RETURN FROM THE GRAVE
‘Gates Of Nowhere’
Argonauta Records (June 2014)
Spectacular doom metal merges with driving 70s hard rock and classic metal in this inspiring and exciting new release from Italian four-piece Return From The Grave, the band’s second full-length. There are strong elements of stoner rock and hints of post-metal, too, making ‘Gates Of Nowhere’ a wide-ranging musical exploration that is expertly held together.
The seven songs on offer here – one being a re-recording of an earlier work – take you past rich, colourful landscapes on a memorable adventure in a hot air ballon of Doom! Not many bands are able to marry stomping grooves with epic, often experimental, doom-infused musings on life and death so effectively. Recording entirely in analog, the album has a unique, grainy sound – the guitars are not heavy enough to crush, but they certainly crunch, launching from your speakers like a fist in a velvet glove. The big, bombastic riffs are cleverly twisted and infused with lots of character and creativity.
The vocals are a distant, sorrowful banshee cry – a beautiful sword with a rusty edge, melodic and yet dangerous. Semenz’s impressive voice has a timeless rock’n’roll quality that would work in any decade – it seems to emanate from the early 1970s and then pass through the 1980s (where it picked up some dramatic flourishes), into the 1990s (where it suffered pain and anger), and finally the 2000s and the hopelessness of modern loss.
Musically, too, there is a sense of travelling through various moments in time – without becoming entirely derivative. This three-year-old Italian band has its own, powerful message to tell. The album is likely to appeal to fans of the Welsh band Prosperina, as well as everything from Dio to Witchfinder General.
A number of the tracks, such as ‘Rage Of Rays’, raises the spectre of Black Sabbath’s Sabotage era, when the foreboding doom and thundering riffs were being honed into a more balanced and expressive musical approach. Songs flow naturally and explore multiple ideas without ever feeling unsettled and indecisive – there is a mature sense of patience and confidence. Whether Return From The Grave are taking on an unusual, progressive passage or delivering a lighter, singalong section, these Venetians have courage in their convictions and a knowledge that what they’re doing is working.
‘Inside Human’s Soul’ is the re-recorded track, and while it is enjoyable, it clearly demonstrates that Return From The Grave have developed quickly since it was initially released on the band’s 2012 debut. ‘Gates Of Nowhere’ is a metal masterclass that learns from the past and looks to the future, where anything is possible.