Graves of Valor - Salarian Gate (Relapse/Riot)

Graves of Valor's 2009 long play debut is enjoyable and properly executed death metal, but not much more. This is one of those records that is just shy of being remarkable and probably won't get the attention it deserved... in 1995.


Graves of Valor's 2009 full length debut and premier disc for Relapse Records, Salarian Gate, is a shining example of well played and brutally executed death metal that will more than likely go mostly unnoticed. 


Why did I start the review with my conclusion? Well, in keeping with the formula of Salarian Gate, you have pretty much gotten the gist of the album right from the beginning. I hope that this doesn't sound too harsh, because this album is light years away from being bad! On the contrary, it's pretty fucking sick! Unfortunately, in a rejuvenated death metal scene full of amazing bands, Graves of Valor is going to have trouble standing out.


Graves of Valor hails from South Carolina, USA, and their stand-out selling point is that they feature three former members of Through The Eyes Of The Dead. I think an unfortunate coincidence of this is that they get the dreaded 'deathcore' misnomer as they are compared to TTEOTD. I have listened to this album several times and not one time do I find a riff, drum beat, breakdown, or whatever that sounds 'core'. I mean, if having a slow section or palm muted riff that may constitute a breakdown in any song on your record means you are immediately thrust disgracefully into the deathcore pigeonhole, then whatever! 


Any of you that have read my tirades on Twitter or over at Goats of Pandemonium know that I'm a firm believer that the media are to quick to put false labels on what type of metal a band performs. So, I went and tried to find an interview where I could get the skinny straight from the horse's mouth. According to vocalist Damon Welch in an interview for the Audiopinions website, 'It really doesn't matter how you define it. It’s too hard to pinpoint what style of metal we are if that’s what you're asking. We draw influences from a ton of different genres of metal. It’s too hard to say death influenced blackened doom battle metal so we’ll just call it metal.'


Well said, Damon! So all of you writers out there who were so quick to pin the tail on the donkey can go do that funny ninja moshing they do at those metalcore gigs!! To me, the album sounds a lot like a smash up of the first Gorguts album and newer Suffocation, and neither of these bands were ever accused of being 'core'.


Graves of Valor play with precision (tight as a nun, in fact) and a do fine job of mixing up the paces to keep the album from becoming a complete snore fest. The guitar solos are well executed and the use of enharmonic notes is not overly used like it is so often on many death metal records. As great as the music is played and arranged, it just lacks that certain unique quality that puts it over all the other groups releasing death metal albums. If were just a bit more brutal, or just a bit faster, maybe a bit slower... I don't know. But it's just that tad bit of something that keeps the album from truly standing out. Perhaps it's missing a tad bit of originality?


Lyrically, Salarian Gate revolves around the concept of the assassination of Julius Cesar and the fall of Rome. Sorry to say that this isn't so original either, seeing that this era of history is the entire basis for the band Ex Deo. Welch's vocals are much like the riffs, in the fact that they are well varied throughout to break up any real monotony.


So, returning to the beginning of the review, this is a well played, lyrically interesting record that is lacking just enough of any one quality to make it a complete stand out record for 2009. Those listeners that are fairly new to the scene will most likely think this is one of the best death metal records they ever heard! For those of us who have been mainstays in the scene, I'm afraid it won't likely get as many spins or as much praise as it probably deserves.


Then again, it is their first full length release, and Salarian Gate could be viewed in a more positive light by thinking of it as a solid starting point of something much bigger and more exciting. 



Graves of Valor's Salarian Gate is out now on Relapse/Riot.