The words which Steve Von Till, better known as the vocalist/guitarist for American sludge/progressive/post/kitchen-sink metal band Neurosis, pen for his self-titled solo project are as smooth as any folk album can deliver without sounding pretentious and exhaustive. The same can be said for the minimalist-qualities of the instruments, most of which only add subtle touches to emphasize Till’s hoarse, oppressive voice. In fact, virtually any part of A Grave Is A Grim Horse
oozes thought and careful consideration for what exactly that specific element is meant to achieve. The acoustic guitars are fluid, gentle, and warm while the cello touches place a sort of sorrowful background to the stories which are being told. Each song is a story in its own right, never hurried or overly anxious to go anywhere but not stagnant or unimaginative. The crescendos are hidden as simply vocal peaks before sliding down melodically into a pattern which often times repeats itself.
The way songs like “The Acre” plod along without any noticeable rush or even any change in emotion throughout the song’s run time is what makes Till’s work so interesting; it is simply a wall of depressed thoughts laid out onto paper and transcribed into notes of music. The several covers which dot the album are simply wonderful, from Townes Van Zandt’s “Spider Song” to his downright incredible rendition of Mickey Newberry’s “Willow Tree”, complete with haunting string arrangements in the background. The covers which are chosen all fall into place with the direction of the album, and don’t appear out-of-place or subpar to their original counterparts. Steve Von Till’s own material is equally impressive, with “Valley Of The Moon” and “Gravity” standing out as particularly impressive pieces, while others such as “Looking For Dry Land” and “Brigit's Cross” are lacking the direction which the other tracks possess and carry with such perfection.
A Grave Is A Grim Horse
is the product of six years of work, a fact which is clearly apparent upon first listen. The songs are lasting, well-written, and perfectly executed. It does bring about comparison to fellow Neurosis band mate Scott Kelly’s solo act, but in my opinion Till does a better job at establishing an atmosphere and just engulfing the listener therein. The deliberate lack of instrumentation strikes a chord with how serious the album is with its various topics, and as soon as Steve begins to sing, you know that this is something altogether original. Further proof that anything even associated with Neurosis is brilliant, A Grave Is A Grim Horse
is Till’s best solo album to date, and a bit of a change of pace from his last album If I Should Fall To The Field
, however subtle that change may be, and an altogether different animal than his debut As The Crow Flies
. With this tendency to change his sound, here’s hoping that Steve Von Till’s next album will be a refreshing, albeit enthralling, display of acoustic folk.