by Wesley Muilenburg (@nuclearwessels9)
It’s not every day that an underground band gets what amounts to a deluxe reissue of their long-lost debut. Sometimes things are best left in the musty attic of time. Sometimes they should be brought out into the sunlight. Minneapolis trio Double Grave, formerly known as Ego Death, resurface the past with their new(ish) compilation EP, Ego Death Forever.
Consisting of their first single (“The Kiss”) and final EP as Ego Death, Ego Death Forever justifies a name change and a sonic shift. After its release in June, it’s hard to imagine a Double Grave-centric world without this EP. Before, the fuzzy Renaissance painting that is the music of Jeremy Warden, Bree Meyer, and Seth Tracy was missing a frame. Now the band’s sound has been made alive with the glory of history. They’ve been given roots from which to grow ever upwards.
With a release like this, there is a possible concern that the decision to put it out was fueled entirely by nostalgia. Fortunately, that is not the case (though it was certainly a factor). Sonically, it’s formative at times, but only with the foreknowledge of what subsequent Double Grave releases would sound like. Taken as it is, Ego Death Forever is as bright as the sunlight flooding everywhere on the record’s cover.
The trio basks in a surface-level sense of ease, even as they allow chaos to cluster just out of sight. Warden’s songwriting is more straightforwardly romantic and wistful, especially on “Orange Soda.” The fuzziness of EPs to come is offset by the lyrical bliss of constant love and the glowing tornado of surrounding memories (“Last time I saw you / the sun had yet to rise”). Sort-of lead single “The Kiss” matches lackadaisical vocal melodies with a vigorous drumbeat from Tracy and stellar guitar interplay between Meyer and Warden. It takes extreme specificity (“Third of July / 2005,” “I met you in north Wisconsin”), filters it through a euphoric haze, and gives it new life. It features the most relatable line on the whole EP: “Don’t wanna do that if you’re not coming along / It’s too cold and I don’t know anyone here.” Any frequent gig-goer deeply understands this sentiment.
On top of some of Double Grave’s catchiest material is some of its most experimental. “Days” has a classic murky start but soon dissolves into gorgeous sonic chaos. It’s the only song that might simultaneously remind you of Deafheaven’s shoegazier side and the horn sections of, say, a fourth-wave emo band or even Neutral Milk Hotel (much credit to Jamie White, who played all the trumpet parts). Then, there’s “Sunlight.” It takes the indie rock trope of the “final song that’s at least double the length of anything else on the record” and stuffs it in a blender. Noise becomes a way of life. The band creates a guitar waterfall and dances in its crashing downpour. Not a second of it feels misplaced, even as it seems like the song is carving its own path. It’s as ambitious as the dawn.
Ego Death Forever is an ode to the past, to every stupid decision, to every impulsive relationship, to every gig, to every song you ever sang, to everyone you used to love, to the things we’re afraid to forget one day. Instead of locking it in a vault in order to preserve it selfishly, Double Grave shoves it into the daylight. It’s far better to appreciate memories than treat them like artifacts; instead of a “do not touch” sign, there’s one that says, “please embrace.” By remixing their past, Double Grave has brightened their future.