Toxic, polluted scum sludge from the UK usually always meets or exceeds my expectations and this brain-rotted quintet from Portsmouth serve up just the kind of humanity hatin’ nihilism that I can always get behind. After a corrosive EP, Grim Ravine drops an LP with just as many tracks. The Light is from Below is 4 cuts of mutated riffs, eroded atmospherics and nuclear winter rhythmic trudges that have just enough groove to stick in the brain but take no prisoners when it comes to aggression.
The immediacy of “Shrine of Misery” should be an instant sell to sludge purists. There’s nothing fancy to be found; twin guitars picking a scabby riff until its green, vocals that go from a blackened screech to a frothing growl (if the new Iron Monkey’s this good in the vocal department, we’ll all be happy and rolling in our own shit) and a low-end rhythm prowl with enough G.I. bloat to clear Buckingham Palace. A clean lick here, an overt blues bend there, a bottomless Grief-tinged dirge for good measure…fluctuations aren’t entirely absent and the riffs know how to unfold something of grander design yet this is the sloppy, defeatist sludge that us hardcore fans live and die by. Grim Ravine plays it tough, tight and with a passion/knowledge for this style of music’s rotten underbelly that other new bands could take some notes from.
“Translunary” is an instrumental breather full of shimmering clean guitars/bass and howling sampled wind that beckons the listener to let up his/her guard in order to take a pair of venomous fangs to the windpipe via “Hypernova’s” distorted death march. This gluey slow grind trades bursts of blues with hobbled crust calling to mind Iron Monkey, Sextodecimo, Among the Missing, Charger and Aussie slime merchants Clagg. It’s the audio equivalent of slingin’ rotgut and poppin’ pills all night long. You might wake up, you might not…but you’re a chance-taker and you’re gonna do it no matter what mother told you. The groove gets more violent as the song goes along and strikes a match with its head-nodding, mid-tempo grooves and deep space pedal phasing. Vocally, there’s no let up and no apologies.
13+ minute closer “Vacant Mass” introduces a nod riff beneath an avalanche of scorched Earth feedback. The build-up is deliberate and broken chord patterns slowly coagulate into a tangible blood stain. Walls of phase and flange create a psychedelic atmosphere amidst a storm of flying glass shards. They take their damn time to change things up but when they do that past the 7-minute mark riff slog hits some fearsome heights and just when you least expect it a fuckin’ pristine melody of subtle, undistorted guitarwork cleanses your open wounds. Finally, the two equally desperate vibes coalesce into congruent opposites (godless riffs and vocals fuck their way through the softness) before they tear apart violently once again…proof positive you can utilize dynamics whilst not ruining the sheer overpowering nastiness of scummy sludge.
The Light is from Below is a killer from start to finish. The songwriting is far above par and the band doesn’t overstay their welcome. If you’re a slave to the sludge, there’s no excuse for missing out on Grim Ravine. They’ve got that “it,” “they” and “them” that every paranoid schizophrenic sludge band needs to sound authentic.[Visit the band's website]