Without Grief
Absorbing the Ashes

It’s been two long years since we’ve last heard from Sweden’s Without Grief. The band’s debut, Deflower, received nominal acclaim for its unique approach to the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal. Yeah, that means I really liked it. So, what have two years of songwriting and progression brought? Dark Tranquillity? No. At The Gates? No. Arch Enemy? Well, sort of. Take the hyper-melodic soloing of the Amott brothers and fuse it with rhythms woven tighter and thicker than Alex Hellid’s dreadlocks (before the transformation, of course) and Absorbing the Ashes is the down-tuned and dirty death metal album we’ve always wanted but never expected.

Opener “Kingdom of Hatred” sounds off to an array of fast drumming and turbid riffing that bespeaks of the Stockholm sound in its glory days. This sonic delight is sliced by a melodic solo that comes out of the nowhere and sets the pace for the dingy but catchy riffing of guitarists Tobbe Ole and Daniel Thide. More or less masters at the death metal craft, both guitarists know how to balance aggression and melody without forsaking proper songwriting standards. This couldn’t be truer than on “Ungodly,” a track that sets the benchmark rhythmically brutal death metal. If “Ungodly” is the future of Without Grief’s songwriting standards, I see more than signing to Century Media in the band’s future.

Another example of such craftsmanship is heard on the instrumental simply titled, “Instrumental.” This melodic breather smoothly segues into its heavier counterpart “To the End.” This song is the best example of the marriage of the band’s aggressive/melodic complex, where thick-as-molasses riffs break into soft acoustic passages. It’s as if Carnage somehow managed to beat up and wed Dark Tranquillity. It would make for an intriguing soap opera if it indeed happened. Anyway, “Heaven Torn Apart” treads the same sort of water, although its colossal prologue stumbles, almost by accident, into a silvery lead not unlike Arch Enemy. It’s strange how closer “Only Darkness Lies Ahead” resembles the heart-stopping pace of Carcass’ Heartwork album and a Niklas Sundin-like approach to soloing.

Depending where you stand in Sweden’s offering to the metal world, Absorbing the Ashes may sound predictable, but I’ve really never heard (including Arch Enemy) finesse and brutality uttered in the same sentence, both of which Without Grief possess in huge portions.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
April 19th, 1999

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