Written by Kep
Bastard Grave – Vortex of Disgust
> Death metal
> Releasing March 10
> Pulverised Records
I’m a simple man. I hear a fat riff and I bang my head. I hear several fat riffs and I tell my friends. I hear an album’s worth of fat riffs and I tell basically everyone I know and simultaneously start calculating shipping costs for a shirt. Accordingly, I’m here today to tell you about Bastard Grave, whose Bandcamp page I have open in another window (damn overseas shipping costs to hell) and whose new record Vortex of Disgust contains a bevy of stankface-inducing riffs.
The Swedish five-piece has been around for a decade now, but they were new to me when I took a flyer on them and snagged this promo from the inbox. This is the outfit’s third full-length effort but first with the current lineup, which features the addition of new vocalist Tiago Dias (more on him later). At eight tracks and 39 minutes it’s got the perfect framework for a death metal album, and that’s only the beginning of things Bastard Grave have nailed here.
The band specializes in the kind of riffs that will hit you like a ten-ton truck, following in the footsteps of Swedish greats like Grave and Bloodbath. Everything is weight and chunk and pulverizing muscle with tearing toothed edges, massive hunks of headbang-bait to knock the wind clean out of your lungs. It’s an immensely satisfying approach, with heaviness and pummeling groove at the epicenter and thrashing, ripping violence at the boundaries.
The key to the appeal of Vortex of Disgust is that near-constant infectious groove. We’re talking sky-high levels of irresistibly headbangable riffage, with not a bad example to be found whether or not they’re going for chunky, thrashy, eldritch, or straight ahead brutality. The beginning of opener “Sunder the Earth” leaves no questions what they’re bringing to the table: a muscular riff with thick, sinewy lines of angularity kicks things off—I hear some things that remind me of Phobophilic here and in several other places on the record—and then we’re deep into beastly old school sound, with vicious punches from the snare as punctuation. Prepare your neck; Bastard Grave are just getting started.
“Icon Bearer” follows up with more satisfying powerful riffs, decorated at times by strange dissonant lines above in filthy distortion. Third track and lead single “Necrotic Ecstasy” gives us the first real shift, though, and a fine example of their ability to slow things up and bring the hammer down. The first half of the track is a frenzy of classic death metal, then they plunge waist-deep into a pit of inescapable quicksand, pulling the tempo back to a slow, heavy pound and relentlessly beating, beating, beating you ever deeper. The accented chugs daze and the ping of the cymbal bell is like a hammer against an anvil as a repeated minor harmony line chants doom above.
There are killer riffs everywhere on this thing but some of those doomier, slower moments just stick in the mind. The deliberate, ill-omened opening of “Consumed and Forgotten” feels like a death knell, and the back half of “Nameless Horror” features a delay-heavy bass solo that signals the beginning of a crushing sinister march toward its final throes. Hell, “Hunger to Devour” even opens with an extended passage of solo piano, just out of tune enough to be be unnerving, accompanied by only a low synth pedal point, setting up the arrival of chugs and choked cymbals and then a monumental groove-heavy slab.
Tiago Dias shines as the frontman, his thunderous deep roars surprisingly light on the reverb and filling up the speakers to the brim. He’s got that sort of on-recording presence that immediately grabs your attention, and he’s a fine addition to the band’s lineup. Dias also layers in mid-range snarls in a few specific spots to great effect. As the architects of all that tasty riffage, guitarists Andreas and Daniel put on the sort of show that will satiate any and all fans of old school death metal, good meaty tone on display throughout, with occasional layered dissonant lines above the main riffs as the real icing on the cake. The rhythm section of bassist Maria and drummer Peter are impressive also, and the production job courtesy of Brainoil’s Greg Wilkinson does right by all the instruments. A particularly nice touch is the way he bumps up the bass at certain points and lets it drive the riff, like just after 2:00 in the title track.
If you forced me to dig up some criticisms, I’d be hard-pressed to find any that aren’t contrived. This is just a rock solid, highly enjoyable slab of death metal from start to finish, with an ideal length, good production, and no real musical faults. I guess some folks might complain that there isn’t really anything new or “exciting” on the album, but that’s neither here nor there as far as I’m concerned: Vortex of Disgust may not break new ground, but it’s a damn good piece of construction.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In a still-young year already packed full of great death metal, Bastard Grave’s newest offering is yet another record to worthily vie for your attention. If you’re a fan of riffs, roars, and pit-wrecking grooves, you’ll want to make sure you give it a spin. Vortex of Disgust is tremendously satisfying from top to bottom, and overflowing with the type of shit that metalheads love.