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Endless Procession Of Souls

Century Media (2012)
Rating: 8.5/10

Grave have been one of my favourite death metal bands for many years; a band that consistently produce high quality death metal. Although lacking originality, or thrills (not that they are required), here’s a band who go for the throat with their drawn out, downtuned riffs and guttural vocals.

Endless Procession Of Souls is, amazingly, Grave’s 10th studio album. This is a remarkable feat considering these guys trudged on through the miserable, grunge-infested 90s. Grave, despite originating from Sweden, have never had that classic Swedish buzz-saw sound. Instead, they vomit out dense and classic sounding death metal, mostly mid-tempo and meaty, and made all the more gloomier by Ola Lindgren’s deep vocal cough.

Endless Procession Of Souls is, put simply, another “does exactly what it says on the tin” experience; nothing fancy, just heavy old school in style death metal that often ambles on at a moderate pace. Even so, the predictability of it all doesn’t make it a dull experience. Whereas Six Feet Under and Cannibal Corpse have lacked something for many years, Grave do what they need to do to stay ahead of the pack, and in today’s climate I see no reason for this style of metal to fail.

Sure, Grave may not have been major league death metal in 1991 – in fact, despite a decent debut record (Into The Grave) their sound wasn’t enough to enable them to stand out from the crowd, especially when one considers the suffocating effect of the Floridian scene and then the Swedish assault headed by Entombed – but the band have stuck to their guns, never once dropping their standards.

The solid and tight musicianship is a starting point. Ola Lindgren and Mika Lagrén’s guitars rarely exist above mid-tempo, enabling the listener easy access to this misty mire of sound, and with Lindgren’s decipherable growls and the crushing percussion of Ronnie Bergerståhl, Endless Procession Of Souls makes for quite a comforting, almost knowing listen.

Of the 10 tracks on offer there’s not a bad egg among them. ‘Perimortem’ sees the band quicken the pace to a deathly gallop, while ‘Flesh Epistle,’ with its sludgy guitars, shifts gears between mid-tempo and then that classic death metal pace which seemed to saturate the early 90s. When Lindgren gargles, “I was never meant for this life”, I sure as hell believe him! Sure, this at times could be any band from that classic era, but the fact these guys have continued through the good and bad is testament as to how there is still a need for this type of guttural metal.

The brilliant ‘Passion Of The Weak,’ with its infectious, downtuned chorus and darkly-clad stumbling bass from Tobias Christiansson, is Grave at their best. Opener ‘Dystopia’ is nothing more than a 30-second atmospheric which takes us into the frothing ‘Amongst Marble And The Dead’, which boasts some fantastic drum work. As does the trudging stomp of ‘Disembodied Steps’ and the murky, doom-laden ‘Winds Of Chains’ where, for me anyway, the guitars work best, hinting at that symbolic Swedish buzz.

As mentioned previously, there are no real thrills here, just good solid death metal riffs and structures capped off by the seven-minute epic ‘Epos’, which lumbers like some mighty golem, crushing all in its wake until a minute in when it transforms into a violent, lashing beast of fury. Praise must also go to the fantastic production of this record from Lindgren.

It really is difficult to pinpoint why Endless Procession Of Souls is another superb addition to the Grave discography, in the same way it was nigh on impossible to explain why I was such a fan of old school bands such as Monstrosity who, for the most part, lacked originality. And yet death metal is timeless, in whatever form it takes, but because Grave have established their identity, fans realise what they are getting before they buy the album. That isn’t to say it’s wholly predictable, but with countless bands emerging that clearly lack any idea about how to play real death metal, to hear Grave every year or so is a joy. Grave set out their stall decades ago, and they shall not be moved.

Neil Arnold

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