Grave - Fiendish Reggression 2004 Century Media reviewed by: EC
1. Last Journey 2. Reborn 3. Awakening 4. Breeder 5. Trial By Fire 6. Out Of The Light 7. Inner Voice 8. Bloodfeast 9. Heretic
September 7, 2004 is certainly a retrospective day for the Century Media camp. Both Grave and Unleashed will release their new albums on that date, furthering a thirteen year label partnership for both groups. I always find it interesting how closely the careers of Grave and Unleashed have paralleled one another. The two bands had a hand in creating the Swedish death metal scene with debut albums released in 1991 by Century Media. Each group enjoyed a very successful run through the 90s before going on hiatus in '97. In 2002 both bands struck gold with their "comeback" albums, Grave's "Back From The Grave" and Unleashed' "Hell's Unleashed".
I will focus this review on the more aggressive band of the duo, that being Grave, and their new album "Fiendish Reggression". Grave have solidifed their place in metal history with six studio albums of revolutionary death metal. In the first incarnation of the group, current Entombed bassist Jorgen Sandstrom was the band's frontman, leading the charge through the group's first four records before switching gears to the more experimental Entombed (more money perhaps?) After the departure of Sandstrom, guitarist Ola Lindgren stepped in to become the band's lead singer. The group released "Hating Life" in 1997 as a two piece, the other half being fellow founding member Jensa Paulsson (drums). Three fourths of the original band (Paulsson, Lindgren, Torndal) returned for "Back From The Grave" in 2002.
Now in 2004, the lineup has changed somewhat. Long-time drummer Jensa Paulsson left for personal reasons, and his spot on the chair has been filled by Pelle Ekegren. The rest of the band has stayed intact, which is very fortunate considering how good the last album was. It is really hard to top a comeback record. Many feel that the "comeback" album is very much like the band's debut all over again. In much the same way a sophomore record determines a band's validity, the album after the comeback determines longevity. I agree with this statement. If you look at Maiden's comebacker "Brave New World", it sets off a whole new Maiden era, with Dickinson and Smith hitting on all cylinders within the group. That album was very promising and showcased a youthful spirit that really wanted to impress their faithful followers. With the group's "sophomore" record (the one after the comeback), "Dance Of Death", Maiden failed to show longevity. They had simply ran out of ideas, compromising the integrity of their fans. Enough of my pulpit preaching on Maiden, lets move on to Grave's "sophomore" record and ask the initial statement, has Grave achieved further longevity with their new record?
One of the things I loved about the last Grave album was the tremendous amount of groove on the record. It wasn't really about speed and mindless thrashing about, instead it was more of a groove friendly affair, one that really sucked you in with its catchy moving power. The album was quite addictive, and made me question whether or not Grave could pull out the magic again. Instead of going back to Sunlight Studio and working with Tomas Skogsberg, the band shift gears and head to Abyss Studios to team up with the mighty Tagtgren brothers (Peter and Tommy). I've never been a huge fan of the Abyss sound, but with this recording the brothers have pulled out one heck of a production job. The guitars are up front and crystal clear, and the group have made good use of new drummer Pelle Ekegren, who has a great sense of timing behind the kit with his fills and rolls, which the Tagtgren's have cranked up a notch to sound like cannon fire.
Slowly cranking the volume of a Grave record is like watching a Lovecraft beast rise slowly from its murky depths. You know the chaos and carnage will ensue, but its rather calming just waiting for the delivery. The band does a great job building this sadistic, ominous atmosphere with album opener "Last Journey", which uses a slowly building string section to kick things off. This type of thing is total Slayer worship, not really immitation but tribute. The track crashes to fruition with a heavy, doomy Sabbath styled riff throughout. Like I mentioned earlier, I love groovy Grave, and with tracks like "Awakening" and "Inner Voice" we get that. Choppy, thick riffs punctuate those types of songs, making them very catchy to the ear and a wonderful headbanging romp to say the least. "Breeder" to me brings back the classic sounds of Morbid Angel, circa "Domination". In fact the song makes great use of the sludge styled riffs Morbid Angel used so well on songs like "Where The Slime Lives". I really like that muddy sludge sound that groups like Grave, Edge Of Sanity, and Unleashed practice. Other choice cuts here are the bombastic "Heretic", the bay-area styled "Trial By Fire", and the Black Sabbath feel of "Reborn".
With "Fiendish Regression", Grave "comeback" with a brilliant answer to their popular comeback record. This album is the perfect follow-up, and in my opinion answers all my questions. Grave have established that they can in fact continue making great records. They have successfully moved past "Back From The Grave", and continue to constantly improve their sound. Ekegren proved he can fill Paulsson's shoes behind the kit, pulling off a great performance here and showcasing a unique ability to instantly gell with the band. The production is great, the songs are technical but catchy, and Ola's vocals and playing are again right on cue. This is a perfect death metal release, and one that proves Century Media have their minds in the right place. They keep taking chances on these bands, and every chance pays off. Applause to the label guys and the band for creating another fine example of Swedish death. All good things come to an end, but if groups like Unleashed and Grave continue putting out these types of records, that end could come much, much later.
Note - The European version of this release will be available in a slipcase with two bonus tracks, a cover of St Vitus' "Burial At Sea" and a recording of an older track called "Autopsied".
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
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