Bastard Grave – Vortex of Disgust (Pulverised Records)Monday, 13th March 2023
Based on album title and moniker alone, most will know we are dealing with death metal of the old school variety in Bastard Grave. Swedish roots elevate the credibility factor – together since 2012 and now releasing their third full-length for Vortex of Disgust. Keeping most of the recordings self-contained by the band (outside of drums recorded by Ulf Blomberg at The End Studios), expectations of a sinister, HM-2 driven approach with savage growls and deadly mid-tempo arrangements interspersed with bursts of energy or doom-laden transitions may be higher than what is actually achieved over the course of these eight tracks.
On the surface, nothing appears out of order – the guitars possess this churning, low-tuned buzz factor that sets the table for some solid, in the pocket bass/drum foundational movements with adequate blasting or marching shifts to keep listeners attuned to the next musical part. The battering ram approach positions the lower-edge growls and brutal screams at a similar level as the music – which can make certain verses tough to distinguish song to song. Sparse piano strains convey a horror-themed atmosphere before the speedier to mid-tempo groovier distortion-filled activities for “Hunger to Devour” take command – the doom riff in the last third of the arrangement taking on an early Candlemass put through the Sunlight Studios vibe. At other times, the guitars swirl in a hornet’s nest, circular formation – “Eternal Decomposition” hitting the mark with chest thumping precision, while the oddly shaped squeals plus rising/descending riffs for “Icon Bearer” slice and dice in murderous malignancy.
While individual components may maintain some interest, the overall songwriting doesn’t contain enough standout moments for return engagements, especially when artists like Grave or Asphyx delivered this style much better in a more memorable context thirty years previous. Maybe it’s a case of not digging deep enough to weed out the serviceable parts for something with more attack – because at this stage in their career, you would want something impressive to help them standout against the hundreds (if not thousands) of other acts playing OSDM in the current marketplace. Vortex of Disgust as such is one of those records that may be ideal for Bastard Grave and the diehards who need to own every record in this style – but others on the fence should stick to the originators for their death metal fix.