Grand Cadaver – Into the Maw of Death Review

Sometimes I forget why I seized a particular promo, as weeks and even months can pass between wading into the primordial muck to retrieve it and finally sitting down to marinate in the righteously poached product. When it came time to get cuddely with Grand Cadaver’s debut full-length, I had no real sense of why I took it beyond the cool name and the vague “death metal” tag emblazoned on its filthy outer shell. As the music washed over me I was greeted with the oh-so-familiar buzzing of classic Swedeath, but as the vocals assailed my ear sockets, I felt an immediate pang of recognition. This pang soon sent me back to the promo one-sheet, where my suspicion was confirmed. At the mic is none other than Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquillity fame. Turns out this particular Cadaver isn’t just putting on airs. It’s an actual supergroup formed by present and former members of illustrious acts like Katatonia and Tiamat as well as the mighty DT. So Mr. Stanne wanted to make the trip from Gothenburg to the Sunlight-slathered streets of Stockholm, eh? This could be fun.

And based on rip-roaring opener “Disanimated,” fun will be in the form of nasty, old school Swedeath ah la early Entombed and Dismember. Offering zero surprises, it’s nevertheless an aggressive, ass-kicking dose of thrashy death with a nasty edge. Stanne sounds particularly savage and the guitars buzz menacingly. It’ll take you back to the glory days of Sunlight Studios and knock a few teeth out in the process. The positive momentum continues on furious cuts like “Soul Infestation” and “World Mausoleum” where the band veers from thrashing fury into bone-crushing mid-tempo grinding sure to satisfy death aficionados. They’re not reinventing any wheels but they do throw you under a few of them. Alex Stjernfeldt (Let Them Hang, ex-The Moth Gatherer) and Stefan Lagergren (Ex-Tiamat, ex-Expulsion) are adept at crafting sharp, hooky riffs that get under the skin, but what makes the material so entertaining is the way it sounds like Fiction era Dark Tranquillity forcibly married to Clandestine era Entombed. Though ostensibly Stockholm style, a lot of moody, gloomy Gothenburg-isms bleed over the buzzsaw. It’s tough not to hear the Dark Tranquillity influence oozing from “Grim Eternal” and the title track, and the heavy delivery gives them a weaponized punch I always secretly wished DT could wield.

Some of the most interesting moments occur during the slower, more grinding tracks like “Grim Eternal,” “Empire of Lies,” and the title track. These often plod like a battle tank with a faulty accelerator and the doomy mid-tempo gives Stanne room to stretch his vocals in interesting directions. This results in the heaviest, harshest performance of his storied career. This wouldn’t matter much if the songs were dull. Luckily, the quality guitar-work keeps things vibrant enough to maintain interest. “Empire of Lies” in particular is weirdly catchy and the chorus will start to echo in your head unbidden after a few spins. Are there any bad outcomes from the cultural appropriation? “Manifest Insanity” is the weakest of the litter, feeling a bit too bog-standard, but it’s hardly bad. At a tight 37-minutes with most songs in the 3-4 minute window, Into the Maw of Death is an easy spin with enough diversity of tempo and mood to maintain interest. I will note however that upon initial spins things did sometimes feel fairly generic, and only on repeat listens did the album’s subtle charms start to assert themselves.

As a long-time Mikael Stanne fanman, it’s undeniably cool to hear him performing on material heavier than the typically polished Dark Tranquillity output. He scales up his delivery from what we’re accustomed to, sounding generally meaner and more vicious, though some classic Stanne-isms do pop up at times. Don’t expect any Projector-esque clean vocals though, just harsh rasps, roars and cackles. This is Stockholm stuff after all! The aforementioned guitar tandem of Stjernfeldt and Lagergren impresses and receives ace support from former Katatonia drummer Daniel Liljekvist. Alongside bassist Christian Jansson (Pagandom), he does a good job laying a sturdy foundation for the excessive HM-2 bricks being stacked and thrown at passersby.

Grand Cadaver leveraged an impressive musical resume into an enjoyable slab of vintage Swedeath that sometimes plays like a really pissed-off Dark Tranquillity album. That alone is worth the price of admission, and this is definitely more fun than Stanne’s last outing with his main crew. Sometimes keeping things simple works a charm, and here less is definitely Maw. Worth checking out.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Majestic Mountain
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 29th, 2021

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