Saturday, October 10, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Gruesome "Savage Land"

I managed to snag a vinyl copy in silver, commemorating Relapse Records' 25th anniversary as a label. Congrats, here's to 25 more!

So, back to the record itself, this release collects a Death Metal super-group, most notably to me Matt Harvey of gore-metallers Exhumed and Robin Mazen of doomy deathsters Derketa, for a special project.

Intended as a tribute to Chuck "Evil" Schuldner, especially his work on Death's Leprosy album, Savage Land delivers! Stylistically, the album has an unmistakable Chuck-feel which Death fans should appreciate. All the Gruesome tracks are superb, though none match 'Forgotten Past' for catchiness (in my ears anyway!). Further descriptions of the music would be akin to reviewing Death's Leprosy album (this should be very telling of the quality of Gruesome's writing and production), which would not only be redundant but beyond my skill (I imagine myself as Wayne and Garth, prostrated, crying "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!").

So, instead, I'll extol my appreciation of the loving attention to detail on the Gruesome album. As I'm not much of a tech-head and couldn't tell you about equipment similarities, I'll talk about lyrical similarities, mostly. Savage Land pays homage to Death by opening with the album's eponymous track and also contains 8 tracks total. We get a twist on the song 'Leprosy' in Gruesome's 'Gangrene' with Death's 'Open Casket' now becoming Gruesome's 'Closed Casket.' Both tracks even occupy the same slot in the tracklist, namely #6(66). I also imagine that the album title, Savage Land, is in reference to the song 'Primitive Ways.' Both songs also share similar arrangements as do Death's 'Forgotten Past' and Gruesome's 'Demonized.' These tracks share the same tracklist slot as well. Ed Repka has also been enlisted to create Gruesome's cover art. There is clear intention to mimick elements of his work on Death's Leprosy cover art, as the main compositions are VERY similar. Most noteably, we have as the central theme a close-up of a figure to the viewer's left, with two figures in the background to the right doing something which further tells about the central figure and develops the 'story' of the picture. The Gruesome cover is in fact more brutal, but both covers are excellent.

This release exemplifies, to me, the adage that imitation is the highest form of flattery. I am eternally grateful to Chuck Schuldner for the enjoyment his own work has given me, not to mention the many ways he has influenced my own playing. I now would like to thank Gruesome for making such an excellent and honest tribute to Chuck, while also adding an indispensable album to the history of Death Metal!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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