Melbourne’s Gravemind had a massive 2016, with the deathcore outfit gaining solid traction online with comments stating that they’re “the future of deathcore” or that they’re “the next Thy Art Is Murder”. So with such complementary and aggrandizing comments from those around Australia and abroad, and with a new EP in the works and a solid national support tour soon approaching, Gravemind are the subjects of our first Aussie Feature for 2017. And bloody hell, it’s a big one!
Gravemind’s vocalist, Dylan Gillies-parsons wants to bring more emotion into deathcore; a genre that is not known for its emotional musical delivery. This was something that lacked in their debut EP, ‘The Hateful One‘, and is something that he and the band are very conscious about moving forwards.
“The backlash to our EP from reviewers was all completely warranted because it had been done before” admits Gillies-parsons. “So what we’re doing with this next EP is taking what people love about deathcore but adding a lot more emotion to it. That is something that deathcore is really lacking I think. It’s got a lot of rhythm, a lot of heaviness, and a lot of “fiddly-widdly” bits on guitar, but it’s all lacking emotion and the ebb and flow of how a song actually works.”
I could not agree more! This idea of the actual emotion and approach that goes into the genre and its lyrics was something I brought up in my recent review of Aversions Crown’s ‘Xenocide‘ because aliens aren’t all that relatable, are they? Moving away from my own writing and their peers, he tells me that Gravemind isn’t here just to solely meet people’s expectations – they aim to supersede them and then some.
“We have an audience that has an expectation but we’re artists as well. So what I’m doing with the new Gravemind release is that I’m writing songs based on certain concepts. This next release will be a sci-fi concept” he reveals. “It’s going to be more direct, the lyrics will be quite obvious at times and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. But I am also layering it, with the story at the top which will be brutal to match the conventions of our genre, and the second layer is the actual narrative. Then the third and final layer will be for the one’s that are really listening and it’s this that I think will separate us. All of it matches the emotion of the music that Damon [Bredin, guitar] is writing currently.”
That is only a good thing in my eyes.
In a very self-aware comment, he also says that that EP was like the “Memphis May Fire of metalcore – not doing too much new but just doing our favourite things. What we’re doing now makes that EP look so dated and it’s our own thing”, I am told. Gravemind is also hoping that their next release will be like an onion; it has many layers.
“Unlike someone like say, Stray From The Path, we aren’t a message band. When you hear it, you’ll understand what we’re saying and we’ll use the platform we have to say it. If you just want good heavy music that releases some aggression, then boom – we’ve got that for you. But if you want something deeper, then the story is there. The lyrical content may put people off due to them not wanting to hear stuff like that in deathcore, but we as a band won’t simply stand still on our laurels as artists.”
When I was first asked by the band’s publicist, Tim Price of Collison Course, if myself and KYS would be keen to premiere the comic book lyric video that was ‘The Death Of Teyolia‘, I was rather intrigued. Then vert shortly afterwards, I was blown away by the clip with the song, the art, and the narrative, and I, of course said yes to premiering it. I even included it our Best Music Videos Of 2016 list, right at number two behind The Ruminaters‘ ‘Bad Bad Things‘ because it’s just that fucking good!
Regarding that release and what comes next, Dylan says that they won’t simply rest on their previous accomplishments.
“The next release won’t be a comic book video; it won’t be the same thing done again. We’re going to crank the dial up to 11, all the while changing it up. We don’t want to run the risk of being the band that does the same thing each release – it’s got to be fresh off the bat, I think. Doing the same thing over and over is what puts a lof people off who are outside of this genre”
Despite Gravemind’s large intentions to maintain their creativity, there are certain musical constraints within their genre; ones that they will have to employ to stay apart of the genre. Which is a bit of a cathc-22 scenario.
“Again, the codes and conventions of deathcore are there to define the genre, but fuck, compare I, Valiance and Chelsea Grin. They prove that you can do just about anything with this genre. So long as its heavy, so long as it has a good flow and a couple breakdowns, anything outside of that is up to you, really. There’s gold to be found there, for sure.” He pauses, and then adds, “Well, so long as you don’t make ‘Doris’ like Suicide Silence did, then you’re usually fine as deathcore fans tend to be the most loyal fans out there.”
Oh, how true that is!
