Gruesome - Twisted Prayers - (10/10)
Published on July 15, 2018
I will only award this band a less-than-perfect score once they are less than perfect at what they do. I do hope you won’t disregard this review purely based on its zealous rating, as I have plenty to say about this act, who are – let’s be fair – a blessing upon mankind. Born out of Gus Rios and Matt Harvey’s involvement with the supremely successful Death To All Tours, Gruesome is what us Death die-hards have longed for since 2001. This quartet of geniuses create music in the exact style of the late, great Chuck Schuldiner, but go the whole hog. 2015’s Savage Land was a spot on homage to Leprosy. This was followed in 2016 by the EP Dimensions Of Horror, expertly recreating the atmosphere of Scream Bloody Gore to a tee. Now, here in 2018, it’s Spiritual Healing’s turn to get the Gruesome treatment. Despite the fact that Spiritual Healing is one of my top 5 albums of all time, this review of new release Twisted Prayers won’t be in any way biased…cough…
Purely from the external characteristics, you can spot the tributary aspects instantly. There’s the scathing attack on religion shown both through the lyrics and the artwork by the legendary Ed Repka. There’s the band logo, the colour scheme, the font inside the booklet, the way the ‘thank you’ list is written… Absolutely everything reeks of that old school Floridian death metal scent. The production quality is bang on – utterly nailing that transitional period in Death’s career – from the dry snare, to the beastly vocal reverb. Then, of course, there’s the music. Harvey and co.’s ability to write songs that accurately reflect a particular era in a composer’s life is a gift from the gods. They clearly know their source material inside out, and any listener who is similarly familiar (myself, for one) will pick out each musical tribute with a delighted grin. Hell, there’s even an 8-track playlist, as is tradition for Death circa 1990.
It’s fun to match each number on Twisted Prayers to its counterpart on Spiritual Healing, though there are certain segments referenced in a sporadic placement. Opening track ‘Inhumane’ picks up where ‘Living Monstrosity’ left off – right down to that irregular stop/start section in the middle. ‘Fate’ has its own version of the chorus riff from ‘Defensive Personalities’. ‘A Waste Of Life’ is a mishmash of ‘Spiritual Healing’ and ‘Low Life’, due to the grinding riffs and malicious lyrics – but with a definite nod to ‘Within The Mind’ in its opening guitar lick. ‘Lethal Legacy’ reminds me of ‘Altering The Future’ with its lumbering compound rhythms and themes of the unborn. However, ‘Crusade Of Brutality’ is an anomaly, in that the first minute and a half is almost identical to 1988’s ‘Leprosy’ – consider that a bonus! The rest of it is reminiscent of ‘Genetic Reconstruction’ anyway… But then, so is ‘At Death’s Door’… Christ, I hope you’re familiar with Chuck’s 1990 classic, dear reader, or you’ll be really confused by this point!
Have I covered all the tracks there? Ah, who cares! I’m giddy with fanboyishness; this feels like a death metal party! Each individual is sure to pick out their own recognizable motifs. My personal favourite is the brief 3-note chug break in the title-track which perfectly echoes the start of ‘Spiritual Healing’ before blasting into the sludgy main riff. From the thrashing opening riff to ‘Inhumane’, right to the closing guitar squeal of the title-track, it’s clear that this is nostalgia done the right way. Chuck may be survived by his remaining family members, but also through Matt Harvey, whose vocal performance here is second to none. Sounding like Chuck is a dangerous fence to straddle, but Matt pulls it off with nobility and respect. Death’s legacy is survived through Gruesome – and we should all be thankful.