A long time ago, back in 2013, right before Grave Miasma’s debut Odori Sepulcrorum was about to be released, I was spending a lot of time with the early Cruciamentum material, their demos and especially 2011’s EP Engulfed in Desolation. Of course, it was already a few years after Dead Congregation’s massive Graves of the Archangels (a death metal classic from one of the best bands the genre has ever seen), yet a new band of the same elements was about to come out with their own first work. And at the time, that band was the talk of the town, highly anticipated and hugely praised by the scene as the spiritual successors (along the other two bands) of the Incantation school of thought.
Odori Sepulcrorum had the expected impact. I don’t know if the term “cavernous” was used for modern bands up to that point, but it was surely established these years and expanded further later on, in what seems now like an old school “revival” with a lot of new names. Ever since, there wasn’t any significant activity from Grave Miasma except an EP in 2016, which would just raise the stakes of any follow-up work higher and higher, until we arrive to 2021, and why Abyss of Wrathful Deities, their second album after Odori Sepulcrorum, eight years later, might be the most anticipated death metal record of the year so far. Being a driving factor in this particular sub-style of the genre, I wanted Grave Miasma to live up to their name and deliver a ground shaking work, but in reality it doesn’t reach the starry heights it aims for. We’re talking about an album faithfully following the formula, offering an abundance of brutality with hammering drums and guitars, painful growls and conceptual twists towards Middle Eastern meditation thematics that also influence the music itself. At the same time, Abyss of Wrathful Deities, while seemingly explosive at the first listen, loses a bit of its shine after it’s repeated a lot. And such an effect have albums that are a little bit more one-dimensional than what they seem.
Already from the art itself, the record by no means has a cover reminiscent of the visual mastery other death metal albums of that kind have. To me, the title also feels equally puerile, questioning the choices of the band when it comes to the album’s textual part and aesthetics. Frankly, it baffles me to think that such a cover art / album title would be conceived and accepted among the members of Grave Miasma, given that the tracks themselves are full of well-written lyrics. As a band that thrives on its crippling atmosphere, the fog has cleared out a lot in Abyss of Wrathful Deities and its clear production brings to the surface parts that are musically fragile, for example, the transitions between “Erudite Decomposition” and “Under the Megalith” are fine pointers of these filler moments, where the record doesn’t even fill that heavy anymore. The predictability is also quite high after just a couple of tracks, where the listener has already listened to how fast Grave Miasma will play, as well as their Slayer-ish frantic solo additions here and there. The intensity is even more watered down in following songs like “Demons of the Sand” and an unnecessary interlude, pointing out that Abyss of Wrathful Deities has, as a whole, mediocre content. “Rogyapa” can be considered a highlight (strongly reminding of their brother band Cruciamentum here) as well as the last track of the record “Kingdoms Beyond Kallash”, which also is slightly more interesting to listen to.
I can imagine how Abyss of Wrathful Deities might be enjoyed all around by death metal listeners, however in my point of view, it doesn’t compare in terms of quality, neither to their previous material neither to the other-like minded artists. The world needs more of Charnel Passages, and less of this. Maybe listen to some Obliteration even, and you will get a better slap in the face than this. This album is a bit of a let down and a victim of its own ambition, Grave Miasma could have done miracles within the genre but didn’t keep up with some consistency. While it isn’t a totally poorly made effort, and it will probably get the same blind praise as they have previously had, yet once you scratch the surface slightly more violently, you will also see the inner cracks.