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Underwhelming - 63%

Valfars Ghost, April 7th, 2016

This came out the same year as Like an Everflowing Stream and Where No Life Dwells and only one year after Left Hand Path, quickly sinking into relative obscurity while those other three landmarks of Sweden's original death metal movement attained legendary status. Why? Well, the principle of Occam's Razor, which states that the simplest solution is most often the correct one, applies. Grave was, let's be honest here, an also-ran in the Swedish scene and their debut album an adequate slab of death metal with all the prerequisite elements but lacking the fire, ambition, and personality other bands in their vicinity were bringing to the formula.

At the time, Unleashed had songs loaded with catchy riffs, Dismember had waves of awesome tremolo madness crashing down on the listener, and Entombed had a sheer ferocity that got people's blood flowing a little quicker. Grave had...nothing the other three couldn't also lay claim to. They had the blasting drums and the tremolo lines and the harsh vocals but couldn't figure out how to mix them together into something better than decent.

Grave's debut is essentially a bog of adequacy, with practically everything having the same uninteresting texture. In this journey through the swamp, few moments stand out in any way. In one of these passages, a sparser bit from album opener 'Haunted' finds a satisfying way to bring the bass out of hiding. A part toward the end of 'Deformed' that ends a recurrent rhythm on what sounds like a dissonant chord is memorable as well. Sadly, the goodness that rises above the surface is limited to individual moments that have pedestrian songs built around them.

This album's performances, like everything else here, are good enough but unspectacular. The vocals are technically competent but don't summon much excitement. Resident growler Jörgen Sandström's bark, though not unpleasant, is by-the-numbers and monotonous, never showing any sort of range or skill beyond what's needed to complete the songs. He doesn't spit much ferocity into the mic, instead keeping his voice consistently low but mostly devoid of feeling. Guitarists Sandström and Ola Lindgren skillfully deliver their tremolo lines, but steer clear of any engaging progressions, which results in a continuous buzz that's too easy to ignore. Conversely, there seems to be more life behind the kit. Nothing drummer Jens 'Jensa' Paulsson does is especially impressive or out of the ordinary, but he bashes away at the skins and cymbals with more enthusiasm than the other performers were able to communicate.

Ultimately, Into the Grave is satisfactory. If it happens to be playing, you won't get the urge to turn it off but it won't sweep you away, either. Before you know it, 42 minutes will have gone by and you'll be left with no recollection of what this release sounds like, beyond the elements it shares with every other Swedish death metal album from this time period.