Graveyard Dirt | ‘For Grace Or Damnation’
Doom is meant to be slow, we all dig that. But a decade and a half wait on Graveyard Dirt’s debut album is taking the slow theme to the extreme.
Thankfully, within 3 minutes, all doubts are dispelled and the Donegal death doomsters prove why it was all worth the wait.
The album starts off with an almost Victorian sounding phonograph playing a reflective acoustic number, narrated slowly and relaxed but with an underlying tension, and as it fades out, you could be forgiven for expecting the whole album to be of a similarly sombre doom vibe.
Unexpectedly, ‘Daylight’s Wrath’ completely blows that assumption out of the water with a timeless sounding killer track. In a strange way it sounds like an already classic song, despite it being a recent recording, but because it has taken 15 years to release, it has that vintage doom feel absolutely saturating it.
Make no mistake, listening to ‘For Grace Or Damnation’ is like taking a time machine right back to the early 90s when doom death ruled supreme, and bands like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride were just hitting their stride.
There’s a huge sense of dark romanticism embedded in here, most evocative in the 11 minute epic of ‘These Hands Defiled’. The songs are meandering and mid-paced, with absolutely no consideration given to trends or commercialism – Graveyard Dirt have made an album on their terms without pandering to opinion, and it’s of a far higher standard because of it.
‘Enslaved By Grief’ stands out due to its unconventional music, particularly in the drumming and the occasional stop-start of guitars. It’s at odds quite a bit with the vocals and lyrics, but sticks in the head completely; quite a brave move, and it works.
Alternating between whispered vocals and guttural roars really set the standard for the album, and it’s here in particular where the vocals really stand out.
Paul Leyden is an absolutely world class doom death vocalist, easily on a par with Nick Holmes or Aaron Stainthorpe, and at times sounding quite like Burton C Bell in the growls.
‘Search For Solitude’ is an absolutely harrowing track, bringing to mind the jarring guitar tone of Necrophagia, with some perfectly placed leads towards the end, and of all the tracks on offer, this is the one that will mess up the crowd’s heads in all future live gigs.
The last 30-odd seconds of it are intense, vicious and pummelling; the drums rattling out to an all-too-abrupt stop that will almost certainly take the crowd by surprise every time, no matter how familiar they’ll be with the song.
Closing the album is the instrumental ‘Solace’, harking back to album opener ‘By Wind And Time’ to tie the lot up nicely.
It peters out to an “obvious” finish to the record before ‘New Day’s Fire’ comes crushing in to assault the ears with a beastly 13 minutes of heaviness to remind the listener that there’s nothing conventional when it comes to Graveyard Dirt, and that they’ll do precisely what they want here, and not what the listener would naturally expect.
It’s as simple as this – if ‘For Grace And Damnation’ had have been released in 1996, Graveyard Dirt would have been mentioned in the same breath as the Paradise Lost / My Dying Bride / Anathema big three.
It’s to their credit that the album sounds like it was recorded in the mid-90s, yet doesn’t seem one bit dated. With a debut album as timeless and strong as this, it would be fairly ludicrous for labels to ignore them any longer. A total triumph for the band, and a total boon to the rapidly improving Irish metal scene.
4.7 / 5 – Dónal McBrien ::: 19/12/10