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When it comes to Grave you know you always get one thing and that is balls to the wall death metal of a very pure and classic variety. There are no frills and thrills attached, no silly sub genres, just death metal from day one. Taking this into account one has to listen to a Grave album knowing that they will be at worst listening to an homogeneous interpretation of previous records and at best listening to record that is stronger than past material but consistent in it's approach. "Fiendish Regression" follows in the footsteps of its forebearers and progresses forward.
"Fiendish Regression" up until the release of "Endless Procession of Souls" was the strongest of the post reunion albums. The distinctive buzzsaw tone is present and carries with it a warmer bass heavy sound complimenting the faster riffing to produce a much heavier offering. Ola Lindgren's vocals are distinctly aggressive and forceful, they differ from the more guttural roars of some contemporary bands in that they have a more screeched sound to them but without venturing into black metal style vocal territory, definitely still death metal. Lindgren has a very unique and superb vocal delivery in that it adds so much anger and passion to the music.
The riffing and general song writing on this album is solid and consistent without being groundbreaking, but then again what else do you expect from these guys? the instrumentation is most certainly not simple, it still takes great skill to play this music but technical it is not. Everything you expect from this band is present, fast thrashy rhythms complimented by chunky midpaced heavy riffs and groovy dark foreboding breakdowns. In the song "Bloodfeast" the listener is treated to a really fast and heavy headbanger that slows down into a breakdown, "Last Journey" shows more midpaced chunky riffs and drawn out power chords, these ideas and themes are very typical of this release.
This record features blasphemy a-plenty, even the album cover shows a darker and more deformed Jesus Christ and the sound is darker than previous releases. The lyrics on this album have a very forceful impact due to the vocal delivery which compliments the dark nature of the lyrics. The song "Trial By Fire" is a perfect example of this, the lyrics are about witch hunting and have a very strongly anti Christian tone to them and the aggressive screams of Ola help convey the hatred and contempt towards religion. Whether you agree or don't agree with the message contained it just goes to highlight the passion in the music, it's less about the actual message and more about the delivery that exudes a certain energy that draws you in more towards the music.
Production wise this album sounds a lot better than the previous record "Back From the Grave" the guitars have a fuller and warmer sound. Some might argue that the production is too clean compared to previous records but the fuller more bass heavy sound attacks the listeners ears in a vicious assault of heaviness. One criticism can be that sometimes the drums can be drowned out by the guitars, Grave have always been a very guitar oriented band with a heavy Swedish sound so this isn't too surprising but sometimes it does get in the way.
Always a vessel of consistency even in the much maligned records "Soulless" and "Hating Life" Grave show their chops and outdo themselves this time round with stronger riffs to compliment that trademark sound. If you're a fan of any release from this band then "Fiendish Regression" will definitely tickle your fancy and if you're a first time listener then this isn't a bad place to start.
After suffering their own mutation of that most horrid of chronic maladies known as the mid 1990s, this consequential contributor to the Swedish death metal scene was sort of stuck in semi-groove limbo. With the release of this aptly titled salutation to sickness and dismay “Fiendish Regression”, Grave finally succeeded in cracking through the walls of mediocrity and actually put out something that is respectable by the standards set by themselves circa 1991-1992. It doesn’t fully succeed in reliving the glory days of gore, darkness, mysticism and villainy that characterized “Into The Grave”, but it succeeds at being a modern variant on the same basic style quite nicely.
The contents of this album could be compared to a former student relearning old lessons, putting a greater emphasis on quality rather than quantity. As a result, the songs that emerge are fairly formulaic and easy to follow, but also leave a lasting impression on the listener. Dissonant, yet also memorable riffs and rudimentary melodic fragments work with a dark and bottom heavy production to recapture the old visual of a graveyard that this band used to put forth with ease. It’s a little bit less reverb heavy and hall-like than the abandoned stone structures to the unholy atmospheric vibe you get from Morbid Angel, but it draws from a similar sense of grimness and despair.
Although most of these songs contain pretty fast passages of double bass work and a few blast beats filter in and out, there is a sense of slowness to the sound, fed mostly by the doom influences that the band carries. Although the riffs here are a bit more dissonant and muddy and the vocals are guttural enough to put Corpsegrinder on notice, there are definitely noticeable parallels to “South Of Heaven” and early Saint Vitus, to the point of becoming a blatant homage at times. When combined with the fast drums and toneless barks of Ola Lindgren, this sense of traveling while standing still emerges. It doesn’t qualify as death/doom because there are too many thrash-like moments woven into this album (mostly paralleling Slayer and Kreator), but the doom elements definitely play a heavier role on here than they do on what most mainline bands associated with this style incorporate.
