Wollongong mosh outfit Graves have been around for half a decade now, and have garnered a considerable following in that time. Monster is their first full-length release, following an EP in 2013 and several singles thereafter that were included with this release. I don’t often listen to a lot of the super-low tuned end of the mosh spectrum, nor do I often gravitate toward the sludgier or doomier end of it, but after this I’m seriously considering shelling out for an eight-string and some passé longsleeves with writing on the arms. I was persuaded to take on this review after thoroughly enjoying ‘Fear’ (which turned up in my Youtube recommended videos the day it dropped), and I most certainly do not regret taking this review on in spite of having a slew of assessments that same weekend; enjoying this release got me through it a lot easier.
Monster is exceptionally well paced, beginning with steady, groovy mid-tempo tracks from the first to the fourth. The first couple of singles at tracks one and four are both stellar, with the pit call in ‘Fear’ being exceptionally memorable; I can see it being a mainstay of their live set for a long time to come. Incredibly well written as a mosh piece. The album builds up to the heaviest and fastest sections around the fifth track which is an absolute standout, resuming the steady pacing with the sixth before a sung ballad comes from out of nowhere on the seventh. It makes a good intermission, but it mostly just makes the listeners get pumped for when it resumes steady mosh mid-tempo for the rest of the album, in the spirit of the first five tracks.
Guitars and percussion sound fantastic. Unlike a lot of similar bands, the guitar tone doesn’t have a lot of that overproduced, overly-bright, tight staccato phrasing and gating that is a mainstay of extended-range guitar production nowadays. The tone isn’t overly saturated either, and the phrasing flows in such a way that none of the groove is lost in exchange for more articulate, and organic production. Every note is audible without being overly “djenty”, and chordal structures are preserved very well at the lower tuning. Similarly, drums are woody and airy and sound incredibly human for such tightly-tracked arrangements. Much like the instrumentation, the vocal tracks are huge, crisp, and very easy to understand even with harmonised mutli-tracked vocal sections. It’s a solid vocal performance all around with great power, presence and diction. The bass is hard to make out during fully arranged sections, but the tone is also a standout on the bass breaks where it’s easy to make it out on its own.
Sonically and structurally the record is outstanding, but it’s by no means perfect, either. The lyrics, while fairly typical of a lot of contemporary heavy music are effective, but are at times a little bit on the hackneyed side in terms of over-reliance on tropes and clichés to communicate feelings. While this works perfectly and to the desired effect on the heavy tacks, on the ballad they seemed somehow less raw and sincere when paired with a less heavy array of vocal techniques. Nonetheless, it was a good inclusion from a dynamic point of view, but it could have been more effective if it had built more into the next track instead of such a stark transition, or if the track had employed a similar vocal style to the rest of the album while retaining the instrumental and dynamic discrepancies. The only other way in which the album could have been improved would have been a larger single cycle surrounding the release – as some of the strongest tracks on the album had been previously released as singles before the more immediate lead-up to this release. This is nobody’s fault as it would be a waste to not include previously released singles on an upcoming full-length, it’s just unfortunate that not all of the album’s best content will be a surprise for previous listeners – but in a sense it does benefit a relative newcomer to the band such as myself.
All in all, very solid release for a national band with a good degree of upward momentum; Graves are to be commended on the strength of Monster as a full-length release. It is a consistently good heavy album, and not even relative to the band’s particular niche, just in general. Would recommend to anyone who enjoys mosh and good pit tracks. The band will be touring in December in lieu of the album’s release, with shows from the first to the eleventh of the month. Hard to say definitively without seeing it first-hand, but this reviewer thinks these tunes would go down a treat in the pit, and would encourage any potentially interested party to go see for themselves.