GROTESQUE - In the Embrace of Evil (HAMMERHEART Productions - LP 2015)
I don't know if I should start this review with a short history lesson to all those, who have no clue what kind of band Grotesque was. But is it even possible not to know anything about them? I hope not. Grotesque were one of the first death metal bands in Sweden and certainly one of the most influential and important for this country's metal scene. They were quite short lived, never released a full-length album, only some demos and MLP. But that's enough to give them credit for inspiring so many bands back then and nowadays. Personally, I was always unlucky with Grotesque music. I had a CD version of "In the Embrace of Evil", but never managed to grab a copy of vinyl, especially the original press of "Incantation" MLP. Luckily for me "In the Embrace of Evil" was released several times on LP. There was a Black Sun Records pressing, Century Media pressing and more recently Back Black and re-released it. Since I hate that BOB version, because it's released on two - which I would hate to play, I was left to grab the pressing. And I do not regret having it. It's very well done and solid release, with a single record (YES!) housed in great quality gatefold. The vinyl sounds very good, so I finally have my mission of having "In the Embrace of Evil" on vinyl completed.
"In the Embrace of Evil" is obviously a compilation, which contains everything that Grotesque has ever recorded in studio. You won't find here neither of their two rehearsal demos... But maybe it's good, because they would just not fit with their disastrous sound quality. Besides, there's already 50 minutes of music. It's enough, I think.
The record begins with five songs, which were recorded in November 1989 and which back then were supposed to be a first half of the future Grotesque full length for Dolores Records. It was recorded with , , and in the . On this recording Grotesque sounds insanely , very much alike to bands such as Merciless, even the ancient Sepultura! The opening track "Blood Runs the Altar" is probably the most vicious and evil sounding piece from this band and it's a killer tune, but I personally love "Submit to Death" and "Fall Into Decay" the most. These songs are slightly simpler, more straight forward and they will thrash you to death !
Few months later, in August 1990, Grotesque entered the Sunlight Studio to record another three songs. At that time the was , and new guitarist The Haunting. The drums were handled by session member - . I have to admit that this part of Grotesque history is my favourite. The Haunting certainly added something new to these three songs and the music just became more interesting and kind of advanced. Many variations within the songs, tempo changes, some more twisted riffs, harmonies, very cool leads... and even darker, atmosphere! Yes! And that Sunlight Studio sound... top notch. Besides, with songs like "Incantation" and "Spawn of " it's undeniably brilliant. Grotesque never sounded like Nihilist or Therion, their music on the whole "In the Embrace of Evil" is much more evil and sinister that everything else, it's almost possessed sometimes. Maybe it's also a bit difficult to get into on the first listen, but only if you prefer more melodic and catchy stuff.
After the Sunlight Studio Grotesque split up. The album was never released. Two other classic Swedish bands - At the Gates and in Wait - were formed. But on Friday the 13th of 1996 , and reunited and entered Berno Studio to record two songs especially for the "In the Embrace of Evil”. They were "Church of the Pentagram" and "Ripped from the Cross", so two of the very earliest Grotesque songs. And man, what a stunning result, I just love these two pieces. The sound quality is great. Both songs, even though are so old, have been rearranged and definitely the band did great job with them. It's not the same as their old rehearsal versions. Maybe some people will prefer the old versions, I don't. These new recordings definitely captured the essence of old Grotesque and with such good production, it all clicks fantastically. it was also the last thing, which this band has ever recorded. Luckily it doesn't seem like they would ever want to exhume it from the grave again.
Standout tracks: "Incantation", "Spawn of ", "Church of the Pentagram", "Submit to Death"