Saturday, May 2, 2015

Gruesome - Savage Land [2015]

What's the best way to respond to morbid gimmicks? More gimmicks! Despite the fact that so many old school death metal acts keep falling under the same dome of generic, tactless ordure, member of Exhumed and Dekapitator Matt Harvey insistently pushes forward in the imitation game, with the most affably like-sounding album I've heard in years. Indeed, it doesn't pain me when I see a huge old school resurgence budding to counterfeit the more modern, busy-bodied splurge of technical death metal bands, especially when masters of like Death, Pestilence, Autopsy, Exhumed, Carcass and Morbid Angel are put into exhibition through fresher production qualities, but the downpour of this musical carnality has long lost its initial gloss of delectable, grotesque beauty embodied via some of the foremost contenders of the new wave of old school death metal, and coming across one band which actually heralds something more than the dry worship of the early 90's has become an eerie process. Unfortunately, Gruesome does not quantify as the insurgent savior in this case of cannibalistic banality, and in fact their debut ''Savage Land'' goes beyond even the rudiments of worship: a literal copycat of what Chuck Schuldiner formulated in 1988.

Everything, from the campy, gore-induced cover art to the precise tones of Harvey's inflection, scream ''Leprosy''. While I would have found the opaque, spidery lattices of guitar riffs redolent of a typical OSDM revival offering, ''Savage Land'' has an instant and unwavering appeal to the exact motifs and carnal leftovers that was granted to us with Death's 1988 magnum opus, sprawling tremolos still tinged with the primal expressionism of late 80's/early 90's thrash metal, and the album is so devoted to its source material that it exhorts the kind of semi-technical for which Chuck was renowned for with inseparable mastery, fleshing out the layers of contusion and antiquated morbidity in the way which Schuldiner would have done. It's almost as if Chuck has been brought back from the dead, with his infected 1988 timbre (before he began to focus on raspier growls) and decided to give his fans one last tour de force. Gruesome certainly know to relish the exact period on which they based the album on: ''Savage Land'' denies both the even more primitive evil of ''Scream Bloody Gore'' and the more technical, polished aestheticism of Schuldiner's later efforts and sometimes undesirable flirtations with melody. If anything this is a potent, convincing tribute to everything the great man dedicated his life for. Yet despite the putrescence of it all, ''Savage Land'' brims with a robust production and crisp tenet uncommon for ''Leprosy'', owing to the obvious gulf of 27 years in between records, and the formulaic intensity reaches new heights with the pummeling vividness of the kit. It does grant the album a greater impetus for the grooves which marginally separates it from ''Leprosy'', including some fairly cool fills here and there, but I certainly wouldn't substitute it for  Hoglan's sinister beats and organic texture which made the album such an instrumental part of my cognitive death metal compendium.

That being said, there are few other moments here worth mentioning. Notably the leads, which are, like everything else, derivatives of Chuck's uncanny leads and crepuscular harmonies, are somewhat improved if we had to take this album as a replica of ''Leprosy'', with songs like the title track and ''Trapped in Hell'' featuring some catchy, if spurious solo work that I found to be a major distinction point between this album and the other (if it can be called a 'major' distinction.). But otherwise there are whammy bars and imprecisely concocted leads aplenty here, like on the fast, molesting ''Psychic Twin'' with not much depth to them. On a funnier note, the band parodies the song ''Open Casket'' with its corresponding tune ''Closed Casket'', and there's even a a cover of ''Land of no Return''... in case, well, you needed more Death for your listening pleasures. It's certainly a more brutal offering than ''Leprosy'' courtesy of modern production values, but the skin tingling, blood-curdling pleasure of the latter, it's indisputable ability to resurrect the dead and pile rotting bodies on top of one another until you're body withers away cold and numb, is amiss. Gruesome are either unaware of the fundamental fact that ''Leprosy'' happened once, and will never happen again, or they're just parodying the record, which at this rate of devotion and accuracy, seems unlikely. And while no death metal would be devoid of its influence, copy pasting is just downright weird as a musical practice. A cool, fierce record that certainly fits the bill if you're into the early Floridian scene, but unlikely to elicit more than a few listen from me.

Trapped in Hell

Rating: 67%

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