Review Summary: Grave’s marble is opened and a breeze of fresh air is introduced along with the putrefaction and the stench.
In between oral and written debates about the early ‘90s Swedish death metal scene, there is little chance that the Grave moniker will not be brought up to the table. Along with Entombed, Unleashed and Dismember, Grave led the first of two band waves (the second files under the flag of black metal) that were detached from thrash, in seeking for more extreme ways of expression. Their first two albums, Into The Grave
and You Will Never See…
are considered as records of reference for the early ‘90s Swedish death metal. Since their 2002 come back, Grave have been presenting slightly altered versions of their custom style, with a fluctuating degree of acclaim, attributed primarily to the band’s degree of focus to the old school way of doing things. Upon the release of Burial Ground
in 2010, band lineup has been through some changes, as bassist Fredrik Isaksson left his place for Tobias Cristiansson (ex-Dismember), while a second guitarist, Mika Lagrén (Facebreaker, ex-BackWardness) came aboard. In the absence of credible inside info, it is assumed that a terrific chemistry exists between the new lineup because the new Grave album Endless Procession of Souls
is undisputedly the band’s best work in the last ten years.
In their new album, Grave move away from the old school vibe that their previous two albums attained by conviction and introduce a sense of “freshness” in every sector. This is by no means a new situation for them, as a similar undertaking had taken place in Soulless
with respect to the first two albums, only this time the effect of Endless Procession of Souls
with respect to the previous two albums (Burial Ground
and Dominion VIII
) is infinitely stronger. This freshness in perception is firstly introduced through the sound production (made exclusively by the band in Ola Lindgren’s personal studio), which is e-a-s-i-l-y the best the band ever had. The drums sound massive albeit with no triggers, while the “tartarus residing” bass level of the guitars in Burial Ground
is prolifically compromised this time with a good deal of prima levels, a combination that makes them sound massive yet accessible. The same holds for the guitar leads (the best Grave had in years) as well.
However, a good sound production doesn’t mean anything if the actual music is not worth it and Grave make substantial progress in that respect. In contrast to what was the case in the previous two albums, song writing duties have been undertaken by the whole band under the close inspection of founding member Ola Lindgren and the result is beyond any reasonable expectation. While the band is not reinventing the gun powder in any case, the structure and the flow of the songs are carefully optimized. The lack of innovation is not annoying at all with reference to the exceptional material, while the superb sound production compensates for the sense of unwelcome familiarity in the (few) cases where the style of the band is shamelessly rehashed (“Passion of the Weak”, “Winds of Chains”). In result, exceptional death/thrash anthems (“Amongst Marble and the Dead”, “Perimortem”) are homogeneously mixed with neck breaking (“Disembodied Steps”, “Plague of the Nations”, “Epos”), Celtic Frost related (“Flesh Epistle”, “Encountering the Divine”) groove, whereas the doom element is present throughout the album.
Apart from the original material of Endless Procession of Souls
, the band appears to have great confidence in its capabilities and in effect makes some expected and some highly unusual choices in covering songs of old. The huge shock comes in the adaptation for early ‘90s death metal of Voivod’s eponymous song from Killing Technology
. Granted, Grave is not an instrument shredding band, however their take on the aforementioned Voivod classic anthem is good, if not anything else because the rather simple song structure favors its decent adaptation by the band. Surprise No. 2 comes from the cover of Anthrax’s “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” from Among The Living
, and the question about how crossover thrash would sound if it was dressed with an early ‘90s death metal suit is superbly answered. Lastly, Grave pay an expected and decent tribute to their mentors Celtic Frost as they cover “Mesmerized” from Into The Pandemonium
. The key features of the cover lie in that the band has done a great job in replicating the gloomy sound of Into The Pandemonium
and in Ola’s vocals which mimic those of Thomas G. Warrior convincingly.
In retrospect, with Endless Procession of Souls
Grave’s marble is opened and a breeze of fresh air has been introduced along with the putrefaction and the stench. The quality of the new Grave album implies that the right people got together in the right place and in the right time and made things much more interesting. Are the best yet to come? Only tomorrow knows, even if it’s about a veteran band of old school death metal cruising through its tenth full-length release.