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Grave Next Door – Sanctified Heathen

Grave Next Door
Sanctified Heathen
by Alex Barnard at 17 April 2022, 10:18 PM

GRAVE NEXT DOOR is a Stoner/Doom Metal band from Grand Rapids, MI. “Sanctified Heathen” is the group’s first full-length album, released independently on March 28, 2022.

After making headlines a couple years ago for jamming with SMASHING PUMPKINS’ original bassist D’Arcy Wretzky (who looked like she might’ve been involved with the band at that point), GRAVE NEXT DOOR have finally come out with their first comprehensive release, with many of the songs comprising some of the singles they had released in the past. Production wise, this album is about as retro as it gets. The drums are not compressed at all (and in all honesty sound like they might've been recorded with just two or three microphones), the guitars are all fuzzed out, and the vocals are right in your face, which is in keeping with the style of such Stoner Metal legends as BONGZILLA, ELECTRIC WIZARD, and WEEDEATER.

While Trey Lavish and Anthony Solerno’s riffs are on point, Travis Soleski’s vocals are soulful yet agonizing and his basslines are thick and meaty, there are times when I felt that the rhythm-keeping itself could’ve been tighter. A good example of this comes in during the song “Thor.” In the little instrumental breaks following the singing, drummer Patrick Solerno makes use of tom fills that feel very sloppy and rushed in comparison to the overall groove. These are not particularly complicated beats either; it almost feels like they didn’t record to a click track. Another egregious example is during the solo of “Heavy As Texas,” where he noticeably speeds up only to slow back down again. Now, this could’ve been a whole band thing, but why would you let this make it to the record?

Once again, however, the riffs are what really do it for me. “Bloody Nuns” has a fun, groovy, and almost-Middle Eastern vibe to it, especially during the instrumental break. “Heathen” has a bit of a slow build before it unleashes its hellish, weed-induced fury. And last but not least, “Nuclear Winter” takes several notes out of the pages of Stoner Metal originators SLEEP, with its repetitive, quasi-melodic feel and lengthy, jam-like solo.

Overall, this is not a terrible first album. The riffs are really good, the vocal performance is solid, and the production is spot on for this style. My one word of advice for the band, however, is to practice with a metronome. The timing really is all over the place on this record, and while some might make the excuse that, because they are a Stoner band, that’s what you should expect, I defy you too find such sloppiness on heavy hitters like “Dopethrone,” “Holy Mountain,” and “God Luck and Good Speed.” You won’t, because the bands that recorded those albums practiced with a metronome. Regardless, I look forward to GRAVE NEXT DOOR’s next release.

Production: 6
Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 6
Musicianship: 4

3 Star Rating

1. Thor
2. Bloody Nuns
3. Witch Head
4. Heavy As Texas
5. Charnel House
6. Heathen
7. Sand In The Blood
8. Nuclear Winter
Travis Soleski – Bass, Vocals
Patrick Solerno – Drums
Trey Lavish – Guitars
Anthony Solerno – Guitars
Record Label: Independent


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