Dominion VIII

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Some of Sweden's death metal pioneers -- that is, the Swedish death metal bands that were formed in the late 1980s and early '90s -- have evolved along the way. Entombed, for example, have changed a lot since the beginning. Others, meanwhile, have refused to alter their sound significantly, which is why the Grave of the late 2000s sounds a lot like the Grave that gave us Into the Grave back in 1991. Dominion VIII doesn't pretend to break any new ground for the Swedish band; this 2008 release finds Grave clinging to the death metal basics, and that means the usual recipe of Occult-minded lyrics, growling vocals, fast tempos, and crushing brutality. There are no attempts to explore melodic death metal, incorporate black metal, experiment with elements of metalcore, or do any of the other things that some death metal bands have done to broaden their horizons; Grave sticks to its guns stylistically, and while Dominion VIII is fairly predictable, it is also noteworthy if one is in the mood for a dose of vicious, head-kicking exhilaration. Unfortunately, the album's production isn't as strong as it could be -- that part is disappointing -- but the good news is that Ola Lindgren's lead vocals are fairly intelligible. A frequent complaint one hears about both death metal and black metal is that too many vocalists render their lyrics indecipherable, but on Dominion VIII, one can generally understand the death-and-destruction lyrics that are coming out of Lindgren's mouth. Although not without its shortcomings, Dominion VIII has more pluses than minuses -- and death metal purists will be glad to know that Grave hasn't lost any of its viciousness after all these years.

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