The last time I wrote about Early Graves, it was with a heavy heart. A planned review of their 2010 album Goner became a lamentation of vocalist Makh Daniels, whose life had been taken in a van accident while the band was out on tour. I assumed it was to be the first and last time I would write about the devastating young quintet who had shown so much promise. However, the remaining members of Early Graves regrouped, making the undoubtedly difficult decision to soldier on with new screamer John Strachan (also of The Funeral Pyre) at the helm, proving the old cliche that you just can’t keep a good band down. The result is Red Horse, a snorting, stomping, snarling beast of a recording that’s beyond a shadow of a doubt the San Franciscans’ most potent statement to date. The album isn’t out until October 30th, but Early Graves are already hitting the road hard, bringing their patented brand of pure Hell to the stage.
The crowd at Sunday night’s show was admittedly small (let’s face it, Des Moines doesn’t exactly have its finger on the pulse when it comes to the metal underground), but that didn’t stop Early Graves from punishing those in attendance with a caustic set of material culled from both Goner and Red Horse. The nice thing (for me at least) about the small crowd was a lack of moshers, which allowed me to stand right at the front of the stage without having to worry about getting knocked on my old, out-of-shape ass. The audial destruction Early Graves unleashed was beyond impressive; I got the feeling that they would’ve performed with the same skull-smashing extremity for an audience of 5 or 50,000. This is a band that knows no other way than to fire on all cylinders at all times, unleashing an overwhelming torrent of metallic maximum overdrive.
Early Graves are a metal band through and through, but their approach recalls the finest of American hardcore; think Black Flag from My War through Loose Nut, with both the intensity and the distortion pushed far beyond the red, mixed with the apocalyptic pummeling of the Cleveland “holy terror” sound (Integrity, Ringworm). That intensity combined with overpowering heaviness to make for one of the most relentless live attacks in recent memory. Indeed, Early Graves’ set left me feeling utterly exhausted and drained, even though all I did was stand there and headbang for roughly thirty minutes straight. It was as if the band was siphoning off all the pent up energy of those in attendance and throwing it back at us in the form of a wild and vicious sonic beating.
As quickly as Early Graves began their ultra-corrosive salvo, it was over. They left me hungry for more, but more might have lead to an even more severe neck-wrecking (which would’ve undoubtedly been detrimental to my day-to-day life as a corporate schmuck). From the ashes of tragedy Early Graves have arrisen an even more lethal unit, and if their set here in Des Moines is anything to go by, they’re proving it on stage night after night. Miss them at your own peril.
Early Graves remaining tour dates:
10/24/12 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
10/25/12 Corona, CA @ Mayas
10/26/12 Los Angeles, CA @ Vacation Vinyl
10/27/12 Ventura, CA @ Bombays