Company: Regain Records Release: 2008 Genre: Death Reviewer: Etiam
A satisfying slab of death metal
With so many metal bands capitulating to modern production standards and hyper-compression, 'Dominion VIII' score immediate points by refusing to compromise Grave's trademark fuzzgrinding style. Of course, this should really come as no surprise; since 1993, Grave have been the misanthropic black sheep of the Swedish death metal scene. While many metal bands may sing about death, violence, and anti-religious themes, Grave is the one that always seems to really mean it. With songs like 'Stained By Hate', 'Annihilated God', and 'Sinners Lust', 'Dominion VIII' continues to tread that tried and true 'Bloodpath' (if you will).
Never the most technical or catchy of Sweden's great exports, Grave has relied on Ola's visceral riffing and redoubtable roar--the only constant through these 15 years, 20+ if you count Corpse--to make their name. Ola's style draws as much from weighty doom metal as it does from the classic Swedish shuffle, and he crafts each song from a handful of single our two-phrase riffs that habitually glide over the downbeat. As expected, 'Dominion VIII' is packed with that same no-frills songwriting broken up by a handful of gaudy solos, which are as much a Grave trademark as are Ola's vocals. These leads are epitomized by the exclamation to the single 'Bloodpath': short, but with plenty of attitude from tricks like simultaneous tapping and tremolo arm bending. Not wholly self-derivative, this album does feature a few new ideas, such as the sustained chord articulation on 'Dark Signs' and the processed clean bookends to the 'title' track. Suspension chords with tritones also seem more prominent now than before and lend Ola's generally steady riffing a subtle vertigo.
Since coming 'Back From the Grave' in 2002, Ola's troupe had resisted lineup changes, but that streak comes to an end here. Switching drummers and losing a guitarist, Grave were once more made a trio by the departure of Jonas Torndal, who had been the band's off-and-on guitarist/bassist for a total of 10 years. The drumming on 'Dominion VIII' is handled by Ronnie Bergerståhl, newly arrived from the now-defunct Centinex (as well as trad doomsters World Below). His style fits in well with Grave--metronomic double bass and a half-time cymbal crash being a favorite technique, alongside the mainstay 4/4 splash.
Still, this eighth LP does have a bit more muted sound than the absolutely massive 'As Rapture Comes', which lessens the impact of Ola's visceral riffing. Perhaps as a result, the sparks of inspiration don't seem to be as consistent here as on the previous outing. Each track is defined from the next and none can really be deemed filler, but there is no barnstorming 'Burn' or insidious 'Now and Forever' to make 'Dominion VIII' a peak in Grave's discography. Nonetheless, 'Dominion VIII' is still a satisfying slab of death metal that reminds us of what 'heavy' used to sound like, before the advent of sub-drops and ubiquitous staccato breakdowns.
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