’d be buying that too. I was enamoured with the near 15-minute album opener Failed Skin from the very first gentle notes that were played that night and it is just as astounding on the record. It is an absolute whirlwind of gentle, almost gothic rock that builds into blistering. stinging sludge. Its beauty really lies in the vocals of Jake Harding, which are as powerful as they are haunting.
It is very difficult to pin this album down with labels, whether it be doom metal or sludge but of course this is no bad thing. Fed Into the Nihilist Engine stands on its own merits, of which there are countless. The album is driven by skilled and expansive guitar work such as the rugged riffs evident on Silent Salt, the psychedelic and chaotic noise on The Greae or the gentler acoustics of Shame Retreat. Julia Owens’ drumming is a key, precise constant throughout and serves as the backbone of the record and the vocals, simply put, may just turn out to be the most elaborate, alluring and potent vocals heard on any metal record this year. At times warm and lenient and at times guttural and jarring, Harding excels where so many others fail. He is distinguished, he is original and he squeezes every last drop of desired emotion from every wretched note and from every tormented lyric.
The record is sludge metal on a grander, Amenra-style scale. It is intelligent doom metal that is measured and never repetitive. It is dark neo-folk that probes at the most dismal of human emotions. It is bleak and misanthropic, it is cloaked in misery and yet it allows for brief but frequent moments of gleaming light. There can be beauty in darkness too, if you choose to look for it.