Album Review: Spinebreaker – “Ice Grave”


There’s something about a band that provides just the right level of crunch. Super heavy on the mids. It’s a sound that you remember from high school when your buddy first bought a 100-Watt Crate amp and paired with with a Boss Heavy Metal distortion pedal. Maybe he also turned up the mid’s really high just to go as far away from the mainstream Metallica guitar sound as possible. While Spinebreaker plays some pretty top notch equipment, they deliver their brand of death metal with the fury of a hardcore/punk band fueled on teenage angst and dreams of  stage-diving. But make no mistake about it, Spinebreaker are a roots death metal band.

Their debut LP, Ice Grave,  breaks the mold of southern California, bay area hardcore and death metal drawing heavily on European influences. There are, as on “Divine Mortal Being,” the occasional breakdown full of feedback and vocals, but for the most part Spinebreaker are content to pay homage to early European death metal with a bit of an updated twist. There’s plenty of southern California influence. Plenty of the group vocals, circle pits and opportunities to leap upon your friends back and scream vocals into the Alex’s face. That’s the hardcore influence. It’s less in the actual musicality and more in the aura; the feeling of camaraderie and purpose. We are not alone.

spinebreaker ice grave live

Tracks like the instrumental “Withering in the Blizzard” open long and methodically with chugging guitars crunched out to maximum gain. It’s a time to take your best friend under your arm and sway together in anger, confusion and complete disbelief in the system that has betrayed us. It’s an intro that merely lubricates you for the assault that is to follow the loosely downtuned acoustic guitars that open “Flesh Wound.” The effect is to create a movement. Music that encapsulates the angry emotions that we all feel towards maybe a lack of gun control, or free militia psychos staging a coup on federal land. Maybe we want to fight for women’s rights or equality. Likely, it’s all of those things combined. Spinebreaker is a band that can fuel the soundtrack to the first clash of rudimentary arms between those who demand change and those who hold the stale power of autocracy.

Spinebreaker is an incredibly fresh take on an old sound. Laced with hardcore and even some straight edge influences, their music bursts forth in emotional concert. The quintet is adept at creating, and more importantly releasing, tension. There’s also plenty of atmosphere in the briefer intros. For example, “Internal Bleeding” opens ominously before dropping into a classic two-stomp and then blistering off into classic punk. It’s a mix of influences that, when put together, mimic old school death metal. Much like a deconstructed plate of fried chicken and waffles serve by the famed Wylie Dufresne at his molecular gastronomically experimental WD-50.

Remember: “No more fear. No more pain. It’s just a flesh wound. It’s just a fucking bloodstain.” – Spinebreaker

– Manny-O-War

Ice Grave is available 1.15.2016 via Creator-Destructor Records. For more information on Spinebreaker head over to their Facebook page.


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