It seems safe to say that after surviving 22 years, Grave has become an official death metal institution as well as being one of the founding fathers of the classic “Swedish death metal sound,” along with Entombed, Unleashed and Dismember. Therefore, when the esteemed Grave Institute releases a new album, long time and newbie death heads alike should sit up and take notice. Burial Ground is album number eight for these long running purveyors of deathly tidings and being their usual consistent, quality selves, this is a solid, old school slice of vintage Swedish death metal but with a few surprises as well.
For those unfamiliar with the archetypal old school Swedish death metal sound, you get very down tuned distorted guitars, guttural death gurgles and a generally raw, evil atmosphere presiding over everything. All these essential elements are here once again as Grave rises from the tomb to show the young folk how death should be done. Unlike previous Grave albums however, Burial Ground contains much more variation in pacing and tempo than past works, blending speed oriented, thrashing moments with grinding sludge doom and mid paced interludes on a level previously unforeseen. Grave makes this really work to their advantage to keep the listener off balance, shake things up and keep things interesting.
While lead off track “Liberation” roars from beginning to end in a true old school, death thrash onslaught, songs like “Dismembered Mind” grind along at a devastating, tank- like mid pace speed before ratcheting down into slow dirge doom, then lurching forward into hyper speed. This is the pattern that unspools throughout the remainder of Burial Ground with “Conqueror,” “Semblance in Black” and “Dismembered Minds” being the highlights of this new focus on variant tempo.
Another new wrinkle this time out is much longer song lengths. When employed, it manages to give the songs time to develop and mature and lets the pacing dynamics hit for maximum effect. It also allows Grave to explore more territory in each song, thereby creating a more fleshed out vision and atmosphere than the normal four to five minute song could. A perfect example is the title track which weighs in at a whopping fourteen minutes and is very unlike any other Grave song. Basically a slow, plodding, funeral doom number that at times approaches shoe gaze levels of slowness. Throughout the length of the song however, its ugly, bleak and murky mood keeps the listener onboard. Standing out for different reasons is “Sexual Mutilation,” a re-recorded track off their original 1989 demos. Due to the sheer age of the song and how far removed in time it is from the rest of Burial Ground, it’s simplistic, raw, thrash flavor sets it apart.
No Grave album could attain peak brutality without a raw, primitive production and mercifully, Burial Ground has that in spades (bad, BAD pun!!). The level of murk here is perfect for the raw and ugly music being delivered, yet the sound is clear enough that no instrumental nuances get buried (sorry again).
Grave have returned with a real humdinger of a death metal opus with Burial Ground. They maintain every aspect of their beloved core sound, yet managed to expand its parameters in a way that only adds to the mood and heaviness. This is death metal as it should be done and one of their best works over a long and storied career! Caution to those expecting a 100 mile-per-hour, raucous and chaotic barnburner of a death metal album. This is a different but very brutal animal. However, if you like very dark, bleak, evil death metal done the old school way, then Grave is definitely selling what you should be buying. Dig this up!