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Released: 2004, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
Sweden’s Grave have been a pretty solid band over the years, but I confess they haven’t done that much for me. They play death metal very competently, with exactly the right equilibrium of irreverence and rage, but over the course of their various albums (I own three out of six) they’ve never quite managed to push the needle into the red. They’re not a bad band by any means—but if you’re looking for your mind to be blown by groundbreaking death metal, it’s unlikely Grave is going to deliver.
FIENDISH REGRESSION fits that pattern exactly. Here we have meaty death metal with thick-sounding riffs, a little “wetter” than most Scandinavian death bands; we have standard angry-shout vocals; we have Tommy and Peter Tagtgren manipulating the production knobs; we have a mix that is very technical and crisp, so flawless that in your mind’s eye you can almost see the little green digital blips moving up and down the sound meters. We also have a lot of songs that sound very much the same. “Last Journey,” the album opener, is fast, angry, punishing and heavy with some occasionally catchy riffs. “Reborn,” the second track, is fast, angry, punishing and heavy with some occasionally catchy riffs. The third track, “Awakening,” is fast, angry, punishing…etc., etc. Grave shrieks, shreds and chugga-chuggas through nearly forty minutes of music, and the vast majority of it—though not all of it—is indistinguishable regardless of where the needle drops.
There are some moments of variation, such as the slower pace and almost doomy-sounding primal heaviness of “Breeder.” The pleasant surprise on the album is “Trial By Fire,” which sounds like a dead ringer for something off Machine Head’s first album—I kept waiting for Mr. Lindgren to shout, “Let freedom ring with a shotgun blaaaaaaaaaaaaaast!”—and is really the only track on the album to register above the fray. All of FIENDISH REGRESSION is certainly very well-played, and from a technical standpoint it may be Grave’s best album to date. But it just didn’t grab me.
I think Grave has been around long enough, and plays proficiently enough, to begin pushing the envelope. They haven’t cornered the market strongly enough to make a career out of remaining defiantly static (a la Dismember or Manowar). In a way they’re a prime candidate to expand the boundaries of death metal—I mean, it’s often the most unlikely acts that wind up really making their mark on metal, and after five albums of essentially the same stuff, doing something extraordinary would win them a lot of converts. FIENDISH REGRESSION, however, is not that album, and I seriously doubt it was intended to be. Bottom line: if you’re familiar with Grave’s prior work, you probably already know what you’re getting here.
1. Last Journey
5. Trial By Fire
6. Out of the Light
7. Inner Voice
Ola Lindgren – vocals & guitar
Jonas Torndal – guitar
Fredrik Isaksson – bass
Pelle Ekegren – drums
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