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Gravety - Bow Down

Gravety
Bow Down
by Mike Peacock at 14 February 2022, 3:55 PM

Listen.

I’m about as open minded as they come, with an appreciation for all musical styles and creative artistry. And In cases where something just isn’t to my liking, I’ve always been able to focus on the effort and highlight the positive elements. But sometimes, the positive vibes just don’t flow.
Such is the case with “Bow Down,” the latest effort from Germany’s GRAVETY (pronounced “GRAVE-ity”). Released on November 19, 2021, via Metal On Metal Records, this 8-track medieval/fantasy-inspired album left me perplexed and slightly bored.

Why was I perplexed? First of all, the sound of this album is very 80’s. It does not sound modern at all. But I thought, “maybe it’s intentional and meant to be a throwback.” One could certainly forgive an artist for going for a specific sound. And it’s clear they are inspired by the usual British influences. So rather than assume this product is the result of a lack of recording acumen or budgetary issues, I’m just going to give them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, the guitars lack any punch whatsoever with a sight buzziness that I find off-putting. The drums are pretty low in the mix with very little vibrance, tone, or eq.  And the bass, while not totally buried, definitely does not stand out. Which is too bad because there are some cool bass lines tossed about here and there. The vocals do manage to stand out in the mix. However, that’s not necessarily a good thing. I’ll touch on that soon. The production is not terrible by any means. It’s definitely listenable. But again: why make no effort to at least punch it up and give it a modern feel? Bands like EPILOG, who have also done a throwback- inspired album recently (“Providence Asylum”) that also pays homage to classic metal (pretty similar to what GRAVETY are attempting), managed to make their old-school riffing sound quite modern. “Bow Down” simply sounds old and outdated.

Speaking of old and outdated, I was additionally perplexed by the band’s concept. If you’re going to choose to take on a theme that’s been done time and time again, you’ve got to do something interesting. Seriously, I’m an easy sell. I’m a huge fucking nerd. I love games. I love comics. I love pop culture.  I like wizards, dragons, epic quests, knights, battles and all that shit. I fucking love it. But I don’t fucking love this.  Lord of the Rings? Not boring or cheesy. Game of thrones? Not boring or cheesy. Conan? Not boring or cheesy. BBC’s family-friendly series Merlin? You get the picture. There’s plenty of room to make fantasy worlds fun and exciting. With “Bow Down”, it’s a slumber-inducing cheese-fest. I felt like I was being forced into a punishment-induced adolescent story hour, with poorly written tales invented by socially inept Uncle Chester after a long day of uninspired larping and medieval reenactments. Prime example of this is the album’s opening track “Feat of Valor” with its terrible spoken-word narrative that is intended to inspire the listener to march into battle but instead inspired me groan audibly. Tired topes of journeys to towers and victory on the battlefield need inspiration and imagination to liven them up and make them sound new and refreshing. Are the lyrics that bad? No. Are they great? No. Are they doing something different? Also no. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not entirely sure if the lyrical content or the concept of the album is based on anything like a book, or a poem, or a game. It is entirely possible that I’m way off base and the band are simply trying to be true to the source material. I’d like to think that, so I’m gonna go ahead and think that.

One more thing that perplexed me: It’s been almost ten years since GRAVETY released their debut album “Into the Grave.” And that debut albums sounds way better and has way more dynamic songs and musicianship. Not sure what happened there. It’s like they regressed. In fact, they’ve almost completely switched gears entirely in terms of musical style and production value. Never mind the fact that it also happens to be the name of one of my favorite albums of all time by Sweden’s GRAVE. But I digress.

As far as musicianship goes, the band are solid but by no means progressive or technical. The musical performances on this album are, for the most part, tight and cohesive albeit formulaic. The songs themselves do not really display a wide range of dynamics. It’s pretty much a mid- tempo slog throughout the majority, with a few exceptions. The title track “Bow Down” showcases some almost-chuggy rhythms and some cool melodic guitar harmonies.  The song “Tower of Ghenjeil” has a cool melodic intro that progresses into a MAIDEN or HELLOWEEN-like galloping rhythm that is pretty energetic and upbeat. Vocally, very little range is displayed, although there are a few occasional throaty snarls thrown in that are pretty cool. And the few times that a falsetto or register jump is attempted it is just plain bad.  REALLY bad. This is perfectly illustrated in “Red Mountain,” which contains perhaps one of the worst recorded vocal performances I’ve heard in a long time, even if the chorus is actually quite catchy.

In another questionable sonic choice, “Unleash the Flame” starts off with an acoustic guitar, but it’s plugged in and horribly eq’d. It’s got that flat, almost metallic, non-resonant tone that plugged-in acoustics have. Come on, gents. Mic that shit up, you’re in the studio. Or learn to EQ. The drums, however, are very cool in this song and the toms actually seem to have some tone. The super-cheesy vocal effect towards the end would have been better served with some epic growls. This is my least favorite track on the album.  My favorite track on the album also happens to be its closer, “Carry on the Flame.” But just because it’s my favorite doesn’t mean it’s great. It could have been great because it actually kind of rocks. Great rhythm, cool clean tones, catchy guitar work, and some decent vocals. Then they had to go and fuck it all up with another poorly executed falsetto and a song-ending transition into an unnecessary piano and vocal balladeering fiasco that in my opinion just doesn’t suit the song. And since I’m already being a completely nit-picky asshole, the fact that my favorite and least favorite songs both have the word “flame” in the title struck me as odd.

I realize as I write this that I’m being quite harsh in my choice of words. I’ve tried, at times unsuccessfully, to not diminish another artist’s work or criticize a creative piece just because it doesn’t fall into my usual wheelhouse. It can be soul-crushing to put something out to the universe only to have it torn apart by anonymous keyboard warriors. As an artist and musician myself (an epically unsuccessful one with minimal talent) I always want to be supportive. But then I’m reminded that reviews are meant to be truthful, at least the majority of the time. So while I could polish up this turd that is my overly critical review of an album that was made by an artist who is no doubt passionate about their craft, It wouldn’t change the fact that this album simply doesn’t do it for me. That doesn’t mean it’s without merit and that others may find it enjoyable. As always, I recommend listening and forming your own opinion. Fans of ETERNAL CHAMPION, VISIGOTH, WARLORD, GATEKEEPER, and the mighty MANOWAR just might find some tasty tidbits in here. And for collectors, the physical release is nicely packed in a jewel case with a 12-page full color booklet complete with lyrics, photos, band info, and inspired cover art by Velio Josto.

So, mount up on your invisible steed, clack those coconuts together, and journey forth into the land of musical adventure!

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 6
Memorability: 4
Production: 6

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Feat of Valor
2. Bow Down
3. Tower of Ghenjei
4. Unleash the Flame
5. Braveness Beyond Fear
6. Red Mountain
7. Tales from the Fallen
8. Carry on the Flame
Lineup:
Kevin Portz – Vocals
Gernot Gebhard – Guitars
Philipp Albert – Guitars
Simon Schmitt – Bass
Lukas Didion – Drums
Record Label: Metal on Metal Records
     


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