Aug 222023

(Our man DGR takes on the new album by the Swedish death metal group Grand Cadaver in the following extensive review, just a few days before the record’s August 25 release by Majestic Mountain Records.)

Grand Cadaver are one of a large handful of throwback Swede-death metal projects that popped up over the last couple years. The stars must’ve aligned just right for the combination of the ‘thirty-year nostalgia cycle’, the trapped-at-home anxiousness of much of the pandemic, and the general creative explosion that seems to have emerged from a lot of people determined not to let Bloodbath have all the fun over the past few years, that we’ve wound up with quite the resurgence of that particular style.

You can always argue that it never stopped, and like much of heavy metal, there is never going to be any one style that actually fully ‘stops’. Given the genre’s obsession with corpses, murder, and the shambling dead therein, it would make sense that it would also continue to lurch along in the underground while the spotlight focuses on other trends.

The recent uptick of such bands, however, also includes groups of seasoned musicians who’ve largely made a career out of other styles of music coming back around to what they grew up with and cut their teeth on, which is largely why it seems like lately you’ve been able to see bands with incredible resumes to their varying parts. Grand Cadaver are one of those,  and they’ve kept pretty busy since launching in 2020, having issued one album and an EP up until now, and now this year we’re being treated to the group’s second full-length, Deities Of Deathlike Sleep.

Grand Cadaver‘s branch of the heavy metal tree is one that has long since been well-defined, nurtured not only by long-running bands that are also recently emerging from frozen sleep, to bands who started this particular avalanche years ago, to newer groups like Lik who’ve done very well keeping this monster alive.

If you have any familiarity with the solid one-two stomp of the drums or the constant sawing of the guitar then you know the altar before which Grand Cadaver have chosen to worship. Their 2021 EP Madness Comes and the following album in 2021’s Into The Maw Of Death served as solid first statements, showing that this union of musicians had a vice-like grasp on the music they were choosing to make, without fully falling into pure tribute territory.

There were certainly some surprises throughought – Grand Cadaver have a stealthy knack for morbid atmospheres, prog-winding guitar riffs, and haunting melody that is rarely highlighted – but both of those records couldn’t have been any more red-meat for the more carnivorous among us. If you wanted the gore-soaked flesh and demon-hurricanes of death metal with the primal rhythms that basically force you to headbang, then Grand Cadaver were just as good a group of chefs as any you could find. Deities Of Deathlike Sleep continues to add to this reputation for another ten songs.

The new album sees the Grand Cadaver crew doubling down on a lot of what made Into The Maw Of Death work two years ago, even though the album art may be a little bit more understated. The stealthier melodic sensibilities fight their way into the forefront a little more often, and the group even stretch their wings a little bit throughout the first few songs so that Deities doesn’t just become a complete repackaging of a genre done many times before.

They still hew fairly close to the empires that their forerunners built, but they do show a little more willingness to tread off the beaten path earlier this time. It makes Deities Of Deathlike Sleep a more interesting listen the first go-around; the things that make Grand Cadaver more interesting than just an ‘old school project’ are less buried in the latter songs of the album this time.

Granted, the band still go for the classic ‘welcome back to the fold’ style of opening song with the immediate guitar scream of “The Forever Doom”, but you start hearing their more ominous and foreboding sensibilities slowly creep their way into the listener’s vision about halfway into the following song, “A Crawling Feast Of Decay”.

The core of many of these songs is still a solid foundaiton of whirling circle pits and stomping rhythms but there’s definitely more ‘weight’ to how hard some of these rhythm sections hit on Deities than the band had demonstrated before. It’s the only way we can explain the hammering and percussive rhythms of the three-and-a-half minutes of “The Wishful Dead”.

Of interest also are the winding melodic lines that weave their way through two tracks after the pummeling of “The Wishful Dead” – which admittedly is an early highlight because, who doesn’t have a soft spot for a solid guitar chug? –  in “Serrated Jaws” and the titular “Deities Of Deathlike Sleep”. Even the band were aware of the power of at least a few of the songs mentioned so far, as “Crawling Feast Of Decay” and “The Wishful Dead” were early released singles.

“Serrated Jaws” is another member of that vaunted club. It seems Grand Cadaver were looking to get their hooks into people early this time around and wound up choosing the ones which were extremely likely to get their way into people’s brains. “Deities Of Deathlike Sleep” on the other hand gets the knowing nod of ‘yeah, it’s understandable why you’d make this the album’s title song’ upon listening to it.

It’s basically a mosh-pit in song form, filled with all of the classic and expected hallmarks of this style of music. You have a ton of d-beat drumming throughout, a crusher of a guitar section and a swaying chorus, and the true surprise – a little bit of highlight on the bass guitar about halfway into the song. It’s a dynamic track that revels in its violence but is basically written to swirl a crowd into motion. If you listen to this style of music, then you speak the language and you understand the musical command of a song like “Deities Of Deathlike Sleep”.

Grand Cadaver do have a bit of fun with their song titles as well across Deities Of Deathlike Sleep, with the last batch of songs containing two variations on the word ‘Necro’ and two that have an obsession with ‘Blood’. Considering one is legit called “Stabbed With Frozen Blood”, all of the words about how Grand Cadaver may be trying to avoid just playing into their basest desires get thrown in the trunk of a car for a few minutes.

Both “Stabbed With Frozen Blood” and “True Necrogony” prior to it are home to some gloriously gross bass and guitar tone, with “True Necrogony” winning out for the apocalyptic atmospherics battle and slow-moving drum work. It helps to have some perspective though, since many a band will use the mid-tempo tracks on their album to take a breather and sometimes overload their releases with them, but in the case of Deities Of Deathlike Sleep they’re used more to break up the constant hammering that after a bit becomes the ‘norm’ by which the album runs.

Thus, much like an oasis in a desert, the slower track in the back half becomes a song of interest — though “Stabbed With Frozen Blood” is more than happy to then dumb-charge its way into the living room and wreck everything along the way. It’s another wonderfully-dumb pit-riffer of a song.

The iterations upon releases have been minor in Grand Cadaver‘s world, but with Deities Of Deathlike Sleep they’ve managed to push forward just enough that it proves to be a worthy followup to the first album. It keeps things interesting like its predecessor did; they slowly and stealthily sneak things in just outside of the old-school death metal world and keep them playing around the fringes.

The core of their music is solid enough to be set in stone, but when the band start infiltrating the occasional gothic-sounding piano lead or worming guitar line, you can tell that Grand Cadaver are doing plenty of work to keep things interesting in the realm of the cinderblock-stupid. There’s big heavy riffs, huge and apocalyptic passages, a hell of an ending segment in “Necrosanctum”, and plenty of red-meat for death metal fans alike. Deities Of Deathlike Sleep continues the slow, shambling, zombie crawl along the deathly pathways for Grand Cadaver — and more than justifies its existence by the time it wraps up.

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