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Spiritualy healed - 84%

Andreas_Hansen, June 13th, 2018

Yeah, another Death pun or reference. It's a well-known thing now, among death metal fans and especially people who know a bit about this band: the core of Gruesome is to make relive the deceased spirit of Chuck Schuldiner. Therefore, their music leaks out Death influences almost everywhere, in almost every single riff or melody. They started touring as the official Death tribute band under the name Death to All to give to the nostalgic Death fans real pleasure. There are two schools of thought for this kind of band when you're a fan of the former: you can be really enthusiastic at the idea of having a band that is especially here for the fan-service and enjoy the shows with nostalgy or spit in their face because in the worst of cases it's a way of making money out of a dead band. In the best of cases, it's just a pointless band that surfs on the success of the one they take their inspiration from. Choose your side! But for me, it will be the first.

I'm not a Death expert but I'm a Death fan. And I think it is enough to compare it to Gruesome to see clearly which parts the second especially inherit from the first. Most of the reviews I read concerning their good debut "Savage Land" were comparing it to "Leprosy", sometimes "Spiritual Healing" or "Scream Bloody Gore". In other words, they were comparing it to the beginning of Death's career, when the band was playing the rawest death metal sound they ever did. The formula didn't change much with "Twisted Prayers" as I would establish a link once again with this debut era, from the artwork that clearly reminds the one of "Spiritual Healing" to the global production that doesn't differ much from the previous album. And that would be one thing I would reproach to this album: it sounds too much like its predecessor. Since "Savage Land" was an unofficial and well-done Death copy, this one sounds like the copy of a copy. And it is a shame to do so, as every Death fan would know that the band they love is plentiful in terms of variations, influences and that the albums change of aspect from one to another. Here, with "Twisted Prayers", it seemed that Gruesome preferred to stay fixed on its safe bet with keeping the sound and the method of composition of an album that worked.

Another aspect that needs to be pointed out when it comes to this album is the inspiration itself the band took from Death. This section is slightly more complicated; the frontier between "inspiration" and "plagiarism" is the question of one's mind and the definition of both words changes from one to another. That's why it is tough to clearly speak about plagiarism or reference in this album so much it sounds like Death. But there are some points, however, where the distinction is way clearer. I have in mind the song "A Waste of Life". Though I like this song for its dark mood without being too aggressive, this song sounds way too much like "Symbolic" and it is not anymore a question of inspiration: the main riff is the same, the second solo is the same, the rhythmic riff during that solo is the same and the construction is almost the same: the solo with the riff, then the riff alone, a change in the drum pattern and then the main riff with another verse in the singing. Compared to "Symbolic", there is only a verse after the solo lacking. And this song illustrates well the biggest problem I have with "Twisted Prayers": when listening to it, I always have the unpleasant sensation of hearing something too similar to Death, and that tells me that maybe they ripped-off this specific part from this specific song.

Well, enough talked about the relationship between both bands. But when the second claims to be a tribute band to the first, it is normal to do so. But Gruesome does take some inspiration from other bands like the singing. The deep guttural tones of Matt Harvey would actually make me remind more of the rawness of Obituary's John Tardy at the beginning of its band. More generally, due to the mixing, "Twisted Prayers" could be seen as a speed Obituary-like album. The singing is very present all along the album, as the songs contain all a grand amount of well-written lyrics that once again act as a Death tribute.

One must also point out the remarkable guitar skills of both the rhythmic and the lead guitar. The best riffs in the album mix well the influence of Death and the originality of composition, for example at the beginning of "A Waste of Life, in "Lethal Legacy" or the tapping sections in "Fate". All along the album, the guitars alternate between Obituary-like and slow and heavy death metal riffing with some others more efficient, catchy riffs, that remind more of the beginning of the genre, when the boundary between thrash and death was still blurred. That's why, in a certain way, some songs sound like "modern Possessed". The solo sections are also impressive. First, because the lead guitarist shows a great skill with his instrument (not as great as Chuck's ones but it's not a problem) and then because the musicians always succeed in creating a specific mood for this specific section of the music with an excellent symbiosis between the rhythmic riff and the solo itself.

This band lives for Death (yeah, another one). But its strength is also its weakness: they take their inspiration from one of the greatest metal bands of all time and therefore it is hard to produce complete garbage, especially when you see how close their songs sound. But at the same time being restricted to one influence can't allow you to be productive and prolific. Gruesome remains great and talented but for how much time? If they don't change their formula and keep on doing old-school Death-influenced music it will become redundant and not very interesting.