I don’t know how many of our loyal Vault Hunters might also happen to be high fantasy nerds. I know there’s a fair amount over overlap between the ‘fantasy nerd’ and ‘metal nerd’ demographics, but I don’t really read a whole lot of it myself. Still, even if your experience with the genre is limited to a couple of the Game of Thrones books, you’ve probably seen those giant family trees that are usually either on the inside cover of the hardback edition or its own appendix – the ones that start appearing around the same time that there are officially too many fucking characters in the story to possibly remember them all?
I bring this up because occasionally I find myself wishing that metal albums came with similar family trees, but perhaps not for the exact same reasons. Yes, there are bands out there who’ve cycled through so many members that it’s impossible to keep track of who the members are at any given time (Cradle of Filth immediately comes to mind), but that’s not really what interests me. I’m more intrigued by the cross-pollination (so to speak) between bands, which can be much more difficult to keep tabs on since musicians will use different aliases with different projects, or do things anonymously.
Consider, for example, L.A. death metal upstarts Draghkar (who, incidentally, take their name from the Wheel of Time series of high fantasy books). You may recall that we premiered a track from from their latest EP The Endless Howling Abyss about a month or so back in which I said some very complimentary things about the performance by drummer ES. I didn’t realize until after that piece ran that I’d actually interviewed ES under under a different alias for an EP stream for one of his other bands (out of respect for those different aliases, I won’t say which band). Awkward? Definitely. But if I’d had that family tree in front of me…
I bring up Draghkar here for more than one reason. Their bassist Daniel Kelley handles guitars and shares vocal duties for PDX-based death-thrashers Grave Dust, whose Joel Grind-mixed debut Pale Hand will be released on August 24. Of course, death-thrash has meant a lot of different things over the years, so let’s get this out of the way up front: Grave Dust sound absolutely nothing like The Crown or Devildriver or The Haunted or even pre-Roots Sepultura. Fuck that. Think early Autopsy instead, or the first Possessed record, or even some of the slower songs on Eaten Back to Life – stuff from back when basically all death metal still had at least one foot still planted in thrash.
“Rotting With Evil,” which we’re premiering here today at the Vault, is a perfect example of what I mean. The riffs are pure death metal, and several kinds of sick besides. The drums, though, tend to be either a steady forward gallop or thrashy swing tempo. Add in Jozy Kinnaman’s hoarse growls, which honestly do sound like her vocal cords have been rotting with evil, and you’ve got just over three minutes of damn near perfection.
Pale Hand will be available digitally directly from the band, and on cassette from Children of the Abyss on August 24. Both can be preordered here. The vinyl version will be available from Crypt of the Wizard Records at a later date.