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The world was shocked in the early 90’s with the awakening of the Swedish death metal scene; the concept of Swedish as mellow, sweet and gentle was smashed all of a sudden…well, I mean musically of course.That country never had a solid scene until that moment, apart from some underrated thrash bands (Agony, Hexenhaus, Fallen Angel, Flegma, Hyste’ria G.B.C., Kazjurol, Midas Touch, The Krixhjalters, etc.), the popular lame pop group Europe and legendary doom metallers Candlemass. Nobody could expect what was yet to come, the glorious movement that would change the whole subgenre and influence a whole next generation, just like Possessed, Kreator, Sepultura, Destruction or Death did way back in the middle 80’s. Grave was one of those killer bands that were part of that wave, formed by 4 young angry guys with rage, talent and ambition, previously known as Corpse. Century Media Records was aware of the possibilities and potential of the group and offered them a record deal; I’m sure nobody could expect the amazing result of their first long-play, probably the most brutal debut in the history of metal. Welcome to the grave.
I think nobody could react with indifference to this stuff: each song is a violent exhibition of killer riffs, some raw and incredibly fast, other much weighty and slow. The band alternates fierce velocity with calmed mid-paced tempos during most of the compositions. The songs start with an intense quiet prelude of low-tuned riffs and then change suddenly into an unpredictable outrageous rhythm, defined by a bunch of blast-beats when you less expect it. Then they alterate the main riff sequence and concentrate on the delightful breaks, intrumental passages and pickin’ parts. That’s the pattern they follow on the raging “Day Of Mourning”, “Hating Life” or “Inhuman”, which are a remarkable lesson in song-writing complexity and technique, so don’t try this at home! And when Grave put emphasis on their crippling velocity and sadistic verses, then you’d better get ready to headbang: “Deformed”, “In Love” or “Banished To Live” are merciless, bestial and harsh to the extreme; the double bass-drum rhythms and the rampant riffing series are superb, along with the sinister vocals in a majestic display of incendiary death metal. The violence gets even higher on “Obscure Infinity”, “For Your God” and the iconic “Extremely Rotten Flesh”, which are plenty of impossible rhythm changes, pure aggression and power, and progressive instrumental parts and harmonies. Ola and Jörgen get together and synchronize notably with each other in the guitar parts to build an indestructible wall of sound, no weak spots can be found. The band introduces some stratospheric keyboards as well, to reach an evil atmosphere and climax (on the magnificent epic title-track, for example), just like Morbid Angel and Death tried before, providing the music of a dark halo that fits the grotesque leading vocals; the result is unnerving and unforgettable, like a nightmare come true.
The macabre horrific lyrics are as inspired and brilliant as the music itself, it’s time for pain, death, darkness, deformity, rotting meat and cruelty. The perfect combination for Grave’s crude sound and lethal technique; horror and skills, isn’t it what death metal is all about? I highlight the immaculate performance of both Lindgren and Sandström, their rough guitar work is unique, an exhibition of virtuosism and completely controlled technique and creativity. The influence of Tony Iommi’s peculiar style on most of their obscure heavy riffs is evident and obvious, and the legacy of Celtic Frost or Voivod is present and notable as well. The vocals are one of the most wicked characteristics on this masterpiece, almost inhuman, infernal and terrifying each second on these symphonies of slow death and savagery that are gonna freak you out at once. Bass and drums are strenghtful, very solid; Jensa Paulsson and Jonas Torndal parts are well-executed, professional and fortunately loud in the final mix. Tomas Skogsberg’s excellent production is another element that contributes to the perfection on this masterpiece: guitars, rhythmic section and voice are equally loud and powerful; each note and small detail is easily listenable and noticeable. The decent Century Media 2001 reissue features some rare bonus tracks: a couple of unreleased demos, “Tremendous Pain” and “Eroded” from a 7 inch EP and “Putrefaction Remains” and “Haunted” from the “In The Eyes Of Death” compilation. Those 4 ones specially feature the distinctive aggression and outstanding brutality of the band, but this time the primitive production provides the music of an unexpected savage sound, more raw than the stuff on the long-play itself, so don’t forget to check them out!
A killer debut, that’s what this is. Grave would never achieve the same intensity and state of grace as on this album, it’s clear this is one of those masterpieces a group can only make once in life. However, Ola and co. reached a much higher level than other Swedish bands of that time, I personally never got that excited with Dismember, Entombed or Unleashed, but I will never forget the first time I listened to this and the first impression I got: total catharsis, and I relive it each time I hear these evil numbers again and again. Highly recommended and essential for any death metal fan, and vital for the development of the early 90’s swedish movement. I just wish that this efficient line-up didn’t break up (nowadays Ola is the only one left) and that Grave didn’t introduce those changes in their sound in the mid-90’s, but anyway their glorious past can’t be forgotten.