Entombed is AWOL, and Dismember is kaput, but Grave just keeps on trucking. The band was never quite as popular as its fellow Stockholm sound pioneers, but it has certainly been the most consistent of the three in the twenty-first century. Since reactivating in 2002, Ola Lindgren and his frequently changing crew have put out an album and toured every two years like clockwork. Some albums have been better than others – As Rapture Comes was a high point – but never has anything the band released in the past decade been less than respectable. That said, the last couple of albums seemed to find Grave stuck in a bit of a creative rut. With its latest release, Endless Procession of Souls, Grave finds some traction.
Back “home” on Century Media after a two album stint on Regain records, and with some new blood in the form of bassist Tobias Christiansson (ex-Dismember) and guitarist Mika Lagren (Facebreaker), Grave sounds positively re-invigorated. The material on Endless Procession of Souls is more memorable, more varied, and notably, faster than it has been in the past few years. The willingness to embrace the slower side of death metal has always been one of Grave’s strengths, but in recent years, the band has had the tendency to get bogged down in too much of a good thing. Endless Procession of Souls does not suffer this fate; the trademark heavy grooves are still present, but they are rendered more effective by a comparable quotient of high-speed punishment.
In addition to getting the lead out, on a few occasions, Grave deviates from its typical style, displaying some influences that have heretofore not manifested in its music. On “Flesh Epistle”, Grave nicks a riff almost directly from Celtic Frost’s “The Usurper”, and the album’s intro, “Dystopia”, definitely has a late-Frost / Triptykon vibe. More substantial is the band’s foray into thrash territory with “Periomortem”. The track bears a marked Slayer influence in more than just the title, with a diabolically infectious main riff and a frantic pace.
Even though the majority of Endless Procession of Souls features Grave doing pretty much what one would expect Grave to do, it is done with more fire: The riffs hit harder, the grooves cut deeper, and even the solos display a little more swagger. “Winds of Chains”, for instance, showcases the band in top form with a blizzard of tremolo-picking and one of its sickest breakdowns in years. And for those who favor the doomier end of Grave’s sound, “Epos” is a merciless death march that brings the album to a crushing close.
Endless Procession of Souls might not win Grave any new fans, but for those who fell off the wagon at some point, this album is worth hopping back on for. Those who have stuck with the band will, in turn, see their faith well rewarded. Endless Procession of Souls proves Swedes still do Swedish death metal best.