Formed in 2008, Earthen Grave is a six-piece Chicago metal band that marries the sounds of metal past and future with a sweaty, pummeling live show. Bassist Ron Holzner served a 15-year sentence with Chicago doom legends Trouble and Rachel Barton Pine brings her frightening classical chops to a relatively new instrument, the Viper. Finding groups like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Saint Vitus, Trouble, Pentagram, Candlemass and Slayer to be common influences, the band wrote and played shows around Chicago for the first half of 2009, culminating in the release of the“Dismal Times” EP in June. Featuring three original songs that meld classic, crunchy doom and NWOBHM vibes with a solid dose of thrashy bludgeoning alongside covers of two choice doom classics by Pentagram and Witchfinder General, the EP was hailed by critics as “astounding,” and “pure, head-banging bliss” (MaximumMetal.com) and prompted Doommantia.com to write, “Can’t wait till the band gives us a full length with all originals...they have all the songwriting capabilities to make one of the best albums ever.”
In July 2010, Earthen Grave closed the Great Performers of Illinois festival at Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s famed Millennium Park, where Rachel received the 2010 Great Performer of Illinois award. The band was featured on NBC’s Today Show and live in studio on WGN’s nationally televised Midday News. Earthen Grave has shared the stage with such luminaries as Megadeth, Black Label Society, Mayhem, Macabre, Anvil, Machine Head, Pentagram, Novembers Doom, Raven, Skindred, and Nachtmystium and played at Indianapolis’ Templars of Doom III festival, Milwaukee’s Rave, Wisconsin’s Brat Stop and Vnuk’s, New York’s Piano’s and Europa Club, and Philadelphia’s Mill Creek Tavern, as well as at Chicago-area landmarks like House of Blues, The Metro, Double Door, Reggie’s Rock Club, Shark City, Chicago City Limits, Abbey Pub, and Pearl Room.
Earthen Grave boasts an undeniable collective metal and musical pedigree. Ron was a member of the seminal and seismic doom pioneers Trouble, who are widely regarded as one of the most important unsung American metal bands. Jason is a gifted guitarist and composer who has lived the music, both as a member of the critically-acclaimed The Living Fields and as founder of Deadtide.com. Scott’s dedication has manifested as a drummer in numerous metal bands, booking shows and running radio station Rebel Radio. Tony has been in and around the metal scene for many years, and has worked with such bands as Trouble, Prong and Ministry. Mark has performed and recorded with several bands including Trifog. And while Rachel had never been in a metal band per se, her status as an internationally-acclaimed classical violin soloist has taken her all over the world as both performer and music ambassador. While on tour for classical performances, Rachel often visits rock radio stations to perform metal songs and discuss the genre’s intensity and compositional complexity.
Earthen Grave emerged late in 2008, as Jason was working on another project. He recalls, “I had just finished writing the living fields’ new album and was on a Saint Vitus (the pioneering ‘80s doom metal band from Los Angeles) kick, and I just started writing these doom riffs. I was wondering who I could play this stuff with, so I reached out to Scott and asked him what he thought, and things just snowballed.” Enlisting Ron in their project, the trio soon had their first jam. Jason says, “The first rehearsal was tough, but after we sorted out some issues with downtuning, things really jelled.” The band put out an ad looking for a vocalist, and Mark responded the very next day. He recollects, “I saw Scott’s name in the ad, so I knew it was serious. I knew of Ron from Trouble. The minute we played for the first time, it felt right. I knew immediately that I wanted to be in this band.”
Then Scott, who had known Rachel for many years through the local metal scene, invited her to a rehearsal. Rachel brought along her new instrument, an amplified six-string Viper, an extended-range cousin of the electric violin. She says, “I’ve been listening to metal for most of my life. And for fifteen years I had been playing metal on acoustic violin. But the first time I jammed with Earthen Grave, it was so much more intense than anything I had previously experienced – playing metal loud felt amazing.” Jason adds, “We knew from that rehearsal that we definitely wanted Rachel in the band. She brings a completely different dimension to the music. Violins have often been a part of metal, but usually playing parts underneath or above the band. This time, an electric violin will be woven into the DNA of the band as a core instrument.”
Tony was the final piece. As he puts it, “I went to practice with them, and immediately I could tell they had something really interesting happening. Yes, the doom thing is there, but with a fresh twist, with different melodies and tempos. And what Rachel brings is just totally new.” He continues, “But what made the decision to join easy for me is the integrity of the people in the band, and the love with which they play.”
The band is dedicated to exploring new possibilities for the genre. Jason says, “It’s not about being the heaviest band or the slowest – it’s about having good songs and playing them live.” “Scott, Tony and I played doom metal before it was even called that,” Ron continues. “And for Jason, the music we pioneered was his influence. We’re bringing the strands of the music together - and with Rachel using the violin as a core component of a metal band, we’re taking the genre on a new journey.”