music in the park san jose

.Deathgrave Celebrate ‘It’s Only Midnight’ With Release Show

Deathgrave return stronger, weirder than ever

music in the park san jose

During the pandemic, San Jose metal band Deathgrave retained their brisk momentum and tireless work ethic—and got a little creative.

“We tracked the drums in Great American Music Hall while I had a temporary recording studio set up in the venue during lockdown,” says Greg Wilkinson, the band’s guitarist and studio engineer at Earhammer Studio. 

With the drumming groundwork laid at the historic SF venue, the conception of new material steadily (and responsibly) began to take form. 

This Friday, Deathgrave returns with a muscular, strange beast of a record. Released in conspiracy with Bay Area underground labels Tankcrimes and Transylvanian Records, It’s Only Midnight beguiles with anarchic intensity and a freewheeling attitude. On Saturday, the band play an album release show at LvL Uproar in San Jose.

“The chemistry of the four of us helped make the album write itself,” Wilkinson says.

Deathgrave formed from the demise of other bands. Following the dissolution of BIRD in 2011, bassist Fern Alberts and vocalist Andre Cornejo started conceptualizing a new group with Wilkinson. Between the three of them, they had already played in countless Bay Area bands like Ringwurm, Amber Asylum, Cyanic, Casket Blaster and Brainoil.

“When we started, we definitely did so under the assumption that it would be in the weirdo punk realm of music,” Alberts says. A shared love of ’90s death metal and grind bands like Carcass and Discordance Axis would mutate those goals. 

“I was hoping to merge the sounds of Rudimentary Peni with Siege and harvest all the weird raw punk aspects,” Wilkinson says. “We sound nothing like that, but in a distant form, we did succeed in being weird and intense.”

A decade plus later, across international tours and a lineup change, It’s Only Midnight captures the band’s seasoned live sound—with compulsory twists and turns.

Long-time listeners will notice a loose, swinging bravado to the album’s drumming, courtesy of Clint Zane, Deathgrave’s newest member. Zane provides eclectic firepower to grindcore’s usual blastbeats. 

“I had already done everything else first. Jazz, punk, metal, lots of extreme music. But Deathgrave was my first straight-up grind band. I got to put my own stamp on it. I’m always stoked to write drum beats for great riffs.”

The band hop from tempo to tempo with ease. People who’ve seen Deathgrave play live can attest to their kinetic wall of sound. It’s Only Midnight presents the clearest case of their brand of telepathic deathgrind, synthesizing the blistering shock of grindcore with the claustrophobic tremolo guitarwork of death metal.

Alberts opens “On All Fours” with a Sabbathian riff before the band joins in, chewing through an algebraic power-chord blitz with inhuman dexterity. Wilkinson’s jagged, delay-laden licks and alien lead lines punctuate the riff workouts. After a spacey intro, “Slurring Sermons” has the Alberts/Wilkinson team deconstructing Cannibal Corpse riffs while Cornejo rants apocalyptic lines. On penultimate track “Lonely Streets,” Zane settles into a deep punk groove, scoring a long, dark, early morning walk down the Alameda.

The album’s cover depicts a crowded city in thrall conjoined with a monstrous arachnid. Album artist Max Rain melds the chaotic scene with surreal colors, as though seen through a set of multiple eyes. Though vivid in its horror, there is an undercurrent of the mundane, the real—perhaps the closest thing to a mission statement from the band.

“While it wasn’t the purpose to spark up a conversation regarding society, I’m sure those songs are influenced by some harsh realities of life,” Cornejo says. Through an impressive range of voices and belches, Cornejo pushes his performance and holds up a mirror to his city.

“It’s not necessarily a concept album but I do like that the setting gives the album a singular story with each song being a chapter.”

The culminating effect of It’s Only Midnight, its auditory mayhem, its grotesque artwork and palpable energy, is thoughtful, even psychedelic.

There is an ecstatic effect in underground working-class aggression. Through the dreary existence of long workweeks and mind-melting news cycles, the noise becomes a survival instinct—something to disrupt capitalistic machinations and build new realities. The 27+ minutes of It’s Only Midnight easily warps reality. 

Repeat at will.

Deathgrave

It’s Only Midnight record release show 

Sat, 7pm, $15

LvL Uproar, San Jose

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