Hellspawn Freeze Over

Swedes Stay Put for Satan

Obstinacy is one of death metal's crowning virtues. The music refuses to cave in to fashion or irony, or feel compelled to mean anything—even post-9-11. It understands that the riff is its own reward. Grave's Back From the Grave is their first studio album since 1996's Hating Life, but they've barely changed.

It's all grinding, detuned guitar and thick, throbbing bass—the sound of Sweden, circa 1992. The mix, by producer Tomas Skogsberg and vocalist-guitarist Ola Lindberg, isn't the blur of blast-beats, buzzing riffs, and barfing-Rottweiler vocals that's industry standard these days. Instead, the guitars are so detuned and grinding the strings practically scrape the floor, and Jens Paulsson's drums have the same dry, echo-less thwack Ted Parsons's did on Prong's Beg to Differ. The whole album oozes thick, greasy sound, topped by Lindgren's lycanthropic vocals. He barks in the old-school style: clear and comprehensible. Ten years ago, the only death-metal vocalist you couldn't understand was Obituary's John Tardy, and he cheated, making up his own language. Whether you want to sing along with "Demon semen/Brings life eternal/Behold the beauty/In the spawn of Satan" is immaterial; the point is, you can. Try that with Mortician.

Early editions of Back From the Grave package it with three early demo tapes—11 songs total, from 1988 and 1989. Grave were faster then, and the songs were a little more complex, owing more to Metallica and Slayer. But the demos still combine the seething fury of hardcore with the instrumental discipline of metal. Grave have made a ferocious album, reinvigorating death metal by holding their ground.

 
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