In terms of individual song quality, picking a favorite depends more on what stylistic leanings you look for in your death metal rather than one song necessarily being of a higher grade. “Last Journey” has one of those really haunting “South Of Heaven” intros that goes into a pretty epic sounding mix of sludgy, swamp drenched, low end, slow paced riffing and guttural ravings fit for a marching army of rotting corpses. “Out Of The Light” and “Bloodfeast” are good picks if you like death/thrash with a definite Morbid Angel tinge to it. And for Cannibal Corpse fanatics who want their death metal disgustingly atonal and loaded with tremolo work and fast as hell blast beats, “Breeder” is the one to hear.
This is definitely a worthy pickup for anyone who likes older styled death metal with a modern production. It lacks the cartoon-like gore worship that Cannibal Corpse popularized, the brutality for its own sake nonsense of many modern acts, as well as the lack of musicality that seems all too prevalent amidst a sea of cookie cutter acts with no identity of their own. Those shopping for it are encouraged to shop for the limited edition one which carries a really solid death metal remake of “Buried At Sea” by Saint Vitus and a pretty solid extra song in “Autopsied”. It’s a good step in the right direction, but things would get better still on later albums where things would get faster and more furious.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 27, 2009.
Finally, with this “Fiendish Regression”, Grave returned a bit to some of the sonorities that characterized their first two albums, pulling out the guts they lost in their previous albums to follow the long path of groove death metal. That groove, was not excessive like the one in the modern bands but simply doesn’t fit the Grave sound at all, because it made him so weak and boring. I didn’t like it as you stated from the other reviews I did for those albums.
Here the things as I said, are a bit different but not awesome anyway. What I didn’t like so much on this CD is the production that is too similar to an American death metal one, instead of being sharp and brutal as the Swedish death metal deserves. Maybe, you are judging me as a schizophrenic nancy boy that doesn’t appreciate anything and criticises everything. I’m so sorry but it’s what I think and obviously I do not pretend to be the “only and last word” on these albums, accepting any complaints. No problem.
Returning to the music, here the tempos, in general, are faster and heavier and that’s a thing I like. “Last Journey” begins with an arpeggio on the electric guitar without the distortion to end in the same part with the distortion on, this time. The tempos here are just a bit faster for the bass drum while the biggest part is for the guitars in their crushing sound. The groove is a bit left to privilege the quite pure doom parts and that is better without too many stopped chords patterns.
What makes the atmospheres really obscure in some songs, is the use of the single note pick to let them sound for long seconds creating a sort of a march to hell. That is definitely better than the groove if you want to play mid paced parts. Unbelievably, “Reborn” and “Breeder” feature powerful blast beats among several down tempos! It’s new thing for Grave too because, a part from some of them on the debut album, they never played such fast.
Fortunately a mostly mid paced song like “Awakening” for example doesn’t show anymore all those groove parts and the Grave’s new style in these ones is far better and catchy. The riffs are now massive and pounding with a growing will to destroy and take no prisoners. “Trial by Fire” is another example, but by the end increases in speed leading us to the up tempos of “Out Of The Light”. The following mid paced “Inner Voice” is destroyed by the violence of the good “Bloodfeast” that features, among the others, a great drums work, as the last, fast as hell “Heretic”.
Well, at the beginning I was quite doubtful respect this album but going on listening, I must say that is not bad! Finally, Grave give us signs of life through a re-conquered violence and speed. Keep up the good work guys, because that’s the right way.
Before I begin my review of "Fiendish Regression," I'd like to put a small disclaimer at the start. Here's the disclaimer: this is an old-school death metal album! There are no frills, it's not meant to be technical or super-original. This is an album to headbang to, not to write a book on music theory about.
Why did I say all of that? Well, here's why. I'm sure a lot of people in the death metal community would overlook this album. We're so used to being force-fed a flurry of tech-death (i.e. Necrophagist - who I like, but they are a good example) and contemporary bands trying to blur the lines between genres, that we almost have a tendency to look over the bands and styles that began the entire movement. "Fiendish Regression" is a beautiful example of old-school no-frills death metal, and I think that's why so many people are going to skip past it in the record store. I think we (myself included) sometimes get so caught up in the trends and the up-and-comers, that we forget about bands (like Grave) who have such a tremendous impact in all of it.
Anyway, enough soap-boxing. Here's the review. First of all, let's talk about what the music style entails. It's old-school Swedish death metal (i.e. old Entombed), so not much to enlighten on. There's your classic Swedish buzzsaw guitar tone, lots of D-beats and blastbeats, a midranged vocal style.
