The death metal demo tape is an artform so precisely mastered that many folks, myself included, find themselves in obsessive ruts of addiction where only a cavernous basement tape with hissing mid-range noise across forced stereo becomes a stylistic prerequisite. The headaches are a form of sadism in tribute to the old gods of inspiration and there exists no better way to test a bands modern day value than to see what forces they create with meager resources. So many demo bands were signed throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s for their songwriting skills but, even more were picked up for their sound; An either/or situation was typically the case with hangers-on or trend-savvy deathsters and few really excelled with a ‘new’ sound and any sense of songwriting. Today Vancouver, Canadian ‘old school’ death metal band Grave Infestation appear to have it all between their evil, rumbling sound, a pile of moldy riffs, and a promising set of classic death metal songwriting skills.
If you’d caught New York skull-splitters Mutilate last year as they rose to prominence with an EP and full-length you might remember they had the goods in the same sense with a sound that felt ripped straight from the Midwest late 80’s death metal playbook and I’d concur that Grave Infestation have some of that same knack in hand on their debut demo, originally a limited self-release in late 2018. What separates these Canadians from the pack goes beyond the obvious comparisons to Maim, Mutilate and deeper into the past towards Master‘s work circa 1985, Necrovore‘s first demo, and the equally thrashing madness of Slaughter Lord and ‘Conflict Within’ era Sadistic Intent. There is a bout of thrashed out death metal clobbered by a thick and bounding rhythmic intensity that creates a stylistic twister session with one foot in Eindhoven, two hands in late 80’s Los Angeles and the other foot in Chicago. I was on board immediately because of the rhythmic quality of this demo which is slightly distant and rotten but still void of degradation.
It’d be the death/thrash affect, the rotten 80’s death metal riffing, that quickly sold me on ‘Infesticide’ and the slapping rhythms (a la early Morbus Chron or Abyss) that had me sitting there tearing through late 80’s death metal demos trying to find references and similarities. From my own nerd-assed perspective that is at least half of the fun of grabbing a demo tape from an ‘old school’ styled modern day death metal band, to suss out their influences a bit and figure where their rhythmic ideas could take them in a more professional setting. The release still shows promise by its own merit all the same and the death metal within appropriately shifts between wailing death/thrash and doomed passages all while maintaining a rotten, hardcorish, ‘Severed Survival’-esque thump throughout. I don’t think it’ll blow minds but it does have that headbanging quality helped quite a bit by a punched up bass tone and a fleet-footed drummer.
“Sudden Death” is the track that more or less set my admiration of this demo beyond simple Autopsy style death metal and towards something worth keeping an eye on; The jumps between doom riffs and faster d-beaten death metal reminded me of Morgue‘s (Ohio) album and its more dramatic first half at times. Although I could funnel the observation of that dynamic into a hundred old school death metal bands the mere fact that they could fire up such an old neuron with their pacing already shows a leg up on a lot of new ‘classic’ death metal bands in their formative stages and they keep that thread going with “Still Birth… Still Life”. Those two tracks are enough to keep me interested in repeating the full listen a hundred times but the more insistent and uptempo beats of “Dead Wrong” and “Mortality Rate” should be most compelling for folks more in tune with classic Swedish death metal. Highly recommended. For preview I’d say definitely try “Dead Wrong” first, then “Sudden Death” for a good showing of Grave Infestation‘s stylistic range thus far.
Brutalized by the abyss. 4.0/5.0
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