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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.