Grave stalks the burial ground in its recently released ninth album like an undead thing that knows the territory like the back of its decaying hand.
The nine songs collectively represent a stark contrast to the modern death-metal sound of the band (Noctiferia ) whose album we reviewed yesterday. Over the near quarter-century of its existence, Grave has remained true to the early-stage school of Swedish death metal that it helped found — a school that will flunk your ass out if your mind wanders from the approved curriculum.
But if you’re in the mood to study the evil classics, with some subtle updating, Burial Ground will pay dividends. To mix our metaphors, Grave has got the bone saw gassed-up and running — rough and loud. It won’t be a clean amputation, but as the jocks say, no pain, no gain.
Throughout the album, the bass and guitar hum and buzz and crackle like massive, overloaded transformers, producing the classic, downtuned, distorted sound that reviewers have unsuccessfuly struggled for two decades to describe (for the sake of variety) without using the word “chainsaw.”
It’s not all the sound of a burred grind. Tremolo-picked leads surface in “Semblance In Black”, “Ridden With Belief”, and “Bloodtrail”. Mournful, dissonant melodies peer out of the maelstrom on songs like “Liberation” and “Conqueror”, and squalling solos erupt in rapid bursts in almost every song.
But if the sound of those Swedish death-saws isn’t music to your ears, then you ain’t gonna like Burial Ground, because there’s no escaping them. (more after the jump, including a track to stream and some eye-catching artwork . . .)
The production tends to muffle Ronnie Bergerstahl‘s drums and Fredrik Isaksson‘s bass, but especially if you boost the bass on your stereo, you’ll notice that they’re busier than you might think from a casual listen, following their own path until those moments when all the strokes fall together to amplify the bludgeoning effect of Lindgren’s riffs.
The drums clatter, the cymbals clash in unison with hammer-strokes in the riffs, the double-bass rumbles menacingly, the bass guitar often flashes intricately — but it’s a relatively muted existence in the presence of that chewing saw.
What prevents the grind from turning into monotony are the tempo dynamics and the heavy groove. The pacing of the music varies dramatically, from death-thrash to doom, usually within the same song.
The tempo grinds downward on songs like “Semblance In Black” as the guitar pulses like a foghorn on a smoky lake in hell before the grinding cacophony spools back up to speed and the blast beats proceed to knock your teeth in.
“Dismembered in Mind” begins as a mid-tempo stalker, but soon turns into a spinning collection of sharp-toothed sawmill blades with a buzzing tremolo-picked melody — but that buzzing rhythm then proceeds to alternate with a slow crawl that brings to mind a massive boulder ever more slowly rolling to a stop.
“Ridden With Belief” chugs and cranks like a slow-moving train, but it inexorably builds in speed. “Conqueror” starts as another lumbering, mid-tempo barrage, and then breaks down into a sludge-filled stagger accompanied by waves of distortion and a merciless repeating riff.
And then there’s the title track — more than 7 minutes of massive, plodding, funereal doom. Come the end, Lindgren is chanting “Lost!” — and you are.
Lyrically, Burial Ground is unrelentingly bleak. In words dripping with acidic anger, the songs indict the hypocrisy of clerics and the psychological and emotional damage wrought by “faith based” dogmas. It doesn’t take much imagination to know what Grave has in mind on “Ridden With Belief”: “Keep it in the family/hidden behind sanctity/ridden with belief/sentenced forever to a life in deceit.”
On the other hand, Burial Ground includes songs that bring to vivid life images of chained demons, famished for blood, and undead spirits doomed to roam the night. In the world of Burial Ground, there is evidently no safe harbor, no source of warmth and comfort. There is only the murk and the bone saw that awaits within it.
We’ve selected “Bloodtrail” to give you a taste of what lies beneath Grave’s festering ground. It’s an assault on the senses, with the most furiously flamethrowing guitar solos on the album, courtesy of a guest appearance by Karl Sanders of Nile. Check it out:
Burial Ground also features lots of eye-catching artwork on the jewlcase, on the CD, and throughout the glossy CD booklet. The art is by Costin Chioreanu of Twilight13Media in Bucharest, Romania. Feast your eyes: