An Evil Shade of Gray

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Although Sweden's Cemetary would eventually leave a legacy as one of the best goth metal bands of the '90s, their 1992 debut album, An Evil Shade of Gray, was firmly rooted in the Scandinavian death metal tradition -- as if you couldn't tell by its "so scary it's funny" title. Even without that telltale sign, though, it doesn't take but a moment to confirm that songs like "Where the Rivers of Madness Stream" and "Nightmare Lake" were as obsessed with tales of decrepit evil (and seemingly bodies of water, oddly enough) as they were rife with dense, earthshaking riffage informed with evidently superior songwriting imagination and dynamic diversity. Indeed, the seeds of bandleader Mathias Lodmalm's future stylistic broadening were readily evident in the somber melodies threaded into memorable offerings like "Scars" and "Souldrain," while the ethereal synths that served as haunting backdrops for "Sidereal Passing" already hinted at his eventual interest in space rock (explored to greater extent via post-Cemetary project Sundown). And, for radicals who cared not for such "evolutionary" drivel, there was the putrid pleasure of hearing Lodmalm's crusty death growl used throughout, and even more frenzied tracks like "Dead Red" and "Dark Illusions," whose all-out savagery drove them to the brink of black metal (all par for the course when a band was signed to the Black Mark label?). In sum, An Evil Shade of Gray was such an accomplished first effort that one felt almost sorry to see Cemetary progress so rapidly into new and exciting realms with their consistently top-notch albums that followed.

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