Allow me to paint a picture in your mind. It's a dark, stormy night. Thunderclaps deafen you as you run through the woods. A killer chases you, the knife in his left hand still glistening with blood from the flesh wound he had managed to give you. Then...the ominous music starts. This is GraveSideService. Consisting of only piano/synth, drums, and vocals, this black/neo-classical metal band hails from Rhode Island, and their unique style envelopes the listener and transports them to the situation I described. However, there are some flaws to this work, and I will point them out, as well as the high points, in this review.
The first thing you will notice is that the piano player not only takes lead, but he is an astounding virtuoso. He glides up and down the keys like no one's business. The tone of the piano varies from normal grand piano sound to strange sounds such as a saw wave tone (think techno leads). He takes the place of a lead guitarist, who left before the recording. But the fact that this is the main instrument you hear leaves a gap, leaves you wanting something. But mainly, the keys sound excellent.
As I said before, there are no guitars. The guitarist apparently left before the recording of this record, as a result of infighting I believe. Unfortunately, or at least as far as I could tell, there is no bass guitar either. This is a pity, because it takes away from the brutality...though, in retrospect, black metal isn't really known for it's brutality, as much as it is the atmosphere.
Speaking of the atmosphere, this album has one of the greatest atmospheres I have ever run across. Between the piano leads, the shrieked and growled vocals, the thundering drums, and the windy, often stormy background noise, it feels like the devil incarnate has come again and taken over your stereo system.
The drums are another category in and of themselves. The quality is excellent. Yes, all you diehard black metal fans, they are triggered. Yes, they are fast. But don't think Dimmu Borgir. They have a lot of variety, going from standard rock beats to blisteringly fast double kicks to blast beats. The only gripe I have about them is certain fills don't exactly fit the song. Overall, they are very good.
And last, but most certainly not least, the vocals. I have never been a fan of the raw, harsh, almost speaking black metal type vocals. But these are different. The vocalist uses three distinct styles of vocals: harsh shrieks, harsh growls, and clean vocals. My main annoyance is the high shrieks. They often come in at times when they aren't needed, but the low point of them is the song "Devil Made Me Do It". He shrieks over and over on top of a beat "the devil made me do it!", sounding more silly and irritating than serious. The growls are, truely, very good, and the clean vocals are really evil sounding, but in a good way.
Overall, if you are a fan of avant-garde music, music that crosses boundaries never before crossed, you should pick this up. I am anxiously awaiting their new release, The Pope's Pears, and I believe they will be a more mature and heavier GraveSide Service than ever before.