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In this whole furor of old skull death metal, it can be easy to dig the filthy rumble of some new group of Swedeath-worshiping hopefuls one day, and have forgotten what their logo looks like the next. Among the multitudinous putrid morass are a number of outfits producing highly convincing punishment that makes them worthwhile in their own right, rather than just as a potentially entertaining opening act you might happen to see. Spain's Graveyard, for example, are a band that I endeavour to follow and collect at every possible turn, so their latest record was approached with high hopes.
The Sea Grave is forty minutes of worthy sequel to the excellent first album, and although it might not receive quite as many repeat plays as that one it is sure to get more than its fair share. It has the most massive sound Graveyard have achieved yet, its menacing guitar tone and monstrous bass lines reinforcing the Bolt Thrower/ Hail of Bullets vibe, but still with the creepy riffs nicked from the likes of Depravity and Abhorrence. The three 'R'lyeh' intros are pretty pointless and, as my brother said while we were cranking this in the car, the opening of 'The Visitations of the Great Old Ones' is a pretty damn good start to an album in its own right. Boom-boom-boom and then right into blasts - setting the formula quite nicely for a record that continues following the Bolty and Unleashed influences Graveyard wear on their leather sleeves, with perhaps a dank odour of their deathrone-occupying countrymen Teitanblood detectable.
That might be in part due to drummer Gusi, who has impressed since Graveyard first wafted up on my radar (and who by the way kicks just as much cadaverous arse in his other band Morbid Flesh). This guy is still upping his game it seems, keeping it ugly and simple, but scaling up the pace and brutality enough to take the album to the next level. His blast beats are enough to bring in the black/ death crowd for this one, while the mix of Dismemberisms and Blasphemophagher-esque atrocities occasionally spewing off the strings of Bastard and black/ thrash vet Mark Wild are probably enough to keep 'em.
The guitars in general, while not loosing riffs quite as catchy as the dominating debut One with the Dead, keep the carnage shambling forth with panache and an arse-load of memorable moments. 'Faces of the Faceless' even recalls the violent groove and catchy choruses of 'Walking Horrors of the Undead'. Graveyard haven't forgotten their days of recording Candlemass covers though, and there are still plenty of weighty doom/ death sequences to offset the rotting rampages. Julkarn, who it seems will from now on no longer offer his services to the band live, puts in another really sterling performance here. In keeping with this review's angle and rambling so far, his vocals are classic death metal, but of a very fine cut and easily standing out from the generic "frogs in a moor" that Martin van Drunen condemned on the most recent Asphyx record. Huge, crepuscular roars and grunts are his remit, nicely bolstering the already massive atmosphere.
For those that dig Graveyard, this is of course a no-brainer - much like its monochromatic cover art ghouls, the music contained compliments the Spaniards' existing catalogue very tastily. If you don't, but you're in the market for some old school death metal that doesn't remind you that there's been about half a decade of this fast-staling underground "old skull" death craze now, you can go and find this and then the new Krypts album. That should set you up until 2014, when I'm crossing my fingers for some impending material by Morbid Flesh.