Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Grave - Soulless (1994)

1994 was the beginning of a very dark and troubled time for death metal. Many bands were experimenting with homosexuality. Toying and tinkering with styles of music that were anything but that which led to them acquiring the fanbase that they were now abandoning. It was also becoming apparent that the majority of these bands, regardless of favorable stats within the underground, would never achieve success in the mainstream, a fact which undoubtedly led to the breakup of many bands.

Grave was always second tier for me. I wouldn't say that they're a boring band, but you can forget all about the dynamics and riff acrobatics of bands such as Entombed, Dismember or Edge of Sanity. Grave is as basic as it gets, which is fine, but sometimes the riffs chosen to fill their arsenal aren't as potent as one would hope. Kinda like the old saying "his bark is worse than his bite". That being said, Grave are kind of one of those "tried and true" types. The trusty brand, if you will. You can always rely on them to get the job done. Maybe not in the most spectacular fashion, but nevertheless.

Here we have Grave's third full length album and this is where the band began to incorporate a slightly "lighter" approach. Make no mistake about it, the guitar sound is still heavy as are the majority of the riffs, but there is almost a sort of half-hearted attempt at traveling down the death -n- roll trail formerly blazed by Entombed. Actually, labeling this "death -n- roll" wouldn't be terribly accurate as there really aren't any 'rock' riffs to be found. It's hard to describe really, other than just stating that the album as a whole sounds like a "diet" version of the two before it. Even Jorgan's vocals are higher in pitch and reminiscent of the faggier black metal rasp favored by the homosexual portion of the underground metal scene. His were always among the more powerful voices within the death metal scene, but on this album it's as if he was attempting to cash in on the then rising popularity of the emerging black metal scene. They're actually not all that terrible and even tend to grow on you after a while, but they lack the devastating command of old.

Some of the riffs here are actually even a bit tricky (which, in general isn't saying much, but given the inherent simplicity of a band such as Grave, this may actually even be construed as being a "technical" album).

'Soulless' is the sort of album that grows on you with each listen. It's not a weak album by any means, but coming after the devastating one-two punch of 'Into the Grave' and 'You'll Never See...' it would appear to be.  For my money alone, I find this album to be that much more interesting than the band's previous two endeavors, which were just sort of run of the mill textbook death metal, complete with the obligatory and crushing Sunlight production, which was seemingly critical to achieving a broader audience in those days.


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