Spinebreaker - Ice Grave
Creator-Destructor
Death Metal
12 songs (37' 48")
Release year: 2016
Reviewed by Andy

Despite their representation in the hardcore scene, the old-school death metal leanings of Spinebreaker are unmistakable on their new LP, Ice Grave. I haven't reviewed a good old-school death metal album in a while, and in that department, the band delivers the goods with a set of mostly mid-tempo but doggedly crushing tracks.

Rather than opt for breakneck speed (which they do launch into from time to time, such as on Fractured Existence or Slithering Tyrant), the band goes for a downtuned, noisy distortion along the lines of Heartwork-era Carcass, with some Morbid Angel and Obituary influences thrown in for good measure. The production is ugly and spare, with the guitars mostly dominating a drum kit that sounds like it was miked in the basement of a bandmember's house -- but of course, if one's going for the death metal sound of yesteryear, low-fi production comes with the territory. Songs are short and rough, and vocalist Alex's style matches it perfectly with a breathless, gasping snarl that sounds furious and disgusted all at once.

The lead guitar solos aren't anything special from my perspective -- they're buried way at the back of the mix and don't get their chance to shine -- but the thick, chunky riffs have a nice variation in their delivery, especially on the intros, and it isn't all anger and heavily distorted guitars (though there is more than enough of that to go around). They'll pause for new rhythms or for effect, and at the end the final track, Merciless Victory, ends with a rather out-of-place acoustic instrumental before the distortion kicks in again, abruptly fading out. Flesh Wound and Divine Mortal Being are both standouts, too, with more dramatic atmosphere provided by the guitar work -- especially on Flesh Wound, which has stronger guitar leads than the previous tracks' soloing and whose riffs slow down for maximum crushing effect.

While not likely to stay long in a playlist, Ice Grave is energetic, angry, and quite a bit of fun to listen to, the product of a young band that seems to be still enjoying playing the styles of its predecessors. Given its worship of old-time, lo-fi death metal, fans of the early 90s Swedish death sound may get a kick out of this.

Killing Songs :
Fractured Existence, Flesh Wounds, Divine Mortal Being
Andy quoted 73 / 100
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