Graveir - one of Australia’s finest underground acts has been enthralling crowds for quite some time, bringing a rather hypnotic, refreshing sound of their own within the realms of black metal. Formed in 2014, the five-piece band from Brisbane is extremely focused in their journey together, aiming to create a truly grim yet enlightening sonic experience for those that listen, an achievement that is undoubtedly present in their latest offering ‘King of the Silent World’. I had the honour of speaking with one of the founding members, the drummer ‘XI’ who was kind enough to share some in-depth insight into their newest album, the story behind it and what ‘Graveir’ really stands for.
Congratulating them on their latest releases, XI shared what they are most proud of with this one.
“It’s definitely the cumulation of a lot of hard work - so it’s very rewarding when you actually have the physical product in hand of a year and half’s worth of solid work. Being able to pass that on to people after the writing, recording and everything that goes into the making of an album that we are satisfied with, is what we’re really proud of.”
‘King of the Silent World’ marks 6 years of Graveir as a band and is their second full length release, which is an important milestone for them. We talked about the aspects that were different this time around during the creative writing process.
“Sonically, we really just wanted to build on where we left off with the EP ‘Cenotaph’. So we put our best foot forward and kept at it. Our band is always writing consistently - now that we’ve put this album out, we’re already on the next even though things take time of course. How we work though, is essentially we have a giant pool of songs from which we pull out ideas that are the strongest, break them down to bare bones and start again before building them up one at a time. Keeping that focus throughout is important until it ends up sounding like us and until we are satisfied with it, picking out ones that we really enjoy playing.”
“We feel we’ve really evolved as songwriters, and honed in on what we feel our songs should sound like. We were definitely more prepared during the writing of this album, getting things done in time, bringing a lot of demo material to the table, refining ideas - we’ve all got our own moving parts within the band that have probably made this the most streamlined and easiest album to produce. “
The music on ‘King of the Silent World’ exhibits the band's incredible musicianship and ability to balance different atmospheres, soundscapes and moods, maintaining their signature sound throughout. While overwhelming at times, the album is such an aural, emotional journey that takes you from sombre melodic moments into pure crushing insanity and dissonance, each track, a true entity of its own. XI shared his thoughts as well as what his true influences are when composing and writing.
“We are really happy with the way it all came through - the fast songs are intense, sharp and the more mournful ones, are nice, slow-paced tracks, complementing each other well. We really wanted to focus on songwriting, creating the best soundscape for each song and actually write songs that hold a part of the story, and in-depth meaning; not just a cumulation of riffs.”
“When writing, what really influences us is what happens during that time; it’s like we were talking about the timestamp before, of your life at that time and everything around that time that inspires the writing of the songs. While we do love different kinds of music, our influences come more from experiences and our knowledge of various things than listening to an old black metal album and wanting to recreate that. I try not to listen to too much music when writing, so as to not allow it to interrupt my thought process.”
“Everything ties into that theme of peril and madness as it does with all of Graveir. Everything it encompasses is essentially all linked to death - and ‘King of the Silent World’ is death in sonic form. The vocalist Gloom holds the lyrics close to his heart - they come from a very deep place”,
The truth - this is how I interpret Graveir’s message. Death is the ultimate truth.
Delving further into the story behind each track, it is crystal clear how connected the band is to their lyrics and the inspiration behind them. Every track is connected to the greater picture of death and mortality. Vocalist Gloom explains the significance behind each track, throwing light on ‘Charnel Bacchanalia’, a celebration of and reverence of death, an inexorable part of the cycle and ‘Scaphism’ an ancient Persian form of execution where the condemned were fed milk and honey, enclosed in two boats and exposed to the elements to starve, dehydrate and slowly consumed by insects.
The realism of each track’s lyrical themes is incredible and stands to be a perfect symbol of Graveir’s dedication to inculcating life experiences, grim philosophy and cultural elements into their music. ‘Bathed in Acheron’ pulls references from Greek mythology, Acheron being the River of Woe in the Underworld while ‘Immacolata’ ties into the Catholic concept of immaculate conception, the song centering around a man who idolises a woman and is torn between his desire, lust and destruction.
