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Grip Of Death : Funeral Procession Demo/EP

Old-school Doom Metal with a bit of a twist - Finland's Grip Of Death's demo offering.

Here's something that arrived unexpectedly, as a proper home-made job, with a paper sleeve sellotaped together and a handwritten CDr inside, all wrapped in a single printed sheet of band bio. Which means I can tell you Grip Of Death formed in 2007, under the monicker Funeral Procession, folded thereafter until 2016, and finally put this out under the new band name this year. And while it may look as DIY as they come, the music on it was at least professionally mastered at Resonance Sound Studios (UK), with a view to one day getting it out as a full label release.

First impressions, from the promo photo, are that they're either ultra-retro or totally skint. Possibly both. It looks like something photocopied from a Neat Records release circa 1982: all black-and-white urban desolation, with band transport comprising an old-style VW Beetle - with lots of mismatched panels - and what looks like a turn-of-the-'80s Kawasaki Z of some kind (sadly, it's not a clear picture). And having wrestled with both the music and the vehicles in my time, I'm always prepared to give respect to anyone who can get them to handle in something like a straight line. Particularly the maybe-Z (apologies to my fellow biker dude if that's your pride and joy - but, jeez, I was glad when frame technology made it into the '90s and beyond...).

So, while that may seem like something of an automotive digression, it does have some relevance to the fiercely-dated music to be found on this demo, which appears to have set itself the same sort of challenge: take something as vintage as possible and fire it down the road with throttle wide open just to see whether it'll go into a three-lane death weave (ask your dad, if you've never experienced that yourself).

And this is certainly old-school stuff. Aside from the opening ritualistic instrumental 'Pronssijumala' (Finnish: Bronze God), the track titles could have come straight from Angel Witch or any of their contemporaries (Manilla Road, or equivalent, if you happen to be more Stateside-oriented). More importantly, so could much of the music, which is frequently anchored around slowed-down - and sometimes full-tilt - NWOBHM guitar and bass, with a more pronounced Doom feel and somewhat gothic/tribal vibe (the band describe it as their 'blackened twist') to the vocals and well-featured keyboards. Something like a less bombastic The Equinox Ov The Gods, especially in the vocals, with added Iron Maiden, especially in the chunky bass lines. And, in doing so, it'll probably sound at least half-familiar to anyone who's spent any time exploring the development of Trad as a molasses-slow super-heavy Metal variant through the '80s.

On first listening, the supposed pro-recording sound seemed like a muffled and subdued affair. That's somewhat misleading, and possibly just a side-effect of the CDr burning: if you wind the volume up there is a reasonable degree of separation and detail, some sensible panning and a decent punch to all of the instruments involved. Hopefully, that issue'd be fixed in any future release - and you have to be a little forgiving of demos anyway. So, OK, the soundstage is there, if a little camouflaged - and it is undeniably a great improvement on the Venom recorded-in-someone-else's-dustbin values that characterised the early underground '80s.

Past that hurdle and into the meat of 'Funeral Procession', Grip Of Death do a pretty fair job with their compositions, mixing up the pace for different passages on the two nine-odd-minute tracks 'Lord Of Necromancy' and the 'Apocalypse Riders', separated by the shorter stomping 'Funeral Procession' and moody keyboard-led instrumental 'City Of Death'. It doesn't do anything very wrong - although 'Lord Of Necromancy' drags a little, and the purely clean vocals sound a little stentorian and forced (they're much better when the singer puts a bit more of a gravelly, growled edge to them) - and it doesn't do anything very surprising either, though the gothic/tribal touches do add some pleasing individuality. It does save the best until last, with the standout 'Apocalypse Riders' laying down the aesthetic essentials of this style in an extended burst of Heavy Metal thunder. The overriding feeling it leaves behind is that this is an inessential but fun addition to a long-lasting and broad church; from a band that sounds like they've worked out what'll get a live crowd rocking but haven't quite managed to bottle that magic in the studio yet. Still, solidly planted, no death weaves, and showing some promise of being able to give it a bit more gas in the future.

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Reviewer's rating: 6.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Pronssijumala
2. Lord Of Necromancy
3. Funeral Procession
4. City Of Death
5. Apocalypse Riders

Duration : Approx. 29 minutes

Visit the Grip Of Death bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-12-18 by Mike Liassides
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