There is one thing about the guitar tone that was a bit surprising, though. This album is FUCKING HEAVY. I mean, sure it's death metal, but there is such a thundering crunchy low end to the guitar tone... I have no idea how they achieve that sound. I mean, during chordy parts, it has that buzzsaw tone, the tremolo picking sections sound cleaner, and the groove sections are unspeakably brutal, with a thundering bass-heavy low-end feel. It's so bizarre that one guitar tone can have so many different elements.
The mix is somewhat bass heavy, even though the bass isn't the prevalent instrument, but you can feel it's presence, and the overall tone is very dark.
The drums are mixed a little quiet for my taste, but they are proficiently executed and far more energetic than Grave's prior releases (i.e. blastbeating).
My only complaint for this album is that it's not as good as some of the other Grave material I've heard, hence the score not being higher up. The standout tracks are amazing, but some of the other songs are a little samey (though by no means bad). In my opinion, the more emotionally-driven "You'll Never See," as well as "Back From The Grave" and "As Rapture Comes" are superior releases.
The recommended tracks for this album are Reborn, Feeder, Bloodfeast and Heretic (the St. Vitus cover and the re-recording of "Autopsied" are pretty good as well).
Well, here's the problem. Grave's last album, "Back Into the Grave," had some very catchy choruses, but overall was a bit too slow and a bit thin in terns of your average evil Swedish death metal sound. This new album, "Fiendish Regression," has the heavier, murkier sound, more speed, but lacks the singalongs and pummelling breakdowns.
I am fearful that Ola has run out of ideas, it seems like I've heard the trademark Graveriffs in every song on "Fiendish" at least once before from this band. However, the addition of a drummer who has some energy could really help this band along. In fact, from time to time they remind me of the Grave of Old, pre - Soulless even. The problem is that the new drummer hasn't quite figured out how to slow down and accompany the big ole Grave slow, groovy chorus. I get the feeling that the next album put out by this new lineup will be excellent, if they manage to find a balance. Or hey, go for more all out speed and throw down something like "You'll Never See." That would be rad.
Whelp, the album itself is not too bad. Maybe 68 is unwarranted. Still, I expected a bit more, and what I got was some murky, somewhat repetitious (but undeniably Grave) tunes. The first song, the third song, and the fourth are good, but not entirely memorable. I feel like this album starts to pick up towards the end, but by the time you've gotten to track 7 you've waited for a while. Still, tracks 7, 8 and 9 are brutal, and 9 even has some "Left Hand Path" keyboards in it. Excuse the lack of names for tracks, but I don't have the disc in front of me (I'm at work).
I think the St. Vitus cover is awesome as well, though I've never heard this band's original stuff I assume they sound somewhat like Eyehategod, and Grave does well with a slow, doomy style. Maybe that's what their next album should be, all slow and doomy, or wait, maybe fast and thrasy, ah, I don't know. I just want Grave to step up to the plate and really deliver something that makes me think "Soulless." Is that too much to ask?
It's kind of refreshing to hear early-90s melodic Swedeath stuff coming out in 2004. I thought that particular subgenre had pretty much died out, giving way to lame shit like Soilwork and In Flames and the like. Bands like Dismember and Grave have come back with some killer shit in 2004, as have fairly new bands, such as Ribspreader.
Grave's 2004 effort, Fiendish Regression, isn't bad. It's not nearly as good as Dismember's As Ironcrosses Grow, but it's a solid 40-minute block of oldschool Swedeath. You pretty much know what you're getting here: Dirty, crunching riffs, plenty of double bass and a big helping of pure Swedeath chugging.
None of the tracks here really stand out that much. The guitarwork isn't particularly impressive, the drumming is rather mechanical and uninspiring, and the vocals are pretty much typical. There's certainly nothing inventive here; it's just like a trip back in time 15 years to a time when the generic metal wasn't horrific nu-metal shit, it was stuff like this new Grave. Overall, it's good enough to keep you listening, though you might want to skip forward every now and then. It's not good enough, however, to keep your fist pumping and your head banging. It's just good enough to show you that the bands that can't make really good metal aren't all going to just make shit, they might make something like this.
Fiendish Regression is fairly boring, I guess, but refreshing nonetheless. There are certainly better Grave albums to pick up, and there are certainly better 2003-2004 Swedeath albums to pick up. Hell, there's a new Ribspreader coming out in the fall. This genre isn't dead. It's too early to tell whether it's making a big comeback, but at least there are a handful of bands left.