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Out of all the new death metal bands emerging today, not many of them come close to being just as fantastic as any of the old school death metal bands like Death, Malevolent Creation, Entombed, Grave, Dismember, Obituary, Unleashed and so forth. But there are several new death metal bands out there, deep in the underground, that sound just as outstanding as the old bands. One of them, of course, is this band, The Grotesquery, and they prove this with their debut album Tales Of The Coffin Born. These musicians carry so much musical talent in them, and this is some of the best work by these musicians.
Kam Lee formed this dark and sinister band after producing an album with Bone Gnawer, and his powerful, monstrous vocals are heard once again on this album. Instead of singing about cannibalism, gore and butchery, Kam brings back the old lyrical themes of H.P. Lovecraft tales which he originally sung about in Massacre. He's also included many other dark and evil lyrics of horror and macabre, which is mainly what this album's about. The album has a deep horror concept, which you could identify from the frightening audio intros of each song. This album's concept is about a dark and terrifying horror story of a morbid child, named Matthew, who was born in a coffin.
The musicians on this album (Kam Lee on vocals, Rogga Johansson on guitars, Johan Berglund on bass, and Brynjar Helgetun on drums) do such a spectacular job in putting so much heaviness, darkness, and evil into the music. It's one of those albums that makes your eyes widen and forces you to say, "Holy Shit!" Kam Lee sounds so monstrous and intense. He definitely did a much more vicious vocal job here than on his previous work, Feast Of Flesh (the first Bone Gnawer album). Behind Kam's intense vocals is the guitar work of Rogga Johansson, and he is the mastermind behind many small Swedish death metal projects. His fast, heavy, and haunting riffs go along really well with Kam's brutal voice and his morbid lyrics. Brynjar Helgetun performs great drum duties. There are no blast-beats or really technical drumming on Tales Of The Coffin Born (except the first part of Sins Of His Father), and this album definitely didn't need it. Johan Berglund's bass can be heard loud and clear behind the rest of the instrumentation, and it sounds amazing and perfect! This is something that really stands out about The Grotesquery's music. Most of the time, it's impossible to hear the bass in most new metal albums, but Johan Berglund's deep, heavy bass is heard and blends in with the rest of the heaviness and darkness of this album.
By far, I see this band as being the best new project Kam Lee is part of. I thought Bone Gnawer's Feast Of Flesh was Kam Lee's best new work until I heard this album. Kam's other new death metal projects sound alright, but The Grotesquery's music which includes so much dark and heavy atmosphere makes this Kam's best new band. Tales Of The Coffin Born is Kam's best work since From Beyond in my opinion, and is one of the best albums that Rogga Johansson has been part of. This album is truly a masterpiece.
Overall, Tales Of The Coffin Born is one of the best new death metal albums I've heard. Kam, Rogga, Johan, and Brynjar really pulled it off with this release and serves as an excellent debut. Song highlights: Coffin Birth, This Morbid Child, Necromantic Ways, The Terrible Old Man, Nightmares Made Flesh, and Fall Of The House of Grotesque.
When in 2009 Kam Lee returned to the scene recording an album with Rogga Johansson under the logo of BONE GNAWER it was like a blessing to me. Leader of MASSACRE, one of my old time favourites is back! And there’s also that Swedish bloke in the line up, who keeps recording albums under dozens of names and whose CDs I keep buying, loving his style and undisputed death metal dedication. To me Rogga fuckin’ rules! These two did one good album and all of a sudden I found out that they also plan to put out CD of another project, called THE GROTESQUERY. First reviews I’ve read already were very weird… People only complained, talked about the uselessness of having two bands, which play similar style of music. But similar doesn’t mean it’s the same! You must be one lazy bastard, if you think that both BONE GNAWER and THE GROTESQUERY are too alike. Obviously you didn’t bother to go deep within the music, its structures and something called concept.
The opening song just shreds. It’s called “Coffin Birth” and brings catchy mid paced riffing in total old school style, similar to such bands as SIX FEET UNDER and BLOODBATH for instance, but with the exception of some industrialized sound effects threw within one of the motives, what underlines its might and energy to great effect. “This Morbid Child” is even slower and it’s maybe not so good as I expected, luckily the next track “That Thing which Lurks In the Shadows” is much better, as it’s very heavy and massive, the riffs weight a tone here – and what’s intriguing, this song really reminds me some good old tunes from ACHERON.
And when I mentioned this American legend of Mr. Crowley I really started to have a feeling that THE GROTESQUERY is similar to it more than just often. Many of the riffs have similar vibe and the vocals… well, they just have the same sound and powerful energy, they're also sang in very specific, almost narrative manner. But of course THE GROTESQUERY throws in many other things than just mid paced or slow riffage – there’s quite a bit of melodies on here, like in “The Terrible Old Man”, actually one of my favourite tracks on the album. A real masterpiece is the final song though, “Fall Of The House Of Grotesque”. Its opening, melodic riff is just epic, definitely one of the best on entire album.