“The song ‘Phantasms in Daguerreotype’ is a song about impending mortality, old age and reflecting back on a lifetime of regrets, the phantasms part being the degradation of prints resulting in what appeared to be ghosts in the photos. This is a metaphor for being haunted by the past and failing to live in the present. Life only moves forward or stops, it is impossible to go back to past glories” Gloom explains.
With the nature of each of these tracks, the album cover makes perfect sense. Only a few weeks prior to the release of their sophomore album, did I notice straight away, who the band had contacted to create the artwork. Italian artist Daniele Serra is one of the most incredible artists I’ve ever come across and to see an Australian band collaborating with him gave me an inexplicable sense of happiness.
“It was a big, big job but we are so pleased with how it all turned out. Daniel Serra is an absolute professional and I couldn’t speak more highly of the whole process. He was 100% on board from the very start, took each song and lyric, critiqued them separately after we gave him a gist of the album. Of course, he had the artistic freedom to do his job and he definitely produced the goods. The final result is unique, fits in with our previous album covers in different ways which is good - to keep it all within the general theme of what we’re doing.”
It was by chance that I came across Graveir some time ago, having not seen them live before or listened to their music but just seeing the name on the poster of a local gig. Intrigued, I delved further to find one of their tracks ‘Sati’ off of their 2015 demo ‘Caloian’ and was instantly intrigued. The Sati rituals were an ancient tradition, believed to still be practiced in some of the more conservative, smaller communities in India, wherein a widow burns herself on the husband’s funeral pyre, and while frowned upon in modern times, it is considered to be an act of courage and selflessness. As with many Eastern traditions, it is all about giving back to the Earth and honoring that cycle of life and death.
“With the demo material, we narrowed down on a few different ideas that celebrated death. So the Sati rituals from India were obviously one of them as well as the Jhator rituals of Tibet. The rituals involve throwing the bodies of the dead into a desert and leaving them there for vultures to pick the bones dry. This is in sharp contrast to the Western World where you are put into a hole in the ground while Eastern traditions have more of a cool twist to it.”
This continued our conversation, giving me further insight into the band’s history, songwriting perspective and more.
“Well, the essential principle of how it all kind of really started was the singer and myself who met through another project that kind of fell apart. We had a lot of material and came to the agreement that we both wanted to start a project that we wanted to put 110% into. After that we began discussing ideas and topics which led us towards wanting to create a sonic representation of the perfect death. Imagine, if you’re standing on the edge of the cliff, just you and there’s this massive tidal wave coming at you - you know that you’re going to die. I really wanted to write a song that sounds like that. That’s really what we’re trying to bring into our craft.”
Given that my chance to witness Graveir’s conjuring of dark, magnificent riffs may be a while yet, curiosity got the better of me, as I wondered out aloud to XI, what the band is like live.
“We certainly started off as a normal band, trying to uphold the black metal traditions, as you do. It’s part of the movement and the mindframe you need to be in to perform the music. You go into a state of when you’re writing it by yourself or in a group, kind of just aids the process and our live performances. But it has come to the stage now where we don’t really want to portray ourselves as anything - we’re in a day and age where everyone is driven by musicians' political agendas or personal dogma. We don’t want anything to do with all of that. We just want to play our music, so just having those blank faces stare at you and having very little recognizable human content is so that the music can actually breathe for itself.”
Finally, taking into consideration the current state of the world, I wanted to know what his thoughts were on releasing music during a global pandemic and staying focused even during times of uncertainty.
“I think we got really lucky as far as meeting our deadlines were concerned. We’ve had this album ready since December, and we were just waiting for the right time to release it. We spoke with our label Impure Sounds about pushing hard for an April release, and we’re grateful that we did. It all aligned and worked out. We’re focusing on the fact that everyone is now home, less busy and thereby we have more of an audience to listen to our music. At the same time, it’s hard not being able to play our music and touring; we had a lot of shows booked but we are hoping once all of this comes to an end, let the world calm down a bit and then we can get back to it. We’ll see what happens.”
King of the Silent World is available on Bandcamp now. Check it out here.