Death metal album covers have long been impressive works of art in their own right. The quality of the music that lies within, however, doesn't typically reach the high-water marks of the teasing visual aesthetic. Philadelphia's PISSGRAVE has a reputation for the overwhelming gruesomeness of its album covers depicting real images rather than ones that are drawn. The remnants of a suicide victim's decomposing body in a bathtub "grace" the frontside of their self-titled 2014 demo, while fecal-drenched human bones in a bathtub adorn their 2015 long player: "Suicide Euphoria". Not surprisingly, the quartet is a lightning rod for controversy due to image selections that even challenge the comfort level of some seasoned death metalheads. Most importantly in the case of PISSGRAVE, the music sounds utterly heinous and disturbing.
The Pennsylvania-based band breaks tradition by refraining from selecting bathtub-related visuals on its sophomore effort, "Posthumous Humiliation", but it remains just as offensive and depraved depicting a human head that appears ripped and torn apart. Setting aside the understandable discussion, debate and attention to the imagery, the quality of the music is what matters most at the end of the day. And PISSGRAVE has once again delivered the goods in the most (desirably) disgusting way possible. "Posthumous Humiliation", in fact, establishes PISSGRAVE as one of the most relevant and attention-worthy acts on the death metal circuit today.
The nine tracks comprising the unit's second long player are essentially a fusion of the aggressive grit of classic death metal with the relentlessness of grindcore and the filth and attitude of war metal. In spite of the grotesque pictures that hint toward goregrind and porngrind, PISSGRAVE doesn't come across as childishly comical. And on the flip side, these extreme metal enthusiasts aren't unintentionally funny in the laughing-at-you-rather-than-with-you way in which so many metal bands that take themselves too seriously are. PISSGRAVE sounds as depraved and downright scary as the cover art suggests.
"Posthumous Humiliation" isn't just more of the same. PISSGRAVE has become a more refined and potent version of their former selves with more melody, dynamics and tempo variety. Sure, the collective has a charming appearance with the eighties-like promo photo. All members' faces are concealed by their scraggly, long hair as they stand in a cemetery. But unlike the bulk of their contemporaries who are obsessed with an aesthetic whilst peddling forgettable fracas, the members of PISSGRAVE are obviously adept and meticulous in their detailed, thoughtful songwriting. Whether it's the unforgiving and oppressive fury of "Euthanasia" and "Into The Deceased" or the lurching menace of "Funeral Inversion" and "Catacombs Of Putrid Chambers", "Posthumous Humiliation" provides enough proof to merit the hype behind PISSGRAVE.