Savage Land, the eight-song debut from GRUESOME is very interesting for several reasons. First of all, the band featuring members of EXHUMED, POSSESSED, MALEVOLENT CREATION, and DERKETA is very much a bi-coastal affair with guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey composing and tracking his vocals from California, and the rest of the guys (drummer Gus Rios, guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and bassist Robin Mazen) recording their material in Florida. Yet, thanks to technology it sounds like guys ripping shit up in the jam room. And that organic, warm sound is part of what makes this a must-listen. The other part is the fact that it will own your eardrums from open to close.
Born from an all-around love of the early DEATH albums, Harvey and Rios decided to write songs in that vein. Says Harvey, “We had such a blast writing and recording this album, I just hope people enjoy it half as much as I enjoyed doing it.” And that’s the thing. You don’t always throw around the word “fun” when talking about Death Metal but that’s what this record is from start to finish. As soon as the opener “Savage Land” kicked in followed by “Trapped in Hell” (which features some of the best work on the disc, solo and riff-wise) I knew I was in for a treat. “Demonized” is pure speed, and then it completely shifts gear, and THEN hits the gas again quick like bunnies!
The intro to “Hideous” has a decidedly ‘90’s Florida Death Metal feel to it before it too, takes off like a rocket ship. But again, never do things get too tech-y at all, even though all of these guys are very accomplished musicians. “Gangrene” features some pounding tom-tom action at the start with a dual harmonized riff snaking its way through before the brutality starts in earnest. The way this one was recorded you can really hear the guitar parts in different ears, something I always enjoy. In fact, I’ve been playing the shit out of this song a lot at work. It spoke to me on the first listen, and hasn’t stopped since.
“Closed Casket” was another instant winner not only because of the riffage, but also because Harvey just sounds like he means it. You may find yourself growling “CLOOOSED CASKET!!” at the most inopportune times without realizing it, whether it’s on line at the bank, grocery store, or as your boss walks by your desk. Oh, and did someone order a Deviled Guitar Pizza, with extra Riffage? Well, that’s what you’ll get with “Psychic Twin”. I swear if Jeff Spicoli had been a Death Metal fan, this would have been his musical sustenance, I can assure you. The closing number “Gruesome” bears the group’s namesake and another terrific series of lead breaks ensues.
All told, this disc is terrific with not a bad song in the bunch, even though some may resonate more than others. The only thing is I wish it was just a wee bit longer, say by about three songs. The whole thing is such a ride that before you know what hit you, it’s over. But hey, a small blemish on an otherwise excellent record. And let’s hope we get more music from GRUESOME sooner rather than later. Pick up Savage Land now on Relapse Records.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Gangrene”, “Trapped In Hell”, “Savage Land”, “Closed Casket”