Gruesome - Savage Land -CD


When one suffers the bereavement of a loved-one, the futile yearning for said person to exist again is always so strong. "Savage Land" provides the immense satisfaction one would feel if the deceased were indeed brought back to life...or Death. This album is the true meaning of the word 'rebirth'. From the outset, Gruesome get everything spot-on. The blood-dripping logo with the OTT horror imagery; Ed Repka's inimitable artwork; the album title - mirroring everything Florideath stood for; the fact there are only 8 tracks; hell, even the band name is the perfect off-shoot of early Death - tongue-in-cheek gore and horror-movie representations. This is Chuck 2.0.

It's no secret that Gruesome were trying to accurately recreate the atmosphere of late-80s Death. So, if the great Chuck had indeed written this album, it would sit somewhere between Leprosy and Spiritual Healing. It is NOT a cover album - merely a homage. A frighteningly accurate homage at that! Matt Harvey's voice is SO remarkably similar to Chuck's, you'll find yourself performing a spit-take as I did. The band brilliantly pull off the chromatic and harmonic minor scales frequented by Schuldiner - hell, even the solos are spot on. The lyrics reflect the gorefest that was spread throughout Death's early albums, with a hint of progressive enlightenment - especially "Psychic Twin".

Each track seems to have its own counterpart within the Death catalogue. I can only assume this was deliberate, as these small nods are things only a die-hard fan would appreciate. The title-track is structurally similar to "Leprosy"; "Demonized" takes its opening/closing riff from "Born Dead"; the swelling drum intro to "Gangrene" is a touching salute to "Flattening of Emotions"; the first (and last) 20 seconds of "Gruesome" resembles "Spiritual Healing" in all its theatrical glory; and...well, do I even need to mention "Closed Casket"? They even placed it at track 6 for God's sake!

The production value is utterly perfect. The metallic grating guitars act like a buzzsaw straight from "Scream Bloody Gore" - except when they are granted a solo, where they seem to sparkle and shine. That obnoxious snare sound brings us all right back to 1988, and Gus's use of cymbals even acknowledges Richard Christy's work on "The Sound of Perseverance". And no, I still can't get over Matt's Chuck impression. Amazing.

If you were approaching this album as a non-Death fan, "Savage Land" is still an incredible death metal album in its own right. Ram-jammed full of moments to bang your head to like it's 1985, it takes absolutely no prisoners. Despite that, there is a curious air of dignity surrounding the release which seems to command respect. This is the sound of a true musical pioneer, who carved his own game-changing niche into the genre, reborn and given a breath of revival. This album doesn't receive 100% for being a perfect death metal record. It gets 100% for being precisely what it was supposed to be, and I mean precisely. From the album liner notes: "Respectfully dedicated to the memory of...".

I miss you, Chuck. We all do. Let your legacy live on through exceptional musicians like these and we can all carry on with a hideous, gangrenous, demonized lump in our collective throats.