Monday, April 1, 2013

Grave in Singapore, 3.26.2013

With festival season gearing up in Australia, we're getting more and more American and European bands stopping off in South East Asia on their way back home. Earlier in March, Sick of it All tore up the Black Box something fierce; and at the end of the same month Grave stopped by Singapore on a rare South East Asian tour (the band actually played Singapore once before back in 2008, as numerous tour shirts from that night attested).

"We are Grave from Sweden, and we are here to rock your fucking socks off." Well said.

The combination of a low stage and a barricade set up 10 feet away from it was particularly vexing to me. Why such austere measures were deemed necessary for a crowd that barely exceeded a hundred people, I'll never understand. Still, that didn't seem to damper anyone's enthusiasm. The band seemed somewhat tickled by the vociferous response they received. I imagine one of the reasons bands like Grave and Obscura make time to tour South East Asia is the rabid type of fan they encounter here (it certainly isn't the CD sales). When I saw Grave play NY in 2011, it was to three times the crowd but almost half the response.

Their setlist that night drew heavily from Endless Procession of Souls (in case you forgot that the band had a new album to flog), as well as their debut Into the Grave and their most commercial record, Soulless. Covering all bases, then. Not much heed was paid to songs from the period between Back from the Grave and Dominion VIII, which is understandable as those albums all sort of blend together with few memorable moments between them (though I wouldn't have minded hearing "Rise"). Dedicating "Soulless" to the ladies - all six of them present that night - was slightly baffling. Surely "In Love" would have been a better choice?

Like Bolt Thrower and Asphyx (two bands that could be the Götlanders' spiritual kin), Grave have never really been about progressing as songwriters or musicians. They But their reputation of sludge and bludgeon doesn't do their live sound justice. Sabbath via Autopsy has always been part of Grave's DNA; and live, their hellish grooves are freed from their production shackles and allowed to come to the forefront. A Grave/Eyehategod tour makes more sense than either band might suspect.

If you'd asked me prior to that night where Grave ranked on my list of Swedish death metal bands, the answer would have been "not high." Seeing Entombed a few years ago was akin to a religious experience; sharing a flight with Dismember is a story I'll probably tell on my death bed. And as gauche as it is to admit these days, Gothenberg bands like Dark Tranquillity and Eucharist are intractable staples of my playlists, and are frankly a bigger deal personally. Certainly the growing number of bands aping Grave has muted their appeal to me in recent years. And yet, an hour long set during which I gurned furiously and sang my little heart out only had me fiending for more. As I wandered around the city waiting for daylight and my bus back home, their discography cycled through my headphones on a constant loop. Too much is never enough.