Vore is a name I'll probably always remember thanks to a single, dedicated fan. It was somewhere in 1998-2000, at the Milwaukee Metalfest, where I saw the Arkansas band perform in one of the multitude of afternoon opening slots, and I recall one of their friends or followers shouting VORE for about 30-60 minutes afterward, well after they'd broken down their gear. At any rate, they've also got a few decent, mid-paced death metal slogs to their name, like the Dead Kings Eye EP in 1997 and the Lord of Storms full-length in 2001 which had a style somewhere between Bolt Thrower and Florida titans Deicide or Cannibal Corpse. Gravehammer, their third album, takes up the baton right where those recordings left off, so you're looking at another old school yet refreshingly non-trendy hammering: only this time they brought the cover art to really match the sound.
Nothing extraordinary about what these guys write, it's a lot of simple pummeling chug/grooves circa Realm of Chaos or War Master, with a more polished, dry production similar to the latter of the two. The vocals are largely a deep guttural, with some slathering of snarls that creates an overall atmosphere not unlike Glen Benton. Not a lot of memorable or interesting riffs through the album, perhaps, but then, a lot of 'war metal' sounding bands like this one have traditionally been more concerned with flattering you under their fists than reinventing the wheel. Vore at least accomplish this beating with fervor, as crude as their compositional ambition might seem. They occasionally delve into some slightly more complex patterns, like the winding mutes that permeate "The Unseen Hand's" chugging, or some of the later tracks which feel more spacious and atmospheric, but in general it's a bunch of chugging, minimalist riffs that feel like a tribal tribute to the movement of tanks across fields of human bones.
In the end, I wouldn't say that I found Gravehammer to be a 'great' release, but then neither is it a weak one. Fans of mid-90s production and simpler US sounds of bands like Cianide or Jungle Rot might draw some enjoyment out of this, or those that fancy the bone crushing overseas oldies of Benediction, Asphyx and the aforementioned Bolt Thrower. This isn't exactly a bastion of variation, nor is there much technicality to the music, but even when the band is writing a track of about eight minutes ("Doomwhore", "The Claw is the Law") they manage to imbue enough of an atmosphere that you'll grimly flex your neck along to its muted meat. It's cool to see that they've continued to trudge along for 17 years in lieu of a major breakthrough, and while this is unlikely to earn them a shift in that status, it's at least built from a consistent and brute backbone.
Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]