Friday, January 7, 2011
This past August, I was spending some time in California for the occasion of my grandma's 80th birthday. Having spent an entire day in my father's garishly decorated backyard drinking Sam Adams and listening to my uncle wax philosophical about barbeques and how to properly cook chicken so that it achieves maximum flavor potential, we were still unwinding and demonstrating for the more obscure visiting members of our family into how truly odd our interactions with one another could be. Cobra family values!
The day before I was going to leave California to come back to Austin, my dad waved the Rancho Cucamonga Cucamongist (the local newspaper out there) at me and told me that there was a story I might be interested in. "These bands have names like the bands you like," is the phrase that he used. I picked up the paper and nestled between an article titled "California Still on Fire, Why Won't God Save Us?" and a different article titled "Oh, the Humanity!" (that one was just a picture of a bunch of smiling Mexicans), I saw something that I was interested in indeed. It was an article about The Funeral Pyre and Early Graves, who were involved in a van accident (it must have been semi-local, or a remarkably slow news day). Makh Daniels, the singer for Early Graves, did not survive. The irony of a twenty-something dude in a band called Early Graves was repeatedly pointed out and there was much clucking of tongues; thankfully, someone made a wiener joke and the subject was allowed to drop (again, Cobra Family Values).
Upon my arrival home, I took a trip to my local Barnes and Nobel to go CD shopping. Before you pass judgment on my choice of venue for music buying, you should know that my local Barnes and Nobel's music department employs Ryan from Lions of Tsavo and has, by far, the most legit metal selection of any major retailer anywhere for any reason. It's breathtaking, really. I picked up the new Cephalic Carnage album and perused the surprisingly evil depths of the music department and came across Early Graves' debut album, Goner. After much press and waxing philosophical about Makh Daniels' tragic death and their stellar album they were supporting, I decided to pick it up; after all, my wife is getting surprisingly accustomed to the silky strains of hydro-infused death metal but is marvelously vulnerable to all things crusty and hateful, and I like to annoy her.
My first impression: Sooooo crusty.....ohhhh....cruuuuuustyyyyyy.....
I'll elaborate. Early Graves are (were?) practitioners of my current musical obsession, the hallowed art of crust. Furious D-beatings and punk-infused riffing are combined with the most frantically hateful vocal stylings; it's a whirlwind of D-boner-inducing odes to vitriol, and my D-pant-tent was a rigid, shameful testament to Early Graves' feedback soaked attack. Songs like "Faith is Shit" and "Trauma" evoke the hallowed grind/hardcore assault of Converge and Trap Them, while "Wraiths" provides a doomy, thundering respite from the raging thundercrust tornado. "Give Up" is a driving and powerful mid-tempo jam that steals the album with it's anthemic chorus and inspired riffing. Goner is filled with surprisingly well-written songs, which is realistically the only way hardcore/crust can stand on its own merit. This isn't like the whirling squall of tech-death, a genre which earns its fanfare by simply making the (often forgettable) riffs incredibly difficult to play on guitar. No, there are songs in here, and even hooks that grab the ear and refuse to let go. It's no wonder why this album was hailed by Cosmo Lee and friends as one of the best albums of 2010.
Yet, with all the virtues and triumphs of such an album as Goner, one can't help but wonder if perhaps the untimely demise of Makh Daniels colors the perceptions of its many champions (myself included). Consider the art of Vincent Van Gogh, which nobody cared about until after his death, but was later equated with genius of the highest order. It seems that the posthumous fanfare received by Van Gogh and Early Graves alike serves to hyperinflate the public perception of the art each created. Indeed, it's sad that the relative success of Early Graves seems to have come at the price of Makh Daniels' life, and it seems criminal that such fantastic art was not properly discovered until the artists could not enjoy the fruits of their labor. However, my good buddy Van Damned (from Crustcake) and I were opining one night about how the music might have been given added value because of the tragedy that surrounds it, which Van suggested was exactly the case. After my experience, I'm inclined to agree, though I would have enjoyed the album either way due to my crusty leanings.
All that said, I suppose I'm falling into another trap of equating Makh Daniels with the whole of Early Graves, since he was the sole casualty of the van accident. The surviving members of the band will likely soldier on, though possibly not under the Early Graves moniker, and I hope that they will continue putting out the hot jamz that get the D-boner all veiny and sensitive.
If you haven't already heard it, go find Goner and pay your respects; it's well worth the time you'll spend finding a Barnes and Nobel with a good metal selection, or at least Googling it so that you can have it immediately and for free, which seems like the easiest choice now that I put it that way.