Grave
Fiendish Regression

This is one of those albums I have to put review blinkers on for, because as much as I’d personally like to rave about the brilliance and influence of Grave, the fact is, for the follow up to last years ‘comeback’ album , Back From the Grave the word ‘Regression’ is an apt title. I think many of us were quivering with excitement to merely be hearing a new Grave album and overlooked its rudimentary musings, and with that sense of classic nostalgia gone, the new Grave album is left to stand on the merit of its current output not its storied past, and Fiendish Regression while a solid example of unflinching old school Swedish death metal, it actually sounds a little (it truly hurts me to say this) redundant.

Now armed with an Abyss Studio sound the Sunlight buzz is gone in favor of a sterile guitar tone that tries to sound menacing and rife with low end hum, but instead Grave now sound like every other Abyss produced band-polished and crisp. Its arguable that Grave will never top Soulless or sink to the depths of Hating Life (which I actually enjoyed), and their newest effort consciously tries to do neither and treads a decidedly safe path that while enjoyable for its unabashed old school sound, simply fails to enthrall- and I love Grave. This album is pure sonic MSG-nothing stuck with me at all despite the fact my head bobbed steadily through its entirety, The mid paced lumber is continually present, even though Grave flirt with some blasts (namely “Breeder” and the climax for “Trial By Fire”), competently played by former Coercion drummer Pelle Ekegren, but on the whole, the album just seems a token gesture with too much reliance on the past. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the album and it’s gotten many spins, it just that without that 6 year hiatus, Grave seem slightly less special.

This album just lacks ‘killer’ songs to make it a great album. Great tracks that litter the Grave discography; classics like “In Love”, “You’ll Never See”, “Turning Black” and even Hating Life’s “Restrained” and “Bloodfed” from their last album. Fiendish Regression has no such album defining tracks, all eleven rumble along with no truly great moments. Of course there’s some sic grooves, but again, none if them are utterly devastating or memorable. This is the first Grave album where I didn’t have the irresistible urge to go back to a track and crank it out again even louder. Granted there are a few faster tracks that are slightly reminiscent of Grave’s earlier days (“Reborn”, “Bloodfeast”, “Breeder”). The bonus reworking of demo track “Autopsied” doesn’t count, but it does show the energy and vigor Grave once had, but on the whole the album meanders with a lethargic gait that seems slightly tired compared to the bands past seminal efforts. You have to wander of the departure of drummer Jensa Paulsson and Jörgen Sandström has drained Grave of some of their vitriol, leaving original members Ola Lindgren and Jonas Torndal to try to recreate the magic on their own-and while Back From the Grave was a welcome return, Fiendish Regression may have exposed it for relying in the bands past, and now 2 albums into Grave’s new lineup, there are some holes.

Overall, an uninspiring yet solid album that will remain towards the lower end of Grave discography, in part mainly to the other albums’ greatness, but still this is a Grave album and for that I am thankful. But in a year that has seen Unleashed gloriously re-enter the fray, Dismember stubbornly do their thing, another Bloodbath album and even a Gorement re-issue, Grave needs to decide if they want to go out on top or fade with mediocrity.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
April 3rd, 2004

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