Death’s head rears its ragged girth before you not as a cloth-draped skull but a tangled mass of rotten snakes cemented into place by an eternally replenished lamination of gore made wet by the blood of existential torment. Its gaze is infinitely dark, a void impossibly unfilled yet affixed upon you specifically nonetheless; You will never cross into that star-pocked horizon you see beyond those eyelids of death and you’ve no hope of ever becoming one with the greater universe. Gravity bonds you with the landscape of bones and desiccated flesh and there you are grounded, not a ghost or a ‘soul’ but a corporeal sludge that’ll become brittle enough to dissolve and serve as stinking dust to choke future generations of the doomed beyond. Whatever dukkha you’d endure in corporeal form the miasmal suffering by way of non-existence, as a pile of refuse and detritus, is exponential in its curse. Stray ahead of the curve of the inevitable and haunt the living today, torment all souls with the sound of death’s infinite obsolescence and sour the body (and mind) in celebration of the exciting putridity before your ashes and dust clutter the corners of our soon-to-be demolished and forgotten lands. What great work we observe today was seeded in a bastard’s ‘Unmarked Grave’ (2014) as it rot in casket ’til a vision of ‘What Lies Beyond’ (2015) saw painterly strokes of ash and nondrying blood upon the walls that’d adhere yellow bones and salted flesh unto a new ‘Diorama of Human Suffering’, the great leap from beyond (and second full-length) from Helsingborg, Sweden death metal quintet Bastard Grave.
If you were to look at any list or suggestion of comparable bands to what Bastard Grave have brought between their doomed, heavily rotted ‘Left Hand Path’ pounded demo and their slightly more jog-paced debut full-length you’ll likely not expect the gains achieved within the band’s current status. In terms of distinction and general musical development ‘Diorama of Human Suffering’ sees the band boosting their skill set to a much higher bar beyond 2015. I’m not sure if the second guitar slot for Bastard Grave has been a position of songwriting in the past but here we see the band better composed for two guitars and creating an abominant storm of riff that finds great success in diabolical mid-paced action. Whereas I was expecting something along the lines of Maim or Pyre, a thumping traditional Swedish steamroller, ‘Diorama of Human Suffering’ has divergent ambitions and a mind for effective rhythms that set them outside of the relative ‘norm’. The ethereal excess of later Decomposed (Sweden), the growling heft of Slaughterday‘s debut, and the crust-and-doom infused kicks of ‘Atomic Temples’-era Bombs of Hades all feature on this second Bastard Grave album and only begin to describe its station as an unassuming killer.
At some point in the last several weeks I’d lost my mind within this album and to the point that I’d had to pull back and start paying closer attention to the details, such as song titles, and reel myself back into objectivity. It was there that I first came to grips with the foul nature of their lyrics that includes piss, shit, pus, and cannibalistic discharge in what I’d not necessarily realized was so packed with literal putridity. There I was spacing out into the atmosphere of a far-gone dimension and it was to a song named “Transubstantiation Into Feces” — To be fair, I’d probably deserved the shit-handed slap it provided. On some level you’re getting the unbleached DNA of Autopsy (‘Acts of the Unspeakable’, for sure) and the umpteenth generation beyond Carnage as expected but with spaced moments on par with early Morbus Chron, some doomed passages a la Grave Miasma, and well… It wouldn’t be entirely fair to mention a band like Entombed anymore in regards to this (far more creative) shift felt with ‘Diorama of Human Suffering’ but don’t think they’ve left that ‘Clandestine’ knack too far in their past; Maybe redirect your expectations towards Acephalix‘ current sound instead.
Upon firing up this record it almost appears as if you’ve started on Side B where we’re tossed right into a comfortably paced grinder of growling jog-riffs that escalates into an early Amorphis-esque sendoff. The first two tracks are similarly structured and paced to the point that it feels like ‘Diorama of Human Suffering’ intends to gate the induction that it offers with a rotten punch that pays no mind to hook or immediacy. In this sense fans of Vanhelgd who are probably slightly more patient than the average Swedeath head will likely be the first two break through that wall of mud and land within the two gloriously doomed minutes of “Drowning in an Ocean of Bile” that’d act as the opening of what floodgates Bastard Grave had up their sleeve. This all acts as a showcase for Side A in terms of building towards the title track which is exemplar for the spirit of where this band are with their music but beyond that point we see far more multi-dimensional rendering from the band starting with the outer-worlds offered by “Transubstantiation of Feces”. “Inner Carnivore” provides a subtle hook but an expected modus, then some severe ‘Retribution for the Dead’-assed death/doomed hideousness really amplifies Side B‘s importance between “Madness of Creation” and “Non-Functioning Pile of Rot” before the closing moments of the album outshines the majority of the record. “Stench of Infection” is an album seller in my mind and thought it continues the common rhythmic thread of the full listen it caps off the spin with plenty of unforgettable hooks along the way.
If you let it spin and leave the spell of Bastard Grave to incant for hours at a time no doubt its memorable and texturally satisfying mid-paced death metal experience will stick within your mind, it did in my case at least. In passing and on cursory listens the brunt of the listen appears fairly average (or, reliant on nuance) with only a few ‘goddamn‘ moments along the way but as with most ‘old school’ minded death metal today some focus and greater familiarity begets appreciating value. Normally I have to pair down whatever hype I’d felt in anticipation for a new death metal record to figure its value but in this case my admiration for ‘Diorama For Human Suffering’ grew over time and its value appears to be in the depth it offers across several listens. Nothing futuristic or poignant but certainly a band that has hit upon a righteous ‘pocket’ with their sound and made a great death metal record out of it. Highly recommended. For preview purposes I’d suggest “Translucent Visions” will give a clear idea of what to expect overall but “Drowning in an Ocean of Bile” and “Transubstantiation Into Feces” were the big moments that pushed the full listen over the edge for my own taste.
Ordure befouling the trinity. 4.0/5.0
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