Review by Jeff Maki
Around the time I wrote this review, I had been browsing eBay, looking to fill in my music collection with some essential metal albums I’m missing from the late ’80s and early ’90s. Albums like Obituary’s Cause of Death, Entombed’s Left Hand Path and Cannibal Corpse’s Tomb of the Mutilated are all on my “watch list.” However, currently topping my list are two of the most influential death metal albums of all time: Death’s Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to wait until I get a better deal on these albums—maybe a “best offer.” But in the meantime, the Death-worshiping supergroup Gruesome is the next best thing.
Spawned from the Death to All Tours (a Death tribute band that features former members of Death and guest musicians), Gruesome was formed by Exhumed vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey and Malevolent Creation drummer Gus Rios, who were both participants. The lineup is rounded out by Possessed guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and Derketa bassist Robin Mazen. The idea behind the band was to play all original material in the style of Death—a Death reboot so to speak. In 2015, the band released Savage Land, its tribute to Death’s 1988 album, Leprosy, to great acclaim in the extreme metal scene. Now comes Dimensions of Horror, a six song EP that is the band’s homage to Death’s groundbreaking debut album, Scream Bloody Gore.
From the vintage sound, production and quality of these songs, saying Gruesome is keeping Death’s music alive sounds ironic and would be an understatement. Dimensions of Horror is so close to being a Death record that it could have been released during the same era or could have been a set of lost recordings or outtakes of the late, great Chuck Schuldiner himself. Harvey’s vocals are spot on and they can’t be easy to replicate—Chuck had a pretty distinctive voice. Even the album art was designed by Ed Repka, the artist responsible for Death’s first three iconic album covers, along with Megadeth’s Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying? The album art was in large part what drew me to this EP in the first place. You can tell this a Death album from the artwork alone. Regarding the artwork, Harvey told me in a recent interview (read here), that without Repka’s involvement, “the whole project would’ve fell apart.”
The six songs that make up Dimensions of Horror are blood-soaked, bone-crushing, old-school fun. Standouts include “Forces of Death,” “Amputation” and the title track. The EP is so enjoyable it really plays out like a full-length. It’s like The Force Awakens in that it’s so familiar and it’s all been done before, yet it’s so great it really doesn’t matter.
Yes, Gruesome is probably catering to a small, maybe diminishing fan base (Schuldiner died in 2001), but Harvey has made it clear this is Gruesome’s mission statement—they are a Death tribute band. And for those like me, who became fans of Death later in its legendary career with albums like Human and Individual Thought Patterns, it’s cool to hear the earlier stuff regurgitated like I’m hearing it now for the first time. Death doesn’t have the largest discography, but according to Harvey, Gruesome will have enough material for “at least two or three more albums.” I’m already waiting for Spiritual Healing.
(Relapse Records, May 20, 2016)