GRAVE INFESTATION – Persecution of the Living (2022)REVIEW

Formed in Vancouver, British Colombia circa 2018 between members of various well-respected punk and extreme metal bands Grave Infestation have been one to look out for these last several years primarily because they are able to provide ‘old school’ death metal worship from the members collective varietal perspectives, some who’d been around when the sub-genre was first gaining greater popularity and others who’d been possessed by various gateways throughout time. This ensures that they’ve got various fingers on today’s pulse, enough to understand where they “fit in” yet without forgetting what actual goddamned primordial death metal sounds like. It allows for a sound which authentically hearkens back to the mid-to-late 80’s underground death metal but has the sense and notion enough to put a nasty, ballsy groove of its own on the format. That’d be the major reason to pick up ‘Persecution of the Living‘ today, being a huge fan of menacing and ancient basement-level death metal grime unperturbed by the rampant trendiness of today.

How do they manage to sound like a filthy-ass weirdo crew rather than a mere nostalgic poser approximation, though? Their rhythms are torched by the speed of horror obsessed ex-thrasher blood and staring at you with the mohawk-skulled skeletal gaze of hardcore punk/crust’s ambulatory madness, echoing forward from the crypt in a way that beckons doom yet pulls the ear in for a closer listen. Er, it is all in the organic sync of their rhythms and their maniac vocalist whom has a Chris Reifert-esque way of hitting along with said rhythms. This was one of the main things I’d danced around when I’d reviewed their first demo (‘Infesticide‘, 2018) as I didn’t want to suggest their sound was bluntly rubbed from the era of Autopsy, Obituary, and even Slaughter because it’d have sounded reductive and implicates roughly half of their story, suggesting ‘primitivity’ of style beyond the actual tape. Early Finnish and Swedish death metal influence featured on ‘Infesticide‘ in terms of guitar work as well as drum performances which reeked of ‘In Battle There is No Law‘-era Bolt Thrower (see also: AhnaCrimson Dawn‘). When a second guitarist was added soon after the Grave Infestation sound had resolved to something a bit more ‘Scream Bloody Gore‘ for their second tape (‘Infestation of Rotting Death‘, 2019), which serves as the jumping off point (and the last few songs) for this new album.

In most ways we are getting the toasted, bullied-up heft those tapes had promised on ‘Persecution of the Living‘ as Grave Infestation‘s own brand of boiling grooves are the major focus of the action throughout but they’ve made sure to dig and pick at their grimmest, most foul aspect in finding a medium between deepest cuts of North American underground 80’s death metal and the early 90’s reaction to it in Scandinavia and England, the larger appreciable result being a frequent sense of tension as the ~37 minute run of the record spins out. “Plague of Crypts” is, by my recollection, the point where the outer-spaced wheeling of the record takes a darkest, most intense turn as Side B starts and this’d always been the sort of point of no return as the album blazed beyond the Florida by way of the Midwest creep of Side A. We start to see their finesse tighten into muscular stricture, a white knuckled thrashing pulse on “Death of the Last Individual” as we reach for the two tracks anyone who’d picked up their demos will recognize (“Human Jigsaw Puzzle”, “Eternal Oblivion”) as these pieces end the album on a signature moment. The main reason I emphasize the second half of the LP up front is because I’d almost wished they’d chucked those old songs, solid as they are, and continued the thread they’d landed on when the record began to pivot on its center point.

Otherwise if you’re already a Grave Infestation fan and want the next level of their monstrosity to hit you with their best burst of mayhemic froth the run from -slapped- opener “The Conquest of Pestilence” through the buzz n’ blast of “Can You See the Pale Horseman in the Distance” will be the revelation, or, at least the comeuppance their tapes promised within a more clearly stated production value. Grooves are huge here in their house but I won’t drool on the riffs too much, I’d rather emphasize how much distinction the rhythm section provides in guiding these songs in their sickening, anxietous punching of the rhythms since this is the major reason their gig dwells in that ‘real old school’ headspace. “Slaughter, Then Laughter” is the album seller from my point of view, a real shit stomper that should be able to convince anyone truly into death metal to buy in around ~45 seconds in as the big lead riff chunks in and the second guitar reaches a peak in its echoing strange. Beyond that point the title track (“Persecution of the Living”) ends up being my favorite piece on the album for its mid-paced ‘Mental Funeral‘-esque haunt, Finndeath wandering leads, and perfect slugging bass guitar tone with just enough percussive clank to embolden the relatively simple doomed meander of the main riff. It is the piece that the whole record kinda hinges upon for my own taste and acts as the ideal glue between halves of the experience.

With ‘Persecution of the LivingGrave Infestation have innately arrived upon the exact right way to present the primitive horror of classic death metal without dumbing it down with nostalgia-drunk feigned naiveté or nowadays hardcore gimmickry, it isn’t a mask for modern consumption but their own ghoulish face dripping of putrid flesh and coughing up a mush of pure and primal death metal grime. It is the sort of death metal record you walk away from wanting more, ready for the next one already, and appreciating just how well they’ve served the most promising moments of their demo era. A high recommendation.

High recommendation (80/100).

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Persecution of the Living
LABEL(S):Invictus Productions
RELEASE DATE:June 3rd, 2022

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