But I can honestly admit though that most of the songs THE GROTESQUERY offer stands on equally high level. There are two or three exceptions, like “Spirits of the Dead” (it just doesn’t feel like so killer and sounds again very much like SIX FEET UNDER), but really most of the stuff is great. My one minor complain would come to the fact that THE GROTESQUERY sticks to one tempo throughout the album too much, so that it may seem monotonous a bit. I guess few faster nails to this coffin would do it well, but really it is a small imperfection on otherwise killer old school death metal masterpiece.
From all the aspects of THE GROTESQUERY debut album I have to underline few more things. First being all those intros thrown between each song, in order to keep the concept of the album and maybe also introduce you more into it. They may sound bit cheesy sometimes and may even annoy, but who cares… Everyone who’s into KING DIAMOND-esque concepts of (gothic) horrors will love it - I do, the story is awesome and do equals some of the best metal concept horror stories. Then, the production of “Tales of the Coffin Born” is just superb – so thick and brutal that it’s able to crush the buildings around you! The bass guitar sounds like a hammer beating your bones and drums are fuckin’ powerful. Kam Lee’s vocals kill – I absolutely love them, they’re really mighty and give an extra feeling to THE GROTESQUERY music. Finally, I think all the performances in here are top class, the front cover of the album also is one of the best I’ve seen recently (maybe together with latest HIDDEN MENACE’s album!) and so fuck those, who only moan on the imagined similarities of THE GROTESQUERY to BONE GNAWER. To me, “Tales of the Coffin Born” is great, devastating death metal album, definitely one worth getting.
During this old school death metal renaissance we are enjoying at present, a lot of Razorback signings and similiar acts seem to have been doing too little to last past fleeting nostalgia. The Grotesquery have finally taken up the torch for taking it all past musical imitation and thematic parody. They are essentially Bone Gnawer (Rogga and Kam are both here) with a lot more class, and more thought gone into the music being created.
Firstly, the concept album is a self-indulgent gimmick, and does not intrude upon the actual songs aside from short sections of narration between them. The lyrical concept is a sort of Wes Craven-esque rendering of Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher' short story, and is communicated with good taste and effective pacing. This story spans twenty years, and in a way, so does the music.
The core old school sound so popular at the moment shares its dank cave with a sharp pylon of death metal modernity. Typical scrawling, edgy riffs and familiar slow, pounding passages are offset by a measure of brutality, manifesting in the form of a modern thrash influence with an edge of grooviness. 'This Morbid Child' is a highlight, with a violent, scissoring chug and the most headbanging breakdown I've had the pleasure of for far too long. The weighty, lumbering riffs of 'Nightmares Made Flesh' feel heavy enough to drop through concrete floors. 'Sins of His Father' breaks out the classic styles, with a rattling thrash-based riff that shares the song with more dark and deadly doom. The production sound is throaty and heavy, but with plenty of the acerbic clarity needed to accentuate the more recent influences.
Technically things are more complex than influences like Carnage or Grave, and certainly more than Bone Gnawer and Revolting and such, more in the realm of Bloodbath while retaining the old school authenticity through being less reliant on blastbeats and more inclined toward slow and gory drum rolls underneath the staggering tremolo wails. The bass guitar is delightfully unchecked, seeming to organically ramble and groan across the tracks as if improvised during the recording process.
Having Kam Lee do the vocals was a wise choice, as Rogga's, while effective, are just a little too homogenous to get me excited. Kam is the perfect voice for the demented character represented in the lyrics. His performance ranges from cavernously deep growls to evil rasps, occasionally with an echoing effect, as if he is roaring from a crypt out into the cold night air. Only on 'Spirits of the Dead' do things edge a little too far into modern territory, with half-shouted vocals accompanying the simplistic slam riffs. His low, sepulchral gurgles on 'Coffin Birth' and 'Nightmares Made Flesh' ("hhhhhrrrrrr....") and habit of continuously rasping over the instrumental breaks make up for it however.
The old geezers who are The Grotesquery have managed, between them, to create a well-crafted, well-written behemoth of refreshingly vigorous death metal. The songs vary enough in length and mood to make the album a very rewarding listen. While opener 'Coffin Birth' is a straightforward old school boxing of the ears, 'The Terrible Old Man' is a genuinely sinister mid-paced monster replete with eerie guitar pinches and maniacal laughter. 'Sepulcher Macabre' and 'The Fall of the House of Grotesque' are both excellently realized dark, deathly epics, with particularly the latter featuring some chilling guitar work. Where Bone Gnawer was derivative and moronic, Tales of the Coffin Born is inspired and vicious. The old dogs learned some new tricks.