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Oh no…when all seemed to go well for Grave, here we have this album to start the “long road to groove”. If in some groups this “element” could fit well (just in very few albums), in Grave sound it doesn’t. We left them with the excellent “…You’ll Never See” that already showed us some weird mid paced parts but, always being very brutal and obscure, I liked it a lot. Here the mid tempos are really eternal and thanks to some up tempos in “Turning Black” I can survive to this.
I’m not a kind of guy who likes total speed but I prefer it compared to this title track for example. The only “fast” thing here is the bass drum, that anyway is played in a tired way…doom…At the end you are really exhausted. The production being too clear is no more evil or rotten and the guitars are really chainsaws in the distortion. Some groovy drum-guitars tempos in “I Need You” make me puke.
The guitar riffs are too generic and the vocals are uninspired. If a track like “Bullets Are Mine” was supposed to be heavy, well that’s me laugh! Tracks like “Bloodshed” and “Unknown” are remarkable for the up tempos, “And Here I Die” for the evil riffage and good refrain but the rest is more or less forgettable to be polite.
I keep on asking myself: what the fuck happened to death groups at the beginning of the 90s?? Were they thinking to be cool mixing this shit with death metal? Grave with this CD are one of the best/worst example. When you start to skip the tracks at the second listening means that this is almost completely bad. What an agony…I’m Soulless…
On first listen and compared to their previous back catalogue (dating back to demos from 1987) this seems a rather ordinary and somewhat lacklustre affair. Immediately we’re hit with a vocal delivery distinctly lacking in belligerently bestial growls that the Grave aficionado of that day was used to, nor is the music instantly recognizable as a corpse compactor audio file - the up-front, unbridled, in your face venom and said embodied spirit also appears to be missing on first glance. These immediate changes could well mislead the unwary listener and give the impression of a rock roll drenched washout of the masters of death - the band formerly known as Grave...
A closer inspection of 1994’s Soulless reveals that the venom is actually still there, just the delivery has changed a little; plenty of lyrics spat out with blasphemous intent, complementing awesome breaks in true Grave fashion that guarantee headbanging and create an insurmountable urge to sing along. The main difference in comparison to the full lengths Into the Grave and You’ll Never See is the riffs are slower, showcased in the mid paced variety - opposed to Ola’s previously grinding death metal licks - they remain sledgehammer heavy. On further reflection, Grave never played that fast to begin with; it was the speed of the riff coupled with a slightly quicker drum pace (not really considered blasts beats by American Death Metal standards) that gave the appearance of death grind. So after the initial shock settles and we give Soulless some breathing space it reveals itself as the third element in the unholy trinity – indeed one of Grave’s finest efforts to date. Firing a quick glance towards their peers, the band vocalist Jörgen Sandström was soon to join (Entombed) on bass and one might understand/make sense of the use of the broad dose of rock influence metal.
Opening with a classic, brief sample "bitches leave!" from the movie Robocop we kick into Turning Black and this is where the first vocal shock arrives, a rather harsh timbre, most likely influenced by the growing popularity of black metal. With the introduction of the track Soulless it’s time for another freak out as Jensa Paulsson introduces a standard drum beat to our ears much like ZZTop rock but faith is quickly restored, the guitars dredge with a lead in riff followed by the main verse and a more familiar death growl bellowing “In my dominion I control the weak…” Though Sandstroms vocals aren’t as deep as Grave’s previous records, they’re far more pronounced and clear; often deep and on numerous occasions heading into black metal-esque territory in various pitches. The difference is rarely as contrast as black and white. The tempo of the drumming is generally quicker for the rest of the album and double bass is present on every track but each song is much more controlled and restrained than their predecessors, never frantic. All up, it’s heavy on the groove, backed with some humorous lyrics i.e. Rain’s “I know you rest under that flower bed And I am going down” followed shortly by the catchy chorus “On a bed of roses, under a clouded sky, I cover you with kisses, your blood makes me high/They say you're dead, so I should leave you alone, I'm so in love, that I don't care…” throw in a bluesy rocking guitar solo and you have magick.
They end the album with the track Scars, which is sheer brilliance along with And Here I Die (Satisfied) –both tracks covered in previous reviews. There plenty of other memorable moments too- a demonic instrumental Judas, projecting a foreboding atmosphere of anguish clocking in at 3 minutes and never overstaying its welcome. Bloodshed will leave you growling the chorus for days “The sweet serenity is broken by the angels weep and there will be Bloodshed”. I Need You and Bullets are both full of hooks, breaks and lyric patterns that will not leave your subconscious alone!
