Grave were one of the "founding fathers" of the Swedish death metal scene. Being around since 1986 at first as Corpse, they have defined the actual Swedish sound the way we know it today. Starting with their extremely brutal Sick Disgust Eternal demo, they have been consistently releasing albums that paved the way for legions of the followers. Though plagued by the line-up changes and an apparent lack of consistent push from their label, they have never made it as big as their countrymates Entombed have. Even though their last album Hating Life was somewhat a lackluster outing, with Extremely Rotten Live Grave have definitely re-instated themselves as one the most brutal bands to ever come out of Sweden.
Actually, when it comes to think about it… how many live death metal recordings ever made it into anybody's collection? Gorefest had a live album with truly atrocious sound; then there were 2 live albums from Unleashed that were OK, but nothing special. Morbid Angel has also recorded a live album, but it sounded too sterile to impress anybody who has ever been to one of their gigs. Probably the best live recording in the history of extreme metal was Napalm Death's Live Corruption 7" that did possess the rawness and energy of a quality death metal live performance. However, Extremely Rotten Live is definitely superior to any other such live recording made before.
Basically a full retrospective of their extensive career, this album does contain more songs off their latest studio album. Even though I strongly disliked Hating Life the album, this time Grave really made it sound they way it was supposed to come out - raw, vicious and relentless. Symbolically, the album opens and ends with the songs that first appeared on their second demo called Anatomia Corporis Humani - namely "Extremely Rotten Flesh" and "Reborn Miscarriage" (originally appeared as "Reborned Miscarriage"). These two little ditties are what European death metal was all about in the beginning - being absolutely focused on the brutality and ignoring the low-end of the recording quality. This definitely made those early songs the instant classics of extreme metal.
Also, the sound engineer of this recording has to be praised for bringing the entire new meaning into the songs of Hating Life. They sound very compelling in the way the grooves come into play. And the crowd loves it! Now that's what was missing in the studio recording… the raw edge that Grave used to possess in abundance! Guitarist Ola Lindgren has proven himself to be quite a potent singer on this record. He doesn't growl all the time as his predecessor Jorgen Sandstrom used to; he uses his voice as a varied instrument to bring more character into vocal delivery, which does wonders for Grave's later material. Songs like "Turning Black" and "Winternight" sound very strong, proving that Grave have definitely progressed as songwriters without turning into complete cheeseballs as many other did before.
Of course, Grave could not ignore such crowd pleasers as "Into The Grave" and "You'll Never See…". This seems to instantly whip the moshers into frenzy! Grave have always been a great band to see live; even back in 1992 they would totally blow a cult band like Massacre off the stage every night on their first American tour. With their songs being equally hateful and moving, Grave will be always remembered as a perfect example of a true death metal band that managed to progress and mature without putting out embarrassing garbage in a pathetic attempt to gather the attention of the majors.
Overall, I have to encourage everybody who is not yet familiar with Grave to check out all their albums, possibly starting with "You'll Never See…" as being the peak of their career. Also try to get an early sampler from Century Media called Into The Eyes of Death that contains two of their early songs called "Putrefaction Remains" and "Eroded", along with an older version of "Haunted" - that's the ultimate death metal feast!