Somewhere between the buzzsaw guitar grind of vintage Entombed and the murk of the modern American underground’s best up-and-comers like Baptists and Call of The Void, you’ll find Sweden’s Bastard Grave. The group’s new full-length, Pulverised Records’ What Lies Beyond, is a dripping mud pit of frantic riffs and horror aesthetic that sounds just as much at home on a playlist with old school death metal as with the latest blackened thrash. According to Bastard Grave’s press release, prior to What Lies Beyond, the band only had one demo to their name, which makes the debut effort all the more impressive. Sitting down to spin this album and knowing that this was the band’s first full-length, I expected a more scattered affair. Pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong I was; What Lies Beyond features an array of songs uniting under the clarity of one solid vision.
First thing’s first: there’s no way to separate what these guys are doing from the inevitable Entombed comparisons… and the thing is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The spirit of Left Hand Path and Clandestine is very much alive in Bastard Grave’s sound, but it’s not all that drives it. There are elements of the bluesy experimentation of Glorior Belli, as well as the upbeat tempos and thrash hooks of Goatwhore. Album opener “From The Depths” kicks off with some expected nasty feedback before erupting into harmonized guitars starting with elements of “Chaos Breed,” then proceeding to season to taste with some increased velocity and torturous vocal delivery. The band later channels Rotten Sound on “Reborn In Filth,” combining eerie riffing with some Cursed-era muddy percussion. But for as fast and frantic as Bastard Grave can get, there are rarely any valleys throughout the record’s ten tracks. There’s enough layering in their sound to tell they’ve got the ability to shift speeds, and it’d be interesting to see if the band can incorporate some breathing room into their next go-round.
Ultimately, Bastard Grave delivers a fantastic update on the sound pioneered by Entombed and Dismember. There’s a gruffness to the vocal delivery that adds more savagery than either of the aforementioned bands managed to retch out, and for me, that puts this more in the arena of homage than facsimile. And sometimes that’s okay. Bastard Grave definitely has the potential, and the competence displayed on What Lies Beyond proves they have the chops to do something truly individual. Enjoy this record for what it is: a dripping headbanger we can jam while we wait for them to come into their own.