Sometimes, old school is just the way to go...this seems to be the mantra for this latest extreme metal supergroup who call themselves Gruesome. Savage Land is their debut for Relapse Records, and it's a wonderful homage to the late '80s Florida death metal scene, specifically those early albums from the legends Death like Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy. Comprised of guitarists Matt Harvey (Exhumed/Death to All) & Daniel Gonzalez (Possessed), drummer Gus Rios' (Malevolent Creation/Death to All), and bassist Robin Mazen (Derketa), Gruesome lock into the classic Death sound throughout Savage Land, sounding almost as if this was a newly discovered recording from Chuck Schuldiner and company. There's even some great cover art from none other than Ed Repka, further cementing the Death connection.
So, other than the fact that Gruesome make no bones about replicating the early Death sound, is the album any good? Damn straight it is! At a time when the extreme metal world sees no shortage of metalcore, deathcore, and tech-death acts all trying to separate themselves from the pack (and most unsuccessfully) it's kind of refreshing to hear something that lovingly portrays itself as old school and nothing more. Harvey's vocals are very reminiscent of Schuldiner's from those first few Death albums, and he and Gonzalez have crafted some classic death metal riffs and tasty melodic solos for these songs. "Demonized" and "Hideous" rampage along quite furiously, driven by fierce riffs and Rios' pounding drum work, and the title cut could easily be a leftover from the Scream Bloody Gore sessions, surely able to take any longtime extreme metal fan back to a very special time. "Gangrene" contains some of the albums most savage guitar work and will prompt plenty of severe headbanging, while closer "Gruesome" manages to throw some addicting grooves into its otherwise pummeling formula. As far as delivering a variety of brutal & effective riffs, this one contains plenty.
If you've been following the genre since the late '80s or early '90s, it won't be hard to fall completely in love with Savage Land. Sure, it's not going to win any awards for originality, but I don't think that was ever Gruesome's intent. If nothing else, they've created a wonderful, loving tribute to the music of Death that, in light of the fact that we'll never see another album from that band, this is probably as close as we will ever get to one. Well done and mission accomplished.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. Savage Land
2. Trapped In Hell
6. Closed Casket
7. Psychic Twin