Understandably, ‘The Death Of Teyolia‘ was a massive undertaking for everyone involved, but it was one that Dylan’s five bandmates trusted him with, and it’s paid off very well for them. Even the video’s director, Scott Rudd, has seen some great return on it as well.
“Scott Rudd, the guy who did our lyric video for ‘The Death Of Teyolia’, of which I was so happy about how it turned out, messaged me and said that I would have no idea how many people have since been messaging him asking how much a video like our one would cost. So doing something new can be really rewarded and jumped on by poeple. I mean, the guys in I, Valiance once told me that they were really worried that their song, ‘The Black Sun’, wouldn’t be received all that well, that it was too far out for them. As we all know, that song is one of their best now! It seems like people rely on too much of what has worked in the past, and that’s something we’ve done too in the past, but now we’re wanting to push it even further.”
Now, this idea of not doing the same thing in terms of delivery and expectations can be a hard egg to keep on cracking. But not for a lack of trying, though. “I was even looking into doing a 2D RPG video game for the next EP” the vocalist reveals. “But after getting through to a guy who works for EA, he told me that even for a small video game, we were going to need about $200,000 and around a year’s worth of work. So…nope, back to square one!”
“And my band are really good like that, they’ll pull me back in when I present them with all of my crazy big ideas that couldn’t work. Even Damon [guitar] will write something and then two days later he’ll scrap it because it sounds too much like one of our peers.”
This idea of not wanting to copy, no matter how small that imitation may be, was shown when they scrapped the idea of only calling their 2016 single a women’s name, simply because Veil Of Maya had released ‘Matriarch‘ back in 2015, whose song titles were all named after strong female characters in TV shows (‘Mikasa‘ and ‘Daenerys‘), video games (‘Ellie‘ and ‘Aeris‘ ) as well as films (‘Lucy‘).
These are the great lengths that Gravemind are going to ensure that their art and their music isn’t just a retread of another bands work and ideas. Which is a very hard thing to accomplish when you have a countless number of bands all vying for people’s attention. And yet, despite the genre’s oversaturation and even if their music remains somewhat generic, Gravemind is going to keep on delivering their music in new and interesting ways, just like they did last year with ‘The Death Of Teyolia‘.
Musical releases aside, within two weeks time, Gravemind will be hitting our nation’s well-worn road with their mates in Blind Oracle and A Night In Texas for the ‘Mortal Drones’ tour, taking in four dates overall.
“It’s a very cool package”, exclaims Gillies-parsons. “The local deathcore scene is getting smaller and smaller as more and more bands quit, but I’m just happy to see the good ones staying in. I’m not including us in that list, but both of those bands are really pushing the envelope in terms of what you can do with genre. It’s going to be great to be touring with them.”
Also on the topic of the band’s tour buddies, particularly Blind Oracle, the vocalists had some very kind things to say, namely that “Seth Murrant and the rest those guys are exceptionally good songwriters. Musically, they’re bang on and I can attest that their new album is going to blow people away. They understand the potential of what can be done with deathcore, which is sadly being swept under the carpet because so many bands are doing nothing with it.”
He adds that he personally is finding few and far between examples of deathcore to enjoy today but asserts that “when Blind Oracle drop their new album, you can be sure that there’ll be kids from all-around looking everywhere to get the same guitar that Seth uses, as they’ll want to write music like that.”
Those be strong words, but let’s see how it plays out for them, Cotton. Now, Gravemind’s name has also getting thrown around a lot lately in the Australian extreme metal landscape, despite their young age. For the vocalist and his band mates, it’s been a whirlwind, one that may just keep on growing.
“12 months from when we dropped our first EP to where we are now, has just been blowing my mind. It really hasn’t sunk how many people know of us. It was quite confronting going to Unify this year and having complete strangers coming up to me saying hello, and even commenting on my recent hair cut. It’s quite surreal.”
That’s something that I’m sure will continue happening on this new tour next month and into the future. [Also, for full context there, Gillsons shaved off his hair back in November for Wigs For Kids, the fucking legend.]
Now, Dylan and I are massive gamers, and that hobby is something that he and Gravemind are very open about because to them, honesty is the name of their musical game. (I swear I didn’t mean to make that pun.) And hey, if you weren’t aware, their name is actually taken from one of the key villains from Halo 2 & Halo 3.
“When we were picking out our band name, which is the hardest thing to ever do, we were actually going to go with The Flood originally but we thought there was something better. It had to be a video game reference, and once we hit Gravemind, we thought ‘Fuck yeah, that’s it.'”
