There are few things more certain in life than ending up in a grave – whether it’s of the watery, earthen or concrete variety, we’ll all end up interred somewhere. In much the same way, you can almost guarantee a new Grave album will offer a quality dose of old timey Swedish death, heavy on the heavy and light on the frills. Out of Respect for the Dead is yet another reason to trust these grizzled vets to deliver exactly the kind of music fans want. It’s murky, ugly and utterly resistant to modern trends. While scene darlings like Deafheaven dabble in the here and now, Grave digs ever deeper into the mulch of death metal’s glory days, and since they keep hitting pay dirt, there’s no reason for them to cease excavation anytime soon. This time things feel a bit more urgent and aggressive and there’s a somewhat larger Sodom and Slayer undercurrent, but everything you loved about Grave is still here, moldering and growing nasty fungi just for you and I.
After an eerie and mood setting beginning, “Mass Grave Mass” proceeds to go for your throat like the ravenous undead, pummeling with ripping, thrashy D-beatery and gurgled vocals aplenty. Yes, it sounds like every Grave (and Entombed and Dismember) platter, but it’s well-executed, raucous and entertainingly sincere. It’s a great opener and gets your blood pumping. “Flesh Before My Eyes” dials things up even further with thick, heavy riffs, discordant solos and whammy bar molestation that would make Kerry King proud. It’s the kind of song that causes you to make gruesome faces and seize every invisible melon within reach, even if you’re trying to avoid making a spectacle of yourself. In a strategic change of pace, “Plain Pine Box” showcases the band’s doomy side with torrents of fat Celtic Frost worship and a tone ideal for a funeral procession. This kind of tune is when Grave is at their best and when Ola Lindgren gurgles “and my eyes still bleed” it feels so raw and dirty, I can’t help but approve.
And the rest of Out of Respect is remarkably solid. There’s a big dose of Persecution Mania era Sodom running throughout the title track and the riffs are sweet music to zombie ears. “The Ominous ‘They'” reminds me a lot of Death Breath and the scabby riffs feel imported from 1991, while “Deified” has a fair share of Slayer flavor in the riff phrasing. The album’s centerpiece is the near-ten minute closer “Grotesque Glory” and these kind of long-winded death monoliths are something few bands but Grave could pull off successfully, though this is their longest piece to date. It opens with a heavy Monotheist vibe in the glacial riffs and builds into a grinding mid-tempo beast somewhere between vintage Asphyx and Hail of Bullets. The tempos really don’t vary much until the midway point where they leap into the thrash pan, but somehow things don’t get boring or feel long-winded.
None of the songs feel flat and I like the faint Reign in Blood vibe created by the way “Redeemed Through Hate” merges seamlessly into “Deified.” The sound is solid as well, murky and eschewing most modern recording trends to arrive at a comfortably vintage buzzy ugliness. I especially like the drum sound, which is crisp and satisfying.
This is the same line-up from Endless Procession of Souls and they’re definitely gelling as a unit. I’ve always enjoyed Ola Lindgren’s deathly rasps and he sounds fine as per usual, but the riffing and solos from he and Mika Lagren are better this time. The thrash segments feel more intense and those classic dirges hit right on target. The whammy abuse is a bit excessive at times, possibly requiring counseling of some sort, but overall this platter is raging with quality riffs. The key is the excellent balance between fast and slow, which is something these fiends always had a knack for. The changes of pace during songs from speed to skulk works well and keeps the listener wired in for the duration.
There are almost no surprises on Out of Respect for the Dead and it’s essentially Grave being Grave, but this does sound a bit more refreshed and revitalized than their last outing and the writing is definitely on point for the genre. You know exactly what this will sound like and whether you need more retro Swede-death in your life, but Grave makes a good case for themselves as usual. You can take that to the cemetery. Dig?