Review Summary: Decent Swedish death metal that just about avoids boredom.
Grave are a Swedish death metal band who formed back in the 80's but that are still going strong to this day. They have managed to release albums frequently since their debut Into The Grave
and these albums have been largely similar, consisting of fairly straightforward death metal songs apart from a around 2005 when their albums began incorporating more technical elements thanks to a new drummer called Ekegren, but they stepped back into the more vintage sound in 2008 and have since continued down that route. These are songs much more similar to Deaths first album Scream Bloody Gore
than any of the more technical albums such as The Sound Of Perseverance
. The band is very much fronted Ola Lindgren the sole guitarist and vocalist who has been with the band since 1986 and who is responsible for writing a great deal of the songs and thus has the challenge of writing an album of fairly simple death metal that does not become monotonous or boring before the end, does he succeed? Yes, to an extent.
The album does contain its fair share of very fast power-chord focused riffing and while these parts of the album are effective and a staple of death metal they also represent some of the weakest parts of the album, as it is at its most interesting when it is deviating from this formula. The song Semblance In Black is a good example as it very much follows the death metal formula with its hasty drums and tremolo picked riffs that slowly grind you down but it is one of the weakest songs on the album because it doesn't do much outside of that. It has an incredibly sudden solo at one point but this is undermined by the fact that the solo just isn't very good, being too short and a bit of a mess, which is a shame because outside of that a much slower trudging section is all that's there to really excite you. And its songs like Semblance In Black that make songs like the next track on the album, Dismembered Mind seem so much more interesting as it mixes different tempos with impressive ease and also features an infinitely better solo although it does still sound slightly messy to me, although that could simply be tradition. The song has a neat moment where a higher chord rings out over one of the less inspired riffs on the album and this really elevates the song, it is something to remember and enjoy. The song also ends by getting progressively slower which makes it sound pleasingly evil.
The production on the album is not great. I have heard this sort of production on many records and it features on pretty much every Grave record. To me it just doesn't work to the albums advantage as the guitars can somehow feel to sludgy and too trebly at the same time and often the guitar and drums really clash and you end up with good riffs that are very hard to pick out from the drowning fuzz of sound, the solos have this problem the worst as they often sound completely drowned in the rest of the mix, especially if they are playing over one of the more speedy moments. The second half of Semblance In Black has a part where it sounds like its playing quite an interesting riff with two over-layed guitars buts its impossible to tell because the instruments just waddle all over each other. The production does give the album quite a lively feel and I would definitely not say it feels dead or robotic but it does strangle parts of the album and blunts the songwriting.
Guitar work over the album is pretty strong and changes between ferocious blast beat driven grinding riffs and the more drawn out power-chord with ease and executes both well. There is more to the album than just those two elements however as the title track which finishes the album deftly proves. It begins with an incredibly lo-fi sounding guitar part that is accompanied by what I assume is a movie quote of someone saying 'this place is a tomb' before drifting into heavier territory. About four minutes into the song there is another interesting moment as Ola shows some Sabbath worship that is very much evocative of the masters of realities earlier works with a diminished sounding single note riff that sounds just as evil as it should do. Lyrically the album is decent as none of the lyrics break new ground but none of them are laughably bad either. 'Expecting oppression for life/ companion in black' and 'my body is a map of pain/ a scar ridden wasteland' are fairly well written but nothing that every thrash and death metal band have been singing about for quite a few years now.
The reason the album doesn't get too dull by the end however is largely due to the fact that the album is actually pretty short with only nine songs and clocking in at only forty-two minutes which is definitely to the records credit as if it was much longer I can imagine that it would be a fair bit less interesting. I have not given Ronnie Bergerstahl or Fredrik Isaksson who play drums and bass respectively much of a mention and this is because although they manage they're instruments competently they did not give me much to remember either. I think it's fair to say however that despite the fact that I am not the biggest fan of this style of vintage death metal and especially the muddy production there are going to be people out there who get a lot out of this and it seems that Ola is by no means a bad songwriter and is one who has at least some determination to infuse his songs with embellishments that make them that slight bit better.