Good move, as ‘The Flood’ is also a pretty fucking average record by Of Mice & Men, and no one wants to be related to that. No one.
Bridging these two artistic mediums together, his earlier comment about how the band’s music is layered immediately caused my mind to go to that of Dark Souls and Bloodborne; games that offer tough, engaging gameplay on the surface level, but have such interesting and intricate narratives hidden below for the player to find at their own leisure. It’s not forced upon them in any real way, and this is something that the band wanted to uphold in their music.
“It’s funny you say that as a lot of the ideas I get come from video games, as I’ve grown up playing games my whole life, and that comparison is spot on. I didn’t even think about it until you mentioned it, but the new Doom game does exactly that. It’s a dumb shooter game up front but there are these codecs you can find these far more detailed tellings of the game’s story. I remember being a kid and playing Doom 2 on Windows ’95 and that game is as barren a story as you can get. I was going online and reading as much as I could about the setting and the story; it was half the fun of it I found. Video games serve that function, and just like music, on the surface level, it has to be fun. Straight up, that’s what they’re both meant to be in my eyes; fun. And then if they can point you in an artistic direction that’s fantastic.”
Of course, Gravemind won’t go down the route of the Metal Gear Solid franchise and just bombard you with endless fucking expositional dumps, but the story will be there in their music for you to dive into at your own prerogative nonetheless. As the band’s music is indeed heavy and brutal they almost decided to play it safe with a game that embodied their music – Doom. But sadly, it was all for not.
“Even though we couldn’t do make it happen, we also thought about doing a Doom mod, and re-skinning the areas and monsters to make our own little game, but we canned that at the moment as we don’t think that we have the fan base for that just yet”.
While that would’ve been a solid product, that smart decision making once again shows the band’s brains for not over-doing themselves and making informed calls and when and where to deliver their art. However, someone else has also worked the band’s music into the video game realm by implementing their song ‘The Lowest Circle Of Hell‘ into Guitar Hero.
No, for real!
“It just took me back to my mates and I going to the beach in summer, and instead of actually going out to the beach, we’d just all set up the plastic instruments and smash out a five-hour session on Guitar Hero or Rock Band. I was actually talking with Shorty [Michael Petritsch, guitar] that we should do a ‘Lowest Circle Of Hell’ play through with the plastic guitars and plastic drums. We’re seriously considering it. It could be cool. We should just quit right now, we’ve made it now with someone making a Guitar Hero video of us” laughs the vocalist.
Gravemind is now (unofficially) on a game’s soundtrack, and far as actual video game soundtracks go, Dylan especially loves the OST’s for Halo 3, Quake 2, and the new Doom game, the last of which Australian composer Mick Gordon absolutely nailed. While I personally found id’s latest Doom entry to be quite overrated, one cannot go past how tight and fun that soundtrack is, and that’s also what the vocalist picked up on.
“I grabbed my SM7B microphone, listened to the soundtrack, namely the ‘BFG Division’ track and thought I could do a vocal cover of it. It’s on YouTube at the moment and the views are climbing to that of 20,000 [it’s actually over 24K now] and it’s only been out for a few months now too.” (You can check out that insane cover right here).
Again on their moniker relating to video games, I posed the question of whether or not they will do a self-titled song to reference Halo?
“Well, if Michael had his way, we’d have already done it and had our own merch line of Halo/Gravemind helmets and shirts. The closest thing we could think of to referencing that in our music would be to use his line of “I am the monument to all of your sins”, which is probably the most throwback deathcore sample of all time. But that’s a bit too cheesy. Of course, we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and the ‘The Death Of Teyolia’ was us just having fun, so I wouldn’t rule it out as we all love the Halo series.”
Well, my fingers are crossed.As our interview (fucking finally) comes to a close, I am left with this mission statement of sorts that himself and the band are always working towards.
“Where there is something good, people will flock to it. You see that with shooter games and how conventions like PAX are so big, and you also see that with the nu-metal resurgence as well. In heavy music, it does go through the motions and I think when an artist or a musician create content that’s truly worthy of the culture, it’ll blow up in a big way. I think as an artist, you need to be at the forefront of that.”
And that is exactly where Gravemind intends to stay and make their claim, right on the forefront of deathcore’s future.