Grave

Fiendish Regression

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    6
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With their sixth studio album, 2004's Fiendish Regression, Swedish death metal pioneers Grave dangerously tread the very fine line between staying the course and outright stagnation. The group's third outing since the departure of original leader Jörgen Sandström, it has a certain workmanlike quality to it, and, if its title were to be taken at all literally, its contents sound neither like a concerted return to the band's roots, nor all that fiendish, to be perfectly honest. It also takes its sweet time getting a head of steam, lurching painfully into gear with opening cuts "Last Journey," "Reborn," and "Awakening," and only fanning the flames a little higher when fourth track "Breeder" rolls into view. Frustratingly, it too alternates brilliant moments of flailing velocity with some of the most lead-footed, mind-numbing riffing ever heard this side of doom, so that one can't help but wonder at this point if Grave actually intended to split the album into slow/fast halves. In any case, much better is the galloping rush of next track "Trial by Fire," and even if simple speed isn't enough to energize the mostly forgettable material leading up to next to last number "Bloodfeast," this at least surely qualifies as a winner and, arguably, the album's saving grace. Unfortunately, by then it's a little too late to save the day, and, despite an also passable attempt from closer "Heretic," Fiendish Regression shuts down shop without leaving much of a mark. Devoted fans may ultimately defend Grave's unwillingness to tamper with their well-established formula or even argue that, as one of the founding fathers of Swedish death metal, the group deserves a little leniency for taking an album off; but newcomers will likely leave perplexed, wondering what all the fuss is about.

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