Grave albums always make me happy. When I’m happy, my reviews can meander into silly punery, so kindly bear with me and my rotten humor. You see, anytime a new Grave platter drops and delivers more classic Swedish retro-death, it makes this a joyous and grave new world (apologies to Discharge and everyone else). Anyway, Endless Procession of Souls is the follow-up to 2010’s excellent Burial Ground and little has changed in their approach or sound. They still traffic in the tried-and-true groove-heavy Swedish death we all know by heart and there are no real surprises or deviations here. That’s all well and good, since I wasn’t expecting, nor hoping for any major changes. I always loved Grave‘s simplistic and brutal take on the style and the interplay between the crushing doom-death and tooth rattling D-beat thrash that made them kindred spirits with Asphyx. All that sepulchral goodness can be found intact here, like a beloved security (burial) blanket, and it’s plenty moldy and fetid to boot. While this is every bit as heavy as the last one, it’s also less diverse and a tad less accessible (which is a loaded term in the context of death metal), but the riffs are mostly home wreckers and the mood is appropriately raw and grim. Still, despite my slavish Grave worship, I’ll admit this is a lesser work than Burial Ground and a few tracks don’t fully live up to expectations. But it’s Grave, and nobody escapes the Grave!
Tracks like face-ripping opener “Amongst the Marble and the Dead” will feel instantly comfortable and familiar to long time fans. There are the usual thick-as-tar riffs of both the doomy and thrashy variety, and a cloyingly ominous vibe hanging over everything like a mortuary drape. This one is the quintessential Grave archetype and will naturally bring to mind the glory days of Entombed and Dismember, but there’s a big Asphyx/Hail of Bullets vibe there as well (especially in the grinding doom riffs). It’s exactly the kind of material I want to hear and it’s a winner. “Disembodied Steps” is more direct and thrashy with big, Sodom-approved riffing, but the chaps still make time for those slothy, sludgy doom riff segments and also toss in tortured and minimalistic solos. Also of high quality, “Flesh Epistle” features tank busting, Celtic Frosted riffs as it grinds along running over the neighborhood cats (but never the dogs (of war)).
Despite the rollicking start, the middle section of Endless Procession is a bit less reanimated. Tracks like “Passion for the Weak” and “Winds of Chains” (cue dramatic whistling from Klaus Meine), though respectable and enjoyable examples of D-beat death, are admittedly on the generic side. “Plague of Nations” is better, but isn’t going to give anyone a crap attack from originality overload.
Fortunately, things wind down with some memorable deathrash in the form of “Encountering the Divine” and especially “Perimortem,” which manages to find the sweet spot between Slayer‘s hostile riffing and Grave‘s murky doom/death. Following the formula from the previous release, they close with the longest track (thus graving the best for last) and “Epos” is a vile, crusty slog, laden with thick, weighty doom riffs. At nearly eight minutes, it’s a humdinger of relentless pummeling and an instant graveyard classic.
Endless Procession marks the arrival of guitarist Mika Lagren and new bassist Tobias Cristiansson, and while the overall sound isn’t much different, it does sound fuller and more oppressive (the plot thickens, so to speak). When teamed with OlaLindgren, Mika does his part to lay down a wall of dense, immovable riffs and the solos are all of the haunted, tortured school. This is not flashy or techy in the least and I doubt anyone was expecting such nonsense. This is low-tech, Neanderthal death metal as it should be done. Rounding things out, Ola’s gurgles and roars are as good as ever and he sounds ugly, scabby and scary.
Sound-wise, this is another nicely raw production from the Grave camp. The guitars sound huge and threatening and there’s a delightful lack of polish and shine (Did I mention I hate polished productions on death metal albums? I do). While Burial Ground may have had a slightly more rough and tumble sound, this is in the same ballpark and suits the music like a custom-made casket.
Endless Procession gives you ten more blunt objects with which to savagely beat yourself, your loved ones and neighbors. That’s what Grave does and that’s why I love them so. As long as these guys keep churning out material like this, I’ll be buying it. If you loved any of the previous Grave platters, this will likely be another charnel house party for your ears. Dismember is gone, Entombed hasn’t been interesting (or recording) in years, but Grave lives on and keeps building their legacy. I hope they continue ignoring time and trends and keep this shit coming. Now put this on, grab some beers and get embalmed!