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GRUESOME Fragments Of Psyche

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 12:18 AM


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GRUESOME
Fragments Of Psyche

Relapse Records




All-star death metal troupe GRUESOME — which includes EXHUMED frontman/guitarist Matt Harvey, POSSESSED guitarist Daniel Gonzalez, ex-MALEVOLENT CREATION drummer Gus Rios and DERKETA bassist Robin Mazen — continues its homage to the early days of DEATH with its second EP in as many years, both of which followed the 2015 debut full-length Savage Land.

Yet, while Fragments Of Psyche only contains two new songs – actually one new tune and a cover of DEATH’s “Choke On It” – the five bonus demos that are included with them offer interesting, and enlightening, look at GRUESOME’s earliest recordings. Indeed, though somewhat raw when compared to the finished product that ended up on Savage Land, the demo versions of “Closed Casket”, “Gangrene”, “Gruesome”, “Psychic Twin” and “Savage Land” are remarkably tight and fully realized.

These are no crappy scratch recordings, they are just about note-perfect and even a touch more brutal than the final versions thanks to their less-polished production. They bristle with a live-in-the-studio energy and urgency and stand up pretty well to the EP’s new recordings.

And it is readily apparent that at the demo stage GRUESOME already was right on target with its mission to capture the sound and spirit of the first two DEATH albums, Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy – which was inspired by Harvey and Rios’ participation in the early DEATH TO ALL tours. The malevolent chug, the gritty crunch, the occasional jarring bursts of speed and ethereal leadwork of vintage DEATH are there in abundance. And the cadence, inflection and tone of Harvey’s vocals made them a near dead ringer – no pun intended – of late DEATH mainman Chuck Schuldiner’s husky caterwaul.

Harvey and Rios obviously studied well in gearing up for their DEATH TO ALL work, and that rubbed off on Hazen and Gonzalez as GRUESOME’s sonic representation is both reverent and inspired. “Fragments Of Psyche”, the lone genuinely new song here, follows right along with GRUESOME's DEATH worship ethos, and offers a taste of some of the more sophisticated guitar work that came later on Spiritual Healing and Human as Schuldiner took the band on a dramatic progressive turn. And the “Choke On It” cover is even more authentic thanks to the guest drumming of Sean Reinert, who played on Human - Bill Andrews, who now lives in Japan, played on the original. Still, it's a nice touch.

It will be interesting to see if this closes the book on GRUESOME. Savage Land was an endearing and effective tribute – but something that was probably best suited as a one-off, especially since the DEATH TO ALL tours continue. Last year’s Dimensions Of Horror EP, though, was a fitting way to clear the slate of leftover material – or so it seemed. Perhaps Fragments is emptying the vaults. And if that’s the case, then so be it, might as well get it all out there.

With anything after this, however, GRUESOME runs the risk of wearing out its welcome. The band certainly has made the most of the DEATH homage thing, and got three pretty worthwhile, even stellar, releases out it as a result. But it can only milk that cow for so long, so to speak. Appreciation or adulation is one thing, exploitation is another.

3.5 Out Of 5.0


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