Review Summary: THERE IS NO HOPE, WHY DON'T YOU! dun dun dun dunnnn, dun dun dun dunnnn, dun dun dun dunnnnn, PULL THE PLUGGGGGGGGGGG
Chuck Schuldiner may have passed away in 2002, but his impression on the music industry is something that can never die. Although often seen as the man who singlehandedly invented the genre of death metal, he was much more than that; a free thinker, one who often looked above and beyond the typical tropes of metal in search for originality and creativity. Other DM bands laughed at the lyrics of Human and ITP, which focused primarily on philosophy, common sense, and the complexity of the human mind instead of murder, satan, war, or disease. Symbolic brought more melodic and mid-paced thrash elements into the mix, where as TSOP completely reinvented the term "progressive death metal." If Chuck hadn't had died, he'd still be experimenting with each new release. He was a pioneer and an inspiration, and a lot of people clearly looked up to him. Gruesome's Savage Land is an open Chuck tribute, but it goes way beyond just being a tribute: it just ***ing kicks ass.
First things first: Gruesome sounds nearly identical to Death's Leprosy or Spiritual Healing in every single aspect. Riffs, song structure, guitar solos, lyrical themes, all instruments, production, vocals, the band logo, even the album artwork. It's almost like a thesis study of those two albums, like every single aspect of those two records were studied and scrutinized on every level to produce an identical offspring. Many people could throw the "rip-off" or "get some originality" cards, but I say *** you. Why? Let's be honest here; Leprosy and Spiritual Healing riff hard. This riffs just almost as hard, almost. Many times, like the title track and "Gangrene" explode in catchy and destructive riffs that blow your headphones off. Chuck would very grateful of this release simply because of these killer riffs.
In regards to capturing the production of the album, Gruesome is nearly flawless in recreating the studio sound of Death. The bass drum centered drum sound of Bill Andrews was captured nicely, and the guitar was very close to the sound Schuldiner and Rick Rozz had in 1988. I can only wonder how many hours it took to get the sound right for this record. The aura of utmost evil and doom was obtained perfectly. There's almost no beating Chuck Schuldiner and James Murphy, but sound-wise, these guys do a massive fine job.
Right when the listener thinks that the album could not get any better after the gore drenched epic "Gruesome" is done playing, there is a cover of Death's "Land of No Return," a fitting song with the lyrics talking about your "screams going unheard." The production of this cover was much nicer than the production of Scream Bloody Gore version of "Land of No Return" and the vocals were much more crisp. Overall, the cover was another reason to check out this band. Then, your day gets even better because there is a cover of Slayer's "Black Magic." As a Slayer fan who usually is a pessimist about other bands' covers of their music, I cannot say that there was a lot problems with the cover of "Black Magic." King and Hanneman's raw fury in their licks and solos were amazingly reproduced and Lombardo's spastic drumming was handled like a pro. My only complaint was that I was not a huge fan of Harvey's interpretation of Araya's vocals. I was missing the occasional screech and the slightly cleaner vocals that Tom Araya dishes out. The production however was nailed perfectly. The fade-in intro with the hi-hat and guitar/bass sixteenth note pattern was beaten out wonderfully and with an intensity all its own. I like covers that sound like carbon copies of the original because it shows off someone's skill in replicating a sound. Revising a song is also very impressive because of the originality involved. The "Black Magic" cover present in Savage Land was a good mix of each aspect. Chuck actually covered "Black Magic" live, so it's an even more epic pick to put as an album bonus.
Savage Land is a must have for fans of early Death-like death metal and is absolutely, 100% worth your time. I really do hope that this album won't be the only released by Gruesome, because I along with other Death/Gruesome fans will be waiting eagerly for round two. Maybe like every new Gruesome album could mimic the next Death album? That would be interesting to see these guys play Symbolic and TSOP in a few years. Chuck Schuldiner would definitely approve of this supergroup's efforts to make an album in his name. CHUCK