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Back From the Grave (Century Media)

Being heavy isn't just about tuning your guitar down until you're tripping over the strings. It's also about the songs you write, and after a six-year hiatus, Swedish underground legends Grave have returned to remind younger acts of this fact.

Riff for riff, Back From the Grave sets a ridiculously high bar; this is the sound of parents throwing down the gauntlet to their unruly children. Jonas Torndal's guitars are mechanistic and fantastically relentless, grinding away atop the rhythm section as vocalist Ola Lindgren bellows actual comprehensible lyrics. These guys are so old-school, nobody bothered telling them a singer's supposed to sound like a vomiting Rottweiler nowadays. Moreover, Back From the Grave's production is incredibly crisp; the band has stripped its music down to the chassis, until every instrument occupies its own sonic space. Grave demonstrates the virtues of knowing your strengths and knowing when to leave well enough alone. The album bursts with punk energy and metal brutality -- exactly the mix classic outfits like Obituary, Entombed, and, yes, Grave pioneered in the early 1990s. These guys are back like they never left.

More by Phil Freeman

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