Released: 2015, Cyclone Empire
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
The Grotesquery are a multi-national death metal ensemble helmed by journeyman guitarist Rogga Johansson and legendary vocalist Kam Lee, and have recently released the third in a trilogy of concept albums, THE CURSE OF THE SKINLESS BRIDE. Though the storyline across the three albums is a bit convoluted (something about a detective named Mason Hamilton and a variety of Lovecraftian related horrors), the tunes themselves are a throwback to classic, old school death metal that does well in the care of a Johansson/Lee collaboration.
Musically, the band’s wheelhouse is stockpiled with riffs from the early Swedish and Florida scenes (duh), which may not be the most dexterous or dynamic source material for such a heady conceptual piece, but it gets the job done. The album’s 14 tracks are intermingled with eight core tunes and a six spoken word narrations. The narrative portions are pretty pointless; the background effects and reverb on Lee’s voice make his storytelling almost unintelligible, with only every third word coming through clearly. I would’ve preferred the band skipped this effort all together, as it only distracts between songs and breaks up the continuity.
But the eight core tunes are solid; there’s a heavy influence of Nihilist and Massacre riffs a plenty, but it doesn’t sound recycled. Quite the opposite; one of Johansson's strengths as a musician is being able to take these kind of familiar tomes and put a fresh spin on them. Straight up ragers like “Unholy Reprisal” and “Rise-Advent of the Crooked Man” are few and far between, with most of the album settling into mid-tempo juggernauts like “Her Exquisite Corpse” and “Hasturs Homecoming”. The latter are no less lethal than the former, but it’s the difference between a prolonged bludgeoning vs. wild, chainsaw accuracy. Occasionally, the band steps out of its comfort zone, but with mixed results; “Downfall” attempts to incorporate some doomier moments but ends up overstaying its welcome, and the closing “ This is the End” offers an attempt at some Sisters of Mercy-esque seriousness in the chorus, but ends up sounding more awkward than goth.
The Grotesquery presents itself as ever faithful disciples of the old school, and that reverence is on full display with CURSE OF THE SKINLESS BRIDE. Side-stepping the conceptual aspirations of the album, it’s a totally competent and worthwhile listen for anybody with a soft spot for classic Massacre, Entombed, Obituary, et al. I’m definitely curious to hear where The Grotesquery takes us next.