Among the sea of various experimental metal records they release, Profound Lore Records are known to have a yearly quota for a genre-defining extreme metal album. Last year, without a shred of doubt, it was Portal who took the prestigious title with the blistering audio torture of Ion, a death metal masterpiece that is of genuine discomfort to the ears. It was certainly true to its title, for, it was almost as puzzling and mind-numbingly intense as ion-based chemistry. Almost.
One year later, the filthy Philadelphians (or “Filthadelphians,” as the great Adam Schnellenbach puts it) Pissgrave have kicked down the door of extremity after lurking within the depths of the underground for the past three years. Indeed, it’s been three years since the critically acclaimed Suicide Euphoria and almost five since their self-titled demo made its debut. This passage of time may or may not have shed fear into the heart of the death metal community, for, how could Pissgrave possibly continue to out-filth themselves after such intense prior releases?
I’ll put it this way: I kinda told a lie earlier These bastards didn’t just kick down the door, oh no. Rather, they tore the door off of its hinges, smashed it into desolation with a hammer, then took the sawdust and threw it into the bubbling sewers of hell. Have no fear, my friends! Pissgrave have done it once more, offering a second full-length to reiterate what death metal should sonically represent. Just a heads up: you probably want to put on a hazmat suit before jumping into this one. Shit’s about to get filthy!
Pissgrave is a project supposedly shrouded in mystique and intrigue, yet this is pretty easily dispelled once you do some research. Sure, they don’t have an official date of formation, yet we can assume that they formed sometime in or after 2012 due to their fantastic self-titled demo having been released in 2014. Merely one year after that, their full-length debut Suicide Euphoria took the world by storm, and since then we have been awaiting a second dose of what was so prominent with their debut record: carnage.
Now, the main reason I reiterated their background is to wholeheartedly express the absolutely undeniable impact these dudes have made within the extreme metal scene without even a full decade of experience under their belt. Naturally, we’ll delve into what their exact compositions entail later, yet, but it’s truly their disregard for comfort that shapes their sound. There is not a moment of rest or remorse to be found on this record or any prior (with the exception being the final track on Posthumous Humiliation, “Rusted Wind,” but that’s a different beast entirely), which is the sole reason Pissgrave are Pissgrave. They’re unrelenting, and they’ve managed to only grow more and more unhinged as the years drag on. If you want proof, look no further than Posthumous Humiliation.
Posthumous Humiliation is essentially an index of fucked, filthy, gutter-ridden brutality, with each song having its own variation of sonic depravity. Each song has a different twist to it, however, each simply grows more uncomfortable than the last. The opening track “Euthanasia” is how every death metal band should start an album. Instantly, all fears of disappointment are laid to rest. The gutturals of are still the same sub-human, ghoulish variety that are still reverberating in our eardrums from 2015, mimicking he screeches of rabid animosity, and the sadistic longing of torture. The guitar riffage here expresses no mercy neither, each riff being a more dizzying reincarnation of the last, each pick strike sounding the march into mental insanity. Demian and Tim have this signature triplet harmonic that has been perfected on this record, as it truly digs into the very depths of your soul every time they utilize it. The leads also emit a sense of true and utter terror, essentially replicating the experience of drowning in a pit of mud (the best example being on the track “Canticle Of Ripping Flesh”). The bass isn’t a remarkable presence, as it never has been within the Pissgrave discography, yet it still does its job of providing a contrast to the treble-shedding six-strings. The drums in brutal death metal are usually the make or break aspect of most bands, and fear not, Pissgrave has retained their classic hard-hitting honesty of music and the nature of extreme metal. It isn’t overbearingly inhuman, yet it’s enough to lay waste to the planet, causing its deterioration with the power of grime, brutality, and filth.
Now that we’ve established that Pissgrave is still very much Pissgrave, I think it necessary to enunciate just how immense their brutality has grown in terms of the songwriting itself. As I mentioned prior, the opening track “Euthanasia” dispels all fears of a potential let down, due to its blistering intensity right from the needle drop. What I didn’t mention, however, is that it only gets more intense from here. “Canticle Of Ripping Flesh” is essentially a testament to the flesh-eating power the guitar holds in Pissgrave, cementing their position as powerless to the force of the riff. The track “Funeral Inversion” boasts a bit of a slow-burn intro, a false break before it comes in to break your fucking legs and your stereo. “Catacombs Of Putrid Chambers” shifts gears with a dissonant black metal riff, presenting an audio accompaniment to the process of crawling through Edward Gien’s Basement.
Then, skipping ahead to the ending track “Rusted Wind,” we are faced with a spacious, impersonating harmony, something that threw me back to Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper. Fuck, there’s even light synths in it! This was certainly a surprise, to say the least. Make no mistake though, it doesn’t truly embrace a falling into a melodic interlude, it instead demonstrates an understanding of how to format it and mold it into a Pissgrave composition. See, my point here is that every track is so far fetched from everything else, each track is detached to any one structure and each refuses to conform to what the other has already achieved. What makes Pissgrave so memorable and so unique within the underground landscape is their unpredictability, the fact that every song is a completely different approach to Extreme Metal. It is the versatility in brutality that defines the genetic code of Pissgrave, this being the reason that they have become so noteworthy with only two full length records out.
Another such reason Pissgrave attract so much attention in the Extreme Metal community is due to their persistence in certain underground traditions. Musically, yes, it’s already been established that Pissgrave is not decreasing in quality. I’m referencing the image of it, or the album covers, to be exact. This aspect is one that cements them as a true legend of the death metal community. On their demo and first full-length, there was no remorse for anyone who dares lay their eyes upon the cover. There’s a certain point where bands cease the inclusion of overt gore and disturbing imagery on their covers; however, Pissgrave isn’t susceptible to that. They willingly persevere in their brutality, despite the label censorship that occurs with streaming and the offense that some may take with it. Said decision truly displays the backbone Pissgrave have within the modern music landscape, as they aren’t afraid to display what Posthumous Humiliation embodies, or what their art represents. Despite where your political values may lie, we can all agree that censorship of art is a giant “fuck you” to the idea of creative expression. The audacity of Pissgrave to continue to delve into the grotesque for their imagery is more than commendable. While this may not add to the music itself, it adds to the art, and the message Pissgrave send. It’s the music, the mold coating of production under Arthur Rizk, and the artwork that are sewn together into this bundle of absolute brutality, and without the overarching extremity of each, it simply wouldn’t be a Pissgrave record.
Unfortunately, there’s a limit to what rating systems can express. See, Pissgrave isn’t making art that is of exceptional beauty and unheard of emotional complexity; it’s disgusting, disturbing, dreadful, and deafening Death Metal. The thing is, these brutal bastards keep one-upping their last release, and it would be unfair to label them as truly groundbreaking beyond the realm of death metal. That is the sole fault of Pissgrave; they’re brutal. Their sound is flawless and has yet to cease its virulent intensity, rather, they continue to not only think outside the box how extreme music can be executed but break through it, leaving no trace of prior influences. They continue to fly the flag for agonizingly hostile death metal in a way that’s ever so majestic to the Extreme Metal underground. They don’t just fly the flag-they flaunt it. Posthumous Humiliation is a representation of what the pure soul of death metal boasts, and a reminder as to why we love it.