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Pray to your god, you pray as you spit red - 90%

Priest_of_Evil_666, November 10th, 2005

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!