The material presented on Soulless could logically be construed as a natural progression for Grave - with each new release they appeared to be refining their sound with maturity, becoming progressively slower and more tempered.
One thing can be said about Grave, they may not be the most original band on the
Swede block but they knew how to metal up - their sound is thick and heavy with fuzzy bass, booming drums and dense guitars. Owning enough collective talent to make what they do interesting and compelling with catchy rhythms laced with deathly melodies - but invent the wheel they do not. However, if you like your metal of the Stockholm variety (though they’re not native to Stockholm, originally hailing from Visby on the isle of Gotland they relocated to Stockholm) then Grave are one of the bands that warrant ones attention; Fred Estby (Dismember fame) assisted Tomas Skogsberg behind the desk with production at Sunlight Studios for Soulless.
On a final note, Soulless was also Sandström's swan song before Ola took over the vocal duties much to the distaste of many fans. Perhaps Soulless is a statement of where the band was at and possibly, plausible differences of stylistic opinion within the band. Whatever the philosophical outcome of that debate, Soulless will be remembered as just that, the last album with Sandström's mighty voice even if the delivery was leaning a little towards the harsher possibly black metal sound popular at the time. I only need you to survive!
How goes it metalheads, this is my first review. At first I thought it was silly to spend some of my precious time at work (ha) writing reviews for CDs that no one listens to, but when I saw the other review for Soulless I knew action had to be taken.
Grave's "Soulless" is a goddamn mid-paced death metal masterpiece. While they have toned it down a bit since the days of "You'll Never See..." in terms of speed, "Soulless" grooves along in a very funky and undeniably old - skool Swedish way. They still mix in some quick drums here and there, which have been absent from their last few releases. And this is the last one with Mr. Paulsson, whose vocals are way more evil (with little to no studio - added cruelty) than the Grave of today. The lyrics focus on good ole Satanism, digging up dead girlfriends, raping and decapitating your mother, choruses of crying angels, etc.
This album is accessible to those who don't need their death at 2000mph, and love big breakdowns. And boy is Grave great at the big breakdown, turn on "Turning Black," wait a bit for Jensa to say, "There is no...turning back," and then prepare thyself for headbanging. The beginning of the album is very strong, with the aforementioned "Turning Black," the hilariously satanic "Soulless," my favorite track 'I Need You," and the death 'n roll flavored "Bullets are Mine." And Bloodshed (which starts a trend of Grave spelling song tites incorrectly) rocks pretty damn hard too.
The whole album brings a nice mix of double-bass fueled brutality and chunky, rythmic slow parts. This starts to get tedious toward the end, songs like "Rain" and "Genocide" are pretty forgettable. The album thankfully ends with the slow, almost radio - friendly (minus the fact that it's Grave) track Scars, which evokes the feeling of its lyrics well.
Bottom line, this is the first death metal album I owned and I am quite happy that it was. It got me into the whole old skool Swedish scene, which has branched out into all of the horrible things I listen to today. If you like Grave, or rib-crushing funky death metal, then pick it up. "Soulless" is enjoyable for a number of reasons, the lyrics being a fine example, check out the end of "Bloodshed" (or Blodshed, your choice)...
I WANT TO SEE YOU DEAD.
(Edit - Whoops, got the band members all mixed up here. It is Jorgen on vocals and bass(back then), Jensa on drums, and of course Ola handles the guitar.)
The title really suits this album. Soulless is filled with mid-paced, watered down death metal which clearly lacks soul. All of the songs plod forwards with the same speed and the structures don't differ much at all. The album is recorded at Sunlight and it has the Sunlight sound which is another notch against the album. At this point in Swedish death metal Sunlight was just way overused. Otherwise the album is mixed well if rather predictably which is of course expected. The songs have hooks and some are at least slightly catchy, but with the riffs being as generic and half-assed as they are, they just aren't enough. Jörgen Sandström's vocals are very much toned down into a measely ordinary growl from his deep and guttural death vocals of the days of old. You wouldn't be too far off if you'd describe Soulless as Into the Grave with more groove and less death and brutality. Two songs do rise up from the blandness of the rest. And Here I Die... Satisfied has a very catchy chorus and some good guitar leads and Scars is a rather slow and moody song with yet again some good guitar melodies.
All in all, the whole album seems to lack motivation. The album sounds rather lazy and the compositions seem to be done in a haste to just get something on plastic. I don't know if the label put pressure on the band or what but you're better off just getting the two songs I mentioned as mp3s and forgetting this whole album was ever released.