Album Review: Bastard Grave - Vortex Of Disgust
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Bastard Grave. A name that periodically crops up, yet one I’ve previously never become too acquainted with. Formed in 2012 out of Skåne, Sweden, Bastard Grave give us a death metal assault that’s tonally removed from the likes of Dismember or other chainsaw-aesthetic bands; Bastard Grave, out of the gate with their 2015 debut full length What Lies Beyond, demonstrated a keen eye for the chunkier and disgusting form of soundscape that their fellow peers may have been leaning away from. 2019 saw Diorama Of Human Suffering and, since that time, we’ve had a 2021 Split alongside Graveyard Ghoul but no new album. At last, four years on, 2023 is set to be the release window for Bastard Grave’s third album titled Vortex Of Disgust. So let’s see what this record can offer us.
Bastard Grave excel in one aspect across their entire discography and that’s riffs. These guys play a much filthier and decrepit form of death metal than your Cannibal Corpse-inspired variant of bands; the emphasis on a pounding performance is here in droves yet Bastard Grave employ copious amounts of sludge into their sound. As a result, the band have applied a far dirtier, grimier aesthetic into their performance where they can throw everything they have planned for you and yet, there’s still something hidden within the arteries of the band that will make fans lean towards them which may not be immediately obvious. Part of this is also down to the mixing, whereby Bastard Grave are able to play a segment that’s much more savage and scathing and then play a segment that’s far chunkier and rooted to the earth. It’s this back and forth transitioning between the various guitar tones contributing to the band’s songwriting that renders their riffs with such power and fresh appeal whenever a new track begins.
Considering how fervently the riffs come across in this record, it’s striking how cleanly and calmly one can still sit back and bask to Bastard Grave’s performance without feeling the weight of its bulk on our senses. Bastard Grave’s songwriting is thick and massive and every turn of the songwriting and vocal performance gives us something new to bear as the band forgo all intentions of mercy but, regardless of this onslaught, I still knew where I was and where the band might be taking me. I wouldn’t always understand where a track may be taking me for the band do throw a few cases of songwriting unpredictability our way from time to time, however I knew I would be able to interpret and enjoy it when it eventually came round. Vortex Of Disgust may be just that, and titled rather aptly, but it thoroughly gives you the space, in spite of its domineering, commanding soundscape, to move and think and breathe easily all the while Bastard Grave’s maelstrom is upon us.
I must say that I really took to the band’s vocal performance with great ease, appreciating the bellowing and elongated nature the vocals are entwined with. More than anything, it’s the vocals that demonstrate how the album’s mixing has enabled the band’s performance to occupy quite the considerable space as their soundscape suggests, yet not so completely that Bastard Grave don’t give us anything to move around into. The vocal performance itself harnesses that bellowing, elongated style that allows us to really delve a little further into their delivery, as the pronunciation of syllables isn’t being directed towards us at lightening-paced rapidity. The slowing of the vocal delivery not only gives us the space to breathe and take in everything the vocal tone offers, but in turn relaxes the pace by which we’re interpreting the songwriting too. It’s rare to hear a non-instrumental element that’s altering our perception of the album’s pacing yet, that is entirely the case with the vocals herein.
I’ve heard so many styles of death metal drumming that sometimes it is difficult to find something truly unique. But when was the last time you encountered drums as if the man behind the kit was flat out punching them? “Necrotic Ecstasy” is one such track that, during a slower and swelling riff piece, the drums come down on us with staggering ferocity. I think the drums are all the more powerful when the songwriting does slow down and those sludgier elements can be brought more to the forefront. The acoustics of the cymbals, when struck so, are reminiscent to the horns of Jericho, seemingly bringing down any conception of barrier between yourself and the record. The bass drums are also fiercely amplified too, bringing great swathes of power to us when they’re firmly utilised yet, there aren’t utterly abused. This isn’t a blast beat marathon nor is it a bass drum bonanza, but they’re brought into the fray when they’re needed most.
In conclusion, Bastard Grave’s Vortex Of Disgust is a swirling nightmare of a record. I think it works so well because it doesn’t try and rush you from A to B, nor are the band looking to just punch you square in the face over and again. This album feels effective precisely because the band took their time to craft songwriting that wouldn’t race by, respecting the audience enough to slow things down just a touch whereby we can experience everything the band can offer. By giving fans a clear view of what they’ve got going on, nothing can be left out and it means anything that may not be as strong would also be on display. This, in turn, showcases the confidence Bastard Grave have with the finished product and it shows; Vortex Of Disgust is a sludge-laden record that respects the time you’re putting into its tomes and repays you with eight solid tracks of filthy, macabre death metal.