Massgrave / Stormcrow – split LP

Genre: Crust / Death Metal| Label: Mangled Ankle
Location: Vancouver, BC / Oakland, CA | Listen: MG / SC

massgrave stormcrow

As a fan of both death metal and extreme punk, I love when bands combine the sounds, and intermingle with each other on splits. Here we have two excellent bands bringing in different approaches rooted in the crustier side of punk from the west coast for one crushing 12″. First we have Massgrave, a d-beat/grindcore fusion from Vancouver, paired with Oakland’s crusty death metallers Stormcrow. Both bands have put out their share of split records, so it’s nice to see a pairing between two bands I enjoy quite a lot.

For those unfamiliar with Massgrave, they are basically Vancouver’s answer to Disrupt. They take simple, Discharge style punk, and throw in blastbeats and tremolo picking to give it a grindcore flavour. Additionally, they have two stand alone vocalists, and if that didn’t give it away, they are named after a Disrupt song. They aren’t on the Archives, so my secondary motive for writing this review is to shine a little light on one of Canada’s best punk bands that metal fans will probably enjoy. For their side of the split, they blaze through 8 songs in a mere 12 minutes. Their riffs are fairly infectious and are performed with nuanced attention. They may be punk riffs, but a barrage of power chord movement keeps them fresh, taking influence from bands like Totalitar. The two vocalists hit a variety of high screams, yells, and low growls, much like Extreme Noise Terror. The songs themselves have a variety of tempos, ranging from brief doomy intros, mid-paced hardcore tempos, raging d-beats, all the way to full out grinding blasts. The drum performance crisp and tight, and creates a solid foundation for the rest of the band to do their thing.

The other side of this LP belongs to Stormcrow. During 2000’s, it seemed like a lot of crust punks were forming bands that were highly influenced by Bolt Thrower, especially along the west coast. Oakland’s Stormcrow were one of these bands that stood out from the pack, due to the fact that they were a lot more dynamic and original. They put out a full length and five quality split records in a five year span before calling it quits in 2010. For their split with Massgrave, they contributed 3 songs spanning 17 minutes, a stark constrast to the other side. There seems to be more of an emphasis on slow, doomier passages for this material, which is how the record starts out. Nevertheless, there’s some pretty thrashy riffs that break down into some infectious punk rhythms. “Lost Hopes” keeps a stenchcore vibe throughout it’s quick duration, and never lets down. Stormcrow ends their side with a 9 minute epic, “The Science of Tyranny.” which chugs along with an Amebix like sense of impending dread. The songs picks up into Bolt Thrower territory during the second half, increasing its speed before breaking into a clean guitar/melodic outro that sounds like an exaggerated version of something His Hero Is Gone would do.

Both sides of this record have great sounding production – Massgrave’s side was recorded with Jesse Gander, who they’ve been recording with for most of their career, so it definitely is on par with the rest of their discography sound wise. Meanwhile, Stormcrow recorded at Earhammer Studio, where plenty of heavy bands in the area have come out with crisp sounding recordings. Both recordings are heavy, clear, and appropriate given the styles of punk these bands are influenced by.

The overall LP presentation really ties this record up nice, as it features some pretty dystopian looking cover art, and a very punk looking collage inside the gatefold. Indeed, this is a great pairing of bands that take influence from both metal and punk in different ways, providing contrast but not feeling too far apart that it’s an awkward pairing. To be quite honest, this isn’t my favourite material by either band, but it’s an excellent split regardless, and it can still serve as a worthy launching point for checking out either band for a first time listener. Although Stormcrow is no longer a band, Massgrave has still been going strong, and I highly recommend diving into both bands if you’re into crust, grindcore, and death metal.