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Before settling on rock 'n' roll, Disgrace from Finland were a promising death metal band. Their "Inside the Labyrinth of Depression" demo was a unique offering of signature, down-tuned Finnish death and is one of my personal favorites from the land of one thousand lakes. It took me a while to track down "Grey Misery", their first full-length on the obscure French label Modern Primitive Records. I was very eager to find a copy and was expecting something just as good as the demo, if not better. When I finally got ahold of it, I realized that I had maybe set my hopes just a little too high.
Musically, it's not bad at all. Glancing over the track list, I immediately noticed that all 4 songs from their "Labyrinth" demo were on there. They were re-recorded for this album, changed around slightly, but still played with the intensity that was on that demo tape. There's also a bunch of new songs. Many of them feature strange, up-beat, rock'n'roll-type riffing. It feels a little out of place sometimes, and it was a sign of what's to come in the future. Luckily, the new songs are still filled with plenty of dark, mid-tempo death metal riffs and pulverizing blast parts. There's even some incredibly heavy, doom-like sections thrown in. The vocals are mainly deep, guttural growls (ala Demilich) along with the occasional higher-pitched screams.
The fact is, it's not the music itself that makes this album fall way short of a masterpiece - it's the way the music was recorded. The production on this CD is terrible. The drums are way too high in the mix, you can barely make out any of the guitars, the vocals are drawn out and the bass is non-existent. All you can hear during the fast parts of the songs is cymbals and a faint buzz from the guitar. It helps when you listen to this album on headphones, but even then you'll still be torturing yourself unless you can turn the "treble" knob all the way down. I mentioned the slow, doomy sections earlier - that's where everything sounds best. The drums slow down, while the guitars and vocals peak their way onto the surface. Sadly, these sections are few and far between.
Normally, bad production doesn't bother me that much as long as the music is good. But as with everything, there are exceptions. "Grey Misery" is mine. No matter how many times I listen to this album, I just can't get over the way it sounds. It almost seems like it was overproduced. I'll take the basic, 8-track production of their demo tapes over this any day. For the record, I have not heard the re-released version of this album and am unaware if it was remastered or not.
If you're looking to further explore the Finnish death metal scene of old, give this Disgrace CD a listen. Maybe you're not as sensitive to production as I am and you'll be able to appreciate this album for what it is. But I would strongly suggest finding a copy of their "Inside the Labyrinth of Depression" demo first.
Highlite tracks: "The Chasm", "Unity's Interlude Dyes Blind Tomorrow", "Waves of Hypocrisy Seas", "Transcendental Dimension"