Bastard Grave – Vortex of Disgust Review

Sweden’s Bastard Grave haven’t fared especially well here at AMG Industries and Conglomerated Musical Elitism, LLC. They’ve been ransacked and lambasted by two different writers (both bastards), and now they get to deal with the Steel Bastard for third album, Vortex of Disgust. A death metal act with one clubbed foot in the classic Swedeath sound of Entombed and Dismember and the other in more American flavors of brutality, Bastard Grave want their grave cake and long to feast upon it too. You get the inevitable d-beatings and Swedeath gallops, and to help put it all over, there’s a generous helping of Autopsy-style nastiness ladled out like steaming entrails on a shiny morgue slab. On paper, this seems like a can’t miss approach, so into the Bastard Grave we go to sample the soiled.

Were you to base the rating solely off opening track “Sunder the Earth,” things would get pretty damn spicy. It’s the kind of death I could crawl into like a comfy sepulcher and spend a few hundred years decomposing. Ugly, slithering riffs grab at you only to segue into huge brutish stomps that leave you feeling conquered and defiled. The guitars disembowel the ears, ghastly death vocals infect the open wounds. and the whole thing reeks of dog farts and spoiled dairy. Give me 45 minutes of this and I’ll be your new best fiend. Other spew-tastic moments include “Icon Bearer” with its plodding heaviness and creepy, oppressive atmosphere, and “Necrotic Ecstasy” which is a treasure trove of scuzzy repulsions featuring slowed-down d-beats that trample the weak and excite my inner greasy thug.

Sadly, the bulk of Vortex falls in that limbo of generic and serviceable death metal. There are no songs that completely suck, nor are there many that will light up your brain like a Christmas tree. Bastard Grave can create cool moments that slap you with a ton of rancid beef, but they struggle to convert these meat slaps into compelling songs. What they do really well is take classic Swedeath d-beats and slow them down to a stomping, ponderous plod. These bits sound like you’re being chased by a shambling monstrosity and they’re great fun. There are pieces of “Consumed and Forgotten” and “Nameless Horror” that I really enjoy, but the songs themselves end up feeling rather generic and also suffer from bloating. Bloat is a common problem here, and most cuts should clock out a minute or so earlier than they do. Even “Sunder the Earth,” which is a big highlight, could be trimmed down and be better for it. At 39 minutes, Vortex ends up feeling longer than it should due to the aforementioned stumbling blocks and it’s extremely front-loaded too, with all the best stuff in the first third.

Andreas and Daniel are quite able guitarists, bringing a solid collection of gruesome riffs, grooves and eerie harmonies to the bloodbath. Some of their leads are top-notch, but they too often get lost in the soup of sub-par songwriting and need tighter composing to really pop. Maria’s basswork is very solid and helps lock down that big low-end the music needs, and along with Peter’s kit-work, they make for an imposing backline. Tiago Dias has a good death roar, effective and appropriately ugly for the music. The performances are not the issue here. It’s the lackluster writing holding them back. There’s plenty of raw potential here, and you can hear it on the best moments. They just need to elevate the compositional part of their game.

I really want to like Vortex of Disgust more than I do because this particular style of death suits me to the T. As it stands, however, I will poach the best songs for playlists and move on to stinkier gravesites. Bastard Grave remain locked in that second tier of death, held back by their writing skills. They have the talent and the sound though. Now they just need the songs. In short, no burning need to visit this particular Grave, you grave visiting bastards.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Pulverised
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 10th, 2023

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