Sweden’s legendary death metal kings GRAVE have returned home. Never let it be said they don’t know how to make an entrance.
“Home” in this case is Century Media, ground zero for their 1991 launch with “Into The Grave” and six more albums of sonic violence before seeking out new avenues following “As Rapture Comes” in 2006 with the now defunct Regain Records. And although the two records that surfaced while GRAVE was away – “Dominion VIII” (2008) and “Burial Ground” (2010) – continued to uphold the band’s penchant for quality mayhem, new outing “Endless Procession Of Souls” hits like a ton of bricks thanks to its relentless speed, crushing groove, and unexpectedly rich clarity.
Released at a time when death metal is enjoying unparalleled popularity and competition for the crown is fierce, “Endless Procession Of Souls” takes the best of what GRAVE has offered in the past and chalks up a bigger and meaner spin on things. The band's sole remaining founding member and musical director, vocalist/guitarist Ola Lindgren, is only too happy to be back on familiar turf and spearheading what has been deemed by some of GRAVE's long time supporters as their strongest and most diverse album since “Soulless” was issued in 1994.
“When we came back, Century Media asked what kind of direction we were going in – if it was something new or more like the older stuff – but they left us alone to do our own thing,” says Lindgren. “We sent the label some early mixes of the three songs and they loved the music, which was great, and when we delivered the master they were super excited and very satisfied with it.” Lindgren is joined on “Endless Procession Of Souls” by Mika Lagrén (guitars), Ronnie Bergerstål (drums) and Tobias Cristiansson (bass), which he considers one of the strongest GRAVE line-ups in years. The album’s dynamics are owed in large part to this injection of new blood, which took the pressure off Lindgren, who has been doing the vast majority of the songwriting on his own for almost 10 years. Most of this album was written at GRAVE’s rehearsal space, and in some cases Lindgren wasn’t involved at all in the early stages of the songwriting.
“It was a big relief, actually,” Lindgren admits. “There were a few times when it was just Tobias and Ronnie at the rehearsal space, and they came up with two or three songs. I just came in at the end and put the arrangements and finishing touches together with them. That kind of set the tone for the album and the direction we ultimately decided to take. There’s definitely a deeper and heavier groove feeling than the last few, and I think that drew me back to albums like “Soulless” a bit, which was also very song-oriented. Every piece of input from the other guys was good whether or not I liked it. I just had to put it through the GRAVE filter to decide if it could be on the album or not.”
GRAVE recorded “Endless Procession Of Souls” at their own Studio Soulless, with Lindgren taking on the role of producer and mixing / mastering the album himself. The results are savage, brutal and crushing, the way the band wanted it, yet the sound is clear and vibrant. Perhaps not what diehard fans want to hear when describing an epic death metal record, but this was one element in particular Lindgren was striving for: “It doesn’t sound like a washing machine, so you can hear what all the instruments are actually doing.”
When all is said and done and the bodies have been counted, “Endless Procession Of Souls” will serve as a reminder as to why GRAVE has been tagged as “legendary”. A weird honor to have according to Lindgren considering the band is still alive and kicking, but he’s grateful that the band’s 20+ year history is held in such high regard by so many people.
“Our status as a band doesn’t really hit me until we’re out playing for the fans and people we’ve had a musical impact on. Especially the older fans that have been around since the first couple albums came out. It’s a very cool thing but we don’t have our noses in the air about it. We’re just a death metal band from Sweden with a long history (laughs).”