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Having smacked against the wall of their own creative limits with 1992's disappointing sophomore album, You'll Never Seeā€¦, Swedish death metal pioneers Grave attempted to branch out in a slightly different direction on their third full-length, Soulless, two years later. Problem was, the band's more considered and notably groove-driven approach (complemented by drier, quasi-industrial production that sacrificed the unmistakable crunch of the band's classic sound), didn't make their very average new songs any more interesting. This being heavy metal, almost everything involved inevitably flowed from the almighty riff, but Grave rarely brought any memorable ones to the plate this time around, and, to make matters worse, they growled virtually nothing new with their lyrics, which were still preoccupied with DM 101 subjects: horror, gore, devil worship, etc.). Among the rare highlights, one finds the speedy breaks that finally tear "Turning Black" out of its deliberate doldrums, the hard-to-forget titular statement of the title track's chorus, and the sinister and infectious melodies of "And Here I Die" and "Scars." But, for the most part, Soulless was just what its title promised: a sonically barren, largely emotionless dilution of Entombed's contemporaneous, genius, forte-infusing death metal with powerful grooves and rock & roll arrangements. In Grave's case, these efforts achieved nothing beyond revealing that the band's deteriorating reserves of imagination were, in actual fact, almost tapped out completely.

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