Grave Infestation – Persecution of the Living

Genre: Death Metal | Label: Invictus Productions
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia | Listen: Bandcamp

Grave Infestation are a new band out of Vancouver, but the way they play death metal makes it sound like they’re from the depths of hell. These Canucks put out a pair of crushing demos in 2019 (which have been compiled on a compilation LP and released alongside this record), and needless to say, they made a strong impression on myself and many other death metal fans. For those unfamiliar with Grave Infestation, they contain three members of AHNA, and continue the absolutely sinister style of death metal that resulted in the former band’s apex album, “Crimson Dawn.” There’s a clear refinement of sound and vision here, as Grave Infestation eschews the punkier elements of their old band’s sound, and dives further into morbid death metal.

If you were hoping to hear the Sacrilege influences that were prominent in AHNA’s later material, those are not to be found here. This applies both to those thrashy style of riffs, and the vocals. Drummer Anju Singh focuses entirely on drums and leaves the vocal department entirely to guitarist Graham Christofferson, who has some deathly low growls and bestial snarls that are perfectly suited for what Grave Infestation is playing musically. However, there are certainly lots of elements from the members’ previous band that show up here. The overall tone is still very sinister and hellish, and this is achieved in a variety of ways. The lead guitar work is especially at the forefront of this, as reverb drenched guitar abuse is peppered throughout each song, sounding more like torture than any sort of virtuoso playing, and I mean that in the best way possible.

The ebb and flow of percussive approach here also really adds to the evil feeling of this record. There’s a certain primitiveness to the drums, as they aren’t flashy, but they give the needed velocity to the fast parts like in the beginning of “Plague of Crypts,” and can let the creepiness of the riffs shine through by opening up a bit like on “Slaughter, then Laughter”. Even just basic cymbal-kick shots like midway in the title track add so much power by doing something simple. They utilize blastbeats too, but go for the more primitive “goat blast” style that works very well with the style of riffs here. Really, at the end of the day, each individual piece of this record is relatively simple, but it is greater than the sum of its parts. Again, there’s no flashy embellishment on “Persecution of the Living,” and everyone works together to make each song vile.

Much like previous output by the members of this band, this record was recorded at Rain City Recorders by Jesse Gander, and he’s managed to make sense of this downtuned filth. Each instrument is easy to spot in the mix, but much like the songwriting, they come together to form something greater than the sum of their individual parts. The way the grimy bass backs the guitar creates such filthy torrent of sound, and again, this is something that these musicians have put to practice with their other bands like AHNA, Ceremonial Bloodbath, and Encoffinate. Seriously though, scope that bass tone in the break in the title track – when the guitars come back in, it’s really apparent how complementary all the tones are with each other.

Coming back to the previous demos, there are a couple re-recorded tracks from the second demo that appear at the end of this record – “Human Jigsaw Puzzle” and “Eternal Oblivion” – and then none from the first demo. These re-recordings sound as savage as ever, and fit right into the rest of the record. For those keeping score, that means six of the songs here are new, as the other two are just short intro/outro tracks. It clocks in at about 37 minutes which is an ideal length to digest such a dense and evil album.

I’m having a hard time finding other bands to compare this too, because although this is certainly in the vein of old school death metal without question, it doesn’t have any obvious influences up front. Surely there is some Autopsy influence with the creepy leads and doomier sections, but I feel like Grave Infestation has done a good job mixing things up and never feeling like a worship band in any regard. This just further strengthens the case that death metal fans just need to hear this record – it does everything death metal is supposed do, and delivers a range of killer riffs in a powerful package. If you loved AHNA’s progression towards death metal, Grave Infestation will surely satisfy.