"Earthen Grave"

By The Great Sun Jester

 I am almost tempted to feel sorry for Earthen Grave. This debut, released by Ripple Music, is too good. It is too good for a world that increasingly disdains honest music and won't take the time to appreciate albums. They deserve a better time to release this album and earn a million dollars. This is a fully rounded, astonishingly realized debut you seldom see anymore and immersed in classic genre elements. It delivers the goods with maximum intensity and style to burn. However, it is an equally audacious work utilizing different textures and sounds.
The opener serves notice of a major new talent. Lead singer Mark Weiner's expressive voice casts a bluesy spell reminiscent of Leslie West perfect for the funereal tempo and somber mood. When the song seamlessly shifts into another gear, the listener hears their first taste of the crushing power that the band possesses. The second song, "Life Carries On", is another powerful cut displaying the twin guitar attack of Jason Muxlow and Tony Spillman. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine makes her presence here felt and the added dimension that she brings to the band's sound is immense. It elevates a top shelf metal tune into the stratosphere with an extra dose of grandeur.
Another highlight is the band's stellar cover of Witchfinder General's "Burning A Sinner". Despite Witchfinder's widespread influence and importance, I can say without reservation that Earthen Grave's version outstrips the original in every important way. The band never overplays its hand and settles for slavish imitation. Mark Weiner once again shines with a strong vocal. One of the band's strongest riffs anchors the Sabbath-esque stomp of "Tilted World". Barton Pine plays an important role once again, particularly during a brief interlude near the middle of the song, but she's used less effectively here than elsewhere.
The album's standout track, "Fall In", is a churning powerhouse. The riff is tremendous and the shifting dynamics wring out every drop of drama. Mark Weiner's blustery, full-throated vocal swells with such strength that amplification seems pointless. He rides Muxlow's and Spillman's wall of guitars with absolute confidence. The band covers another song with Pentagram's doom classic "Relentless". It is a fantastic version, but while the band claimed the earlier cover as their own, this cover achieves different results. The band claims the tune as their own by investing it with their own sound, but despite Mark Weiner's stellar job, it lacks the original's low-fi, lunatic air.
The re-release includes a new studio track, "Death Is Another Word". If we should consider this an unofficial teaser for the band's sophomore effort, any fans of the band can rest easy knowing that this band is getting better in leaps and bounds. The song is a real grinder, steeped in atmosphere, and brimming with the same clever songwriting that distinguishes the band's output. Another bonus for the re-release is the band's astonishing cover of Rainbow's classic epic "Stargazer". Rather than opting for ostensibly easier and more predictable choices, the band plays this iconic tune with great confidence. Mark Weiner shows no hesitation, never backing down from the song's legacy for an instant. The true highlight, however, is Rachel Barton Pine's jaw-dropping turn that matches Muxlow and Spillman's playing step for step. If this cover accomplished nothing, it does show a clear guide for how to incorporate Barton Pine's violin work to maximum effect.
 Featuring excellent production, intelligent songwriting, and a complete lack of pretension, Earthen Grave is a force to reckon with for years to come. If there's a God, send us more bands like this to help burn away the bullshit.