When stalwart Aussie Deathcore fiends To the Grave played last Friday at Manning Bar, capping off a tour obstructed by reschedules, support dates and the general malaise of covid-fatigue, fans were expecting nothing less than a cathartic release of debauchery. What greeted the stacked crowd on Friday exceeded such expectations entirely.
As opening acts Alchemy, The Wandering and Earth Caller (whose new project There Are Some Things Worse Than Death is a must listen) stimulated the crowd, it became increasingly clear that the hometown fans were eager to witness To The Grave deliver on such stellar expectations. Initially quite slow to enter the floor during Alchemy’s introductory set, crowd momentum built quickly upon some light prodding from frontman Nic Webb, and only continued to grow as the Newy boys in The Wandering launched into an electric set of slamming deathcore. Once Earth Caller launched into an unrestrained performance of Spit, the crowd locked itself into an unquenchable groove, eagerly awaiting the headliners. From afar, the crowd appeared like a procession to some arcane pagan ritual. Swathes of black dominated the pit, brought to life by song as bodies twitched between the walls of the mosh in a cruel dance.
Upon hearing the opening chords signaling the beginning of fan-favourite track Wastage, punks, posers, metalheads, e-girls, corejerkers, and that one old crusty who took his shirt off far too early were united as one under a tumultuous wall of pure viscerality. Collectively, To The Grave sounded incredible live, which is no small feat for a genre in which overproduction is the norm. The dual attack of Jack Simioni and Luke Ringin on guitars were followed neatly by Matt Clarke on bass, interspersing between them triplet blasts and waves of dissonance conducive to a mosh that put all within listening distance at risk.
All of this was underpinned by the monolithic presence of Simon O’Malley on drums, whose consistency is outmatched only by his capacity for transonic brutality. His performance on Ecocide was of particular note; fluctuating tempos, meters and breakdowns with the delicate prowess of a well-honed craftsman. Vets of the genre may have sensed notes of Lorna Shore, Brand of Sacrifice or Zeolite in their sound last night, but To The Grave’s idiosyncrasies extend far beyond the ocean that stands between them and the former two acts. Chief among these was the vocal prowess of one Dane Evans, who alternated between the highs and lows of the night like a hormonal teenager, rounding out the brutality with a cunning usage of pig squeals and growls.
Friday’s gig was the finale of a tour launched in support of their recent LP – 2021’s aptly titled Epilogue, their first since the passing of former bassist Joshua Booth. Fittingly, the band returned onstage to pay respect to their fallen compatriot with a cover of My Chemical Romance’s The Ghost of You alongside Earth Caller’s Josh Collard, with the unanimous support of the crowd.
Catching a band like To The Grave at Manning was an incredibly enjoyable experience, and despite my incredible bias, I would highly recommend them to anybody with even a passing curiosity into the heavier end of the scene. To the uninitiated, To the Grave will sound downright cacophonous. Hell, even to some fans of the genre, the band’s unique sonic palette is tart, astringent, and even abrasive. But the experience of cathartic release achieved through watching a bunch of musicians play such technically demanding music in front of an entranced crowd is exhilarating, and well worth witnessing.